Category Archives: Congress

Congress wants to privatize US air traffic control, but what does it mean for flyers?

By Jordan Golson, published  on February 12, 2016 at The Verge

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)
(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

As part of the reauthorization for the FAA, Congressional Republicans are proposing a big change to the way America’s air traffic control system works. Currently, a federal agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, oversees the air traffic control (ATC) of the nation — but HR 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act of 2016 has a provision that would spin off the air traffic control system into a separate, private, non-profit entity.

That’s not as crazy as it sounds. Many countries have done something similar, including Canada and the United Kingdom.

Continue reading Congress wants to privatize US air traffic control, but what does it mean for flyers?

Why Don’t Democrats Vote? I’ll Tell You Why.

Alan_Grayson_Updated_Headshotby Alan Grayson, U.S. Congressman for Florida’s 9th District, published July 9, 2015

As you may have heard, Democratic turnout dropped off a cliff again last year, just like it did in 2010. I was wondering why, so I asked. I polled Florida non-voters. I found that the main reason why they didn’t vote last year was simple: They couldn’t see any difference between the candidates. When there is no difference between the candidates, Democrats don’t vote, and Democrats lose.

By way of background, the top race in Florida last year was the race for Governor. The Republican incumbent was Rick Scott, whose hospital chain perpetrated the largest Medicare fraud in history. (That is not a misprint.) Nevertheless, because he had an (R) next to his name on the 2010 ballot, he won. He has been a horrible governor, easily one of the worst in the country. Everyone knew that the Democrats had a chance to bring him down last year, especially since our Democratic President had carried Florida twice in a row. There are 500,000 more registered Democrats than registered Republicans in Florida.

The Democratic nominee was Charlie Crist, a REPUBLICAN former governor. Crist was so far to the right that he was known as “Chain-Gang Charlie.” In 2010, when Scott was first elected, Crist killed the Democrat’s chances for a US Senate seat from Florida by dropping out of his own Republican primary, where he was 25 points down, and running as an “independent.” That “stinking maneuver” (as Yitzhak Rabin would have put it) made Marco Rubio the junior senator from Florida.

Continue reading Why Don’t Democrats Vote? I’ll Tell You Why.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Death of the Republic

by Ellen Brown, published April 24, 2015

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government. — Article IV, Section 4, US Constitution

A republican form of government is one in which power resides in elected officials representing the citizens, and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law. In The Federalist Papers, James Madison defined a republic as “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people . . . .”

On April 22, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement that would override our republican form of government and hand judicial and legislative authority to a foreign three-person panel of corporate lawyers.

The secretive TPP is an agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries that affects 40% of global markets. Fast-track authority could now go to the full Senate for a vote as early as next week. Fast-track means Congress will be prohibited from amending the trade deal, which will be put to a simple up or down majority vote. Negotiating the TPP in secret and fast-tracking it through Congress is considered necessary to secure its passage, since if the public had time to review its onerous provisions, opposition would mount and defeat it.

Abdicating the Judicial Function to Corporate Lawyers

James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers:

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. . . . “Were the power of judging joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge would then be the legislator. . . .”

And that, from what we now know of the TPP’s secret provisions, will be its dire effect.

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Senator Blunt Blames College Students for Borrowing

by David Halperin, published April 21, 2015

blunt

Parroting a familiar talking point by bad actors in the for-profit college industry, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), appeared last week to blame students for their high student loan burdens. After questioning Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Thursday about regulations aimed at for-profit colleges, Blunt, a member of the Senate GOP leadership, said [VIDEO at 1:38:00]:

We ought to be talking about … the debt problem when you get out of school. How much of that related to the actual cost of going to school and how much it related to what you thought your living standards should be while you went to school, and I’m pretty confident over the years that the student expectations for their personal living standards in school have often increased where they would have been a few just years ago.

Exclusive video obtained in 2012 by Republic Report of a meeting of the for-profit college trade association APSCU showed an industry executive engaged in similar blaming of students for alleged overborrowing — to buy cars, cover child support, and pay parking tickets — a remark that led to thunderous applause by fellow executives in attendance.

Similarly, when in 2013 I asked a spokesperson at for-profit giant EDMC about a veteran who had incurred tens of thousands in debt at EDMC before dropping out, he said:

Current laws and regulations permit students to borrow more than the cost of tuition and fees up to the maximum loan limits set by Congress. While we cannot limit the amount of debt a student incurs, we strive to provide access to resources that encourage responsible borrowing and repayment of loans.

The predatory for-profit college companies tend to accept no responsibility for their sky-high prices, deceptive enrollment and financial aid tactics, and poor quality programs and job placement records that push so many students deep into debt. They blame their own students instead, implying that the students are pocketing the money themselves to buy Escalades and Cristal.

I have been told by staff members at EDMC and elsewhere that there are in fact some students who do enroll in order to pocket some cash and walk away, but these staff say that the management at these schools recognize the problem and don‘t care, because the school gets its federal aid dollars anyway. Indeed, industry insiders say that some for-profit college recruiters actually dangle the idea of extra spending money as a way to entice wavering students into enrolling — get a new laptop, get some cash. No doubt some students at non-profit and public colleges also borrow extra to cover some personal expenses. But the vast majority of for-profit college students are not keeping any cash – they are turning over their federal checks to the school, borrowing more money in private loans, and often going broke in the process. And in fact colleges already have tools at their disposal to limit student borrowing to what the student actually needs.

In an odd follow-up to his line of questioning, Senator Blunt then asked Duncan to “provide a year-to-year summary of marketing and advertising expenses for the Department over the last three fiscal years, as this relates to a topic I’ve been interested in, whether we should specifically identify that this is a taxpayer funded marketing effort.” Duncan replied, “We don’t do a heck of a lot of it” but promised the data.  Blunt didn’t explain what he was getting at. I’m not aware of what the Department of Education might be “marketing” or of “advertising” run amok. But I am aware that Blunt’s fellow Senators, notably Dick Durbin (D-IL), have long argued that for-profit colleges should not be permitted to use taxpayer dollars for marketing, after a Senate committee report found that big for-profit colleges were getting as much as 90 percent of their revenue from federal funds and spending almost a quarter of their revenue on marketing.

Continue reading Senator Blunt Blames College Students for Borrowing

US Congress to vote on ‘cybersecurity’ bills that are basically surveillance bills in disguise

by Trevor Timm, published April 22, 2015

Congress is expected to vote on two ‘cybersecurity’ bills sometime in the next week that are essentially surveillance bills in disguise. Trevor Timm writes in this editorial, cross-posted on the Freedom of the Press blog, about how they affect journalists and whistleblowers.

shadowofthehacker

 

Along with dozens of other civil liberties organizations, Freedom of the Press Foundation has signed on to two letters strongly opposing the dangerous “cybersecurity” bills making their way through Congress and expected to be voted on sometime in the next week.

The bills are little more than new surveillance powers wrapped in a cheap disguise, and you can read the full letters that describe the bill’s deficiencies here and here.

If passed, the bills will adversely affect all Americans’ privacy, but they have particularly critical consequences for journalists and whistleblowers, so we wanted to highlight those concerns that the letters did not fully cover.

First, as Politico’s Josh Gerstein reported on Monday, the bills “could create the first brand-new exemption to the Freedom of Information Act in nearly half a century.” The bills aim to allow private companies to share large swaths of private information with the government with no legal process whatsoever, essentially carving a giant hole in the country’s myriad privacy laws. But worse, the proposed FOIA exemption would prevent the public from ever being able to find out what type or amount of information these companies handed over.

Gerstein explains the multiple ways the bills attempts to cut off transparency and accountability:

A bill approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee last month would add a new tenth exemption to FOIA, covering all “information shared with or provided to the Federal Government” under the new measure.

Another provision in the legislation would require that “cyber threat indicators and defensive measures” which companies or individuals share with the federal government be “withheld, without discretion, from the public.” The Senate bill, which is expected to come to the floor soon, also seeks to shut off any access to that information under state or local freedom of information laws.

Continue reading US Congress to vote on ‘cybersecurity’ bills that are basically surveillance bills in disguise

A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation

by The Pew Research Center, U.S. Politics and Policy, published April 7, 2015

Sharp Differences by Race, Gender, Generation, Education

Democrats hold advantages in party identification among blacks, Asians, Hispanics, well-educated adults and Millennials. Republicans have leads among whites – particularly white men, those with less education and evangelical Protestants – as well as members of the Silent Generation.

4-6-2015_LEDEA new analysis of long-term trends in party affiliation among the public provides a detailed portrait of where the parties stand among various groups in the population. It draws on more than 25,000 interviews conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2014, which allows examination of partisan affiliation across even relatively small racial, ethnic, educational and income subgroups.  (Explore detailed tables for 2014 here.)

The share of independents in the public, which long ago surpassed the percentages of either Democrats or Republicans, continues to increase. Based on 2014 data, 39% identify as independents, 32% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans. This is the highest percentage of independents in more than 75 years of public opinion polling. (For a timeline of party affiliation among the public since 1939, see this interactive feature.)

Continue reading A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation

The Invisible Democratic Majority

by Russell Berman, published April 8 2015 in The Atlantic

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From left: Jae C. Hong/AP, J. Scott Applewhite/AP

A new study finds broad support for the party among the general public in 2014, even as it was resoundingly defeated at the polls.

In 2002, two pundits prophesied an Emerging Democratic Majority, built on America’s increasing ethnic diversity. After the GOP triumph in the 2014 elections, one of them recanted, instead proclaiming an Emerging Republican Advantage. But what if the predicted Democratic majority already emerged, but just never bothered to show up and vote?

A study released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found that, over the course of 2014, American adults were far more likely to identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, by a margin of 48 to 39 percent. But in November, GOP candidates for the House of Representatives garnered millions more votes than their Democratic rivals, amassing a cumulative advantage of 51 to 45 percent. A decisive Democratic edge in the general population translated to a distinct Republican advantage at the polls.

Democrats still found some solace in longterm demographic trends: Republicans may enjoy the support of older, white Americans, but Democrats remain strong among young people and ethnic minorities, who will make up an ever-increasing share of the population in coming years. The GOP’s advantage, they assumed, would be temporary, and an enduring Democratic majority would indeed emerge over time.

Yet the depth of the Democratic losses in November cast doubt on that rosy thinking. For one, Republicans captured so many seats—both on the federal and state levels—that they can write their current advantage into electoral districts that will last a decade. And more ominously, a higher percentage of Millennials—that most crucial element of the future Democratic base—voted GOP than in the past. That’s what led John B. Judis, looking at the voting choices made by white and middle-class Americans, to repudiate his prophesy of an emerging Democratic majority, and to declare in National Journal the onset of a Republican advantage.

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Traitor Senators used Israeli Spies against their own Country

from Informed Comment, published March 25, 2015

By Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola | (The Young Turks) | –

Cenk Uygur (http://www.twitter.com/cenkuygur) and John Iadarola (https://twitter.com/jiadarola) host of The Young Turks discuss a recent report on Israeli spying activities used to aide traitor senators against Iran/U.S. nuclear talks.

Israel intelligence was funneled to Republican Congresspeople in order to ruin support for Iran/U.S. nuclear negotiations, a recent report has found. The cables being used to send and receive order lasix without rx information to and from the U.S. had been breached by the Israeli spies easily allowing them to steal then send back to members of Congress and is being seen as a direct sabotage attempt.

When asked about the breach in security Israeli officials denied everything, claiming they found the intelligence from other places.”

The Young Turks: “Traitor Senators Used Israeli Spies Against Their Own Country

 

Well, here’s a billion dollars the US can have

0729-gym_full_600
A man uses a weight training machine at a gym in this photo illustration. Each senator is designated $1,238.56 for fitness club memberships. If that expense, along with some others, were cut, the US would find itself with another billion dollars, writes guest blogger Joshua M. Brown. Photo illustration / Shemetov Maxim / Newscom

Cut out some perks for senators and their staffers, like hair care and stationary, and we’re left with a pile of cash to put toward our debt

By Joshua M. Brown, Guest blogger , Christian Science Monitor / July 29, 2011

With the looming debt ceiling crisis roiling the country, I think it’s important that we all do our part and try to find ways to pitch in. I think I’ve found a bunch of money we could use to alleviate the debt and buy ourselves a bit more time.

First, since Congress is no longer functioning or doing its job, we can probably save some cash by not paying them until they do. There are 100 Senators and 433 Representatives in the House making a base annual salary of $174,000. I’m sure they’d hate to be paid for not working, so there’s $93 million we can set aside. We can leave aside the health and pension benefits from what we’re reclaiming -we’re not animals after all!

Continue reading Well, here’s a billion dollars the US can have