Friday, November 9, 2007

Roskam's vote on Employment Non-discrimination

It's absolutely no surprise, but Peter Roskam voted on Wednesday against ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act). This bill passed in the House, but not with a veto-override margin, and is most likely to be vetoed by President Bush. This bill, if it were to become law, would make it illegal to consider sexual orientation (meaning, gay, lesbian or bisexual; the transgendered community was left out of this bill) for hiring or firing purposes. Many states already have protective laws in place, as do many cities, but Peter, with this vote, is obviously fine with the idea that people can be fired for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

I'm sure some of the arguments will be that this will infringe on the rights of faith-based organizations that have strong statements about homosexuality to have to go against their beliefs. To be honest, if a gay or lesbian person wants to work in that environment anyway, have at it. I worked for 7 years with such an organization - a Catholic organization - that tried to have it both ways. It can be dreadful, patronizing, and dehumanizing; the harm is not to the integrity of the organization, but to the individual.

Once again, Peter is also somewhat alone in our region; Biggert and Kirk voted for the legislation (Hastert, in one of his rare recent votes, voted against it as well).

So, when it comes to issues that have to do with basic rights (the "special rights" argument is really hollow), a big question is whether we will have options in the next election).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Roskam votes against relief for homeowners

Now that congress is back in session, and the more challenging bills will be coming out, it's time to really put the lens on who Roskam truly plans to represent in DC. So far, we know that he will not do anything to help immigrants; he will gladly deny rights to gays and lesbians, and his environmental and energy efforts will move things in the right direction as long as they don't upset big-industry oil and auto manufacturers (meaning, he will do little to promote renewable energy or energy conservation). He will, however, vote to protect the rights of lobbyists, and vote to kep in-tact the government benefits of fellow legislators who are convicted of wrong-doing in the name of public service (both of these bills failed in the house, but were two of his first votes adn set the pattern for what he is really all about). Of course, he says he wants to support the small business owner, but the pattern really reflects support big-business.

His most recent vote: he joined a small minority of Republicans (only 72) in voting against HR 1852 (Expanding American Homeownership Act of 2007). As we have seen so often, locally he stands with Hastert, while Biggert and Kirk show a more reasoned vote.

So, Peter, if you really want to support the small business owner, what's up with not supporting some relief for the impending mortgage crisis? You voted against raising minimum wage, which you argued would hurt the business owner (of course, even at the new minimum wage, no one could afford to live in your district); but with the looming housing/mortgage crisis, people need relief otherwise there is going to be an absolute collapse of the middle class in the district.

Perhaps, more to the point, what would your alternative be?

And by the way (completely unrelated), what's up with denying DC voters the right to representation?

Clearly, Peter is only out to represent the "haves" in his district. Thankfully for him, the Democrats don't seem to be able to get their act together to put forth a viable alternative, so his seat is safe. It's a sad state of affairs.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Roskam and energy

This past Sunday, July 1, I participated in an event sponsored by Greenpeace in Glen Ellyn. Greenpeace has targeted Peter Roskam's district as one of thirteen in the nation to exert pressure on congressional representatives to take action on global warming. (An article appeared in the Glen Ellyn News this week - see for the article. You can also see more about Greenpeace's initiative at )

A little background: In January, Roskam voted against a bill that would repeal tax cuts to oil companies and impose a fee on companies that extract oil from the Gulf of Mexico. This bill also would set aside $14 billion to fund renewable energy sources. His rationale: the bill "make domestic production and exploration more expensive", and create market instability. In February of this year, he did support the authorization of the EPA to spend $10 million on research alternative fuels. His very first successful amendment was to put a caveat to this: the $10 million has to come from already approved funds.

So let's get this straight: No new money for development of alternative/renewable energy; no asking the oil companies to pay their fair share of taxes (despite the fact that the General Accounting Office has already found the oil companies doing business in the gulf have been avoiding paying royalties and fighting the government - Bush's own Interior Department - to fight this. One citation: "Anadarko (an oil company digging for oil in the Gulf), which earned $4.8 billion in profit last year on sales of $10.2 billion, is arguing that Congress guaranteed oil companies a special incentive for drilling in deep water under which the companies could avoid paying the standard royalty on much of what they produced in the Gulf of Mexico. The Interior Department has adamantly argued that the incentives were never supposed to apply when oil prices climbed above about $34 a barrel." See
In addition to no new funds for development, not one word about conservation; not one word about the record profits of the oil companies over the past two year; not one word about how much of the new exploration is far deeper for a cruder product that is much more costly to refine; basically, not one word about the fact that no matter where you look, oil is running out and people need to wake up.

More troubling than all this, however, is the laissez-faire attitude about global warming. In the Glen Ellyn News article, "Roskam underscored the importance of determining the exact science behind global warming". This is such a dangerous position to take. Any scientist will affirm that it is not possible to prove unequivocally what is causing global warming. The best that can be done is to show that models and predictions about global warming tied to carbon emissions have been extremely accurate. But, there is no test lab; we don't have an alternative planet on which to do a control to see what happens when we do decrease carbon emissions. The only way to prove this is to actually decrease carbon emissions and see if that makes a difference. But Roskam and others don't see it that way - cynically because that's the way some of his cronies and even big consumer constituents want it that way.

Here's what I'd argue: let's all commit to fully developing and utilizing renewable and cleaner energy while also decreasing our consumption. If global warming continues, and proves to be unrelated to carbon emission, at least we will know for certain, and we will become a less consumptive, and more creative society with cleaner air. Isn't that better than Peter's wait and see until it's too late mentality?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Leaving the Party System

Increasingly, I have become disillusioned with our two-party system. As early as 1797, John Adams predicted that party members would become more loyal to the party than the greater good of the country. I think that day ahs been here for some time, but now it is truer than ever. George W. Bush has never been interested in the greater good; it seems his interest has been in doing what it takes to keep 51% of the population behind him so he can stay in power.

Now as we enter into another election cycle, I am not really seeing much hope. Other than possibly Obama, most of the major candidates seem to be promoting status quo politics - big money rules. Yes, there are some differences in policy, but not much offered in the way of process, and pretty much a "divide and conquer" mentality.

John Farmer, a political columnist for The Newark Star Ledger, wrote a column this week that speaks to this. Some excerpts (to see the whole column, go to

"Until recently, our major parties, Democrat and Republican, enjoyed a presumption that they represented not only the best in modern political thinking but also the interests of individual Americans and the nation. It's been hogwash for some time.

They've been conning us. And as the number who proclaim themselves Republican or Democrat declines, it's clear the public is catching wise. There is, in fact, no evidence either party can be trusted to serve the interest of ordinary people or the nation. In other words, the only wise way to regard them is agnosti cally, no longer on faith or ancient allegiance.

There was a time when the two parties competed by seeking to expand their ranks, a strategy that required compromise, a bit of bipartisanship, even the inclusion of members of the rival party in the presidential cabinet. All that changed with the new "base" politics, premised on the belief that the country is irreconcilably divided between liberal and conservative interests and the party that best ral lies its "base" wins.

The strategy appealed particularly to Republicans who believed, correctly I think, that most Americans lean right of center, and was exploited masterfully by George W. Bush's political consigliere, Karl Rove. This easy division of the U.S. electorate has been a gold mine for the new class of political consultants -- liberal as well as conservative -- who came to prominence as party machines declined.

They transported the same oversimplified campaign lingo and tactics -- demonizing the opposi tion in 30-second TV commercials -- from campaign to campaign. The "base" is always receptive, and the money's good.

When I talk to groups, I like to ask if there any "rock-ribbed Republicans" or any "yellow dog Democrats" (they'd rather vote for a yellow dog than a Republican) in the audience. If there are, I suggest they get together later for a drink because they have so much in common. They're both dupes if they be lieve their party has their interest at heart.

The sorry truth is the Republican and Democratic parties are wholly owned subsidiaries of vast and powerful economic interests that don't give a damn about you and me. Blame it on the power of money in politics and the inability of either party to get its message across without millions that only huge economic interests can provide. "

So, while I see Roskam as perhaps one who most epitomizes what is wrong with the system (he demonizes people like Nancy Pelosi; he places blame on pork spending and earmarks on the Democrats, despite the no-bid contracts and "bridges to nowhere" that are as much, if not more so, practices of Republicans, especially from 2001 to 2006, when his party pretty much ran everything), I must confess that the suggestion to simply vote for a Democrat as the solution is not enough for me. I'll be looking for someone who see both and multiple sides of an issue, and engage those sides towards real and lasting solutions.

In my next posting, I'll write about the HIV-testing clinics we have started to do in Wheaton as part of my work with The Mosaic Initiative ( It's an example of bringing people together despite differences, and exposes where the real fault lines are in our society. I know this much - the fault lines of division are no where near where our political leaders would like us to think they are, and if we don't speak up about this when our candidates are running for office, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Do Conservatives Know about Conservation?

Peter Roskam is angry about the high price of gas in Illinois – so angry that he is now blaming the Illinois government for the problem. On his website this week, he laments:

“Our refinery capacity is woefully inadequate—roughly 150 refineries are on-line today compared with more than 300 in 1980. With demand ever-increasing, we desperately need to focus more attention on enabling the growth of the refining industry. This is one step we can take toward increasing domestic energy production, and one step that will bring us closer to a more secure homeland.”

Here’s what’s missing from the equation: the shutting down of refineries was a strategic decision by the oil industry to keep supply down so that prices did not go too low. Much of this happened under the watchful eyes of the Reagan/Bush I regimes. Of course, the Clinton/Gore years really did very little to address the impending energy crisis despite Gore’s re-emergence as an energy/environment guru. And, even if refinery capacity increases, this will do nothing to move us “closer to a more secure homeland”. In fact, it might even do the opposite. Think about it: if we can refine more oil, don’t we need to bring it in? Or will it magically appear? Sometimes I really wonder if Peter is that dense or he truly believes his constituents are.

But perhaps what’s most glaringly missing is the dreaded “C” word – conserve. Why is there so little talk about energy conservation? All we hear about is increasing supply. Long-gone are the days and the lessons of the early 1970’s when we all turned our thermostats down, slowed down to 55 on the highways (something that shockingly increases MPG ratings) and other conservation practices. Our society today simply cannot be asked to sacrifice anything – just ask the soldiers in Iraq when they return home about all the sacrifices they are seeing in their hometowns.

The reality we face as a society is that no amount of energy – no matter where it comes from – can keep up with current demands. We are going to need to face some serious changes in consumption if we are going to successfully land from this energy crash we are in.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Peter, the environment and national security.

Here’s what Rep. Roskam has to say this week:

“In a scary throwback to the Clinton Administration, the 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill passed last week in the House diverts US intelligence resources away from critical national security missions to study global climate change. While climate change is worthy of study, US intelligence services are supposed to be focused on threats to our national security, not threats to the environment…While global climate change is a serious concern we should be watching closely, this environmental phenomenon is being researched by more than a dozen other federal agencies. The subject of global warming is by no means getting the cold shoulder from the federal government.” (Italics mine)

First of all, it pretty much looks beyond hope that Peter will be able to see anything good from the Democrats, and that is frightening. Forget about the fact that finally there is a call to accountability that the Republican-controlled House and Senate basically just ignored to the peril of our nation. But to call global warming an “environmental” phenomenon with all that we now know is a joke; at least, Peter, admit that the evidence seems to indicate global warming is a consequence of human industrial waste. And if Peter can’t make the connection between global warming, carbon-emissions, energy resources, poverty and war, he really is dim.

The timing of his statement, however, is particularly interesting, given that the Director of National Intelligence himself declared that climate change is a national security issue. As written in the Boston Globe just this past Sunday:
“In a letter written last week to the House Intelligence Committee, Michael McConnell, director of national intelligence, said it was ‘entirely appropriate’ that the intelligence community prepare an assessment of the ‘geopolitical and security implications of global climate change’…But intelligence officials have already recognized the importance of studying how crises caused by climate change, such as famine and rising sea levels, could affect the security of the United States. Even as Congress was debating whether to order a national intelligence estimate, intelligence agencies had planned to include a discussion of global warming in a report next year on US security challenges through 2025…Last month, a report written by several retired generals and admirals concluded that climate changes posed a ‘serious threat to US national security,’ and could further weaken unstable governments in developing countries.” (see for full article).

Perhaps most disappointing for me is Peter’s shameless partisanship. Routinely he has been trying to invoke the names Pelosi and Clinton to scare people, when it is more than clear that “Bush and Cheney are in charge” are the words that are scaring most of the world and hurting almost all the good that America can stand for. Peter himself has quickly become a “scary throwback to the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Gonzalez policies run amok of 2002-2006”. He must be one of the only one’s left who doesn’t see that this is a dead regime, and even most Republicans are just waiting for them all to go away.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Roskam and the supplemental spending veto

Poor Peter Roskam. With President Bush now vetoing the supplemental spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Roskam is now having to justify and defend the veto as a protective measure to keep politics out of government. “I am deeply disturbed when politics trumps national security”, he said in his weekly column that is heard no WLS-890 AM Radio. As is so often the case, I agree with Peter about politics trumping national security, and I detest when I see elected officials put partisan politics above the responsible of governing, but really, how many of our elected officials are truly interested in governing these days. The big joke (if it weren’t so serious), of course, is that the practice of politics trumping not just national security but pretty much every governmental agency these days has been the policy of this White House Administration. As Sen. Leahy and Rep. Waxman are finding, the FDA, Education, Justice, and EPA have had their integrity not just questioned, but thoroughly ruined by the politics of Rove Rove was the mastermind of Mission Accomplished; people need to be reminded that this Administration has gotten so many things wrong, and now Roskam wants to accuse “the Democrats” (nice move on the language here, as well) of playing politics?

If Peter were serious, himself, he would be stepping up to the plate and putting full funding and national security higher than tax cuts as a priority (poverty and greed are the seeds of terrorism). He would take time to remind people that we are at war, not just our military, and that we should all be making sacrifices. He would reject the on-going farce that this war finding is "supplemental", but instead should be included and accounted for in the regular budgeting process. Instead, he would like to blame Nancy Pelosi while encouraging the frivolous consumerism with messages of keeping your money to yourself.

Here’s the full weekly message:

The Troops Lose When Politicians Play Games Congressman Roskam's Weekly Column, WLS 890 AM Washington, May 2 - Nancy Pelosi and her Democrat Majority passed their micromanaging Iraq supplemental bill Thursday of last week, but it was sent to the president for his consideration Tuesday of this week. That bill contains funding that our troops need to fulfill their missions in the field. What was the holdup?The bill was held so the Democrats could create a political spectacle and to give their supporters from fodder for protests. Speaker Pelosi waited to send the bill to the president’s desk until this week to mock the president’s declaration of “mission accomplished,” which occurred four years ago this week. Even if she knew the president was going to veto the bill, she should have sent it to the White House the day after it passed so Congress could get back to business drafting a clean funding bill that will support our troops.The Speaker’s excuse for the delay was that she needed more time to review it. She said, “It’s a major piece of legislation and you have to go through it word for word and line by line.” Shouldn’t that have been done before it was offered on the floors of the House and Senate? Was the Speaker unaware of the contents of the bill before she brought it up for final passage in the House?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Roskam's Tax Day Message

Last week, Rep. Roskam's "Tax Day" Message leaves one with the perception that all of our tax dollars are wasted. His full message:

Washington, Apr 17 - Tax Day is upon us. That time of year when (normally anyway) the weather starts to get warmer, the flowers start to bloom and the government sticks its greedy hands in your pockets to take your hard-earned money to pay for increasingly bloated public programs. Where does the money go? Bridges to nowhere, rainforests in Iowa and hundreds of programs the federal government has little to no right to finance with your money. It reminds me of an anecdote about Congressman Davy Crockett during his tenure in Congress called Not Yours to Give. In the story, Crockett is influential in defeating legislation in the House that would have spent taxpayer money to help a private citizen because Crockett was told by one of his constituents that taxpayer dollars are not Congress' to give. I take Col. Crockett's words to heart and am in Congress to fight to keep more of those dollars in your pockets so you aren't cutting big checks every April 15 to pay for someone else's spinach farm, shrimp boat or peanut storage device.
In this spirit, I will leave you with a great quote from President Ronald Reagan:
"Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the democrats believe every day is April 15"
- Congressman Peter J. Roskam

If he didn't sound so serious, this would be laughable. To suggest that the Democrats are at fault is to deny reality. The “Bridge to Nowhere” was a pet project of a powerful Republican Senator (Stevens of Alaska). The "Spinach pork" he is referring to is a supplemental item to help the spinach farmers who were hit hard by the tainted spinach recall that, as we now know, was allowed to get as bad as it did because of a neglectful FDA. This qualifies as "supplemental" more than the defense items as this was truly unplanned for, whereas the war is hardly something we didn't expect (it is shameful that Bush continue to leave the war budget out of its annual budgeting process). Many of the other items added to the budget have to do with veterans benefits (which we now know have been horribly under-funded) and children's health plans (if we can't work to support health for our children, what are we fighting for?). To call for fiscal responsibility in the face of rapidly-emerging tales of fiscal mismanagement on the part of Bush and the Republicans over the past 6 years, and suggest that it is Democrats who have been wasteful is certainly a Bush-type statement - completely disconnected from reality. And to drag out an old Reagan quote that questions the patriotism of Democrats is unacceptable. Many of us are tired of the partisan blame-game, and now more than ever, to blame the Democrats (especially from someone who won with 51% of the vote) suggests that Roskam does not take the challenges we face as a nation seriously.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Lonely Guy

Imagine how it must feel to be Peter Roskam right now. During teh campaign for this congressional seat, he brought in President Bush and VP Cheney to help get him over the top (or at least bring the the money to make it happen). And now, his colleagues are running like rats from a sinking ship away from the Bush machine. Yesterday's Gonzalez testimony is just the latest, but certainly not the last of this. Rep. Waxman and his committee on Oversight will surely continue to expose fiscal mismanagement just as Sen. Leahy's Judicial Committee has exposed rather shocking ethical mismanagement that, as we saw yesterday, was not just some lapse in judgment but fairly strategic. Of course, Karl Rove continues to be at the center and sooner or later, he will be exposed for all to see.

So what does one of the few Rookie Republicans do? Join Republican colleagues who are now distancing themselves from the Bush Machine that fully controlled them until the Democrats took charge in Congress? Or does he stay loyal? It looks like, with Roskam's silence on these issues, he stays loyal. It's too bad - of all the Republicans who would be in a position to re-introduce the issue of integrity into the party, it would be someone newly-elected: he or she would not have to explain the inactions and complicitness of a previous term.

At the same time, calls Peter a "moderate Republican" based on the bills he has sponsored/co-sponsored, based on his sponsorship of a sum total of two bills. Of course, Congress really hasn't tackled any of the tough issues yet, so we'll keep tracking this one.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What does Peter do now?

With congress out of session again, it seems like there's not much for Peter to do. A quick look at his .gov website has a new posting about a new hydrogen fuel station opening up in the area, and that some day we will all have a choice to make between gas and hydrogen (although perhaps 15 years too late, and really, how much should it be a choice, given the consequences? And, for those who may look at some of these issues in a partisan manner, the Clinton/Gore years really did not do nearly enough in my book to address energy/environment/climate change).

But, Peter does have some serious problems that I think we need to keep the pressure on, and basically they have to do with how is he going to effectively distance himself from what is becoming the fiasco of the Bush Administration? Thanks to the Democratic Congress, we are seeing an Administration that is third-rate in the Attorney General's office, that tries to hide official White House business in RNC e-mails, that doesn't know how to compromise on important issues like funding for the wars, that rejects hard science on both environment and healthcare (specifically HIV-prevention), and continues to say the war in Iraq is going well despite bombings now taking place in the green zone. Of course, this says nothing about why we are there in the first place (it's amazing how Bush/Cheney/McCain talk about how vital this war is, as if Iraq attacked us).

To date, Peter has done nothing to distinquish himself as a representative of integrity. He seems as much as anything to be a waterboy for Bush.

Friday, April 6, 2007

A Quiet Week, perfect for recess appointments

With Congress taking a break for a week, not much was happening in Washington other than President Bush making a few minor recess appointments (such as appointing a big financial backer as Ambassador to Belgium, despite just removing his name from consideration of congressional approval because of his financial backing of the despicable "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" ad campaign that assaulted John Kerry's military record, appointing a woman to the Office of Management and Budget despite her record of hostility towards regulations, and the appointment of a new deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration who has been a known champion of partially privatizing social security, the very program he is now in charge of administering).

It really is quite amazing that this administration continues to do so little to try and reverse the downward spiral it is on as it continues to act unilaterally and perhaps even illegally. All of which leads us back to our own elected official - Peter Roskam. Regardless of whether one is Democrat or Republican, all of congress should be outraged at this relentless assault on their powers. "Recess" appointments are meant to give the president powers to put people in vacant positions when congress is on extended leaves (and ideally when the position is unexpectedly vacated). It is not meant to circumvent the powers of congress. Of course, Clinton did the same thing when he appointed an ambassador to a position who was being challenged by congress because of his sexual orientation, and while it would be easy to say that these are not the same thing, really, they are. It is a misuse of the power of the presidency.

Will Peter speak up - not for his party, but on behalf of the autonomy and authority of the House of Representatives? Of course not! Would he have spoken up if this were Clinton and a gay ambassador? Probably. And here is his (Roskam's) own lapse in integrity.

What we need to be looking for in the next election is a candidate who can serve based on some values of integrity, not party loyalty. So far, Peter shows us clearly that he is not up to the task.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Liberals and Democrats and Left-Wings, Oh My!

I received an e-mail from Peter Roskam's campaign soliciting funds for 2008. It's kind of a scary e-mail, because Peter, in using a somewhat surprising martyr tone, laments that he has been targeted by a liberal group, Americans United for Change, for his vote against raising the minimum wage and for his vote against making it easier for workers to organize. Peter then goes on to connect this group with the AFL-CIO, and then to that wicked witch from the west, Nancy Pelosi. Peter then wraps up the e-mail with an appeal:

"Your generous online contribution of $25, $50 or $100 by March 30 can help keep the national liberal attack machine out of the Sixth District.
Your contribution of $100 by March 30 will send a message to Nancy Pelosi that her left-wing operatives and Hollywood money would best employed elsewhere."

Now, here's the thing: Last I saw, Roskam won the district with 51% of the vote. That means that there must be a fair amount of liberals and Democrats in the Sixth District. If Peter would to make a claim to commit to try and keep all national political attack machines out of the district so that we could have civilized dialog, I'd be all for it. But, no, Peter shows here not his ability to unite, but to divide and offend. His willingness to bring Cheney to the district on his behalf - the same man who allows no room for discussion - hasn't left himself much wiggle room to make comments about national attack machines.

I don't know about others, but the name-calling is getting old. I think it really started to take root under Reagan, and it has just gotten worse over the years. Will there be a way for the scales to tilt? Roskam holds on to this seat and his positions by the narrowest of margins. He's scared, and trying to use the hot-button terms ("liberal, left-wing, Nancy Pelosi"). It's shameless, and I hope it ends in November, 2008.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Roskam, Walter Reed, and Accountability

Rep. Roskam has a new marketing tool - video e-mails. This week he put his first of what sounds like will be regular video e-mails on his website ( The topic was the state of conditions at Walter Reed Hospital. Roskam felt he needed to personally witness the conditions there, and has pledged to visit some of the other VA hospitals where veterans from the 6th district are receiving treatment. In Roskam's video, he pledges to hold people accountable.

This whole fiasco of the Walter Reed report has brought to light some interesting issues that should pose as serious dilemmas for Peter and his party leaders. For example:
  • As any of us who have worked in the governmental healthcare system can attest, the system is a nightmare. It's slow, inefficient, and often doesn't operate to provide services but instead often works to find reasons to disqualify people from services. I have had recent personal experience in this (not within VA, but other programs). In addition, facilities have always been notoriously bad, and quality of care has been suspect.
  • The way this news emerged wasn't because of a conscientious military person or government official speaking up and saying "we have a problem here", but because of newspaper and media reports. Is it possibly true that 4 years into a war, not one high-ranking Bush Administration official visited Walter Reed to thank the patients there for their service, and saw the deplorable conditions? This just seems to be further indications of an administration disconnected from reality - something they deem necessary to keep the war going by denying the consequences of it on people's lives. And at what point do these folks turn to the media and say "thank you" instead of "screw you"?
  • Roskam says he will step up on accountability. I suggest he not stop at those who are being singled out by the Administration, but continue to go up the chain of command. We have already seen low-raking officials take the fall for prisoner abuse problems in Iraq while those who set the tone for denying rights (Bush, Gonzalez) continue to hold sway and refuse to shut down Guantanimo (despite appeals from Def.Sec. Gates and Condi Rice). And now this, again holding lower-ranking officials accountable for instituting a policy of ignoring the painful consequences of war that is established at the very top. Remember, this President has yet to attend the funeral of one of the men or women he has sent off to die.

Peter pledges to those accountable for these conditions that congress will be watching. Peter also invites his constituents to use e-mail to communicate to him. Great idea. But will he truly listen and represent us, or give us lip service while remaining more loyal to Bush/Cheney? He had war protesters at his office this week, and says he listens to them, but does it matter? Only time will tell.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Peter the Silent

Washington is in an uproar, as it should be. Finally, people are calling for accountability. Scooter Libby has been convicted, and Patrick Fitzgerald is closing down the investigation unless any new information emerges (something a congressional investigation could help with). Attorney General Gonzalez is under the gun for explaining how the eight fired attorneys were selected for removal. Contrary to the simple statement that the attorneys serve at the discretion of the President, if it is found that they were fired while investigating something the White House did not like, as in te case of Attorney Lam in San Diego, or there was tampering as in the case of Iglesias in New Mexico, or threats were made to keep silent as in the case of Attorney Huffington, these are serious law violations. Iglesias in New Mexico, and the Attorney from Washington State were apparently let go for moving too slow on investigating reports of voter fraud that may have favored Democrats, but in Florida and Ohio, where there have been reports of voter fraud since 2000 that favor Republicans, these Attorneys kept their jobs. And then there is the shame of Walter Reed Hospital, and the pathetic outsourcing of sevices that leaves soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with poor services. (Wouldn't it be great if every person with a "Support Our Troops" magnet spent a few volunteer hours actually doing this by assisting at the local VA hospital?). And of course there's also the news that Halliburton is moving corporate offices overseas (can you say tax breaks and no accountability?)

Surely, with all of this, Rep. Roskam must be out there calling for accountability and transparency. After all, om the Library of Congress just east of the Capitol Building are Thomas Jefferson's words "Democracy will only succeed when the people are educated and informed". So, we the people need some answers, and not from behind some closed door informal meetings but actual congressional testimony.

But if you go to Rep. Roskam's government website, what's he talking about? Last week, he announced a student art contest. That's it! That's the latest! That's al lfor the week - perhaps a week that has exposed some of the biggest Constitutional issues since Watergate, and certainly the biggest since Iran-Contra. Not a peep about anything else. And still, if you peruse his website on the "Issues" links, there is nothing. So here we are, going on 4 months into a 24 month term, and we are getting an art contest. What's pathetic is that while it takes work to get issues to the floor, and floor time to make statements, many people in congress use their websites to talk about the issues to the constituents, we are getting nothing. This was true during the campaign as well, when Roskam was racking up the dollars and having the Bushes and Cheney's and McCains raise money for him while he had so little substance on his campaign material. It's time he start stepping up and letting us know where he stands on these issues of national importance that effect not only our security, but our right to a just society.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Roskam and Sustainability

It is probably not even worth mentioning that Peter Roskam did not support the recent bill that would make it easier for workers to organize and create or join unions. He has been very upfront about supporting business on this issue, and his "trickle-down" philosophy would clearly be against this. Of course, one of the main issues related to wages is healthcare costs; if wages and healthcare costs cannot be addressed together, we will never make much progress.

Similarly, the issues of energy production and conservation need to be addressed together. But too often, the institutional approach has been how can we develop more energy, possibly save money, and not ask people to consider altering their lifestyle through conservation. Last week, Roskam made a big deal about a joint venture he helped forge with Gas Technology Industry to develop hydrogen fuels from bio-mass (for more, see The whole focus is on development - more, more, more, for less, less, less.

I firmly believe, however, that we are not going to develop and consume our way out of the energy problems we have. One of the major problems is simply that people are consuming more than their share, and people in the US are by far the biggest offenders of this. As James Martin said in his recent book The Meaning of the 21st Century, "If just 1% of the junk-consumerism wealth were transferred from the First World to the Fourth World and managed as Jeffrey Sachs wants to manage it, the destitute nations could be put on a staircase to a decent standard of living." I think it's not just the most destitute nations, but when people become aware of their junk consumerism (or, as I have often said, putting one's wants before one's neighbor's needs), patterns can change. But instead, Roskam promotes the idea that we can develop alternative energies, while not addressing the fact that many of our children waste time on video games while countless children are wasted by disease, hunger, and poverty.

Peter Roskam is aware that sustainability is a major challenge. He has spoken about his commitment to the environment. But the commitment to the cultural change needed is just not there. He focuses too much on the bottom line - and padding it as much as possible for some, while not doing enough for all of us. A few bones here and there will not be enough, and it is up to us to make sure he knows it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Unify for Children's Healthcare

Now would be a good time for Rep. Roskam to demonstrate his campaign-promised ability to "cross the aisle" and work with Democrats for a greater cause - the healthcare of children. At the recent meeting of Governors in Washington, DC, the governors from all the states, Democrats as well as Republicans, pleaded to President Bush to increase funding for Children's Health Insurance Plans. Comments from governors claimed that providng healthcare for children is as much a responsibility of the government as fighting terrorism, and children's healthcare should certainly take precedence over tax cuts for the nation's millionaires and billionaires. Certainly, we all have a responsibility to provide the next generation with as many possibilities for them to rach their greatest potential - and this means decent healtchcare and decent education.

But President Bush instead basically told governors that what they need to do is cut back on healthcare coverage, covering only families who make up to twice the poverty level (about $21,000 for a family of four). That's a $10/hour job, barely enough to pay the rent, let alone utilities, food and transportation. But a mimum "living wage" in Roskam's district is about $16/hour.

This is one issue that cannot be defined as a partisan or principled issue - it is one strictly of economics. The real test our congressman faces is will he join the ranks of those who will tell the president he is wrong on this issue, and that we will not stand to have our children's healthcare be sacrificed. If we are going to really win the war on terror, we must do all we can to live up to our ideals of being the land of opportunity. Eliminating healthcare for the most vulnerable - children of the economic poor - is unacceptable.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Vote on Iraq

To no one's surprise, Roskam voted against the resolution denouncing the troop build-up in Iraq. Simplistically, in his floor statements, he painted this as a war between America and Islamic nations, and that a yes vote on this resolution demoralizes troops, and fuels the enemy. What is fueling the enemies' ranks are secret prisons, torture, and unilateral pigheadedness.

Now would be a good time to call and write Roskam's office (contact info is found at Let him know how you feel about his vote. The fact is that these offices do listen, so we have to speak. Here's a sample of what I'll be saying. Please feel free to use and adapt:

"I am writing to express my disapproval of your recent vote supporting the troop build-up in Iraq. While I agree that the consequences of not succeeding will be great, it seems clear that a build-up in troops alone will accomplish little if any good without also increasing diplomatic efforts and changing policies of detention and torture that are driving people to fight our troops. At a time when most of our allies are announcing that they are pulling troops home, this policy of "stay the course" four years after "mission accomplished" that you seem to endorse does not in any way represent the desires of this constituent."
If we flood his office, he may take notice. And the more pressure we can exert on them to cross the aisle, the more successful we will all be in the things that really matter - ending this war.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Guns and Society

It appears that it's going to be another do little week with Congress. The big issue is a non-binding statement denouncing the troop surge in Iraq. This, to me, is really nothing more than an election ploy to get candidates to take a stand on the surge, and then wait and hope that things go good or bad, depending on how one votes so that this vote doesn't come back to bite in the next election. If congress were going to be serious, options would be presented. Of course, we already know that Peter Roskam is going to tow the party line on this one and vote to support the surge without reservation, and it is the "without reservation" that is the problem.

But, given that congress is doing so little, perhaps this is a good time to look at some national news that relates to some issues that congress SHOULD be addressing. Yesterday morning's weather story clouded three news items that I think should concern people: a young man went on a shooting spree in the tourist mall of Salt Lake City (killing 6 people); an 86 year old man shot and killed his granddaughter in Phoenix, and a men were killed in a Philadelphia Navy Yard, a fourth injured, and the shooter then killed himself. And in Chicago, a police officer was shot and killed on his way home from his second job. But gun control seems to be out of the news.

When I was in London last month, the one thing we noticed (and talked about with locals) is this issue of gun control. Now, not to idealize places like London by denying that there is violence, the level of violence is far less, and the level of gun violence in way less. AS we were told by some locals, if we were stopped for any reason, and then found to have a knife on us, we would have the book thrown at us.

Here in the US, we are becoming immune to gun violence. In fact, we seem to becoming immune to unnecessary and violent death - whether it's in the form of gun violence or teen traffic deaths. Specifically pertaining to the gun violence, this should present a problem to Peter Roskam. Over the years, he has been a big cheerleader of the NRA (and they, in turn, have been big donors of his). With one exception (closing the gun-show loophole that requires background checks), he has routinely supported and even proposed legislation that would ease gun ownership. He has proposed ligislation that would require the destruction of background records within 90 days (something law enforcement opposes), and routinely opposed banning assault weapons. While in the Illinois Senate, he even proposed a bill that would have prevented suburban localities from banning handguns. (For those interested, a good resource for Roskam's past records on a variety of issues, go to On January 10, 2007, the Chicago Sun Times had the following Editorial:

“Banning assault weapons isn't a real issue, said Rep. Peter Roskam during his congressional campaign last fall, because there isn't any real incidence of their use in Illinois. It's a familiar refrain among NRA supporters. Well, tell that to Denise Reed, a resident of Chicago's Englewood neighborhood whose 14-year-old daughter was killed by a stray bullet from an AK-47 while looking out the living room window. And tell that to other victims -- inadvertent or other -- of gang violence involving these decidedly non-sporting firearms.”

For someone who touts himself as so vehemently "pro-life", all of this seems odd. Of course, when you also see how he has voted as far as gay rights, or fudning for supporting programs that serve the poor (and the children of the poor - the most vulnerable in our society), it might be fair to say that what Peter values is equally opportunity and protection for all fetuses and stem cells, but when it comes to a walking, talking and breathing human, it's ok to deny rights, opportunities, and protections.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Roskam and HR 547

Peter Roskam's House website ( is praising his first congressional amendment this past week, that passed by a 400-3 margin. Here's what his amendment calls for:

"H.R. 547 authorizes $10 million for the EPA to create three new federal programs for research to improve the transportation and storage of alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Illinois ranks second in U.S. corn production. The corn grown in Illinois is used to produce 40 percent of the ethanol consumed in the United States. Investment by the ethanol industry in Illinois exceeds $1 billion, generating 800 jobs in plant operations and 4,000 jobs in the industry-related service sector."

Funny thing is just last month Peter voted against authorizing funds for the development of alternative, environmental and renewable fuels. In addition, the monies that Peter identified for this are already approved funds, a sort of "pay as you go" thing that Peter also voted against. So this bill passed so easily because, basically, Congress already approved it. All of a sudden, it looks like we have a slick waffler on our hands.

As my commitment is to stay with voting record, quotes, etc., and not into all the other aspects of Congressman Roskam's dealings and businesses such as fundrasing, I invite you to check out for more information.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Roskam's website

It’s been a slow week as far as legislation on the House floor (I’m sure that will pick up next week as the House picks up on the issue the Senate cannot – the “surge” in Iraq). So, I gave Rep. Roskam’s website a look ( In perusing it, I was struck that on the “Issues” page, Roskam’s office has nothing on Energy or the Environment. He does have repetitive links (Homeland Security/War on Terror – aren’t they really the same thing? Healthcare/Medicare – again, roughly the same?). None of these issues link to anything other than “under construction”, so there’s nothing there. Just interesting that perhaps the two most pressing issues have no mention. Perhaps someone should take some time to educate Peter that our dependence on foreign oil is a significant player in the War on Terror/Homeland Security, and that a healthy environment is crucial to a healthy body, which would then impact on healthcare.

But, let’s turn now to some of Peter’s own words. Here’s what he had to say about Bush’s budget proposal:
“It is imperative that the federal government reach a balanced budget without raising taxes on hard-working American families. Some argue that tax breaks are the reason for the budget deficit. I fully reject that notion. The current tax breaks have increased federal receipts. Out of control federal spending is the cause, and until we stop recklessly spending the taxpayers’ dollars and end our spendthrift ways, that debt will continue to grow. We do not have a revenue problem in Washington, we have a spending problem.”
Two things, Mr. Roskam: To “fully reject the notion” that tax breaks are the reason for the budget deficit is to deny reality; they may not be the only reason, but certainly are a part of the reason, especially when you see who has benefited the most from tax breaks (the very rich) and who hasn’t – the rest of us. Plus, for the first time in our nation's history, tax cuts have been pushed through during war time when expenses always go up. So, we can discuss the issue, but to “fully reject” suggests an inability to communicate.

Second, I think almost everyone would agree about the spending problem, so if you, Mr. Roskam, are serious about this, I would like to see you sign up with Rep. Henry Waxman and investigate the non-compete government contracts, the outsourcing, and the cronyism that has pervaded D.C. I’m sure if you were to do this, you’d quickly see that your two big campaigners – Messrs. Bush and Cheney – have been instrumental in rewarding many friends with wasteful spending. Even the current budget proposal is laden with military expenditures that have nothing to do with equipping the current soldiers, but appear to be wasteful and perhaps “perks for friends”. As cited in this morning’s NYTimes (Feb. 6, 2007) “Steven M. Kosiak, a military budget expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the military appeared to taking advantage of the political support for paying for whatever the troops need to provide in the budget for other items.”

So, Mr. Roskam, if you are serious, be serious with the powers that be before you start turning to social programs that have already received cuts the past few years.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Back in the saddle

January 31 - I'm back in the US, and fired up. When you go to places like Kenya, get your hands dirty, and see things as they are, you can't help but be fired up. To get a glimpse of what can fire a person up, go to, and read about the most recent Kenya experience.

So, this morning, as I started to get my bearnings again, I checked in to the House proceedings while out of the country. I'm a real novice at close monitoring of Congress, so what I was most surprised at is the amount of crap that Congress spends its time on. Many of the actions were re-naming Federal buildings, and honoring sports teams and personalities (Muhammad Ali for turning 65, Boise State for an undefeated season, Florida State for National Championship, Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy for being the first pair of African American Head Coaches in the Super Bowl, Louisville Cardinals for their Orange Bowl Victory, but where's the honoring of Rutgers - they beat Louisville!). Hey, Congress - Where's the Beef?

Now to our man in Washington, Rep. Roskam, how did he do? I didn't even bother to check the roll calls on the above-mentioned motions. It's not worth my time, and for the most part shouldn't be worth Congress' time and money. But, there were three bills that are of interest: HR476, HR6, and HRes65. First to HRes65, as this is where Roskam "done good". This bill, which was passed with Roskam joining about 5 dozen Republicans, is to lower the Student Loan Interest Rates. The obvious - making education more affordable. After all, Jefferson said Democracy can only succeed when the population are educated and informed. So, congrats, Peter, you got that one right.

Now to the hypocricy; Mr. "I will represent change in Washington" Roskam continued to show an easy willingness to vote for the status quo and the interests of big business (especially the oil industry) and the influence of lobbyists. HR6 is a bill that calls for investing in the development of clean, renewable and alternative energy. 36 Republicans joined the Democrats in passing this bill, but not one of our local reps (Biggert, Roskam, Hastert - the ethanol man). Are these people serious? Haven't they yet noticed the impending energy problem? Haven't they noticed that even if fossil fuels were plentiful, the environment is suffocating. Now that Henry Waxman is finally having the opportunity to hold hearings with some teet to them about the Bush Environmental policies and records, scientists IN the government are feeling safe enough to speak out about the "cherry-picking/denial" approach the Bushies have taken (see today's NYTimes for more on this). But Roskam falls right in line with big oil and votes against finding alternatives?

The other bill mentioned (HR476) is just as troubling. This bill limits the retirement benefits for Members of Congress "convicted of any certain offenses committed that member while serving as a Member of Congress". Roskam joined EVERY REPUBLICAN in voting against this bill (that was passed by EVERY DEMOCRAT). Now, I can understand why the incumbent Republicans voted against this - many of them probably could be at risk of losing their retirement benefits. But for just about the only Rookie Republican to join them in continuing to protecting themselves from any consequences of being corrupt shows that he actually has little interest in cleaning up Washington. For most of us, if we are caught and convicted of a crime related to our work we stand to lose everything. For many, it's what makes the work force more honest. But Roskam - if he had his way on this one - would have had it so people could violate laws in Congress AND keep their benefits, creating a huge win for them, and a huge loss to the taxpayers. Thankfully, the Dems passed this one.

Someone said to me recently that by the time 2008 rolls around, all of this will be ancient history, and slick Pete will campaign as squeaky clean. I say "Let's prove them wrong". Let's keep the heat on him; let's write to him and to the papers, and talk, talk, talk about his record. It seems clear that there is very little "consciousness" to Peter's early voting trends and unless there is a dramatic change in his record, we should start gearing up now for a dramatic change in who represents us.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Roskam's Second Week

So, how did Peter do this week? A review of the votes shows that he voted against raising the minimum wage, against empowering Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, and against funding stem cell research (this one is no surprise and fully in-line with his campaign promises). In all these cases, he was on the losing side of the votes. He did cross party lines and joined 68 other Republicans in voting to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 commission (Rep. Hastert voted against this - probably to save face as much as anything since he did little when he had the power to bring this forward).

And now a bit about my week: in various meetings and gatherings, the topics were devastating cuts to social service programs; decreasing affordable housing not just in DuPage County, but in Illinois; County and State budgets that are broke and in big trouble; US military strikes in Somalia; and, of course, a pledge from our President (with the backing of many Republicans) to "surge" in Iraq which is increasinlgy looking like an expansion and unspoken declaration of war with Iran. On top of this, I am preparing to leave for Kenya with a heightened awareness that current US efforts to fight terrorism are making the world not safer, but far less safe. An Al Qaida leader was quoted as encouraging expanding their presence in the poverty-stricken parts of Africa because the desparation is great fertile ground for converts. Hmmm; perhaps this is something the Democrast should consider instead of cutting funds for Global poverty-relief programs. In fact they might do well to bring that up once in a while as they consider voicing opposition to war expansion: the first line of attack to truly end terrorism is poverty eradication.

But back to Peter: he did manage to send out a glossy e-mail about the excitement of his swearing-in the previous week. That's great, but we've got some serious problems that are going to need some serious bi-partisan solutions. If our congressman is going to be a part of the solutions, he probably should get busy finding some common ground with his Democratic allies in Congress and his progressive constituents at home.

I'm off now until early February, and will catch up then.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Roskam's First Votes

Newly sworn-in Representative Peter Roskam presented himself during the recent and very close elections as someone who operates with integrity, who can reach across the political aisle with ease, and who will represent a change in the culture of how things get done in Washington. Now, after a squeaker of an election in which cleaning up the corruption of Washington was absolutely one of the main reasons for the Democratic takeover, Roskam’s talk now needs to walk, but already his true colors are starting to show. One of the earliest resolutions on the House floor (HRES6) represent the first of what will be many bills to clean up the sleaze and corruption that led to the downfall of Tom DeLay and now jailed Randy (Duke) Cunningham. This bill requires disclosure of earmarks, so that members of Congress could no longer slip in pet projects without attaching their name to them. 49 Republicans joined Democrats in voting for this non-ideological legislation; many conservative commentators hailed this legislation as a step in the right direction and lamented that their own party did not have the guts to pass it in the last session. But right there, for all to see, Rep. Roskam voted against this legislation.
Thankfully, he was on the wrong side of this. But as a constituent, I have to wonder what change Roskam felt he could represent if he could not even find his way to vote to clean up Washington. This was an easy test, and he failed. Many of us will be watching closely for exactly how we will be represented over the next two years, and we expect better