Monday, January 29, 2007

How responsive is Gus??? Not so much....

From Dr. Alvin Wolfe:

I wrote (fax and email) to Gus Bilirakis on January 17 about Insurance Problems in Florida. I have received no response from him as of January 29.
Below is my letter:

January 17, 2007

The Honorable Gus M. Bilirakis
1630 Longworth Washington, D.C. 20515
Tel. (202) 225-5755 Fax (202)225-4085

Dear Congressman Bilirakis:
Although you are now in Washington, I am sure that you have not forgotten Florida's homeowners' insurance problems. They have become even more critical following the legislature's actions of last spring.

My analysis of this complex situation has led me to the conclusion that our problems cannot be resolved at the state level. Having been elected to represent us at the federal level, you are now in an even better position to help Florida. Only Congress can repeal the anti-trust exemption that was given to the insurance industry, years ago, in the mistaken belief that unfettered communication among the companies would somehow be helpful to consumers.

Much, probably most, of the public discussion begins from a premise that market forces should operate in the insurance industry as they do in so many other parts of our economic life. A Tampa Tribune editorial entitled "Market Forces Blown Away By Sky-High Insurance Premiums"(Jan 14, 2007) is typical in expressing that belief.

Actually, market forces produce an optimal or fair price only where buyers and sellers all have equivalent information. That balance is almost never achieved in any market, and it certainly does not exist in the insurance market.

Even the average local insurance company knows much more about risks, etc., than the average homeowner. The re-insurers, the parent companies at the national level and international levels, have a lot more information than anybody else has. Even the states, who are expected in our system to "regulate" the industry, cannot get access to all the information that those collaborating insurance firms have.

Because the federal McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 exempted the insurance industry from anti-trust regulation, the major firms that handle reinsurance can and do collude on risk assessment and rate-setting in ways that would be illegal in any other industry.

That is why, as the Los Angeles Times reported, "The companies that provide Americans with their homeowners and auto insurance made a record $44.8-billion profit last year even after accounting for the claims of policyholders wiped out by Hurricane Katrina and the other big storms of 2005, according to the firms' filings with state regulators(Los Angeles Times, 4/5/06).

A 2006 report of the insurance industry financial situation states, "Over the past seven years, 1999 through 2005, the insurance industry has seen its profits nearly double, while adding almost $100 million to its surplus reserves. According to data provided by the Insurance Information Institute, industry profits increased from $22.2 billion in 1999 to $43 billion in 2005. The data also indicates that the insurance industry has seen its surpluses grow by a third – from $336.30 billion in 1999 to $427.1 billion in 2005" (p.11, in Pattern of Greed: How Insurance Companies put Profits over Policyholders, available at

Instead of trying to correct the natural imbalance in the insurance market to protect consumers and local governments, the United States government years ago came down on the side of the insurance companies. Our state legislators cannot fix that, but you, as our representatives in congress ought to at least make a start by repealing the unique exemption of the insurance industry from antitrust laws.

Alvin W Wolfe, Ph.D.
Lutz, FL

Monday, January 22, 2007

Scientology - Here Comes Gus

Travolta, Gus and Greco

Before taping an interview for Sunday's "Political Connections" on Bay News 9 this morning, former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco shared with us that he got to sit with John Travolta and Kelly Preston at the big Scientology shindig the other night in Clearwater. Among the numerous politicos there was U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Will Gus "Stay the Course"??

In a recent St. Petersburg Times article (January 14, 2007-Robin Stein) the elder "B" reflects on his career & comments on his replacement in Congress, his son. Will Gus the Lesser follow in his father's footsteps, when it comes to taking junket trips on the taxpayer dime? The elder statesman says, "let's not get into all that", when asked about his travel records (2005 story), which included 8 trips to 'Sin City' since 1997 (all paid for by private organizations). Thankfully, the new Democratic-led House passed ethics & lobbyist reform last week!
More noteworthy in the article, the recently-retired Congressman says that Gus "tends not to take criticism particularly well." I'm sorry Gus, but, get ready!!
By the way, his real (Greek) name is Costa.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act

H R 6 YEA-AND-NAY 18-Jan-2007 6:09 PM
QUESTION: On Passage
BILL TITLE: Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act

Bilirakis - NO

And, that's it, right?? They did it.

College Student Relief Act

H R 5 YEA-AND-NAY 17-Jan-2007 5:35 PM
QUESTION: On Passage
BILL TITLE: College Student Relief Act

Bilirakis - Yes

Up today is Energy:

HR6 -
To reduce our Nation's dependency on foreign oil by investing in clean, renewable, and alternative energy resources, promoting new emerging energy technologies, developing greater efficiency, and creating a Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve to invest in alternative energy, and for other purposes.

1/18/07 - Update on HR6 - Bilirakis Votes No on Bill Consideration and Debate

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Gus Bilirakis sponsors a bill!

Junior sponsored his very own bill! Maybe this was meant to make up to the veterans for the stem cell vote:

We'll have to wait for the specifics.

Thanks to gatordem for the catch.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Iraq refresher course for Gus...

So this was yesterday...
Newly-elected Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Tarpon Springs, who succeeded his father,Michael, said he wasn't yet convinced that Bush is on the right track. He planned to fly back to Florida on Friday night "with a stack of information,"talk to military experts and constituents before making up his mind.

Why not include a visit to the trauma ward at Haley VA so you can see firsthand what a traumatic brain injury looks like (you know the kind of injury your beloved stem cells might someday cure)?

Now, below is every recorded statement by Gus Bilirakis on Iraq (don't worry this won't take long because his campaign, I must say, did a fabulous job of hiding him all year from the public)...

This was October 2005...
Bilirakis said of the war in Iraq, “We’re on the right track, and we’re doing the right thing.” (St. Petersburg Times, 10/26/05)

Then there was September 2006...
Bilirakis said, “Talking to soldiers, things are better than they were before. I think they needed to make some adjustments and the recent adjust was a good adjustment – bringing more troops to Baghdad because that’s where they’re needed.” (St. Petersburg Times, 9/28/06)

On to October 2006...
Bilirakis “finds little fault with the handling of the war in Iraq.” (St.Petersburg Times, 10/16/06)

Then the week before the election at THE ONLY DEBATE...
“Well I feel that they voted three times for democracy and we need to put pressure on the Iraqi government, that’s what I would do, put pressures and set timetables for the Iraqi government to secure their country…” (WEDU Debate,02:17, 10/28/06)

Thirty seconds after he said he supported timetables for the Iraqi government, Bilirakis said, “I’m not in favor of a timetable, I don’t want our enemies knowing what we’re doing.” (WEDU Debate, 02:47, 10/28/06)

That's it - all done... the definitive record of Gus Bilirakis on the Iraq war...

But Gus, that's not what you said during the campaign!

During the campaign last fall, I distinctly remember Gus Bilirakis saying that he would listen to the generals to determine what to do in Iraq. I guess he's planning to cherry-pick his generals just like Bushie:

Newly-elected Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Tarpon Springs, who succeeded his father, Michael, said he wasn't yet convinced that Bush is on the right track. He planned to fly back to Florida on Friday night "with a stack of information," talk to military experts and constituents before making up his mind.

Gus, do you read the papers? The generals told Bush no to more troops, so he went out and scrounged up new generals that would tell him what he wanted to hear. Is that what you're doing?

Friday, January 12, 2007

More VoteNoGus and Stem Cell Research

Gus tops the list of House Republicans Playing with Fire over at Swing State Project. According to James L:

many House Republicans representing tight districts are sticking to their guns
on opposing such legislation in defiance of public opinion, common sense and
empathy. I've taken the liberty of compiling all of the worst culprits--those
representing districts with a PVI of less than R+5.0. With Democrats controlling
the legislation in the House, votes like these will be very useful in
determining which Republicans are the most badly out of step with their

So who tops this list of "all the worst culprits?" None other than our very own:

Bilirakis FL-09 R+4.3

And here is the rest of the list!

Diaz-Balart, M.

And He Votes NO on Prescription Drug Price Negotiation

H R 4 RECORDED VOTE 12-Jan-2007 2:22 PM
QUESTION: On Passage
BILL TITLE: Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act

Bilirakis: NO

Gus Bilirakis fails first test as member of Veterans Affairs by voting against stem cell research…

By accepting a seat on the Veterans Affairs Committee, Gus Bilirakis not only represents the 9th Congressional District in Florida, but also every veteran – including those returning from combat in Iraq.

And he has failed veterans already… by voting against Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR).

He has failed Marines like Cpl. Samuel Reyes Jr.:
Sam Reyes remembers nothing of the suicide bomb attack on a highway outside Fallujah that nearly killed him on the morning of Sept. 6, 2004. Perhaps it's just as well. When medics arrived at the site of the attack, which left 12 Marines dead, they found Reyes sprawled on the road in desperate condition: his arms, back and head were pierced by shrapnel; his left arm was ripped open to the muscle; his stomach and spleen had been sliced; his ribs were broken, his face was badly burned and his tongue had been cut in half.

In the helicopter on the way to a military hospital in Baghdad, the medical team had to defibrillate his heart to keep him alive. Over the next 18 months, during an agonizing recovery, the young Marine gunner underwent several operations and lost 45 pounds. Although his physical wounds have largely healed—save for scattered scars across his forehead and his sense of taste, which has yet to return—the bomb blast left Reyes, now 21, with a less visible, but devastating injury to his brain. Like many Iraq vets who survive the concussive force of an improvised explosive device, or IED, Reyes is now sometimes unable to recognize his friends or family, to recall what he just read or heard, to concentrate or to read faster than the average second-grader…

Like more than 1,700 military personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, Marine Cpl. Samuel Reyes Jr. is suffering from traumatic brain injury, known in military jargon as TBI, which leaves survivors unable to perform the most basic cognitive functions… (, Iraq: A Marine’s Experience of Brain Injury, 03/17/2006)

Can ESCR help young Marines like Cpl. Sam Reyes?
… many scientists are hopeful that with enough research, we will be able to harness the abilities of embryonic stem cells to form all of the cell types in the body, so that even whole limbs might be regenerated just as they are in a salamander, and neurons could be replaced and reconnected with each other and the organs they control…

... Drs. Hans Keirstead and Oswald Steward, of the University of California at Irvine, have now shown that some of this secondary damage in the spinal cord can be prevented in animal models by treatment with specialized cells derived from human embryonic stem cells...

... Unfortunately, many of our best biologists, who could be working to make such therapies available, are hampered by Bush administration policies that do not allow federal funds to be used to generate new embryonic stem-cell lines or to work on any lines that have been generated since President Bush established the restrictions, based, as we now know, on his religious beliefs, in August 2001…

… Unfortunately, unless the administration comes to its senses, those treatments may never be available to the maimed veterans in VA hospitals. (US Veteran Brain Injury News: Will stem-cell research help U.S. wounded? by Peter J. Bryant)

Make no mistake about it: voting against ESCR is a vote against combat veterans.

So why did Gus Bilirakis vote against Sam Reyes and thousands of other seriously wounded Iraq combat veterans with brain injuries (not to mention thousands of others suffering from Alzheimer's, MS and other neurological diseases)?

Maybe he is one side of Bush (il)logic… which has been succinctly summarized on the Daily Kos:
Remember, these blastocysts come from fertility clinics. Many thousands are discarded each year. Blaming ESCR for destroying them makes less sense than blaming a kid who uses scrap wood for clear-cutting a forest.

Let's recap the utter absurdity of remaining conservative opposition to Embryonic Stem Cell Research. You're holding a cryogenic container with a blastocyst inside. It's a ball of cells (HT: PoliticAl2008) roughly the size of the period at the end of this sentence. You have a choice of putting it in an incinerator or placing it in a petri dish and using it for research. George Bush and his shrinking base somehow reason, using unknown, convoluted pseudo-logic, that destruction by fire is saving it while the petri dish represents destroying it.

Is that it Gus? You want to incinerate stem cells in order to save them? Explain that logic?

Fortunately 216 Democrats and 37 Republicans voted for ESCR (illegitimate Congressman Vern Buchanan and Adam Putnam were the only other two anti-veteran votes from the Tampa area).

Hopefully this Congress will over-ride the anticipated veto by President Bush… so that veterans like Sam Reyes have some hope for the future.

Meanwhile anti-vet morons like Bilirakis, Buchanan and Putnam need to be held accountable.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Yes on Minimum Wage - No on Stem Cell

H R 2 RECORDED VOTE 10-Jan-2007 5:10 PM
QUESTION: On Passage
BILL TITLE: Fair Minimum Wage Act

Bilirakis - Yes

H R 3 RECORDED VOTE 11-Jan-2007 3:11 PM
QUESTION: On Passage
BILL TITLE: Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act

Bilirakis - No

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dad Gives Gus First Assignment - Combat Military Medically Retired Veterans Act

Bill would expand concurrent receipt
By Rick Maze Staff writer

Lawmakers wasted no time in introducing legislation to expand the so-called concurrent receipt payments of full disability and retired pay to veterans eligible for both payments.

One of the chief sponsors is a freshman representative, Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., whose father, Michael, had spent decades working on concurrent receipt legislation. Michael Bilirakis retired after 24 years in Congress, having succeeded in breaking the federal government's long-standing opposition to paying full military retired pay and veterans' disability compensation for the same period of service. His son, Gus, elected in November to fill his father's seat, introduced a bill Jan. 5 that would eliminate a phase-in period for concurrent receipt payments for veterans with noncombat disabilities.

Under current law, those with disabilities rated at 50 percent or more and whose injuries are not the result of combat or combat training won't receive full payments until Dec. 31, 2013. Additionally, current law continues to require a dollar-for-dollar offset in retired pay for anyone receiving veterans' disability compensation who has a service-connected, but noncombat, disability of less than 50 percent, or for those who didn't finish 20 years of service.

HR 303, called the Retired Pay Restoration Act, would make anyone who retired from the military, or was separated because of a service-connected disability, eligible to receive both disability compensation and full retired pay.

HR 243, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Ill., would allow people who retired from the military for combat-related disabilities and did not complete 20 years of service to receive both retired and disability pay. This would help those who received disability retirement from the military or who were retired under the early retirement plan used during the military drawdown of the 1990s.

"Once forced out of the service, many are unable to find gainful employment due to their injuries, while at the same time being rated less than their actual disability rate by the Department of Veterans Affairs," Weller said. "They have little to fall back on and deserve better for their sacrifice.

"Now, more than any time in recent history, it is important to remember that our nation has remained strong because of those who have fought and died for our country," said Weller, who sponsored similar legislation last year.

His bill, which he called the Combat Military Medically Retired Veterans Act, has a $496 million price tag over 10 years, which is part of the reason it has not passed. Weller, however, said the cost is "a small price to pay for those who have sacrificed so much."

Committee Assignments - Hot Off The Press!

Weapons of Mass Discussion has posted the Republican House committee assignments today. Our very own Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (sounds pretty formal, doesn't it?) received the following (wait for it) assignments:

Homeland Security
Veterans Affairs
Yep, our boy Congressman Gus, who couldn't find the Port of Tampa with a road map is going to be on Homeland Security. I feel safer already. Actually, this one makes me damn glad the Dems are in control of Congress.

Come to think of it, I'm a veteran and I don't feel all that great about Gus (did he ever serve in the military?) on Veterans Affairs. Anyway, this is another good reason to be glad the Dems are in control. My, there's lots of those aren't there.

So, there you have them folks. You can keep an eye on these two committees at the Daily Kos Congressional Committee Project among other places.

So Happy Gus watching!

Gus Committee Assignment Update

Hello Friends!
FYI-having not heard anything on what House Committees Gus will serve on, I decided to get it from the horse's mouth (or ass in this case! ha ha) and called his new office in Palm Harbor last Friday, January 5th.
His staffer informed me that his assignments will not be determined until mid to late January. She did tell me his formal requests:
Financial Services
Homeland Security
International Affairs
Veterans Affairs
If anyone has learned anything new, please keep us informed!
Strati Aradas

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

My, oh, my!

From Becker:

Maybe being in the minority will encourage Gus Bilirakis to do the right thing.

Gus not a techie or Mama off the job?

Apparently our boy Gus Bilirakis isn't too keen on technology and the Internets. My friend Linda (who has Lupus) has been trying to contact him about stem cell legislation. Guess what--Gus doesn't have his email set up yet! Can't imagine why not. Is this too tough for Gussie's new staff? Or did Mama have to leave town before she could supervise? Guess we'll never know.

Please call Gus's offices to tell him how you feel about stem cell research. While you're at it, please tell him that you oppose troop escalation in the Bush/McCain/Lieberman war.

Here are the numbers:

Washington DC Office
1630 Longworth HOB
Washington DC 20515
ph: 202-225-5755
fx: 202-225-4085

Temple Terrace Office
10941 N. 56th Street
Temple Terrace, FL 33617
ph: 813-985-8541
fx: 813-985-0714

Palm Harbor Office
35111 U.S. Highway 19 North
Palm Harbor Professional Center
Suite 301
Palm Harbor, FL 34684
ph: 727-773-2871
fx: 727-784-6471

(Thanks, Linda)

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Credit where credit is due...

(Thanks to Madeline in comments for reminding me of this)

Gus Bilirakis voted for earmark reform! He joined all of the Democrats as well as neighboring Republican Representatives Bill Young and Ginny Brown-Waite in supporting the measure.

Adam "Opie" Putnam voted "no," along with the rest of the GOP leadership (sic).

Get those dialing fingers ready!

The House is set to vote on stem cell research this coming Thursday, January 11th. Please call your Rep (especially if it's Gus Bilirakis) and tell him/her how you expect them to vote. Remember, he/she works for you!

Great new site that will help track Gus Bilirakis

Just found this link at Daily Kos. It should be a big help in our efforts here at Gus Watch:

(It's a daily digest of House activities.)

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Gus Bilirakis' campaign donations

Just so we don't forget to track Gus Bilirakis' voting record in relation to campaign donations...Here is a page from OpenSecrets: