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December 21, 2005


The results of the Iraqi election are really diametrically opposed to what Bush said would happen. The Iran-friendly Shiite religious list may have gotten over 50%. The Kurds lost ground, due to more Sunnis voting. There is a long guest post at Juan Cole about what it all means. It looks like the only hope for a national unity government that would give something to the Sunnis is for a group to block the Shiites from having 2/3 in the Council that choses the President. Allawi and the Sunnis might be able to do that. Pat Lang theorized this might be behind the release of "Dr Germ" and "Mrs Anthrax", the Iraqi bioweapons women, a sort of good-will gesture. It looks as though iran was the big winner, however.

I found the Independent (UK) article on the election illuminating...

What I get from my vaguely pissed off, vaguely libertarian friends is silence (ducking!!) or - the LP line - that our freedoms are already gone anyway, so, so what?! (the cowering, fake sophistication-routine). I think there needs to be a new party for libertarians, because there are a lot more 'Reason' libertarians, and even just 'libertarian-streak' people (most Americans, I would argue) than there are LP members. Too bad the American LP gets to monopolize the name of a large and venerable school of thought for their bizarre little sub-philosophy. There's nothing more bedrock American than the right to be left alone, and all the psychological freedom that implies. Powerful shit.

Republicans attack the ACLU because it's an easy (humorless) target sometimes, but also because libertarians are their customers, and they won't give them up without a fight. Just as the LP doesn't really represent libertarian sentiment in the country, neither does the ACLU. I'm not saying we don't need an ACLU, but it is only what it is - an 'interest group', at the margins - dealing with dire emergencies, as does the LP, sorta. It's no secret that privacy is going to be a huge issue in the coming years; we'll either deal with it forthrightly or we'll drift around and things will just 'happen'. Democrats need to be somewhat libertarian, and be proud of it. Be ahead of the curve for once, please.

Rhetorically, the Brand-Republican party has forfeited both 18th & 20th century conservatism AND libertarianism. One risky thing about moving so far to the right is that you leave an open field. Let's hope we get some Democrats with the imagination to create a new rhetorical context - who actually lead, rather than saying the word 'lead' a lot ('Leadership' is one of Bush's 'action' words. Action words are words like 'New!', and 'Improved', which have been proven, with boring regularity, to work. Refusing to factor in the humiliating aspects of our species is not only bad politics, but snotty, too. It's why assholes like Rush can squeeze a little more milage out of the 'elitism' charge about liberals - even now. If we want to lead, we have to lead and love the country as it is. That takes political imagination. I see only a couple national dems who seem to have that. We'll see, though. (I tried to add a link here about the recent foreign trip that Lugar and Obama made, but the link is not available, dangit. It was originally from Stygius).

"it's complex enough to need more time to play out." I was struck by this phrase. It is true of course, as is usually the case about anything important. But it also points to what I think the activist project of the moment has to be: keeping the warrantless search story hot, so the full magnitude of the Constitutional crisis has time to reveal itself.

I guess I'm not saying anything new with that. On reflection it is what many of us have been doing since about 24 hours after those planes hit the twin towers: trying to figure out how to create enough friction in the imperial project so that Americans could work their way back to some sanity and still have a country worth saving.

To tie several of these comments together. The original NYT story cited an Iranian-American doctor who had "dubious" ties to OBL who was tapped. That's pretty specific--I suspect Lichtblau (he seems to have the ACLU contacts) knows who that is. Today's story says that in at least once case there was surveillance of US to US contacts. Again, pretty specific. Which leads me to suspect that the ACLU may have started a case on this already. If Lichtblau (again, assuming he's the ACLU contact) is going to publish details of the trial, then the ACLU may have a real live person whose phone calls have been monitored. Making them more concrete, and making the story more concrete.

I just hope our Iranian-American doctor is a sympathetic character.

Peter Daou has an interesting, and quite pessimisitic take on the spying scandal. I would like to think he's wrong, but I can't.
Dauo writes,"7. A few reliable Dems, Conyers, Boxer, et al, take a stand on principle, giving momentary hope to the progressive grassroots/netroots community. The rest of the Dem leadership is temporarily outraged...but is chronically incapable of maintaining the sense of high indignation and focus required to reach critical mass and create a wholesale shift in public opinion.(snip) Reporters and media outlets obfuscate and equivocate, pretending to ask tough questions but essentially pushing the same narratives they've developed" and the story blows over. Bush helped save Specter in the PA primary in '04. I don't think Specter will cross him, i.e. do anything more than wave an ostensibly outraged finger at the President.

Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest

Jurist Concerned Bush Order Tainted Work of Secret Panel

kdm: Peter sort of has history on his side in that assessment, but one important difference is who's really worked up in this lastest scandal. Most important is Carl Levin, who's tremendously respected for being a sober and serious Senator by colleagues on both sides of the aisle. And Carl isn't the type to give in easily once he's pissed off about something, and this clearly has pissed him off. And while you may be correct about Specter, Carl is one of those people most likely to be able to keep Specter's eye on the ball.

And while I don't know how she is on follow-through, I found it intersting that Feinstein is also worked up. She's not a likely character to get worked up on things other than choice. Not sure what it means, but it still interests me.

DH: Being one of DiFi's constituents I've been disappointed and livid about a lot of things she's done, especially on the environment, class action lawsuit "reform", tax breaks for the rich and the bankruptcy abomination.

But it's simply not true that "[s]he's not a likely character to get worked up on things other than choice." One thing I very much respect DiFi for was her stand against bunker buster nukes. She adopted this as her issue and -- even though of the minority party -- fought it with tenacity and skill, eventually killing the program. She has also been a lioness on gun control issues, especially the ban on assault rifles.

DiFi is a tough, skilled legislator with a lot of credibility amaong her colleagues and it's a good sign she's taking this on. As with Levin, DiFi's certainly not one of the "usual suspects" like Conyers or Boxer (much as I appreciate them). She'll be a great help on this issue.

That said, I can't believe I just wrote something in public praising DiFi. Pigs fly.

I knew about the gun issues, but I forgot to mention that.

Part of what we're seeing is also the common dynamic that people on a given committee often take the lead on that issue. Kerry's still stepping on the rest of the Senators on every damn issue as if he's still the nominal leader of the party, and some folks like Biden spout off on a whole range of things. But the people who've been getting the most attention on this have been people like Feinstein, Wyden and others who are on one of the relevant committees, like Intellegence and Judiciary.

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