Monday, April 30, 2007

Shine a light on Washington lobbyist campaign activity

Today's April 30, 2007 New York Times gives a great editorial on a reform topic close to my heart: lobbyist bundling of candidate campaign contributions. Through a rich confabulation of eye-popping verse, the Times brings us in on the current ethics debate in the House.

As a Libertarian, I believe in a relatively unencumbered, free market for our national economy. This means no or little collution between business and government when policy is debated in Congress and the Executive branch. As a reformer, I think it's unethical for a special interest with a Washington address to have moneyed access to the legislative process. Lobbyist bundling is guilty on both counts, as it abuses the professional relationship between lobbyist and elected official through personal exchange of campaign finances.

The House of Representatives should follow the lead of the Senate by passing a bill that includes requiring disclosure of this bundling activity.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The internet radio alternative to the traditional station is at risk

260 genres of music on and elsewhere are endangered on the internet. Right now, Internet radio is singled out from all other radio and burdened with fees not paid by AM or FM stations; it's rates are at least 3-4 times paid by satellite and cable radio. The ruling earlier this year by the Copyright Royalty Board, a percent increase in royalty costs to the broadcasters and portals like live365, even includes an absurd minimum of $500 per station per year to most penalize the smallest webcasters; the board more recently denied webcasters' requests for a rehearing.

If you believe in the rich culture of the American West, for example, you will want to support HR2060. One internet radio station playing for free (it's ad-supported; also there's a monthly subscription option for ad-free listening at is called "Saddle Songs"-- traditional Western songs of historical interest. There are other broadcasters from perhaps your own town or city playing right now, to people all around the world. A loss of many artists' music that's dependent on internet play would be a blow to them financially, as the new much higher royalty fees (actually they're retroactive to January 1, 2006!) would close down broadcasters and small businesses like live365.

The Internet Radio Equality Act (HR 2060) has been introduced in Congress by U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA). A simple phone call to your Representative to ask for their support on this Bill will go a long way toward ensuring your right to diversity and choice in radio. Better yet, please also write and fax to show how serious you are. They need to know how much your music means to you. Click here for the number of your Representative and please call.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Blessings from our representatives (under subject: Government Reform)

This is for all of the hard-working politicos who labor over their browsers, sending oft-neglected personal letters to their elected officials! It was from me to my town's Abilene Reporter-News editor, published today:
Our State Representative Susan King is working very hard for us, as far as I've seen, and her connections are incredible! Take, for example, the last sentence in her form letter she e-mails her letter-writers.

''May God bless you and our great state of Texas.''

Now, I believe in a Republican form of government, but I didn't know she could do that! And the whole state of Texas at that!

Now, if I can only get her to lower our sales tax.

David Weller

Thanks for sharing this laugh, and remember, In God We Trust. :)

Monday, April 23, 2007

It's the nice ones that hit the hardest...

[This post originated at on April 23, 2007]

I sat with my friend Harry this morning over a burrito and coffee. He is in his early 80's, and still has fire in his belly for our President George Bush. Our politics are different from each other's, but our country always comes first. Sometimes Washington is hasty about having something right now, and this was the case with the Iraq invasion. But we should never forget who our true enemies are, and we have a moral obligation to defend ourselves against all aggressors regardless of our bungle of 2003. Religion has no stake in the outcome of false premises.

Make fast food a sin tax

[This post originates at on April 20, 2007]

So far, the feds haven't taxed food yet.. but my state and city have. Already, when I get a country fried steak at the drive-up for $4.99 (that's a 'combo'), I pay up to Uncle Sam's sons. But I need an incentive not to buy the stuff, however, just like with tobacco and alcohol. This added sin tax on ready-made to-go food (we can debate the specific foods to be taxed later) will help pay for:

1) Promoting a healthier lifestyle
2) Paying the disposal cost of the food's non-biodegradable packaging
3) Paying the state for the administrative costs of the new tax

Just a thought as I wipe off the grease film with my tongue...

Should roster of US Supreme Court be more liquid?

[This post originates at on April 18, 2007]

The US Supreme Court has upheld a federal law banning certain late-term abortions. Our highest court had the majority vote in this case from a different makeup of justices than of the court that struck down a similar ban in 2000. This has obviously been a very human, personal and heated issue; who sat on the Supreme Court influenced as much of the decision.

A few decades passed for the large segments of our population driving to move the court in their respective general directions concerning abortion rights. Our society, I believe, has suffered the divisions and hostilities incumbent in that clash of movements. Perhaps our esteemed constitution's lifetime term requirement for all of our US Supreme Court justices should be changed to limited terms, to allow for more liquidity in our highest federal court's controversial decision pattern.

Congress works for all of the people

[This post originates at on April 15, 2007]

The AMT, Alternative Minimum Tax, is snagging more and more middle-income taxpayers as time goes on. This federal income tax was originally (1969) intended for the relatively rich who were using loopholes in their tax reporting. Unfortunately, there is now little common ground among our representatives on a long-term solution.

Indeed, there has been a growing rift in fiscal policy between the Democratic Party and the Republicans during a time when our nation's fiscal prognostications have been deteriorating. Our Congressmen must remind themselves that they are working for all the people of this great nation, not just their respective parties and interests. Political parties attract and present candidates for general elections; the people, however, are still the owners (and taxpayers), and they have a right to see that timely and equitable legislation is passed for all fiscal matters. Our nation deserves no less.

Sign the "Real Ethics Reform" petition

[This post originates at on April 12, 2007]

The U.S. House Ethics Task Force will, on May 1, 2007, report on the possibility of having an independent, nonpartisan enforcement office with the power to investigate Congress. The great recent corruption scandals have shown that both houses' ethics committees have let the people down with their self-police work. But now, with a new party controlling both the House and Senate, this is a new opportunity to start an independent ethics enforcement commission.

Please contact U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Task Force Chairman Michael Capuano now, and tell them that Congress needs an independent watch dog. Just go to public-interest group U.S. PIRG's "Real Ethics Reform" petition at Thank you.

Support a bipartisan sunset commission for Congress

[This post originates at on April 07, 2007]

In 2006, Congress spent just under $160 billion on programs and activities whose authorizations had already expired. Many of them were initiated with a limited timetable; however, those federal programs have remained on the taxpayer's dime beyond their tenure. About half of our states are already running their own sunset commissions.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) is introducing legislation that would create a federal sunset commission to identify federal agencies and programs that should be reviewed—and perhaps trimmed or even eliminated! He says in his April 6, 2007 Texas Tales column:

In Texas, the sunset process has led to elimination of dozens of agencies, and has saved Texas taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Most federal programs are authorized by Congress only for a certain number of years. My bill would establish a commission to scrutinize carefully all unauthorized (technically expired) programs that the federal government continues to fund.

There will be plenty of candidates. A recent 83-page report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that Congress spent just under $160 billion in 2006 on programs and activities—even though their authorization had expired.

The list included hundreds of accounts, big and small, ranging from the Coast Guard ($8 billion) to the Administration on Aging ($1.5 billion) to Section 8 tenant-based housing ($15.6 billion) to foreign relations programs ($9.5 billion).

Many of these programs—perhaps most—deserve reauthorization. But Congress should aggressively determine whether they're working as intended.

The bipartisan sunset commission I am proposing would ask a question similar to one the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission asks: "Is an agency or program still needed?"

With our gross national debt approaching $9 billion and with Social Security and Medicare programs becoming fiscally unsustainable over the long run, a "sunset" commission is a useful tool in our ongoing effort to control costs. Cornyn serves on the senate's Budget Committee.