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.