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Alan Grayson

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Member since: Sat May 22, 2010, 01:02 PM
Number of posts: 361

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Sequester Threatens Top-Secret Military Research

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.

Courage,

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.

Aaron Swartz, R.I.P.

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).

"Would You Like To Buy A Pen?" She Asked Me

As we approach the self-immolation known as "The Sequester," I find myself thinking about a woman in West Africa, asking people, "Would you like to buy a pen?"

She was a middle-aged woman, wearing a bright-colored dress. Judging by wear and tear, it may have been the only dress she owned.

She was standing on the steps in front of a small department store, which was selling pens by the dozen. She repeated softly, in French, to passers-by, "Voulez-vous acheter une plume?" And she held up a pen.

I didn't need a pen, but I did need to know what she was up to. I asked her how much her pen cost. She quoted a fair price. I gave her that much, plus some more. She gave me a pen that I didn't need. And she had enough money to eat something that day. Or so she said, en francais.

Back to "The Sequester," the 12% budget cut for the military (leaving aside soldier pay and benefits), and the 9% budget cut for other federal programs (leaving aside Medicare and Social Security). Opponents of The Sequester are focusing on the military cuts. Their theory seems to be that the American public has been signing blank checks made out to "DoD" for so long that there is no way that we'll stop now. Or maybe they think that we will subliminally translate the words "defense cuts" into "some crazy Arab is going to blow me up" without anyone actually having to say that, much less make the case for it.

I have a nodding acquaintance with polling, so I understand that foreign aid might be the least popular federal program right now, second only to black helicopters. But our immunization program alone saves three million lives each year. Our emergency food assistance program fed more than 66 million starving people last year. Possibly including the lady who sold me that pen.

And the total cost of all that food was equal to one-sixteenth of a new aircraft carrier. In fact, for the cost of one aircraft carrier, we could feed every hungry person in the entire world.

So let's see. A nine percent cut in the foreign aid budget means that six million more people go hungry. And American taxpayers save 44 cents a month. Not even enough to buy one hamburger.

Further translating this into Americanese, give some thought as to what The Sequester will do to the food stamp program, or the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. A lot of Americans will be going to bed cold and hungry.

I know that I will never see that lady with the pen again. Even though I remember her, she probably doesn't remember me - if she is still alive. She is not going to vote for me, and she is not going to contribute to my next campaign. Nor will her relatives, nor will her friends. I'm not sure why I cared whether or not she was hungry, but I did, and I do. It's just part of being human, I guess.

So here is one argument against The Sequester that you're not hearing elsewhere - it will cause a lot of pain. A lot of hunger, a lot of disease, a lot of death. I understand that this argument is hopelessly unfashionable, and completely contrary to the zeitgeist of fear and hatred that dominates our political discourse. But there it is, nevertheless. I sure see it. Maybe you do, too.

Courage,

Rep. Alan Grayson

"These Are People Who Want to Kick You When You’re Down"

Recently, John Fugelsang of Current TV welcomed Alan Grayson back to Congress in John's own special way ("The one, the only, ayatollah of rock-and-rollah, Democratic Congressman, Alan ‘Boom Boom' Grayson"), and John asked Alan how the new Congress looked to him. Here is how it went:

John Fugelsang: It is his "Second Coming," in the halls of Congress that is. But if you expected Democratic firebrand Alan Grayson to tone down his comments now that he's back in DC, you don't know Grayson!

-video of Rep. Grayson's "Don't Get Sick" floor speech-

Congressman Alan Grayson: If you get sick in America, this is what the Republicans want you to do. If you get sick in America, the Republican's Healthcare Plan is this: Die quickly.

-end video-

John: Oh you could sell those signs on E-bay. Come on, admit it! You missed this guy!

-video of Rep. Grayson on MSNBC "He's Baaack!" interview -

Alan: As I pointed out three years ago, their health care plan is: "Don't get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly." Now we see the same thing is true with guns, in the wake of a terrible national tragedy. In fact, in the wake of recurring national tragedies, their answer is, do nothing. They want to instill in us a kind of fatalism and nihilism that means that we can't do anything to solve our problems.

-end video-

John: The pride of Florida's 9th district! The one, the only, ayatollah of rock-and-rollah, Democratic Congressman, Alan "Boom Boom" Grayson joins me now. Good evening distinguished Representative, and thank you for your time.

Alan: (laughter) Good evening.

John: It's great to have you back, sir. I think I speak on behalf of many who were really thrilled to have you back on Capitol Hill. After two years off, sir, how does it feel? Has anything changed?

Alan: Well, a lot has changed. The Democrats no longer have the House and as a result, nobody is doing anything, unless you hold a gun to their heads. Literally. It's remarkable to see the inaction; I just saw that directly in full force. It was 79 days since Hurricane Sandy before the Republican majority in the House was willing to do something to address the problem. 79 days when people can't flush their toilets. 79 days when people are literally living in the dark, with candlelight. And it took that long for the Republicans to do anything to help those people. It's shocking. They just cannot get anything done.

John: Well you have to understand, sir, those people live in the Northeast, not in actual America. I think that's their rationale.

Alan: I think the rationale is what it always is. The Republicans just don't want to do anything for anybody. And there's a mean streak too that I think you only recognize when you're really close up . These are people who want to kick you when you're down.

John: Like you've so eloquently described, Republicans' go-to plan for any problem facing the country seems to be at this point, do nothing. So when you see your GOP colleagues do do nothing -- now it's on gun control measures -- what do you think the odds are that when the next mass shooting happens, God forbid, will they be blamed? Will the GOP once again bow to the NRA pressure, or is this time going to be slightly different?

Alan: No, they will bow to NRA pressure. I am almost certain of it, because you have to understand, the real audience for about a hundred and fifty Members of Congress who are Republicans - most of their caucus - their real audience is those four or five percent of humanity who actually vote in Republican primary elections. They don't care what happens in November. They care what happens in June, July and August, when they're having their primaries. It's only a tiny fraction of the public who ends up determining who goes to Congress from all of those many Republican districts. That's their audience. The NRA still has veto power over most Republican Members of Congress. And they will kowtow to the NRA.

John: But sir, doesn't that mean if they go ahead and block or filibuster an assault weapons ban or regulations on magazine size, when the next massacre happens, does the House GOP then own it?

Alan: It just doesn't matter to them. Look, we live in a country where almost twenty-five million people cannot find full-time work. The President and the Democratic Party have been trying desperately to do something about this, for the past four years. And for the past two years Republicans have blocked every effort. The President's job program never even came to a vote in the House of Representatives. It's farcical. They don't want to help people. They don't care. The only way to solve this problem is to simply put them out of power.

John: Well, in your own state of Florida, Governor Rick Scott has been refusing to accept federal money to help disabled children. But it turns out he's willing to use state and local funds to line the pockets of gun lobbyists. Scott gave a $1.6 million subsidy to Colt Manufacturing in 2011. Is there any logic behind this?

Alan: Well the logic, I think, is that they believe that the only real problem this country has is that the millionaires and the billionaires just don't have enough money. And if we keep stuffing money in their pockets, somehow, everything will just come up roses. That's been their plan from the start. They're pretty explicit about it. There's no form of corporate welfare that Governor Scott's ever been against. But if you talk about actually seeing to it that handicapped children can be home with their families instead of being institutionalized, suddenly there's no money for that at all.

John: Last week, in response to criticism from you, and families of disabled children, and the U.S. Justice Department, Florida launched a so-called "Enhanced Care Program" which would enlist twenty-eight nurse case coordinators to work with the families and the nursing homes treating their disabled children. Is this close to adequate? Twenty-eight people for the whole state of Florida?

Alan: No, of course not. Look, we have twenty million people in the State of Florida. We have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of children who are dependent upon the State for their care. And the question is, "Are they going to be in the hands of their loved ones, their family members, the people who care about them the most, or are they going to be institutionalized and treated like, I don't know, packed like sardines in a can?" I don't know. That's the choice that's in front of us. And the Governor has already indicated that he favors the sardine approach.

John: You know, I'm all in favor of giving criminals a second chance, but Governor of Florida seems a bit much. Do you think the tide is turning ? That constituents are waking up and beginning to realize the character of the man they put in office?

Alan: You know, it's a tough analogy but I'll tell you this. In the same way that people in Pakistan are sick and tired of seeing drones in the sky day after day , people in Florida are sick and tired of an unthinking, unfeeling government that is constantly doing nothing but taking pot shots at them - particularly the ones who are most in need. I think that it's going to end. I think that people in Florida are waking up. They understand that they are entitled, when they choose our leaders, when we choose our leaders, we are entitled to leaders who care about us, who want to help us, who want to serve us. Not people who just tell us, "If you got a problem, you're on your own."

John: Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida! Great thanks for your time tonight. It's a pleasure to see you back in DC.

Alan: Thank you.

This is the kind of hard-hitting, unvarnished truth that we need from our leaders. If you want to see the video, or show your support for Alan Grayson in Congress, then click here, and thanks!

Humpty Dumpty Constitutionalism

A few days ago, I pointed out that the House Republicans' five-page bill to raise the debt ceiling offends two different provisions in the Constitution. I wish this were an isolated instance. It's not.

Most House Republicans are Tea Partiers, and Tea Partiers are in love with three things:

1. those three-sided felt hats;
2. those overly snug vests with lots and lots of brass buttons; and
3. calling themselves "constitutional conservatives."

In my last campaign, the loser (in every sense of the word) who ran against me painted himself as a "constitutional conservative." He swore that his only goal was to return to the governing principles of our Founding Fathers. But as far as I could tell, the only part of the original Constitution that he liked was the part about black slaves counting as only three-fifths of a human being.

For months, I had to listen to the unhinged "constitutional" rants of that right-wing crank. Here is a list of some of the all-too-familiar Tea Party proposals he made that are blatantly unconstitutional:

1. banning abortion;
2. mandatory school prayer;
3. a national sales tax;
4. Congressional term limits;
5. state rejection of federal laws;
6. forcing criminal defendants to speak English;
7. taxpayer dollars for religious schools;
8. drug testing for federal benefits;
9. discrimination against naturalized citizens; and
10.state-by-state immigration policies.

The worst part of this is that he fancied himself quite the constitutional scholar, thank-you-very-much. But he must have slept through his law school course on constitutional law. Every single one of these proposals is unconstitutional, and unequivocally unconstitutional, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. But this same Tea Party acolyte did not hesitate to declare Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, federal aid to schools, student loans, paper money and - of course - Obamacare all unconstitutional. Why? Because he said so.

And don't even get me started on his obsession over the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Apparently, he never noticed that under our Constitution, the federal government can:

1. force you to fill out a census form;
2. force you to serve on a jury;
3. force you to hand in your gold;
4. force you to give 91% of your income to it (under the Republican Eisenhower Administration);
5. force you to hand over your property in return for what it considers "just compensation"; and
6. select you on the basis of your birthday (!), drag you halfway around the world, and then force you to get your legs blown off, fighting the Vietnamese.

And I'm supposed to believe that this same government can't get you to pay for your own emergency room care, or charge you what it costs if you don't? Come on.

Look, they don't own the American flag, they don't own God, and they don't own Constitution, either. It's our Constitution.

I invite my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to sit down and read - at least those who know how to read - the document that they have sworn to uphold. In less time than they would waste listening to Sean Hannity's errant nonsense one evening, they can get through the whole thing.

There's some interesting stuff in there. For instance, it's pretty clear that the Founding Fathers did not contemplate a standing army, much less an army standing in Kabul. And I invite you to show me exactly where it says in there that our military can occupy a foreign country.

But that's the real Constitution, not the fake one in their heads. Their version reads like Humpty Dumpty's: "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'"

Courage,

Congressman Alan Grayson

"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, ch. 5 (1871).

An Unconstitutional Twofer

This week, the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives did something that you wouldn’t think is even possible: they introduced (and then the House passed) a five-page bill that, despite its brevity, may violate two separate provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

The bill increases the debt limit by some unspecified amount, but only for those expenditures “necessary to fund a commitment by the Federal Government that required payment before May 19, 2013.” What does “necessary” mean here? I don’t know, and the bill doesn’t say. What about “commitment” and “required” – what do they mean? Don’t know; doesn’t say. Given sovereign immunity, I’m not sure that any payments by the federal government are ever “required” per se. What if the Government said, “are you going to make me?”

Up until now, the federal debt limit has been a number. Now it’s a concept, and an undefined one at that. I find it hard to square that vagueness with Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states that: “The validity of the public debt . . . shall not be questioned.”

Not content with establishing that constitutional dilemma alone, the Republican leadership then made Congressional pay dependent on passing a budget. The bill says that if the Senate doesn’t pass a budget, then Senate pay (which is monthly) is postponed to the first week of 2015. Specifically, it changes pay from $14,500 a month to zero per month, and then something like a $300,000 lump sum on Jan. 2, 2015.

I imagine that the polling on that looks good, but what about the 27th Amendment? The 27th Amendment provides: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” The Republican leadership bill “varies” Senate compensation by postponing it for two years. (It also sticks a finger in the eye of the Senate, but what else is new?)

If you follow Tea Party yammerings, as I do, then you recognize that this “no budget, no pay” idea had been floating around in the Tea Party porcelain bowl for several years now. Right after it was introduced, the Republican Chairman of the Government Operations Committee (who presumably knows a thing or two about government operations) pointed out that this postponement would violate the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. (As Texas Gov. Rick Perry would say, “Oops.”) Then he said he was mistaken. But maybe when he said that he was mistaken, that’s when he was mistaken.

For goodness sake, we Members of Congress all swore to uphold the Constitution just two weeks earlier. The leader of the House Republican Caucus actually administered that oath to us. Couldn’t they at least have waited a little longer?

To make things even worse, just a few days before this bill came up, the House Republicans arranged to have Members of the House read the Constitution out loud on the Floor of the House. Were they all wearing earplugs?

And yet these right-wingers keep telling us that they are “constitutional conservatives.”

Fakers.

Anyway, I voted “no.” Because there is no way to vote “this is absurd.”

Tea Party Republicans, please don’t propose any bills that directly contravene the plain wording of the Constitution. If you were capable of embarrassment, you would be embarrassing yourselves.

Courage,

Congressman Alan Grayson

Our Winners, and a Reply

In our Inauguration Breakfast drawing, our national winner is Kathleen K., in New York City. Our local winner is Catherine S., in Orlando. We got off to a slow start, but in the end, almost 2000 of our supporters participated. Thank you to each one of you.

I know that this may come as a shock, but I actually read, personally, many of the comments that are sent to our campaign. I can’t respond to each one, of course – there are thousands and thousands. But I try to listen and learn.

Several of our supporters pointed out that they couldn’t participate in the drawing, because they have to work on Inauguration Day. That’s an interesting point, because this year, Inauguration Day happens to coincide with a federal holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Regular readers will recall that on Thanksgiving Day, I visited a WalMart in Orlando, and handed out turkey sandwiches and chips to WalMart employees who unfortunately had to work that evening. I feel the same way about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. If you can’t go to see your President’s inauguration because you are being forced to work on a federal holiday, then something is wrong with that picture. That’s why I introduced the Paid Vacation Act in 2009, which would give every worker at large companies at least five days of paid vacation, of their own choosing, each year. There are more than 20 million working Americans who never get a day off. If you happen to be one of them, then I’m sorry, and I’m trying to help.

Several other supporters said that they just don’t have $25 to give to our campaign, for this reason or any other. I understand that, too. There have been times in my own life when the same thing was true for me. It galls me to see someone toss off $100,000,000 to buy and sell political candidates, when some of us have trouble coming up with $25. But from time to time, I’m going to ask you to help anyway, because I’d rather ask Mr. or Ms. $25 for support than to have to beg Mr. $100M. Our campaign demonstrates, time after time, that all those sawbucks, added together, are enough to win. And if enough People Power candidates win, then the People win Power.

Every once in a while, a whole bunch of small fish eat that big fish.

Courage,

Congressman Alan Grayson

Inauguration Breakfast - Last Chance

OK, so here’s the deal, as I’ve explained before: If you contribute $25 or more to our campaign between now and 11:59 EST tonight, then you will be part of our drawing to choose two people – one from the Orlando area, and one from anywhere in the country – to join us for breakfast on Inauguration Day. We will provide transportation and accommodations. Multiple contributions count as multiple entries.

I’m repeating myself, I know. But here’s why I’m repeating myself:

1.) Maybe you have been on some other planet for the past week. Seriously, I’m not responsible for your whereabouts. If you want to go to Neptune, that’s fine with me.

2.) Maybe you just like the sound of my voice, even when it’s in writing.

3.) Maybe the other e-mails that I sent on this subject were a little too . . . metaphorical. I get that way sometimes. I’m sorry; no more figures of speech, tropes, euphemisms, circumlocutions, parodies, synecdoche, oxymorons and bathos. Especially bathos, on my honor!

Now I have to tell you that at this point, more than a thousand of our supporters are participating. So if you are the kind of person who likes to jump on a bandwagon, it’s time to jump on this one.

I want to have breakfast with you. Is that so wrong?

If you win, then it’s you and me, babe. In DC, on Inauguration Day. And if you lose, then for goodness’s sake, you’ve made a decent contribution to a decent cause.

Are you feeling lucky?

Courage,

Congressman Alan Grayson

If you would like a chance to join Congressman Grayson for breakfast on Inauguration Day in Washington, DC, on January 21st, please contribute $25 or more to our campaign by 11:59 pm EST TONIGHT. (Or you can send an e-mail to inauguration@graysonforcongress.com.)

Why Unions Are Different

When I was elected to Congress in 2008, I asked to join the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Why? Because I was a government employee. The AFGE negotiates benefits for government employees, including me. If I were going to benefit from that, I felt that I should pay my dues. I'm not the "free rider" type.

I was told that this was an unusual request. In fact, no one could remember any Member of Congress making that request before. That didn't bother me in the least. I joined the AFGE, and paid my dues.

There is another, deeper reason why I wanted to join the union: I don't see a lot of other organizations fighting for the common good.

After I was elected again in November, I was inundated with correspondence from all sorts of groups who wanted me to do something for them. Not for us. For them. Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme. Now, to be fair, some of these requests were for worthwhile causes. More were not. Either way, it was "gimme."

With one exception.

Here is a letter that I received from Joseph Hansen, the President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW):

Congratulations on your election to the 113th Congress.

The American people spoke loud and clear on Election Day.

They want a Congress that works for all Americans, not just a wealthy few.

They want a Congress that fights for Main Street, not Wall Street.

They want a Congress that helps create good-paying jobs that can support a family.

They want a Congress that balances the budget responsibly, by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share while protecting programs like Social Security and Medicare.

They want a Congress that protects the rights of workers, women, and minorities.

Most of all, they want a Congress that works with President Obama to give more families access to the American Dream.

I look forward to working with you toward that end.

Sincerely, Joseph T. Hansen.


Amen to that, brother. Yes, President Hansen, I look forward to working with you toward that end.

You see what's missing from this UFCW letter? Gimme, gimme, gimme.

On the letterhead of the UFCW's stationery is the motto, "A VOICE for working America." That's something that I would be proud to have on my stationery, too.

This is a time of hyper-partisan warfare, when selfishness parades itself as a virtue. But amidst all that smoke there are still some of us – the UFCW, me – who can discern the bare outlines of something called "the common good." The common good -- that's our flag. And that's why unions are different.

And the rocket's red glare,
The bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night,
That our flag was still there.


Courage,

Congressman Alan Grayson

If you would like a chance to join Congressman Alan Grayson for breakfast on Inauguration Day, please contribute $25 or more to his campaign by midnight tomorrow, or send an e-mail to inauguration@graysonforcongress.com.

"They'd Rather Have No Government Than Good Government"

Right from Day One of the new Congress, Congressman Alan Grayson has been saying what needs to be said, and fighting for what's right. Here is an MSNBC interview of Alan from a few days ago, regarding the agenda in Congress:

Craig Melvin: President Obama is saying that he does not want to negotiate over the debt ceiling, and says he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. From the looks of things, it could be the next big fight in Washington. Joining me now is a man who has never backed away from a fight: Congressman Alan Grayson, Florida Democrat. Congressman, always good to see you.

Congressman Alan Grayson: Thanks.

Craig: You are back in Congress after losing your seat in 2010.  First of all, how does it feel being back?

Alan: Oh, it's great. It's great to be back in the saddle again, and we had the greatest comeback in the history of the House of Representatives. We won by 25 points.

Craig: We've talked about the debt ceiling over the past week or so, and I want to read you something that John Cornyn wrote. This is an op-ed from Senator John Cornyn. This is what he wrote about how things could go down here in the next month or so: "It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well-being of our country rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain."  Pat Toomey said almost the same thing on "Morning Joe" this past week. Are we headed for a government shutdown in the next few months?

Alan: If the Republicans are crazy enough to want to do that, it's possible that they'll be able to pull that off. It's a very divided party on the other side—divided between the far right wing and the extreme right wing. The extreme right wing wants to shut down the government because they just don't like government at all. They'd rather have no government than even good government. So it's a possibility.

Craig: Does the extreme right wing of the GOP still yield that much power?

Alan: Well, sure. From what I can see, their caucus is divided almost equally between the corporate shills and the Tea Party. That's what passes for diversity on the other side of the aisle. The Tea Party represents a good hundred votes on the other side.

Craig: Republicans of course would argue that we just passed this fiscal cliff deal, and we should note th no spending cuts. The national debt is now more than $16 trillion and the Democrats, a lot of them aren't wild about the idea of making cuts to entitlements. How does that work?

Alan: Listen, if they were serious about reducing the debt then they would be serious about taxing people who have money. It seems the only people that the Right Wing is willing to tax are the people without money. The people with money are those whom they regard as untouchable. If they'd do that, they'll reduce the deficit, just as we did during the Clinton Administration. The Clinton Administration ran three or four different surpluses, one after another, because the income tax rate was high enough to pay for the needs of the government and the needs of the people.  But look at what they want to do instead: they want to cut Social Security benefits and they want to cut Medicare benefits. And those are the parts we actually make a profit on. The Social Security Administration has run a profit every single year since it was created. Medicare also runs a profit each year. It doesn't make any sense. They're basically trying to cut those programs because of some sadistic attitude toward old folks.

Craig: The President has indicated he might be willing to cut Medicare, and also willing to make an adjustment to the cost of living calculations used with Social Security.

Alan: Well, no. I think you have to be very specific when talking about this. What the President has generally indicated is to make these programs more efficient. I don't think the President has come out in favor of actual benefit cuts. These are two fundamentally different things. We're all interested in making the programs more efficient, at least people on our side of the aisle are. We're not interested in cutting the benefits.

Craig: There are so many issues still outstanding from the 112th Congress that you guys have to deal with. The sequester, of course, that's coming up March 1st, the Farm Bill, the Violence Against Women Act, and even more aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Make a prediction for us, if you can.  What, if anything, is going to get done with the 113th Congress at the helm?

Alan: Well, the Congress will deal with the crises as they come up, but remember that a lot of these crises are artificial crises. Some of them are created specifically for the purpose of trying to get things done that could never get done by the will of the people through the regular order. Naomi Klein has written about this in the book, "The Shock Doctrine." What we've seen is a series of artificial crises in order to steal from the Middle Class.

Craig: Again, going back to a prediction for what's going to be the first or even the second order of business. Are we talking about immigration? Are we talking about gun control? What might we be looking at here for the next six months?

Alan: Oh, I think we'll have to deal first with the sequester, a completely artificial contrivance created by the Republicans to cut Social Security benefits and Medicare benefits. That's what's coming up first and right after that, possibly right before that, depending on Tim Geithner's private calculations, we'll have to deal with the debt limit.

Craig: How real is the concern among Congressional Democrats that as you crawl from crisis to crisis that it prevents the Administration from advancing any sort of long-range policies with regards to immigration or energy or climate change, or even gun control?

Alan: I don't think it should. I think that the Administration has enormous powers under existing law. For instance, the Administration probably could institute large parts of the Cap and Trade bill, which passed the House but not the Senate when I was in Congress, through regulation, through rulemaking. The President actually did institute a large part of what would have been our bill on immigration, the Dream Act, through administrative action. The President has a lot of power, and he should use it to solve the country's problems.

Craig: How would you characterize your last stint in Congress? How would you characterize that compared to this upcoming stint?

Alan: Well, we did a lot of good for a lot of people, particularly in our district, and I think they'll be able to do it again. A lot of the best things that we did for people in our district had nothing to do with votes on the Floor . The job creates opportunities to do good things, and we'll do our best.

Craig: We certainly hope. We certainly hope that you will do your best and that your colleagues will also fall in line and do yours as well. Do come back again—I always enjoy our conversations and congrats to you.

Alan: Thank you.

Congressman Alan Grayson – telling it like it is. If you would like a chance to join Congressman Grayson for breakfast on Inauguration Day in Washington, DC, on January 21st, please contribute $25 or more to our campaign] by Tuesday night. (Or you can send an e-mail to inauguration@graysonforcongress.com.)
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