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Alan Grayson

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Member since: Sat May 22, 2010, 12:02 PM
Number of posts: 483

Journal Archives

URGENT AGAIN – Another Senate Vote on Fast Track Today

On Tuesday, the Senate voted against taking up the "Fast Track" trade giveaway bill. Hooray! Every Republican expressed support, but every Democrat except Sen. Carper (D-Awful) voted against it. (Sens. Booker, Graham and Rubio missed the vote.) That left the Republicans eight votes short of the votes they needed to overcome a filibuster.

And yet today, only 48 hours later, they're at it again, bringing up "Fast Track" for another vote.

Maybe they think that they can wear us down. I don't think so.

Tell them "NO" on Fast Track! Call or e-mail - right now. Click here for a list of every Senator's telephone number and e-mail address. Find yours, and once again, MAKE THEM LISTEN.


Rep. Alan Grayson

URGENT – Senate Vote on Fast Track Today

The Senate is voting on the "Fast Track" trade giveaway bill today. Tell them "NO" on Fast Track! Call or e-mail - right now. Click here for a list of every Senator's telephone number and e-mail address. Find yours, and MAKE THEM LISTEN.


Rep. Alan Grayson

Fast Track: Constitutional Hari-Kari

Recently, I was on national TV with host Thom Hartmann, trying to offer some kind of explanation why Congress would even consider committing Constitutional hari-kari under the proposed “Fast Track” legislation. Here’s how it went:

HARTMANN: While President Obama’s is out defending the Trans-Pacific Partnership, members of his own party are making their voices heard over the latest so-called “free trade” deal. A number of progressive lawmakers, led by Senator Elizabeth Warren, are asking for the full text of the TPP to be released, so that Americans can judge for themselves whether it’s a really good deal for America. So is it time to take the secrecy cloak off of the TPP, and make it public, so that “We, the People” can see all of its gory details? Let’s ask Congressman Alan Grayson representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District. Congressman Grayson, welcome back.

GRAYSON: Thank you, Thom.

HARTMANN: Great to have you with us. First let me play a clip of President Obama on the Chris Matthews show the other day. Check this out:

OBAMA: Everything I do has been focused on, “how do we make sure the middle class is getting a fair deal?” Now, I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class. And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are wrong.

HARTMANN: Your reactions and comments?

GRAYSON: The President is wrong. In fact, he is so far off-base that right now, if we had a vote on TPP or on “Fast Track,” his own party would be 10 to 1 against him. It’s a giveaway to corporate America. It’s a giveaway to multinational corporations, millionaires and billionaires. And specifically, it’s the death knell of the middle class in America. The President is so far off-base that it’s ridiculous. And he should have realized that, during his State of the Union Speech. During the State of the Union Speech, about 50 times, Democrats got up and applauded when he was talking about everything else. And then when he was talking about this issue, only Republicans stood up to applaud the President. That would have been some type of tip-off, back in January. And yet here it is , and the President is singing the same sad song. Let’s face the facts. Since NAFTA, the first of these major, mega-trade deals that went into effect, since NAFTA went into effect, we’ve lost five million manufacturing jobs, and roughly 15 million other jobs. The resulting trade deficit means that we’ve gone $11 trillion into debt. That’s $35,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. What are we going to do, when the Japanese and the Chinese and the other foreign countries say, ‘Okay, now we want our money back’? And we lose twice over. Because what’s been happening in these trade deals, over and over again, is not that they’re buying the same amount of goods from us that we’re buying from them. They’re not buying the same amount of services that we’re buying from them. What’s happening is very simple: We’re putting their people to work by buying their goods and services, and they’re buying our assets, not generating any new employment in this country at all. We lose twice. We lose the jobs, and we’re driven deeper and deeper into debt, to the point where already one-seventh of all the assets in America are foreign owned. And it’s getting worse. It’s getting worse to the tune of one billion dollars a day.

HARTMANN: Wow. Now legislatively what we’re looking at here are actually two different pieces of legislation, which do quite different things. The one most people are familiar with, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I call it the Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement, or SHAFTA. That’s one of the pieces. Okay, the TPP, SHAFTA, what’s in that? But then there’s this thing called “Fast Track,” where Congress votes to give up its own ability to debate and amend legislation. Can you explain the logic of that?

GRAYSON: It’s a constitutional form of hari-kari. What we’re seeing here is unconstitutional violations of the oath of office that we took at the beginning of this term. We have a constitutional duty to look over, to debate, to inquire, to do oversight, to amend. And all that is taken away from us . What the President’s asking us, both the Senate and House, to do, is to give up on hearings. No hearings on any of these trade deals. To give up on subcommittee and committee and floor amendments. And to give us each in the House, 88 seconds, – 88 seconds, Thom! – to debate these trade bills before we have to vote them up or down. It’s absurd. We don’t do it for defense matters. We don’t do it for tax matters. We don’t do it for healthcare. We don’t do for anything else except for this. And why is that? Because multinational corporations slip into these trade deals provisions for their own benefit, that would never under any circumstances pass the House or the Senate and be signed into law.

HARTMANN: Wow. Where did Fast Track come from? … I don’t understand the process.

GRAYSON: Well, both the trade deals themselves, and the fast-track procedure to deal with trade deals, are unconstitutional. The trade deals are unconstitutional because they are treaties. And the go way out of their way to avoid using the term “treaties.” But what is a treaty? It’s an agreement that you make with another country. By definition, these are treaties. And under the Constitution, they require a two-thirds vote in the Senate. They know they’d never get a two-thirds vote for any of this stuff. It’s hard enough to get 50 percent, plus one. So they call them a “trade agreement” instead of a “treaty,” to avoid the Constitutional provision that goes back 200 years, that requires a two-thirds Senate vote.

In addition to that, we get “Fast Track.” Fast Track is taking away our constitutional prerogatives, which under the Constitution, legislation cannot do. Under the Constitution, the House and Senate set their own rules, by their own discretion, unilaterally. So what this legislation purports to do is tie our hands as an institution, which under the Constitution, we can’t do.

HARTMANN: Now when you start speaking about the Constitution, Congressman Grayson, most of the people who wave that thing around a lot and treat it as holy writ are conservative Republicans. How are they reacting to Fast Track, to setting aside their own constitutional power? I mean they were hysterical about, you know, giving up any power or sovereignty when we joined the UN for example. Where are they on this?

GRAYSON: Well, the first cut for the Republicans is, “what does the Chamber of Commerce want?” And the Chamber of Commerce wants this so, so badly. This is their number-one legislative priority, and it’s been that way for several years. Because they realize this is the way to get what they want, without having to bother with debate, with oversight, with hearings, with mark-ups, with amendments and so on. Just get it all at once, in one nice neat package – everything they want. One of the other things they want is to set up courts outside the U.S. court system, which can result in judgments against not only the federal government, but also state governments, county governments, and municipal governments, which are enforceable judgments. And these judgments can be handed out for arbitration panels that are operated by the United Nations and the World Bank. So we are surrendering our sovereignty to the United Nations and the World Bank. You can bet that some of the Tea Party fanatics have picked up on this already, and some of the Republicans are starting to feel the heat. What I’m hearing from the other side – and I talk to them quite frequently – is that there’s already roughly 60 votes in the House against this, because they realize that we are giving away our hard-fought, hard-won sovereignty, in exchange for nothing.

HARTMANN: Wow. In the last half a minute or so here, Congressman, how do you see this playing out?

GRAYSON: I think that the Senate may or may not vote in favor of it. I’m pretty sure the leaders in House will never let it come to a vote, because Boehner has been telling Democrats that if there aren’t 50 Democrats in favor of it, then he’s not going to bring it to the Floor. Right now, they’d be hard-pressed to come up with 15 Democrats in favor of it, much less 50. So it may never come to a vote in the House, just like it didn’t last term. And if it does come to a vote, there’s a very good chance that it will be defeated, as it should be. This is nonsense. Let’s try to solve our trade deficit problem, and instead of figuring out creative ways to add to it, and dig a deeper and deeper hole for ourselves.

HARTMANN: Amen. Congressman Alan Grayson. Great to have you with us. Thank you for dropping by.

GRAYSON: Thank you, Thom.

If we want to defeat this “death knell for the middle class,” then we have to fight back, and fight back now, before it’s too late. To see the video, or to support our “Truth in Trade” campaign, click right here.


Rep. Alan Grayson

One Future: “Nothing But Cheap Labor and Debt Slavery”

Recently, I was on Democracy Now!, an hourly news report that runs on over 1250 TV and radio stations worldwide each day. The subject was trade:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to the pending vote in Congress on the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership, a global trade deal currently being negotiated between the United States and 11 Latin American and Asian countries. Senate Finance Committee leaders Republican Orrin Hatch and Democrat Ron Wyden are expected to introduce a “fast-track” trade promotion authority bill as early as this week that would give the president authority to negotiate the TPP trade deal and then present it to Congress for a yes-or-no vote, with no amendments allowed… . Congressman Alan Grayson, could you explain your opposition to fast-track authority, and what you’re calling on your colleagues in Congress to do?

REP. ALAN GRAYSON: Our “free trade,” our so-called free trade policies, have been a disaster for the United States since NAFTA was enacted. Before NAFTA was enacted and went into effect 20 years ago, we never had any year in our history when we had a trade deficit of $135 billion or more. Every single year since then, for 20 years in a row, our trade deficit has been over $135 billion. Our last 14 trade deficits have been the 14 largest trade deficits not only in our history, but in the history of the entire world. And the result of that is that we’ve gone from $2 trillion in surplus with our trade to $11 trillion in debt. And we’ve lost five million manufacturing jobs and roughly 15 million other jobs in the last 20 years. So we’ve lost twice: We’ve lost the jobs, and we’ve also gone deeper and deeper into debt.

What’s happening is not that we’re buying goods and services from foreigners and they’re buying an equal amount of goods and services from us—that’s the way free trade is supposed to work. What’s actually happening is that we’re buying our goods and services from foreigners, and they are taking the money that we give to them for that, and buying our assets.

That has all sorts of consequences for our economy. First we lose those jobs. Secondly, it makes American income and wealth more and more unequal. The reason why we have the fourth most unequal distribution of wealth in the world is because of fake trade. The reason why we have a bizarre, and at this point unprecedented, “quantitative easing” policy, where the government uses the cash in our pockets to buy up assets and drive those asset prices up further and further, is because of fake trade. The reason why we have a federal deficit is because we have a trade deficit. The TPP, “fast-track,” the Transatlantic version of TPP, these dramatically increase the amount of countries with whom we have this relationship—they quadruple them—and they put us on a fast track to Hell, where America is nothing but cheap labor and debt slavery… .

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to President Obama speaking in February after he began the major push for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is bipartisan legislation that would protect American workers and promote American businesses, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but are fair. It would level the playing field for American workers. It would hold all countries to the same high labor and environmental standards to which we hold ourselves. Now, I’m the first to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype. And that’s why we’ve successfully gone after countries that break the rules at our workers’ expense. But that doesn’t mean we should close ourselves off from new opportunities and sit on the sidelines while other countries write our future for us.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s President Obama speaking in February. President Obama is, obviously, President of the United States, leading Democrat. Congressman Grayson, he represents your party, as well. Why the difference? Who are the blocs now that are united? We’re not just talking it’s Democrats here and Republicans here. What set of Republicans and Democrats agree on this?

REP. ALAN GRAYSON: Well, it’s a mystery to me. You know, I was in the room when the President gave that statement, made that speech. He gave a 45-minute speech. On those three sentences, that was the only time during that entire speech when the Republicans rose up and applauded him, and the Democrats did not. I think that’s very revealing. There are very, very few Democratic votes in the House of Representatives, because we represent ordinary working people. The groups that are lobbying the hardest for this are the multinational corporations, and their K Street lobbyists. They’re the ones who desperately want to see this passed… . Ordinary Democrats represent constituencies who have been hurt hard, really hurt very hard, by the loss of those five million manufacturing jobs and 15 million other jobs. Go to any Democratic district in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. And the fact is that there is very little support, if any significant support, within the Democratic House Caucus for Fast-Track or for the TPP. We do have a few corporate Democrats. Frankly, we do have a couple of sell-out Democrats, who have sold out to the corporate lobbyists. But the bulk of the Democratic Party well understands, along with the labor movement and ordinary people, that these policies have been disastrous for us. And it is a lie to say that they will improve the economy. In fact, they will continue the downward trend of the economy, until foreigners own everything… .

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Grayson, do you have to rely on WikiLeaks to get information about what’s actually in the TPP agreement?

REP. ALAN GRAYSON: Well, one of the sad and disturbing elements of this whole process has been the artificial secrecy that’s been imposed by the Administration and by the Trade Representative on these dealings. I can’t think of any other occasion, when I’ve served in Congress, when I’ve seen the element of deception loom so large here. The public is better informed of Iraqi attacks on ISIS, which you’d think would be classified, than it is informed on a trade deal that’s going to determine our economic future for the next 20 years. What’s happened is that, right at the beginning, the Trade Representative took the absurd position that everything that was being negotiated was classified, even though it was directly in the hands of the foreign governments with whom he was negotiating. Remember, normally, we have a classified system to keep information away from our enemies, or at least other governments. In this case, it was the other governments that had the information, and it was Congress and the American people who were being denied the information. And they took that position for five years, even though 100 members of Congress wrote a letter to the trade representative saying, “Cut this out.”

Now, I’m the first member of Congress to actually see any part of the TPP, even though 600 corporate lobbyists are, quote, “advisors” to the Trade Representative, and they get to see everything. And I insisted they take that information to my office, and in return they told me I couldn’t take it with me, I couldn’t take it home, I couldn’t make notes on it, I couldn’t have my staff present. And here’s the kicker: They didn’t want me to discuss it with the media, the public or even other Members of Congress. So it’s a farce. And it’s meant specifically to keep the information away from the American people, because if the American people knew what was going on, they’d recognize that it’s a punch to the face of the middle class in America… .

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you for being with us, Congressman Alan Grayson, Democrat of Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

If we want to avoid a future of “cheap labor and debt slavery,” then we have to fight back, and fight back now, before it’s too late. To see the video, or to support our “Truth in Trade” campaign, click right here.


Rep. Alan Grayson

GOP Immigration Plan: Make the U.S. Unlivable

A few years ago, I revealed the GOP’s healthcare plan: “Don’t Get Sick. And If You Do Get Sick, Die Quickly.” Recently the great satirist Andy Borowitz, the Jonathan Swift of our time, played a similar riff regarding the GOP’s immigration plan. I yield to the distinguished gentleman from New York:

G.O.P. Unveils Immigration Plan: “We Must Make America Somewhere No One Wants to Live”

By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled his party’s long-awaited plan on immigration on Wednesday, telling reporters, “We must make America somewhere no one wants to live.”

Appearing with House Speaker John Boehner, McConnell said that, in contrast to President Obama’s “Band-Aid fixes,” the Republican plan would address “the root cause of immigration, which is that the United States is, for the most part, habitable.”

“For years, immigrants have looked to America as a place where their standard of living was bound to improve,” McConnell said. “We’re going to change that.” Boehner said that the Republicans’ plan would reduce or eliminate “immigration magnets,” such as the social safety net, public education, clean air, and drinkable water.

The Speaker added that the plan would also include the repeal of Obamacare, calling healthcare “catnip for immigrants.”

Attempting, perhaps, to tamp down excitement about the plan, McConnell warned that turning America into a dystopian hellhole that repels immigrants “won’t happen overnight.”

“Our crumbling infrastructure and soaring gun violence are a good start, but much work still needs to be done,” he said. “When Americans start leaving the country, we’ll know that we’re on the right track.”

In closing, the two congressional leaders expressed pride in the immigration plan, noting that Republicans had been working to make it possible for the past thirty years.


Oddly, the rules of the House of Representatives frown on our disseminating our “Die Quickly” floor speech, but if you’ve never seen the resulting CNN interview, then click here, and enjoy yourself.


Rep. Alan Grayson

“Ridicule is Man’s most powerful weapon.”

- Saul Alinsky, “Rules for Radicals” (1971).
Posted by Alan Grayson | Fri May 8, 2015, 03:06 PM (5 replies)

The Mother of All Videos: Help Us Spread It Around

You know that video that we sent you yesterday, explaining exactly what's wrong with our economy? Well, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) sent it to its 1,000,000+ members. And the Communication Workers of America (CWA) sent it to 200,000+ activists.

But that's not enough. Everyone needs to see it.

And that's where you come in. If you haven't seen it yet, then see it now. And either way, please make an urgent contribution to our Truth on Trade Fund. We'll put up banner ads, Facebook newsfeed notes, etc., to make sure that everyone knows about it - if you help.

Q. If a video falls in the forest, and no one hears it fall, does it make a sound?

A. No.

Here's a little-known fact: If you contribute $25, then we can buy 3500 banner ads with that. Think of the number of eyeballs that represents - roughly two per viewer.

And this is a video that everyone in America needs to see. A video that explains the gross mismanagement of our economy for the past 20 years - and how to fix it.

Please support our Truth in Trade Fund today. To see the video, or to contribute to our campaign, click here and now.


Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu May 7, 2015, 04:30 PM (1 replies)

Maybe the Most Important Video You Will Ever See

There is a lot of mind-numbing nonsense in the media today about some “fast track” thingee, a TPP doohickie, a TTIP whatchamacallit, and some ISDS whozits. But under the dull roar of gibberish and drivel that passes for political discourse in this country , there are some disturbing facts, e.g., that we are now $11,000,000,000,000.00 in debt to foreigners, and that number grows by over $1 billion each day. Well, I’ve decided to cut through all the crap, and tell you what you need to know, in one really interesting video.

Enjoy it. Live and learn. You’ve never seen anything like it.

To see the video, or to contribute to our campaign, click here.


Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Wed May 6, 2015, 09:46 AM (4 replies)

I Need Your Help to Make This Work

It’s not the end of the quarter. That’s tomorrow, silly.

Tomorrow marks 98 years since the U.S. acquisition of the Danish West Indies, which we renamed the U.S. Virgin Islands. Just sayin’.

And tomorrow, just like every March 31, just like every June 30, September 30 and December 31, is a cut-off date for a report that our campaign must make to the Federal Election Commission. We have to disclose our support.

Here’s an interesting question – why should that matter to you? Why should you care about that?

Fair question. Let’s discuss it.

In a nutshell, I’m trying to do some things that are very unusual, very special, very important, and I need your help to do them.

I’m trying to build a national progressive grassroots network. As part of that effort, I wrote a petition against “any and every” cut in Social Security and Medicare benefits that drew almost 3,000,000 signatures. We defeated the “chained CPI” proposal. For that to happen, I needed 3,000,000 people to join me.

I’m trying to show that even with the Republicans in charge of both the House and the Senate, there is a path to victory for progressive proposals and programs. As part of that effort, I passed 31 progressive amendments on the Floor of the House during 2013 and 2014, more than any Democrat and any Republican. And during December alone, fifteen progressive Grayson bills were incorporated in three larger bills that passed the House, passed the Senate and were signed into law by the President of the United States. For that to happen, I needed your support.

I’m trying to show that it’s possible to finance a 21st Century congressional campaign without selling your soul to the millionaires and the billionaires and the multinational corporations and the lobbyists. As part of that effort, I was the only Member of the U.S. House of Representatives who financed most of his 2012 campaign with small contributions of less than $200 – and then I did it again last year. For that to happen, I needed your support.

The common factor here is not just me, it’s you. If the special interests held the first mortgage on my rear-end, then none of this would be possible. Thanks to you, I am unbought and unbossed. I fight for the common good. I owe nothing to anyone but the voters.

So that’s why an obscure quarterly deadline at an obscure federal agency might matter to you: because it means that it’s time for you to stand up and be counted, by contributing to our campaign.

And in return, you get a Congressman with temerity. A Congressman with audacity. A Congressman with spine, nerve, backbone and cojones.

A Congressman with Guts.

I need to show the political establishment that there is an alternative to raising $100,000 each from 50 millionaires, or billionaires, or multinational corporations. Instead, we can raise $50 each from 100,000 decent human beings, who want the greatest good for the greatest number. Just plain folks like you.

I need your help to make this work. Are you with me? Yes? Then show it, by clicking here.


Rep. Alan Grayson

“Not Every Problem in the World Has a Military ‘Solution’”

Last week, Congressman Grayson joined the inaugural installment of “Watching the Hawks,” a new national cable news show. In a far-ranging interview, he discussed what is wrong with Congress, why even many Democrats are afraid to take on the military-industrial complex, whether military spending actually creates jobs, the division of authority between the President and Congress regarding military action, the likelihood of more infrastructure spending, and more. Enjoy:

Tyrell Ventura: “Whether you love him or hate him, the Representative from Florida’s 9th District definitely isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Congressman Grayson, thank you for joining us today, and stepping into the Hawk’s Nest, on our inaugural show. Thank you, sir.”

Rep. Alan Grayson: “You’re welcome. I’m hoping that by the end of the show, you’ll all love me.”

TV: “Well, Congressman, recently we’ve see some pretty amazing stories of alleged corruption coming out of Congress, from the Wall Street Journal announcing today that federal investigators are possibly preparing criminal charges against Robert Menendez of New Jersey, to the wild tales of Aaron Schock, and his somewhat hilarious and, well, shocking political expenditures. You know, with congressional approval at this all-time low, and people looking at Congress and saying, ‘You guys can’t get along, and now you’re using your campaign money and everything else for fraud,’ how can Congress start cleaning up these messes?”

Rep. Alan Grayson: “Let’s look at the system. The system is that we have a lot of career politicians, who move up the ladder, one rung after another. If they get the nomination of their party, and they are in a district where 60 percent of the voters are from their party, they’re going to get to the next rung. That’s the system that we have. It doesn’t bring us the best or the brightest. It brings us the hacks. And some of those hacks turn out to be corrupt hacks. That’s the fundamental problem. We have many, many districts that are not competitive. And we have many voters who don’t have the time or the interest to learn about the candidates. They simply vote their party. The result of that, with the gerrymandering and the unlimited supply of money that the Republican Party has today, is what you see, which is a Republican-controlled Congress full of hacks.”

Tabetha Wallace: “As a Democratic member of Congress, how prevalent is this fear, and how does it play into decision-making when it comes to the defense budget?”

Rep. Alan Grayson: “It’s crucial. We have Democrats who have been running scared of the idea that their weak on defense since at least McGovern . And you remember how hard President Kennedy had to overcome that stigma in the 1960 election. So it’s been a real problem for us, ever since the Communists lived under our beds each night, and came out each night around three o’clock in the morning. This is a chronic problem, and we have to get past it by realizing that not every problem in the world has a military solution. Sometimes the military makes things worse. For instance, let’s take Iraq. That’s a good example of that. Things are far worse today than they were under Saddam Hussein’s regime. It’s not even a close question. Ordinary people are living lives of utter depredation and fear every day. We didn’t solve that problem. And we just have to get over this idea that every time we see something in the world that we don’t like, we bomb it.”

TV: “Some defend military spending, by justifying the jobs it produces. So how do separate job cuts from military spending?”

Rep. Alan Grayson: “Well, there is a simple answer to that, and I’m speaking as a former economist. I was an economist for almost four years, and the only member of Congress who can actually say that. When you put people to work making bombs, what you end up with is bombs. When you put people to work making bridges, what you end up with is bridges. When you put people to work making schools, you end up with educated children. Military spending to create employment is an utter dead end. You might as well have half the population digging ditches, and the other half filling them in. The important thing is to unleash people’s work, their time, their creativity, what they have to offer, so that they can serve others.”

Sean Stone: “What’s happening in Syria now? Is this being done with the oversight of Congress?”

Rep. Alan Grayson: “Well at this level, frankly, the President often acts unilaterally. But we do have to authorize wars. And the President has been edging up into territory now for several years. Somehow or other people have gotten comfortable with the idea of drone strikes in areas where we are not at war, like a place like Yemen. We have not declared war against anyone in Yemen. And yet people seem to think that it’s okay for us not only for us to arm one side or the other, but actually to launch weapons of destruction from U.S. drone planes. We kill many people, including at this point a list of over 200 children, available on the Internet. So, in fact, a lot of these situations are ones where the President is going right up to the very edge of what he can call his constitutional power, and often making mistakes. Because, frankly, the rest of the world is playing chess and we’re playing checkers. I was one of the few people who recognized two years ago that if we went to war against Syria, and we destroyed the command and control structure of the chemical weapons being held by the Assad regime in Syria, they would fall into other hands. So if that had actually happened, that misguided misconception that by bombing we’d make things better, if that had actually happened, then today we wouldn’t be watching ISIS beheading people on our TVs, we’d be watching them gas people.”

TW: “Is there any talk in Congress of addressing crumbling infrastructure needs with job creation?”

Rep. Alan Grayson: “Yes. In fact, this week you will see the Progressive Caucus’s budget voted on, and it will draw its usual 100 votes, out of 435 of us. But the Progressive Caucus budget does exactly that: It puts people back to work in America not making bombs, or as Eisenhower said, robbing from children (that’s what Eisenhower called military spending: robbing from children) but instead puts them to work meeting human needs. Whether it’s taking care of seniors, whether it’s rebuilding our bridges and our schools (the way we promised to do in Afghanistan), whatever it might be, whether it’s health needs, education needs — whatever it might be. It’s an honest budget that takes the unemployed and puts them back to work doing things that are useful and beneficial to all of us, meeting our human needs.”

TW: “What should the average American know about how their Congress works, and what they can do to make it work for them?”

Rep. Alan Grayson: “The answer is that the one or two people at the top determine the entire agenda. When Nancy Pelosi was in charge here in the House, every week we had a major bill that actually was going to pass the Senate, going to be signed by the President, and would make a difference in the lives of ordinary people. She always believed that if you improve people’s lives, you’ll get more votes. You do it on its own merit, but in fact, you’ll get more votes. That’s the way this place was organized by the people at the top then. Since John Boehner took over, it’s been one wasted week after another, putting out “messaging” bills. Whether it’s repealing Obamacare, whether it’s authorizing the Keystone Pipeline for the 35th time, whatever it might be, it’s basically just trying to placate the baying wolves of the right wing, rather than doing anything constructive or anything that might actually become law. We’ve almost reached the point where we have forgotten that we are legislators, that we’re supposed legislate, we are supposed to make laws, not send messages.”

SS: “Why did so few lawmakers show up for the 2013 drone strike victim hearing?” ad hoc hearing on drone strikes.]

Rep. Alan Grayson: “I think people try to avoid the things that are unpleasant. In fact, a great deal of self-deception takes place in everyone’s lives, and not just people up here in Washington D.C. If it’s a bad thing, and we don’t think we have a solution for it, we simply stop thinking about it — unless of course it’s ISIS, and then we can’t stop thinking about it. But the fact is that it’s sad. It’s sad that I had to do that , because every committee in Congress completely ignored all the drone wars that we were conducting in one country after another (some of which is classified and I’m not even allowed to tell you about it). A high U.S. official said that for every single person whom we kill with a drone strike, all these intended victims, the ones who are these “insurgents” (or whatever they’re calling them these days), for every single one of them, we make 50 more enemies that join these forces against us. Think about that. Does that seem like a good ratio? Does that seem like a winning strategy?”

TV: “One last question: Have you made a decision about running for the Senate?”

Rep. Alan Grayson: “No I haven’t. I’m waiting to see what The People want.”

TW: “I think that The People would be very pleased to see you .”

Rep. Alan Grayson: “You move to Florida; I want your vote. It’s a great show, thank you very much.”

To see the video, or contribute to Congressman Grayson’s campaign, click here and now.

The Price That You Pay For Rocking The Boat

Last month, I gave this tribute to Aaron Swartz, an internet activist, when I hosted a special Capitol Hill showing of the documentary Killswitch. Aaron was targeted for prosecution for his political views and, facing decades in prison, he killed himself. The documentary not only demonstrates how modern technology threatens our privacy and freedom, but it also recognizes the sacrifices that Aaron Swartz and Edward Snowden made on behalf of those fundamental principles. Aaron used to work for me. So when I introduced the film, I had a few personal things to say:

I’d like to begin by sharing my war experience with you. I remember when I was under fire ... Confederate fire. And Oliver Wendell Homes turned to me, and he said to me, “Get down, you fool.”

I’m sorry, no, that wasn’t me; that was actually Abraham Lincoln. I’ll confess: I’m not Abraham Lincoln, nor am I Bill O’Reilly. But the nice thing about living at this point in time, in the early 21st Century, is that you can actually check my story, right? You can go on the Internet, and find out whether Oliver Wendell Holmes actually ever said that to me. (By the way, he did say it to Lincoln.)

We need to do what we can to preserve that freedom, the freedom to find things out. The freedom to have that magical machine that people started to write about in the mid-20th Century, that magical computer where you could ask any question you wanted, and out came the answer.

That’s a magnificent accomplishment for humanity. But there is another even more important, magnificent accomplishment, which is that the Internet lets us find each other. Not just find out facts, not just find out numbers, but find other spirits, other souls who, in some way that matters to us, are like us. Kindred spirits. That’s a space humanity has created for itself now, that never existed before. It lets you connect with somebody in Bombay, or Tokyo, on very deep levels, when just a short time ago, they were not even a part of your imagination. And that’s something that we have to work hard to protect, because it will always be the case that selfish interests -- whether it’s multinational corporations, the military-industrial complex, the spying-industrial complex, whoever it might be -- they will try to take that freedom away from us. It’s happening right now. That’s what you’re about to see.

Now, we’re going to hear about two people. I never met Edward Snowden, but I did know quite a bit about Aaron Swartz. In fact, he worked for me, for a period of time, a few years ago. And he was brilliant, as you’ll see for yourself. I’m sure that whatever this film may say about him, it can barely do justice to what a special human being he was.

There were a couple of things about Aaron that, I have to tell you honestly, I found disconcerting. One this was that Aaron would always come up better assignments than any assignments that I could come up with. I’d tell Aaron, “Would you please do this?” And Aaron would say, “Well, sure, but do you mind if I also do that?” And always, ‘that’ turned out to be much more important than ‘this.’ Every single time.

Another interesting thing that disturbed me about Aaron was that he really got things done. Now here, in Washington D.C., that’s a lost art. People really don’t know how to do that anymore. Time after time, after time, we wait ‘til the very last minute, and we somehow manage, often but not always, to somehow get through it, without actually accomplishing anything, but actually just barely avoiding disaster. Aaron wasn’t like that at all. Aaron would think of this amazing thing -- I was stunned by his audacity that he’d even think of it -- and then a few weeks later, it’d be done. He was magnificent that way.

And over time I realized that my reluctance that I had, my frustration that I couldn’t give him assignments that were better than what he’d come up himself, it really reflected more on me than on him. So I stopped thinking about it, entirely.

Now he had a very special quality, which some of you may have, yourselves. Aaron liked to rock the boat. He didn’t mind rocking the boat. And that’s a unique quality in human beings. All over the world, I think, you’ll find that there’s a deep resistance and hesitation to rocking the boat. I’ve said that there are roughly 2,000 human languages on this planet, and I would venture to say that in every single one of those languages, there’s an idiom for the phrase: “Don’t rock the boat.” Well, he rocked the boat. Not only by creating Reddit at the age of 19, something which by itself would have given him the freedom to stay in bed for the rest of his life, and order in pizzas, to be delivered, never having to move beyond the bathroom. He could have had that life. But instead he wanted more. He wanted to go out and, as you’ll see, he wanted to imprint on the world his own sense of freedom -- the freedom I just talked to you about -- the freedom to be able to connect with other people.

Now, here’s the funny thing about what happens when you rock the boat. Sometimes when you rock the boat, the boat rocks you. It rocks back. And Aaron actually understood that, and he took it in good spirits. You have to pay a price for orienting your life in that manner. For some of us who try to rock the boat, we lose our family. For some of us who try to rock the boat, we lose our property. Some of us go to prison. In Aaron’s case, he lost his life. But he always understood that that’s the price that sometimes you must pay if you were that kind of person; if you have the impulse to go ahead and make a difference.

He was a person of enormous talent. And sometimes we are very hard on people with enormous talent. At a memorial service for Aaron, I mentioned Alan Turing, whose story since has become famous in a Hollywood movie. I think that there is a very deep and important point in talking about Aaron, in talking about Alan Turing, in talking about Oscar Wilde, who suffered for his greatness, too. In talking all the way back to Socrates. These are people whom we made to pay a price because they were so good at what they did that it disturbed us, it got under our skin. We look at them with some degree of, I don’t know, maybe you could call it guilt. Maybe you’d call it jealousy. But we took their lives, and we crushed them. They became human sacrifices, as you are about to see .

And that’s a pity, because people of talent make our lives better. And although we may think that we have to protect ourselves from them, in reality, it’s they who need protection from us, as we’ll see in this movie. And far from our needing protection from them, they’re the ones who make our lives better. If Alan Turing had lived, he would have won two or three Nobel Prizes after cracking the Nazi codes, and inventing the Turing machine, which is the basis for all of modern computing. If Oscar Wilde had lived, we’d not be enjoying only three or four major plays, we would be enjoying ten, or twelve or fifteen of them. And of course if Socrates had lived, then Plato wouldn’t have been such a bad guy after all.

So we have to learn to cherish those people who stand out; not to hate them, not to be jealous of them, not to punish them, not to ridicule them; and for sure, not to kill them. But rather to understand that the things that make us special are in fact the things that make us different, not the things that make us the same. And that any well-organized society takes advantage of our differences; doesn’t try to undermine them or hide them; doesn’t try to get over them, or overcome them; but rather seeks to cherish them. And make sure, in any event, that the prosecution that Aaron faced doesn’t become a persecution for the way he was.

Because, as Margaret Meade said, it’s people like that, those few people who can organize, who can assert themselves, who actually achieve advancement for all us, the entire human race. It’s the only thing that ever has.

So with that, I’d like to turn you over to the film. I would like to mention that you’ll be enjoying a Q&A after the film with Professor Lessig. Professor Lessig actually joined me in that memoriam for Aaron Swartz a few years ago. Here’s a couple things you may not know about Prof. Lessig. Unaccountably, Christopher Lloyd once depicted him in a film, but not me. I don’t know why. It seems that he’d be a natural to me, but that’s never happened yet. Professor Lessig is also the sixth most famous former University of Chicago law school professor. Who can name some of the others? Anybody? . Barack Obama, yes. Barack Obama, three Supreme Court justices and Judge Douglas Ginsburg – my thesis advisor at Harvard – who somehow neglected to invite me to any of his pot parties. I feel very bitter about that to this day, obviously.

Anyway, understand that the film that you are about to see, which focuses on two incredible people, focuses not only on their personal bravery and the sacrifices they made, but also is a hallmark for our time. It is a landmark, on the road to either heaven or hell. And that decision is ours. Thank you very much.


Rep. Alan Grayson
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