Alan Grayson's Journal
Member since: Sat May 22, 2010, 01:02 PM
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It hurts me to say this, but I recognize that I'm not the only one who says things that are worth listening to. So, from time to time, I'm going to turn over this "bully pulpit" to someone else. Today, I turn it over to someone who knows a thing or two about pulpits, Pope Francis. A week ago, he released his first apostolic exhortation, called "The Joy of the Gospel." I respectfully request that you take a few moments to read an excerpt from it, below. I found it fascinating, and I think that you will, too.
No to an economy of exclusion
Just as the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say "thou shalt not" to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a "throw-away" culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society's underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the "exploited" but the outcast, the "leftovers".
In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people's pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else's responsibility, and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
No to the new idolatry of money
One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Exodus 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise, in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies, and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
No to a financial system which rules rather than serves
Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: "Not to share one's wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs". (Saint John Chrysostom, De Lazaro Concio, II, 6: PG 48, 992D.)
A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.
No to the inequality which spawns violence . . . .
Today's economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. It serves only to offer false hopes to those clamoring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an "education" that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.
To which I simply wish to add:
Rep. Alan Grayson
P.S. For more on this, please visit us at CongressmanWithGuts.com.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu Dec 5, 2013, 05:05 PM (9 replies)
According to the D.C. playbook, when I was elected to minority party in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, I was supposed to divide my time equally between:
1. Twiddling my thumbs, and
2. Bringing my hands together in prayer – praying that the House Democrats would win the 2014 election.
Well, I tossed out that playbook. And you and I are writing a different playbook – based on action. We are paying attention, working hard, and getting good things done.
A few weeks ago, I discovered a novel way for you and me, together, to help prevent any more Wall Street bailouts.
Federal bank regulators have proposed new rules that would require huge Wall Street banks (those deemed "too big to fail") to keep an extra $89 billion on hand, to cover unforeseen losses. The regulators asked for public comments. And boy, did we ever comment.
All I had to do was let you know about it, and the responses came pouring into our website, NoBankWelfare.com. Here are some examples:
"One bailout was one too many." – Kathleen in Nevada
"Lost all my hard-earned money in 2008. Don't want a replay." – Turia in Oregon
"STOP THE GLUTTONY!!" – Steven in Florida
All told, more than 100,000 of us submitted comments, which I then delivered to the federal regulators. Amazing! As far as we know, that's the largest number of comments these bank regulators have ever received. For that, we should all feel very proud.
But I am also a little shocked. Why? Because I was the first Member of Congress to undertake any sort of meaningful action on this. And I don't even sit on the House Financial Services Committee, which conducts oversight on the banks. (Although under the Tea Party Republicans, "oversee" generally means "overlook.")
In any case, you and I, working together, put a big hurt on the big banks. They squealed like stuck pigs. In their comments to the regulators, the suits on Wall Street used twenty-dollar words like "excessive" and "highly arbitrary" to condemn the proposed commonsense requirements. They complained that the rules would put them at a disadvantage against other banks. Oh, poor, poor Wall Street banks! We feel so sorry for you! Show us your booboo, and we will kiss it and make you feel better.
And after that, I respectfully would ask the big banks on Wall Street please to explain to us what they've done to prevent a replay of 2008, when they wiped out one-fifth of the entire wealth of this nation, accumulated over two centuries, in only 18 months. Lots of just plain folks lost their jobs, their savings and their homes, while Wall Street bankers laughed all the way to the bank – their bank.
Politics is a team sport, and that's the way it was here. I want to thank the progressive groups who joined in this effort: the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), CREDO Action and Progressives United. We are all in this together, fighting to prevent any more big bank bailouts, and make Wall Street clean up its own messes. Thank you.
If you think that ending taxpayer bailouts is time well spent, please consider chipping in $25 to my campaign, or whatever you can afford. I'll use it not only to beat the Republicans in 2014, but also for campaigns like this, where we can fight and beat Big Greed.
And if you really like these kinds of collective efforts, then please become a Grayson sustainer, where you contribute monthly and automatically.
Regardless, you can count on this: The People, united, will never be defeated.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Sun Dec 1, 2013, 01:11 PM (13 replies)
A few weeks ago, Congressman Alan Grayson conducted Washington, D.C.'s first-ever briefing on the innocent victims of U.S. military drone attacks. The central subject was an innocent 67-year-old grandmother who had been blown to bits, in front of her grandchildren, while she was gardening. The briefing began with this poignant and moving statement by our Congressman With Guts -- without notes, and from the heart:
Rep. Alan Grayson: Apart from the 100-plus people who are here in this room today, watching me, watching us, watching the testimony that you're about to hear, everyone else who hears this testimony -- it could be in the next room, it could be in another country – will be experiencing it remotely, through remote listening. That technology, in one form or another, has been with us for 150 years, to promote hearing, to promote listening, and promote seeing things, from far away. My children engage in it virtually all the time, and it's become basic in our lives.
Now, today, there's a new technology in our lives. That technology is remote killing -- the ability to kill people from a great distance, through drone warfare.
I want to thank everyone for coming here today, and addressing this important issue. I want to thank, in particular, Robert Greenwald, who for years has been a hero to the pro-peace movement here in the United States. His movies through Brave New Films have enlightened people about the circumstances in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and now in Pakistan, and also in Yemen.
I'm proud to be part of this event, and I'm grateful for the opportunity for the first time here to listen to the stories of people who have suffered from America's reliance on drones abroad, with great expense to them and to others. And let me be clear about this: the manner in which we choose, unilaterally, to kill from the skies, within the borders of other states with who we are not at war, is wrong. It's just too dangerous.
If you agree with me that, due to the extrajudicial nature of these killings, they should stop, then I welcome you. If you agree with me that, due to the belief that collateral damage in the form of the death of innocent people, an adult or a child, should never be acceptable, particularly at the will of one man, then I welcome you. If you agree with me that the unintended consequence of civilian deaths attributable to drone strikes, and the public opinion that has mobilized against this in every nation that has been victimized by drone strikes, ultimately engenders more hatred toward America than it could possibly extinguish through death, then I welcome you. And if you have yet to make up your mind about the pros and cons of these drone strikes, these miniature acts of war, then I am particularly glad that you're here this morning, or that you're listening from near or far.
I can think of no better person to shepherd us through the intricacies of drone use abroad than this person who I am proud to call my friend, Robert Greenwald. And as you see, he has a new documentary called “Unmanned: America's Drone Wars” coming out, that will be essential viewing for every American with a conscience. I urge everyone to see the full documentary and ask the pressing questions that will come to mind. That's why we're here today.
We also have some very special guests today: Rafiq ur Rehman and his children. I thank each of you for your willingness to be here, your bravery, and your ability to share your stories so that they could be heard. I wish that we didn't have to be here through the loss of someone you love. I know the trip here to America has been hard for you. Thank you for being with us.
I want to reiterate that the reason why you are here today is an important one. American drone policy is wrong; it's dead wrong. If American soldiers invaded a country with which we were not at war, killed civilians along the way, and then remained there for years afterwards running patrols against perceived enemies, killing them at will, we would find ourselves in an international crisis. If China deployed drones over the skies of Cleveland to kill those with anti-Chinese sentiments, I think you could imagine the results of that. Invading from the skies is no different from invading from the ground, and there is no constitutional legal framework in which these life-and-death decisions are being made.
There needs to be increased oversight of the decisions to fly lethal weapons over another nation and kill people, and we should never accept that their children or their loved ones in a far-away land are acceptable collateral damage. The world has learned from past wars. We've passed rules that every nation must adhere to when engaging in combat. The United States of America's decision to disavow these rules unilaterally, to engage in anonymous killing from the skies, does not make us safer. It simply engages the world in perpetual war.
I cannot think of any other type of human activity where we would accept the fact that 10 to 30 percent of the dead would be innocent. If we had 10 to 30 percent of the dead who were the victims of capital punishment in the United States, then clearly it would end overnight. If there were some kind of drug that ended up killing 10 to 30 percent of the patients who took that drug, we would never conclude that that drug were safe, no matter how effective it was. If there were a surgery that ended up killing 10 to 30 percent of its patients, that surgery would be forbidden, and doctors who performed that surgery would be put in prison. And yet we accept the idea that 10 to 30 percent of the victims of drone strikes are innocents -- and we should not, because that is fundamentally unacceptable.
In some of our ancient writings, shared by the people on this platform, there is some debate over which is the greatest of blessings. Is it hope? Is it faith? Is it charity? I have traveled around the world and talked to an awful lot of people about the subject, and I can tell you that the greatest blessing of all is peace. There needs to be more of it. Blessed be the peacemakers.
To show your support for our Congressman With Guts, click here.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu Nov 14, 2013, 06:49 PM (3 replies)
Two months ago, we were told that if the United States did not attack Syria, we would see a new era of chemical weapons warfare.
Yet here is last week's Reuters headline: "Syria Meets Deadline To Destroy Chemical Production Facilities."
Let's celebrate the war that never happened.
Let's celebrate NOT having to hold sad and somber funerals for young Americans who would have lost their lives fighting in Syria.
Let's celebrate NOT having to nurse and care for the wounded veterans who would have returned from the U.S.-Syrian war.
Let's celebrate Congress NOT having to appropriate billions of tax dollars in emergency spending to support U.S. military operations in Syria.
Let's celebrate NOT having to attend bitter marches protesting the U.S. war in Syria.
Let's celebrate NOT having to rebuild Syria's roads and bridges and schools, so that we can have a shot at rebuilding our own.
Let's celebrate peace.
We won the battle, and the military-industrial complex lost the war.
We should be proud of our victories, because our victories matter. I know that politics sometimes can seem discouraging right now. Progressive often seem to lose, and lose frequently. But, you know what? Sometimes we win. And when we win, we save lives. We promote equality. We serve the cause of justice. We improve people's lives.
I'm going to crow a bit, right now. Because, together, we stopped a U.S. attack on Syria. The military-industrial complex said attack, and attack now. We said what John Lennon once said: "All we are saying is give peace a chance." We said that there is no such thing as humanitarian bombing. We said that we can't go around the world launching missiles and dropping bombs every time we see something that we don't like.
Well, we were right, and the military-industrial complex was wrong. We forced diplomacy rather than more carnage, and now the chemical weapons stockpiles are being destroyed.
This is victory. Our victory. Two months ago, 100,000 of us signed a petition at DontAttackSyria.com. Eighty thousand of us shared it on Facebook, and tens of thousands more shared it on Twitter.
And you know what? We stopped an attack. We saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.
And you know what else? We got those chemical weapons production sites destroyed.
Peace won. Lives were saved. Thanks to you. Good job!
We progressives, each one of us, we have a head, a heart and a spine. We can win. We will win.
Rep. Alan Grayson
P.S. If you like what we've done so far, we can accomplish even more together. If you haven't signed up already, then please become a $25/month sustainer of our campaign. Help make sure that our voices won't be silenced. Help make sure that we can continue to fight for justice, equality and . . . peace.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Tue Nov 12, 2013, 07:30 PM (116 replies)
This is the halfway point between Congressional elections. In our last two notes, we looked forward, and we asked for your support for the November 2014 election, 52 Tuesdays from now. Now I want to look back, and thank you and everyone else for your support in the November 2012 election, 52 Tuesdays ago.
According to information from the House Historian, our election last year was the biggest comeback in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives. We won by 25 points, just two years after losing in the general election by 18 points. That's a swing of 43 points.
(Attention trivia lovers: the old record was held by Rep. John Rousselot (R-CA). He was defeated for reelection in 1962, by seven points. Eight years later, the Congressman in the neighboring district passed away. That was a heavily Republican district. Rousselot ran against another former Congressman in the primary to fill that vacancy, he squeaked by in that race, and then he won the general election by 33 points – a 40-point swing after eight years, in an entirely different district.)
Moreover, last year you helped us to overcome the utter sliming that the Right Wing had launched against us in 2010. We will never forget that the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee said that I was the Republican's #1 target for 2010. That Glenn Beck said that he didn't care what happened in any other 2010 race, as long as I lost. That Sarah Palin came to Central Florida more than once to campaign against me, and called me a "jackwagon" (reading that from her palm, apparently). That our district became a laboratory for what dirty tricks the special interests could get away with after the Citizens United ruling, running $5½ million of attack ads against me -- more "independent expenditures" than in any other House race, anywhere in the country, at any time ever, until then. That the average person in Orlando saw 70 vicious and disgusting negative ads against me, paid for with sewer money from the Koch Brothers, the health insurance companies and the Chamber of Commerce.
Two years later, in 2012 – poof! – all gone. Instead, we won a historic victory – thanks to you.
And a recent analysis showed that of the 435 Members of the House of Representatives, I am the only one – the only one! – who raised most of his 2012 campaign contributions from small donors. That makes me feel special. And that makes you special – very special.
So let me do what I probably should do more often – just say thanks. Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Thank you for helping me to promote justice, equality and peace. Thank you for your support.
Rep. Alan Grayson
P.S. As I write this, the pledges from supporters like you have put us at a remarkable $99,255 in sustaining revenue. (I've printed out a copy of the ActBlue page, in case anyone wants to see it.) We were hoping to reach $100,000. It would be wonderful if someone pledged $20.14 per month toward the 2014 race, and put us over the top. Maybe you?
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon Nov 11, 2013, 08:35 PM (13 replies)
I don't want to nag you. But I need to make a point.
In my last note, I said these three things: (1) The 2014 election is exactly one year -- 52 Tuesdays -- away. (2) We have to start preparing for it now. (3) The best way for contributors to show their support is to sign up for monthly contributions to the campaign.
Since we're talking about the 2014 election, my suggestion was to sign up for monthly contributions of $20.14. If you're willing and able to contribute more, that's great. If you're willing, but unable, then please sign up to contribute something each month – even five dollars.
Some of us did this. Some of us didn't. So if you didn't, then I'm asking again. If you intend to support the Grayson for Congress 2014 campaign, please sign up now for monthly contributions. Be a "sustainer." That way, I won't have to tell you next October that we're $500,000 short, and we need it in the next 24 hours, or whatever.
Some of my colleagues say, "My most important contributors are the Koch Brothers." Others say, "My most important contributors are the corporate lobbyists – man, I love those $10,000 checks." I can't say that. The Koch Brothers spent $2 million to defeat me in 2010. Corporate lobbyists chipped in another $2.5 million. The Democratic Party gave me nothing. So what I say – all I can say – is this: "My most important contributor is YOU."
Please help our campaign, by signing up for monthly contributions. I'm counting on you.
We need your help. I need your help.
Rep. Alan Grayson
Posted by Alan Grayson | Wed Nov 6, 2013, 11:06 AM (0 replies)
What a strange world we live in. Obamacare makes it possible for young working people and students in their twenties to get health coverage under their parents' policies, or under Medicaid expansion (in those States where a Republican governor hasn't prevented it), or enjoy large discounts called "affordability credits" on their health insurance plans. For some reason, this offends the billionaire Koch Brothers. So the Koch Brothers have been running ads suggesting that young people will be . . . wait for it . . . raped (!!!) if they sign up for health insurance.
As if that weren't weird enough, the Koch Brothers have been hosting beer parties and dance parties on college campuses across America, asking participants to pledge that they will not sign up for health coverage!
Our champion for universal healthcare, Congressman Alan Grayson, was invited on national TV recently to discuss this. His advice: "Drink their beer, eat their pizza, and then sign up for care." Here is the interview:
Rev. Al Sharpton: Joining me now is Congressman Alan Grayson, Democrat from Florida. Thank you for being here tonight, Congressman.
Congressman Alan Grayson: Thank you.
Rev. Al: You know, it is pretty unseemly for the billionaire Brothers spending money so that people won't have health insurance.
Alan: It's unscrupulous and sadistic. Here in Florida, more than a million people are not getting health insurance that the federal government would pay for entirely – one hundred cents on the dollar -- simply because the Tallahassee Republicans and Governor Scott won't go along with it. We pay our taxes to Washington, D.C., we would get this coverage in return, and they're preventing that from happening. So one million Floridians are going to go without health coverage this year, next year, and the year after, and a certain number of them are going to die because of that. The Koch Brothers are responsible. The Republicans are responsible. They all have blood on their hands.
Al: But you know what is interesting, Congressman? Ten Republican governors have caved on the Medicaid expansion. In fact, today, we're learning that Governor Kasich in Ohio has won his fight to bypass the state's Republican legislature to expand Medicaid. The Koch Brothers are still fighting this, but aren't more and more states seeing that expanding Medicaid is the way to go?
Alan: Well, you‘d have to be a fool to think otherwise. We're talking here about the poorest of the working poor. That's what this expansion covers – it's for people who make less than the poverty level, and who have no children, so they don't qualify under current Medicaid standards in most states. They still have to work, and they simply can't afford the coverage any other way. If you ask people, "Why don't you have coverage?" 90% of them say, "Because we can't afford it." So here, the federal government is stepping in and eliminating the discrimination that exists between child couples and childless couples, to treat everyone the same, and yet these Republicans have to insinuate themselves and prevent five million people from getting the coverage that they deserve.
Al: You know, Koch-sponsored organizations are also hosting – listen to this, they're going further – hosting events for college students on college campuses to get young people to reject the Affordable Care Act. They host pizza parties, dance parties with DJs – they hand out beer koozies that say "Opt Out." They even have a fake Obamacare "draft card" burning. I mean, they're going all out to turn young people off of something that young people really need.
Alan: Well, my advice to them is to drink their beer, eat their pizza, and then sign up for the care. Because in many cases this care costs less than a hundred dollars a month. It's less than my cable bill. And they need it. If they get in a motorcycle accident, or a car accident, as so many young people do, they're going to need that coverage, and they'll be glad that they did.
Al: This is really billionaires versus poor people. And in fact, President Obama recently called out billionaires like the Koch Brothers. Watch this.
--begin clip of President Barack Obama--
President Barack Obama: Some of the Tea Party's biggest donors, some of the wealthiest men in America, are funding an ad campaign trying to convince young people not to buy healthcare at all. I mean, think about it. These are billionaires, several times over – you know they've got good healthcare.
--end clip of President Barack Obama--
Al: Now, to be fair, they're not only spending their money in this area, Congressman. They reportedly own two million acres of land in Northern Alberta. If the Keystone Pipeline is expanded, the Koch Brothers stand to make $100 billion in profits. Isn't it exactly this wealth that makes it possible for them to have such enormous influence over issues that benefit them?
Alan: Well, that's exactly why they have such enormous influence over the Tea Party and the Republican Party. Because the Republican Party's creed these days is, let's take every tax break, let's take every bailout, let's take every permit like the Keystone (Pipeline) permit, let's take every government contract, and put it up to the highest bidder. Not for the public, not for the Treasury, but for their own coffers, for their own campaign contributions. And that's the way they do business. From Eric Cantor on down.
Al: Congressman Alan Grayson, thank you. And one last note, we reached out to the Koch Brothers on this story, but they declined to comment.
Congressman Alan Grayson – speaking out forcefully for universal, comprehensive and affordable healthcare. And calling out those who stand in the way. Click here to see the video, or to contribute to the Grayson campaign. Or both.
P.S. The 2014 election is precisely one year from now. So please show your support.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Sun Nov 3, 2013, 10:50 PM (11 replies)
After Congressman Grayson conducted Congress's first-ever briefing on Wednesday for the victims of drone attacks, CNN interviewed our Congressman With Guts. Here is what he said:
Brooke Baldwin: A missile falls from the sky, killing a grandmother and nearly killing her two grandchildren. Not because of what they did, but who they were possibly near. That is the tragedy that lawmakers heard today in this unprecedented meeting on Capitol Hill. For the very first time, Members of Congress heard from two reported survivors of a drone attack in Pakistan one year ago this week. These survivors – here they are – these are children of a primary school teacher whose story is featured in a documentary that's releasing tomorrow; it's called Unmanned: America's Drone Wars. And in fact a clip of that film was played during today's briefing, and then the boy and the girl described the drone they say nearly killed them.
--begin clip of Drone Strike Survivors Briefing--
Nabila Rehman: Everything was dark and I couldn't see anything, but I heard a scream. it was my grandmother, but I couldn't see her. I was very scared, and all I could think of doing was just run. I kept running, but I felt something in my hand, and I looked in my hand, there was blood. I tried to bandage my hand, but the blood kept coming. The blood wouldn't stop.
Zubair Rehman: I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray. And for a short period of time, the mental tension and fear eases.
--end clip of briefing--
Brooke: Prefers gray skies, he says. Representative Alan Grayson of Florida invited that Pakistani to the U.S. to come and speak. He joins me now from Capitol Hill. Congressman, welcome.
Representative Alan Grayson: Thank you.
Brooke: We heard – you heard, and Members of Congress heard -- some of these drone strike victims, an incredibly unique perspective. You organized this briefing. What was your takeaway?
Alan: My takeaway is that we're undertaking something that's beyond anyone's capability: trying to decide on the basis of what we see, on a computer screen in the United States, who lives and who dies 8,000 miles away in a foreign land. It's inherently difficult, it's virtually impossible, and we're making many mistakes. There have already been as many as 200 children – children – who have died in these drone attacks, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, and in Yemen.
Brooke: You know very well the argument for drone strikes. For the viewer, let me just show a list that CNN compiled of the top terrorists killed in 2012. And the first five here on this list, all killed by drones. The first name there, this is Yahya al-Libi, who had a $1 million reward for his capture. And then this perspective, this is a former advisor to the Pentagon saying this, recently. Take a listen:
--begin clip of Jeremy Bash on CNN--
Jeremy Bash: So the question really for the United States is how do we go after terrorists who hide in areas where we can't send in tanks, where we can't send in special forces, where we can't barrage the camps with artillery? And so we have developed a very precise, very effective weapon that can take out terrorists before they plot attacks against us.
--end clip of Jeremy Bash--
Brooke: Congressman, how do you answer that question? What is the alternative?
Alan: The alternative is to rely upon other countries to clean up their own messes, instead of having us send our death equipment to the other side of the world, to perform those acts for them. In this case, we're talking about Pakistan. Pakistan just received a billion dollars in U.S. aid. In fact, Pakistan receives about a billion dollars in U.S. aid every single year. And Pakistan has a one-million-man army. We're talking about capturing no more than 100 or 200 or maybe even 300 people operating in Pakistan. Why can't they do it for us?
Brooke: But Congressman, I have to jump in because I immediately think of Osama Bin Laden. Granted that he was not taken out by a drone, but can we trust these other countries?
Alan: Well, the alternative is to see casualties that are staggering, among innocent people, like the 200 children whom I mentioned. All the estimates are that between ten and thirty percent of the people whom we kill by drone attacks are completely, completely innocent, including this grandmother in her sixties.
Brooke: I hear you, and I know that so much of this for you and so many others whom I've talked to on this program say that so much of this is about what's dubbed this phrase "collateral damage," the killing of innocent civilians. But how much of this also, Congressman, is about the secrecy of this drone program?
Alan: Well, that's part of it, but I think that people look at the pros without considering the cons. Public opinion in Pakistan is completely inflamed against us, and we are losing the cooperation of an important regional ally because of these drone attacks. The same thing is true in Yemen. The same thing is true in many countries in the Middle East, and in fact around the world. The reason why we're killing these people is because we want to prevent them from taking action against the United States, but we are inflaming the opinions of millions of people against us when there are alternatives that don't require that, that are far more effective, less dangerous, and less likely to result in innocent deaths.
Brooke: I know that critics have called for some sort of judicial review or process, sort of a counterweight, versus something entirely relied upon within the executive branch, so I return to this family of these youngsters that you brought from Pakistan. Do they have any legal recourse against the United States for what they say happened to them?
Alan: Well, that of course remains to be seen, but we are talking about a whole class of people who are killed upon the command of one man. Generally speaking, it's God who decides who lives and dies, unless you're talking about drone attacks.
Brooke: Congressman Alan Grayson, thank you so much.
Alan: Thank you very much.
Let us share with you a very special moment from the briefing. After asking the witnesses a few questions, Congressman Grayson turned to the victim's son and said, "I'm sorry for your loss." He replied with his only words in English: "Thank you."
To see the CNN interview, or to make a contribution, click here.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Thu Oct 31, 2013, 11:14 PM (1 replies)
I’ve found an interesting and novel way to end Wall Street bailouts, and prove once and for all that no bank is “too big to fail.” And I need your help. This is a bit complex, but I think you'll find that this is a unique opportunity for you and me to make a difference.
Here's the story:
Recently, federal bank regulators proposed a new rule that would place strong new restrictions on the eight biggest banks in the country. Right now, these banks and their risky ventures are in essence subsidized by the taxpayers, because their own lenders believe that the taxpayers will bail out these banks if they go broke. Wall Street bankers rake in big bonuses by playing a game of chance – heads, they win; tails, we lose.
The new rule says that these banks need to maintain a larger buffer to cover their speculative bets, to make sure that they don't gamble with our money. JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of New York Mellon and State Street would have to put up $89 billion to guard against unforeseen losses. This would make the banks much safer. And after the 2008 wipeout, which destroyed 20% of America’s net worth in 18 months, that's a good thing.
Before this rule can go into effect, there's a comment period during which bank regulators have to invite feedback from the public. Often, this period is dominated by big bank lobbyists, who whine incessantly against whatever they don't like. And in this case, Wall Street already has mobilized its Republican hirelings in Congress to go on the attack against this rule, because they don't think that the public is paying attention.
But some of us are paying attention. Congressman John Conyers and I have written a letter asking the government to enforce this new rule. Not only do we want it enforced, but we want to make it even stronger!
That's where you come in.
We need you to join us.
We'd like you to co-sign our letter. Tell the government that big banks on Wall Street shouldn't gamble with your money.
Your support matters – it demonstrates that the public is weighing in, and it gives the government regulators the spine to stand up to big banks. Without us, the regulators will think that the banks are the only ones paying attention. If thousands of us show that we care, we will embolden the regulators to crack down on Wall Street’s taxpayer-funded, high-finance casinos.
So sign our letter. You can even add your own comment.
I will submit this letter, along with your signatures and comments, to the bank regulators. We’ve been in touch with them, and they've asked to hear what we have to say.
Let's tell them. Together. Click here to do it.
And thanks for your help.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Tue Oct 22, 2013, 06:38 PM (9 replies)
Shortly after the GOP shutdown/default crisis ended last week, Rep. Alan Grayson gave this very pointed analysis of the Tea Party, the Republican Party, the havoc that they had wrought, and what America needs to do to defend itself from them. Listen up:
Rev. Al Sharpton: So is it going to be easy for the Tea Party to bounce back from this defeat? I'm going to channel the President here: "No."Joining me now is Congressman Alan Grayson, Democrat of Florida. Thank you for being here.
Congressman Alan Grayson: Thank you.
Rev. Al: Congressman, does the President have the Tea Party on the ropes?
Alan: I think so. I think that ordinary Americans are with the President. They're appalled by the Tea Party's tactics. They come to the President saying, "If you don't let us steal your car, then, we are going to burn down your house." They are appalled by the way the Tea Party cheered on the shutting down of the government, cheered at the fact that we put our credit at risk for a generation to come. And they're appalled by the enormous expense - the fact that this temporary shutdown ended up costing America $24 billion. That's almost $100 for every man, woman, and child in this country. Frankly, they want their money back, and the Tea Party out of their lives. At this point, the Tea Party is no more popular than the Klan.
Rev. Al: Now, Congressman, some on the right are already threatening those who didn't push the defund movement all the way to the end. Sarah Palin wrote on Facebook, and I'm quoting it, "Rest well tonight for soon we will focus on important House and Senate races. Let's start with Kentucky."From sea to shining sea. Congressman, what will happen if the right, not just the Tea Party, all primary fights all over the country?
Alan: I think it's already clear to people that the Republican Party is on its way out. The Republican Party is going to go the way of the Whig Party, the way the Whig Party disappeared in the 1830s in America. And the reason is simple. They simply won't do anything useful for ordinary people. Whether the issue is jobs or housing or health care or transportation, whatever the issue might be, they got nothing. And it's not our fault that they've got nothing. They simply want to bring about the End of Days, as quickly as possible. That is the ultimate Tea Party Republican desire, to bring about the End of Days. The Republican Party has become the largest suicide pact in history. And I hope they don't take us with them.
Rev. Al: Now, you say they got nothing. The President says the fever is broken. Has the fever been broken?
Alan: No. Not yet. The fever will be broken when we vote them out of office, and take back the House next November. But in the meantime, we have to protect ourselves. And we have to protect ourselves specifically from their destruction -- that desire for destruction that keeps welling up over and over again. Now, I've introduced the simple two-page bill, H.R. 2313, called the ‘Fiscal Sanity Act.’ It funds the government for the rest of the year. It raises the debt ceiling until the end of next year until after the elections, when we can safely deal with these problems. And I'm hoping that people will flock to it. We've had almost 20,000 people come to our website EndTheLunacy.com, because they want to end the lunacy. They feel the same way the President does. They're tired of this. They want their needs met. They want Congress to listen to them, and not get sucked into these artificial crises that drag us lower and lower, to the very bottom.
Rev. Al: Rush Limbaugh says the problem is there weren't enough Ted Cruzes. Listen to this.
--Begin video clip of Rush Limbaugh--
Rush: Can you imagine in this last fight if we would have had five or ten Ted Cruzes? Can you imagine the different dynamic? Can you imagine: If we had five or ten Ted Cruzes, we'd win a lot of debates. If we had 45 Ted Cruzes in the Senate, we'd come close to winning every vote.
--End video clip of Rush Limbaugh--
Rev. Al: Clearly the Right Wing talkers aren't giving up. But the poll numbers for the GOP are in the tank. Will the leadership of the GOP keep listening to these talkers?
Alan: Listen, Boehner has to go. Boehner dragged this country (with its Tea Party allies) through the mud for two and a half weeks, completely unnecessarily. There was no purpose to this whatsoever. The bill we voted on late last was the same bill we could have voted on two weeks ago, two months ago, two years ago. And the fact is that John Boehner has become a short order cook for the far Right Wing. "Would you like some French fries or cheese with that?"That's what he does. He takes whatever they want, and he lays it out there as if that's the right thing to do. And another thing about him -- for nine times before this week, before this month, he stepped back from the abyss and let Democrats do the responsible thing, which is to keep the government running and to pass bills that needed to be . And this time he did not. And in doing so, he became useless. At this point, Dr. Jekyll has become Mr. Hyde. He has to go -- everyone who is willing to cater to the Tea Party has to go, so Americans finally get the government that they deserve.
Rev. Al: Congressman Alan Grayson, thank you for your time.
Alan: Thank you too.
Ask yourself this: who else in American public life today is as honest and as blunt as this? Congressman Alan Grayson deserves your support, like no one else. He, and only he, is saying the things that you are thinking, and so much need to be said. To see the video, or to make a contribution – or both – click here.
Posted by Alan Grayson | Mon Oct 21, 2013, 06:50 PM (3 replies)