I looked in the mirror, and it was a somewhat absurd charicature of a man who packed hastily: an oversized jacket, a suit hanging in a suit bag from a strap hooked on my backpack, my backpack filled with legal papers. I was bringing a few outlines to study from, having 2 more finals at CUNY School of Law coming up in about a week. I looked back at a giant stack of law school books, a sizable mess of clothing that had accumulated during finals week around the couch, a full litter box and giant stack of pots and pans in the sink, all encouraging me out the door. Before long, I was on a Fung Wa bus, half full of some of the most uniquely-odored individuals that one of most diverse city in the world, Manhattan, has to offer; I was headed to Washington D.C. to help my friend, Caesar, lobby for the Dream Act.
Caesar told me that he was undocumented around a year ago. Honestly, he did it during finals week, so I barely noticed, and didn't really much care as long as ICE didn't bust him. We were paired up for a legal clinic and were working on getting a certificate of incorporation for a client, when he invited me out to Washington to help out with a little project. Little did I know that he'd been spending the better part of the semester doing interviews with national news stations, networking and organizing with immigration groups in Washington D.C. When I asked another student what was up with Caesar's schedule, he said that there'd be a few rumors, that he was either sick and keeping it on the down low, or busy with a job, or involved in a dramatic gay love triangle with a Senator (that last one being added to the rumor mill by myself). Caesar had told me about the Dream Act before: the Dream Act which was going before Congress would grant a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants ("illegal aliens", if you want to sound like a dick about it) if they are 29 or younger at the date of enactment, came to the US as children (15 or younger), graduated from a U.S. High School or received a GED from a US institution and be long term residents in the country for at least five years. Under S. 3992, the incarnation of the Dream Act that was in front of Congress during the Lame Duck 2010 session, they would also need to be a person of "good moral character" (typically interpreted as not having been arrested for anything too serious), undergo background and security checks, submit biometric information (such as fingerprints) and not be likely to become a public charge, either be in college or 2 years into military service, along with several other requirements: it wasn't simple amnesty, and in the words of a lovable, elderly redneck sheriff that reeked of red state Caesar and I would meet in Arizona who admitted voting for Joe Arpaio. "Well, if them illegals ain't hurtin' nobody and they're workin' hard, I don't see any reason why they can't stay." With humble language, I do believe that the good, retired lawman unwittingly found his finger upon the pulse of the nation; now it was just a matter of whether Congress would wizen up, or continue to lag behind contemporary notions of right and wrong felt at both ends of the political spectrum.
After unloading from the bus, checking into a hostel, realizing my phone was dead, I that had to track down Caeser in a town I'd never been to before and all the usual travel drama, I caught up with him a few hours later and we went into a strategy meeting. Caesar was pretty average height, in good shape with short hair and a dark brown complexion that spoke clearly of his Mexican heritage. Unbeknownst to me, he'd become a poster child for the Dream Act: he'd been whisked across the boarder when he was 5, and wound up getting a full ride scholarship to law school, where he was, if not the head of the class, at least nearby. Now, he was leading me the National Immigration Forum's space. When we got in, the room was packed with people standing everywhere they could fit against the walls and along a giant rectangular table that spanned the room, working groups huddled around different diagrams and lists of organizations and Representatives and Senators. Everyone looked as though they had been up for days straight, the sort of Trekkie convention smell that is typically only forgiven during finals week hanging thinly and unevenly in the air alongside bags under eyes as proof that they hadn't put their work down in days. Soon I too would look like something out of a George Romero fantasy: night of the living civil rights workers. I wasn't there too long to make introductions as Caesar brought me over to his hotel where he and his friends were going over details for a demonstration the next day, debating over details such as whether going in military uniform would be seen as disrespectful of the Dreamers (those who qualify for the Dream Act) who wanted to fulfill their citizenship requirement through military service (at a time when our military business sector was still booming with 2 seemingly endless wars). His friends were Alina, Mike and Hassan. Mike was a stout, dark skinned Mexican, the same height as myself, Caesar and seemingly everyone in the room, while Hassan was thin, and could be described as an "eager, energetic young man" if anyone ever deserved it. Hassan was a huge fight fan and we talked about boxing and mixed martial arts, and everyone in the room wanted to be in the military. Like Caesar, Hassan and Mike had been brought to the US when they were very young, both around 5. Alina, meanwhile, was a young Texan with a relatively light complexion, long hair and a tomboyish presence who often talked about guns, barbecue, how much hippies pissed her off and other right wing staples that would make her a welcome FOX News anchor if only she were blonde and angrier in public. The rest of her story we'll revisit later. They all practiced marching and military drills that they would perform at a demonstration tomorrow. After some introductions, we made our way to the hotel's bar for a drink, and I met Erika Garcia, another organizer and Caesar's girlfriend. She was currently smoothing out some details for a marine recruiter who was coming in to speak on behalf of the Dream Act's value to the military as a recruitment tool, Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Montecuzumo Sanchez. He was somehow stranded at an airport, his flight had been delayed and he needed to have his ticket taken care of and the details of his reservation in town adjusted. After about twenty minutes of talking on the phone while ice melted into her untouched drink, she was able to make all manner of polite introduction to her boyfriend's unusual, redheaded friend who tagged along to DC. After we all talked briefly about the last few days and how this was the first time they had a chance to catch their breath in days, it was late and I made my way back to my shamelessly cheap hostel, watching my condensed breath in one of the bunks as I listened to squirrels fight in the wall for what sounded like it must have been an impressive acorn.
The next day, we hurried in the sort of rush that soon characterized the entire weekend to the United Methodist Building that we were being loaned by the church. The room people were waiting in was a large one, feeling vaguely like a convention center as it was filled with the same plastic and metal tables and chairs I'd seen at every convention center, with one of the 1.5 meals we averaged a day waiting for us on a long table in sandwich and bagel form. People who weren't currently eating were busy putting together paper graduation hats, while in another room people were fitting into more official-looking caps and gowns. These were the symbols of the academic Dreamers, who wanted their pathway to citizenship to be made through higher education. It reminded me that it was mine and Caesar's last moments of our 5th semester, and how soon we would graduate. While this alone may not have been much as far as the Dream Act was concerned, it reminded me how old he was: Caesar was 27, the cutoff for the Dream Act was 29, and the Dream Act had been pushed unsuccessfully for over a decade; if it didn't go through this run, it wouldn't come up again before Congress for years, too many years. By then, Caeser, along with any Dreamer born between the years of roughly 1981 to 1985, will have aged out of the bracket that the Dream Act would include; this was his last shot, as well as the last shot for thousands of model citizens without citizenship.
When the the caps were finished and donned (both the cloth caps as well as the hastily made paper caps), we went over and crowded the chapel. It was standing room only, complete with several video cameras filming for documentaries and local news stations. Scattered throughout the audience were preachers and members of various faiths: female bishops, men with Roman collars, Franciscan friars, women wearing concealing headscarfs, a politically conservative Evangelical preacher and a particularly well spoken, short man in a business suit and a Yamikah: when this group was called the interfaith committee, they weren't messing around, it was like an unseedy Mos Isely tavern of religion. The speakers all lined up behind a podium in front of a giant, gold cross. The Jewish and Evangelical speakers stole the show, the prior speaking about how his own people were chased unfairly from land to land throughout Europe. The latter explained how Evangelicals didn't have uniforms, so he wore a scarf from his local college where he attended his flock, spoke about how a pivotal member of his college's community, the captain of the soccer team who lead the team in singing the national anthem before games, was currently in jail, separated from his family on Christmas (evidently ICE beat the Grinch in stealing his Christmas), and awaiting deportation if this bill didn't go through. A young organizer, roughly 20, spoke about her experience as well, telling the story about how the KKK stalked her like a hungry wolf, protesting as she travelled from town to town across the country on foot to raise awareness for undocumented immigrants, and how Dreamers had laid their diplomas under the Christmas trees of Senators, explaining how a degree is useless without the right to work that is often the biggest obstacle for undocumented immigrants. Another preacher, one in a multicolor vestment that I believe was Anglican, talked of the generosity and hospitality that Jesus himself was shown as he travelled from town to town, and how it was common courtesy to take a foreigner into your home and treat them well in Jesus' day. Between the stories of faith and experience, both hopeful and heartbreaking, the hope of change and the intense sense of community amongst people who had often fought so hard as individuals by themselves or in small groups for this change that they were pushing, there was hardly a dry eye in the chapel.
After the final speaker stepped down, we were led in several prayers, and then we all went outside while Caesar and a few others stayed behind to plan some logistics for a march later. Everyone held hands and prayed in a small park outside of the Methodist building, with the preachers having all the Dreamers get into a tight circle and kneel down for the members of different religions to take turns blessing them. They then walked around the Hart Senate Building, over a hundred marchers lined up single file, hand in hand, human chaining their way across streets with friar robes, scarves and long hair dancing against a strong, cold D.C. wind that occasionally stole an unwary cap. There were photographers and reporters who located the chain, filing reports not 10 feet away as we walked by, saying the line that would be cliche by the end of it all, that I had heard a dozen preachers say before: the Dreamers were praying for a Christmas Miracle.
Part of the procession eventually made its way into the Hard Senate Building, where I was disappointed to find that I accidentally smuggled a knife through security. We gathered in a circle next to an absurdly large piece of modern art, the meaning of which I could never decipher other than "eye sore." The group prayed and sang, and eventually some police showed up to kick us out under threat of arrest. They may have made a scene I think, had it not been for the patient, kindly old officer, who recited the DC regulation which prohibited us from "any demonstration" in a government building, such as the Hart Senate Building, and then offered advice as far as alternative locations for a protest site: he could have diffused a bomb with a simple, friendly "hello", and had the sort of whiskers that an made you think of endearing old folks. Competent, caring police can often act as fervent protestor kryptonite, because it's hard to get angry at an unjust government official who looks as though he's about ready to give Christmas gifts to orphans. Now that we were kicked out of the building, I noticed an interesting phenomenon: everyone had been so busy for days on end, rushing to complete something every time I had seen them, and like all frantically busy, single-minded people, when a moment of freedom from an oppressive schedule is dropped on them, they seemed to have no idea what to do with it.
I made my way back to the national immigration forum on my own, just in time to see a young girls birthday celebration. She was working through her birthday and wouldn't have mentioned it, however, some of her fellow volunteers from Texas ratted her out as having turned 21 earlier that day and arrangements were made for a cake. They sang happy birthday in Spanish, and after she blew the candles out I was witness to an event that became a symbol of a cultural line, and evidence that I was the foreigner in the room: Lisa went down to take a bite of the cake without using her hands, and her friend behind her pushed her face into the cake. I instantly perked up and got ready for a battle royal, thinking of how if any of my Irish brothers or half-brothers had ever dared to do that to me on my birthday, it'd be time to get it on. As I sprang up and brought my hands up to protect my face from a possible piece of carelessly thrown cake, I saw Lisa laughing and licking icing off of her lips while the rest of the room laughed along. Evidently this is a Latin tradition, I'm a somewhat clueless Gringo, and my reaction to the event is still an occasion for laughter when I see someone who was in the room that saw me jump up out of my seat. This occasion was just one of the many where I'd be touched by how well everyone took care of each other, through insomnia, malnutrition, hunger strikes and KKK counter-demonstrating douchebagery, managing to keep poise and grace as a group. That night, after the last strategy meeting closed around midnight, everyone limped back to their various crash pads. For some, this meant more bedbug bites in a homestead, for others, a rather nice hotel, and for myself, a serenade of squirrel combat while one of my hostel roommates passed around a spliff. I pumped out a legal memo that night, posted my photos of the day to twitter, Facebook and Flickr until 3am, and prepared to wake up at 8 to get to the a.m. meeting.
The next day, after some coordination, people were still struggling to wake up as some of the Dreamers, Cesar, Mike, Alina and about 5 others, suited up in military camo and led marches around a cold Capitol. They wore large smiles against the wind and sang "We are the Dreamers/ The mighty mighty dreamers/ Fighting for justice/ And an education." After a few hours of marching, there was a small congregation in a field in front of the Hart Senate Building which was treated to a speech about how we were all cold, had been cold for days and would have to be cold for a little while longer. Marine recruiters gave speeches about the overqualified candidates that they would have to unfortunately turn away, despite the fact that they were needed in what was still two wars at the time. Hassan, the eager young gentleman, related his frustrations at his rejection when trying to enlist in the Marines, and how he watched his mother work 2 or 3 jobs at a time, feeling helpless and like less of a man because he couldn't find a job, largely due to the fact that he doesn't have documentation to work. Cesar spoke next, detailing how he was taken across the border at the age of 5. For the next 21 years he had worked hard in school, and was currently doing the bulk of our Community Economic Development project, despite the fact that he was in DC for a full month of our semester. That beautiful young lady Alina whom I introduced earlier addressed the crowd with a fairly unusual story, which was unfortunately echoed to me by many other talented young people there: "…I am an American, I was raised here. I had to give up scholarships, pretty much full ride scholarships, to Ivy League schools, and, because of my status, I was unable to even go to a public university. I've tried to enlist, several times, and I want the opportunity to serve my country, the only country I've ever known and the only country I want to live in, the country whose language I speak, the country that my family lives in, the only country I love and the only country I call home." This talented young lady laid out the details of her life, which began in Mexico. She was brought across the boarder at 6 months old, and you'd be surprised at how little citizenship matters until high school; after all, I didn't use my social security number once until I was applying for a drivers permit at the DMV at 16, and at a practical, every-day level, that's one of the biggest difference between a citizen and a non-citizen. Unlike me, however, the first time she needed that social security number was when she was trying to accept those Ivy League scholarships at the age of 17, and her parents had to break the news to her that, contrary to popular belief at her high school, she wasn't born in the United States, didn't have citizenship, and wouldn't be able to accept those scholarships because she didn't have a social security number to give them. She had tried several times to enlist in the Marines, and it wasn't until months later, after her commanding officer had pulled every string imaginable, that she was finally able to get into the ROTC. You may wonder who the hell benefits from this? The quick answer is spineless money grubbing politicians and the privatized prison industrial complex, where corporate prisons are run like hotels: the more beds are filled, the more money they make off of taxpayers. The federal government pays corporate prisons to hold undocumented immigrants, very similar to privatized (or corporate, depending on what label you want) prisons, and so now a multi-billion dollar industry built on human misery has a monied incentive to send lobbyists to Washington to have anyone's lifestyle who is politically vulnerable be criminalized, with immigrants and repeat offenders (a la measures such as "three strikes you're out" in California) being an easy target as nonvoters without the money to send in lobbyists or to contribute to campaign funds, however, that's an entire different article in itself. In addition, there's conservative groups which derive great emotional satisfaction at the fact that, much like the Mongolians held at bay by the Great Wall of China, the brown-skinned barbarians would be kept at bay by their own Great Redneck Wall (when, in reality, they'll be using those same barbarians to help them build that very wall for cheaper than they'd be willing to work themselves before they try futilely to chase them back onto "their side" of the wall), but, in the great American tradition of following the money to find the biggest asshole in the room, it leads to places like the Geo Group and their extensive investments in immigration detention centers, facilitated by investment banks such as Wells Fargo (a boycott of which was called for at the last United We Dream Congress). Giant corporations like this are able to send tons of lobbyists to K Street, outnumbering humble immigrant's rights' lobbyists by a hefty margin (I'd put money down that it's at least 25 to 1, but a more realistic guess at this jar of douchebag jellybeans would probably be more like 50 to 1) and aggressively trying to have more conditions criminalized to fill their cotts and keep the United States with the largest prison population in the world, in addition to people who have concerns about border security and immigration policy and denials about their own family's immigration that believe we need to just kick everyone out. As an interesting side note, corporate prisons are notorious for having far worse conditions than government run prisons, as it's in their interest to run as cheaply as possible. This is the largest factor in why the conditions are deplorable, being compared to internment camps such that we ran for the Japanese in WWII, rife with reports of conditions such as maggots in food and indiscriminate beatings from guards.
After the speeches were made, the military dreamers changed out of fatigues and into suits and dresses to go to the Hart Senate Building. On the way to the Florida Senator's office, we ran into another Senator. I was later able to confirm that he was in fact a Senator and a Republican, though on the spot he couldn't have looked more like a Senator: an extra few healthy pounds on his torso, the sort of comfortable fat evenly distributed throughout his body that says he was of the leisure class and still got a bit of exercise at the tee or atop a polo horse, some top shelf glasses resting on a face as pale as my own, topped off with a silver maine and deflective Hollywood smile. "Excuse me" said a particularly cute Dreamer in our entourage as she approached him to ask for a photo with him. There were about 10 of us there in the Senate building and, having spotted a Republican Senator, we couldn't let go of the chance to get in a few words. The Senator was approached from all sides. In retrospect, most men would have felt threatened, and it was entirely understandable that he threw up his armor, shifting his weight and suit upward when he realized he was being addressed from behind and turning to face us, pushing out his chest and pulling back his shoulders; it was like seeing an insect adjust its carapace armor for combat, or, at the very least, watching a political armadillo curling up when it knows a pair of claws may be near. He posed for the photo with the lovely young lady. His smile and demeanor were charming with an undertone of the nerves of a man cornered, as evasive verbally as a boxer who won 8 rounds straight weaves when he's on unsteady legs after a powerful blow and knows that the bell is only seconds away. Who could blame him; the Republican filibuster of the Dream Act didn't have a logical leg to stand on, with red meat staples such as the large Marine vet in the crowd addressing the Senator and informing people how the Dream Act would help with recruitment at a time when the military was still creating combat jobs in Iraq. It didn't mean they wouldn't win, it just meant that they were wrong. Caesar spoke with him as I snapped the photo, giving him a well rehearsed spiel about himself, short and to the point as cramming years of experience into a two minute speech must be, and how he represented the experience of thousands of young men and women who are struggling to find a place to serve the country which they have often called home for far longer than the countries that they left (with some, in the margins, being taken across the boarder before they were old enough to verbalize "home"). The next 30 seconds or so were filled with an awkward, ad-libbed speech I've seen at every high level debate by the forerunner, a very elaborate verbal bobbing and weaving, buying time until the bell rang and the good Senator was able to board his elevator and wait for what should be an easy decision victory. Between the Washington foolishness that makes The Daily Show seem easy for their writers before Fox News even fires up its morning programming and makes any brainfart quickly disappear into the sea of YouTube, the necessity for a combination of short order body language with elaborate defensive verbiage under pressure and in front of an audience, the occasional pandering to special and corporate interests for funding while having to do logical gymnastics to reconcile points which even the most deranged schizophrenic would call "inconsistent", I've become convinced that skill as an actor is the single largest factor what makes or breaks a career politician far more than the academic abilities that would constitute a truly educated, competent public servant: the fact that Herman Cain went so far, becoming even a short-lived frontrunner for the Republican nomination, while obviously knowing so little about foreign policy and openly flaunting it with his "Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan-stan" comment, still not having the sense, after he dropped out amidst cries of incompetence mixed in with perversion, to know that he would make a laughable Secretary of Defense in an interview with Barbara Walters, I feel is proof which is as empirical as evidence for an endeavor such as gaging how much smoothed-over dumbassery the voting public will allow (not to mention the fact that Michelle Bachman hasn't said anything of political substance in front of a camera aside from the occasional gay-bashing that she's famous for being a good example of an entire career which helps to make my point). Evidently, if they throw in enough platitudes about "American Exceptionalism" like Santorum or some other analogous statements, falsely worshipping the more ego-centric members of the viewing public, it is a truly epic amount.
We walked office to office throughout the Hart Senate Building for hours, Cornyn to Tester, Tester to Durban, Durban to Webb, each office having a large Christmas tree to compete with the next office's and, I shit you not, John Cornyn, R-Tx, had an autographed 8X10 glossy of Chuck Norris in a place of honor above his office's doorway. For the most part, we talked with the Homeland Security and/or Immigration aides of Senators as the Senators themselves were in meetings gearing up for votes during the Lame Duck session, which had become the flurry of activity from the Democrats that they had been elected in for, and had been waiting for years to start until they threw it all on the table, desperately trying to get something through while they still had the chance. We were a fairly organized little group, having split off the larger group with Monte the Marine vet, Alina, Caesar and about 10 other Dreamers, amongst several other groups promoting the Dream Act who we weren't associated with, but still compared notes with in the hallways. We waited in the rooms with other lobbyists, one particularly busy office holding 4 of our group, a man in a suit pushing for greater privacy protections on Facebook, two Hasids whose agenda I hadn't had time to catch, a man pushing for a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and a priest who was from another group helping to push for the Zadroga bill. At one point, upon leaving Durbin’s office, Alina spotted Senator Lieberman down the hallway. “We have to talk to him” she said, and we all started after him. Although most Senators are slow moving, taking their old man time getting there, he was about ten paces away from turning a corner on the other side of the hall and perhaps disappearing into an elevator, forcing us to hasten. Soon we all found ourselves jogging, and I said “fuck it” and bolted into a dead sprint, Cesar calling behind me to chill. I sprinted the length of the hallway the second that the Senator turned the hall so that he wouldn’t see me coming, planted my foot and stopped dead just before I took the same turn that he did, took a deep breath so that I wouldn’t look like a madman who had just sprinted in the Senate building, broke into a brisk walk and turned the corner, saying “excuse me, Mr. Senator, I have a few friends who would like to talk to you.” Luckily, Cesar caught up to us before I had to say anything else, and Senator Lieberman recognized him from his last speech he made in Washington with a Dream Act group. It bought us enough time for Cesar to give his sales pitch again, and everyone posed with Droopy as I marveled that my particular brand of crazy had actually worked. Inside of the offices, Monte always spoke first, speaking with Senator's aides about how the Dream Act is supported by top military commanders as a way to improve enlistment, with Alina or Caesar giving their own story about their desire to serve being blocked and being handy with facts about the bill and circumstances surrounding it to clear up any misunderstandings. Uniformly, the first thing they all do is thank Monte for his service in Iraq. Almost as uniformly, the next is to assure that the Senator is listening to people's opinions without making any actual commitments. In the margins, there were a few meetings which were made with Senators themselves, and between the Senators and the aides we had a realization: the Democrats and Republicans weren't talking to each other. Either that, or they had goldfish memories because they were often clueless about amendments which were being added in, and were citing provisions no longer in the bill as reason why they would have trouble supporting the bill, awkwardly finding themselves being corrected. Their attitude about the entire process was that if the other side had something to say, they could come into their office first. In ensuing strategy meetings, the group realized that part of their job would be to cut through the egos and infighting and keep everyone updated, somewhat like a child passing messages between estranged parents with a mortgage that won't allow them to move out and find their own place.
Later that night, we had another meeting, as we had every night, and every morning, and every afternoon at some point. Everyone looked like they were at the tail end of a bad bender, disheveled and profoundly exhausted, having run on 4 hours of sleep and 1.5 meals a day, in some cases, longer than a week straight, and I was having trouble keeping up for just 3 days. A head falls to the side and is instantly jerked back upright, eyes momentarily flashing with consciousness and then slowly sinking back as their bodies relax back into the shape of the chair and let them nod off again while strategies are passed back and forth, ranging from the politically impractical to something you would expect fresh off a fax machine coming from a slightly less amoral Frank Luntz.
The next day I would board a bus to go back home to finish some work for finals, planning on coming back for the vote on whether or not to break the filibuster. Unfortunately, I didn't find out until I was on the bus that it had been pushed forward to the day after I left. Even more unfortunately, it didn't pass. After everything they went through, and how they had all worked like animals towards something that should have been common sense, I gave it a few days before I called up Caeser to see what's up. It was the first time I had seen the government up close, and she was nice from afar when she's granting civil rights in the 60's or freeing black people way back when in textbooks, but damn was she far from nice when you got up close and saw this butterface of beurocracy.
There really isn't anyone whom the Republican party isn't willing to sell out for financial interests; they effectively blocked the Zadroga Bill, or, as I and the rest of New Yorkers like to call it, "Healthcare for Heros", denying healthcare to the heroic men and women whom they had built a large portion of their campaigns on for years: they summoned images of suffering ground zero first responders having to deal with complicated emotions a Mosque might bring to try to micromanage New York City zoning law and block the Mosque, as well as to fundraise for the Republican party as the only party that understands 9/11, claiming every other sentence until around 2005 that certain things would mean "the terrorists win" or "yes, I agree with you, but 9/11 changed everything," and using those shallow quotes to try to make pussies out of New Yorkers (myself being one) and stretching these quotes thin to give places without legitimate terror targets (such as a roller rink in middle america) that were less of a terror target than Snooki or the grave site of Mr. Rogers while denying the same funding to New York City as a political handout for certain Republican districts: in the words of Jon Stewart, if they didn't owe 9/11 first responders the Zadroga bill, at least they owed them royalties. Yet even as they tighten the purse strings for 9/11's heros and try to cut veterans benefits after spending a decade so fervently creating said veterans, having called any proposal to withdraw from Iraq "cut and run" for years, they still find billions of dollars of tax subsidies for oil companies, using parliamentary procedure like the filibuster and marching lock step behind it to block the repeal of oil subsidies, with the notable exception of the likes of Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) who voted with the Democrats on this issue, and Mark Begich (D-AK), Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), voting for big oil and coincidentally all Senators from "drill baby drill" states with oil. They always argue for deregulation and lower taxes, but always deregulation and lower taxes (or, failing that, writing tax codes that are so confusing that only those with tax attorneys could find the tax break) that benefits their campaign contributors, hawking poverty as freedom like a cheap carnival barker selling snake oil as HIV retrovirals to people who are desperate to buy anything other than the same old bullshit they've been sold by the last barker.