WE NEED THE BROWN BAG PROJECT

By Jim Whittington mailto:jimw8869@megagate.com
(If you are not familiar with the BROWN BAG PROJECT, an explanatory article follows this one.)

We retired military do not have lobbyists, unions or special Interest in Congress. In fact, it might be said that Congress has NO INTEREST in the retired military at all. Do you agree with that statement? If you do perhaps you will pass this around the internet and the Brown Bags will start flowing and flying into the halls of Congress this coming week - as Congress reconvenes on January 4th.

What follows is some of the reasons that Congress has no interest in the retirees. This was taken from the USA Today, 28 Dec.04. I have condensed it for spacing.

For NEW Congressional Members, there is an ethics book and orientation class that tells them what they can and cannot do LEGALLY. There is only one problem with that book and orientation. It LEGALIZES what would be UNETHICAL OR CORRUPT in other Branches of the Government or in the civilian sector - but is legal for Congress.

RULE # 1

Members of Congress can make more on a single stock trade than a lifetime of public service because they routinely trade in stocks over which they have legislative power. It has been shown that they make 12-15% on their stock trades - outperforming Wall Street professionals - because they write the rules. Isn't that called “insider trading?” Isn't some of that what Martha Stewart went to prison for? What Congress does makes the Oil for Food Program, WorldCom and Enron look like a Sunday School Class taking up donations for the Boy and Girl Scouts.

Rule # 2

“Profit-take before you legislate.” For example, the member gets government contracts or legislative deals for a lobbyist and then the lobbyist delivers WINDFALL PROFITS for the member.

Take Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, for example. He contacted lobbyist about some possible deals. Real Estate Developer Jonathan Rubini arranged for Stevens to get into a deal for $50,000 that turned into $1.5 Million return. Stevens was the only investor not liable for any debts. In the meantime, Stevens muscled through a $450 Million from the Military for the Lobbyist Rubini, despite the fact that the Air Force said Rubini lacked the capacity and adequate funding. (My words to describe this are: “You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.”)

Catherine Stevens is also paid by a law firm representing business interests to “monitor appropriations issues.” Her job was made easy because she is married to the Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee - Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska.

RULE # 3

Children of members of Congress are their ticket to reap benefits of public service. They get their spouses and children EMPLOYED by Lobbyist at huge salaries - despite their lack of experience.

For example, Karen Weldon is the 29 year old daughter of Congressman Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania. Karen was given a lobbyist contract for a QUARTER OF A $MILLION from Serbian interest allied with - get this - accused war criminal Solbodan, as well as a $20,000 monthly contract with a Russian Space manufacturer. Weldon later pushed to get visas for the Serbians and deals for the Russians.

Mississippi Senator Trent Lott’s wealthy son, Chet Lott, has a chain of Dominions Pizza restaurants in Kentucky (home of Humana) and plays polo. Yet he was given a huge salary representing telecommunications and other interest. Senator Lott was the Majority Leader at the time.

RULE # 4

Congressional Rules prohibit gifts and speaking fees - but they can never get too much education. For example, North Carolina Congressmen Richard Burr and Ohio Congressman John Boehne received an all expense paid EDUCATIONAL tour of the Yucca flats - paid for by the National Broadcasters Association. These two gentlemen were not content with just the luxury of first class airfare and hotels to visit the Nevada desert, so arrangements included a trip to Barcelona and Sevilla, Spain to learn about the storage site at Yucca Flats.

Another educational tour took former Virginia Congressman Tom Bliley (then chairman of the Commerce Committee) and his wife via the Concorde to London ($24,000 cost), a stay at the Savoy Hotel ($1,000 per night cost) and to wrap-up the tour, tickets to the Wimbledon Tennis finals ($3,000 estimated cost) - all thanks to the courtesy of a tobacco company.

All you need is a well-placed Lobbyist, inexperienced or unemployable children and a few educational trips and you are on your way in Congress.

This was on Fox network last week: You have heard all the Congressmen and Senators say in speeches back in their state or district that they sure do miss being at home - and can’t wait to get back. That is pure JUNK. As reported, more than 90 former Congressmen and Senators who either retired or lost the election didn't return to the “old home place.” They stayed in Washington and went to work lobbying their former colleagues. It was reported that Daschle and Gebhardt are now looking for a rich lobbyist job. Daschle’s wife has been a lobbyist for several years - it was reported. This applies equally to Republicans and Democrats.

Do you wonder why we now have to BROWN BAG IT”?

There is no question in my mind. We are the 2nd and 3rd-class citizens that have no union, lobbyists or Special
Interest - in fact, we are of no interest at all. So, hopefully this will make your BLOOD BOIL and make you want to rip up some brown bags this coming week. Maybe after reading this we can top 50,000 or 100,000 bags. What do you say?

Remember this: All the above is perfectly legal because they write their own rules. Everyone else goes to jail.

Think about that for a minute. It is time for us to say “I am madder than HELL and it's time to stop this foolishness”. BROWN BAG IT, FOLKS!
Jim Whittington, Laurel, MS.

BROWN BAG PROJECT EXPLAINED

For years, military retirees have been trying to influence Congress to enact legislation that restores and fulfills the government’s original promise of free medical care to military retirees and their dependents.

One of the largest retiree coalitions, known as the Military Retiree Grass Roots Group (MRGRG), was one of the primary forces that resulted in congressional enactment of Tri-Care For Life. While this program generally has been a definite improvement for retirees’ health care, it is directly tied to Medicare. Any change or depletion of Medicare — which is possible or even probable — could greatly reduce retiree benefits once again. Plus, there are other chinks in the armor.

So this growing group of military retirees continues their long-pursued efforts to “restore the broken promises,” and has taken a new tack for making every U.S. Senator and Representative aware of this need.

Here is their plan that will take the term “brown bagging” to a new level:

THE BROWN BAG PROJECT
Authored by Tom Gould, 22 Nov 2004

Every retiree involved in this broken promise issue should do this… once a week: Rip up a piece of an old brown paper bag - don't cut the section out “nice and clean” just rip it out with your hands (about 8” X10” will do). Now, it is important that everyone uses a brown paper bag. No other paper will do.

On your piece of paper bag write or print your quick message to the Congressman/woman. It doesn't have to be great English or “the correct words”… just plain words to say something like, “You and the government broke your promise to me and my family”… Or, “I want to see you put a bill on the floor that restores my rights to free medical care” - you get the idea. You can write it in grease pencil, ink, paint, or whatever. Don't even try to be neat and tidy.

Put the brown bag message in an envelope and with one 37 cent stamp send it off to Congress.

If all of us do this simple thing once a week, every week, week after week… we will finally get their attention and the reason is this: Every week just about every member of congress is going to be getting these pieces of brown bag with the note on them and the more each of us that do this well, Congress will be getting thousands of these pieces of brown bag week after week. And the cost to us: one piece of brown bag, an envelope, and one 37 cent stamp a week. Sooner or later a news reporter will pick up on it and then we are on TV. There is no cheaper way to do this with as much force.

The idea may sound dumb, but surprise some of your friends and bring it up as an “off the wall” idea. After they stop laughing and really think about the idea, they just might see the power in it for the price. The idea is using your mailing list… send the idea out to your people and pick a starting date. From then on, we all write a note to Congress on a ripped brown paper bag once a week. For only 37 cents a week. After a congressperson gets about 2000 or so of these a week, just seeing the brown paper notes falling out of the envelopes will tell them the message..

Having written to Congress, and having sent them hundreds of e-mails, I will tell you sending e-mail is the worst way to contact them. What we need is brown paper notes, every week, sent week after week.

I believe this simple approach, low cost, direct mail is the way to go.