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September 23, 2006

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At the risk of repeating myself:

Get off your butts.
Call your representatives.
Spend your money. As much as you can.
Write letters.
Call people out -- people you know -- when they talk trash.
Vote.

Throw the bastards out. Send the guilty to jail. Don't take their crap. Take their toys away.

God damn it, how much is enough? It's not like we're powerless. Do it today.

Thank you.

This is, of course, the way that we hope democracy works russell. Unfortunately these days I am starting to feel as if this is all more and more of a traveshamockery. Democracy is not just about throwing some out of office. Its also about putting other people in. And when we have an opposition party that, so far, has nothing but praise for the official legalization of torture, one is not left with much hope of changing the basci dynamic of our government institutions.

My rerpresentative either feels that he is protecting me by granting ultimate power to the executive branch or he doesn't care. What he does know is that it won't hurt him with most of the people that vote and it might even help his chances. The fact that it undermines our democracy, or that it has the potential to endanger our own troops and officials overseas, or that it puts us on a very low moral standing as a country will never enter his mind. My phone call will not help.

Brent, who is your representative? How do you know what he thinks? If he thinks coming out in favor of the rule of law won't help him, whose fault is that?

Brent -

My guess is that, no matter what folks do, some form of exculpatory legislation will pass. The US will, as a matter of law, endorse abusive interrogation tactics. Torture, if you will.

You win some and you lose some. When you lose, you try harder next time.

Maybe the US is, in fact, on the verge of descending into our special brand of authoritarian nightmare. It's not out of the question, at all. Technology has advanced to a point where that could take forms old Joe Stalin could only dream of, so it could be pretty ugly.

What are you going to do? Sit at home and cry? Make the phone call. If your rep ignores you, you're no worse off than you are now.

As far as I can tell, the alternative is to do nothing.

Thanks -

If he thinks coming out in favor of the rule of law won't help him, whose fault is that?

Interesting question...

One could say it's the voter's fault, but on the other hand the voters generally find out what their representatives votes for or against thru the media.

Now which media?
Well upper middle class, educated people find out thru their local rag(NYT, LAT, Washingto Post,etc) and we have seen how accurate and unbiased they can be. The slighty less well off, less interested find out thru CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc..., and we all know how deeply concerned they are about missing white girls.
The working class finds out thru AM Radio, Rush and his ilk. Need I say more?

So who's fault is it? The voters for not being informed, the media for doing a crappy job of informing the voters, the owner of the media for tolerating such a crappy product, then again maybe it's not such a crappy product from their standpoint, they're making money hand over fist, misinforming the public and getting their favorred policy passed into law.

So who's to blame?

I'm going to a book event this evening for a new bio of I.F. Stone, so I thought I'd post this quote from Stone:

The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing -- for the sheer fun and joy of it -- to go right ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose. You mustn't feel like a martyr. You've got to enjoy it.

If he thinks coming out in favor of the rule of law won't help him, whose fault is that?

I don't quite know how to answer this question. For me, its not an issue of blame. At least not a simple one. I believe that, for the most part, we get the politicians that we deserve and we are all to blame for this particularly craven bunch but changing the dynamics of this is not as simple as individuals expressing their opinions or making phone calls to congressional offices. Those things are a step but at this stage a very small one. We need to change the very nature of the debate and this is an enormous undertaking. A worthy one but enormous nonetheless.

What are you going to do? Sit at home and cry? Make the phone call. If your rep ignores you, you're no worse off than you are now.

I think you are missing my point which is that there are larger political forces in play that are designed to minimize individual anti-torture opinions. (I am using the torture issue here but this can also be applied to a wider range of progrssive positions.) I think we change that by changing the terms of the debate and Democrats have shown all too clearly that they are, so far, hesitant to help us do that. For Democratic politicians, the opinions of liberals are to a certain extent marginalized because, well, who else are you going to vote for after all.

Think of it this way. We who are anti-torture. Who is our politiccal ally in this debate? Pelosi and Reid have indicated that they are not. Who will stand with us and what is their incentive for doing so? How will Democrats punish Democratic politicians for not siding with us other than sitting at home and crying as you put it.

Random question: what happens if we start calling Congresspeople other than those for whom we can vote? If I randomly called, I dunno, Chuck Schumer (having never lived in New York), would it do any good? Would it do anything bad?

One could say it's the voter's fault, but on the other hand the voters generally find out what their representatives votes for or against thru the media.

I recognize that there are a great many people with neither interest enough nor capacity to do anything other than follow the tabloid version of US governance on TV. None of them are reading this blog. I'm surprised by how many of the readers of this blog (and similar ones) are perfectly capable of seeing what a pathetic and shallow job the major papers have done coving, say, Afghanistan, and yet take the line offered by the NYT on going on on the Hill as somehow reliable.

But really, let's cut out the Dem bashing. Marty Meehan got all 12 Democrats on House Judiciary at the mark-up to vote with him last week on stripping the stripping provision. They lost, but it wasn't because of anything Pelosi said or didn't say: Hadley got to Hyde (I believe), and Hyde kept party discipline.

That the leadership isn't taking this particular thing on is of no real importance: there's always a division of labor in both houses of Congress, and so rather than Hastert, you see Hunter as the player on the Republican side on this one. For example.

On the Senate side, this is Carl Levin's show. Last time around, Jeff Bingaman was a player -- I don't know, but wouldn't be surprised to see him in it again. Nobody is looking to Reid on the issue -- he'll vote right, but he doesn't have any powers greater than Levin on the issue. And anyway, Levin is taking another run this week. Are your senators going to go with him?

It's not meaningless to call your representative out of the blue. There's no public groundswell in favor of torture -- people who know better but are supporting the other side on this one are thinking their constituents don't care. Of course, it would be better if you had a relationship with your representative. You probably know people in common -- these guys weren't dropped off by aliens from some other galaxy. Even without that, calls count, letters count, and complaining that we ought to figure out a way to punish them, or ought to have some as yet unimagined alternative party, isn't going to get it done.

On the Senate side, this is Carl Levin's show.

Well Levin's response to this so far has only been incrementally better than Reid's. From the NYT:

And Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised Senators Warner, McCain and Graham as “standing up to the administration” and producing a bill that, “while it has a number of problems, is a substantial improvement over the language proposed by the administration.”

This bill is, in my opinion, a mess and it seems to me that Levin's approach will be to try and adjust a few of the details. Perhaps he intends to take a more aggressive tack and I will be happy if he does but the most important thing for me at the moment is that this sort of statement does not help us refocus the terms of the debate to an staunchly anti-torture position.

Even without that, calls count, letters count, and complaining that we ought to figure out a way to punish them, or ought to have some as yet unimagined alternative party, isn't going to get it done.

Perhaps I am a cynic, but I quite srongly believe that the only real sway that we hold over politicians as citizens is our ability to punish them by taking our political support, both votes and money, elsewhere. The problem is that on many progressive issues, there is no elsewhere and Dem politicians know this. It is quite rare that they are in a position where moving to the middle or to the right on a particular issue will harm them too badly to win.

This is not an attempt to Dem bash as you put it but rather what I consider to be the political reality. My point is that we won't win by convincing politicians (at least not with moral arguments). We will only win by convincing people and convincing people means shifting the public debate to our way of thinking.

Let me stand in one spot and offer several points of view, or intimations of points of view.

My representative is Tom Tancredo. I can't think whose fault it is. I switched my registration to Republican just so I could vote for his challenger, Mike the Artichoke, in the primaries. Then I vote for the Democrat, who might as well be Mike the Artichoke, in the general election. All I know is that, in my district, I feel like the main character in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". I'm surrounded my very calm, seemingly nice people but I know they are alien pods (from another galaxy). If I give myself away in public, they point at me and issue high-pitched screams to alert the others, who then chase me through the streets. I dare not fall asleep, for fear that I'll awake to find myself staring dispassionately at a droning Bill O'Reilly on the tube.

I consider myself unrepresented. Sure, I could do more.

Charliecarp and Russell are right, of course, but I can't help but notice that Brent has placed his finger on something different today. There are noxious particles in the atmosphere. I can't describe it exactly.

But I would ask Brent, and Charleycarp and Russell a question -- how is it that George W. Bush and the Republican Party can have just finished parsing out a piece of legislation that melds together two awful pieces of crap into one large piece of crap with stunning long-term ramifications and the one political result I notice is that George W. Bush is rising in the polls and Democratic voters are now thinking about NOT voting for their Democratic reps?

Not that I have any sympathy for many Democratic politicians. But is this George W. Bush's brilliance, or is it the noxious particles in the atmosphere, bearing down on us, making us behave like some voter in a long ago time and place who figured that the little rooster with the moustache has some odd habits but things are just a bit out of control and the opposition seems not up to much of anything so I think I'll stay home at 174 Hoganstrasse and try not to notice as the moustaches proliferate?

I notice that Bob McManus has upped the ante, and good for him. But I think it was he who mentioned in another thread something about lots of people surrounding the Pentagon and putting it to them on the torture deal. (I'll go back and read that, so forgive me if I'm misinterpreting).

I wonder about such a demonstration with all those noxious particles buzzing through the air. If I show up and need to listen to 411 speakers drone on about their very specific tribal cause, from banning red dye in M&Ms to the plight of midwives in the rural South, before we get to the main attraction (and please, I'm not interested in cute girls in dreadlocks hoisting posters of Hugo Chavez with peace signs superimposed on his meaty mug), I'm going to grow my own moustache.

No, I am interested in something much more militant-looking. The presentation must be highly disciplined, ominous, uncompromisingly American, eloquent, inexorable. I want one million people who look like Republicans who are absolutists on the Second Amendment calling for heads.

Then I want to figure out how such a demonstration will look in the next morning's papers juxtaposed next to that smoking hole in the side of the Pentagon on 9/11.

Because we live in Bin Laden's and Rupert Murdoch's and Karl Rove's world now. The three of them think Richard Nixon was a pussy.

The only thing wrong with Kent State, in their minds, was there was not enough intentionality and discipline to the placement of the bullets.

Or worse, that it easily could have been ignored altogether or ridiculed by a phalanx of Limbaughs for a fortnight until it disappeared beneath the waves.

But, I ramble.

Maybe we shouldn't worry about this report. After all isn't the NIE the one who claimed in October of 2002:

We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade.

If this report is up to the same standards as previous ones by the NIE everyone posting here should be able to sleep well tonight.

Bril, that only works if you view the NIE as always saying the opposite of what's true, rather than always being as much in line with Bush's views as extensive bullying, cherry picking, and fact twisting can make it. If the latter is the case, then just imagine how bad the actual situation must be.

My representative is Tom Tancredo.

You have my sympathy.

how is it that George W. Bush and the Republican Party can have just finished parsing out a piece of legislation that melds together two awful pieces of crap into one large piece of crap with stunning long-term ramifications and the one political result I notice is that George W. Bush is rising in the polls and Democratic voters are now thinking about NOT voting for their Democratic reps?

People who live far away from any actual danger of terrorist attack are scared. Still more scared of Ted Kennedy than of Osama, but scared of Osama nonetheless. Of being unmanned by either or both. That accounts for Bush rising. On the other, I think I've said enough.

I proclaim -- boldly, as if I had the power to do so -- KC's 3:31 the winner of the thread.

Quick question here... what exactly do we want our reps to do?
Other than something "different" than what the admin is doing. I mean, all the blogs I am reading want this government out of office, ok, say they are thrown out on their collective asses, what then? What exactly is another administration going to do? What steps?
Anyone thought that far ahead yet?

I wonder when the Bush administration stopped "bullying, cherry picking, and fact twistingly..." the NIE. They must be relieved now that they can finally do their job without interference from the Bush administration.

I wonder how the NIE accomplished this while "Maybe the US is, in fact, on the verge of descending into our special brand of authoritarian nightmare." There has to be a lesson we can learn from the NIE's example.

If only the Democrats could figure out how the NIE overcame the evil that is the Bush administration. Maybe the Democrats could use the same methods against the Republicans in November.

Although maybe it is more relevant to figure out how Bush managed to manipulate all of the pre-2000 data in the NIE. Was it Rove's mind control machine? If so, then maybe a better plan for the Democrats this year would be to focus on stealing Rove's mind control machine. I suggest the Southpark strategy. The Democrats could dress up Butter's as a Republican and send him into the Lincoln bedroom. Being nothing more than a cartoon character himself, Bush probably wouldn't even notice.

You can criticize the strategy if you want, but its as good as what the Democrats are currently doing. As far as spending goes these Republicans have sucked. The Democrats couldn't knock off Bush and look to only do mildly better this year.

Another effective strategy would be if the Democrats could just shut up. The Democrats already have the Democratic vote. Conservatives hate this Republican Congress. If the Democrats stayed quiet as opposed to igniting the conservative base they would have a much better chance for taking the Congress.

"The problem is that on many progressive issues, there is no elsewhere and Dem politicians know this."

Interesting. You would think that by competing in the market place of ideas you could go directly to Americans and win them over.

I believe that the Republicans are so awful that anything the Democrats might do is going to have to be an improvement. Also, being on the winning side for the first time in fifteen years (with one blip in 1996) would be so good for my morale that it almost doesn't matter what they do.

Lest this be chalked up to an irrational hatred of George W. Bush or the Republicans, I assure you that my feelings for them are entirely rational, and getting more so by the day.

Interesting. You would think that by competing in the market place of ideas you could go directly to Americans and win them over.

I am not sure what you think you are trying to say here bril, especially in the context of my original comment. What I said was this:

Perhaps I am a cynic, but I quite srongly believe that the only real sway that we hold over politicians as citizens is our ability to punish them by taking our political support, both votes and money, elsewhere. The problem is that on many progressive issues, there is no elsewhere and Dem politicians know this.

So if I am to place your comment in that context, than one could take their votes and money to the "marketplace of ideas." What is that supposed to mean exactly?

Of course my larger point was precisely that we should be developing strategies to influence the public debate which I go on to point out is not such an easy matter. Not sure how your point is even relevant to that unless you were attempting in some odd way to agree with me.

What I would add is that there are many financial and political entities which act as gatekeepers to this fabled marketplace of ideas and have an interest in promoting and protecting less progressive policies. Even suggesing that all groups have anything like equal access to this "marketplace" would be quite absurd if that is what you meant to suggest.

Brent -

"I think you are missing my point which is that there are larger political forces in play that are designed to minimize individual anti-torture opinions. (I am using the torture issue here but this can also be applied to a wider range of progrssive positions.)"

No, I do get your point. And you're right, the situation sucks. My only point is that doing something is better than doing nothing. Not in some Peter Pan "clap harder" way, but in real life. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

John Thullen -

"Because we live in Bin Laden's and Rupert Murdoch's and Karl Rove's world now."

Wrong. Bin Laden, Murdoch, and Rove share a world with me, and you. It doesn't belong to any one of us, we share it while we're here. It's not their world.

The noxious particle in the air that you refer to is fear. Noxious particle is a very good word for it. The best antidote to fear is positive action.

If calling your rep doesn't do it for you and you want to engage in stronger stuff, my advice is go for it. My guess is you could muster a decent crowd of Republican-looking second amendment hawks looking for heads. Maybe not a million, but enough to fill a newspaper photo. Give it a try.

In a former lifetime, I watched friends chain themselves to the Pentagon doors and throw their own blood on the steps. I spent the first day of my honeymoon standing outside of Faneuil Hall here in Boston singing "America the Beautiful" while John Ashcroft was inside trying to sell the patriot act to local law enforcement. My wife is very tolerant.

Speaking of my wife, and since you mention Kent State, my wife is a Kent State grad, and was there on the famous day.

I have friends who, back in the day, were beaten up and spit on for being dirty hippies.

The good old noxious particle is nothing new, and things have, in fact, been far worse than they are now. People in this country have been killed for unionizing, for registering people to vote, or for talking to a white woman while wearing the wrong color skin.

We have it damned easy, so far.

Get on the horn. Spend money. Talk to people you know. Vote. Don't stop until this crap is over, at least in its current incarnation. Don't worry, it will come back, and then we'll have to do it all over again. And again.

George Bush is not a particularly intimidating opponent. By my estimation, he's a failure and a punk. The only thing that gives him any power is that people don't stand up to him.

So, stand up to him.

Thanks -

bril writes: "After all isn't the NIE the one who claimed in October of 2002:"

If I recall correctly, what was released at that time was a partial, edited version of a rush-job NIE, and Congress had to put up a fight to get that much out of the administration.

the Republicans are vile, but it's clear that - when it comes to war, torture and presidential power - the Dems don't or won't represent me either.

i think they soured a huge chunk of their base last week. if they lose in November (and i completely expect they will), it's their own damned fault. i'll vote for them, but i'm not doing it out of any passion for what they stand for, cause frankly, they don't stand for anything, as far as i can tell. and, honestly, it would do the party good to lose a good number of those spineless bastards due to voter apathy (or disgust).

f' em.

Thullen, you might wantr to call Salazar.

Spree, the narrow issue is to support the changes Levin wants to make in the bill on Military Commissions. And to filibuster the bill if changes are not made. War criminals should be tried under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Let's quit mollycoddling the terrorists -- letting them sit around eating lemon chicken and all -- and start prosecuting them.

Geez, cleek, what a tough crowd!

Spree -

What Charlie said.

Thanks -

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