Monday, May 30, 2011

Video: Signed petitions are delivered to the US Department of Justice concerning US Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas

Uploaded to by on Mar 22, 2011:
Common Cause delivered more than 32,000 petitions to the Department of Justice on March 22 calling for a Justice Department investigation of US Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. We want to know whether Scalia and Thomas should have recused themselves from the Citizens United case because of their participation in secret political strategy meetings with Koch Industries.

- or view directly -

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Care for our nation's homeless veterans and consider these House and Senate bills

Bill S.1060

Official: A bill to improve education, employment, independent living services, and health care for veterans, to improve assistance for homeless veterans, and to improve the administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes. as introduced.

May 25th    Sponsor introductory remarks on measure. (CR S3341-3343)
May 25th    Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

Bill H.R.1133

Short: Helping Our Homeless Veterans Act of 2011 as introduced.

Official: To amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter into agreements with States and nonprofit organizations to collaborate in the provision of case management services associated with certain supported housing programs for veterans, and for other purposes. as introduced.

Mar 16th    Referred to House Financial Services
Mar 16th    Referred to House Veterans' Affairs
Mar 16th    Referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Financial Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

Bill S.411

Short: Helping Our Homeless Veterans Act of 2011 as introduced.

Official: A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter into agreements with States and nonprofit organizations to collaborate in the provision of case management services associated with certain supported housing programs for veterans, and for other purposes. as introduced.

Feb 17th    Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Feb 17th    Introduced in Senate

Bill H.R.806

Short: End Veteran Homelessness Act of 2011 as introduced.

Official: To amend title 38, United States Code, to make certain improvements in the services provided for homeless veterans under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. as introduced.

Feb 18th    Referred to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Mar 15th    Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

Bill H.R.136

Official: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow taxpayers to designate a portion of their income tax payment to provide assistance to homeless veterans, and for other purposes. as introduced.

Jan 5th    Referred to House Veterans' Affairs
Jan 5th    Referred to House Ways and Means
Jan 5th    Referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, and in addition to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
Jan 5th    Introduced in House
Feb 18th    Referred to the Subcommittee on Health

Friday, May 27, 2011

Spiritual leader Thomas Merton says it best: What matters is love

While doing a daily office prayer from Thomas Merton's "A Book of Hours," I read a very sensitive, realistic spiritual account of the American society he saw in the mid-twentieth century.  It is relevant just as much to today's America, and to much of the world.  It comes from deep in his heart, it is under his sub-heading of "Lesson;" the daily office's "Collect" is next.  God bless America and the world.


It is true that the materialistic society, the so-called culture that has evolved under the tender mercies of capitalism, has produced what seems to be the ultimate limit of this worldliness.  And nowhere, except perhaps in the analogous society of pagan Rome, has there ever been such a flowering of cheap and petty and disgusting lusts and vanities as in the world of capitalism, where there is no evil that is not fostered and encouraged for the sake of making money.  We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.

No matter what happens, I feel myself more and more closely united with those who, everywhere, devote themselves to the glory of God's truth, to the search for divine values hidden among the poor and the outcast, to the love of that cultural heritage without which man cannot be healthy.  The air of the world is foul with lies, hypocrisy, falsity, and life is short, death approaches.  We must devote ourselves with generosity and integrity to the real values:  there is no time for falsity and compromise.  But on the other hand we do not have to be greatly successful or even well known.  It is enough for our integrity to be known to God.  What we do that is pure in His sight will avail for the liberty, the enlightenment, and the salvation of His children everywhere.


Let go of all that seems to suggest getting somewhere, being someone, having a name and a voice, following a policy and directing people in "my" ways.  What matters is love.

Merton, Thomas. A book of hours. Notre Dame, Indiana: Sorin Press, 2007.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The federal budget negotiation panel needs broader interest representation

From  Understanding Government  |  Too male to fail: Budget negotiations missing fifty percent of the population  |  By Marci Greenstein  |  May 26, 2011:
Where are the women?

Nowhere to be seen in discussions on the nation’s financial future, reports Kate Ackley of Roll Call in an article about the lack of women on the White House-Congress budget negotiation panel.  15 women’s organizations have asked the White House to include women in negotiations on the national budget between the White House and Congress. ...
The women’s groups who wrote to President Obama, including the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the National Women’s Political Caucus, cited Cabinet secretaries Kathleen Sebelius (Health and Human Services) and Hilda Solis (Labor) as high-level officials who should be at the table to represent women’s priorities.

Today's issue of "open government" mostly centers around the degree to which the government makes accessible its documents and other communiques to the general public.  However, open government can also mean the degree to which elected government officials avail critical decision making opportunities to all interested segments of the population.  The critical nature of the nation's budget negotiations is one case in point-- if only a fraction of the country is represented in these meetings, its final agreement may very well be skewed in favor of the representation present at the meetings.  All interested voices need to be kept in mind when making important decisions.

State of Minnesota Governor gives undisputed reason for his veto of 'Voter ID' bill

From Minnesota Public Radio  |  Dayton vetoes Voter ID bill  |  by Tom Scheck  |  May 26, 2011:
Governor Dayton has vetoed a bill that would require Minnesotans to show photo identification to vote.

Dayton said in his veto letter that the so-called Voter ID bill would be an unfunded mandate for local units of government, that it didn't receive broad bipartisan support in the Legislature and that it would violate the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act.

Supporters of the bill said it's needed to prevent fraud at the polls. Dayton said he didn't believe voter fraud was a problem in the state. He also said the Voter ID law would not prevent felons from voting illegally.

In addition to the veto, Dayton issued an executive order that would create a task force to modernize the state's election system and work on ways to prevent illegal voting.
Nationally, Republican legislators are misguided, that there is a voter fraud problem during our elections.  Time and time again, the vast majority of voter's rights activists have conclusively stated so.  The reasons given by Minnesota Governor Dayton for his veto against anti-voter fraud legislation are not new to this continuing debate on the topic.

*UPDATE*: Project Vote issues a Statement following the recent successful passage of a strict Voter ID bill in the state of Texas.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Washington elected officials are neglecting their jobs by fundraising for their own election campaigns at the same time

From The Party Blog  |  Lawmakers continue to fundraise around health care and financial reform  |  by Patrick Simmons  |  May 23, 2011
The 111th Congress may be over but that doesn’t mean the major issues that defined the historic session are settled. Health care reform and financial services regulation, topics that dominated the debate in the 111th Congress, are still being debated in Congress and used as fundraising draws. From January to June of this year, Party Time has received 16 events centered on the financial services industry and 18 concerning health care. Many of these events are being hosted by health care or financial services industry PACs.

Many of our representatives in Washington, DC, are abusing the legislative process by fundraising for their own election campaigns during their terms; they are also creating a conflict-of-interest by fundraising from special interests that will be affected by that same legislation.  The are listening to some bills' interested parties during their own fundraisers!

Their job of representing us should, of course, always comes first; however, the time and energy needed for the work of legislating and helping their constituents is much too often neglected in favor of their own personal lives.  The campaign finance system of Public Financing is a good solution to this critical problem; presently, presidential nominees may qualify for Presidential public financing.

campaign financing, Presidential   The Presidential Election Campaign Fund is an account administered by the U.S. Treasury that provides funds to Presidential candidates in the nominating contest and the general election. The fund is authorized by the Revenue Act of 1971, which allows each taxpayer to allocate a dollar of his income taxes to the Treasury's Presidential election account. The allocation does not increase the amount of tax a person pays. The law went into effect with the 1976 election.

To be eligible for federal funds, candidates must agree to abide by the reporting requirements and spending limitations of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and the amendments of 1974. Candidates qualify for federal funds during the nominating contest if they raise $5,000 in each of 20 states through individual contributions of $250 or less. Once qualified, they receive matching funds from the Treasury for all contributions of $250 or less, up to the limits established by law.

In the general election, candidates who agree not to accept any private contributions are eligible for Treasury funding of their campaigns, up to the legal limits. In addition, the two major parties receive $11 million each for their national conventions. They may accept private donations for “party building” activities such as voter registration drives, which in reality go toward Presidential campaign activities.

Candidates who choose not to accept public funding for their primary or general election campaigns have no spending limits. Since the law was enacted, the only two serious contenders for the Presidency who did not accept federal funds were John Connally, who spent millions in 1980 and won just a single delegate to the Republican national convention, and independent Ross Perot, who spent $60 million of his own funds and received almost 20 percent of the popular vote in 1992.

"campaign financing, Presidential"  The Oxford Guide to the United States Government. John J. Patrick, Richard M. Pious, and Donald A. Ritchie. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  David Weller.  23 May 2011  <>

  • For information from a federal public finance advocate, see Public Campaign.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Democracy is degraded by the passing of a regressive North Carolina electoral law

From The Voting News | Election Bills give 2012 edge to GOP in North Carolina | | May 22, 2011
All of these efforts are likely to hurt Democ­rats more than Repub­li­cans, said Mike­Mu­nger, a polit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Duke Uni­ver­sity, who was also the Lib­er­tar­ian Party’s can­di­date for gov­er­nor in 2008.

“It’s safe to say that if any­body ben­e­fited, it was the Democ­rats,” Munger said of early vot­ing. “I did a fair amount of cam­paign­ing at early-voting sta­tions, and I watched the buses pull up, and I watched peo­ple hand out pieces of paper explain­ing how to vote Demo­c­rat. I didn’t see any Repub­li­cans doing that. That is what pol­i­tics is about. Pol­i­tics is about mobi­liz­ing your peo­ple. The Obama cam­paign was bril­liant at that.

“This is some­thing Democ­rats did very well,” Munger added. “This is the Repub­li­cans respond­ing to make it a lit­tle bit harder to do that.”

Is it ethical for elected officials to legislate a bill giving them an advantage in future electoral campaigns?  No-- it is a conflict-of-interest.  Yet, this is exactly what a political party's member legislators did in the State of North Carolina.

ALSO, it is regressive democracy for elected officials to pass laws that degrade candidates' freedoms to productively conduct election campaigns.  This is one more systematic roadblock for candidates for office, especially the third/ minor party and Independent candidates.

Instant Runoff Voting in San Francisco is upheld by a US federal appeals court

From North County Times  |  Appeals court upholds SF's ranked-choice voting  |  Associated Press  |  May 20, 2011
A federal appeals court says San Francisco's "instant run-off" elections are constitutional.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court's ruling that the city's ranked-choice process approved by voters in 2002 offers the electorate a more nuanced process than traditional elections without disenfranchising anyone.

instant runoff voting; noun  chiefly (US)
another term for alternative vote.

"instant runoff voting noun"  Oxford Dictionary of English. Edited by Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2010. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  David Weller.  23 May 2011  <>

alternative vote; noun 
an electoral system whereby voters rank candidates in order of preference. In the event that one candidate fails to achieve a sufficient majority, the candidate with the fewest number of first-preference rankings is eliminated and these votes redistributed, the process being repeated until one candidate achieves the required majority.

"alternative vote noun"  Oxford Dictionary of English. Edited by Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2010. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  David Weller.  23 May 2011  <>

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Today's US politics is more about winning than solutions

Today's 'conservative movement' in the U.S. is NOT conservative, but crass money politics.  The other night, I watched an interview with Mexican President Calderon, and he is a true conservative, the kind we used to have in the US-- a serious, sober analytical mind that, although is pro-business, puts overriding country problems first, even if his solution is against his ideology.

Most incumbent candidates of the major political parties here got voted in by only being 'winners', instead of being most qualified to solve the nation's problems.  And 'winning' is a sorry reason for 'success'.

I don't know why we can't all wake up to this fact before money politics totally regresses this country into a black hole.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reflections on political reform in America

  • So, is the US Constitution relevant to today's politicians / journalists?  'Tis a nation of laws, not men!
  • So, is there a balanced scale of justice for contributors to judicial campaigns?  'Tis a nation of laws, not men!
  • So, should incumbents spend one-third of their working hours raising money?  'Tis a nation of laws, not men!
  • So, should people spend on pricey lobbyists in order to help representatives draft legislation?  'Tis a nation of laws, not men!
  • So, should general election debates include the nominees of all legal political parties?  'Tis a nation of laws, not men!
  • So, should the states' highest election officials be partisan political party members?  'Tis a nation of laws, not men!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Check out All Things Reform political poems!

For your entertainment, you might like to see all of this blog's poems, 19 in all at this point.  Of course, they are about government reform; I hope you enjoy.  It's at


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Survey of the USA Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection

Obama is president and Warren has been transformed from mild-mannered Harvard professor to the sharp-shooting, feisty head of the Congressional Oversight Committee, with the difficult task of tracking how the bailout funds have been spent. She has also been urging politicians to create an independent agency to protect consumers from predatory lending by making financial contracts shorter and more comprehensible. (Obama has supported this, though the bill that passed in the House is now, frustratingly, stuck in the Senate.) Warren is concise, logical, and angry about the lack of transparency in Washington; the lack of accountability on Wall Street; and how Americans are more, not less, vulnerable as a result of the trillion-dollar bailout.

Opponents of the legislative proposal received an average of 20 percent more in contributions from financial interests over the past two-and-a-half years than the bill's supporters, a Center for Responsive Politics review has found.

The Center found that $527,500 is the average amount a committee member who voted "no" received from these financial groups' PACs and employees. The average amount a member who voted "yes" received was $438,900.

255 unique organization(s) has/have registered to lobby on this bill (H.R.3126 - Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act of 2009) [a database].

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), who chairs the House Financial Services subcommittee that oversees the Securities and Exchange Commission, says he finds the idea of giving financial regulators more funds “troubling,” since the agencies failed to prevent the 2008 financial crisis. “It’s only in government, especially in Washington, where you have agencies that failed in their core assignments in the past, and yet they are rewarded with more authority and bigger budgets,” Garrett said.

Actually, it’s only in Washington where one can, with a straight face, blame the federal government’s regulatory agencies for being ineffective after implementing conservative policies rendering their effectiveness impossible. Conservatives spent years pulling the threads out of the financial regulatory framework and appointing regulators who actively ignored their agencies’ mission. This led to the massive financial regulatory failure that caused the U.S. housing and financial crises. And now these same conservatives are using that failure to deny the agencies funding.

Proponents of financial deregulation may have a strong ally within the White House, now that President Obama has named Bill Daley his new chief of staff.

There has been much debate over whether the law will accomplish its stated intent, but there are also growing concerns about its constitutionality, primarily due to separation of powers, vagueness, and due process issues. Central to that discussion is the fact that Dodd-Frank grants administrative agencies — including the newly created Financial Stability Oversight Council and Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection — broad and unchallengeable discretionary authority. Does Dodd-Frank provide effective oversight by any branch of government — Congress, the president, or the judiciary? How can constitutional concerns about the law's grants of regulatory power be resolved? Please join us for a discussion of these important issues.

Today, we have a chance for a fresh start with real accountability for consumer financial protection. The new bureau can set the rules of the road for consumer finance and make sure American households have the information they need to make their own choices.

One agency will enforce the law across the consumer financial marketplace. No more races to the bottom in lending practices. No more sneaking through loopholes or hiding behind fine print. No one can point fingers because one agency is in charge.

Contrary to the critics’ claims, the agency is fully accountable to the American people. And importantly, it is insulated from the kind of industry or political pressures that might undermine its independence.

Official: To amend the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 to move the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection into the Department of the Treasury. as introduced.

Official: To replace the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection with a five person Commission. as introduced.

Official: A bill to replace the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection with a 5-person Commission, to bring the Bureau into the regular appropriations process, and for other purposes. as introduced.

Whether Warren or someone else takes the helm when the agency officially opens on July 21, the director will exert enormous power: consolidated and expanded regulatory authority over credit cards, mortgages, and a host of other consumer financial products previously wielded by seven federal agencies.

In place of a lone director, H.R.1121 would establish a five-member commission, also nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, for staggered five-year terms. No more than three commissioners could represent a single political party, and a commission chairman would be appointed by the President. A similar structure exists at the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Introducing the bill on March 16, Representative Spencer Bachus (R–AL), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, characterized the bureau as likely “the most powerful agency ever created.” Consequently, the change in management is necessary, he said, “to ensure that a non-partisan, balanced approach to consumer protection prevails.”

Recommended Action [for the BCFP]. Repeal. If not repealed, this new agency will wield far-reaching and vague regulatory powers, as well as lack accountability.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Survey of the USA national debt and accountability

It is urgent that the president and Congress reach a bipartisan agreement on spending and revenue policies that can reverse and stabilize our growing debt.

Our experience demonstrates that a serious commitment to fiscal restraint and process reform, combined with political will, can produce bipartisan legislation that will serve the country well.

Grossman [a student] worries about the impact of federal red ink on her own generation. "We will be the people that deal with this huge debt. Our parents' generation might not be able to retire, so we're looking at coming into a job market where we thought we'd move up the chain quickly. But then - 'Oh, wait, the baby boomers can't afford to retire, so where does that leave me?' "

"This is something that affects our day-to-day lives, and that's something that needs to be understood. How is this going to affect me? How will it affect me getting a job now, or in five years?" she wonders. "I am astonished that people don't realize the magnitude of the situation we're in."

In this book, I look at the nature, scope, causes, and history of America’s national debt. I will explore the consequences of our 14-digit debt on the nation’s economy and for individuals, if we continue on our current path of fiscal recklessness. I will examine the political torpor that has allowed our debt to grow like some alien life form out of a 1950s science-fiction movie. And, finally, I will consider what politicians have done in the past and what could be done to rid our nation of its potentially ruinous debt.

Solutions must be found - and soon. As our debt mounts, the risk grows that our creditors, especially the foreign creditors who own half our debt, will lose confidence in our ability to get our house in order and will demand dramatically higher interest rates to lend us more. Rapidly rising rates would derail the economic recovery and balloon the cost of servicing the federal debt. Escalation of the debt has made near term action to reduce deficits more urgent than it would have been at lower debt levels. We no longer have the luxury of waiting for several years until we are sure the economy is growing strongly before taking action to stabilize the debt. We have to take action very soon to arrest the debt build-up before it threatens the confidence of our creditors. Moreover, while there are persuasive economic reasons for curbing the increase in our debt, the moral case is even stronger. It is unconscionable for today’s Americans to live persistently beyond our means and pass our bills on to future taxpayers.

One of our problems lies largely with the fact that it is much easier to spend other people's money than one's own. I am afraid that the Congress is not nearly as scrupulous as it ought to be when it comes to spending hardworking taxpayers' dollars. It is absolutely essential that we prioritize and rein in spending. ...

In closing, the use of hard-earned taxpayer dollars on duplicative, inefficient, and failed federal agencies and programs is a serious problem facing our nation today. Over and over, we see congressionally authorized programs become institutionalized, and then--although no longer necessary--they become permanent fixtures receiving more taxpayer dollars year after year.

The Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies (CARFA) Act (S. 1668) would change this. The CARFA Act establishes a commission to review federal discretionary agencies and programs, making recommendations for the elimination of unnecessary programs. The Congress would subsequently take an up-or-down vote on these recommendations. The CARFA Act is the antidote to the Congress's general unwillingness to end politicians' pet projects. It is based on the proven model of the military base closing commission (BRAC), and it will work.

Official: A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow individuals to designate that up to 10 percent of their income tax liability be used to reduce the national debt, and to require spending reductions equal to the amounts so designated. as introduced

Official: To require any amounts remaining in a Member's Representational Allowance at the end of a fiscal year to be deposited in the Treasury and used for deficit reduction or to reduce the Federal debt. as introduced.

Official: To provide that no automatic pay adjustment for Members of Congress shall be made in the year following a fiscal year in which there is a Federal budget deficit. as introduced.

By 2030, the CBO projects that debt will more than double to 146 percent of GDP. The only good news, if it can be called that, is that the U.S. is not alone. Two recent studies by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) highlight the significance of the global debt challenge and stress the need for governments to aim higher than short-term deficit reductions. For the U.S., one of the most poorly positioned countries, addressing the long-term debt challenge must include prompt reform of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. ...

A short-term focus on deficit reduction, such as G20 nations’ pledges to halve deficits by 2013, will do little to pull nations back from the brink. The U.S. domestic situation is so severe that a fiscal adjustment of 12 percent of GDP would be required to stabilize debt at 60 percent of GDP, which is even higher than Greece’s 9.2 percent adjustment.

Anyone looking for serious fiscal leadership from President Obama in his State of the Union Address could have been nothing but disappointed.

He had the right narrative: jobs, investment, competitiveness and fiscal responsibility. But when it came to leadership on actually fixing the fiscal situation -- the hard part, as opposed to soft and fluffy wordsmithing -- there was none to be found. ...

President Obama is still the only one who can use the bully pulpit to set the stage for these tough policy choices and bring all the parties to the table. Here is what he should do.

Set a fiscal target:
Make the target law:
Get into the details:
Hold a budget retreat:

If the president doesn't use his upcoming budget to get specific, at the very least he needs to find a way to force the discussion with everyone at the table.

Congress needs to know these folks are ready for the real work to begin. Here are some lessons from the day.

Put everything on the table
Pay for what you spend
People want tax reform
House GOP budget
We need budget fail-safes
Voters are ahead of many politicians

The people are willing to make sacrifices as long as they are part of a budget that truly fixes the problem and in which they believe they are treated fairly. If only politicians would follow the lead of the general population instead of the extremes of their parties.

In testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, Alice Rivlin argues that America's urgent need to reduce future debt is also a major opportunity to make the federal government operate more fairly and effectively. Rivlin focuses on key budget issues including tax reform, entitlement reform (specifically slowing the growth of Medicare), budget process reform and using discretionary spending caps to increase the effectiveness of federal programs.

The way the government does business with the private sector and how it interacts with the public are two of the most fundamental exercises of a republic, and these initiatives represent the groundwork for a more efficient, open, and transparent government.

Cutting duplicative or unnecessary programs in the FY 2010 and 2011 budgets
Eliminating low performing agency programs
Freezing non-security discretionary spending for three years beginning FY 2011
Reducing no-bid and high-risk federal contracts
Obtaining expedited recession authority
Creating a federal "do not pay" list
Limiting improper payments
Reducing high risk internet technology projects across federal agencies
Creating open government plans for federal agencies
Bringing more transparency to federal spending