Monday, June 30, 2008
Walberg: 7th District Should Go Nuclear
I don't have any comments on this one (at least, not yet).
From the Jackson Citizen Patriot:
(By the way, the rest of the original article is worth reading, if only for the amusing fact that no one showed up to see Congressman Walberg get an award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.)
Friday, June 27, 2008
Walberg Watch Video - Iraq ... and Detroit
The Walberg Watch Video of the Week:
For those that don't remember this episode (or want to relive it), the comments were initially covered here. Stephen Colbert's take on the situation is available here.
If you have subjects you'd like to see in future videos, feel free to mention them in the comments. And if you think you can make a better video than me, by all means, please do so!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Encouraging Public Transportation - Walberg Votes No
Tim Walberg says we need to drill for more oil. That's the central theme of his energy plan. But he says he wants more than just drilling for oil. For instance, there's this press release from June 5th:
Congressman Walberg has co-sponsored legislation to provide incentives for solar, wind, cellulosic ethanol, bio-diesel and energy conservation. He also supports an increase in domestic energy production through carbon-free nuclear power and clean-coal technology. He has co-sponsored legislation that would encourage conservation with tax credits for green buildings and legislation that would spark a revolution in clean hydrogen technology.(Emphasis added.)
Did you catch that? He didn't put too much emphasis on it, but it was there. Tim Walberg says he supports energy conservation, too.
And really, that makes sense. We can't conserve our way out of the energy crisis. We're pretty much always going to have increased energy needs. But if we could use a little less in certain areas of our lives, it would go a long way. What if we used energy-efficient appliances? What if we turned off the lights in a room when we weren't in it? What if, dare I say it, people drove a little less?
Many cities offer a way to drive less: public transportation. And as anyone who's visited Chicago or New York can tell you, it really can be convenient. Sure, it's not always clean or quick, but you can get from Kenosha, Wisconsin to South Bend, Indiana using Chicago's public transportation system for a relatively low cost, and certainly less than what it would cost in gasoline and without the rough Chicago traffic. (Chicago-native Tim Walberg should already know this.)
So one would think Congressman Tim Walberg-- a man who I once heard call himself an environmentalist, a representative who's pushing a new energy plan-- would be interested in encouraging this. As a nation, we could save a lot of money if the folks in cities just drove less. There would be more gasoline available for those of us who live in places where public transportation isn't practical. And in the places that really could benefit from public transportation-- say, Ann Arbor or Battle Creek-- maybe a little extra help from the federal government might be nice.
Today, June 26, 2008, the House of Representatives took up HR 6052, the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008. The bill (which notes that public transportation saves 11 million gallons of gasoline each day) would cost every American just one dollar every year for four years.
HR 6052 passed by a vote of 322 to 98. That's just 23 percent of the House of Representatives voting "no," with 91 Republicans joining a united Democratic majority.
Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.
Congressman Walberg, I know that it's government spending and all, but... come on! This would save energy and it wouldn't cost much! This is an obvious complement to your "more drilling" strategy. You could do both. Maybe, if the public transportation part works, we won't even have to drill as much!
But then, Congressman Walberg never was interested in real solutions, was he?
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Office of Congressional Ethics - Walberg Votes No
"Politicians are all corrupt." It's a common complaint, and, sadly, often true. And, even more sadly, the final check on that corruption-- elections-- isn't always enough, because the voters won't know what their representative is up to if he or she hasn't been investigated.
When you have people like Congressman Don Young (under investigation for bribery), Congressman Rick Renzi (indicted on 35 counts), and the unfortunately-named Congressman John Doolittle (under investigation, as is his wife), let alone Congressman William Jefferson (who, infamously, was caught with $90,000 in a freezer), it's pretty clear that scrutiny is necessary to make sure these folks work for the public interest.
Wouldn't it be great if there were some impartial office watching all of them? Say, a board of six people, none of whom are members of Congress and none of whom are lobbyists or work for the government. Three could be appointed by the Speaker of the House and three could be appointed by the Minority Leader.
But, you don't want to give them too much power, or else you end up with people like Special Prosecutor Ken Starr, who was charged with investigating one thing and, finding nothing, led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton on something entirely different. So, what if this hypothetical ethics office were limited to a 30-day investigation, at the end of which they have a choice: drop the investigation, or take it to the next level, which will eventually lead to a recommendation of subpoenas.
This was not Fitzy merely musing on the type of government oversight I wish we had. Instead, it was the essence of H. Res. 1031, which the House of Representatives considered on March 10, 2008. The bill would create an Office of Congressional Ethics, which I have described above.
H. Res. 1031 passed, by a vote of 229 to 182.
Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.
You know, to me, this one seemed like a no-brainer. Apparently some members of Congress don't like the idea of accountability. Apparently Tim Walberg is one of them.
Got $1,000? How about $5,000? Then you're good enough to see Tim Walberg and George W. Bush!
Tonight, President George W. Bush will be coming to Livonia, Michigan, to raise money for Congressman Tim Walberg and the other members of the Michigan Congressional delegation. Sadly, it's too late to RSVP, so if you haven't already purchased your $1,000 ticket or paid $5,000 for a photo with the president, you missed your chance.
Here's the invitation (click for a larger image):
Now, don't be fooled. Congressman Walberg is listed last because of alphabetical order, but he's probably the one who's most in need of this fundraiser. This is the race already rated as a toss-up by Roll Call and the Cook Political Report, both of which are generally conservative in their ratings. There's no doubt that Walberg, who's fundraising has been lagging behind Mark Schauer, and who was out-raised by David Nacht last year, will appreciate some cash from Bush donors.
Though, I couldn't help but notice the little note at the bottom of the invitation:
Photo identification required for entry.So, not only do you have to pay $1,000 just to get in the door, but you have to leave any video equipment behind, because they don't want any evidence of what was being said to make it out into the rest of the world.
A few observations:
Tim Walberg doesn't want you to know about it.
The fundraiser is taking place outside the 7th District, and no district newspaper has even mentioned it-- the only press coverage that mentions both Walberg and Bush with this event has been in the Detroit News. You will find no mention of this on Walberg's House website or campaign website.
President Bush is very unpopular.
Nationwide, an LA Times/Bloomberg poll taken between June 19 and June 23 put President Bush's positive rating at 24 percent and his negative rating at 68 percent. In Michigan, the Detroit News article mentioned above cites an EPIC/MRA poll that puts President Bush's job approval at a mere 22 percent for our state. Way back in March, a Detroit News/WXYZ poll of the 7th District found that in our district, with 47 percent Republicans or lean-Republican independents, Bush received only a 37 percent positive rating and a 62 percent negative rating. This was in March, when Bush was polling at 33 percent positive nationwide (according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll), so Bush has probably dropped in our district by a comparable margin.
(In the Detroit News/WXYZ poll of this district in March, Tim Walberg received a 39 percent positive rating and a 38 percent negative, dangerous territory for an incumbent.)
Tim Walberg won't let you see him and the president together unless you pay a minimum of $1,000 for this posh leadership dinner, a dinner which will directly benefit him, and will take place outside of this district.
Meanwhile, state Senator Mark Schauer, one of the Democratic candidates running to replace Walberg, is holding a repeat of the Pasty Pie challenge he held last fall:
Our goal is to reach 100 donations between now and June 30. We will select a winner at random, and I will come to that person’s house and make a pasty pie for you and your family – and do the dishes!Here's the video from Jackson TV of Schauer cooking a pasty:
Sharon Renier, the other Democrat running in the 7th District, is also holding an event soon-- "Votestock 2008" (.pdf), and all-day event featuring food and music, all to be held on Sharon Renier's own farm.
So, when you compare Tim Walberg's event to his Democratic challengers, I have to ask, how is it that we're the people with the "elitist" reputation?
We're nearly 48 hours into the new and improved Walberg Watch, and we've only had a few major technical difficulties. I've been trying to put out those fires and have neglected proper posting. By the end of today, we should be back to normal, and there won't be any of those "404 Not Found" messages.
Thank you all for your patience!
Monday, June 23, 2008
Welcome to the New Walberg Watch
I am very happy to announce that Walberg Watch has a new home: www.WalbergWatch.com. Here, you’ll find the same old blog (albeit with a new look), supplemented with new features, including weekly e-mail updates, a candidate-tracking map, and information you’ll be able to use in the coming months.
Just to warn anyone who happens to be reading right now, Walberg Watch is going through some kind of odd transitions, so it might look kind of strange. Be sure to check back at noon today for a complete re-launch.
UPDATE: There are a few formatting issues, obviously, that I'll be working on throughout the day. If you're having any issues loading and reading the page (especially Internet Explorer users), please let me know in the comments.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Telecom Immunity - Walberg Votes Yes
Much has already been written on this by many others, and the issue was largely covered on this blog in April. Still, it's worth bringing it up again, in light of recent developments. The Washington Post has a good summary of what's been happening.
Today, the House of Representatives voted on what is likely the last in a series of attempts to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Although Congress had more or less come to an agreement over the powers the executive branch ought to have, the remaining disagreement centered around whether telecommunications companies which cooperated with the Bush Administration's illegal wiretapping should receive immunity from privacy lawsuits, or whether courts should be allowed to decide if they did engage in wrong-doing.
The bill passed by the House today includes a provision to give retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies. It passed by a vote of 293 to 129.
Congressman Tim Walberg voted yes.
Back in April, state Senator Mark Schauer released this video on his thoughts about the controversy:
Improving Head Start? Walberg Votes No
Once again, I'm going through old votes that I didn't write about before. Frankly, I'm amazed that I missed this one. I could have sworn I wrote about it. Even so, this one deserves a LOT of attention.
As a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, Congressman Tim Walberg gets an opportunity every now and then to demonstrate just how far out of the mainstream he is. He showed us this once last year as the sole member of the committee to vote against collective bargaining rights for firefighters.
On March 14, 2007, the Committee on Education and Labor examined HR 1429, the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act. The bill authorized funds for the Head Start program through 2012, including provisions for increasing the number of students enrolled and increasing training for the teachers in Head Start programs. The committee approved the bill, by a vote of 42 to 1.
Can you guess who that lonely "no" vote was?
Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.
When the bill was brought to the full House on May 2, 2007, it was passed by a vote of 365 to 48.
Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.
When the bill went to the Senate, it was passed with unanimous consent.
Then the House and Senate met in conference to resolve differences between the bills.
The Senate approved the conference report by a vote of 95 to 0. The only five senators (Biden, Clinton, Dodd, McCain, Obama) not voting probably would have supported it, but they were busy running for president.
The House approved the conference report by a vote of 381 to 36.
Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.
Let's review this. Head Start is a program dedicated to helping low-income children get a little extra help prior to beginning school. Almost everyone supports the program.
But not Tim Walberg.
For a brief essay about why Head Start is a good thing, read this essay by Jack Lessenberry.
Mental Health and Genetic Information Bill - Walberg Doesn't Vote
Bumped to the top. This one matters to me for a lot of reasons, and I want to highlight the update at the bottom. -- Fitzy
Today, I'll be going back through the last few months and writing about some votes that I missed when they happened. I'd like to start with one that's incredibly important to me. (Thank you to the anonymous comments on this back when it happened.)
From my point of view, one of the greatest men to serve in the United States Senate was a man named Paul Wellstone. Wellstone was a political science professor at Carlson College who was elected as a Democrat in 1990 to represent Minnesota in the Senate, where he proudly articulated the progressive point of view. He's the one who popularized the line, "I represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party," not Howard Dean, and his book The Conscience of a Liberal is a must-read for anyone of any political orientation.
In 2002, Paul Wellstone, his wife, Sheila, his daughter, Marcia, three campaign staffers, the pilot, and the copilot died in a plane crash just a few days before Election Day. Wellstone, despite his leftward lean, is fondly remembered by his Senate colleagues.
Prior to his death, Senator Wellstone had made mental health legislation one of his top priorities, as a result of his own experience with his brother, who suffered from mental illness. A leading ally in his efforts was Republican Senator Pete Domenici, whose daughter suffers from schizophrenia. Wellstone crafted a bill which would end discrimination against mental illness in health care coverage. As the New York Times explains:
Federal law now allows insurers to discriminate, and most do so, by setting higher co-payments or stricter limits on mental health benefits.
Anti-Discrimination Legislation? Walberg Votes No
This is actually from quite a while ago-- November of 2007. I missed it then, but I think it's absolutely worth pointing out today.
On November 7, 2007, the House of Representatives examined HR 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The bill would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. In other words, you can't be fired for being gay and you can't be passed up for a promotion because the boss thinks you're gay. Note that if you find yourself in the (very unlikely) situation where you're being discriminated against because you're straight, that's prohibited, too.
In a compromise to conservatives, the bill does not apply to religious organizations, and the bill goes out of its way to state that it does not require or permit preferential treatment (affirmative action) based on sexual orientation, nor does it require employers to provide benefits to unmarried couples that are given to married couples. Indeed, in Section 8 of the bill, it says:
(c) Definition of Marriage- As used in this Act, the term `married' or `marry' refer to marriage as such term is defined in section 7 of title I, United States Code (referred to as the Defense of Marriage Act).The Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
In this bill, there was no horrible advancement of the so-called "homosexual agenda." No one was trying to redefine anything, and no one was trying to advance homosexuals at the expense of others.
Instead, this bill was advanced under a principle I hope most of us can agree on-- that one's performance at work ought to be judged separately from what one does in the privacy of his or her home. I find it hard to believe that sexual orientation impacts job performance in any way.
From the Education and Labor Committee press release on the bill:
The House Committee on Education and Labor, of which Congressman Tim Walberg is a member, voted 27 to 21 to support HR 3685.
Congressman Tim Walberg voted No. In the hearing on the bill, Walberg expressed concerns that the language of the bill was a little ambiguous regarding religiously-affiliated organizations-- namely, schools and publishers-- and whether they would be required to abide by the non-discrimination rules. Besides that, no explanation for opposition was given.
When the bill came to the full House in November, it was passed, by a vote of 235 to 184.
Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.
Congressman Walberg, do you really think that someone's sexual orientation really has an impact on their job performance? Is it that important to you that a religious school be allowed to fire a science teacher because the school administration thinks he's gay? Or do you just not like gay people?
Walberg Watch Video - Great Lakes
Today is the first day of summer, which means it's a great time to introduce a new series on Walberg Watch. Every Friday, I'll be releasing a new video highlighting one of Congressman Tim Walberg's finer moments. Today, I start with how he "doesn't understand" why we don't drill for oil under the Great Lakes.
I actually added this particular video back in February as a YouTube test, but future videos will be released on Fridays this summer and fall. The videos aren't of the best quality, but as I've been making more, I think they've been improving. Remember, I'm very much an amateur at all of this.
If you have subjects you'd like to see in these videos, feel free to mention them in the comments. And if you think you can make a better video than me, by all means, please do so!
Walberg Ignores Constituents?
Today, the Ann Arbor News features this letter:
And this, from a supporter! The letter, from a man named Stanley Bowling, then continues to commend and criticize others, but Congressman Walberg is held as the gold standard of unresponsiveness.
To be fair, I have heard of people with quick replies from Walberg's office, and I myself have had some quick interactions with his staff. Indeed, Michael Motta, whose horrible experience with Walberg was documented here (Walberg's letter contained many, many factual errors), recently sent me this e-mail:
Fitzy,(Edited for formating and to remove e-mail addresses.)
So, it is possible for you to have a good correspondence with Tim Walberg's office. Even so, you have to wonder why they ignore Stanley Bowling. When you're running for reelection, the last thing you want is to have a once-loyal supporter writing letters to the editor against you.
Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave - Walberg Votes No
On June 19, 2008, the Battle Creek Enquirer ran a letter to the editor:
The House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (H.R. 5781). This important legislation will provide federal workers up to four weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, and will be a good first step toward paid paternal leave for all American families.The letter, from Linda Lumley, public policy chair of the Battle Creek branch of the American Association of University Women, goes on to explain why this is important-- namely, that the United States is one of the only industrialized countries that doesn't offer paid parental leave. While federal employees are guaranteed unpaid leave, many can't afford to do that.
GovTrack.us brings us this summary of the bill, from the Congressional Research Service:
Note that this only applies to federal employees, but recognizes trends in the private sector of doing the same thing. And it makes sense, too; if you've just had a child, you can't work right away, but you're going to need something to survive on. You can read the full text of the bill here. The bill is anticipated to cost less than a dollar per American in 2009.
Unfortunately, Ms. Lumley's letter came a little too late, because the House voted on the final passage of the bill the same day that the letter was published.
HR 5781, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, was passed, by a vote of 277 to 146. Joining the Democratic majority were 50 Republicans, including Michigan's Fred Upton, Candice Miller, and Thad McCotter.
Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.
Just to be clear again, this isn't the federal government issuing some broad mandate and interfering with how private business is being run. This is the federal government offering paid parental leave to its own employees that most private businesses already offer. If Republicans want the federal government to be run more like a business, why not let it offer the same incentives businesses offer to attract good employees?
This is good policy and will help a lot of people. It's no wonder that Tim Walberg opposes it.
Recognizing AmeriCorps - Walberg Votes No
One of the things Congress likes to do is designate weeks for groups of people or things. It's like naming a post office after someone. It's not actually all that important, but it shows that they care, they respect whatever group they're honoring, and maybe, just maybe, it'll increase awareness of some important issue.
For instance, the House of Representatives voted on June 3, 2008, to support National Men's Health Week, and on February 25, 2008, the House passed H. Res. 978, which describes itself as:
Expressing support for the designation of the week of March 3-7, 2008, as "School Social Work Week" to promote awareness of the vital role of school social workers in schools, and in the community as a whole, in helping students prepare for their future as productive citizens.Congressman Tim Walberg supported both of those, and he also supported National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans Week and National Engineers Week. My point here is to show that Tim Walberg, in general, has no problem with this sort of thing. If a group is worthy of recognition, he'll vote to give them a week. That's fine.
My problem comes in with a May 14, 2008 bill to recognize AmeriCorps Week. That bill, H. Res. 1173, reads:
AmeriCorps was established by President Bill Clinton in 1993, AmeriCorps volunteers work in education, community development, and recently, many have been assisting with relief efforts in flooding in Iowa. It's a program that gives young people a chance to gain experience and skills helping people.
H. Res. 1173, Recognizing AmeriCorps Week, passed by a vote of 344 to 69. In addition to 225 Democrats, 119 Republicans joined in honoring AmeriCorps.
Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.
Congressman Walberg... why?
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
New Feature - Social Networking and Organizing
Earlier, I showed you the candidate event map, which will be one of many new tools available to you this election season. Next, I'd like to share with you another new tool I'd like you to consider using.
In the improvement thread, an anonymous user posted this comment:
Fitzy, Great idea! Let me add: a way for us to organize with others on the site and with the Democratic Candidate (presumably Mark Schauer).I agree completely. There's an enormous amount of grassroots energy available for this-- no one likes Tim Walberg-- and its more than can be (or should be) organized by one guy like me. I'd love to provide the means for this kind of organizing... and I think I can.
The Democratic National Committee website has had the PartyBuilder tool for a while now. It gives you a chance to interact with and organize with like-minded Democrats in your area. While a great deal of the focus is on the presidential race, I think it's perfect for what the anonymous commenter had in mind. Let's take a look at it...
That's the main page for the brand new Walberg Watch page. Once you sign up, you'll have the option of creating events, sending e-mails to all of the other members of the group, and contacting other members individually. And if you want to connect to official Democratic campaigns, it's easy. In fact, the Schauer for Congress campaign already has their own PartyBuilder page.
Are you a moderate Republican or independent, and you're hesitant to sign up with the DNC? Don't worry. Signing up to join the Walberg Watch PartyBuilder page won't commit you to work for Barack Obama or Howard Dean. You can do as much or as little as you want, and you can focus all of your energy on working with others in the 7th District who oppose Congressman Tim Walberg.
Starting next week, this, too, will have a permanent place on the front page of Walberg Watch, along with announcements of events that you can create.
Labels: 2008 Election
Schauer Brings Jobs To Michigan
One of the things Tim Walberg repeats wherever he goes is that Michigan is in the middle of an economic crisis. And you know what? He's right. Michigan faces some very complicated problems which can't be solved by simple acts like cutting taxes for the rich, which seems to be Walberg's favorite strategy.
What Michigan needs right now is jobs, and to get those, it takes real leadership and thoughtful action, not loud rhetoric and bluster. It takes leaders who are willing to go out and talk about the things that make Michigan great, not go out and bash the state. Michigan needs someone who's willing to work on behalf of its residents, not on behalf of the elitists who have been financing Walberg.
Thankfully, someone is actually doing something for the state. And, as luck would have it, he's also running for Congress.
From the Schauer for Congress campaign:
There's also a video:
Senator Schauer used his position in government to actually help his district and his constituents. He brought jobs here. Congressman Walberg, what have you done for us?
New Feature - Candidate Event Map
Want to show up at a Walberg event to ask him some tough questions? Want to learn more about the Democratic candidates in person? Tired of having to search through candidate websites just to find what you're looking for?
Walberg Watch now has the solution.
View Larger Map
Red - Tim Walberg
Dark Blue - Mark Schauer
Light Blue - Sharon Renier
Note: District boundaries may be off in a couple of places.
I'll admit, this isn't perfect. The map can be a little cumbersome at times (ie. when it loads, sometimes it decides to center you over Montana), and the only events I can add are the events which Tim Walberg, Mark Schauer, and Sharon Renier choose to publicize on their websites. Still, I hope this turns out to be a good resource.
Starting next week, the map will have a permanent place on the front page of the new and improved Walberg Watch. Right now, I'm just highlighting new features one by one.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Walberg Watch Improvement Thread
You're reading Walberg Watch, which is great. I hope you appreciate the posts I've written and others have written, and I can promise a lot more in the coming months as we all work to replace Congressman Walberg with a much better representative.
Still, I want to do more than just write blog posts. I want to provide resources for you to use when working to convince others that Walberg has to go. In fact, I want to provide resources to convince you that Walberg has to go if you're an undecided voter. I want to make sure that on election day, you get out there and vote. I want to make sure that when Tim Walberg and his friends start to smear his Democratic opponent with lies and half-truths, there's an immediate response. And I want you to be able to help contribute content toward this goal, because any good political effort is the result of many people standing up, not just a few.
With that in mind, I'm going to be announcing a lot of changes to Walberg Watch over the next week. I'm really excited about this, and hope that you will be, too. Some features that will be coming soon:
What would you like to see Walberg Watch do? What resources do you want to see available? What amazing ideas do you have?
Winning in November will take a lot of hard work, and it's going to take a lot more than just me typing at a keyboard. I'm willing and eager to do a lot more, but I'm going to need your help. I'd appreciate any comments you want to leave, even if it's just "Sounds great, Fitzy! I look forward to seeing it!"
By the way, as of today, we only have 141 days until election day. That's not as much time as it sounds like, and we've got a lot of work to do if we don't want two more years of Tim Walberg.
Walberg Votes Against Amtrak
Thanks again to Eric B. at Michigan Liberal. While I've been otherwise occupied, he's been doing a phenomenal job watching Walberg.
I like Amtrak. I like it a lot. For personal reasons, I travel back and forth between my home here in Michigan and Chicago pretty regularly, and have taken the train from Jackson to Chicago and back four times in the last year. It's a comfortable ride, it takes about as long as driving, it's environmentally friendly, and it saves a lot of money on gas. You can do a trip to Chicago and back for maybe $50 ($25 each way). You're lucky if you can spend that little on gasoline for a trip like that.
Amtrak really is a great service, and I'm not the only one that thinks so. From an Amtrak press release last fall:
WASHINGTON — Amtrak ridership in Fiscal Year 2007 increased to 25,847,531, marking the fifth straight year of gains and setting a record for the most passengers using Amtrak trains since the National Railroad Passenger Corporation started operations in 1971.That's nearly 26 million Americans riding trains, despite the low funding and almost non-existent advertising for Amtrak. For the Wolverine, which is the route that runs straight through the 7th District, ridership increased from 438,529 in fiscal year 2006 to 449,107 in fiscal year 2007, (a 2.4 percent increase), making it Michigan's most popular route. Here's a map, via Amtrak:
That includes stops in Jackson, Albion, and Battle Creek (as well as Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor, which, while not in the district, are close enough to matter).
This really is a service people use, and are going to use more and more as gas prices rise. Chicago is an accessible tourist destination that can be reached cheaply (and may soon be hosting the Olympics), and Amtrak can connect you to the rest of the country from there. More than that, Amtrak makes it easier for Chicagoans to come to Michigan, which helps them spend money here and help our economy.
Amtrak's very existence even helps our economy. The service employs 114 Michigan residents, and in 2007 the station in Jackson got a $250,000 grant for renovations (data from this .pdf file). As anyone can tell you, these are jobs and investments Michigan desperately needs.
This is an important service for the 7th District. I can't emphasize that enough. That's also something former Congressman Joe Schwarz knew when he represented us. I don't know of any links off-hand, but Edward Sidlow's book on Joe Schwarz (Freshman Orientation) included stories of Schwarz that revealed him to be a big fan of trains in general and of Amtrak in particular. He fought for Amtrak and for the district.
All of this brings us to our current representative, Congressman Tim Walberg.
On June 11, 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives considered HR 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. The bill would authorize $9.9 billion to cover operating expenses for Amtrak and then spend an additional $5 billion to improve service. The cost comes out to $43 per American over a four year period.
In other words, for the cost of maybe 10 gallons of gas spread out over four years, you would be helping to run and improve a service you should really be using.
To me, this seems like a common-sense vote. It's a part of the government that actually works and directly benefits the people of the 7th District in countless ways. This is the sort of thing people want and people use. This is what we should be doing more of.
The bill passed, 311 to 104.
Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.
Eric at Michigan Liberal sums it up nicely:
I do want to pay less for gasoline. Tim Walberg drilling for oil in ANWR or the Great Lakes isn't going to do that. What will do that is if I use less gasoline, and I can do that by taking the train. It's not the only solution, but it's a part of the broader solution to one of the biggest problems we're facing. It's a necessary component of achieving energy independence.
Tim Walberg doesn't want me to have that option. Why?
We can do better than this.
Chinese Drilling for Oil?
Thanks to Michigan Liberal on this...
Congressman Tim Walberg has a big new energy plan, which I hope to be talking about more in the near future. As one might expect, it amounts to "Drill, Drill, DRILL," as Eric at Michigan Liberal demonstrates. This shouldn't be unexpected from the man who wants to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and under the Great Lakes.
To push his plan and make it look like Walberg has been doing something productive in Washington, Walberg has been telling lots of people about his new bill. At an event in Lenawee County, this video was recorded:
Note the exchange:
Question: How far along are the Chinese in their attempts to drill off the coast of Florida?Really? The Chinese are already setting up drilling operations off the coast of Florida? Frankly, this is news to me. You'd have thought someone would notice sooner, but then in the last few days, I started to hear more and more about China drilling for oil just off of our coast.
The thing is, though, that it's just not true.
This whole thing started with conservative columnist George Will, who wrote:
Drilling is underway 60 miles off Florida. The drilling is being done by China, in cooperation with Cuba, which is drilling closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are.I haven't got the foggiest idea where George Will got this from. Apparently being a syndicated columnist gives you super secret information no one else in the country has.
Nevertheless, the story spread quickly, with Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-OH) making the claim that China is drilling for oil off the coast of Florida the very same day that George Will's column was published. As others picked it up, Vice President Dick Cheney (R-WY) even ran with the story, even though one would think that he'd be one of the best informed people on this issue. As the AP reported afterward:
So, George Will apparently made up some story about the Chinese drilling for oil (or just hasn't produced the evidence for it), and any number of Republicans bought it without question-- the latest being Congressman Tim Walberg. Had he been paying more attention, Walberg would have noticed that Florida Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) refuted the claim two days before Walberg's event:
Senator Martinez was also the chairman of the Republican National Committee for nearly a year, so it's not like he's a maverick who's going against his party. He's a respected Republican leader, and no matter how much his own state might benefit from increased American drilling off the coast of Florida, even he couldn't buy the story.
So why would Tim Walberg and Dick Cheney tell people that the Chinese are drilling for oil? Could it be that they'll say anything to make their dream of drilling basically everywhere come true?
And why would Tim Walberg want that to happen? Is it because he doesn't believe in global climate change or because he's already received $10,050 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry this cycle? Or is it just because he hates sustainability?
Regardless of the reasons, Congressman Walberg, you're not allowed to make up your own facts, no matter how many other people believe them. When asked if the Chinese were drilling for oil off the coast of Florida, you said "They're there."
That's a pretty powerful accusation, with three possible explanations:
I'd also like a better representative, please.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Walberg Votes For... A Bridge to Nowhere?
Does anyone remember the 2006 primary campaign, where Tim Walberg was constantly attacking then-Congressman Joe Schwarz? Does anyone remember the repeated lines about the "Bridge to Nowhere" that Joe Schwarz supposedly supported?
In fact, I think it's safe to say that if there were three things that Walberg wanted you to know about Joe Schwarz, it was that he was pro-abortion, he was anti-gun, and he voted for the Bridge to Nowhere, so obviously he wants to waste your tax dollars.
Do all of you remember that? Thankfully, Susan Demas does. In a column this week, she points out something everyone apparently missed. Walberg has kept up his anti-earmark and anti-"Bridge to Nowhere" rhetoric even as he voted for it himself.
"But, that's not fair!" shout those that would defend Walberg. After all, it's not like he voted for the Bridge to Nowhere, he just voted for a big, massive bill, HR 1495, which just so happened to include a wasteful earmark! It's nothing like Joe Schwarz! Walberg is still the maverick conservative, out to fight for smaller government!
Except, that when Joe Schwarz voted for the same sort of earmark, it was under exactly the same circumstances--Schwarz voted for a massive bill where Congressman Don Young managed to slip it in. Schwarz was torn apart by his own party over this, because there was a lot of good in the bill, and it was worth it to put up with some pork in order to get it through. That's the way Washington works, as Tim Walberg has apparently learned.
It bothers me that Congressman Walberg criticized Joe Schwarz for something and then went and did the same thing. It bothers me a lot. But you know what bothers me more? Re-read Demas' column:
"The American people are disgusted by Washington's wasteful, pork-barrel spending. Taxpayers are tired of their hard-earned money paying for things like a bridge to nowhere in Alaska, fruit fly research in France and a hippie museum in New York." - U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) on Feb. 8, 10 months after he voted for said bridge to nowhereThat's right. Walberg was complaining about the "Bridge to Nowhere" wasteful spending after he voted for it himself. He is as responsible for the "disgusting" way Washington works as anyone else.
Demas closes her column:
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Early Morning Greatest Hits
I feel like I owe everyone an apology... I've been neglecting this blog for the last several months, and especially the last few weeks. I promise, that will change soon.
For the moment, however, I thought I'd share something with you all. For a super-secret project I'm working on (hint: it involves a big expansion of Walberg Watch and a complete redesign), I ended up doing a full recap of the year 2007, as it related to Congressman Tim Walberg. Here's what I came up with:
... And that was just 2007.Starting soon, I'll be focusing my attention on 2008. I've got some exciting changes planned.
August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008