Alan Grayson's Journal
Member since: Sat May 22, 2010, 01:02 PM
Number of posts: 329
Number of posts: 329
As the quest for a so-called "grand bargain" to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits "in exchange for" modest tax increases on the rich lurches forward, we thought that you might enjoy this brief moment of clarity from a recent national TV interview with Congressman Alan Grayson:
John Fugelsang: You posted . . . that the President's offer, essentially to cut Social Security benefits for seniors, does break a promise to America's seniors. Some Republicans, of course, seem to like that. So, will Democrats support it, or will they support cuts to other social programs?
Congressman Alan Grayson: Well, the President specifically said in September 2008 that he would not change the formula for calculating the cost-of-living adjustment. That take $1,000 a year out of the pockets of 90-year-olds. As for whether the Democrats will support it, I don't know, but I know they shouldn't.We've lined up 35 Democrats here in the House already who say, in the "Grayson-Takano Letter," that they will vote against any cuts in Social Security, or Medicare, or Medicaid benefits.
John: So let me ask you, is it worth keeping the sequester cuts and foregoing any new revenues, in return for keeping Social Security as it is?
Alan: That's not a choice that we should ever have to make.Social Security is not responsible for the deficit. The Social Security Fund has $1.9 trillion in it. It's the largest sovereign wealth fund in the entire world. The Social Security Fund has been operating at a surplus now ever since the fund was founded, ever since the program was founded.We are 25 years away from anything resembling a problem of any kind with the Social Security system. In the next quarter of a century, under current law, the beneficiaries can get all that they're entitled to. I don't understand why we're fretting over what might or might not happen in the year 2037, when we have 25 million Americans who are looking for full-time jobs .
John: Well as you know, here on Viewpoint, we don't like to call these programs 'entitlements'--we call them 'earned benefits'. But is there no compromise to be had for the President, unless he offers something like that up?
Alan: That's just not the way you negotiate. The President has offered something up, in return for nothing. There's no sign that the Republicans have any interest in making any sort of deal with the President, and even if they did, we're not talking about things that are commensurate with each other. You can't equate cutting Social Security benefits, cutting Medicare benefits -- breaking the promise that we Americans have made to ourselves, the covenant that we make to ourselves -- you can't equate that with having millionaires and billionaires and multinational corporations finally pay their fair share of taxes.
John: With over 80% of the Bush tax cuts made permanent, I would add. So, let me ask you then, sir, for President Obama, is this an elaborate piece of political theater? Is he taking a page out of Dick Morris' playbook for Bill Clinton by triangulating against House Democrats on this issue? So he can put himself in the middle of the political spectrum, where they say most voters live?
Alan: He may think so, but he's making a terrible mistake.This is not a 'Sister Souljah' moment for the President. In fact, the President, I believe, is soon going to find through public polling that this is a terrible mistake.90% of Democrats and 80% of the Republicans are against this specific proposal. If you're talking more generally about cuts in benefits, you find that 80% of the Democrats and 65% of the Republicans are against this kind of proposal. This doesn't make any sense, either from a policy point of view, or a moral point of view, or even a political point of view. In fact,the President is putting at risk all the progress that we've made in identifying the Republican Party as the party in favor of cuts for Medicare and Social Security benefits, and the Democratic Party as the party that will protect the public from the Republicans.
Click here to see the video, or to show your support for our Congressman With Guts.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Tue May 14, 2013, 01:13 PM (2 replies)
How to protect Social Security, in two easy steps:
Step One: enlist an army. We've done that – 3,000,000 people have signed petitions demanding "No Cuts" to Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Step Two: bring the politicians face-to-face with our army. Here's how:
I've set up a website where you can help me get every Member of Congress on the record about Social Security and veterans benefit cuts. Go to www.CitizenWhip.com, and I'll show you how to ask your Member of Congress what he or she thinks. Then, after a few days, I'll ask you to tell us what he or she said in response. We'll collect all of the responses in one place, and then we'll know which Members of Congress are for and against these cuts. And by Election Day on Nov. 4, 2014, so will their voters.
The polling on Social Security is very clear -- voters like it just the way it is. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Southern voters like it. Northern voters like it. Democratic voters like it. Republican voters like it.
Social Security is like birthday cake. Everyone likes birthday cake.
For years, certain Members of Congress have been quietly telling their Wall Street paymasters they will cut Social Security benefits, and divert that money to Wall Street. They've been hiding this from their voters, many of whom have no idea that their Social Security benefits are being threatened. It's time to "out" these would-be Judas Members of Congress, by forcing every Member to state publicly his or her position on these important questions.
What's your Member of Congress's position on Social Security and veterans benefit cuts? Help us all find out.
One thing that's neat about this project is that by participating, you will learn a little bit about what it's like actually to be a Member of Congress. In Congress, a "whip" counts the votes for or against something. For instance, I'm the "Regional Whip" for House Democrats in Florida and Georgia. Typically, a whip is a member of a legislature, but in this case, it's you. A citizen. You're the whip. That's the reason why our site is called "Citizen Whip."
If we can make this work, we'll have a new relationship between citizens and Congress. Citizens won't just vote, call and e-mail. They'll also whip.
So, let's get your Member of Congress on the record. Click here:
Welcome to the Grayson Citizen Whip Team. This is just the beginning, and you're part of it.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon May 13, 2013, 02:06 PM (11 replies)
I'm trying my best. But there is a limit to what I can accomplish when there are 232 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives (a/k/a “the Comatose Caucus”) and only 201 Democrats.
If we're going to win more votes, and pass more good bills, then we need more Democrats. Democracy is like that.
Tomorrow, there is a special election in South Carolina to replace Tim Scott, who was the last remaining African-American Republican in the House. (There are 42 African-American Democrats in the House.) The Republican nominee is former Governor Sanford. The Democratic nominee is Elizabeth Colbert Busch. Despite the fact that President Obama lost this district last year by 18 points, in the latest poll, the two candidates are only one point apart.
I'm not going to make fun of Governor Sanford. That's just too easy.
Nor am I going to ask you to support Colbert Busch because her brother is Stephen Colbert of the Comedy Central Channel. By the same token, I will not ask you to support Warren Beatty for Congress just because his sister is Shirley MacLaine. Same thing with Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Also Peter Graves and James Arness. And Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine.
I could ask you to support Colbert Busch because, according to one report, she is pro-choice, she backs marriage equality, and she supports immigration reform. So I could ask you to support her without feeling my gorge rise. But I won't do it for that reason alone.
No, I'm going to ask you to support her campaign because the last thing that we need in the U.S. House of Representatives right now is another Republican. And the thing that we do need is more Democrats. Seventeen more Democrats, to be exact.
We've established a contribution page to help her campaign. Click here, etc., etc. Let's take back the House.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon May 6, 2013, 04:55 PM (9 replies)
Our subject today is Congressman Grayson's recent bold statement that Medicare should cover glasses, hearing aids and dental work, because, as he put it, "most seniors have eyes, ears and teeth." But before we get to that, we just want to remind you that today is the last day to qualify for a chance to join Alan at Disney World next month by contributing $25 or more to his re-election campaign. We now return to our regularly scheduled commercial programming.
A couple of weeks ago, key progressive officials joined a conference call with grassroots leaders about how to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from Republican benefit cuts like the so-called "chained CPI." Earlier this week, we shared Congressman Grayson's statement on that call with you. Now, here is some of the Q&A:
Adam : We have a question from William Packson's e-mail , in Congressman Grayson's home state. He says:
"I am receiving $11,208 per year , out of which I must pay medical bills, rent, food, utilities, transportation, and prescriptions. As it is, there is not enough to pay for all necessities. What is Congress planning on doing to the cost of living adjustments?"
Congressman, would you like to take that first?
Alan: Well, sure. Unfortunately, there are Members of Congress, who are called Republicans, who are planning cuts to cost of living adjustments. The "chained CPI" is fakery that will recalculate the cost of living adjustments – basically with the idea that if the cost of gasoline doubles, that doesn't represent a doubling in the cost of living, because some people will have to walk to work, not being able to afford gasoline. So they put more shoe leather into the calculation, and less gas. It's just cheating. I laid this out in an email I sent around, in a blog post a few weeks ago. they are just trying to baffle us with "you-know-what." It's not fair. It doesn't fully reflect the increase of the cost of living. And it's a shame, because as the caller points out, right now the money you get from Social Security isn't even enough to raise you above the poverty level. We are not giving our seniors enough to live above the poverty level. Imagine what it would be like if they got less. (And I'm saying "less" in some real sense.) So I think it's unconscionable.
I don't know exactly why Republicans feel the same way about cutting Social Security and Medicare like the way a moth feels about a flame. I don't understand that, but we have to deal with it.
The Sequester is in danger of becoming the latest excuse for giving rein to this desire to hurt old people, hurt poor people, hurt sick people -- and we just can't allow it. We've got a system that accurately assesses cost of living increases, and we have to protect it from attacks by the other side. . . .
Peter King : Okay. Thank you very much. I'm actually based out of Orlando, which is Congressman Grayson's home state. And you know this is obviously a very partisan position, and the message here is very much Democrats versus Republicans. . . . s there anything here that you would be willing to compromise at all? I mean Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are all really broad programs. And there is arguably a lot of waste in some of these programs. Just wondering to see if there is anything you could move an inch or a foot on here, to get rolling? . . .
Alan: Well first, it used to be that there was consensus on this. It used to be that Democrats and Republicans agreed that there should not be cuts to benefits for Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare – and that's changed. People used to regard Social Security as the "third rail" in American politics. You've probably heard that phrase before. But now, Republicans are not only touching the third rail, they are dancing on it. And that's unfortunate. You know, Reagan used to say 'I didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.' I think there are probably a lot of Republicans in the country, particularly seniors, who are scratching their heads and saying, 'I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me.' By this unquenchable thirst right now to hurt the needy. To hurt seniors, poor people, people who need medical care and just want to see a doctor when they are sick. It's not consistent with the original conception of Republicanism, of conservatism. We are trying to conserve these programs -- you'd think that "conservatives" would be with us.
But to get to your question, I will tell you this: I think you can eliminate fraud . You can eliminate waste, you can eliminate abuse – and in no sense would you break this promise. This is a promise that is very clear. It's that we are going to "vote against any and every <u>cut against Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security <u>benefits." Benefits – that's what the recipients actually see. If they're in Medicare and they go to a doctor that means there are major procedures that are covered, and those are not going to change.
If we can eliminate or reduce waste, fraud and abuse of these programs, that doesn't change their benefits. If we can run the program more efficiently, that doesn't change their benefits. If we change the payment plan, the Social Security tax, the Medicare tax, that doesn't change the benefits. If we change what doctors get paid for procedures, that doesn't change the benefits, either. It's what the recipients see .
You know, we can't ask people to pay into these programs year after year, decade after decade, and then when it's their turn, we say to them, "Well, you know, the law was that you had to be sixty-five , but now you have to seventy-two." That's not fair. It wouldn't be fair if the private entity did it. It wouldn't be fair if the government did it, either.
So the answer to your question is 'yes.' Of course you can make changes to the program, and then make the program better. I'd like to see Medicare cover eyewear. I'd like to see it cover hearing aids. I'd like to see it cover dental work. As far as I know, most seniors have eyes, ears and teeth. Laughs.] I think these things should be covered. I'd like to move in that direction. That would improve these programs. But in terms of cutting benefits, no – that's not fair.
Isn't it about time that someone said that we should be perfecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not cutting them? Well, someone just did.
If you would like a chance to join that special someone in Orlando, then please click here. Last chance, last dance, last romance.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon Apr 1, 2013, 09:07 PM (38 replies)
Before we get down to business, just a brief reminder: if you would like a chance to join Congressman Grayson at Disney World, then click here and contribute $25 or more to his reelection campaign today.
Evidence mounts each day that The Powers That Be in Washington are looking to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. A couple of weeks ago, some key progressive leaders joined a conference call hosted by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), to discuss how to protect and defend Social Security and Medicare. Here is what Congressman Grayson had to say:
Adam Green: Hey folks, thank you so much for joining . This is Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. And I want to welcome you to our briefing today. In the midst of this sequester, we have great Progressives talking about their positions on the cuts. . . . So without further ado, we are very proud to first turn things over to one of our bold, Progressive heroes, Congressman Grayson.
Congressman Alan Grayson: Yes. Thank you. Thanks very much. When we first put this letter together, I thought hard about the promise that it makes. And let me read it to you verbatim:
"We are writing to the President to let you know that we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need."
I gave it a lot of thought before I signed off on this letter, as to whether I really meant it, whether that was my "red line." I tried to think about all the different possibilities that might come up, the things that might go into a bill that would cut , what would be appealing to me. Honestly, I thought, 'What if they had said they were going to end the war in Afghanistan? ' -- that's something very important to me. But I realized in the end that I had nothing. I couldn't think of a single thing that could be put into a bill that would make me willing to break our promise to our constituents, for something they earned and so badly need. They paid for it. They need it. They want it. They deserve it. It's that simple.
And I understand the difficulty that many people may have in this Congress, in predicting what might come up and making a commitment, making up their minds. A lot of people always want to keep their options open. But I think this is a fair test. This is a fair test.
This is a fair test of your commitment to basic principles, because a cut to Social Security benefits, Medicare benefits, Medicaid benefits is cheating old people, cheating poor people, cheating sick people. That's what it comes down to. It's taking something away from them that they need it to live – something they've earned themselves. And I can't do it. So I'm happy to say to the President, to you all, and to anybody else that listens: I won't do it. I just won't. I'm not going to use my vote to hurt people who are that needy and that deserving. I won't do it.
And I'm apparently not the only who feels this way, because even though we have had this letter just out now for a couple of weeks, before today we had 25 Members of Congress who had signed on to this letter. Today, there are two more. We have been joined by Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and William Lacy Clay of Missouri. And there will be more to come, because first of all, it's right, and secondly, it's good politics. And that has become clear to me more and more, as I talk to people.
I had a reporter come to me and ask me, "Is this like the Grover Norquist 'No Tax Increase Pledge?"' I said, "Yeah, sure, just like a fish is like a bicycle."
If you promise that you won't raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires and multinational corporations, that shows whom you really represent. And if you say that you won't cut benefits for old people, sick people, poor people, that shows whom you care about, too.
These programs are the greatest accomplishments of the Democratic Party and the Progressive Movement for the past 80 years. They are things that every other country with an advanced economy takes for granted. Every other country has universal healthcare. Every other country has old-age pensions – every single one of them. And there is no reason I can think of why we have to be different -- particularly when you consider the Social Security trust fund has almost $2 trillion in net worth.
So that's what it comes down to. I want their party, the other party, to be known as the party that only cares for millionaires, billionaires and multinational corporations -- and they prove it through their pledge. I want our party, our movement, to be known about the party that cares about poor people, needy people, sick people, who have earned the benefits that they deserve to get.
And that's a clear line I want the American people to see. It's something that I feel in my heart. And I also feel that it's great politics, because people deserve a choice. You know, you can't reach a point in this country where the only choice you get it is between Diet Coke and Coke Zero. That's not good enough. We need people to be able to choose. And choose for real. There needs to be a clear line, clear difference, when they cast their vote. They need to know who they're voting for and why. And I think this is the best possible example – this makes it all clear.
I can go into my next election next year – and twenty-six other Democrats can go into their next election next year – knowing that we have provided certain amount of clarity about what is at stake for the people when they vote in our districts: You are either for The People or against them. And we've shown what side we're on.
That, ultimately, is the question in politics: whose side are you on?...
Which leaves us with an interesting question: Whose side are you on? Congressman Grayson is on your side. Will you show that you're on his side, by contributing to his re-election campaign before the end of the quarter? Two lucky supporters will join Congressman Grayson at Disney World. But every single supporter will have shown . . .
WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?
Posted by Alan Grayson | Fri Mar 29, 2013, 07:33 PM (4 replies)
Last week, Congressman Grayson joined Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC, to talk about the Ryan Budget, the Republicans' blueprint for stealing from the poor to give to the rich. Republicans in the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for this "get poor quick scheme" for America. Here is what Rep. Grayson had to say about it:
Reverend Al Sharpton: Joining me now is Congressman -- Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson . . . .
Congressman Alan Grayson: Thanks.
Rev. Al: Congressman, this will be the third time Republicans voted on a version of the Ryan Budget. And it might be the worst one yet. How do you explain these Republicans in the House?
Alan: Well, the Ryan Budget should have been relegated a long time ago to the septic tank of history. But here it is again. It's bad , for seniors, it's bad for children, and it's bad for everyone, even white guys. You wonder why they keep bringing it back over and over again. It raises the debt by $6 trillion -- that's $20,000 for every man, women, and child in this country -- for the sake of giving a $400,000 tax break to millionaires. The Republicans are literally trying to bribe millionaires with their own money....
Rev. Al: Now, you know, Congressman, today during the debate, House Republicans actually insisted that government spending can't create jobs. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Congressman James Lankford: We're not promoting additional stimulus spending as the budget is being proposed right now is. A giant proposal for additional spending did not help us several years ago. Jobs do not come from additional federal spending long term.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Rev. Al: But Congressman, new polls show that Americans of both parties want the federal government to spend to create jobs. 91% of Democrats and 63% of Republicans support a federal government program that would put people to work through infrastructure repairs; what they support. And 93% of Democrats and 56% of Republicans support the federal government spending money to create more than a million new jobs. This is just a fact. And they are saying that government doesn't create jobs. That government spending will not do it.
Alan: I think that it shows that the public has a much better grip on reality than the Republican Party does. Look at state after state where the Republicans have been in charge. They have cut government spending in those states. They have laid off firefighters, they've laid off teachers, they've laid off police officers, they've laid off all sorts of public servants, and destroyed those jobs. In those states like mine, like in Florida, unemployment has remained high. I'm not going to get into some abstract debate about whether government spending creates jobs, because we've seen with our own eyes the past few years (and we're about to see again with the federal sequester) that cutting government spending definitely destroys jobs, and that's what we're going to see right now. We have a $14 trillion economy with $13 trillion of demand. And the government is making up the difference. If the government stops, this economy will collapse. Maybe Republicans will be happy , because there will be a reserve army of 25 million unemployed people. But as for the Middle Class in America, it's going to be all over. . . .
Rev. Al: Congressman, you know, we saw you going to Boehner's office with petitions for 300,000 signatures about ending the sequester. But who's going to fight them on these -- the need for jobs, the need to stop this nonsense? I mean, are you going to take them on? Who's going to stop this nonsense in Congress?
Alan: Well, I'm hoping that the 750,000 people at a minimum who will lose their jobs because of the Republican sequester will take them on. I'm hoping that the 3,000,000 people who may end up losing their jobs because those 750,000 people have no money left to spend on their rent, on housing, on health care, on food, all of the things that keep other people employed, I'm hoping that they are complaining about it, too. We did take 300,000 petitions directly to Boehner's office, to show him that at least there are 300,000 people in this country with their eyes wide open, who understand that if we stop this , if we cut these jobs, we're going to end up hurting ourselves. And this notion that the Recovery Act didn't do any good is just nonsense. In my neighborhood, the Recovery Act paid to replace the trailers that my children were going to school in. I have five children who are in public school in Orlando. They were going to school in trailers, and we replaced them with a brick building. You can't tell me the Recovery Act didn't work.
Rev. Al: Well, the people that know the impact of the Recovery Act are those who needed to be recovered. The very wealthy have nothing to recover from, so they don't know what the recovery was. Congressman Alan Grayson..., thanks for your time tonight.
Alan: Thank you.
Congressman Alan Grayson: Bold. Incisive. Direct. A one-man Truth Squad.
To see the MSNBC video, click here. And for a chance to break bread with Congressman Grayson at Disney World, just click here and contribute $25 or more to our campaign between now and March 31 (or to enter otherwise, here). It could turn out to be one of the best days of your life. One of the best days of your life -- that's got to be worth 25 bucks, right? If you think so, then exert pressure through your index finger, right here.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Wed Mar 27, 2013, 09:49 PM (3 replies)
This is the last week of the quarter, so in the next six days, you may receive countless e-mails imploring you to contribute to political campaigns.
This is one of them. With a twist.
Here is the deal: Anyone who contributes $25 or more to our re-election campaign this week will have the chance to join me at Disney World.
Why Disney World? Because I represent South Orlando. Thank God I don’t represent South Mogadishu – that would be a hard sell.
As usual, we will choose one winner from the Orlando area, and another winner from anywhere in the country. We will provide transportation to Orlando, a hotel room, and Disney admission. And then I will have the pleasure of your company, if you are the one.
Would you like to join me? I look forward to it.
Under these rules, you could wait until midnight on March 31 to make your contribution. But that would be silly. So donate to our campaign now. Who’s stopping you?
Maybe we’ll have dinner inside Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom, and watch the fireworks. Or maybe we’ll enjoy Octoberfest (in April!) at Epcot Center. Maybe I’ll just ask you what you want to do.
By the way, void where prohibited, subject to change, blah, blah, blah.
I’ll be honest – one of the great thrills of living in Orlando is that I get to take my kids to Disney World any time I want to. And if you win, then I can take you, too.
So please, hit that CONTRIBUTE button below, and cross your fingers. Mickey Mouse wants to meet you. And so do I.
Rep. Alan Grayson
If you would like a chance to join Congressman Grayson at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, please contribute $25 or more to our campaign by March 31st. (Or you can fill out the form here.)
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon Mar 25, 2013, 04:08 PM (2 replies)
A few weeks ago, Congressman Alan Grayson appeared on former Governor Jennifer Granholm's national TV show. If you want to hear how a real Democrat talks about executive orders, gun control, immigration reform and other issues, then listen up:
Fmr. Gov. Jennifer Granholm: Fortunately for us, Florida's liberal firebrand, Alan Grayson, is back in Congress, after a two-year hiatus. He's joining us from Orlando, near his Central Florida district. Welcome back inside "The War Room," and welcome back to Congress! I know I'm a little late saying it, but welcome back.
Congressman Alan Grayson: Thanks. You know, I gave a speech about that scenario you just mentioned -- what would happen if the President brought about world peace. I said the Republicans would condemn him for destroying the defense industry.
Jennifer: See? Perfect! Exactly. Sort of like we're seeing today. you're a lawyer, do these new Republican "impeachers" need a constitutional lesson about executive orders? And that the Executive Branch does have some degree of authority?
Alan: Well, it's interesting that they wanted to impeach him before he actually said what the orders were. But I'm betting that as long as they can't impeach him for being black, he's really not in any danger.
Jennifer: What are Central Floridians telling you -- I mean this gun issue is a very hot topic today -- what are you hearing from people in Florida about assault weapons gun show loopholes? What are you hearing?
Alan: Well, there are a small number of people who are absolutely bent on avoiding any sort of gun control. We do a lot of polling locally. There is about three to five percent of the district that believes there should be no form of gun control, ever. They associate that with the Second Amendment, although that's not what the Second Amendment actually says, and they believe what they believe. None of them actually vote for me. I'm not going to change their minds anytime soon. And that's okay. I mean, it takes all kinds. I think most people -- certainly as reflected in our polling and the people I speak to -- most people are looking for some sort of practical solution. They don't want to see dead children on their TV screens anymore. They for sure don't want to see dead children in their neighborhoods. I think that those people represent the "silent majority," if you will. The people who have common sense. Those are the people whom I try to represent.
Jennifer: I would imagine that's what the bulk of Floridians feel. Former Florida Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough had an interesting tweet today. He said, "The House can pass comprehensive gun control legislation now and have Speaker Boehner shape it, or wait two years for Speaker Pelosi to do it." Interesting. Is he right? Do you think the Republicans may be blowing their majority by appearing too extreme on this?
Alan: Well, no. They're blowing their majority by being callous, bigoted tools. That's how they're losing it. I don't see them losing it over gun control.
Jennifer: Although, I must say, the polling on the gun control issue is pretty amazing. The National Journal is reporting that the Republican National Campaign Committee ... trying to figure out what their agenda is, going forward. They've pinpointed seven Democratic House Members that they're going after in 2014, and you're actually not on their list! At least not yet, before this interview.
Alan: No, listen, winning by twenty-five makes the point. And that's not twenty-five votes, by the way, even though it Florida. I'm talking about twenty-five percent.
Jennifer: No, yeah, it was a beautiful thing. So, because you have been so clear, and so strong, and so proudly progressive, what advice do you have for your new colleagues to keep their seats?
Alan: Well, I think you have to vote in the best interests of the common man. I don't know how else to put this. "The greatest good for the greatest number." I don't see any other way to do the job. I will tell you this: To try to placate the NRA, it doesn't do anybody any good. The NRA did not endorse a single Democratic Member of Congress in Florida, and we have twenty-seven Members. They didn't endorse a single Democrat. They're not going to be on your side, no matter what. The same thing is true of the Chamber of Commerce. The same thing is true of Karl Rove, and the money he spends. The same thing is true of the Koch Brothers. They're just not going to be on your side, no matter what you do. And you just have to do the job according to your conscience. That's the way I did it. When I was first elected , I had a district that had not been represented by a Democrat for thirty-four years, going back to Watergate. I did the job the way that I thought was best. And you know, in the wave election, being inundated with $5.5 million in sewer money, which at the time was the biggest independent expenditure by special interests against any Democratic House Congressman anywhere in the country, ever (they've since broken their record), I lost. But now I'm back, because the people want somebody who is willing to fight for them.
Jennifer: Yeah, exactly right. Now, speaking of that, your district is about forty percent Hispanic, if I got that right. Where is immigration reform on your list of priorities?
Alan: I think people sometimes make the mistake of referring to Hispanics as some kind of homogeneous group. In my district, Hispanics are roughly evenly divided between Puerto Ricans, who of course are all citizens, and other Latin Americans, some of whom are and some of whom are not. So I don't think that you would see Hispanics necessarily having the same intensity of views on this issue, whatever their national origin may be. That being said, I'm a strong supporter of immigration reform. I support the nine-point program that was put out by Congressman Gutierrez (who happens to be Puerto Rican, by the way) from Illinois, a couple of months ago. I think the country desperately needs immigration reform. It doesn't make any sense for us to have ten-million-plus people living in the shadows, dragging down prevailing wages, not having any protection of law. That just doesn't make any sense. So we have to find a solution to the problem. And once again, here again, the Democrats have a plan. The Republicans don't. I think for any problem you can think of, the Republican plan is "don't do anything." "Keep your fingers crossed, maybe things will get better." It's just as true of immigration as any other problem facing the country today.
Jennifer: We'll see if in fact, it is just window dressing that appear to be supportive of in this go-around. Your colleague in the Senate has got a plan that it seems your colleague in the House has jumped onto, Paul Ryan. But, does it get to a comprehensive plan or not, that's really going to be the next battle up, I think. I really appreciate you coming inside "The War Room." I'm really glad you are still an outspoken voice on behalf of the greatest good for the greatest number. Thank you, Representative Grayson.
Alan: And so are you. So are you. Thank you, too.
There it is -- no shilly-shally, wiggle-waggle, dither, waver, dodge, stall or stumble. Just the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If you want to see the video, or show your support for our Congressman With Guts, then click here.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon Mar 11, 2013, 12:20 PM (1 replies)
One of the nice things about being a Member of Congress is that I have security clearance, and you don't. (Sorry!) So I know about the threat that the looming sequester poses to a crucial top-secret military research project. Since we're friends, I'll tell you about it.
The U.S. Army has discovered that a small round white object, when hurled from close range at the upper extremities of an enemy combatant, can have a devastating impact, sometimes inducing unconsciousness. Deploying this weapon often results in immediate disorientation in the enemy combatant, reflected in his abrupt non-vertical motion and transient imbalance. The Army refers to these powerful weapons as "Ballistic White Spherical Objects," or BWSOs.
Although it packs quite a wallop, the BWSO is surprisingly compact. It measures only nine inches in circumference, small enough for a properly trained U.S. soldier to hold one in each hand. A fully-functional BWSO weighs only five ounces, making it practical for a U.S. soldier deployed on the battlefield to carry several of them, simultaneously, in his kit.
Remarkably, U.S. military experiments have demonstrated that the BWSO is completely resistant to electromagnetic pulses (EMPs), and other advanced electronic countermeasures. In the wake of an EMP caused by a nuclear blast, BWSOs evidently will continue to function in the prescribed manner, unless they are vaporized.
BWSOs are especially useful in close combat, demonstrating the ability to project substantial force over small distances. Yet the effective range of BWSOs is proving to be very similar to that of grenades (for reasons as yet unknown). The effective range of BWSOs has been ascertained to be substantially greater than that of bayonets.
Currently, our entire supply of military-grade BWSOs comes from Costa Rica. Recognizing the obvious wartime threat, Pentagon military planners have considered the scenario in which the Chinese Navy blocks both the Pacific and the Caribbean sea lanes. The planners have assured the Joint Chiefs of Staff that we will nevertheless be able to maintain our supply of BWSOs because, since Costa Rica has no military, we can just take whatever we want.
(A nation without a military - imagine that. But I digress.)
BWSOs are white objects, as the acronym implies. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is, however, in the midst of a year-long study at a secret location to determine whether BWSOs remain effective when they are red, green, blue or even purple. If these tests prove successful, then next year, DARPA will test striped BWSOs, and in the following year, plaid.
Every BWSO features 216 pieces of red thread, or "stitches" (not to be confused with the medical treatment for combat wounds). These "stitches" sometimes cause a completely unexpected feature upon deployment - a curvature in the arc of the BWSO's trajectory. At first this was believed to be an optical illusion, or perhaps a gravitational lensing effect, in accordance with general relativity. However, detailed telescopic studies performed by orbiting military satellites, in both the visible light and infrared parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, have confirmed that this effect is genuine.
Properly trained , a soldier can deploy the BWSO with mind-boggling speeds approaching 100 mph, or almost twice the velocity of a car on an interstate highway adhering to the national speed limit (if such a thing can be imagined). Interestingly, this is true of both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking drivers, and both automatic transmissions and "stick shifts." At such velocity, scientific studies at Guantanamo Bay and certain "black ops" CIA locations have demonstrated that the impact of a BWSO upon the skull of an enemy combatant is devastating, especially when the enemy combatant is in chains.
Because BWSOs are usually non-lethal, they are also being studied for usage by internal security forces. One advanced concept is to deploy them from domestic drones. In the United Kingdom, tests are being conducted to see whether they can be integrated into the existing complement of equipment used by English "bobbies," whereby one "pitches" and the other one "hits."
The U.S. Army's current BWSO research program - placed directly at risk by the sequester -- focuses on the maximum speed with which BWSOs may be deployed. In this key project, the Army has identified and procured the services of certain experts in the field. These experts cannot be identified, for obvious reasons, but they definitely aren't not named "CC Sabathia," "Johan Santana" or "Barry Zito." (Disturbingly, intelligence reports conclusively demonstrate that "Justin Verlander" may or may not be cooperating with foreign military forces in a similar manner, thus posing the very real threat of an "arms race.")
Due to earlier budget cuts, the Army found that it could not pay the normal daily rate for these experts, which is $600,000 for approximately two hours of work. The Army found, however, that it could procure these services for half-price, or only $300,000 for each two-hour "start," if it conducted these tests between mid-October and late March.
These essential tests are being threatened by the sequester. If the sequester goes into effect at the end of this month, then we may never understand why Army test data indicate that Santana's deployment of the BWSOs appears to be slowing. (Could it be a gradual increase in the strength of the Earth's gravitational field?) Or why Zito's declining ability to force the BWSO trajectory to arc occasionally seems to leave the BWSO hanging in the air, much like a ripe pumpkin.
We cannot leave America defenseless. We cannot let the terrorists win. Remember, they hate us because we are free. But the cost of that freedom is precisely whatever the current military budget happens to be, before any terrorist-coddling sequester cuts.
Virtually all of the media coverage of the impact of the sequester on the US military-industrial complex has focused on the loss of jobs, as if hiring people to kill other people is some kind of national full-employment program. But having read all the way down to here, at least you, Dear Reader, you understand that there is a lot more at stake.
Oh, and we're also cutting the air traffic control budget by nine percent. That should have some interesting consequences.
Rep. Alan Grayson
P.S. Please sign our petition against Social Security and Medicare cuts at www.no-cuts.com, if you haven't already.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Sat Feb 23, 2013, 06:11 PM (12 replies)
Aaron Swartz was an internet leader and free-speech advocate. He helped organize the worldwide movement to keep the internet free from censorship and corporate control. After Aaron downloaded a large number of scholarly articles from the JSTOR website without JSTOR's permission, he was indicted for violating JSTOR's terms of service. Facing long years in prison, Aaron committed suicide last month, at the age of 26. At a recent memorial service for Aaron in Washington, DC, Congressman Alan Grayson was invited to speak. Here is what he said:
CONGRESSMAN GRAYSON: Aaron worked in my office as an intern. He had a quality that I found unnerving. He could come up with better things for him to do than I could come up with for him to do. Time and time again, I would give him something to do, and he'd say, "Is it okay if I also work on this other thing?" And "this other thing" turned out to be much more important than anything that I could come up with.
I learned to live with that. I learned to live with that shortcoming, which I took to be a shortcoming of my own, not one of his.
The other unnerving quality that I found in him was the fact that when he would conjure these assignments, they actually came to fruition — an unusual phenomenon here on Capitol Hill. He'd give himself something to do, I would recognize that it was very worthwhile, I let him do it, and it got done! He was a remarkable human being.
Another thing that I found unnerving — but also very endearing — about Aaron was that Aaron wanted to rock the boat. Now, we all hear from a very, very young age, "Don't rock the boat." I would venture to say that of the 2000 languages spoken on this planet, probably every single one of them has an idiom in that language for that term: "Don't rock the boat." And yet Aaron wanted to rock the boat. Not just for the sake of boat-rocking, but for the sake of improving the lives of ordinary people. And that's a beautiful, a wonderful quality.
We're talking about somebody here who helped to create Reddit, an important world-wide service, at the age of nineteen. Honestly, somebody who probably could have spent the rest of his life in bed, ordering pizzas, and left it at that. And yet he didn't. He continued to strive to do good — good as he saw it. And that's a rare quality in people. Many of us, we just have to do our best to get through the day. That's the way it is. Many of us struggle to do just that. Very few of us actually can think big thoughts, and make them happen. But Aaron was one of those rare people.
And he was willing to take the heat for rocking the boat. Now, you know, sometimes when you rock the boat, the boat tries to rock you. That is exactly what he encountered, right up until the end.
And it's a sad thing, that that's the price you have to pay. For some of us who rock the boat, we end up losing our property. For some of us who rock the boat, we end up losing our freedom. For some of us who rock the boat, we end up losing our families. And in Aaron's case, his life.
And yet, he was willing to face the facts, and to let that happen. To keep striving, to keep struggling, to keep trying to shake things up.
Aaron's life reminded me about a different life that came to the same end. It's the life of Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician. He lived in England, and was born one hundred years ago. Alan Turing was the greatest mathematician of the 20th Century. He not only invented the Turing Machine, which is the basis for all modern computing, but Alan Turing also broke the Nazi codes during World War II, and allowed the English and the Americans to defeat the Nazis.
You would think that someone like that would be cherished. Someone like that who, if he had managed to have a full life, might have won one, or two, or even three, Nobel Prizes. But in fact he was vilified, because he was a homosexual, which, at that point in England, in those days, was illegal. And I'm sure that at that point in England, in those days, there were people who said, "Well, the law is the law. And if you disobey the law, then you should go to prison." Because of that, because his boyfriend turned him in, Alan Turing was convicted of perversity, and sentenced to prison.
Given the choice between spending hard time — years and years of his life — instead of doing the mathematics that he loved, or alternatively, to accept estrogen injections, well, Turing took the estrogen injection choice. And that broke not only his body, but his mind. He found that he could not do the thing he loved the most, mathematics, any longer. So after two years of this, Alan Turing committed suicide.
And who lost, out of that? Well, Alan Turing lost. But so did all of we. We lost as well. All of us who would have benefitted from that first, and second, and the third Nobel Prizes that Alan Turing had in him. And that Aaron Swartz had in him.
We're the ones who lose.
If we let our prejudices, our desires to restrain those with creativity — if we let that lead us to the point where that creativity is restrained, then going back all the way to the time of Socrates, what we engage in is human sacrifice. We sacrifice their lives, out of the misguided sense that we need to protect ourselves from them, when in fact it's the opposite.
Our lives have meaning, our lives have greater meaning, from the things that they create. So we're here today to remember Aaron — and also to try to learn from the experience. To understand that prosecution should not be persecution.
This morning I reached into the closet, randomly took out this tie , and wore it. And I have a sense that sometimes, things are connected in ways that are not exactly obvious. It happens that this tie is a painting of "Starry Night" by Vincent Van Gogh, someone else whose life ended all too soon.
In a Don McLean song about Vincent Van Gogh, it ends this way: "They would not listen. They're not listening still. Perhaps they never will."
It's time to listen.
"And when no hope was left in sight,
On that starry, starry night,
You took your life, as lovers often do.
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you."
-Don McLean, "Starry, Starry Night" (1971).
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu Feb 21, 2013, 03:38 PM (2 replies)