Transparency, not strongarming, the problem with forced donations

On October 4, the Chicago Tribune reported that Chicago’s Inspector General, Joe Ferguson, discovered that a large number of firms that received TIF dollars were also required to donate money to After School Matters, a charity started by Maggie Daley, the former mayor’s wife. Though other charities also received donations, After School Matters received a disproportionate number. Ferguson wasn’t denigrating the program, but did mention that there was a problem with transparency, guidelines and accountability.

This is the problem Mr. Ferguson? Transparency? more…..

Secretary of State Clinton asks: What is the best Path Forward for Gaza?

Dipnote, the U.S. State Department blog, has a new question, what should we do about Gaza?

On March 2, Clinton will participate in the donor conference for Gaza reconstruction. Until then, she will be taking suggestions from ordinary Americans.

Here is the link. Lend your voice in our participatory democracy, or shut your piehole and live with their decisions. 🙂

Excellent explanation of the Israeli media spin

For those who don’t understand the true cost of media “spin”, here is a well-written explanation by Yonatan Mendel that even the most clueless could probably understand.

A small excerpt:

In most of the articles on the conflict two sides battle it out: the Israel Defence Forces, on the one hand, and the Palestinians, on the other. When a violent incident is reported, the IDF confirms or the army says but the Palestinians claim: ‘The Palestinians claimed that a baby was severely injured in IDF shootings.’ Is this a fib? ‘The Palestinians claim that Israeli settlers threatened them’: but who are the Palestinians? Did the entire Palestinian people, citizens of Israel, inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, people living in refugee camps in neighbouring Arab states and those living in the diaspora make the claim? Why is it that a serious article is reporting a claim made by the Palestinians? Why is there so rarely a name, a desk, an organisation or a source of this information? Could it be because that would make it seem more reliable?….
Another example: in June 2006, four days after the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped from the Israeli side of the Gazan security fence, Israel, according to the Israeli media, arrested some sixty members of Hamas, of whom 30 were elected members of parliament and eight ministers in the Palestinian government. In a well-planned operation Israel captured and jailed the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem, the ministers of finance, education, religious affairs, strategic affairs, domestic affairs, housing and prisons, as well as the mayors of Bethlehem, Jenin and Qalqilya, the head of the Palestinian parliament and one quarter of its members. That these officials were taken from their beds late at night and transferred to Israeli territory probably to serve (like Gilad Shalit) as future bargaining-chips did not make this operation a kidnapping. Israel never kidnaps: it arrests.

The Israeli army never intentionally kills anyone, let alone murders them – a state of affairs any other armed organisation would be envious of. Even when a one-ton bomb is dropped onto a dense residential area in Gaza, killing one gunman and 14 innocent civilians, including nine children, it’s still not an intentional killing or murder: it is a targeted assassination. An Israeli journalist can say that IDF soldiers hit Palestinians, or killed them, or killed them by mistake, and that Palestinians were hit, or were killed or even found their death (as if they were looking for it), but murder is out of the question. The consequence, whatever words are used, has been the death at the hands of the Israeli security forces since the outbreak of the second intifada of 2087 Palestinians who had nothing to do with armed struggle.

Read on yourself, it’s fascinating and disturbing. Read our newspapers, and watch the action words…and the modifiers. Talk about disturbing….

We don’t have an independent press, essential in a democracy. That’s why we came so close to tyranny.

From Chicago – signs of the economic hard times

On Friday and Monday, my train was empty, as were others I checked with – all coming from different directions into Chicago’s Loop (financial center). Layoffs? Four-day work weeks?

Normally one cannot find a parking space ANYWHERE near Union Station (home of Metra and Amtrak) at any time of the day, even when gas prices were $4 a gallon and our (Metra’s) ridership was up. This week – park anywhere, not a problem.

Traffic has been a nightmare for a few years now. I can’t tell you how many times an ambulance can’t get down the street because of all the cars (and the stupid people driving them who won’t get out of the way). Last week? Ambulances were flying down the street with only a siren blaring – no horns honking at all. Clear passage.

That’s good for them, but to me, is not a sign of good economic times. Sorry, they are not all riding their bikes. Actually – haven’t seen many of them lately either.

The Edens expressway, which normally starts rush hour at about 6:30am (rush hour being a euphemism for an expressway that is a parking lot), is also traffic free. Yesterday at 7:30 am, it was 19 minutes from Dempster to the Circle interchange. Normally, at that hour, it would be at least 40 minutes. 19 minutes is how long it takes at 3 in the morning.

For those of you not familiar with Chicago, this expressway leads into the Loop, the heart of Chicago’s downtown where banks, the Board of Trade, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Board of Options Exchange, and the Futures Market call home. It is also the seat of city government has congressional offices, the mayor is here, the Cook County Board, courts, lawyers, pick ’em, they’re here.

No traffic.

Not good.

Russ Feingold’s transparency amendment squashed

Russ Feingold introduced amendment SA 140 to HR1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Here is the text of the amendment:

SA 140. Mr. FEINGOLD (for himself, Mr. MCCAIN, Mrs. MCCASKILL, Mr. GRAHAM, Mr. LIEBERMAN, Mr. BURR, and Mr. COBURN) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed to amendment SA 98 proposed by Mr. INOUYE (for himself and Mr. BAUCUS) to the bill H.R. 1, making supplemental appropriations for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed, and State and local fiscal stabilization, for fiscal year ending September 30, 2009, and for other purposes; as follows:

At the appropriate place, insert the following:

SEC. __X. CURTAILING CONGRESSIONAL EARMARKS AND LOBBYING DISCLOSURE.

(a) In General.–Title III of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 is amended by adding at the end the following:

“CONGRESSIONAL EARMARKS

“Sec. 316. (a) In General.–On a point of order made by any Senator:

“(1) No unauthorized appropriation may be included in any general appropriation bill.

“(2) No amendment may be received to any general appropriation bill the effect of which will be to add an unauthorized appropriation to the bill.

“(3) No unauthorized appropriation may be included in any amendment between the Houses, or any amendment thereto, in relation to a general appropriation bill.

“(b) Point of Order New Legislation.–

“(1) SENATE MEASURE.–If a point of order under subsection (a)(1) against a Senate bill or amendment is sustained–

“(A) the unauthorized appropriation shall be struck from the bill or amendment; and

“(B) any modification of total amounts appropriated necessary to reflect the deletion of the matter struck from the bill or amendment shall be made.

“(2) HOUSE MEASURE.–If a point of order under subsection (a)(1) against an Act of the House of Representatives is sustained when the Senate is not considering an amendment in the nature of a substitute, an amendment to the House bill is deemed to have been adopted that–

“(A) strikes unauthorized appropriation from the bill; and

“(B) modifies, if necessary, the total amounts appropriated by the bill to reflect the deletion of the matter struck from the bill;

“(c) Point of Order Unauthorized Appropriations in Amendment.–If the point of order against an amendment under subsection (a)(2) is sustained, the amendment shall be out of order and may not be considered.

“(d) Point of Order Unauthorized Appropriations in Amendment Between the Houses.–

“(1) SENATE.–If a point of order under subsection (a)(3) against a Senate amendment is sustained–

“(A) the unauthorized appropriation shall be struck from the amendment;

“(B) any modification of total amounts appropriated necessary to reflect the deletion of the matter struck from the amendment shall be made; and

“(C) after all other points of order under this section have been disposed of, the Senate shall proceed to consider the amendment as so modified.

“(2) HOUSE.–If a point of order under subsection (a)(3) against a House of Representatives amendment is sustained–

“(A) an amendment to the House amendment is deemed to have been adopted that–

[Page: S1451] GPO’s PDF

“(i) strikes the unauthorized appropriation from the House amendment; and

“(ii) modifies, if necessary, the total amounts appropriated by the bill to reflect the deletion of the matter struck from the House amendment; and

“(B) after all other points of order under this section have been disposed of, the Senate shall proceed to consider the question of whether to concur with further amendment.

“(e) Other Points of Order.–The disposition of a point of order made under any other rule of the Senate, that is not sustained, or is waived, does not preclude, or affect, a point of order made under subsection (a) with respect to the same matter.

“(f) Supermajority.–A point of order under subsection (a) may be waived only by a motion agreed to by the affirmative vote of three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn. If an appeal is taken from the ruling of the Presiding Officer with respect to such a point of order, the ruling of the Presiding Officer shall be sustained absent an affirmative vote of three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn.

“(g) Form of Point of Order, Multiple Provisions.–

“(1) IN GENERAL.–Notwithstanding any other rule of the Senate, it shall be in order for a Senator to raise a single point of order that several provisions of a general appropriation bill or an amendment between the Houses on a general appropriation bill violate subsection (a). The Presiding Officer may sustain the point of order as to some or all of the provisions against which the Senator raised the point of order.

“(2) SUSTAINED POINT OF ORDER.–If the Presiding Officer sustains the point of order under paragraph (1) as to some or all of the provisions against which the Senator raised the point of order, then only those provisions against which the Presiding Officer sustains the point of order shall be deemed stricken pursuant to this paragraph.

“(3) MOTION TO WAIVE.–Before the Presiding Officer rules on such a point of order, any Senator may move to waive such a point of order, in accordance with subsection (f), as it applies to some or all of the provisions against which the point of order was raised. Such a motion to waive is amendable in accordance with the rules and precedents of the Senate.

“(4) APPEAL.–After the Presiding Officer rules on such a point of order, any Senator may appeal the ruling of the Presiding Officer on such a point of order as it applies to some or all of the provisions on which the Presiding Officer ruled.

“(h) Definition.–For purposes of this section, the term `unauthorized appropriation’ means a `congressionally directed spending item’ as defined in rule XLIV of the Standing Rule of the Senator–

“(1) that is not specifically authorized by law or Treaty stipulation (unless the appropriation has been specifically authorized by an Act or resolution previously passed by the Senate during the same session or proposed in pursuance of an estimate submitted in accordance with law); or

“(2) the amount of which exceeds the amount specifically authorized by law or Treaty stipulation (or specifically authorized by an Act or resolution previously passed by the Senate during the same session or proposed in pursuance of an estimate submitted in accordance with law) to be appropriated.

“(i) Conference Reports.–

“(1) IN GENERAL.–On a point of order made by any Senator, no unauthorized appropriation may be included in any conference report on a general appropriation bill.

“(2) POINT OF ORDER SUSTAINED.–If the point of order against a conference report under paragraph (1) is sustained–

“(A) the unauthorized appropriation in such conference report shall be deemed to have been struck;

“(B) any modification of total amounts appropriated necessary to reflect the deletion of the matter struck shall be deemed to have been made;

“(C) when all other points of order under this subsection have been disposed of–

“(i) the Senate shall proceed to consider the question of whether the Senate should recede from its amendment to the House bill, or its disagreement to the amendment of the House, and concur with a further amendment, which further amendment shall consist of only that portion of the conference report not deemed to have been struck (together with any modification of total amounts appropriated);

“(ii) the question shall be debatable; and

“(iii) no further amendment shall be in order; and

“(D) if the Senate agrees to the amendment, then the bill and the Senate amendment thereto shall be returned to the House for its concurrence in the amendment of the Senate.

“(3) FURTHER POINTS OF ORDER.–The disposition of a point of order made under any other provision of this section, or under any other Standing Rule of the Senate, that is not sustained, or is waived, does not preclude, or affect, a point of order made under paragraph (1) with respect to the same matter.

“(4) SUPERMAJORITY.–A point of order under paragraph (1) may be waived only by a motion agreed to by the affirmative vote of three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn. If an appeal is taken from the ruling of the Presiding Officer with respect to such a point of order, the ruling of the Presiding Officer shall be sustained absent an affirmative vote of three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn.

“(5) SINGLE POINT OF ORDER.–Notwithstanding any other rule of the Senate, it shall be in order for a Senator to raise a single point of order that several provisions of a conference report on a general appropriation bill violate paragraph (1). The Presiding Officer may sustain the point of order as to some or all of the provisions against which the Senator raised the point of order. If the Presiding Officer so sustains the point of order as to some or all of the provisions against which the Senator raised the point of order, then only those provisions against which the Presiding Officer sustains the point of order shall be deemed stricken pursuant to this subsection. Before the Presiding Officer rules on such a point of order, any Senator may move to waive such a point of order, in accordance with paragraph (4), as it applies to some or all of the provisions against which the point of order was raised. Such a motion to waive is amendable in accordance with the rules and precedents of the Senate. After the Presiding Officer rules on such a point of order, any Senator may appeal the ruling of the Presiding Officer on such a point of order as it applies to some or all of the provisions on which the Presiding Officer ruled.”.

(b) Lobbying on Behalf of Recipients of Federal Funds.–The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 is amended by adding after section 5 the following:

“SEC. 5A. REPORTS BY RECIPIENTS OF FEDERAL FUNDS.

“(a) In General.–A recipient of Federal funds shall file a report as required by section 5(a) containing–

“(1) the name of any lobbyist registered under this Act to whom the recipient paid money to lobby on behalf of the Federal funding received by the recipient; and

“(2) the amount of money paid as described in paragraph (1).

“(b) Definition.–In this section, the term `recipient of Federal funds’ means the recipient of Federal funds constituting an award, grant, or loan.”.

Seems to me, this is a pretty good idea. We get to know who is lobbying for our money and the powers that be don’t get to add amendments that have nothing to do with the topic of the bill (thus no bridges to nowhere or money to paint airplanes to look like flying salmon).

Considering the democrats backed Obama, and Obama wants to change the way business is done in Washington, one would think that they would be all for this bill. But alas, no. John McCain voted for it. But Kerry, Durbin, Reid, Boxer, Feinstein….all voted against it. I don’t know why.

If you want to know how your senators voted for it, here’s the list. Contact them and ask them why. Then please post a comment so other Americans can understand just why this was such a bad thing.

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 111th Congress – 1st Session

as compiled through Senate LIS by the Senate Bill Clerk under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate

Vote Summary

Question: On the Amendment (Feingold Amdt. No. 140 )
Vote Number: 46 Vote Date: February 5, 2009, 05:03 PM
Required For Majority: 1/2 Vote Result: Amendment Rejected
Amendment Number: S.Amdt. 140 to S.Amdt. 98 to H.R. 1 (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009)
Statement of Purpose: To provide greater accountability of taxpayers’ dollars by curtailing congressional earmarking and requiring disclosure of lobbying by recipients of Federal funds.
Vote Counts: YEAs 32
NAYs 65
Not Voting 2

Grouped by Home State
Alabama: Sessions (R-AL), Yea Shelby (R-AL), Nay
Alaska: Begich (D-AK), Nay Murkowski (R-AK), Nay
Arizona: Kyl (R-AZ), Yea McCain (R-AZ), Yea
Arkansas: Lincoln (D-AR), Nay Pryor (D-AR), Nay
California: Boxer (D-CA), Nay Feinstein (D-CA), Nay
Colorado: Bennet (D-CO), Nay Udall (D-CO), Nay
Connecticut: Dodd (D-CT), Nay Lieberman (ID-CT), Yea
Delaware: Carper (D-DE), Nay Kaufman (D-DE), Yea
Florida: Martinez (R-FL), Yea Nelson (D-FL), Nay
Georgia: Chambliss (R-GA), Yea Isakson (R-GA), Yea
Hawaii: Akaka (D-HI), Nay Inouye (D-HI), Nay
Idaho: Crapo (R-ID), Yea Risch (R-ID), Yea
Illinois: Burris (D-IL), Nay Durbin (D-IL), Nay
Indiana: Bayh (D-IN), Yea Lugar (R-IN), Nay
Iowa: Grassley (R-IA), Yea Harkin (D-IA), Nay
Kansas: Brownback (R-KS), Nay Roberts (R-KS), Nay
Kentucky: Bunning (R-KY), Nay McConnell (R-KY), Nay
Louisiana: Landrieu (D-LA), Nay Vitter (R-LA), Yea
Maine: Collins (R-ME), Nay Snowe (R-ME), Yea
Maryland: Cardin (D-MD), Nay Mikulski (D-MD), Nay
Massachusetts: Kennedy (D-MA), Not Voting Kerry (D-MA), Nay
Michigan: Levin (D-MI), Nay Stabenow (D-MI), Nay
Minnesota: Klobuchar (D-MN), Nay
Mississippi: Cochran (R-MS), Nay Wicker (R-MS), Nay
Missouri: Bond (R-MO), Nay McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
Montana: Baucus (D-MT), Nay Tester (D-MT), Nay
Nebraska: Johanns (R-NE), Yea Nelson (D-NE), Nay
Nevada: Ensign (R-NV), Yea Reid (D-NV), Nay
New Hampshire: Gregg (R-NH), Not Voting Shaheen (D-NH), Nay
New Jersey: Lautenberg (D-NJ), Nay Menendez (D-NJ), Nay
New Mexico: Bingaman (D-NM), Nay Udall (D-NM), Nay
New York: Gillibrand (D-NY), Nay Schumer (D-NY), Nay
North Carolina: Burr (R-NC), Yea Hagan (D-NC), Nay
North Dakota: Conrad (D-ND), Nay Dorgan (D-ND), Nay
Ohio: Brown (D-OH), Nay Voinovich (R-OH), Yea
Oklahoma: Coburn (R-OK), Yea Inhofe (R-OK), Yea
Oregon: Merkley (D-OR), Nay Wyden (D-OR), Nay
Pennsylvania: Casey (D-PA), Nay Specter (R-PA), Nay
Rhode Island: Reed (D-RI), Nay Whitehouse (D-RI), Nay
South Carolina: DeMint (R-SC), Yea Graham (R-SC), Yea
South Dakota: Johnson (D-SD), Nay Thune (R-SD), Yea
Tennessee: Alexander (R-TN), Nay Corker (R-TN), Yea
Texas: Cornyn (R-TX), Yea Hutchison (R-TX), Yea
Utah: Bennett (R-UT), Nay Hatch (R-UT), Yea
Vermont: Leahy (D-VT), Nay Sanders (I-VT), Nay
Virginia: Warner (D-VA), Nay Webb (D-VA), Nay
Washington: Cantwell (D-WA), Yea Murray (D-WA), Nay
West Virginia: Byrd (D-WV), Nay Rockefeller (D-WV), Nay
Wisconsin: Feingold (D-WI), Yea Kohl (D-WI), Nay
Wyoming: Barrasso (R-WY), Yea Enzi (R-WY), Yea

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