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Unusually Stupid Politicians: Washington's Weak in Review Paperback – October 9, 2007


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What If? by Randall Munroe
From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd, find hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask. Learn more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Villard (October 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812977513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812977516
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 4.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,705,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

Politicians are public servants. In other words, they serve the public. They do what the public wants them to do . . . which, if you look at the record, could mean that the public wants them to take lots of taxpayer money, take lots of vacations, and enact useless, dumb laws.

But isn’t that being cynical?

IT’S A TOUGH CONGRESSIONAL LIFE:

THE INCREDIBLY HARD WORKLOAD OF OUR

PUBLIC SERVANTS ON CAPITOL HILL

Senators and representatives do not have it easy. Sure, they get some perks and their salaries really aren’t that bad. But they work hard for the money—merely for the betterment of U.S. citizens like us.

We think it’s time to give credit to these hardworking public servants. After all, just look at the facts:

Fact #1: In 2006, congressmen were working nearly THREE DAYS a week! (Well, more like two, actually, but it was spread over three days . . . )

We’re tired just thinking about it, but, yes, it’s true. The congressional workweek began late Tuesday and lasted until Thursday afternoon. (Of course, the House was in recess for many weeks, but that’s not the point.) And this workweek was followed for the whole year—not counting the monthlong August recess, the two-week April recess, and the other weeks they get off in February, March, and June. . . .

Fact #2: And NOW, as of January 2007, they actually have to work (gasp) FIVE whole days a week! (Well, almost five whole days . . . )

House members now have to be in the Capitol each Monday by 6:30 p.m. and aren’t done with their workweek until Friday at about 2 p.m.

Can you imagine having to work Monday (well, late Monday) through Friday (well, mid-Friday)? And they got some of their holidays cut as well. For example, instead of a six-weekday Memorial Day holiday, they’ll only get Memorial Day off. (You know, like most Americans.)

It’s all due to the new Democrat-run House. The Democrats wanted to make sure work got done—and extending the workweek seemed to be the logical first choice. But some representatives think it represents something more insidious . . .

As Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA)—who used to fly home on Thursday and return to D.C. on Tuesday—astutely pointed out: “Keeping us up here eats away at families. Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families—that’s what this says.”

Fact #3: The above fact notwithstanding, the House started out the new longer workweek by cutting it one day short . . .

to watch a VITAL college football game!

The much-vaunted “longer workweek so we can get things done” plan got sidelined in the VERY FIRST WEEK.

Of course, all that was on the agenda was voting on raising the minimum wage and changes in homeland security legislation. This was clearly not as important as the big national college championship football game between Florida and Ohio State. So the new minority leader, Representative John Boehner (R-OH), asked for Monday off so members (including himself) could attend the game. One of the chief opponents of the prior Republican-led Congress’s three-day workweek, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), took to the floor to back up Boehner, explaining, “There is a very important event happening Monday night, particularly for those who live in Ohio and Florida.”

The House got Monday off. And Florida won.

Fact #4: Even before the grueling new five-day-week schedule, on September 22, 2006, the Senate actually had to work on a Friday . . . for 10 whole minutes!

The poor men and women usually never worked on Fridays, so imagine how difficult it must have been to have to go to work. And they had to stay there for 10 entire minutes. The mind boggles. It also boggles to realize what was going on while they decided to adjourn at 9:40 in the morning—little things like, um, a war in Iraq, a deficit that keeps growing, and gasoline prices going through the roof. But, hey, there was an election coming up and campaigning takes time, you know . . .

Presumably that’s also why on nine workdays, the House met for a teeny bit more than 10 minutes (11 minutes). And the Senate had three workdays that lasted less than one minute!

GREAT AMERICANS:

POLS DOING GREAT THINGS

Politicians do a lot more than grub money for themselves—they contribute to our American society. Here are some of the greatest recent contributions made by some of our greatest politicians, heros all. Let’s give our heartfelt thanks to these great Americans and their earthshaking achievements, which have truly made America a better place.

Thanks to the legal wizardry of Bush adviser

John Yoo . . .

. . . the president of the United States now has the legal power to torture children—and crush little boys’ testicles!

Yes, thank God, it’s true. A big squishy hug to John Yoo, formerly deputy assistant to the U.S. attorney general (and now a proud professor at the University of California at Berkeley, helping to train young minds). Because of his hard work, we now have official legal memos, including one notorious one of 2002, that give the president unlimited powers to torture captive suspects anyway he (or she) wants—and to go to war, for that matter, anywhere, anytime, and against anyone. Professor Yoo wants us to know that he’s not just talking about cracking the bones of a few grown-ups, either. This great American wants to make sure the president can, for example, crush the testicles of a terror suspect’s little children. Here the great American legal mind explains:

Q: “If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?”

Yoo: “No treaty.”

Q: “Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.”

Yoo: “I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that.”

As we can see, if the president thinks it’s okay to smash some testicles, it’s okay. Thank you, John Yoo, for giving our president the freedom to crush.

Thanks to child-friendly Mississippi governor

Haley Barbour . . .

. . . more middle-school kids can buy and smoke cigarettes!

People in favor of childhood smoking will applaud the efforts of Governor Haley Barbour, who won a long court battle to withdraw funding for Mississippi’s antismoking program. At last!

Some may accuse the governor of doing this as a favor to his longtime clients when he was a tobacco industry lobbyist (Barbour served as a lobbyist for tobacco clients from 1998 to 2002. His firm, Barbour, Griffin & Rogers, was paid a total of $3.8 million by the tobacco companies, according to reports obtained by the U.S. Senate Office of Records). We say that’s being cynical. The governor himself explained it was a matter of bureaucratic principle. He actually initially opposed the program for technical administrative reasons . . .

or so he said. He explained that it was funded by the courts and instead should be funded by the legislature; and more to the point, it needed legislative approval. Of course, once the legislature approved the program, the governor vetoed it anyway, but that’s just quibbling.

And so, a deep and heartfelt thank-you to a great American; especially from the tobacco sellers of America, and from all kids (and their parents!) who favor starting the smoking habit as soon as possible after grade school.

Thanks to the heroic efforts of Representative Richard W. Pombo . . .

. . . Americans may soon be free to kill any endangered species they want!

Anyone with an irresistible yen for machine-gunning a grizzly has got to love hardworking Representative Pombo (R-CA), who has been struggling to help America by abolishing the Endangered Species Act, which he says puts “rats and shellfish” ahead of people. (Pombo happens to be a rancher when he’s not legislating, but we’re sure this crusade has nothing to do with pesky endangered species on his land.)

Pombo’s proposed legislation phases out protection for all wildlife by 2015. Unfortunately, Pombo hasn’t succeeded yet in passing this into law, but he’s been trying hard. He almost made it in 2006. Meanwhile, our intrepid congressman has succeeded in eliminating habitat protection on 150 million acres of wilderness areas. He’s also lifted a 25-year moratorium on offshore oil drilling.

Thanks to the selfless efforts of Pombo, perhaps soon American oil drillers, corporate ranchers, and mining company presidents will rest easy, and all of us will have the freedom to gun down a walrus or a whooping crane whenever we feel like it.

Thanks to frugally minded Congressman

Jim Sensenbrenner . . .

. . . it’s now much harder for Americans in debt to declare bankruptcy —even for medical reasons or due to Hurricane Katrina!

You’re up to your ears in debt due to a heart condition or a home- destroying hurricane? Buck up and get a job!

Yes, fellow Americans, we’re fortunate that Congressman Sensenbrenner (R-WI) believes in the old-fashioned American virtues of frugality and hard work, virtues that made America great. The good congressman, who happens to be a multimillionaire by inheritance (his great- grandfather invented the Kotex sanitary napkin) and who also happens to truly utilize and enjoy his perks of office (he was recently named a top freebie junketeer in Congress), has won approval for a bill that makes it much harder for Americans in debt to declare bankruptcy. This bill was roundly denounced by consumer groups but strongly backed by credit card giants, who even in a record year of profits wanted to reduce potential losses. Our stalwart “no exceptions” congr...

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Angela C. Vitale on December 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
The authors really tried to be bipartisan and came up with a TON of dirty laundry from pols on both sides of the fence. The book is hilarious but it will make you more than a little mad at the fact that we pay these people to be in power. You need to read it to believe it. Very funny, indeed!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Harris on December 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is thought provoking,evenhanded book that not only is EXTREMELY FUNNY but also tells you what goes with the people that are running this country. Kind of scary! Hope they write a sequel and soon.
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