Jennifer Briney 00:00 I think that was the most shocking thing for me, to actually sit there, because the C-SPAN cameras only show the desk. The senators stand outside of the cameras’ view, so as they’re hanging out and chit chatting and hugging and fist bumping, and they’re off camera. You can’t see it on C-SPAN 2, but you can see it when you’re sitting there in the gallery, and I was the only person that sat there all day.
Graham Elwood 00:23 That’s part of the theatrics. That’s like when Trump gave [the 2020 State of the Union] speech and Pelosi ripped up the copy of it behind him. Everyone talked about that and made that into a meme. But nobody showed when, [during the same speech] he stood up and claped for Juan guaido, this CIA puppet guy that we put in charge of Venezuela, and Pelosi is clapping along with him in the back. Because once again, that’s fueling the war machine. That’s why it’s all theatrics. It’s professional wrestling. And what you got to go to [in the gallery] is basically the locker room of professional wrestling where they’re all like buddies hanging out going, Hey, man, that was cool. The way you took my kick and made it look like I broke your back, that was awesome, nice show, man. That’s what you got to see is the reality of this: that this red versus blue keeps them all in power.
David Ippolito 00:32 [intro music] Tired of Being Lied To
Jennifer Briney 01:41 Hello, my friend and thank you for listening to the 260th episode of Congressional Dish. I’m your host Jennifer Briney. If this is your first time listening to the show, thanks for checking it out. I know that turning on a podcast about Congress might sound a little boring, so someone probably told you to listen to the show — please thank that person too. Thanks for giving a congressional podcast a shot. It’s good for you and it’s good for the country, because you’re going to know things that other people don’t. Today’s episode is about something that seems to happen every year. It is about Congress’s failure to do their most basic damn job again. Congress was supposed to fund the 12 categories of government by end of day on September 30. But they didn’t. Instead, they passed a so-called Continuing Resolution to kick their deadline into the future. Now, if this bill that kicked their deadline didn’t become law by the end of the day on September 30, the government would have shut down again. So they had to get it done. And because of that dynamic, that Continuing Resolution was a must-sign bill. Congress almost always attaches stuff to these bills, so that things can hitchhike their way into law without having to be debated and passed on their own. This bill was no exception to that annoyingly stubborn rule. Today, I’m going to tell you exactly what was put into that new must sign law. I’ll tell you about the good, which there certainly is, and then you can judge for yourself if there’s bad in there, too. You’ll know exactly how I feel about it, but I don’t need you to agree with me. I will tell you everything that’s in there with my guest on this episode, Graham Elwood. Graham and I have known each other for quite a few years now. When we met, Graham was one of the co-creators of my all time favorite podcasting festival. It was called LA Pod Fest, which was a three-day fan festival where we could go to see our favorite podcasts performed live. I had dreams of being on the stage one day, but unfortunately, my favorite podcasting festival doesn’t exist anymore. I think it was just ahead of its time. But Graham and I have remained friends despite not getting to see each other every year like we used to. As I was reading this law, Graham and I were chatting on Twitter about our crazy government, as we do. I invited him onto the show because he’s a political comedian, and he knows his sh**. In fact, he’s currently touring with his new hour [of stand-up comedy], which is full of jokes about government madness, and he’s preparing to film that hour for a special. He’s also the host of the YouTube show the Political Vigilante, and he’s co-host of Government Secrets with Lee Camp. Graham is clearly someone who is hungry for details about what our government does and why they do it. He joined me from Berlin to geek out on what our country’s newest funding law is doing to us, or more specifically, what it’s doing with our money. I want to give you a heads up that if you’re not paying for Congressional Dish at the rate of literally anything you think is fair, you’re not going to hear this full episode. When this bill passed the Senate, I was sitting physically in the Senate gallery. I sat up there for four hours on September 29, watching the Senators huddle outside the cameras’ view. I watched them vote on nominations and then the funding law. I saw them giving thumbs up or thumbs down motions from the hallways, I watched some of them vote in jeans, but the cameras couldn’t see them. So it didn’t seem to matter. And I watched them interact with each other on the floor of the Senate. They were completely ignoring the rotating groups of peasants that were up in the gallery, one of whom, me, never left all day and I had thoughts on what I saw. But it’s gossip really. And then after the vote, I went to a local bar and ended up having a few beers with a stranger, a stranger who happened to be a lobbyist who has been a DC insider since the 1980s. I must say, I absolutely adored this man. We got all kinds of gossipy at that bar, and if he had not had a meeting scheduled, I think we would have sat there all night. Graham and I talked about the details of all of that pure DC gossip, which I’m more than happy to talk about in my greenroom, but not publicly. I don’t like to spread rumors to the entire internet, just the part of the internet that is my community. What I decided to do was give the public the parts of our conversation that I can and will prove as true in the show notes. As usual, everything that airs on Congressional Dish has been fact checked. And you can see that for yourself by going to the show notes on congressional dish.com. The gossip, the fun stuff, that’s just going to be for my community. It’s a community that includes my friends, my family, and people who are part of the production of this show, either part of the physical production, or the producers who pay for the show using any method they want on congressionaldish.com. The fastest way to get into my green room and be a part of my community is to contribute per episode via our Patreon at patreon.com/congressionaldish. But if you really want to pay another way, like with Zelle or PayPal, or paper checks, whatever you want, we do have a jerry rigged greenroom feed that we can give you. And so email lauren at congressional dish dot com, along with your payment setup confirmations, at whatever rate you consider fair. It works the same whether you’re on Patreon or paying another way, but you contribute what you consider fair for the value you receive. And Lauren, who is my sister, will get you set up whenever she can. She doesn’t check her Congressional Eish emails every day, but when she does, I’m sure she’ll get back to you. She’s very good about that. But she’s also a mom with two little kids and other things to do. So Patreon is the fastest and easiest way to do this. So if it’s all the same to you, support us there on Patreon. Thank you to everyone who already does.
Jennifer Briney 07:50 Before I get into my conversation with Graham about the new law, I do want to set you up with some background. There’s one thing I think a lot of people could miss the significance of without a little bit of backstory. During this conversation, we’re going to talk about some viral comments that were made by a man named Jeffrey Sachs in an interview he did this week on Bloomberg. Jeffrey Sachs, to put it bluntly, is an economic hitman. I’ve talked extensively over the years about how our government, since the end of World War II, has been captured by people who want the entire world to operate under one economic system. The system has a lot of names. It’s “ism” name is pretty much capitalism, but there are actual written down laws in the system agreed to in treaties and trade agreements. Instead of referring to the system by its ism name, which is an ideological label that means different things to different people, I prefer to label it based on the real life organizations that write and enforce the rules. I call the system the World Trade System, because it’s based out of the World Trade Organization. Since the end of World War II, people dedicated to the project of making [the World Trade System] the global system for managing money have been going from country to country and helping those countries change their economic laws to match those considered ideal by the world traders, which means mainly helping those countries to change their economic laws so that multinational corporations can come into the country, buy land and industries, hire local workers, and pay them as little as possible. They want those countries to allow the companies to send the money made in their countries out to shareholders around the world. Jeffrey Sachs is one of the guys who has done this in countries all over the world. He played a large role in transforming the economies of former Soviet Union countries in particular. He worked in Poland, Slovenia, Estonia, and in Russia, so he knows Ukraine’s neighborhood well. In recent years, he has retired from his economic hitman gigs and he’s now a professor at Columbia University, and he is showing signs that he may not be as devoted to the world trade system causes as he once was. For example, he’s criticized the sanctions that have been crushing Venezuela’s economy since the Trump Administration’s failed attempt at the dumbest coup ever in 2017. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll put my Venezuela episodes in the show notes for you if you’re not yet in the know, because we haven’t exactly stopped that regime change attempt yet, so it is worth knowing even though it started years ago. Jeffrey Sachs has also said the United States should get out of Syria. I mean, basically, he’s gone off of the world trader script, but he still knows the lines. He knows the system. He was a key part of it. So when Jeffrey Sachs says things about events related to global economics, it’s noteworthy, and Graham and I will note what he said about the explosions that took out the Nord Stream gas pipelines last week. Those pipelines, at least until they exploded, were providing gas from Russia to Germany, and now they no longer exist, which changes the global economic game. By the way, if you want to hear further in-depth speculation on who blew up those pipelines, that is this week’s Patreon only episode topic on the show that I co-host now with Justin Robert Young and Andrew Heaton called “We’re Not Wrong.” On that Patreon only episode, we run down the list of suspects, their motives, and all pretty much land on the most likely suspect, which is not the same conclusion that Graham came to, by the way. But you can check that out and support that show at patreon.com/werenotwrong. If you want to try before you buy, you can find the public We’re Not Wrong everywhere that podcasts are found, but the pipeline discussion is only for private consumption. If you support us on Patreon, either through Congressional Dish or We’re Not Wrong, you get extra stuff. That’s how it works. So please support my work. And again, thank you to everyone who already does. That’s all I think you need to know before we get into it, so with no further delay, here’s Graham Elwood and our conversation about the Continuing Resolution. Enjoy.
Jennifer Briney 12:29 Before we get started, would you like to tell my audience who you are, and what you’re up to and where they can find you and why you’re a perfect guest for Congressional Dish?
Graham Elwood 12:39 Yes, my name is Graham Elwood, I’m a stand up comic, director, producer and also have been doing a YouTube show for the last five and a half years called Political Vigilante where we cover a lot of the stuff that mainstream media isn’t, or in a way they aren’t. We have covered Epstein pretty extensively. I also do a show with Lee Camp called Government Secrets. We’re on our 100th episode, where we basically break down all of the evil stuff the United States has been doing since its inception. It’s not conspiracy, it’s all stuff that is out there for people through Freedom of Information Act documents, but there’s a reason why it’s not talked about. I’ve been a professional stand up comic for a long time. I’m on tour the whole month of October, you can go to grahamelwood.com [to get tickets]. I’m hitting London, New York, Madison, Wisconsin, Detroit, Cincinnati, and taping my comedy special in Chicago, where it’s an hour of me talking about how both parties are corrupt and I make fun of a lot of stuff. So that’s what I’m up to, just go to grahamelwood.com.
Jennifer Briney 13:47 So basically, your content is right up my audience’s alley.
Graham Elwood 13:51 Yes, that’s what’s why you and I are friends and it’s because we share that both parties are broken.
Jennifer Briney 13:58 Absolutely. And I think this bill we’re going to talk about today is a perfect example of that. So let’s get into it. The bill we’re talking about today is now law. It had to become law. This was what we call must-sign legislation. Because Congress failed once again, to do their most basic f***ing job, which is funding the government. The way this is supposed to work, for all of you newbies, is that the government has to be funded by September 30 of every year, and there are supposed to be 12 different bills that go through the committees in the House, and they’re carefully crafted, funding these 12 different sections of government. They’re supposed to pass the House and then go into the Senate, and if they don’t pass in identical form, then there is a conference committee on each of the 12 bills, and then they create one final bill for each of these 12 different sections of government and all 12 are supposed to become law by September 30. Graham Can you guess how many they finished this year? Out of the 12?
Graham Elwood 14:56 Oh, gee, boy, I want to say zero row or maybe one?
Jennifer Briney 15:02 Ding ding ding! A big fat zero, which is bad even for Congress. And so they had to fund the entire government temporarily so they could kick their own deadline. They have had to do this every year for a very long time. Graham, can you guess how many years in a row they have failed to do their job?
Graham Elwood 15:24 I hope I’m not right when I say 20.
Jennifer Briney 15:28 You are not right. It is 26.
Graham Elwood 15:31 Wahhhh!
Jennifer Briney 15:35 Isn’t that fabulous? Your Congress at work. This year, they’ve kicked their deadline to December 16, which is infuriating because they do this every year. They kick the deadline to right before the holidays so that they can fill up this must-sign piece of legislation with goodies that journalists are too busy with their own holiday sh** to actually go and look into. By the time people come back to work in January, it’s long forgotten. So we’ve set up that same situation again. Basically, this whole government funding thing is a failure. This bill becoming law the way it did, it’s a failure of Congress to do their most basic jobs. And when this was voted on in the Senate, I was in the Senate. It’s the first time I’ve ever stepped foot in the Capitol and I sat up in the gallery for four hours to watch not only the vote, but what went on before the vote. This is the first time I’ve actually seen what goes on on the Senate floor. You know, you think you can see things on C-SPAN, but you can’t. It’s a completely different vibe when you’re actually in the room. It was fascinating to have this rotating group of tourists come into the Senate gallery, because they weren’t really sure what they were looking at. And of course, I’m sitting up there ad so I’m happy to tell everyone what they’re looking at. You would hear parents tell their kids like, “Oh, they’re funding the government today.” And I’d be like, “Oh, no, no, no, no, let me tell you, this is them failing to fund the government, they’re kicking their deadline, so they can go do what they think are their real jobs and go campaign.” So I got shushed more than once by the Sergeant at Arms because I’m trying to educate all these people like, oh, no, you’re witnessing failure here. Make sure you tell your kids correctly.
Graham Elwood 17:21 I think that sums up America right there. You’re the best form of a patriot ever in wanting to get the truth on how democracy is made and they’re like, “shhhh quiet quiet, quiet, quiet.” This is a deliberate. I used to think maybe they were just incompetent idiots, [but now I] think the system is designed for this so that nobody really knows. It’s deliberately convoluted. They can go out and just campaign and then we Americans, it’s too complicated for us to pay attention to. So they can just do all this stuff behind closed doors and then we go to the polls every two years and think we’re participating, when we’re not. I really think that’s how they set it up.
Jennifer Briney 18:10 And I think there’s a lot to that, in fact, since this bill has become law, I think there’s a lot of evidence that that’s the case based on the way that this particular bill is being portrayed in the media. Last night, I was on a bit of a Twitter rampage because I keep seeing this bill be referred to as a hurricane relief bill, because the Democrats keep bullshitting about it and saying that the Florida Republican members voted against this hurricane relief bill as Hurricane Ian was destroying Florida. Have you heard this talking point? I know that you’re over in Europe right now.
Graham Elwood 18:48 Yeah, this is the typical…why the duopoly is so bad because each party can just shade things to say, “Oh, the other party’s bad” and keep America in this “my party is good, their party is bad” and not paying attention to [the fact] that we’re all getting screwed by the 1%.
Jennifer Briney 19:09 Yes, exactly. There’s this talking point going around, it’s definitely something that started with the Democrats, but the media is just repeating, or at least garbage media. Axios, here’s a headline: “Marco Rubio, Rick Scott call for Ian relief as Florida Republicans vote against FEMA funding. Huffington Post: “Florida senators request more federal aid despite not voting for hurricane relief.” Newsweek: “Matt Gaetz votes against disaster relief days after Hurricane Ian hits.” The thing about this talking point is, as I was up in the rafters in the Senate, I hadn’t gotten the chance to read the bill and so I was sitting there and I saw Rick Scott vote against the bill. One of the reasons I was watching him in particular is that he looks even more like the Cryptkeeper in person, that you would think he does. So when he walked in all bald and creepy, I was like, “Ooh, there he is,” and it was an enthusiastic thumbs down [to the bill from him]. I saw him vote against it. Rubio didn’t even bother to show up. So this talking point actually worked on me. I ended up putting something on my Instagram story being like, “Yep, I saw them vote against it, blah, blah, blah.” But then I read the bill. On the floor of the Senate, Patrick Leahy got up and said that there’s $18.8 billion for FEMA, and that’s the number that’s been widely reported in the media.
Senator Patrick Leahy 20:32 Now the Continuing Resolution, we’re about to consider contains $18.8 billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, bringing available resources in the fund to approximately $35 billion to respond to these and other disasters.
Jennifer Briney 20:52 The thing is, once you read the bill, there’s nowhere in it that clearly says that there was $18.8 billion for FEMA. There’s no FEMA funding that’s listed in the table of contents. It turns out what they did is the FEMA funding was increased in a tiny paragraph, it was one sentence long, that authorizes money to be spent, “up to the rate for operations necessary to carry out response and recovery activities.” So it’s basically unlimited and it allows FEMA to access its entire account for 2023, instead of just the portion it would have access to, until December 16 if that one sentence wasn’t there. But that section didn’t have a title, it had no dollar amount, and the only reason that I understood what that paragraph was doing is because I went back to look for it. I read the bill twice, and I missed it. So even if members of Congress had read every word like I did — which let’s be honest, they probably didn’t — they can be forgiven for not knowing that $18.8 billion for FEMA was on the line on that vote, because it wasn’t clear at all. So you have to imagine the Democrats that are in Congress that are spreading that talking point, they have to know how convoluted that was and how not obvious it was. That’s making me a little bit crazy, just watching that bullsh**. But then there’s the Republican bullshit. This is mainly from Republican voters and not from people in Congress, but there’s a lot of Republicans out there being like, well, they voted against that hurricane relief bill because the Ukraine money was attached to it. Now, unlike the FEMA money, this Ukraine money was clear as day. It got its own section. Well, it was clear that $12 billion was appropriated to Ukraine, but as I’ll tell you in a minute, it’s actually a lot more than that. While, it’s true that most of the Republican members voted against the funding law — all but 10 voted No in the house and half of the Republican senators voted against it — they didn’t debate that Ukraine money at all. They bitched about border security not being funded, they bitched about refugee assistance being funded, and then they bitched about the government spending any money at all because of inflation or whatever.
Rep. Kay Granger 23:15 I oppose this CR for several reasons. First, we should be here addressing the border crisis, the energy crisis, the inflation crisis. This bill does nothing to fix any of these issues.
Rep. Tom Cole 23:30 The administration asked for $1.8 billion to assist migrants, which they have received in this legislation, but they did not ask for a single penny to secure the border.
Rep. Bob Good 23:42 We should not fund a government that is allowing an evasion across our southern border, and is giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the countries that are facilitating that just south of our border. We should be cutting our spending and not increasing inflation by more massive spending, as reflected in this package today.
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler 23:59 This CR does nothing to address the fentanyl issue. It does nothing. It’s because the base of the Democratic Party, the woke yuppies, who stay at home and are on Zoom classes all day view this issue as a Cracker Barrel problem, something that will never affect them. Because they don’t shop at Walmart. They drive a hybrid, not a Chevy Silverado. So that’s why we’re not seeing urgency on the Fentanyl crisis.
Jennifer Briney 24:23 It’s well known that the Republicans also wanted that deadline kicked into the next Congress so that they could fund the government instead of the Democrats if they take over one of the branches of Congress. So that was also a big reason why they were like, “No, we don’t want that date.” The thing that I think is really important to note here is that while on Twitter I’m seeing so many people trying to excuse those no votes because of the Ukraine money, there was no debate about Ukraine. I sat in the Senate personally for four hours and no one even brought it up. So This Ukraine funding, which we can get into the details of in a second, is clearly uncontroversial in Congress, even if the Republican voters of Twitter think that there was a no vote that represents their feelings.
Jennifer Briney 25:13 You’re in Europe right now and that pipeline just exploded, and you’re much closer to Ukraine now. As someone who pays a lot of attention to this and is currently in Europe, what are your thoughts on Ukraine and us sending even more money to it? How are you feeling about this? And what are you hearing in Europe? Do you feel like it’s different there? Is the coverage different?
Graham Elwood 25:40 The coverage is pretty similar. These are NATO countries, so they’re basically puppet states for the American empire. First, I’ll just talk about the funding in general. There’s been no debate. When it comes to war, both parties just lock up and give as much money for war as possible. One of the my favorite websites to go to is opensecrets.org, which is a non-partisan, not-for-profit website that takes the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), data on any donations $2,000 or more — if you donated two grand to a campaign or I did, our names would be on there, or companies would be on there — so it is the best website to really find out what the truth is. In 2020, the defense industry donated $49 million across all candidates running in all different races. The top two getters were Donald Trump, who got $2.7 million, and Joe Biden, who got $3.1 million. Bernie Sanders came in third place with $800,000. So the point of saying that the top two candidates was, the war machine, the war industry is like, we’re going to have war no matter what. And its not just my opinion, I can go back and watch people talking about this in 2014, 2015, during the first [Ukranian] civil war, I can even go as far back as 1998 when the Senate voted to expand NATO east and about 12 Senators, both Republican and Democrat, said this is a bad idea, we’re going to push Russia into a proxy war.
Senator Byron Dorgan 27:25 We now are confronted here in the United States Senate with the question of enlarging NATO, a security alliance formerly in Western Europe, at the expense of, in my judgment, our relationship with Russia, and at the potential expense of reigniting a Cold War and impeding and retarding progress on arms reduction.
Senator Paul Wellstone 27:51 Mr. President, many of us had the opportunity to serve with very distinguished colleague Senator Nunn. I think more of us should talk about Senator Nunn and his wisdom. Senator Nunn has raised three questions about the NATO expansion. The first question is, will this help us in easing or dealing with the whole problem of proliferation of weapons that might go to third world countries, the kind of cooperation we need with Russia? And the answer that Senator Nunn gives to that question is no. The second question that Senator Nunn asks is, what about nuclear threats? Is this going to help us in terms of further arms agreements with Russia? Is this going to move the world away from reliance on nuclear weapons? And the answer that Senator Nunn gives to that question is no. The third question that Senator Nunn raises is what about reform within Russia? What about the forces for democracy? What are the Democrats with a small d all trying to tell us? And the answer that Senator Nunn gives is that they are telling us that this NATO expansion, expanding a military alliance against the Soviet Union that no longer exists, against the military threat that no longer exists, is a huge step backwards.
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan 29:10 NATO expansion is viewed throughout elements of the Russian political system as a hostile act. Some think of it as a hostile act they can live with, some think it’s a hostile act they’ll have to defend against. And they have said that if they have to defend their territory, they will do so with nuclear weapons. It’s all they have left.
Graham Elwood 29:42 So there’s a lot of people that have been try to say America has been pushing Russia into this proxy war. We’ve wanted this war, the defendant industry wants this war, because the defense industry just wants nonstop profit, which is why we’ve already given somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 billion to Ukraine. So this extra, whatever, 13 billion in this bill, is just tacked on. A couple of weeks ago during the Mississippi water crisis, which has not been fixed, the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi and the governor of Mississippi said we need roughly $3 billion to fix our water problem. And everyone’s like, “Gee, how are we going to pay for that? It’s a lot of money.” That same day, we gave it $3 billion to Ukraine. So Ukraine is just never ending money, like any war. Whenever I hear bipartisan, I’m always like, “Oh, that means the American people are really going to get screwed, because that’s just never ending war.” Now, specifically what’s going on in Europe. I’m in Berlin right now and recently in Germany there was a huge protest because the sanctions the United States is put on Russia are actually hurting Europe, not Russia. Russia has dealt with this quite well, despite what our media says. I talk to people that live in Moscow, because our media just says, Russians are starving, the Russian army is collapsing, and that’s that’s just not true. The Russian media puts out its its propaganda, and we put out ours. So basically, there was a protest in Germany recently because the gas prices in Europe — they get the majority of their oil and natural gas from Russia — the United States’ sanctions are hurting that. And many Germans are like, “The hell with this. Why are we doing this with America?” This could be a very long, cold winter in Western Europe. And then, Jeffrey Sachs was just on Bloomberg saying this looks like and there’s evidence to suggest that — these are his words, I’m paraphrasing — America blew up the Nord Stream pipeline.
Jeffrey Sachs 31:41 The main fact is that the European economy is getting hammered by the sudden cut off of energy, and now to make it the definitive, the destruction of the Nord Stream pipeline, which I would bet was a US action, perhaps the US and Poland.
Bloomberg Host 32:01 We’ve got to stop there: that’s quite a statement. Why do you feel that was a US action? What evidence do you have of that?
Jeffrey Sachs 32:13 Well, first of all, there’s direct radar evidence that US helicopters, military helicopters that are normally based in Gdansk were circling over this area. We also had the threats from the United States earlier this year that one way or another, we are going to end Nord Stream. We also have a remarkable statement by Secretary Blinken, last Friday in a press conference. He says this is also a tremendous opportunity. It’s a strange way to talk if you’re worried about piracy on international infrastructure of vital significance. I know this runs counter to our narrative. You’re not allowed to say these things in the West. But the fact of the matter is all over the world, when I talk to people, they think the US did it.
Graham Elwood 33:04 Blinken has hinted at doing that. The notion that Russia would blow up its own pipeline is preposterous. This pipeline is a revenue stream for them. I put this on Twitter, I said, I have an oil pump in my backyard that brings me in a lot of money and it makes my rich neighbors mad because it hurts their power, so I’m going to blow it up to spite them. It makes no sense. If Russia wanted to shut this down, they’d just turn it off. They have the off switch. Why would they blow up their own pipeline and kill a revenue stream that they actually need? Because they are being sanctioned by the West so hard. So again, it’s the war machine. I don’t like Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan as a comedian, so I’ve seen as up close as you can, as a civilian. I don’t know what real combat is like, but I’ve been on a helicopter that came under fire. I’ve seen rocket attacks, and I’ve seen wounded soldiers and civilians. So I’m against war, it’s just awful. But Zelenskyy, before the invasion, was saying the West is stirring this problem up, and then the invasion happens. Now he has to say all this stuff, because he needs our funding. But we’ve helped create this problem. And it’s just the never ending war budget. So it doesn’t surprise me that this bill has an extra $13 billion in it. That’s plain as day. That wasn’t even debated in the four hours that you were in the Senate, because it’s never debated. Joe Biden just asked the democratically controlled Congress for $802 billion, up from $779 billion. They didn’t give him that, they gave him $839 billion. They gave him an $37 extra billion, and it’s bipartisan support, and I’m sure it’ll go to the Senate if it hasn’t already. And then we’ll give him even more money every year. Both parties, regardless of who controls the House and the Senate. And we’ve been increasing our war budget at an absurd rate since 9/11, for the last 20 years, with no end in sight. And so this is how they do it, they just tack $13 billion on this bill and $10 billion on that bill. There’s always going to be some new proxy war. That’s why we need Russia and China as bad guys to have this never ending war spending.
Jennifer Briney 35:29 Yeah, well as for those total war spending totals [for the year] we don’t know yet, because again, they didn’t finish their damn jobs. But the point is accurate that if you look at our budget, since the Cold War, we’re spending more and more and more on war. Yet, the wars that we’re in seem to be wars of choice. They’re wars that our government is either starting or inserting ourselves into. What I find kind of fascinating about this $12 billion in this particular law, is how much of that is actually going to the State Department. A full third of it in that section is going to the State Department. It also said that the money for the State Department is appropriated “notwithstanding any other provision of law that restricts assistance to foreign countries.” So anything else that we had that was saying, you know, you can’t do this with money, you can’t do that with the money, this $4.5 billion for the State Department, they can now do whatever they want with it. All handcuffs were taken off of that money. I’ve seen that reported nowhere. It also said that this money may be made available as “contributions,” which sounds like cash handouts to me. Then on top of that, in a different section of this new law, there’s an extra $26 billion given to the State Department. Now, the biggest chunk of that goes to their diplomatic programs, and you would hope that they’re doing some diplomacy. But $6.2 billion of that goes towards the Foreign Military Financing Program, which can go to, as it sounds, other countries’ militaries, including Ukraine. There’s also $4.5 billion in there for international disaster assistance. Yes, this could go to Pakistan and other places where there are disasters, but what’s happening in Ukraine does count as a disaster, so some of that money can go there. $3.5 billion for Refugee Assistance, which can go to help the people of Ukraine, is the only money here that I actually support. Then there is $850 million for the Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia account, which is Ukraine’s region. And then I just have to add this, I don’t really know if this is for Ukraine, but there was $100 million more for the State Department’s transition initiatives account, which is just as regime change-y as it sounds. So if you add up all of those different things where Ukraine could be a recipient, on top of the 12 billion specifically for Ukraine, there’s 15 billion in additional State Department funds that Ukraine could be a target for, and no one talks about that section in this law at all. That’s one of the things that I’ve learned. We focus a lot on Defense Department money. I think we as American citizens, and you and I as journalists, and you know, even as a comedian, you’re giving people information. What I love about what you do is you’re giving people this information, but making it palatable, you’re adding some jokes to it so people can handle it. I just love what you and Lee camp do. I think it’s brilliant the way you deliver it. But I think that we need to be paying a lot more attention to the State Department, because there’s a lot of this that goes on in there. That is also funneling weapons and all the things we blame the Defense Department for, but a lot of it comes from the Department of State.
Graham Elwood 38:49 You bring up great points. Let’s look at Afghanistan; what a great example, right? For 20 years, four presidents from both political parties spent $3.5 trillion to replace the Taliban with a more heavily armed Taliban. That’s what happened. Nothing was accomplished other than massive spending, which is what the ultimate goal, it seems, of the military industrial complex, it’s just never ending war. The fact that we were there for 20 years, and it was worse. Imagine if we were still fighting the Japanese in 1960 and 1961, 20 years after we got involved in that war, 20 years after the Pearl Harbor bombing. Look at those two examples. By the time we got to 1964, there was the Tokyo Olympics, which was a little less than 20 years of rebuilding of Japan and Japan becoming a democracy and joining the international community. Now, it’s just 20 years of never ending war. When the Afghan Papers came out, you would have thought the journalists would still be referencing that as this bombshell like the Pentagon Papers. There’s all these officers in there that talked about the cash in Afghanistan. They had briefcases full of millions of dollars, they were just giving out in Afghanistan. It went for nothing. We didn’t build anything. It’s not like, oh, Afghanistan is joining the Olympics, women are going to schools and they’ve got a girls basketball team. You know, we didn’t do anything. So after having seen 20 years of $3.5 trillion dollars wasted, new UN reports are showing our infrastructure is like a developing nation. We’re 13th in the world in infrastructure. Jackson, Mississippi is one of 1000 cities, including Flint, Michigan, that has contaminated water. There’s homeless encampments in every city in America. I appreciate what you do on the show because you really spell out for people how big the slush funds are. This money for this department and that department, it’s never ending, this war budget, and there’s no plan. There’s not going to be a big victory. It’s just never ending spending, never ending war. We ruin people’s lives. And who gets screwed the most is the Americans. And then of course, this just gets put on all these bills because the defense industry goes like that. Then in the last election, people like Bernie Sanders were trying to get Medicare for All, and the corporate media that gets money from the defense industry, the oil industry, Pfizer, insurance companies, they’re always asking on the debate stage, how are we going to pay for this? I dare you to find one person in the corporate media to say, “How are we going to pay for this Ukraine money? How are we going to pay for this bigger military budget?” I’ve never heard that said by anybody, not on Fox News, MSNBC, none of them. They’ll never ask, how are we going to pay for this endless war budget? And nobody asks any questions, they just push this narrative out there that keeps the red versus blue thing going. So Americans think that this party is the problem or that party is the problem, rather than the oligarchy and the kleptocracy is the problem, because we don’t have a representative democracy anymore.
Jennifer Briney 42:19 Yeah. And how good of friends these people in power are. When I was up in the Senate , that’s what really struck me: Democrats and Republicans literally hugging. The two sides of the aisle didn’t really mean much. They were all just chit chatting. You would never imagine that this was the body that is supposed to be so partisan, it just didn’t have that vibe at all. I think that was the most shocking thing for me, to actually sit there. Because the C-SPAN cameras only show the desk. So what happens is the Senators stand outside of where the cameras can view it. So as they’re hanging out chit chatting and hugging and fist bumping, they’re off camera and you can’t see it on C-SPAN 2. But you can see it when you’re sitting there in the gallery, but I was the only person that was out there all day. They’re not really afraid of the public noticing, because no one sits in watches. It was mainly empty. The Senate gallery part that was open to the public, I’m gonna say there were maybe 60 seats available for the public, and mine was the only one that was occupied for more than half an hour. So they’re just not worried about us noticing that they’re not partisan. In so many ways, they’re not partisan. The differences between the parties are not the stuff that matters. It’s the uncontrollable, so it’s gay marriage, you know, it’s race.
Graham Elwood 43:44 That’s the part of the theatrics. The big grandstanding, they make sure that’s on C-SPAN. It’s like when Trump gave that speech, and Pelosi ripped up the copy of it behind him. Everyone talked about that and made that into a meme. But nobody showed the time [in the same speech] when he stood up and clapped for Juan Guaido, the CIA puppet guy that we put in charge of Venezuela, and Pelosi is clapping along with him in the back, because once again, that’s fueling the war machine. That’s why Nancy Pelosi is worth $100 million. That’s why Trump’s a billionaire. That’s why it’s all theatrics. It’s professional wrestling and what you went to is basically the locker room of professional wrestling where they’re all like buddies hanging out going, “Hey, man, that was cool, the way you took my kick and made it look like I broke your back. Nice show, man.” That’s what you got to see is the reality of this, that this red versus blue, keeps them all in power.
Jennifer Briney 44:40 It divides us by these bullshit lines instead of by class, which is where the real dividing line is.
Graham Elwood 44:47 Americans are in class warfare. The sooner they wake up to that, that it’s us versus the 1%, and that this red-blue, black-white, male-female, gay-straight, whatever the battle they’re trying to get us to fight over, pronouns or whatever, that’s the thing that’s going to keep us distracted from the fact of these rich people. If Americans all wake up to that together, then their little game show is over. But they know this. And that’s why their propaganda is really sophisticated and they really capitalize on social media to get everybody. They just have 10 million bots release a certain thing to get everybody fighting. They can just do it like that now.
Jennifer Briney 45:36 To really prove that, getting back to the bill, you’ve brought up Jackson, Mississippi a few times, and I actually see a lot of the Ukraine funding to be a part of this class war. Obviously, there is a real war happening in Ukraine. I do think that Ukrainian people are totally innocent in this. And that’s the tragedy, that they’re losing their homes and their country to a war that, you know, I can’t say that we started it, but I also can’t say that we didn’t provoke it. Because in 2014, we, with Joe Biden being the point person as vice president, helped orchestrate a coup in that country. And there’s been a civil war being fought in the Donbass region since then. Now it’s just a hot war that America and Russia are fully in, and we’re not pretending that we’re not a part of it anymore. We’re fighting in the same regions where that Civil War was. Now it’s just the stakes are higher. There are a lot of different people who have said that this this situation we’re in now, this proxy war over the Donbass, was kind of inevitable, and here we are. Then when you look at the money, there’s so much money going to procurement. What’s interesting about the way that it funds it here, for instance, there’s $3 billion, that goes to the Ukraine security assistance initiative, which has been a thing in the Department of Defense since that coup in 2014. Congress immediately funded it and we’ve been sending weapons to Ukraine through that initiative the whole time. But half of that money [in the current bill], so $1.5 billion, can be spent replacing Department of Defense weapons that were already sent to Ukraine. So those weapons are actually not going to go to Ukraine, they’re just going into the stockpile of our own military, we’re just buying weapons from the military industrial complex with that 1.5 billion, and so much of the spending is opaque. One of the things we never hear about is transfer authority. I try really hard to have an idea of where the money’s going to go, but there are so many transfer authorities that say that “defense can transfer money to state” and “state can transfer to defense,” and there are all these different funds where the money can be moved around, so we don’t have a way to track where it goes. But in this conversation of buying weapons, we are talking in the billions. You mentioned Jackson, Mississippi, full of poor, regular, many of them black, Americans who just need clean drinking water. This law gives $20 million, with an M, to go to the Army Corps of Engineer for water and wastewater infrastructure. This has been reported as money that’s going to Jackson. Hopefully it will, but the law doesn’t actually require that. It goes to the Army Corps of Engineers and we’re hoping that they will spend it in Jackson, but it is not required to go there. If you look at the totals of what it would cost to replace everything in Jackson, what I have in the show notes is an estimate of $1 billion. Graham, you have an estimate of $3 billion, but who knows. Let’s go with a more conservative estimate of $1 billion. This law appropriated 2% of what is needed to get that done. And then I went back and found out about the Infrastructure Law, because we’ve known about this issue for a minute, and the Infrastructure Law only provided $5 million. So we’re looking at a total of $25 million that is allowed to be spent in Jackson, Mississippi to provide clean drinking water to the residents of a huge American city — I think there’s like 150,000 people living there. So it just goes to show the priorities. In this must-sign law, they could have made that number anything, they could have easily thrown a billion at the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s still going to fund construction companies and it’s still going to get funneled to the shareholders somehow if you’re doing construction. But the priority was those weapons for the Department of Defense. $1.5 billion that just goes to restock their shelves., and $20 million for Jackson, Mississippi.
Graham Elwood 49:42 That’s the maddening part about this. They could have just typed in real quick, $1 billion for Jackson. Bam, that would have been a done deal. Nobody would have argued that. There wouldn be no debate, nor should there be. But the best they could do is $20 million, and $5 million, it’s preposterous.
Jennifer Briney 50:03 It’s interesting, I would love to have seen this bill go through a committee — because that’s how this is supposed to be done — so that we could hear the conversations between the senators when they made that decision to only do $20 million as opposed to $1 billion. This where I become a process wonk, because they’re not doing regular order by DC terms. Regular order means these go through the committees and they have these debates in public as they’re supposed to. These bills coming from the leadership’s office and landing on the Senate floor….This wasn’t even that long of a bill. It took me five hours to read. They could have done this through the committee, but they chose not to. And I think one of the reasons is so they can have this conversation that we’re having right now behind closed doors. So they don’t have to justify in public why we’re doing $1.5 billion to restock weapons shelves, and only $20 million to provide us with clean drinking water. Now, keeping in mind that, you know, Mississippi was responsible for their own infrastructure., so it is kind of a bailout, but it’s drinking water. You know, this is just not something that I think the American people are gonna call pork. And yet that wasn’t prioritized. And we don’t know why.
Graham Elwood 51:25 Well, I’d also like to know, and we’ll probably never know, how much of this money to Ukraine is going specifically to like the Azov Brigade, which is a openly neo-Nazi military group that is working with Ukrainian military that we’re funding. So we’re funding Nazis in the Ukraine, but we can’t get drinking water to Americans.
Jennifer Briney 51:43 Here’s what I can tell you about the Azov Battalion. In a previous law that I read, and I can’t remember exactly which one, but it was somewhat recent, it does say that it’s illegal for any money or weapons to go to them. Now, how is that being enforced? That’s more the question, because there’s no tracking device that is making sure these weapons end up in the hands we want them to end up in. The only thing that this law does about that problem is it says within 60 days of this becoming law, so two months from now, there has to be a report submitted to Congress letting them know, what they’re doing to track the weapons. But there isn’t a system in place right now, that we know of. If there is we’ll find out in two months. But there isn’t a system in place right now to track it. It is technically illegal for the State Department or Defense Department to give money to [the Azov] Battalion. Although now that I say it out loud, I did just tell you that the State Department has $4.5 billion that they can pass out notwithstanding previous laws. So here you go. This is our Congress. So I don’t know.
Jennifer Briney 52:59 But let’s blast through this bill so we can then get to my political gossip from the gallery and my lobbyist friend, because I don’t want to make it seem like this was that much of a scandal. The truth is like, even with these problems with the bill, I still would have voted for it because there’s a billion dollars in Low Income Home Energy Assistance. As we all know, our gas prices are high, so I fully support that. There’s $1.7 billion for refugee assistance and that goes for Health and Human Services, not Department of Homeland Security. So I trust that more than I would the people that are putting up the refugee cages. There’s some really important extensions for programs for sick and homeless veterans which goes past December 16. Until September 30, 2024, disabled veterans will be able to get their nursing homes paid for. It also extends payments to cover veterans’ travel expenses to the VA. And there was a whole bunch like that. So not all pork is bad, you know, some of its bacon and delicious. Also, do you remember a giant fire that happened over the summer in New Mexico? There was this huge fire, apparently it burned over 500 square miles and damaged over 3000 structures. And whoopsie daisy, the Forest Service started it. They were doing a controlled burn in April and apparently they did it on a windy day. The fire got out of their control but they were able to fight it. They got it 91% contained, but then another windy day kicked up and another fire started and the two merged. When they merged it became the most destructive fire in New Mexico’s history. It burned for four and a half months. This law provides $2.5 billion dollars in actual money to the people that were harmed by that. So this isn’t like you have to go through your insurance or any of that, which most people have to deal with when their homes burned down. For this particular fire, the government is responsible for all of it, so it provides $2.5 billion, but the authorization is unlimited. For the people of New Mexico, that’s cold, hard cash and it says the government is responsible for 100% of the payments. So I think that’s worth people in New Mexico knowing and using that money, because I’ve never seen the government take responsibility for anything at that level.
Graham Elwood 55:38 Yeah, so go get your money before they change their mind.
Jennifer Briney 55:42 Literally, yeah. Get on it, do it now. You don’t want to wait.
Graham Elwood 55:47 Get online and figure out how you got to apply for this so that you’re not screwed.
Jennifer Briney 55:52 Yeah, yeah, that is our advice. There was also a whole section in here about [FDA] user fee reauthorizations. These are fees that are charged to companies that sell drugs and medical devices. It turns out that this is one of the big squabbles about government funding right now: what they’re going to do about the fees. I guess there are a bunch of policies they want to change and Senator Richard Burr did something to stop all of those from being included in this. The reason I bring this up is that this is going to be a big debate in Congress, because they’re going to try and get all those policy changes stuck onto this upcoming holiday crisis bill, the next government funding crisis. But I just find it kind of fascinating. This is the fight they’re having. I looked at the whole section and my eyes glaze over, I fell asleep five times, I was like, who cares? But in Congress, these corporate fee battles are such a big deal to them. And yet they affect us not at all. Those that are going to pay close attention to this next bills crafting: this is a storyline. But I don’t care and I won’t be following it. So that’s all you’re getting, Congressional Dish fans. [laughs] I don’t care. Then the one last thing that I wanted to bring up and maybe I’m a dick for doing so, but I keep noticing it. It’s the consequences of us having very old people in our Congress, and they keep dying in office. Every time I see a member of Congress die in office, their family gets $174,000. I’ve seen it with a lot of people, like Don Young who just died of old age. I’m seeing it a lot, and I saw it again in this law for Jackie Walorski’s family. She was 50 years old. She’s not one of those that just died in office, she died in a car crash. It’s super sad. She was with two of her staffers driving through Indiana. We actually got more details on the crash. It turns out that her staffer was driving at 82 miles per hour, which is 30 miles per hour above the speed limit. They crossed over the centerline to get around a flatbed truck and he hit the car coming in the opposite direction.
Graham Elwood 58:01 That’s awful.
Jennifer Briney 58:02 Isn’t that so awful? Everyone that was involved died: Jackie Walorski, the member of Congress, her two staffers, and the woman in who was driving the other car. Her name is Edith Schumacher and she was 56 years old, just driving on her own business, completely innocent. So I see this line again, in this bill, giving Jackie Walorski’s family $174,000. But nothing for the two staffers, nothing for her constituent [who died]. You know, this woman was killed as her member of Congress was speeding down a freeway. So I’m just I’m kind of sitting here looking at this like, should members of Congress, or their families, be getting this one year salary when they die from their former co-workers? And if we are going to do this, isn’t it gross that we left out the staffers that died in the same exact crash? It’s just another class thing for me, that they feel like the member of Congress is just so much more important than the people that were in service to her in that car and the constituent that was killed, that they were just not acknowledged as having died in the same accident. I don’t know, that just gives me the icks, or am I just being too picky here?
Graham Elwood 59:24 No, I don’t think you’re being too picky at all. I think it’s absolutely correct. I mean, the staffers and the innocent woman who was driving legally was murdered, really. She did nothing wrong other than drive down a highway. It’s kind of typical.
Jennifer Briney 59:42 Because that staffer would have been charged with something, because he was speeding and they were able to prove it. So yes, I think murder is a good way to put it.
Graham Elwood 59:52 At very least it would have been vehicular manslaughter.
Jennifer Briney 59:55 Manslaughter, at least.
Graham Elwood 59:57 Yes. That woman that died for no good reason. Absolutely her family should get something.
Jennifer Briney 1:00:06 Yeah, I had the icks with that and I was like, maybe I’m just too mad at Congress in general. Yeah, it really bothered me and the payments in general kind of rubbed me the wrong way too. None of us get these payments. If I were to kick it tomorrow, if I don’t have life insurance, my husband gets nothing, my business dissolves. It’s just another example of Congress getting benefits that the rest of us don’t get. And I think that’s the thing that bothers me about these payments that I keep seeing every single time one of them dies. I know it’s a small amount of money. It shouldn’t bother me like it does. But I’m just tired of them treating themselves better than they treat us in law.
Graham Elwood 1:00:51 It’s a small piece of the corrupt pie. You’re right to be bummed by it. Then you think, this is the legal extra money that they get, not to mention the kickbacks, Nancy Pelosi’s insider trading, and all that other stuff that they get. If you’re in Congress and all you’re making is $175k a year, you’re not being a corrupt congressional person correctly. They’re all getting all this lobbying money and whatever. The insider trading is such a slam dunk, because that’s a way to buy influence without having a paper trail of buying influence. You go out to lunch with the person, say you might want to buy this stock, and when the stock goes through the roof, I’m going to need you to pass this bill. And oh, hey, the stock goes through the roof. And oh, hey, that tech bill got passed. I mean, I grew up in Chicago with mob guys, I know how this is done. It’s the same tactics, only they wear nice suits.
Jennifer Briney 1:01:52 It doesn’t even have to be that overt. I just can’t help but think about Paul Pelosi buying a bunch of stock in semiconductor companies right before that bill, which we weren’t sure if it was going to move forward. But apparently, the husband of the Speaker of the House kind of had an inkling that it had a good chance. Even knowing what’s going to be on the schedule. When I started this podcast, I was so naive, I thought I could look at the public schedule, read the bills, and let people know what’s in the bills in time for the vote, so you could hold your members accountable. It was so f—ing stupid, Graham. I feel so dumb for thinking that was possible. But I didn’t know. And then I started really paying attention, and I can tell you, I haven’t looked at the schedule in years. It tells me nothing about what’s going on in Congress. What Nancy Pelosi is able to just talk about over dinner, it doesn’t even have to be like, “Oh, Paul, can you go buy some IBM stock?” It’s just, “This is what we’re doing this week. This is what we’re voting on.” That’s enough, just knowing what your wife is up to. That’s enough to trade on, which is why they shouldn’t be allowed to trade. It’s so absurd that people are getting upset right now, like, “oh, Nancy Pelosi didn’t bring up the anti-insider trading bill before the election.” No s—. Did you actually think there was any chance that that was gonna happen? People are asking me, are you going to do an episode on it? No, I don’t do episodes on things that don’t have a prayer. Nancy Pelosi is not the person who’s gonna solve this problem. People have so much hope.
Graham Elwood 1:03:37 That is the downside of doing shows like yours and mine. Once you see how it’s really done, and then you hear friends saying, “well, if we could just get this person elected, and that bill passed,” and you’re like, “No, no, there’s no Santa Claus. It’s not it’s not happening.” It’s so corrupt. The whole system is completely rigged. I feel like George Carlin in his one of his last specials.
George Carlin 1:04:00 You know what they want? They want obedient workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, thr reduce benefits, the end of overtime, and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later, because they own this place. It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.
Graham Elwood 1:04:42 My favorite line:
George Carlin 1:04:44 Because the owners of this country know the truth. It’s called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.
Jennifer Briney 1:04:52 It’s true. Although, I will say this. Let’s end it on my Pollyanna, naive, hopeless….I know that it probably won’t happen, but I wouldn’t keep doing this job if I didn’t see a single avenue to non-violently changing things for the better. The reason I do this, and the reason I started focusing on the House [of Representatives] is, I do like the system that they set up for us governmentally. Not politically, that’s the part that’s been rigged. But the system allows us to fire everyone in the house every two years. They control the money, and we have the chance to clean house every two years. That’s an enormous amount of change that can happen if we were to ever find a way to mobilize that. I also did an episode, I think it was 2018, where I checked, and in all 435 districts in the United States, there is a path for an independent to get their name on the ballot for the House of Representatives. Now, the qualifications vary widely. Some states, you have to live there for 30 days. And that’s pretty much it. Other states, like Texas, it’s actually not that hard: 500 signatures. You can do that outside the grocery store in a couple of days. There’s a money barrier to certain ones. And then Georgia won’t even tell you the qualifications. That was the hardest one by far. I kept calling the Secretary of State’s office and they just wouldn’t tell me what I had to do. So Georgia is f***ed a lot of levels. But for most of us, there’s not that hard a path to getting on the ballot for the House that we can do without participating in either of these parties. And just knowing that ia the case gives me enough hope, not necessarily that we can change the house all at once, but I do have weird dreams of myself and a couple of friends, smart comedians like yourself, maybe that can weasel our way into the House and do what we’re doing right now, but on the floor. Because it’s really easy to get time on the floor and it’s wasted on like Louie Gohmert every day. He does this like an hour a day. So instead of just surrendering all that international airtime to Louie Gohmert, we could tell people what’s in the bills, we could have actual debates, and we could take over the House because it’s empty all the time. It wouldn’t even be that hard. If there’s just six of us that run on “we will read the bills, tell you what’s in them, and be outsiders that tell you what’s going on from the inside,” I honestly think that can change things, especially with if we can weasel some comedians in there that could make this must see TV. So that is my weird dream for how a small group of us can make a difference.
Graham Elwood 1:07:38 I would gladly run as an independent and do that. Here’s the thing I will say despite my comedic cynicism. One, we’ve had over 200 Starbucks get unionized, all because these young people who primarily work at Starbucks — it’s not people in their 40s working at Starbucks, it’s people in their 20s — just went on their phones and they found out how to unionize and they have been doing that. That gives me a lot of hope. Also, I’m in Berlin. The last time I was in Berlin was 1976. When I was a small child, my dad had a research scholarship, he was a college professor. He had a PhD in German theater history. We lived in Munich and we came to Berlin, East Germany at the time. One of my most vivid memories as a child is seeing the Berlin Wall, and the East German guard with a machine gun, and the photos of all of the dead people that had been shot trying to cross the wall. I grew up in the 70s and 80s under the threat of the Soviet Union. Now we’re almost in World War III again, but that’s a separate issue, with what America is trying to do with Russia. But I would have told you that the Berlin Wall was never going to come down if you were to ask my 12 or 15 year old self in the 80s. The Berlin Wall came down. I was just at Checkpoint Charlie museum in East Berlin, and it brought tears to my eyes. It was a profound experience for me. So I believe anything can happen. I believe that peaceful nonviolent resistance can happen. They didn’t blow up the Berlin wall with tanks. They didn’t bring it down with bombs. The people just had had enough. There’s a lot of reasons, that could be a whole separate episode, but that wall came down. And so I believe that America — while it’s on the brink of a civil war, it’s on the brink of a complete collapse like most empires that have gotten to top heavy with greedy, rich people — but change could happen because change is happening in very unique ways that I’m surprised by everyday, so I share your sliver of optimism.
Graham Elwood 1:09:45 I’ll take a sliver
Graham Elwood 1:09:48 You and I on the floor of Congress or the Senate, knocking these clowns out, man, I’d be down with that so hard Jen, I’d be so down with that. That would be so awesome.
Jennifer Briney 1:09:58 Doesn’t that sounds so fun? Just for selfish reasons, it sounds so fun.
Graham Elwood 1:10:06 It’d be tough to live in DC because I can’t surf that much, but I would still do it.
Jennifer Briney 1:10:12 Well, here’s the good news. They’re rarely in DC. They have a cushiest schedule of all time. They get three weeks off for the Fourth of July, they get August off, Thanksgiving is a month long. You’ll surf plenty, don’t worry about. Actually, I heard that the 2nd District of Hawaii, so outer islands, I heard that person never comes to DC, because they’ve had this COVID voting rule, so he’s just like, “No, I’m just not leaving the island.” So he’s like barely ever here. So you can also go that route, if you want.
Graham Elwood 1:10:49 That’s cool. That’s cool. All right. I’ll take all of this under consideration.
Jennifer Briney 1:10:54 As you should, I like it. Okay. So why don’t you tell people one more time where they can find you online and in person, and then we’ll go have fun in my patreon for a few minutes.
Graham Elwood 1:11:01 Yes. Go to grahamelwood.com. You can follow my shows Political Vigilante and Government Secrets. You can follow me on social media and sign up for my newsletter. Then all my tour dates are there: October 12 in London, October 18 in New York City, October 20 in Madison, October 21 in Detroit, and October 22 in Cincinnati. I’m taping my first ever comedy special in Chicago on October 26. All those tour dates, my patreon, all of it, just go to grahamelwood.com
Jennifer Briney 1:11:29 Where’s the special going to air? Do you know yet?
Graham Elwood 1:11:31 I’m shooting it myself and I’m shopping it around. There’s a little bit of interest in potentially Netflix or HBO, and some other places. I don’t see anybody talking about politics the way I am on stage, we’ll see. I’m fired up for it. And I’ve been touring around trying it out. And people are really loving it. Just regular Americans who are center right, center left are like, “Yeah, the whole thing is broken.” Because I make fun of both sides. And when you make fun of both sides, no one can get that offended that you made fun of their guy.
Jennifer Briney 1:12:03 It’s true. It’s a very smart strategy. Well, I’ll be the first person to buy it, so make sure you let me know. It’s very exciting. Thanks so much for joining me today.
Graham Elwood 1:12:13 You got it.
Jennifer Briney 1:12:14 Isn’t Graham the best? I just love smart people who are also funny. Those are just the best humans. And I put Graham in that category. If you want to continue hearing from Graham, as you heard, he is all over the internet and touring literally all over the world. And so you can find everything about him on Grahamelwood.com and you can also find links to all of his stuff in this episode’s show notes on congressionaldish.com. Now, before I wrap up the episode, I do want to let you know who you heard from, because we did create a few fun montages for you there and I wasn’t able to introduce the speakers in real time since I did not have sound clips on deck. So first up, when you heard from the Republicans — they were all Republicans — and their reason for not voting for the Continuing Resolution, the four people you heard from were Kay Granger of Texas, Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Bob Good of Virginia, and Guy Reschenthaler from Pennsylvania. He was the one that was saying all that nonsense about fentanyl, and Walmart, and trucks and hybrids — just word vomit. He was the one that word vomited all over the house floor. We also had another montage in there. I was really grateful to Graham for letting us know about the 1998 debate on NATO expansion because I had never actually read or watched that debate before. And so I played you some clips from Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, and Senator Daniel Moynahan of New York. None of them are still in the Senate anymore, but when reading that 1998 Congressional Record, it was fascinating to me to read that debate now, considering how close we are to nuclear war with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said in no uncertain terms that he invaded Ukraine, partially, because he’s pissed that NATO has expanded right up to Russia’s border, and Ukraine becoming militarily interoperable with NATO was a red line that he wouldn’t accept. What was fascinating to me about reading that debate in 1998, is that there was a certain Senator back then who was the leader of the side of the debate arguing forcefully — like yelling kind of forcefully — for NATO expansion. See if you recognize this voice.
then-Senator Joe Biden 1:14:53 The truth is that, notwithstanding the knowledge in the part of Russia that we’re going to expand, they continue to destroy their nuclear weapons under the Nunn-Lugar Agreement; they endorsed and they have ratified the CWC agreement; they’ve committed to take up the START 2 agreement. Nothing we have done relative to expansion has any negative impact on the continued operation of cooperation between the United States and Russia to deal with the threat of nuclear warfare.
Jennifer Briney 1:15:28 10 years later, that man, Joe Biden, who was dead wrong in his predictions about Russia’s reaction to his policies, was promoted to vice president. While Vice President, he helped orchestrate a coup in Ukraine, and facilitated the creation of the Ukrainian military that became interoperable with NATO. Then six years later, we promoted him again to President of the United States. And now we find ourselves at the brink of a nuclear war with Russia over the country he personally helped to overthrow in 2014. Joe Biden has been openly wrong about Russia since before I had my driver’s license. He has been personally and passionately at the center of our country’s constantly deteriorating relationship with Russia. And now he’s the person who’s supposed to negotiate us away from nuclear war. That clip doesn’t inspire confidence, does it? And I’m sorry if sharing that is scary, but this is scary. I guess I’m just selfish and I don’t want to have that clip rolling around in my head with no one to share the scary with, but Joe Biden and his administration’s refusal to push for negotiations, that’s scary. It scares me. And I do feel like we Americans may need to start pushing for our Congress, the co-equal branch of government, we might need to push for Congress, especially the Democrats in Congress, to rein Joe Biden and his “our bombs are bigger than your bombs” rhetoric in before it gets us all killed. Because his judgment on Russia is clearly not something we can trust. And I didn’t know that until listening to this clip, I didn’t realize how emphatically he has believed in expanding NATO, and how emphatically he has believed that the Russians would have no problem with it, for decades. And he’s in charge so….sh**.
Jennifer Briney 1:17:35 On that happy note, we’d like to thank our new Executive Producer, D. Leonard. For those of you who are not in the know, Executive producers are people that have contributed enough to Congressional Dish to have their name on an episode of their choice, basically lending their vouch to that episode and saying that they were proud enough of this episode to have paid for a significant portion of its production costs. And so D. Leonard sent in a note along with his checks, and here’s what he said to myself, my sister and the rest of the community. He said, “Hi, Jen and Lauren. I tried to send my value model payment of $100 every six months at the beginning and midway through the year, sorry, this check was received so late. This payment will put me over the $535 producer threshold. I would like my name on your most recent episode, CD257: The PACT Act – Health Care for Poisoned Veterans. I first learned of the burn pits in 2017 after Peter B’s interview with former Marine Joe Hickman and his book of the same name. I’m a little surprised you didn’t mention Hickman during the episode. Peter reposted the interview recently.” Peter B, by the way, is Peter B. Collins, who before he retired, I was actually a somewhat regular contributor on his show. There is a link that D. Leonard has provided for us here and I will put that in the show notes for you. But back to his note, he said “another important piece of information that Hickman reveals is that some of the burn pits in Iraq were on the ground/sand and contaminated by chemical weapons from the first Gulf War when Saddam Hussein’s storage bunkers were blown up by the US military. He contends that exposures may have included such toxins as nerve agents released from the heat of the fires. As a side note, I attended the 2018 Democratic Convention. During an extended break, I was able to speak with Shelly Pingree, a longtime US House representative for Maine’s first district. I talked to her about the situation with the burn pits, Hickman’s book, and his description of exposures and the health effects including cancers among numerous military personnel, many only in their 20s. Her reaction was as though she had not heard of the burn pits, and at the time, that over 100,000 military personnel were on the VA registry. Thank you for your continued good work. Sincerely, de Leonard.” Well, thank you for sponsoring that show. I think that’s one of the most important episodes I’ve ever done and this is actually the first time that I’ve ever heard of Joe Hickman. Even though I’ve been on Peter B. Collins’s show, I don’t have time to listen to a lot of other shows. And so I definitely missed that one. And as for the research for that episode, I mean, there, there were so many rabbit holes I could go down, just so many different poisonings, so many different stories, and so I couldn’t catch them all. So thank you for letting us know about Joe Hickman’s work, we will provide the link to the community. As for members of Congress, here’s the thing about members of Congress and where I do have some empathy for them. Because members of Congress can only be on just a couple of committees, simply because there’s no time to go to every committee meeting to be on 15 different committees. So Shelly Pingree might not have been on one of the committees where burn pits were discussed. And as I’ve discussed on the show, many times, there can be 20 hearings in one day between the House and the Senate. I guess, technically, it’s possible to watch every hearing, if you don’t have any nights and weekends, and you sleep very little. To say that it’s impossible to watch every hearing isn’t technically true, but it’s not practical. It’s not realistic. And so if she’s not, or anybody is not on one of the committees that deals with veterans, or with military affairs, it really is possible that they’re not aware of these issues. This is why communicating to our own representatives and our own senators and their staff is really important, because they’re all in their own little bubbles. And so if something is important to you, just because it’s been discussed in Congress in general, doesn’t mean that your members of Congress were in those conversations. And so by calling your member of Congress and writing the emails, you know for sure that you’ve at least reached one staffer in their office and said, “Hey, this is an issue that I think you need to know about. And it’s important to me.” So we do have a role here to play when it comes to educating our own lawmakers. Also, just so you know, while we’re on the topic of executive producers, we have a list of the episodes that have the most executive producers. And we actually have a pretty long list now of episodes that are tied for first place, because they all have two executive producers. And so for those of you who like to game the system, if you have an episode that you want to be the standalone number one, if you pick from this list, that’s how it’s going to happen. Because we have a bunch of episodes with one executive producer. We have nine episodes with two. So if any of these episodes are your favorite for upcoming executive producers, you could put them in the number one spot by putting a credit on one of these. And so in the order of the oldest episode to the newest, these are all the ones with two executive producers. We have the World Trade Organization episode that was episode number 102, which was really where I first had my eyes open to the World Trade Organization and the whole global economic system. It all happened because Congress passed a bill that repealed country of origin labels on some of our meat. And I just said like, there’s no Americans that I’ve ever met that are like, please, please take the labels off of our food. We don’t want to know where our food is coming from. And I’m like, why the fuck would they do this? This is not something that American people are asking for. I don’t know who would ask for this. And it turns out that they did it because of World Trade Organization rules. And that just led me down the Mother of All rabbit holes in my 102nd episode where I really for the first time examined the world trade system. So yeah, that one has two executive producers. I also did episode number 156: Sanctions: Russia, North Korea and Iran. A lot of those sanctions, in fact, probably all of them, are still in effect, even though it’s been many years. So that’s a fascinating episode as well. I’m surprised that this one is not the number one, actually, I’m surprised that it only has two executive producers. But the National Endowment for Democracy episode is episode number 186. I consider that one of the most mind blowing episodes I’ve ever done, because this is a super shady organization that is funded by our government. But it looks like it’s not a part of our government. But members of Congress are on the board. It funnels our tax money to institutions that are quite literally run by Democrats and Republicans. All of this is meant to seem like it’s separate for the government, but it’s not. It’s so shady. It’s funded by the State Department. So if you’ve never heard of the National Endowment for Democracy, that’s a very popular episode, as is the Nuclear Waste Storage episode. I feel like we constantly get into these conversations about nuclear energy. But there is a giant problem with nuclear energy, which is that we still don’t know what the hell to do with the nuclear waste. And that is a problem that has not been solved. So even if you’re not too worried about the reactors melting down, this is a problem that needs to be solved. And so that episode goes into the details with congressional testimony from experts. And yeah, that’s a good episode, if you want to wade into the nuclear energy debate. There’s also episode 218: Minerals Are the New Oil. This is one that talks about rare earth minerals, and specifically how China has taken control really, of most of the minerals in the world at this point, just based on the deals that they’re making with all these different countries. So we really are looking at a shift in global economic policy, because these rare earth minerals are needed for things like batteries for electric cars, and batteries for wind and solar storage. These rare earth minerals are now skyrocketing in value. And it’s going to become very important, who controls these minerals for supply chain reasons. So we’ve talked a lot about supply chains lately in this country. And that is a pre-pandemic episode that talks about a very critical supply chain. And one that I don’t think we talk about nearly enough. So I love that the episode has two executive producers. There’s also the long COVID episode, this was pretty early during COVID. It was episode 233, when there was congressional testimony about people that were having symptoms at this point. I think we know more now about lung COVID than we did then obviously, because it’s been like two years. But if you want to hear what was told right away pretty early in COVID, it’s kind of fascinating to go back and listen to that. There’s also episode 237. This was pretty recent. This was at the beginning of this Congress when the Democrats took control. This episode was called Hunting Domestic Terrorists. And that’s when I looked at the bills that the Democrats were putting forward after January 6, and I have some concerns about these bills and the way they expand surveillance, in particular against Americans. Now, one of the things that I am happy to see so far is we’re almost at the end of the Congress, and none of those bills have become law. But we still have our Dingleberry fest scheduled for December 16. So the story of this Congress is not written yet. And so I will be keeping an eye out for those bills. But luckily, that episode, as of right now, has diminished a bit in its importance based on the fact that those bills haven’t gone anywhere. We also had the next episode, 238: Losing Afghanistan, which is really the story of the Afghanistan war. And then finally, we have two executive producers on Episode 250, which was about Congress saving the post office. I was actually listening to a podcast recently and the hosts were talking about how the post office was sabotaged in 2006, because of the retirement provisions that essentially required the post office to pre-fund their workers’ retirement funds for like 70 years in advance. It was a crazy law. I talk all about it in Congress Saves the Postal Service. A lot of people still think that is in effect, but the bill that I talked about in episode 250 solves a lot of the Postal Service’s problems. What I love about that episode is that it’s an example of the government fixing something that it broke, and I don’t think the word has really gotten out on that one yet. But yeah, those are, according to our executive producers, the most popular episodes of Congressional Dish. So if you’re new to the show, go check out those. If you want to be an Executive Producer and bump one of those up to the most popular episodes of Congressional Dish, that is the list of the ones that are primed for that number one position. Okay, so it’s gonna be a minute before you hear from me again on a public episode of Congressional Dish, because my next assignment is a doozy. I am going to read the Inflation Reduction Act, which is the zombie carcass of Build Back Better. It’s essentially what the Democrats were able to accomplish with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema being a pain in the ass. It’s a very long bill. This one I believe was something like seven or 800 pages. I will be reading that and I will summarize what I find for you in episode 261. And then, during that episode, I should have more information for you about the Election Day plans because Inflation And Reduction Act is going to be the last episode before the election and I’m almost certain at this point that we’re going to have a live stream, a We’re Not Wrong live stream, as the results are coming in. I know for sure, I’ll be with Justin Robert Young and Andrew Heaton in person in Austin on that day. So we know we’re going to be together, we just don’t know what exactly we’re doing. But I know for sure that it’s going to be fun. And for me, in particular, it’s going to be educational, because Justin truly does love politics, like he lives for the horse races. I thought at first before we became real friends that maybe he was just doing this for a job and it was kind of an act. But no, this man really does get glee from paying attention to these races. So this is like his Super Bowl day. This is when the results come in. And I’m going to be learning a lot about who will be staffing our new Congress from him in real time. And we will do it publicly and possibly in a way that you guys can participate in because I know that Justin’s good with tech and stuff so….Well, Joe Briney just walked in the door, which means I’m gonna wrap this up. But yeah, thanks for listening. Thanks again to Graham and thanks to everyone who pays for the show. Thank you, Clare for hunting down all these sound clips, you did a great job with those. And thank you Mike for editing all of this together. Okay, I am done. I’ll talk to you in a few weeks. Bye.
David Ippolito 1:31:32 [outro music] Tired of Being Lied To