Republican politicians like to say that they’re against Big Government. In particular, they like to tell voters that they oppose interference by the federal government with ability of business owners to decide how to run their own companies. They claim to believe in free markets, not centralized government control of the economy.
That’s what Republican politicians like to say, anyway. Yesterday, GOP politicians voted the other way: In favor of legislation that allows the President of the United States to engage in centralized planning of the American economy.
193 Republican members of the House of Representatives (79 percent of all House Republicans) voted to approve H.R. 4809. H.R. 4809 is a bill to reauthorize Defense Production Act. The Defense Production Act allows the President of the United States to direct private companies and publicly traded corporations, telling them what kind of items they should produce, and with what materials, and at what funding levels.
Centralized government control of American manufacturing: The House Republicans are now on the record as being in favor of it.
In its original fundraising appeals to large and small donors, the use-big-money-to-stop-big-money Mayday Super PAC declared that it would raise $12 million for spending on 2014 races (with $6 million from small-to-medium donors, $6 million from megadonors), then stop fundraising and spend the raised money in campaigns.
Here’s the documentation of that plan from multiple Mayday Super PAC sources.
Text of the plan sent to solicit contributions earlier this year:
“Critical to our funding strategy is a two-step crowdfunded and contingent match. We have set two funding targets — $1 million and $5 million. For each, we have run “kickstart” campaigns, raising small and medium dollar pledges to meet each target. Our first campaign to raise $1M launched on May 1, 2014, and we met the target 19 days before the deadline, on May 13th. We launched our second campaign to raise $5M on June 4th, and we met that goal 9 hours before the deadline, at 9:00 p.m. EST, July 4th, 2014
“Now we will secure matching funds, bring our total amount raised to over $12M dollars.
“Once matching funds are secured, our fundraising for this cycle will end. The PAC will then turn its focus to the campaigns exclusively.”
A description of the fundraising plan in a piece written by Mayday Super PAC director Lawrence Lessig:
“About a year ago, with a grant from two very different funders (one a libertarian, the other a liberal democrat), we commissioned a study about how much it would cost to win a Congress in 2016 committed to fundamental reform. The answer we got was a very big number — but the most important recommendation we got was that we must fight this battle in two election cycles, 2014 and 2016. And that in 2014, we target a small number of races where we could first learn what it would take to win, and second, by winning, convince others to take this campaign seriously.
“The cost for that 2014 campaign was relatively small — just $12 million. In April, I announced a plan to raise that money on Kickstarter. We would kickstart half of it in two stages — first by raising $1 million in thirty days, and if we met that goal, kickstart $5 million in thirty days. Each of those targets I said I’d find a match for, so that by the end of June, we’d have the $12 million for the 2014 campaigns.”
A description of the fundraising plan in a June 2014 Salon interview with Lawrence Lessig:
“We think of it as a two-stage process: pull together the resources, and then pass the resources into the context that can most effectively spend them to win in those five districts.”
The Mayday PAC’s old home page (also preserved here) reads:
“For 2014, we have two fundraising targets:
“We have already hit our first target.
“We raised $1 million from over 12,800 individual citizens, giving a median of $50, in an extraordinary show of demand for this type of reform. And we’ve gotten that $1M matched from Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel, Chris Anderson, Brad Burnham, David Milner, Fred Wilson, Joanne Wilson, and Vin Ryan. But it’s not quite enough.
“Our second target – the one we are aiming for now – is $5 million by the end of June. If we meet that goal, that $5 million will also be matched, and our fundraising for 2014 will end.…
“Our experience in 2014 will give us a better sense. And based on what we learn, we will decide whether this moonshot is feasible.
“If it is, in January 2015, then we will launch the second round of the Mayday PAC, crowdfunding small-dollar contributions to fund a superPAC big enough to win a majority in Congress in 2016 committed to fundamental reform.”
This description of the plan to contributors was reposted widely on big political blogs like Firedoglake, Cory Doctorow’s Boing Boing column, and DailyKos.
Lawrence Lessig’s thank-you letter to contributors on July 4, when the Super PAC’s fundraising target was reached, reiterated the plan that fundraising for the Mayday Super PAC was done for the year 2014:
“After we get some sleep, you’ll hear more from us. But fear not: the campaign to raise money is over for this cycle. I won’t be asking you to DONATE NOW again and again. That bit is done. Instead, for the rest of this cycle, what you’ll hear from us is about how your campaign is working.
“We’ve got lots of ideas about how to make this work. We’ll be testing them and improving them and building lots that’s new. But you’ve raised the money. It’s time to get down to work. So stay tuned.”
By its own description, having received the amount of money it needs for 2014, the Mayday Super PAC should have stopped soliciting donations until January 2015. “Fear not,” proclaimed Lawrence Lessig, “I won’t be asking you to DONATE NOW again and again. That bit is done.” But the plan has changed. With the announcement of its first two favored candidates today, the Mayday Super PAC has changed its front page to look like this:
Right down to the presence of all caps, this new front page does exactly what Mayday director Lawrence Lessig told us his Super PAC wouldn’t be doing. It asks you to “DONATE NOW.”
On the right-hand side of every page in the Mayday website, a special “Donate in Two Minutes or Less” advertisement requests more money. On each of the two new pages promoting favored congressional candidates, another red “Donate Now” button draws the eye. And in another new page created to solicit funds for favored congressional candidates, a specific link requesting that you “Click here to make a donation to the general MAYDAY PAC fund” has been added.
When Lawrence Lessig and his colleagues asked Americans to “embrace the irony” of using big money in political campaigns to fight the influence of big money in campaigns, they were asking us to trust their ability to resist the temptation of money, money, and more money. They asked us to trust that they would raise enough to get the job done without getting addicted to an ever-bigger cash stream. They said they’d cut themselves off. They didn’t.
Perhaps now the staffers at the Mayday Super PAC are telling themselves that they just need a little bit more, just one more hit, that they can stop whenever they want, they just don’t want to stop anymore. This is how the corrupting influence of money in politics takes hold.
If Mayday PAC wants to be taken seriously, it needs to stick to the plan. It needs to ignore the money jonesing and go cold turkey.
The Civil War Trust is busy trying to spread an alarm: “According to a study done by the U.S. Congress, fully 20 percent of the hallowed ground of the Civil War has already been destroyed forever, covered by roads, housing developments and other inappropriate development. Battlefields such as Chantilly and Salem Church in Virginia are just two examples of battlegrounds all but destroyed.”
I’m trying to gather some sympathy for the plight of these old battlefields, but I’m having some trouble.
Just what is so important about keeping old battlefields in the same condition they were in 150 years ago? What do we gain from having these fields?
The Civil War Trust calls these fields “hallowed ground”, meaning that the earth has been made holy in some way, and must be held apart, sacrosanct. The publication of the Trust carries the title Hallowed Ground.
To me, the idea that ground becomes sacred whenever people fight and kill each other there seems unwise. Worshipping battlefields seems to honor the act of violence, to encourage people to fight. It’s a way of celebrating Americans going to war against each other, as if war is necessary to give our nation meaning.
What do we lose when people are allowed to move on, and allow old battlefields to grow over to forest, or to be developed for other human use? The Civil War Trust bemoans the fact that the Chantilly battlefield and Salem Church battlefield have been almost completely changed since the end of the Civil war, but so what? Who has suffered because the Chantilly battlefield isn’t a field any more? What negative impact has resulted from the transformation of the Salem Church battlefield into something else?
What if there were no preserved battlefields left in the United States of America at all? What would be the loss? Do we need to have big open fields in order to remember our nation’s history?
We have other means of preserving history. We have books. We can make video documentaries. We can concentrate the display of historical artifacts and information into museum.
What’s so special about having rusting cannons stand out in fields?
Yesterday, a shadowy political action committee gave tens of thousands of dollars to a cheesy Washington D.C. political consulting firm called Candidate Command to send letters to large numbers of voters in the first congressional district of Kansas, telling them that U.S. Representative Timothy Huelskamp shouldn’t be re-elected to Congress this year.
Exactly who from the political action committee made the decision to make this pronouncement to Kansas voters, we can’t know. The PAC doesn’t reveal its inner machinations to the public. However, we do have some sense of the motivation of this mysterious group: It’s deciding to interfere with congressional elections in Kansas because it believes that something terrible is about to happen, and if we don’t do what it says, right now, we will never have a second chance to prevent the disaster.
The prophecy of doom is revealed in the very name of the PAC that spent that money to fight against Tim Huelskamp: It’s called the Now Or Never PAC.
The phrase “now or never” has a very specific meaning. It’s used as a warning that, if specific action is not taken right in this very moment, there will never ever ever be another chance to put things right. If we don’t act right now, the idiom warns us, then we’ll be sorry later, and it will be too late.
The odd thing about the Now Or Never PAC, however, is that it’s made this kind of claim before. A few weeks ago, the Now Or Never PAC was spending money to influence the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Mississippi, warning voters that they had to act immediately, right then, to avoid disaster.
So which is it? If we have to act NOW, which now does the Now Or Never PAC mean that we have to take action in – early July 2014 in Mississippi, or late July 2014 in Kansas?
Further confusing matters is the fact that the Now Or Never PAC seems to have been formed two and a half years ago. So, the moment of NOW that the name Now Or Never refers to is actually early 2012. That’s when the Now Or Never PAC warned that unless we all obeyed its demands, the United States would be faced with certain doom.
Now, years later, it seems to be now or never all over again, which means, I think that now is more now than ever before. This time, the disaster is really, truly, upon us, the Now Or Never PAC warns. The PAC’s web site declares, ”We are truly out of time. It’s Now or Never.”
For a political organization that believes that we are truly out of time, the Now Or Never PAC is doing an awful lot to prepare to continue it’s Henny-Penny-Sky-Is-Falling message of urgency into the future. The Now Or Never PAC web site has been registered ahead of time, until February, 2016. That means that the Now Or Never PAC actually plans to keep on telling people that we are truly out of time, and it’s now or never, for at least two years into the future. So, actually, if the PAC was being honest, it would call itself the February 2016 Or Never PAC.
The Now Or Never PAC doesn’t seem to have caught up with this particular now moment in its latest Now Or Never ultimatum, however. The last blog entry the Now Or Never PAC made on its web site was in January of 2013, a year a half ago. So, it seems that the Now Or Never PAC has actually become the Year And A Half Ago Or Never PAC, which doesn’t make much sense.
Of course, what the Now Or Never PAC says doesn’t have to make sense. It only has to alarm people. The Now Or Never PAC doesn’t expect to be held accountable for its repeated predictions of imminent doom and gloom. It’s playing an old game, the game played by traveling tent revival evangelists who would tell their followers, year after year after year, that the world would end very, very soon. Those preachers would even give specific dates for the end of the world. It didn’t matter when their predictions didn’t come true, because people enjoyed the sense of impending doom enough to forgive the obvious untruth of it all.
The people being the Now Or Never PAC know that it doesn’t matter whether what they have to say is coherent, just so long as they wave their hands a lot and warn of horrible catastrophes that are just around the corner. It’s Now Or Never, As Ever.
Simple pleasure: Whenever I ride in a train, I think of the car I’m keeping off the street, and it feels good.
Monday is a day of regularity. It is a day of predictable assemblages of people and objects.
To counter Monday’s clockwork, I present the following links to mysterious assemblages:
The Guilty River, a free ebook by Wilkie Collins opens with a dreary time: “The mysterious assemblage of trees was blacker than the blackening sky. Of millions of leaves over my head, none pleased my ear, in the airless calm, with their rustling summer song.”
In 1931, Victoria University noted the work of Mr. Hebberley, a Maori carver with a “mysterious assemblage of old gate-posts, mouldering but beautifully designed pieces from whares, Maori mats and Fijian canoes… hideous faces and poked-out tongues” in his workshop.
Carol, friend of Black Jack, contemplates the artwork of Magdalena Abakanowicz, who refers to her sculptures as something like a flock of birds, a swarm of insects, or a crowd of commuters, similar and in common movement, yet not identical. “abhorrent to exact repetition or inability to produce it, just as a human hand can not repeat its own gesture”
The Canadian Museum of History shows a painting of a Tlingit leader, carrying a raven-shaped rattle with “a mysterious assemblage of figures on its back.”
The Smithsonian explains that a toxic ocean algae may be responsible for a “mysterious assemblage” of ancient whale bones.
Dallas Bogen discusses speculation about the origin of the melungeons, a “tri-racial” group of people who lived in the Appalachians. In a more complete review of melungeon history and genetics, it’s explained that the melungeons appear to have mostly a mixture of European and African ancestry, with only one melungeon family including native North American ancestry.
To me, the most mysterious assemblage of all comes from artist Mary Bauermeister, in the form of the wooden tray you see below, holding a few half-orbs covered with cryptic scribbles and philosophical tossings such as “This is not this.” What makes this assemblage mysterious to me is that its price is $4,800.
Who would pay that for this, given that it isn’t even this?
The Mayday Super PAC, asking Americans to “embrace the irony,” is planning on spending millions of dollars (half from big donors) in order to promote policies that it says would enact “fundamental reform in the way elections are funded.” Some are enthusiastic about the prospect. Others are derisive. I am uncertain. On the one hand, the Mayday PAC is fairly explicit about the reforms it says it supports — vouchers and matching programs — and has released some data regarding its smaller funders. That’s promising. On the other hand, the American landscape is replete with groups that say they oppose big money in politics but turn out to have a hidden agenda. Mayday PAC leaders ask us to take their sincerity on faith, and some of those same leaders were involved with Americans Elect, which portrayed itself as pro-democratic but acted anti-democratically in practice.
This means that I’m inclined to watch Mayday PAC’s actions very closely. Does it act in a manner consistent with its promises and professed principles? Does Mayday PAC allow its biggest donors a special say in the candidate selection process? Does Mayday PAC select candidates who support a narrow range of policies having nothing to do with campaign finance? Does Mayday PAC send money to those who have a cozy social relationship with Mayday leadership?
On that last point, we’re about to witness a test of the Mayday PAC. Some time this week, the Mayday PAC is scheduled to announce the roster of Congressional candidates it will support with its unlimited “independent” spending. One candidate for Congress, Nick Troiano, is a close Americans Elect colleague of Mayday PAC Board members Kahlil Byrd, Lawrence Lessig and Mark McKinnon; these three make up a majority of the Mayday PAC board. Lately, curious public feelers have been sent out mentioning Nick Troiano in the same breath as the Mayday PAC. Some examples:
“(I) Nick Troiano vs. Rep. Tom Marino (PA-08) Nick Troiano is a young guy who worked for Americans Elect and several other political reform nonprofits who speaks directly to campaign finance reform (and reform in general) in his platform. It is tough to win as an independent but he is a moderate running a smart, well-funded, disciplined campaign, and $2 million could make a real difference for him. Marino is a real scumbag.” — Comment to Reddit Thread by Mayday PAC CTO: “The board meets this upcoming week to decide the candidates we’ll independently support. Who are your top picks?”
If you think these aren’t an explicit enough connection to the Troiano campaign, how about this letter to the editor from Troiano campaign petition circulator Jerry Kairnes? (update: per Mr. Kairnes’ request, note that this is the second half of his letter):
“We need a Congress that is free to lead. We need candidates like Independent Nick Troiano running this year in our district, who raised more than $85,000 exclusively from more than 500+ citizen donors, an amount more than any nonparty candidate in the country. We need to elect a Congress that is dedicated to campaign finance reform and we won’t get our democracy back until we change the way campaigns are funded.
“That is the driving force behind Mayday, a citizen-funded Super PAC more than 50,000 small donors strong. Mayday is a Super PAC, whose only goal is to end all Super PACs, forever. It is an ambitious plan that will support five races in 2014 to prove that a reform candidate can win, followed by as many races in 2016 as necessary, to elect a Congress that is dedicated to campaign funding reform.
“The Mayday Super PAC should choose our Congressional district, PA10 as one of its 2014 pilot races. Let’s have a level playing field and give us the chance to lead the way and choose campaign funding reform.
Not enough for you? Heck, Nick Troiano has even sent out a feeler himself:
Will the Mayday PAC board follow the path of social-network politics and divert its funds to a friend? Or will Mayday PAC avoid the temptation and stay true to its call for an end to cronyism in politics? Watch this week and see.
When a politician’s speech starts with the words “Our nation is drowning in debt, $17.5 trillion dollars of it, and every additional second I speak to you on this video message adds another $23,000 to this already staggering number. Yet…”, you know that the politician is about to announce plans to eliminate spending of some kind.
So it was this week when U.S. Representative Matt Salmon, from the 5th congressional district of Arizona, introduced H.R. 5210, which would completely eliminate spending on the National Endowment of the Humanities.
The annual budget of the National Endowment of the Humanities is 154 million dollars. That’s less than 9/10000 of one percent of the federal debt that Salmon referred to at the beginning of his speech. That means that Matt Salmon’s legislation would take more than a million years to pay off the federal debt – if the federal debt did not accumulate interest, which it does.
The current annual interest on the federal debt is $354.9 billion. If the savings from Matt Salmon’s proposal to cut the National Endowment for the Humanities were added to an account to pay down the interest on the federal debt, it would take more than two thousand, three hundred years to save up enough money to pay down just one year of the interest. In all that time, interest on the federal debt would continue to compound, so, Matt Salmon’s plan would never, ever, pay down the federal debt, or even pay off one year of the interest on that debt.
The math makes it plain: Matt Salmon’s plan to deal with the federal debt by eliminating funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities is completely ineffectual. Given that, it’s worth considering what the impact of eliminating funding for the National Endowment of the Humanities. The following would be cut if Salmon’s bill were signed into law:
- Research into ways to use the computational power of Big Data to benefit humankind.
- Funding for museums and libraries
- Programs to improve teachers’ ability to provide effective instruction in American history
In Matt Salmon’s home state of Arizona, the following are among the recent projects that received support from the National Endowment of the Humanities:
- Efforts to preserve historical documents at the Northern Arizona University Cline Library
- Cabinets to preserve historical documents at the Museum of Northern Arizona
- Preparation of a long term exhibit on the history of human settlement of the Southwestern United States at the University of Arizona
- Transportation of historical artifacts in the collection of the Arizona Historical Society
- Preservation of Clovis Archaeological Materials at the Arizona State Museum
- Promotion of cultural heritage tourism projects in Arizona communities
If funding for these programs were cut, much of the record of Arizona’s history would be lost. Does Matt Salmon really want Arizona’s history to be forgotten?
There are alternatives to eliminating the tiny budget of the National Endowment of Humanities. For example, the Back To Work Budget that was proposed last year would have cut 4.4 trillion dollars in federal spending every year. The Back To Work Budget would have been more than 28,000 times more effective than Matt Salmon’s plan to force libraries to sacrifice America’s historical records. Yet, Matt Salmon voted against it
The following 40 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted against H. Con. Res. 105 yesterday:
Robert Aderholt, Susan Brooks, Eric Cantor, Matthew Cartwright, Mike Coffman, Chris Collins, Tom Cotton, Eric Crawford, Sean Duffy, Bill Flores, Paul Gosar, Tim Griffin, Michael Grimm, Duncan Hunter, Bill Johnson, Sam Johnson, Mike Kelly, Steve King, Peter King, Adam Kinzinger, Luke Messer, Steven Palazzo, James Renacci, Cedric Richmond, Martha Roby, Tom Rooney, Peter Roskam, Paul Ryan, Aaron Schock, Pete Sessions, John Shimkus, Steve Stivers, Bennie Thompson, Tim Walberg, Jackie Walorski, Randy Weber, Lynn Westmoreland, Joe Wilson, Steve Womack, Todd Young.
Why does it matter that they voted against this legislation? What was so important about H. Con. Res. 105?
H. Con. Res. 105, if it passes into law, will force the President of the United States to consult Congress before starting a new war in Iraq. Currently, Barack Obama asserts that he has the right to take the United States into a new war in Iraq at his sole discretion.
The active clause of H. Con Res 105 reads, “Pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C.
1544(c)), Congress directs the President to remove United States Armed Forces, other than Armed Forces required to protect United States diplomatic facilities and personnel, from Iraq–
(1) by no later than the end of the period of 30 days beginning on the day on which this concurrent resolution is adopted; or
(2) if the President determines that it is not safe to remove such United States Armed Forces before the end of that period, by no later than December 31, 2014, or such earlier date as the President determines that the Armed Forces can safely be removed.”
By making the removal of U.S. military resources from Iraq the legal default, H. Con. Res. 105 would make it necessary for Congress to approve any new war in Iraq. The 40 U.S. representatives who voted against this resolution were in essence voting to allow Barack Obama, or any future president, to send the American military off to fight in Iraq all over again – even if the American people are opposed.
At present, the United States Senate needs to pass an equivalent piece of legislation to H. Con. Res. 105 before the law can move forward to the White House to be signed into law. If you want to curtail to this century’s bad habit of rushing off to war, call your two U.S. Senators and urge them to act on this issue, before it’s too late.
Help me understand this reasoning of this sign, which surely hopes to accomplish something as it’s read on the street. I just can’t figure out what. What does this declaration communicate to someone who is already a Christian other than a recapitulation of what Christians already believe? From a marketing point of view, what does this communication convey for someone who is not a Christian, given the 2,000 year-old dating of the described event? Perhaps I’m missing something in the message; what is it?