Monday, February 23, 2009

First things first!

There have been a number of ideas from various folks, I’m losing track, but here is a brain dump I’d like to put forward for consideration for our new organization. This is in no particular order of importance, but just to put as much on the table as possible in order to prioritize and begin moving forward.

People are free to add, and perhaps we can use it as a starting point. Some of these things will need to be put in place before we make announcements to anyone. The sooner we get to work the better.

Would you all be willing to mull this around for a couple days, and agree to a conference call some night this week where we can thrash this out, or at least identify people willing to take on some of the action items that will come from this?

First things first:

1. Mission Statement and clear objectives, rules of engagement.
2. National base, office/staff.
3. Website and web person.
4. Fundraising mechanism.
5. Seed money to get started.
6. Membership?
7. Identify State organizational leaders
8. Alliance organizations
9. Committees

Consensus around the following:

1. Congressional Districts >>>> New Party
2. Build issues around November 5 list? Anyone have a copy of the list?
3. Economy, war, jobs?
4. Address core problems, i.e. Corporations, gov’t, financial institutions – (Constitution/Bill of Rights)
5. Issues at local state levels / contacts.

(Ideas from Liz)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Grammy Coup? A Nader Raider’s songs of freedom in the spotlight

Here’s an interesting look at Nader Raider Jim Musselman, a founding president of Appleseed Recordings. He’s fought for justice and helped promote humanitarian heroes like Pete Seeger. Musselman says, “I'm trying to take his songs and pass them on to another generation. I feel I've played a little part in his transition from blacklist to A list.'' They have a good shot at winning a Grammy tonight. The Allentown native will cheer on Appleseed artists Tom Paxton, Peggy Seeger and Pete Seeger,

Friday, February 6, 2009

Overpayments on Bailouts Run Rampant

The following AP article demonstrates the degree of overpayment to banks and insurance companies from last fall's bailout.

$78 Billion in overpayments, according to the Congressional Oversight Panel report found here:

This includes a $40 Billion handout to AIG on $14.8 Billion in assets.

Bush, Paulson, and friends pushed this, but there is no doubt about the complicity of Democrats in the process.

We must do better in putting the mechanisms in place to drastically change our government, its procedures, and its oversight.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Strike a blow againt the military industrial complex

Last week, Voters for Peace started a campaign to stop the nomination of former Raytheon executive and weapons lobbyist, William Lynn, for Deputy Secretary of Defense.
Opposition to the nomination is gaining traction in the senate. Senator Grassley may hold up the nomination indefinitely.
More than 100,000 letters have been sent through the Voters for Peace site thus far. Please join this effort and spread the word.
On www.VotersForPeace.US you can forward a message about this alert (it will pop up when you go to the page) and if you have not yet taken action you can do so here:
Help strike a blow against the military industrial complex and the revolving door between the weapons industry and the Pentagon.

Sen. Grassley may hold up Pentagon nominee

Weapons Lobbyist Nomination May Be in Trouble

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, may hold up the nomination of William Lynn, a former Raytheon Co lobbyist, to become deputy secretary of defense, a spokeswoman for the senator said on Wednesday.

"He hasn't decided what his next action on Mr. Lynn might be," said spokeswoman Beth Levine, when asked about the possible use of Grassley's senatorial privilege to delay Senate consideration of the nomination indefinitely.

Lynn served as the Pentagon's chief financial officer from November 1997 to January 2001 under former president Bill Clinton. Then as an executive at Raytheon, the Pentagon's No. 5 supplier by sales, he was a registered lobbyist from July 2002 to March 2008.

Lynn drew heightened scrutiny after the White House granted him a waiver from new Obama administration rules that ban appointees from agencies they had sought to persuade in the previous two years.

"Mr. Lynn's past performance at the Department of Defense raises many concerns for Senator Grassley, let alone the possible conflicts of interest with a big-time defense contractor that have been brought to the attention of the American people by President Obama's new executive order on this issue," Levine said.

Grassley, an Iowa Republican noted for demanding accountability from federal officials, "will be detailing all of this prior to Senate consideration of Mr. Lynn's nomination," Levine said.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who also had raised questions about how Lynn would handle conflict-of-interest rules, is allowing the nomination to proceed in the Armed Services Committee where he is the top Republican, said a spokeswoman, Leah Geach.

Lynn has said he will steer clear for a year of decisions involving six arms programs on which he lobbied on behalf of Raytheon if confirmed by the Senate, the White House told Grassley in a letter dated February 2.

At issue are the DDG-1000 multi-mission combat ship, Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air missile, F-15 airborne radar, Patriot missile "Pure Fleet" modernization, the National Reconnaissance Office's Future Imagery Architecture and the Missile Defense Agency's Multiple Kill Vehicle.

"Mr. Lynn has promised not to seek authorization to participate in decisions on any of the six specific programs where he personally lobbied," wrote Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, and Gregory Craig, counsel to President Barack Obama.

They quoted Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Obama's sole holdover from the cabinet of former President George W. Bush, as saying that Gates had sought the waiver from Obama's new ethics rules because "I felt that he could play the role of deputy in a better manner than anybody else that I saw."

In a separate letter to Grassley, Lynn explained two payment practices he had allowed as the Pentagon's budget chief, known as "Pay and Chase" and "Straight Pay."

"Pay and Chase," he wrote, was a limited test that allowed certain payments under $2,500 to be made based on matching a proper invoice to the corresponding contract. Grassley has been critical of the practice for paying bills without strict accountability.

"Straight Pay" involved payments based on a three-way match of invoice, "receiving report" and contract even before an obligation was recorded in accounting records.

"At a time when the Department (of Defense) faced a backlog of unpaid invoices and mounting interest costs due to late payments, 'Straight Pay' was an attempt to draw the right balance," Lynn wrote.

(Reporting by Jim Wolf; editing by Tim Dobbyn)

Source: Reuters

The Jon Stewart plan for stimulating the economy

Jon Stewart Stuart keeps asking his guests about his idea of giving the bailout money to the people that are having trouble paying their loans instead of the big banks that sit on it by giving themselves big bonuses. He suggests giving the money to the poor by cutting payrolls taxes and they’ll spend it right away. And he’s not alone, consumer advocate Ralph Nader has suggested that and much more.

How did we get into this mess in the first place?

In a demonstration on Wall Street which can be seen in a DVD titled, "WALL STREET: Greed Brings the House Down", Ralph Nader and his running mate Matt Gonzalez took on Wall Street.

Gonzalez described how the media was portraying a story line that there was one party for deregulation and one party for more regulation; he said that simply wasn’t true. During the Clinton administration, regulations which have been in place since 1937 were over turned.

The Graham-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 was signed by Clinton and it abolished the Glass-Steagall Act which separated commercial banking from investment banking. Before leaving office in 2000 Clinton also signed the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. Nader predicted the market meltdown 8 years ago. He says if we’re not careful things could get worse, but he has some big ideas of how to get the country moving in the right direction.

How bad can things get?

Unfortunately instead of change, Obama has surrounded himself with the retreads from the Clinton administration that created this mess in the first place and he helped pass a bailout that had no real oversight provisions. The first $350 Billion in bailout money is being used to reward the very people that wrecked the economy with huge bonuses and the institutions that were “too big to fail” are now using the money for more mergers.

In this article Nader warns of the ongoing concentration of power. “As the public focus is on how much, when and where all this money should be spent, there are very serious consequences to be foreseen and forestalled. First, consider how much more concentrated corporate power is occurring.’

He continues, “Remember the anti-trust laws. Obama needs to be their champion. The fallout from the Wall Street binge is likely to lead to a country run by an even smaller handful of monopolistic global goliaths.”

According to Nader, in all the hundreds of pages of stimulus bills, there is nothing that would facilitate the banding together of consumers and investors into strong advocacy groups. We have long proposed Financial Consumer Associations, privately and voluntarily funded through inserts in the monthly statements of financial firms.

Nader blames a lack of government oversight of the banking industry. "But there's a spectacular opportunity that comes from the severe crisis. It's a chance to reregulate law and order on top of these giant corporations."

How do we get out of this mess? Reregulation and tax speculation

Today the consumer advocate said there is a constant struggle between Wall Street and Washington, and Wall Street has a way of rolling over Washington. "But now Washington, as a trustee for millions of American taxpayers and hundreds of billions of dollars, has to take control of the situation," Nader said. "We have to crack down on big banks."

He says there’s an opportunity to reregulate law and order on top of these giant corporations and a placing a small tax on speculation would allow Wall Street to pay for its own bailout, but it will take an engaged citizen solution revolution. “American workers need to learn about this proposed tax policy and ram it through Congress. Tell your Senators and Representatives-no ifs, ands or buts. Otherwise, Wall Street will keep rampaging over people's pensions and mutual fund savings, destabilize their jobs and hand them the bailout bill, as is occurring now. “

He says extending unemployment compensation and expanding the food stamp program produces consumer demand and is the fastest way to get the economy back on its feet. He suggests taxing things we don't like (pollution) first and taxing things we need (food and income) last.

According to the man honored by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential Americans of the twentieth century, “A few minutes spent lobbying members of Congress by millions of Americans (call, write or e-mail, visit or picket) will produce one big Change for the better. Contact your member of Congress. The current financial mess makes this the right time for action."

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Existing Congress Watch Organization

This seems to be a good start as a subject. Is this something close enough in principle to where we can work with it? As mentioned on this list, it would be good not to have to reinvent the wheel.

What do we know about it?

Economic Stimulus -- The Make or Break Week

The economy is continuing its downward slide.

This is the make or break week for the economic stimulus. The momentum is currently on the side of weakening the stimulus, reducing the spending on job creation and increasing less effective tax cuts. We need to change the momentum and show intensity for the stimulus.

The “American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan” will create jobs by doubling the renewable energy capacity, rebuilding roads and bridges, repairing schools, and ensuring states can continue basic services of education, health care, nutrition and unemployment. There is a right-wing campaign to stop the stimulus and we are urging you to take action today to support it.

Call both your senators today. Call 202-224-3121 to reach your senator through the capitol switchboard. Or call 866-544-7573 (toll free – if you get an error message that just means it is busy – keep trying). Keep calling as every call is counted.

The U.S. economy is in a desperate situation after more than two decades of bad management that neglected the crumbling infrastructure, failed to invest in green technology and allowed the de-industrialization of America. More spending will be needed to avert a depression or a prolonged and deep recession but this is a critical first step. The U.S. needs to be thinking about a full-employment act, a national health care plan and a “Manhattan Project” for a new energy economy. The government needs to be investing for urgent needs that will have a multiplier effect right now and also investing longer term in a new economy that will re-industrialize a green energy economy.

Your senators need to hear from you NOW. Contact them today.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Just because you vote don’t let that stop you from doing something that really matters!

The concept of November 5th is to organize citizens at the congressional district level because as the founding fathers envisioned, that is where our power as citizens truly lies. Power is only responsive when it is insecure. Citizens will win and the highly-paid lobbyists and special interests will lose if there is home district organizing that really threatens our elected officials.

Advantages to working in your district:

Congress members pay attention to citizen action in their home district much more than to activists in DC. Media attention is much easier to get outside of DC and has more impact on the elected official because in DC media are busy covering the White House, the Congress, regulatory agencies and the Supreme Court - there is no room for covering what citizens are doing. While citizen actions in DC can be seen or portrayed as “fringy”, at the home district level we are voters who are represented by that member and so we start right away with more credibility.

"Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." .

Our focus is organizing at the base by educating, activating and organizing citizens. We are organizing on economic issues-with single payer health care as our number one concern- and anti-military issues (Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, and reducing the bloated and wasteful Department of Defense budget).

A thousand people in action

Our strategy is to have a multi-pronged approach to making sure our public servants know where we stand and to keep the pressure on them to serve the needs of people, not the lobbyists. This includes doing outreach to civic groups, having regular engaged citizen Meet-ups, scheduling appearances on radio shows, starting letter to the editor campaigns, meeting with editorial boards as well as having demonstrations inside and outside our representatives offices.

Yes you can!

The goal of local organizers is to identify and put forward the right spokespersons-for instance people without health insurance, someone ripped off by the health insurance industry-or on the war a family member of a soldier or a vet against the war.

Nothing can stop the march of an informed and engaged people

While voting records and funding sources are available from existing sources our goal is to help get that information out to our fellow citizens. We work to coordinate with other nonpartisan organizations like Public Citizen's Congress Watch and other civic organizations to gather information and engage in civic action whenever possible. And we will always make sure that we stay independent of the two parties because we believe that independence is a virtue!

Looking towards the future

Once your districts congressional watchdog group gets cranking there is the potential to expand their mission into local politics as well. Once you've got a group of well organized people in your district it can take minimal effort to use this model for local politics as well. As the saying goes, "All politics is local".

Welcome to the Congress Watch Talk Blog!

The purpose of this blog is to discuss different ideas for the November 5th (Congress Watch) effort outside of our current list serve. This will allow us to develop policy positions and strategies outside of the list serve so that people who are interested in other topics/issues can gather information, links and have discussions about them while allowing our list serve to remain focused on building our new organization and the current effort to lobby for single-payer health care.

If you would like to become the author of your own blog post just send your email address to You can also just leave a comment here.


Justin Jeffre

Cincinnati, Ohio