FISA Vote Delayed

This was the best I could have hoped for: The Senate has delayed a vote on the FISA legislation until after the July break, saying that Senator (my hero) Russ Feingold wants more time to work on the telecom immunity provisions.

What it means to us is this: There is time to push back on the Democrats who caved in on these provisions in the Senate and the House, and also time to communicate the reasons for opposing this to our friends, family and other people who don’t understand what it does and why it’s bad.

Good work, Senate. Now fix this thing.

Obama’s Response to Constituent’s FISA Protest

Sorry, but it’s FISA night again. I’m really unhappy about the telecom immunity, and have been unhappier still about the somewhat vague response Barack Obama has given regarding his support for it.

However, one of his constituents wrote a letter to him urging him to vote no and received a more complete response.

The House and Senate worked out a compromise, reconciling differences between the two versions of the bill before it can be signed into law. While I recognize that this compromise is imperfect, I will support this legislation, which provides an important tool to fight the war on terrorism and provides for an Inspectors General report so that we can finally get to the bottom of the warrantless wiretapping program and how it undermined our civil liberties.

It’s still not enough for me, but I’m willing to accept that these affidavits that will have to be filed with the court by the Inspectors General will contain enough information to cast light on the illegal actions of the current Administration.

Dianne Feinstein is on notice, though, along with Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the caving Democrats in the House. This is not one I will forget when you’re up for re-election.

WTF Items for the Day

  • Appeals Court Invalidates Detainee’s ‘Enemy’ Status

    A federal appeals court in Washington has invalidated the Bush administration’s finding that a detainee held for more than six years in the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba is an “enemy combatant,” and has ordered the government to release him, transfer him or offer him a new hearing.

    Oh, and the White House pooh-poohed legal advice saying he risked judicial scrutiny of detention policies.

  • Report Says Partisanship Reigned in Justice Department Hiring Program

    High-ranking political appointees at the Justice Department labored to stock a prestigious hiring program with young conservatives in a five-year-long attempt to reshape the department’s ranks, according to an inspector general’s report to be released today.

    Wow, there’s a surprise. After firing US Attorneys that didn’t toe the Bushies’ line, who’s surprised by this?

  • McCain: No Habeas for Bin Laden, Right to the Gallows John McCain says:

    …After enthusiastically embracing the Supreme Court decision granting habeas in U.S. civilian courts to dangerous terrorist detainees, he is now running away from the consequences of that decision and what it would mean if Osama bin Laden were captured. Senator Obama refuses to clarify whether he believes habeas should be granted to Osama bin Laden, and instead cites the precedent of the Nuremburg [sic] war trials…There was no habeas at Nuremburg [sic] and there should be no habeas for Osama bin Laden.

    ..Let me be clear, under my administration Osama bin Laden will either be killed on the battlefield or executed.

    Just to be clear here, does anyone seriously believe bin Laden would set foot on American soil. Pulease! Meanwhile, Al Qaeda grows more vocal online.

  • The new FISA bill now in the Senate gives “wholesale approval for NSAt o conduct bulk monitoring of electronic communications.
  • Bush Administration shoots down plan to overhaul army contract oversight. After all, why be accountable for nearly 5 billion charged in fraud or another 5 billion spent without documentation?
  • Wexler points out how the McClellan testimony points to the Bush Administration crimes, and calls for accountability

This is really why the American electorate should not be so dumb about their constitutional rights. I have just listed six separate stories published in one day, all pointing to the utter disregard this administration has for basic civil rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

While the mainstream media stokes the fear that Iran will attack, participating once again in the administration’s plan to keep us in line by keeping us afraid, no one is paying attention to the true goal of Bush and the neocons: To erode civil rights and the constitution so deeply that Americans will not understand what they have surrendered through ignorance, nor what they have lost.

War With Iran? No, We Can’t. Call your Representatives.

Someone really needs to tell Congress to get a grip. That someone needs to be us. This is absolutely NOT the time to be saber-rattling in a serious way with Iran, and CERTAINLY not the time to be authorizing any resolution for military action.

Over the last three weeks 77 House Democrats and 92 Republicans have agreed to cosponsor a new resolution against Iran that demands that President Bush “initiate an international effort” to impose a land, sea, and air blockade on Iran to prevent it from importing gasoline and to inspect all cargo entering or leaving Iran.

Some facts:

  1. Play the memory game. This is how the Iraq disaster started. By shaking our fists at a country that did not attack us, did not in any way play a role in 9/11 and wasn’t responsible for whatever problems we had.
  2. Iranian people, for the most part, do not agree with aggressive moves toward other countries. Remember, armies need to have troops. Successful armies need to have troops with a cause.
  3. Believe it or not, Israel has the means and motivation to defend themselves.
  4. Afghanistan is going to hell in a handbasket.
  5. The motives for such a resolution are about oil, not security. Stop kidding yourself.

I’m not interested in fighting anyone else over oil. I’d just as soon quit using it. The political aim of introducing a resolution into Congress to encourage aggression against Iran is simply to force a choice between offshore drilling or aggressive action against a sovereign nation who has not threatened or attacked us.

It isn’t the job of our military or the citizens of this country to ensure that the Bush and Cheney families leave a fat oil inheritance to their families and cronies. Don’t be fooled by the absurdity of the proposal of these ‘elected officials’. Dethrone them instead.

And in the meantime, call your Representative and tell them NO WAR WITH IRAN. In fact, tell them NO MORE WAR FOR OIL.

Update The full text of the resolution is here. In the first paragraph, they mention the IAEA to bolster the claim that there is a threat. In fact, on 6/18/08, the IAEA published a communication from Iran in PDF format that indicates Iran’s willingness to address the issues around their nuclear program. The IAEA note at the end says it should be evaluated in six months. Of course, six months means Bush couldn’t shove us into war with them before the end of his presidency.

FISA, Fox and Obama

In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again. – Barack Obama, June 3, 2008

I’m disappointed in Barack Obama’s endorsement of the FISA compromise and I completely disagree with him on it. When I first read his statement over on TPM I was furious.

Over and over again, I’ve said that I believe this compromise erodes a core, fundamental value of this country. Not only because it erodes 4th amendment protections, but also because it will give the telcos the immunity they seek simply by going to court and telling the court that the President told them it was legal to do what they did.

I haven’t changed my mind on that.

What Barack Obama says about his decision is:

  1. It re-establishes at least a basic foundation of accountability;
  2. It restores FISA and existing criminal statutes as the only way to conduct surveillance;
  3. He doesn’t approve of the retroactive immunity but “will work in the Senate to remove [it]; and,
  4. It does not go far enough

On points 1,2 and 4 I agree. Point 3 is purely political; I don’t believe for a second that the retroactive immunity will be removed, particularly when this is attached to the much larger GI and War Funding bill. That disappoints me. It disappoints me that it doesn’t go far enough. It disappoints me that even one iota of our Constitution was the subject of a compromise, particularly by elected officials who swear to uphold and protect the Constitution.

It disappoints me because frankly, I want the head of George Bush on a platter for his flagrant abuse of the United States Constitution. (Figuratively, not literally, just in case there are any .gov visitors reading this). Hell yes, I want to impeach them all and put David Addington and John Yoo in jail for a very long time for what he’s done. I’m angry, affronted and offended that these brazen thieves and robbers have hijacked our government for what will surely be their personal gain.

This is why I am not a politician. I’m an opinionated citizen who has a voice, a blog and a vote. I have neither the patience nor the diplomatic skills to expect gray outcomes in a black and white case. And this is why a snippet of Obama’s speeches echoed in my mind. That snippet is at the beginning of this post.

What I lacked was perspective on just how deep the divide is in our country between those who fear and those who hope. By happenstance, I had a conversation with a couple whose daughter dances with mine and was completely taken by surprise when, with no prompting from me, the husband burst forth with a scathing diatribe about Obama and how much he hated the idea of him becoming President, because those damn liberals were going to allow our country to be attacked again and ruin the economy and appoint three liberal Supreme Court justices all in one four-year term.

This is a nice man. We have known each other for several years and he is a salt-of-the-earth GOOD person. He’s not ugly, but his words were.

Then I realized something else about him. He was deeply afraid. This was a true emotion running through everything he said and believed. Being fearful, he then chose news sources that stoked his fear. At some point I interrupted his diatribe and said “You must watch The O’Reilly Factor for your news. You sound just like him. In fact, you could do a screen test and sit in for him.”

To which he replied, “It’s the only show I watch. Me, my daughter and my wife sit down and watch it every day.”

As the conversation went on, I decided to see how he felt about FISA, because some conservative Republicans I know dislike the idea of eroding Constitutional rights as much as some progressives. His response was flat. “Wiretaps make us safer.” This was said in connection with a strong affirmation that torturing the bastards at Guantanamo was the least we should be doing to them.

Fear. Raw, unadulterated fear, with some O’Reilly style hate on the side. The thing is, he’s in the majority on this, which is why it wouldn’t have made sense for Obama to oppose it.

The FISA and torture issues have been framed to prey upon people’s fears, and it’s worked fabulously. Until these issues can be reframed in a way that exposes and resolves those fears, pushing back isn’t an option if one wants to have a political career that actually succeeds and gets them elected.

It comes down to this: Opposing this ‘compromise’ is too nuanced a position to take in a country where people decide who to vote for based upon whether they’d have a drink with them, or gender, or race, or whatever other superficial excuse is made for their surrender to the dark place where fears grow.

Realizing that, I also understand that my deepest disappointment, anger, and contempt is reserved for the corporate-controlled media, the Rupert Murdochs, Sean Hannitys and Bill O’Reillys who intentionally dumb down the issues of the day into 10-word sound bites and feeds them to the American public like hors d’oeurves next to their apple pie.

Yes, I wish that there were a way for Obama to step up and communicate with us in a way that would be persuasive enough for some to reconsider their position. But this is too hot an issue, too close to home for ones who fear to let go. It’s too big of a step.

Sad, but true. So I’m disappointed that Obama walked carefully down the center, but I understand why he did it, and just like Gotta Laff over at the Political Carnival,

Right now I’m angry. I’ll get over it.

That doesn’t mean I won’t keep holding his feet to the fire. I will. Because the antidote to fear IS hope. I’m the perennial optimist, I suppose, but I do believe that progress will be made back to a place where O’Reilly is irrelevant and people think for themselves, and fear is something they had but got over, just like my anger.

FISA: Democrats Capitulate to the GOP – Where’s Obama?

Silent, that’s where. On a day where he announces (wisely) that he will decline public funding, the Democrats in Congress bow backwards to the GOP and say ‘put it right here’. Not only that, but they ‘compromise’ on FISA in such a way that telecoms will receive their immunity according to the bought-and-paid for agreement.

The agreement would settle one of the thorniest issues in dispute by providing immunity to the phone companies in the Sept. 11 program as long as a federal district court determines that they received legitimate requests from the government directing their participation in the warrantless wiretapping operation.

With some AT&T and other telecommunications companies now facing some 40 lawsuits over their reported participation in the wiretapping program, Republican leaders described this narrow court review on the immunity question as a mere “formality.”

“The lawsuits will be dismissed,” Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 2 Republican in the House, predicted with confidence.

The proposal — particularly the immunity provision — represents a major victory for the White House after months of dispute. “I think the White House got a better deal than they even they had hoped to get,” said Senator Christopher Bond, the Missouri Republican who led the negotiations.

The White House immediately endorsed the proposal, which is likely to be voted on in the House on Friday and in the Senate next week.

They’re going to let impeachment die, they bow low and scrape before Lord Bush while selling us down the river for the price of a few lawsuits and the 4th amendment.

And Obama says…nothing? Time for some leadership. Especially if you want those grassroots contributors to keep contributing.

Is this a case of moving to the center? Triangulation? What happened to CHANGE?

I am perfectly willing to retract everything I’ve just written if someone — anyone — can offer me a reasonable explanation for this. I see several other alternatives including renewing the Protect America Act, not allowing telecom immunity, or tightening the provisions for requesting warrants, since it’s been PROVEN over and over again that there is a complete abuse of discretion in how these are requested.

C’mon, let’s have some transparency. Tell us why you feel compelled to subvert the US Constitution.

I’m waiting.