The Blue Dogs and the Banana Republic

The heat here in the Pea Patch is oppressive today — suits my mood. It’s one of those days when I’d rather be doing just about anything else — something fresh, something easy, something that grabs my imagination and scours my discouragement away. It took all my effort to take my place at the table, today, because there’s no way to make lemonade out of this … the average American may or may not understand that now there’s nothing going on in their lives that isn’t under scrutiny … unless they are like the beaten but still-resistant hero in Orwell’s 1984, habitually lurking in the shadows to avoid the cameras, the observers, the tattlers — and speaking to few, if any. And even worse, there are many Americans that still think that the voodoo of unnamed terrors is more dangerous to their quality of life than the one their own government just imposed on them.

What do we do with these sleepers? Knock on their door, take their electronic games and remotes away from them, confiscate their credit cards and drag out their overdue bills, their whopping insurance payments, the dismal statistics about their children’s future to lay on the table? Can we force them to examine a failed infrastructure that will cost hundreds of billions and take years to shore up while an estimated trillion of our dollars, borrowed, go into arms and foreign aid and Iraqi infrastructure that will be blown to hell in protest of our presence? Why can’t they see that bin Laden is still free, that abstinence will not protect their children, that pharmaceutical solutions are a loop to dependency that fills the coffers of corporations, that there is NOBODY working for the common good in this country? Can we convince them the “safety” they’re searching for has been drowned in the Bushie bathtub, that the devastation of Katrina, the Islamic wasp’s nest of Iraq and the failed “democracy” in Afghanistan are only the tip of an iceberg meant to crush them under its weight? What kind of intervention will it take to wake them up to the wildly swinging Dow, the stupidity of slow-witted and bought-and-paid-for politicians, the stress-fractures in our Constitutional rights and American way of life that rival the failed beams that held the now sunken bridge in Minnesota? Can we impress on them that the Bushies already know their buying habits, their political affiliation, their religious preference, their sexual orientation … and that tomorrow they will know even more? Have we become so used to being watched, monitored, pitched to, interfered with, that we no longer see the virtue of the laws that guarantee us privacy?

And these folks … the one’s who don’t, won’t or can’t bear to look — they can at least plead apparent powerlessness; what’s the excuse coming out of Washington DC?

The internet has made us global — and any of us that go to a website, no matter which one, are now under suspicion; e-names are anonymous, conversations are global, everything EVERYTHING is “international” and now your American citizenship matters not a whit in its ability to protect you from the [admittedly double-standard] persecutions of those who do not approve the way you think. The gates are down … the barbarians are free to enter.

Those who voted to allow Gonzales to oversee the newest domestic spying plan were by and large Blue Dog Democrats, I’ve written about them before … moderates who carried the day in ’06. We knew, back then, that they were a problem — now we know just how much of one, my own Senator among them; my Representative is the head of the House Armed Services Committee, so I didn’t expect his vote — I was relieved to see an abstention. I tore up his bumper sticker awhile back — didn’t have another to burn in effigy.

I’d presume that this is all in keeping with the dissolution of the systems, and that will lead to an establishment of the “new thing” … but it leads me to ponder just how much damage can be done without reaching a point of no return; the little minds and voices have won the day, but something bigger is happening here … and I wish I could tell you how it will all turn out, but I can’t, I can only assure you that wherever there is darkness, there is an equal amount of Light. As Marianne Williamson said, the choice is ours but change is here, it can’t be avoided. What it will look like is still … ever … always … UP TO US.

We live in extraordinary times and we are under extraordinary assault by an old paradigm of power-mongering and abusive authoritarianism; I would feel better if I saw one … just ONE … candidate out there that I had confidence in to acknowledge the Bigger Picture of Bush’s fascism. Until they do — any of them — they’re not worthy of my vote. Until I hear the same outrage, sorrow, concern in them that I feel myself, today, they are part of the problem; and they have no solutions to offer me .

The up-side of all this, I guess, is that more and more of us are becoming aware of our failings in painful ways — and if that isn’t informing us of all that needs to be addressed within our human family, then we deserve to go the way of the Dodo. I am not interested in “more of the same” — the changes are coming despite those who resist them, and at some point all those things we wish to lay on our neighbors table will become clear enough for the whole of us to move collectively and break this strangle-hold. Until then, we need to remember our part … and take comfort in the notion that when times got dangerous and dark, we didn’t blink from what we knew was right.

    The world is moved not only by the mighty shoves of the heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.
    ~ Helen Keller

Here’s a video that will make you feel like you’re not alone, out there– watch Rep. Sheila Lee’s message on the floor of Congress.

Of note: Daily Kos has the list of those who caved, posted first — sadly, Jim Webb’s name is on the list. The military factions are more comfortable with this than others … they’re used to sucking up other peoples rights. And even if those who voted for this were sincerely convinced that there are those who must be identified in this way, they have sacrificed the civil liberties and privacy of the entire nation to catch their handful; and legitimized George Bush’s original premise that he is able to do whatever he damned well wants! That, to me, is the worst of this … the very worst.

This post is a series of rants and analysis; I’m throwing the first piece in for ballast, and to illustrate that on some level, we know not what we do … some will read it and shake their heads in bewilderment, others will congratulate themselves. And so goes the disconnect. We got the dinner on the table but burnt down the kitchen? I’m sure there’s a better analogy out there, but if I name it, it probably requires drinking hemlock.

Jude

From Kos:

US Senate: Evan Bayh (Indiana); Tom Carper (Delaware); Bob Casey (Pennsylvania); Kent Conrad (North Dakota); Dianne Feinstein (California); Daniel Inouye (Hawai’i); Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota); Nancy Mary Landrieu (Louisiana); Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas); Claire McCaskill (Missouri); Barbara Mikulski (Maryland); Bill Nelson (Florida); Ben Nelson (Nebraska); Mark Pryor (Arkansas); Ken Salazar (Colorado); Jim Webb (Virginia).

US House of Representatives:
Jason Altmire (4th Pennsylvania)
John Barrow (12th Georgia) Blue Dog
Melissa Bean (8th Illinois) Blue Dog
Dan Boren (2nd Oklahoma) Blue Dog
Leonard Boswell (3rd Iowa)
Allen Boyd (2nd Florida) Blue Dog
Christopher Carney (10th Pennsylvania) Blue Dog
Ben Chandler (6th Kentucky) Blue Dog
Rep. Jim Cooper (5th Tennessee) Blue Dog
Jim Costa (20th California) Blue Dog
Bud Cramer (5th Alabama) Blue Dog
Henry Cuellar (28th Texas)
Artur Davis (7th Alabama)
Lincoln Davis (4th Tennessee) Blue Dog
Joe Donnelly (2nd Indiana) Blue Dog
Chet Edwards (17th Texas)
Brad Ellsworth (8th Indiana) Blue Dog
Bob Etheridge (North Carolina)
Bart Gordon (6th Tennessee) Blue Dog
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (South Dakota) Blue Dog
Brian Higgins (27th New York)
Baron Hill (9th Indiana) Blue Dog
Nick Lampson (23rd Texas) Blue Dog
Daniel Lipinski (3rd Illinois)
Jim Marshall (8th Georgia) Blue Dog
Jim Matheson (2nd Utah) Blue Dog
Mike McIntyre (7th North Carolina) Blue Dog
Charlie Melancon (3rd Louisiana) Blue Dog
Harry Mitchell (5th Arizona)
Colin Peterson (7th Minnesota) Blue Dog
Earl Pomeroy (North Dakota) Blue Dog
Ciro Rodriguez (23rd Texas) Blue Dog
Mike Ross (4th Arkansas) Blue Dog
John Salazar (3rd Colorado) Blue Dog
Heath Shuler (11th North Carolina) Blue Dog
Vic Snyder (2nd Arkansas)
Zachary Space (18th Ohio) Blue Dog
John Tanner (8th Tennessee) Blue Dog
Gene Taylor (4th Mississippi) Blue Dog
Timothy Walz (1st Minnesota)
Charles A. Wilson (6th Ohio) Blue Dog

Congress recesses amid Democratic achievements
Richard Cowan, Yahoo
Sun Aug 5

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After months of being flogged for accomplishing little, Democrats who control Congress headed into a summer recess having passed several high-profile bills from raising the minimum wage to bolstering U.S. security and expanding children’s health care.

Their top priority — ending the Iraq war — remains frustratingly unfulfilled. But the Democrats who took over in January were able to go home early on Sunday for a monthlong break having won more support in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for bringing combat troops home by early next year, marking a significant turnaround from last year.

Democrats also will be able to batter President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans for sticking with a war policy that droves of Americans increasingly oppose.
And it was Bush’s fellow conservatives who helped kill his top domestic priority, immigration reform.

Much of the Democrats’ progress was incremental and out of the spotlight of the fights with Bush over the Iraq war, now in its fifth year. While those battles were raging, Democrats were able to plow ahead with bills they say will fulfill campaign promises to improve national security and help the neediest.

“We have made more progress in the last seven days than previous congresses made in the last seven years,” Democratic leaders boasted about the spurt of legislation that passed in the final days.

Some nonpartisan observers agreed Democrats had reason to boast.

“Democrats have had a good run legislatively over the past few weeks and that does help them going into the recess,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

That would be welcome news for a Congress that this year has seen its public approval ratings dip even below Bush’s chronically low polling. A Pew Research Center survey released on Thursday said Bush scored a 29 percent approval rating, while Democratic leaders were at a similarly lethargic 33 percent.

Even though those poor ratings do not necessarily translate into public support for Republican lawmakers, Democrats will have their work cut out for them, trying to convince voters back home that they have responded to last November’s call for change.

And they will face another challenge when they return from recess in early September when the future of the Iraq war will again take center stage with a mid-September progress report to Congress.

A battle over funding the government in the fiscal year starting October 1 also looms, with Bush having promised to veto bills that spend more than he has asked for.

Democrats will point to these accomplishments:

* The first minimum wage increase in a decade went into effect in July helping the lowest-paid workers. Republicans repeatedly blocked the pay hike when they controlled Congress.

* Republicans lost their majority in last November’s elections largely because of the Iraq war, but also due to voter disgust with ethics violations that left some Republican lawmakers and aides in jail or under investigation. Democrats pushed through ethics and lobbying reforms that public advocacy groups applauded while also saying the provisions could have been stronger. Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.

* Congress passed, and Bush signed into law on Friday, a series of post-September 11 anti-terrorism steps that had been recommended by an independent commission in 2004. These include broader screening of cargo bound for the United States, allocating more federal grants to cities at high-risk of attack and improving emergency workers’ communications systems so they can better coordinate during an attack or natural disaster.

* The House and Senate passed different versions of a bill to significantly expand child health insurance coverage for those in low-income families not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Bush has threatened to veto either version, but Democrats may be able to override him.

* The House and Senate passed bills to help students handle soaring college costs and crack down on misconduct in the student loan industry. They likely will send Bush a bill in September that goes directly to the stressed wallets of middle-class parents.

* A popular measure allowing broader stem cell research that supporters hope will help cure Parkinson’s disease and other incurable illnesses was passed a second time and Bush vetoed it a second time.

* Appealing to growing consumer fears of global warming and U.S. reliance on foreign oil, the Senate passed a bill mandating that cars get 40 percent better fuel efficiency and encouraging a dramatic increase in ethanol as a fuel. Democrats hope to send Bush a bill after the August recess.

* A fiscal 2008 budget plan passed with new controls that attempt to impose fiscal responsibility after years of huge budget deficits. Under the plan, any new tax cuts or spending increases would have to be paid for. Republicans complain there is no guarantee Bush’s tax cuts will be renewed after 2010.

* After six years of mostly getting a free pass from Republicans, the Bush administration is facing oversight by committees with probes ranging from the Justice Department’s firing of federal prosecutors to the Pentagon’s handling of the death in Afghanistan of ex-football player Pat Tillman.

Throw the Bums Out … Ours, Too
Frank Dwyer, HuffPo
August 5, 2007

A plague a both your houses.

After another tiresome and moronic round of the same old discredited neocon booga-booga, enough of our Democratic Senators and Representatives have voted with their Republican colleagues to amend the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act and give our little Cromwellian Leader, our Little Lord Protector, just what he asked for: the right to continue “saving” us by continuing his unconstitutional (and thereby criminal) surveillance of us. One of my senators, Diane Feinstein of California, was one of the cross-over Democrats; she and the others have betrayed us, betrayed their party and their country, by this craven, shameful vote. I live in California, so I’ll be able to support and work for any progressive candidate who challenges Senator Feinstein in any future campaign. She will never win another election in this progressive state.

We should make sure that none of the Democrats in the House or Senate who voted for this FISA amendment ever wins another election.

But what about conventional realpolitik? What if by opposing these neocon fellow-travelers we allow Republican troglodytes to win those seats? Minimum wage! Supreme Court! Global warming! Don’t we have to stick to the hoary mantra of so many of our sad past trudges to the voting booth: two cheers for the lesser-of-two-evils! You’ll have to make up your own mind, of course, but for me the compromise is over. Evil is evil, and I won’t ever again vote for evil, even if it is “less” evil than the other choice the broken system is offering me.

As a matter of fact, I don’t think Feinstein and her ilk any longer qualify as “lesser” evils. Democrats who voted to legitimize the law-breaking of this criminal president, long overdue for impeachment, Democrats who validated his contempt for the Constitution and his betrayal of his oath of office are, to me, more evil than standard-issue cartoon-villain Congressmen from that president’s own irredeemably discredited and disgraced party.

Make no mistake: I loathe, I anathematize, all the fiercely malignant, greedy, mean-spirited, rubber-stamping, corporofascist Republican leaders, but they can neither surprise nor wound me. I know them, I know what to expect of them; I know what they believe and what they will do if they think can get away with it. (“Government is not a SOLUTION to the problem. Government IS the problem,” their grotesque old hero intoned. That means NO TAXES! Their only principle. NO TAXES! Though our children and grandchildren may fall with the falling bridges or be blown up by the bursting pipes, NO TAXES! If our children and grandchildren are so worried about old bridges and pipes, let them raise their own taxes, if they want to restore the infrastructure, fine, but they can pay for it themselves, if that’s how they choose to throw away their lovely money.)

No, it’s only my own leaders, my Democrats, the men and women I supported and trusted and believed in and donated money to and stayed up late to cheer for, only my Democrats who can wound me like this. So what if Cheney treats the Constitution and the planet itself as just so many plump tame quail thrown up in the air for his venereal delight–Cheney can’t break my heart. But Feinstein, Bayh, Webb: those are the heartbreakers.

(The question of degrees of evil in political discourse is an interesting philosophical digression. Who do you think is the “lesser” evil: Rumsfeld or Powell? Inhofe or Specter? For me, the answer is easy: Powell and Specter are much more evil, because they knew better. So much depended on their intelligence, integrity, and courage, and they betrayed us: now that’s the real thing, that’s evil.)

All opponents of progressive thought who have found a safe haven in the Democratic Party need to be drummed out of it, replaced on our ballots as quickly as possible by decent, progressive candidates, just as the vile, self-aggrandizing neocon fantasist Lieberman was replaced on the Connecticut ballot by Ned Lamont. Lamont lost, of course, but that only makes the point more clearly. How many Connecticut voters equivocated, balancing this and that, choosing the lesser of two evils by some arcane private reckoning? Good old Joe. Lots of good swill for Connecticut over the years. Did they get what they wanted? More war, from their dim little surge-protector? Are they happy now? I suspect there are a large number of people in that progressive, educated, peace-loving state who are profoundly angry and/or ashamed. Joseph Lieberman will not win another election in Connecticut, either.

We must make our party, the Democratic Party, a progressive party, or we must abandon it and build a Progressive Party to replace it. We cannot save the country or the planet by following a policy that is only sloganeering and business-as-usual, with our elected leaders jostling each other as they try to find the choicest spots at the public trough for their own particular swine. (And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch Senator Schumer tapdance around the issue of legislating a new fair tax rate for the hedge fund industry.)

The Republican Party is finished, and perhaps the Democratic Party is too–look at the rising tide of registered Independents. Can the Democratic Party be saved? Is it worth saving? Perhaps–if it is profoundly reinvented, re-imagined, reformed. If that doesn’t happen, the old centrist, false-hearted, nest-feathering Democratic Party will sooner or later be as thoroughly despised by decent, thoughtful, intelligent, caring Americans (surely not a permanent minority!) as the Republican Party is already despised. The well-vacationed, well-insured, well-pensioned leaders of our two major parties will go on backslapping and bloviating and pretending to be different as they guide their donors toward the trough, but their Parties, Republican and Democratic alike, appear to be going the way of the Whigs and the Know Nothings, and the slide may be irreversible. Good riddance.

Democrats’ responsibility for Bush radicalism
Glenn Greenwald, Salon
Saturday August 4, 2007 11:39 EST

[updated below - updated again (with Sen. Dodd interview) - Update III]

It is staggering, and truly disgusting, that even in August, 2007 — almost six years removed from the 9/11 attacks and with the Bush presidency cemented as one of the weakest and most despised in American history — that George W. Bush can “demand” that the Congress jump and re-write legislation at his will, vesting in him still greater surveillance power, by warning them, based solely on his say-so, that if they fail to comply with his demands, the next Terrorist attack will be their fault. And they jump and scamper and comply (Meteor Blades has the list of the 16 Senate Democrats voting in favor; the House will soon follow).

I just finished a discussion panel with ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero which was originally planned to examine his new (superb) book about the work his organization has done for years in battling the endless expansion of executive power and presidential lawbreaking. But the only issue anyone in the room really wanted to discuss — including us — was the outrage unfolding on Capitol Hill. And the anger was almost universally directed where it belongs: at Congressional Democrats, who increasingly bear more and more responsibility for the assaults on our constitutional liberties and unparalleled abuses of government power — many (probably most) of which, it should always be emphasized, remain concealed rather than disclosed.

Examine virtually every Bush scandal and it increasingly bears the mark not merely of Democratic capitulation, but Democratic participation. In August of 2006, the Supreme Court finally asserted the first real limit on Bush’s radical executive power theories in Hamdan, only for Congress, months later, to completely eviscerate those minimal limits — and then go far beyond — by enacting the grotesque Military Commissions Act with the support of substantial numbers of Democrats. What began as a covert and illegal Bush interrogation and detention program became the officially sanctioned, bipartisan policy of the United States.

Grave dangers are posed to our basic constitutional safeguards by the replacement of Sandra Day O’Connor with Sam Alito, whose elevation to the Supreme Court Congressional Democrats chose to permit. Vast abuses and criminality in surveillance remain undisclosed, uninvestigated and unimpeded because Congressional Democrats have stood meekly by while the administration refuses to disclose what it has been doing in how it spies on us. And we remain in Iraq, in direct defiance of the will of the vast majority of the country, because the Democratic Beltway establishment lacks both the courage and the desire to compel an end to that war.

And now Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, with revealing symbolism, cancel their scheduled appearances this morning at Yearly Kos because George Bush ordered them to remain in Washington in order to re-write and expand FISA — a law which he has repeatedly refused to allow to be revised for years and which he has openly and proudly violated.

Congressional Democrats know virtually nothing about how the Bush administration has been eavesdropping on our conversations because the administration refused to tell them and they passively accepted this state of affairs.

The intense rush to amend this legislation means that most of them have no idea what they are actually enacting — even less of an idea than they typically have. But what they know is that George Bush and Fox News and the Beltway establishment have told them that they would be irresponsible and weak and unserious if they failed to comply with George Bush’s instructions, and hence, they comply. In the American political landscape, there have been profound changes in public opinion since September of 2001. But in the Beltway, among our political and media establishment, virtually nothing has changed.

I don’t have time this morning to dissect the various excesses and dangers of the new FISA amendments, though Marty Lederman and Steve Benen both do a typically thorough job in that regard. Suffice to say, craven fear, as usual, is the author of this debacle.

There are many mythologies about what are the defining beliefs and motivations of bloggers and their readers and the attendees at Yearly Kos. One of the principal myths is that it is all driven by a familiar and easily defined ideological agenda and/or a partisan attachment to the Democratic Party. That is all false.

The common, defining political principle here — what resonates far more powerfully than any other idea — is a fervent and passionate belief in our country’s constitutional framework, the core liberties it secures, and the checks and balances it offers as a safeguard against tyrannical power. Those who fail to defend that framework, or worse, those who are passively or actively complicit in its further erosion, are all equally culpable.

With each day that passes, the radicalism and extremism originally spawned in secret by the Bush presidency becomes less and less his fault and more and more the fault of those who — having discovered what they have been doing and having been given the power to stop it — instead acquiesce to it and, worse, enable and endorse it.

UPDATE: Much of this was undoubtedly the by-product of the Democratic Beltway consultant geniuses who insist that Democrats not resist the President’s instructions on terrorism lest they look “weak.” They need to look “strong,” and they achieve that by giving the President what he wants and thereby generating articles like this one in The Washington Post, the first paragraph of which reports (accurately):

    The Senate bowed to White House pressure last night and passed a Republican plan for overhauling the federal government’s terrorist surveillance laws, approving changes that would temporarily give U.S. spy agencies expanded power to eavesdrop on foreign suspects without a court order.

In the mind of the moderate Democratic Beltway centrist consultant, that is how Democrats look Strong — by “bowing to pressure” exerted by one of the weakest and most disliked presidents in modern history. There is nothing like being described as “bowing” and “capitulating” to give an appearance of strength.

And can we please be spared the condescending assurances about how great it is that the law has a six-month sunset provision, since — in 6 months — it will be exactly the same Democrats voting on whether to renew these powers and they will be intimidated by exactly the same threats that if they do not renew it and give the President all of the powers he wants, the Terrorists will kill us and it will be all the fault of the Democrats for disobeying President Bush. The cycle is just going to repeat itself 180 days from now. Why would it be different?

UPDATE II: This afternoon I interviewed Sen. Chris Dodd, who more than any other presidential candidate is attempting to make issues of executive power and constitutional encroachments the centerpiece of his campaign. I’ll post the entire transcript and some commentary in a few days, but for now here is part of the discussion we had concerning last night’s FISA vote in the Senate (Dodd, along with Obama and Clinton, voted against the FISA bill):

    GG: Can you describe what you think it is that motivated 16 of your colleagues in the Democratic caucus to vote in favor of this bill?

    CD: No, I really can’t . . . We had caucuses during the day, so everyone knew what was there. You had a vote at 10:00 at night, people say I didn’t know what was there, then normally I can understand, but we had a caucus during the day. There was a lot of conversation about it.

    GG: So this wasn’t a Patriot Act case where people can claim ignorance because there was a rushed vote? There was a careful assessment of what the terms in this statute were?

    CD: Absolutely. In fact, even during the vote, Carl Levin was sitting there, and Carl said: “look, I want everyone to read this” . . . . Most people know about the Gonzales references and the 180 days — there is also a section, as Carl pointed out, that basically says that if they can prove reasonably that you’re out of the country — not that you’re not a citizen, just out of the country [then they can eavesdrop on you] . . . .

    But I wish I had a better explanation. Normally after that, we would be in session Monday or Tuesday, around today, people would be talking about it. So I’m a little stunned, and grasping for some answer here. So I really don’t know. . . .

    GG: There is this gap in FISA, which everyone, even Russ Feingold, says needs to be filled, which is that if there is a foreign-to-foreign conversation which happens to be routed through the U.S., it requires a warrant — so why not just say “OK, we fixed this gap and here’s our bill and if you veto it, and there’s a terrorist attack, then it’s your responsibility”?

    CD: Hello? Sounds pretty reasonable to me. But part of what this comes down to is that too many people in public life are not secure enough in their own beliefs — feel vulnerable to attacks by people who will attack you — and feel unwilling or unable to respond to them with clarity and conviction. And if you lack that clarity and conviction, and if you haven’t been through this in the past, then you’re likely to be a little weaker in the legs.

I also asked Dodd why Democrats repeatedly engage in the same self-destructive behavior — refusing to take a hard-core principled stance against the administration, and instead capitulating just enough to look like losers, but — despite the capitulation — still allowing the vote to be used against them. As always (see e.g., Iraq War Authorization, warrantless eavesdropping, Military Commissions Act), they capitulate in order to prevent the vote from being used against them, even though it ends up being used against them anyway because so many of them vote (with futility) against it, but do so without ever fighting for, explaining or defending their position.

I also asked him why, when they were in the minority, the Democrats were so afraid to filibuster anything, even something as drastic as the Military Commissions Act or the Alito nomination, whereas the Republicans run around filibustering everything they can find and don’t care at all about being called “obstructionist.” Why are the Republicans so aggressive with using their minority tools to block all Democratic initiatives whereas Democrats failed to filibuster for years?

Dodd, by his own candid admission, has no good explanation for the Democrats’ behavior, which repeats itself endlessly. He has no good explanation as to why so many of his Democratic colleagues are so deeply afraid of being attacked by one of the weakest presidents in modern American history.

Although Dodd’s convictions about the constitutional issues are impressively authentic and come from a place of real passion, and although he agreed with most of the criticisms voiced regarding the timidity of Congressional Democrats, I found the interview rather dispiriting, to put it mildly. That was not due to Dodd per se, but because it is clear that Beltway Democrats have no real strategy for doing anything differently or even any real awareness that something different is necessary.

UPDATE III: The House has now also voted in favor of the FISA amendments by a vote of 227-183 (h/t EJ). A total of 41 Democrats voted in favor.

It’s official, we are police state…
At Largely blog
August 04, 2007

    “This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.”
    ~ Plato

Thanks to 40 Democratic members of the House and the Democratic leadership in the Senate, the FISA Absolute Power bill has now passed. I promise you that whatever tiny restriction the Congress managed to put on the Absolute Power bill, the Decider will attach a signing statement to it making sure that that he gets every inch that he pretended to give.

This Congress is a disgrace. Compared to the Congress before it, which redefined corruption and took it to whole new levels, the Democratic Congress is the culture of cowardice and compromised people.

Thankfully I am an independent, which gives me plenty of room to vote for whomever I choose. Party is not country after all. But those of you who are Democrats, you need to send your party cards back in mass protest and make it clear, that you will make sure that every single person who voted for this horror is not going to be coming back to Congress after the next election. And for the rest of them who did not even attempt to filibuster this, I would urge you to put them on notice. As far as the Conservatives go, they will pick party over country, so there is no point in addressing what they need to do, as they are likely celebrating a big victory as though something this serious were a mere Monday night football game.

Make NO mistake, we are in serious peril when an Attorney General who has subverted the Constitution per request of his boss, lied, obstructed justice, and defended torture, is now in full authority to declare who is going to be a target of warrant-less surveillance. You may not see this as seriously as I do, but then again, you have not lived under a dictatorship to know the difference. Mostly though, the people who failed most, are the citizens of this country – who should have taken to the streets and shut down all commerce, all traffic, and disengaged from the machine of government. You did not shut it down. You did not even try. You waited as your hopes were put entirely in the hands of cowards.

The Soft Underbelly of the Democratic Party
Cenk Uygur
Aug 6 2007

Here we go again. I was going to write a nice, fun piece about Matt Damon on a lovely Sunday afternoon when the Democrats went and ruined everything, as usual. From time to time, I am told that I am too hard on the Democrats. It is not possible to be too hard on these vacillating, spineless, rudderless, clueless clowns.

Alright, there has to be an important distinction here. Most of the Democrats in the House voted the right way on the latest capitulation to the most unpopular president in history. And 28 Democratic Senators voted the right way. The rest are the biggest bunch of weaklings and half-wits I have ever seen. They are the soft underbelly of the Democratic Party.

How many times do I have to write this article? How many times will these same Democrats give in to the worst president in history? So, this time, they caved on FISA. And they caved big time.

The president has been running an illegal warrantless wiretapping program since 2001. He has been continually and brazenly breaking the FISA law. He finally submitted the program to the FISA court recently. And a FISA judge said earlier this year that the program was not legal. Now how do the Democrats hold the president accountable for breaking this federal law?

Did they impeach him for high crimes and misdemeanors? Did they censure him? Did they cut off funding? No, not only did they not do any of these patently obvious things, but instead, they turned around and changed the law to give him the authority to ignore the courts. How do you not call them weaklings? How am I supposed to take it easy on them? How can this possibly be justified?

They made his illegal actions legal in retrospect. Instead of holding him accountable, they gave him a blank check. If all of this wasn’t bad enough, they even removed the provision that the warrantless wiretapping be about an Al Qaeda operative or in some way linked to terrorism. So, the president now has BROADER authority to wiretap anyone who makes or receives a foreign call about ANYTHING.

You have got be asking yourself, why did they do this?! Do they know something we don’t? And the answer is unequivocally – no! They know a lot less than you do. They are under the ridiculous assumption that voting against this president on any national security matter would hurt them politically.

You ass clowns, he is the least popular president in history! Nixon spent nowhere near this much time at a 25% approval rating. In fact, when Nixon got to be this unpopular, he was forced to resign. Can you imagine Democrats capitulating to Nixon on critical legislation days before his resignation?

But wait a minute, doesn’t our intelligence have to listen into real threats from abroad? Of course!!!! But they can get the easiest warrant on the planet to do that. No court in America would turn down their request to listen on any communication that was even remotely suspicious. But don’t they need to act quick on many occasions? Wouldn’t a warrant unacceptably slow them down? No, they can act as quick as they want and then get a warrant 72 hours later to make it retroactively legal.

We’ve been through all this before. All of Bush’s excuses for this illegal spying program are pathetic. He can – and he should – do all the spying in the world to keep us safe. All he has to do is run it by a court after the fact to make sure they aren’t abusing the civil liberties and the privacy of innocent Americans.

There is absolutely no justification for these Democratic votes that helped Bush make his illegal program legal. On top of abdicating their constitutional responsibility to check an out of control president, they have also done something politically retarded. In one fell swoop, they have capitulated to a grossly unpopular president, justified his talking point that national security is on the line and given Republicans leverage over themselves.

There is no upside. The Republicans will use this to paint Democrats as weak on national security. They will say Bush protected us and most Democrats fought against it, but a few, sensible, moderate Democrats understood what was at stake. Then they will use this perceived weakness on national security to run against the very Democrats who voted with him.

And they fell for the same old trick that Bush has used a hundred times. Hurry up and give me this authority right before you go to recess otherwise the country will blow up. There is no time, you have to give it to me now otherwise I will blame you for all the increased terrorism I have caused. Plus, if you don’t give me what I want, I’ll take away your summer recess. Heaven forbid!

It’s time to make an important distinction again. The people who are at fault here are not all of the Democrats, or even most of the Democrats. And yes, obviously the Republicans in Congress who give away our rights without a second thought are even more guilty. But it’s a given that I wouldn’t vote for a Republican if you put a gun to my head at this point.

The people who are guilty are the Democrats who pretend to be centrists and vote with this administration over and over again to enable their worst abuses. They not only give away our rights without any concern, but they also give up the political middle. By pretending that compromise with this administration is reasonable, they move the center to the extreme right of the political spectrum. This not only does damage to the country, but does untold damage to their own party.

Is there anything these middle of the road, mamby, pamby Democrats won’t give the president? I literally cannot conceive of any power they wouldn’t cede, any principle they wouldn’t compromise, any issue they wouldn’t capitulate on.

How low does the president have to go before they would fight back? Does he have to get into the teens in popularity before these Democrats realize it doesn’t help them politically to vote with him? Does he have to be at a 9% approval rating before they start voting against him?

What if he took away all of the rights of a US citizen? Would they fight then? If you answered, well, surely in that case they would fight back, you were wrong.

The administration already took away all of the rights of two US citizens, Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi – and the Democrats did nothing, zip, zilcho, nada. The courts ruled to protect American citizens’ rights in those cases, but don’t worry, there’s still time for Congress to reverse them. Just wait till right before the next summer recess or next election and the Democrats will give this administration anything they want on a silver platter.

It’s time to start wholesale primary fights against all of the capitulating Democrats. It’s obvious all they care about is protecting their own power. They think the only challenge to that power will come from the right side of the spectrum. It’s time to make them reconsider their assumptions.

UPDATE — I just remembered that John Ashcroft fought this illegal FISA program from his hospital bed in 2004. In fact, the entire top echelon of the Justice Department and the head of the FBI all threatened to resign because of how illegal this progam was. The law they just passed appears to be broader than the one Ashcroft’s Justice Department fought against.

So, these Blue Dog Democrats (the fake centrists I talk about above) won’t fight nearly as hard as John Ashcroft and some of the most conservative lawyers in the country against George W. Bush. How centrists could they possibly be when they are to the right of John Ashcroft? This is really sickening. It is a callous disregard of their voters and their constitutional responsibility.

The Processes of Constitutional Change: From Partisan Entrenchment to the National Surveillance State
JACK M. BALKIN . Yale University – Law School
SANFORD LEVINSON, University of Texas Law School
Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 120
Fordham Law Review, Vol. 75, No. 2, 2006

[open to read]

Abstract:

This essay develops and refines our theory of constitutional change and constitutional revolutions, and applies it to the constitutional events of the last five years. We argue that constitutional change and constitutional revolutions occur through a process called partisan entrenchment, in which Presidents appoint judges and Justices to the federal judiciary who are thought to share the broad political agenda of the political party led by the President. When presidents are able to appoint enough such judges and Justices, constitutional doctrines start to change. The pace of change is faster if many appointments are made in a comparatively brief period of time.

Courts’ development of constitutional doctrine occurs within the broader framework of changes in constitutional regimes, which include changes in institutions, legislation, and administrative regulation. These changes are driven by the forces of democratic politics, and the major actors are the political branches. Although courts may initially resist these changes, in the long run they cooperate with them, define their contours, and legitimate them.

The second half of this essay describes an emerging regime of institutions and practices that we call the ‘National Surveillance State’. The National Surveillance State features increased government investments in technology and expanded government bureaucracies devoted to promoting domestic security and gathering intelligence and surveillance using all of the devices that the digital revolution allows. The National Surveillance State responds to the particular needs of warfare, foreign policy, and domestic law enforcement in the twenty-first century.

Courts will set the constitutional contours and limits of the National Surveillance State, but Congress and military and civilian bureaucracies within the Executive branch will actually develop most of its governing apparatus. Although the Republican Party has had the first crack at shaping the institutions and practices of the National Security State, both parties will eventually play a role, they will simply advocate somewhat different versions. How the National Surveillance State develops will depend on the contingencies of politics and the results of future elections, which, of course, will produce new judicial appointments. The courts will bless and legitimate these developments, much as they legitimated the rise of the administrative and regulatory state and the National Security State in the middle of the twentieth century.

“So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”
~ Molly Ivins, 1944 – 2007

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.
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One Response to The Blue Dogs and the Banana Republic

  1. Tom says:

    Just came across your blog on accident and read this post, it was a really good read! Keep up the good work.

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