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Angry and Furious at the Collaborationist Democrats
January 9, 2006 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Angry and Furious at the Collaborationist Democrats I [Martin Garbus] don't understand. An hour after I saw the Times "scoop" on the Bush illegal wiretapping plan, I wrote that it was clearly illegal and unconstitutional. But as it now turns out, dozens of politicians, as well as the New York Times knew about the surveillance plan and did nothing. Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, and Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, a man known for some sensitivity to civil liberties infringements, and a substantial number of congressmen, plus the New York Times, all knew of Bush's illegal spying.
posted by Postroad (56 comments total)

 
This sounds like good news to me. When the Republican machine falls, I want to see it take the Democrats right down with it. Then maybe we can finally get some leadership in this country.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:13 AM on January 9, 2006


Nader was right: we really do need an alternative to our one-party system.
posted by Rothko at 7:17 AM on January 9, 2006


When the Republican machine falls, I want to see it take the Democrats right down with it.

Right. What America needs is a removal of all current government power.

Because that's working so well in Iraq.
posted by scottreynen at 7:18 AM on January 9, 2006


What Rothko said. I voted for the Democrats, and not for Nader (In fact, I think he's something of a tool), but I'm forced to agree that the democrats don't provide much alterntive to Bush and Friends (tm). I'm just about fed up with the Democrats being unwilling to challenge the Republicans on any of the big issues, like Iraq, espionage, or the economy. The most that the majority of the Democrats will do is give vague pronouncements that the Republicans are doing a bad job, and aren't very nice. You can't expect to persuade the electorate that you'll fight America's problems if you get into office when you don't even have the courage to speak out aginst a mentally retarded lame-duck president with low popularity ratings.
posted by unreason at 7:23 AM on January 9, 2006


The problem, as I understand it, with the Congressional "notification" is that the congresspeople and others who knew were not even allowed to consult a lawyer about what they were told. I mean, clearly, there is a violation of civil liberties going on here, but I can imagine that these guys were put in a fairly untenable situation - violate the law requiring them to keep Top Secret stuff secure or keep their mouths closed. Whomever leaked this to the NYT is a good egg though. As for the NYT . . .I'm not sure why they sat on it for so long, and when I heard the author speaking on NPR, he just said something generic about it being "the paper's decision."
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:26 AM on January 9, 2006


I agree with Rothko. We need preference voting and proportional representation.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:31 AM on January 9, 2006


Right on, MM. When a senator gets briefed about something that's super-duper secret, he can't just tell the press about it, even if he disagrees with it.

Agreed on the general point that Dems have been too timid about criticizing misuse of intel, war blunders, debt, etc.

Ross Doutat guest-blogging at AndrewSullivan.com wrote a few weeks back (sorry, can't find it now) that the illegal spying program is a political winner for the GOP. It's a political strength, he wrote, that they're perceived as tough on bad guys. Maybe that's why Dems are timid about criticizing the GOP-- because they're afraid of being labeled timid about terrorism.
posted by ibmcginty at 7:37 AM on January 9, 2006


Smash the state. We're beyond reform, we need to replace.
posted by davelog at 7:39 AM on January 9, 2006


Rove: Jay, we need your support on this one.

Rockefeller: But Karl, it's clearly illegal. I can't support giving the President - especially this President - the power to spy on Americans.

Rove: So how about after the next terrorist attack we tell the public that it would have been stopped, save for the obstruction of a certain LIBERAL senator worried about CIVIL RIGHTS. I'll fax you a copy of the statement now if you'd like to see it.

Rockefeller: Where do I sign?
posted by three blind mice at 7:41 AM on January 9, 2006


MM. When a senator gets briefed about something that's super-duper secret, he can't just tell the press about it, even if he disagrees with it.

He can't give specific information about the project. He could though, say that there are programs to monitor the American people without a warrant.
posted by unreason at 7:42 AM on January 9, 2006


The problem is not that some Democrats didn't leak a secret illegal program. The problem is that the program existed in the first place.

Remember when Bob Graham (former senator from Florida) was running in the Democratic primary? He obviously had information about secret programs that he wanted to talk about, but never did.

Should he, and others, have gone to jail to expose these infringements on civil liberties? Perhaps, but it's Bush's fault that these programs existed in the first place, not the Democrats'.
posted by bshort at 7:44 AM on January 9, 2006


While there are plenty of opportunistic silences with which to criticize Democrats...this ain't one of them. And I've got a few words for Martin Garbus too.

Both Nancy Pelosi and Jay Rockefeller immediately objected to this program when they were informed, a point which the author glosses over, in order to participate in the other big failure of Democrats, which is the Circular Firing Squad.

Rockefeller's handwritten letter to Cheney is informative: "I am writing to reiterate my concerns...Clearly the activities we discussed raise profound oversight issues...Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities."

Even after the NY Times revelations of Bush's program, there was still doubt as to whether the Democrats objection letters could be declassified for release.

The letter was handwritten by Rockefeller, due to the fact that the program it alluded to was so highly classified that not even his staffers could take dictation on it, nor could the letter ever be saved to disk.

So...Bush and Cheney authorize a (potential) violation of law so classified that Rockefeller can't consult with staff or legal experts to confirm, and raises objections to the extent he's capable, and Martin Garbus's reaction is to criticize Democrats? Typical.

As a partisan...recognize that this guy is so distressed over the Republicans breaking the rules, that his reaction is to attempt political fratricide against those who followed the rules. It's both illogical and unproductive.
posted by edverb at 7:59 AM on January 9, 2006


"All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."--Edmund Burke

Now, I obviously agree with that statement, BUT how hard would it have been to blow the whistle in a hysterical post-9/11 environment? Pretty damned hard.

Still (and this is the curse of the liberal) I can see both sides. Sometimes you gotta bite the bullet and do the right thing. Leaking of the Pentagon Papers comes to mind.
posted by John of Michigan at 8:02 AM on January 9, 2006


What the fuck is wrong with you people? Do you really accept such a low standard of performance from your representatives?

Regardless of the legal bullshit, what was going on was *obviously wrong* and *all* of the people who were told should have trumpeted it from the rooftops. It's not as if they were in any real danger -- can you imagine the President even attempting to jail a Congressman or Senator for revealing secret presidential crimes -- or the boost to that politician's career if that *did* happen?

In a true "representative" democracy, these accessories to a felony would be forced to resign, now. But then in a true representative democracy, the government would have fallen years ago.

scottreynen wrote:
When the Republican machine falls, I want to see it take the Democrats right down with it.
Right. What America needs is a removal of all current government power.

Because that's working so well in Iraq.
Ha, ha, ha! Wait, you're serious. Er, if all the Democrats and Republicans went away for a year, the operations of the US government would continue more or less unabated until the budget had to be reapproved.

Impeaching and replacing all our corrupt politicans, Republican or Democrat, would not result in an Iraq-style chaos -- and it's weird strange that you have so very little faith in the more-or-less correct operation of the US government as to think so.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:17 AM on January 9, 2006


“Sometimes you gotta bite the bullet and do the right thing.”

Agreed.

*drags out large cumbersome ‘I told you so’ generator*

I think we should have a larger more diverse group of political parties. Whether the Dems were timid or bold - we run the risk of being (metaphorically) inbred. I tend to vote third party on general principles.

I agree with edverb that it is unproductive to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but for different reasons. I don’t foresee either political party acting on principle rather than self-interest. Like comfort addicts, men secure in their power profit from inaction. Certainly there are exceptional people, but on the whole the system tends to reward playing ball and making nice.
Certainly Rockerfeller, Pelosi, et. al. were placed in a tough situation here, catch-22 is if they did the right thing we lose them as public representatives.
It’d be nice if Bushco could be given a no-confidence vote.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:24 AM on January 9, 2006


Because that's working so well in Iraq.

If you were being occupied by a "coalition of the willing" then yes, you could draw that comparison.

A populist uprising on the other hand.... that may actually work
posted by twistedonion at 8:24 AM on January 9, 2006


Right. What America needs is a removal of all current government power.

Because that's working so well in Iraq.


Um, this is not iraq.
posted by delmoi at 8:33 AM on January 9, 2006


A populist uprising on the other hand.... that may actually work

The American public will greet the populist Naderite liberators with flowers, right? You're talking about a country that generally can't even be bothered to vote. I'm all about election reforms, but this talk of expelling all Republicans and Democrats from government is just silly.
posted by scottreynen at 8:33 AM on January 9, 2006


As a partisan...recognize that this guy is so distressed over the Republicans breaking the rules, that his reaction is to attempt political fratricide against those who followed the rules. It's both illogical and unproductive.

You know, after a few minutes reflection, I'd like to float another possibility.

The NYT has come under fire b/c they "sat on this" for over a year. Turns out they had this story just before the election and declined to run with it. Let me repeat that for consideration...they were given a story about Presidential lawbreaking, by anonymous sources, just before the Presidential election. They declined to run with it.

Do the math.

So either Martin Garbus is angry and furious because Republicans broke the rules while his side followed them...or else he's angry and furious that their fingerprints weren't on the damned shiv.

Either way I'd like him to drink a large cup of STFU.
posted by edverb at 8:36 AM on January 9, 2006


my lack of surprise doesn't get in the way of my rage. and any politician, bureaucrat, journalist or janitor who knew about this and did nothing deserves more than just contempt. jail might be nice. (accessory after the fact, perhaps?)

but don't forget that laws don't matter anymore. when they discovered that the majority of the people just don't give a damn about anything but stuffing their faces and the continued flow of gasoline, the fact-based reality went right out the window.
posted by RedEmma at 8:37 AM on January 9, 2006


Regardless of the legal bullshit, what was going on was *obviously wrong* and *all* of the people who were told should have trumpeted it from the rooftops. It's not as if they were in any real danger -- can you imagine the President even attempting to jail a Congressman or Senator for revealing secret presidential crimes -- or the boost to that politician's career if that *did* happen?

Well, they probably leaked it to the NYT.
posted by delmoi at 8:39 AM on January 9, 2006


"Well, they probably leaked it to the NYT."

Who sat on it for a year.

...scary. Really. Reminds me of Three Days of the Condor.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:10 AM on January 9, 2006



The leaker must have brass cojones though. Given that he was likely being surveilled..er I mean ..accidentally caught in a wide reaching system designed to catch terrorists.

There won't be an outcry about this until details of its abuse come out. Stuff like listening in on opposition strategists, illicit liasons, etc...
posted by srboisvert at 9:10 AM on January 9, 2006



The American public will greet the populist Naderite liberators with flowers, right? You're talking about a country that generally can't even be bothered to vote. I'm all about election reforms, but this talk of expelling all Republicans and Democrats from government is just silly.

Is it?

Most legislators can't be bothered to read the bill they're voting on.

Republicans and Democrats are the hand-fed finches of their corporate sponsors. Yes, they are absolutely necessary for perpetuating this brutal paradigm.

The State itself should not be the sole focus of the smashing. It would be like blaming the Queen for all your problems. The real problem is economic - the corporate state, the military-industrial complex. Replacing the Clintons and DeLays with Green party ministers in a provisional government would perhaps bring about some reforms, and would certainly be better, but the real power is the power of private corporations.

Their strangehold over American life is indisputable. They have ripped up our cities and towns and dissolved our communities in order to ensure constant, regulated consumption.

But the mess is ours, we conspired in it, and we should take responsibility. If you drive a car, you are responsible for the Iraq war - no use blaming anyone else.

Political freedom is nothing without economic freedom. We have all our freedoms on paper already.


the majority of the people just don't give a damn about anything but stuffing their faces and the continued flow of gasoline


Is this true? If so, why do so many people go to Church? They are looking for community, a place to feel human again. The Church is the only sponsor of community in most of America today.

Just because we're in the television age doesn't mean people don't want to leave the house. They actually can't wait to - it's just that there's nothing to do when they get there. If you read books about life a hundred years ago, there were weekly parades, festivals, performances, lectures, recitals, fairs, workshops, trips, tours. Society organized itself - it was not organized from above.

The Church organizes in a similar manner. It acts as a real political party in this way, without overtly being one. Churches build basketball stadiums for their youth and host chaperoned dances. They have bake sales. They host mission trips to Mexico. They clean up highways and put on plays. Imagine, people actually enjoy doing these things!

If a "socialist" revolution hopes to triumph in America, it needs to organize itself by providing things to do. Rallies in the street are too narrow, too infrequent, too overtly political. The Church's strength lies not in its numbers, or a majority, but because it is the only place where people can be together and share their lives on a regular basis.

That the poster above believes that the nation would fall into anarchy without Tom Delay being wined and dined by K Street lobbyists suggests a profound disregard for real people, who are quite capable of doing things for themselves.
posted by bukharin at 9:12 AM on January 9, 2006


That the poster above believes that the nation would fall into anarchy without Tom Delay being wined and dined by K Street lobbyists suggests a profound disregard for real people, who are quite capable of doing things for themselves.

False dichotomy. We don't have to choose between the current state of corruption and some crazy overthrow of the government that will never happen. People can be convinced to get interested in politics, but in today's climate, that change won't happen easily or suddenly. If you think it will, you're just fooling yourself. America is obese. There are no obese revolutions.
posted by scottreynen at 9:33 AM on January 9, 2006


i dread what it's going to take to motivate the american people to change things ... and what kind of demogogue will promise to do so
posted by pyramid termite at 9:40 AM on January 9, 2006


Most legislators can't be bothered to read the bill they're voting on.

This is hard when the bill brought to the floor is completely rewritten after committee work, and you are given less than 24 hours to read it -- and you are explicitly told you can't make copies.

Lord, I don't give congressional democrats much slack, but the last two congresses have been infamous for the minority party being completely shut out of any input into legislation whatsoever. In the House, they'd just ignore the minority. In the Senate, where they couldn't, they'd compromise. Of course, the bill would go to conference, the conference would adopt the House bill entire.

The other problem is this -- a significant amount of the media traffic in the US has this a pretext -- the Democratic Party are traitors, and deserve nothing but death. Indeed, several Democratic Party leaders were directly attacked -- remember those Anthrax letters?

Part of me doesn't blame them for being nervous -- the opposing party and the media has worked hard to make the "You're either with us, or against us" meme very real in their eyes. I use to wish they'd just start fighting, but I'm pretty sure it's too late. It doesn't matter who's doing what in Congress if the Executive merely ignores anything that the Congress passes that it feels is annoying.
posted by eriko at 9:46 AM on January 9, 2006



The dichotomy is by no means false. And obesity is curable.

"Today's climate" can change tomorrow. I don't think it's possible to force a political revolution - that would be a conspiracy, a coup. It must be driven by objective conditions that are economic in nature.

The government will not investigate itself and will not reform itself. It is rotten through and through. It will make cosmetic changes to satisfy public opinion - the way a monarchy does.

How do you "convince" people to "get interested" in politics? If you talk to people in, say, Texas, where I'm from, they actually are pretty interested. I've heard furious debates among housewives at get-togethers.

My point was that we should build an economic revolution from below if we want a political revolution above. I know people in Texas who - yes, shop at the supermarket because it's nearby, and they don't have much time - but who also love going to the farmer's market on Thursdays, or going out into the country to pick blueberries on weekends. And why don't people have more time to begin with? Why must both parents work full-time to support two kids? Because the cost of living is made artificially high by the corporate economy, and by a way of life centered around the automobile.

Americans are obese because they are deprived of the pleasure of laboring cooperatively for their own benefit.
posted by bukharin at 9:47 AM on January 9, 2006


I myself will continue to vote a straight socialist ticket until I am no longer an idiot for doing so.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:48 AM on January 9, 2006


You're quite right about the hunger for community, bukharin. One of the reasons why the electorate is such easy prey for the religious right is that life as it is lived in the vast majority of America these days is a profound historical anomaly, a gas-guzzling round of errands to Wal-Mart between TV marathons and visits to Carl's Jr. (Having spent some weeks in places like Normal, Illinois, I am not exaggerating much.) The kids are zoned out on Ritalin and spending hours online because there's nothing else to do, grandma's at the home, and mom and dad are too exhausted from trying to make ends meet to do anything but switch on the boob tube at the end of the day. It's no wonder that superchurches and other institutions, loudly proclaiming the virtues of family and offering some shallow simulacrum of human community as it was lived for millions of years, are able to pull in the flocks and tell them who to vote for by leveraging pervasive feelings of emptiness, loneliness, and inadequacy.
posted by digaman at 9:51 AM on January 9, 2006


The problem with the US's "representative democracy" is that it does not represent the common citizen, but the ultra-wealthy and ultra-powerful.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:55 AM on January 9, 2006



Beautiful, digaman. Thanks for that.
posted by bukharin at 9:56 AM on January 9, 2006


If a "socialist" revolution hopes to triumph in America, it needs to organize itself by providing things to do. Rallies in the street are too narrow, too infrequent, too overtly political. The Church's strength lies not in its numbers, or a majority, but because it is the only place where people can be together and share their lives on a regular basis. -bukharin

First off, despite the media label of the "Christian Right," there is no great "Church." Its laughable to think that any great number of the many religious denominations could form some all national "Church" political party. Even those churches under conventions, like the Southern Baptist are far from being all mainstreamed copies of each other. Conservative values might link church goers, but not any real type of infrastructure.

Secondly, we don't need a "socialist" revolution or anything like it. What we need is a wave of progressive reforms, which could even emerge from individuals in both political parties. Whats required are real reforms which are enforced. Simple as that.
posted by Atreides at 9:57 AM on January 9, 2006


Atreides, I would have agreed with you a few years ago, before a handful of guys with box-cutters were successful in triggering a wave of "reforms," courtesy of the neocon cabal, that have left the Constitution in shambles, and Democrats sputtering to even register displeasure that the President has become a despot who is able to launch huge spying operations against Quakers, vegans, and gay people under cover of the tattered 9/11 flag.

I am all for progressive reform, but the two-party system has never looked morre bankrupt, hopeless, and easily manipulatible as now. I'm not even certain that the national voting process is anything more than a glib show at this point courtesy of Diebold -- we're living in one sick former democracy.
posted by digaman at 10:12 AM on January 9, 2006


America is obese. There are no obese revolutions.

Far out. Nearly 20 years ago I was joking to a co-worker that what America needed was a good old-fashioned famine.
posted by alumshubby at 10:21 AM on January 9, 2006



Hear, hear.

And yes it's true about the pluralism of churches. The evangelical churches are the social arm of the Republican party, which is by and large the Southern Baptist church, but contains others. But I also mean churches in general, especially in the South, who provide a semblance of community. I don't mean the Church in an established state religion sense - although we are headed that way.

It's not even a two-party system, it's a one-party state. Democrats and Republicans both serve only the business community -- Republicans are just better at it.

Were we ever a democracy? Choosing between two masters doesn't make you any less of a slave.
posted by bukharin at 10:27 AM on January 9, 2006


"The apparatus imposes its economic and political requirements for defense and expansion on labor time and free time, on the material and intellectual culture. By virtue of the way it has organized its technological base, contemporary industrial society tends to be totalitarian. For 'totalitarian' is not only terroristic political coordination of society, but also a non-terroristic economic-technical coordination which operates through the manipulation of needs by vested interests. It thus precludes the emergence of an effective opposition against the whole. Not only a specific form of government or party rule makes for totalitarianism, but also a specific system of production and distribution which may well be compatible with a 'pluralism' of parties, newspapers, 'countervailing powers,' etc."

-Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man
posted by bukharin at 10:34 AM on January 9, 2006


Digiman, I certainly understand your viewpoint. My own thoughts reflect back to another time, when I felt that the two party system was just as bad, the last quarter of the 19th century. Progressive reform enabled the country to step out of that period into a much better state of politics, eventually resisting part of the world wide trend towards Facism. I believe, its not so much that the system has failed us, but that the American public has not yet been shocked and outraged enough to respond accordingly. Remember, the progressive movement of that time was not simply an overnight affair, but one that had to steadily build itself up.

Bukharin, I agree with you that the number one threat to our democracy is money. The corporate world has more of it than any PAC or voter group. I also believe that a majority of decisions made in Congress hinge more on the business world response, versus the constituent's. The money issue is the chief problem, which has to be resolved, and one, I hope, through reform that I addressed above.

I'd like to believe I'm optimistic, versus naive, and that the American democracy has faced similiar times of crisis and survived them in turn. And yes, we were a democracy in the past, and we will be a stronger one in the future.
posted by Atreides at 11:38 AM on January 9, 2006


Cool! Anarchist rants, excerpts from Marcuse, etc...good ol' fashioned sentiments indeed...but to quote Diane Keaton's Louise Bryant in Reds: "A revolution? In THIS country?"

posted by bonefish at 11:50 AM on January 9, 2006



This country is not immune to upheaval. Our entire way of life depends on a very limited resource - oil - the production of which has reached, or is reaching, its peak. Our economy - which depends almost entirely on the development and nurturing of suburbia - is going to be become increasingly dysfunctional, as growth in GDP depends on yearly growth in the consumption of energy. With the rising cost of energy will come the rising cost of life. Most Americans are already struggling to make ends meet - we are a nation of poor, but even the middle class will find itself economically degraded. If we are serious about progressive values, we will wake up to the reality of energy dependence. When a way of life that we have come to regard as our alienable right to live - the life of excessive consumption based on cheap energy - becomes threatened and dysfunctional, many people will be forced into an active engagement with politics. Progressives must be there with a platform, and a broader sense of reality, to channel the energy of the people toward a positive vision of the future. If we don't, a demagogue, a Hitler, will direct it elsewhere.
posted by bukharin at 12:05 PM on January 9, 2006


I think it's unfair to fault the Democrats for following the rules regarding classified information, especially since the crux of this whole matter is the Republicans failing to follow the rules mandated by FISA. For the Democrats to break the rules on this one, it would appear hypocritical, and would give the Repubs a great opportunity to talk about us "Weak flip-flopping lefties that are soft on terrorism."

Now, as far as the NYT goes - shame on them. Seriously. Shame on them.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:06 PM on January 9, 2006


Ah, so the Republican party, corrupt to its modern core, stomps all over the Constitution, and tries to raise Bush to King George status.

It must be time for ... Another circular firing squad for the Democrats!

Great fricikn' idea.
posted by teece at 12:10 PM on January 9, 2006


Desparity of oil, economic shock, I entirely agree that such might very well operate as the shock to the system which will get things rolling. It has always been an imbalance of haves and have nots that have been the ignition to political change, in one direction or the other. However, the overall history of American democracy points more towards a checking of power, versus the allowance for total accumulation.

Then again, I grew up in the shadow of Jefferson's Monticello, and have a thing about tyrants.
posted by Atreides at 12:17 PM on January 9, 2006


Democrats love most of post 9/11 disregard for the constitution. And the media, as long as they're kept in loop and rewarded for their silence, would keep quiet. DEMS let bush gets away because once they are at the helm, then they can use the same powers and get away with their own abuse of power. And the media, as long as people at the top provides (for the big business owners of media), are insiders rather than whistleblowers.

The new disregard for law in USA is non partisan. (the parites being GOP, DEMS and the mass media). soon nothing short of a velvet revolution can remedy the end of constitutional rule in USA. what colour should be the american prestroika?
posted by sundaymag at 1:07 PM on January 9, 2006


What is this "progressive" political stance y'all are braying about? Sounds suspiciously like warmed-over socialism.

It never ceases to amaze me that in the US the most popular response to oppressive government is ... a demand for more government. But we'll get it right this time, right?

That goverment is best which governs least.
posted by oncogenesis at 1:28 PM on January 9, 2006


That goverment is best which governs least.

It never ceases to amaze me how many otherwise intelligent people buy into this pabulum, in the age of Sierra Leone et. al, on the one hand, and places like Europe, on the other. Both of which throw major monkey wrenches into the idea that a minimal government is the answer.

The best government is that which governs best. Yes, it's a tautology, and actually tells you nothing. But that's the rub: finding the best government takes work, not empty pabulum about big government being bad (or good, for that matter).

You have to actually evaluate what the government is doing for the people, not judge it on completely ineffective, and dogmatic, one-dimensional tests.
posted by teece at 1:50 PM on January 9, 2006


The Church organizes in a similar manner. It acts as a real political party in this way

i wouldn't say The Church as some holistic social formation, but i will grab onto "looking for community" for the sake of a point.

out of the 20,000 or so whining mefites, i bet there are less than 200 who regularly participate in a real political party, democrat or otherwise. that is, help organize and go to precinct meetings and conduct precinct activities of interest to themselves. in many ways it is fundamentally the same activity as forming *a church*.

[terminally difficult rant about intellectual ability of progressives to politically organize... deleted]
posted by 3.2.3 at 3:11 PM on January 9, 2006


warmed-over socialism... a demand for more government

An excusable error. Socialism is not communism. Communism - i.e., a command economy - has more to do with wartime control of the productive resources, like say America during World War 2, than socialism. And indeed, the only "socialist" experiment was the Soviet Union, which never ceased to be in warfare from its inception to just before Stalin's death.

The ideal of socialism - admittedly a utopian fantasy - is that the State would wither away. People would have cooperative control over their own economy, like say a food co-op. Such modest developments are not unreasonable or impossible - but rather a healthy means of attaining self-sufficiency and a form of labor that is much more rewarding materially and morally.

The S.U. established a huge bureaucracy to control every aspect of society, while claiming to represent the workers. Nothing could be less desirable.

Admittedly "socialism" is out of fashion. I personally don't believe you can, or should, outlaw commerce. I do believe CEOs shouldn't be making millions of dollars while paying their workers minimum wage and not providing health care. The big chiefs collect the prosperity they hardly had a hand in creating, that rightfully belongs to the toiling millions who are paid just enough to keep them from starving.

There should be less government in some areas, and more in others. A government starved by tax cuts and defense spending is a government that cannot provide a basic level of care for its citizens - i.e., infrastructure, schools, health care, and disaster relief. New Orleans was lost not because of a freak storm but because nobody was willing to pay the money to strengthen the levees that would have cost a fraction of the amount it takes to hire Halliburton to build nothing in Iraq.
posted by bukharin at 5:01 PM on January 9, 2006


This is a completely misleading article and I'm surprised nobody else has called it out yet. The congressmen were only told that a wiretap program existed, not that it operated illegally by failing to obtain warrants. To me, that's why this wiretapping issue has been such an outrage beyond belief - the president believes he is above the law and accountable to no one. If this precedent goes unchallenged, it will destroy our government.

The congressmen weren't being told about the illegal aspects of the program, or how it may have been used to target groups completely unrelated to terrorism. As far as they were told at the time, the operations were completely within FISA guidelines and only used in ways relevant to terrorism. And they weren't allowed to get any extra information or do anything that might help show otherwise. Even with their limited info, some of them were smart enough to raise objections. So why do they deserve scorn for not outing what appeared to be a legal program?
posted by H-Bar at 5:27 PM on January 9, 2006


“The congressmen were only told that a wiretap program existed, not that it operated illegally by failing to obtain warrants.”

I didn’t catch that. Huh.
I don’t think they would have been told the program was illegal per se though.
“Say, we’re running this illegal thing here, but you can’t tell nobody, see?”
Yeah, I don’t see that going down. Most of them are lawyers. Have big staffs. They’re plugged in. They should know. It’s they’re job to know. If they don’t know, then something is wrong and they should be bitching - loudly about it.
I know that the minority party lately has been very excluded. But I don’t hear a peep.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:51 PM on January 9, 2006


Ok, maybe this is so obvious that I need to point it out:

1.) The Bush Junta has been running warrantless wiretaps since 2001.

2) The people who are supposed to be in opposition have not spoken up to oppose this, or even to blow the whistle on it.

Put the pieces together: The Bush Junta has been eavesdropping on the opposition, now has the goods on each and every one of them, and is blackmailing them to buy their silent acquiesance.

QED.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:06 PM on January 9, 2006


It never ceases to amaze me how many otherwise intelligent people buy into this pabulum, in the age of Sierra Leone et. al, on the one hand, and places like Europe, on the other.

Sierra Leone had a horrible civil war. This says what about limited government?

And Europe is some kind of bastion of personal and economic freedoms?

The best government is that which governs best. Yes, it's a tautology, and actually tells you nothing. But that's the rub: finding the best government takes work, not empty pabulum about big government being bad (or good, for that matter).

The notion of "finding the best government" is delusional, even if you manage to define "best". Despite whatever lofy intentions government starts out with, the real effect of government is to accrue power to itself. Government has absolutely no incentive to perfom well, but it has many incentives to be incompetent and corrupt. I offer September 11, 2001 as People's Exhibit A.

Government is unique among human institutions (at least in the Western world) in that it has the privilege of using violence and coercion to achieve its goals. I find it best to treat that power with suspicion and fear and to limit it in the extreme.

The Perpetual War Against Some Noun has revived the "freedom isn't free" meme. I agree with the notion, but the biggest threat to our freedom in the US is not external, it never was and it will never be. The biggest threat is our own government, it always has been and it always will be. I offer the U-SAP-AT-RIOT Act and Spygate as People's Exhibits B and C.

You have to actually evaluate what the government is doing for the people, not judge it on completely ineffective, and dogmatic, one-dimensional tests.

I have done that and come to the conclusion that, on the whole, government does more harm than good (kinda like religion). If government is necessary, than it is a necessary evil.
posted by oncogenesis at 9:56 PM on January 9, 2006


The ideal of socialism - admittedly a utopian fantasy - is that the State would wither away.

Eh? Are you using some archaic meaning for the word? In US vernacular, "socialism" denotes high taxes, the absence of economic freedom, and massive government social programs, if not outright nationalization of industry.

I'm not offering this as a definition, but the idea behind the word, as it is used in the US, has nothing to do with elimination of the state.
posted by oncogenesis at 10:08 PM on January 9, 2006


That's because the US has a lunatic, indefensible hatred for socialism.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:38 PM on January 9, 2006


oncogenesis, apparently you missed the memo. Europe is indeed a bastion of personal liberty. Once upon a time the US was. But they just kind of lost interest and let the thugs and corporations take over.

As for your minarchist screed: get over it. You've got so many right ideas mixed in there, you just need to get over the minarchist bullshit. Government, American style, is what the people make it, and that changes according to our needs. It's a purely pragmatic thing. Dogma only binds.

Ultimately, the crisis in America today is a moral crisis. The corporate bosses and politicians have chosen to discard that which is right, under the law, in favor of some notion of profit. The people have given up their vigilance.
posted by Goofyy at 8:00 AM on January 10, 2006


oncogenesis, you seem to be the usual, very hard to reason with Libertarian.

On Sierra Leone: it has very, very limited government. I'm not really concerned with why: by the sophistic reasoning of the Libertarian, this would be a good thing. It's quite obviously poppy-cock bunk that less government necessarily equals better government, and even a 2nd grader can prove it. Yet, it's such a common rallying cry. It makes it hard to believe you're actually thinking seriously about the issue.

And Europe is some kind of bastion of personal and economic freedoms?

And why do "economic freedoms" automatically equate with a good government, or happy people, or a prosperous society? That's a childishly silly reduction, unfortunately all too common among Libertarians. Many countries in Europe, by American Libertarian standards, do have "limited" economic freedoms. They also have very stable, very happy populaces and very well functioning societies, with well-safeguarded individual liberties. Things that Libertarians claim to be ultimate evils (like limited socialism) allow millions of people to live happy, safe, peaceful, and fulfilled lives. Go figure. You'd think that make you stop and examine your postulates. Instead, it makes you ignore Europe. By contrast, China has been slowly changing to a land with some modicum of economic freedoms, and yet it still has a whole host of really nasty curtailments of individual freedom. And it does not look like economic freedoms are going to magically make China into a "free" land.

So, to recap: some places have the Libertarian definition of "more government" or "big government:" these places are swell places to live. Some places have very small or no government, and these places are shit holes where almost no one would choose to live. Other countries, like the US and China, turn the graph of "good place to live" vs. "size of government" into a scatter plot, not a monotonically increasing line. You'd think that'd make you question your hypothesis...

The notion of "finding the best government" is delusional, even if you manage to define "best".

This is so astoundingly childish. Now you're not even saying that the smallest government is best, you're saying we should just say "aw, fuck it," real world be damned, just make it smaller. Who cares if it works!?

Government is unique among human institutions (at least in the Western world) in that it has the privilege of using violence and coercion to achieve its goals. I find it best to treat that power with suspicion and fear and to limit it in the extreme.

Pretty much all modern constitutional democracies take this position. It's a sound one. Sadly, you take it way too far.

I have done that and come to the conclusion that, on the whole, government does more harm than good (kinda like religion). If government is necessary, than it is a necessary evil.

This is painfully, childishly wrong, and I'd encourage you to go spend some time in a country with almost no government (Sierra Leone would be good). If you come back alive, you'll be disabused of this painfully naive notion.

I guess I'm through.
posted by teece at 10:03 AM on January 10, 2006


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