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August 19, 2007


Agreed; but this is exactly what many of us were saying at the time it was happening. It was nothing but a Kabuki dance to give themselves cover; including, most importantly, the Dem House leadership. But they are not entitled to any cover whatsoever. The Dem leadership had every bit the power to stop this nonsense in it's tracks, and they willfully refused to do so. They sold the Constitution for a few self serving vacation and fundraising days. Then Reid went out and did it again in relation to agreeing to move crappy wingnut judicial nominees in return for no recess appointments, which he could easily have stopped without further polluting the Federal bench with lifetime wingnuts. This has been the most pitiful and cowardly legislative two weeks I can ever recall.

I was tempted to say it rivaled the action of the House in moving Clinton's impeachment resolution; but as wrong and tragic as that was, it was a Republican Congress moving in an aggressive and bold manner from a position of strength. The Democrats here had strength and yet managed to meekly and timidly cower in a self serving corner; which is really far worse.

Still, the ostensibly apolitical branch seems astir in the penumbra of the putative acquiescence by Dems over foreign2foreign* wiretap, FISC now promising to mull Aclu's request to reveal more about the two denied taps from spring 2007; given a multidecade total of fewer than a dozen such FISC refusals, the 2007 duad is a virtual zenith of FISC feistiness. Several commentators have observed Reggie's commissioning apparently coincided with FISC's new aura of independence.
*make that also foreign2usPerson; and add DirectedAtForeign2USperson. See also note**, below.
**Beyond calea intercepts at the switch, there are multiowner space platforms, consortia sponsored undersea cables which have amplifier boosters at landfall points, plus the atmospheric vacuum technologies; which I think is where the FISC balked, as something akin to tia applied to USperson2USperson would be required even if only as a rejection filter in some of these paths, though last I looked at the technologies was a very long time ago measured by Moore's paradigm of geometric advance every 18 months.

alter's description of john conyers' role in the fisa debacle is interesting (in a not good way) in light of jeralyn's description of john conyer's role in 1996's precursor to this year's fisa bill - H.R. 3409.

Considering all the support Conyers has gotten from the netroots, I think he owes us an explanation. I hope that his constituents, and others from nearby areas, will visit him in the next couple weeks and try to get an explanation. If Conyers was willing to do this, we're in much worse shape than I thought we were. If the head of the House Judiciary Committee will "cave" that easily, I'm really concerned and I'm wondering if he ever was the man we thought he was, or if it has all been just a show. Conyers, if this the account is true, has breached my trust.

The entire Democratic leadership that facilitated this mess has breached our trust. Their very oath of office requires them to protect and uphold the Constitution. They have been a complete failure in this regard and derelict in their prime duty. this clearly includes Conyers as well.

Sure wish there was somebody in Michigan that the netroots could trust, who really understood what was going on.

What a great replacement for Conyers that person would be.

And able to fundraise nationally via netroots, too.

Any ideas?

my ears pricked up at pow-wow's mention of conyers in that earlier column by e'wheel.

having watched him in the hjc hearings this year, i repeatedly came away with the impression of a man who is allergic to conflict.

that is a very sensible position to take in the congress most of the time -

but not all the time.

i think this is a key problem with many of the demos in senate and house. they have simply been in the congress so long that congressional norms of behavior are their norms of behavior, period.

the other part of this problem is that the republicans who have been in charge of congress in the 1994-2006 time period (gingrich, delay, et al)


the republicans in the bush white house

have been really nasty characters to do business with. they run over people whenever they can do so.

compromise or work in the country's interest is simply not part of their personality.

the older demo congressmen don't seem to be able to response effectively to this violently competitive mentality of republicans in positions of national power.

OrionATL - That is a large part of the problem isn't it? The two party Congress is a tug of war; but even with the Democrats now in the leadership, the rope moves only one way and it continues to be against the interest of the Constitution and country.

i'm actually quite a bit more hopeful now than i was the week after s.1972 was passed - because bloggers like marcy and christy and glenn and digby and others have been shining a very bright light on this... and show no signs of letting up or forgetting. if the congressional leadership thought they could get away with giving us a bit of political theater to confuse us (if that's what indeed happened - and i think it probably was)... well, now they know they were mistaken.

here's hoping we will get more than political theater next time.

bmaz -


and kevin drum in a column entitled "the vsp club" tackles another aspect of dem retreats (though dems are not his target).

he is writing of the "foreign policy expert" community

(i always think of a drawing i saw once of a middle-ages myth, i think it was a myth, of a very large number of rats with their tales all tangled together - that's the foreign policy community, the pundit community, the corporate columnist community, etc.)

in any event, kdrum talks about the fear among these experts of being "provably wrong".

i think that same fear played a tremendous role in the congresses retreat on fisa - well, ok, the congress' route on fisa.

from sept 11, 2001, every official has been terrified of being labeled "the-one-who-did-not-do-what-needed-doing" for the nation's security.

this fear, by the way, is

the prime fear motivating the bush administration in its many excesses,

including torture, spying on american citizens, depriving citizens of their legal rights, sanctioning a foolish, repressive, and ineffective transportation security agency, etc.

republicans have succeeded, through public relations tactics in the media, aka the mighty Wurlitzer,

in creating the suspicion in the public mind

and the fear in the democratic mind,

that democrats might be the ones who "didn't do enough".

Unhappily, I'm convinced that my congress person, Nancy Pelosi, is an example of the Peter Principle. Her failure to lead as Speaker suggests she has risen to her level of incompetence. That is, precisely the skills that got her where she is now are the skills that make her pretty useless at knocking Democratic heads -- something we need her to do, big time.

I am very much a process person in that I think the fairness, balance and integrity of the Constitutional process we were given is far more important than any politics, political party, or for that matter, any number of lives. I may be a heretic, but when people say of the erosion of rights and shift to authoritarianism, "but are you willing to risk another 9/11"; my answer is an unequivocal YES. That is exactly what those that came before us did, I am willing too. That should be the real price of freedom, not the wholesale erosion of that which we are and stand for.

"rat king"

that's the name given to the fantasy of a group of rats with their tails all tangled together -

in the case of pundits and columnists, and experts that would be "tales" not "tails".

seems like an appropriate metaphor for our times where political reporting is concerned.


having wikipedia makes learning or relearning or looking things up so rewarding. it no longer takes hours or days or a trip to the library.

"wikipedia - one of the great inventions of the 21st century", he said when we were only 7 years into it.


Somehow I missed your timeline and interpretive thoughts until today. I've tried to follow the FISA debacle closely, but just clean missed your diary. Thank you very much for doing that.

I hope you will continue to update it as more becomes known, IF more becomes known.

For some time now I've been wondering what can be done to punish the leadership for their actions (or lack of--understanding that they are not the only problem, but they are perhaps the predominant problem). As you say, there have now been several disappointments, more than enough to create a pattern. My perception is that the leaders are more afraid of the Republicans than they are of the netroots. After all (they might say):

"who else you gonna vote for?" Are you threatening you'll vote republican? You? A netrootser...vote Republican? Or, are you going to send your pitiful little check for 50 bucks to someone else?

"Who. are. you. kidding"

I believe that, in their calculation, there is no price to be paid for disappointing their own base. The base is a captive audience. There ain't nowhere else to go.

And so, the question for the netroots remains the same one that Sean Connery's character, dying in a pool of his own blood, asked Kevin Costner in that wonderful scene from The Untouchables--you know, the one where Connery grabs Kostner by the shirt and yanks him down to spitting distance and begs:

"What are you Prepared to Do?"

It's not just "who are you going to vote for?"

It's an implicit: with a Democratic President and Congress we can reverse these travesties of laws (that we helped Bush pass). Without a Dem President, a Republican can veto any changes.

These people aren't just weak and spineless, they are committed to a losing political strategy. Republicans beat them all the time, by taking power, but leaving them in their districts to sell us out.

Now it's time for the netroots to beat them, take their seats, and replace them with progressives who have courage. I'm sick of Pelosi and Conyers and the other frauds. San Francisco is arguably the most liberal city in the country.

We can do better.

"San Francisco is arguably the most liberal city in the country.

We can do better."


One way to punish them is to try and replace them, I agree. But you're going up against the entrenched power. Do you figure Cindy Sheehan has the legs to do it? I don't know the first thing about her chances.

However, even unsuccessful opposition from the left can have an effect. I believe this kind of move had an affect on ...what's her name on the Intelligence committee. Harlon? Hardin? Something like that.

I think a certain amount of the thinking that led to this FISA downfall can be summed up as such - "Bush is breaking the law. He's not going to stop if we don't give him this, He's still going to be breaking the law if we DO give him this, as his spying has gone far more local than this already, we'll get hammered on Fox if we don't give it to him, and if we do this administration might deliberately let another terrorist act though and end us."

The logic was that all things considered it didn't change much, and let's face it, congress knows Dick would blow up his own mother for power.

That being said, this is just one more example of Dem leadership not up to the task.

We need to roll a few leadership heads in primaries, just a couple will do. These pussies need to be more scared of their own electorate than they are of dick and his boot leather boys.

Dismayed - But what kind of crackpot reasoning is that by our genius leadership? That logic train presupposes either that Bushco knew of a specific terrorist attack plan already and would spitefully let it occur, or that they would dummy up an attack on their own and call it a terrorist action. Why in the world would you sell out the Constitution and hand more authoritarian powers to someone capable of that? There is simply no good explanation for what the Dem leadership did. It was craven no matter how you look at it.


this administration might deliberately let another terrorist act though and end us

That's a good point, and sadly, I wouldn't put it past Cheney for an artificial heartbeat.

"I hope you will continue to update it as more becomes known, IF more becomes known."

casual observer - thanks. yes, i will - i'm still trying understand a few things with the help of a third a house aide. and i hope that people will add corrections/additions in the comments. if there are any changes, i'll put in an update.

I'm as unhappy about this as anyone here, but let's give our devils their due. They may be right in believing that Americans as a whole are too afraid to support a real democracy and real civil rights. It's an awful truth, but it's not the first time in history it's happened. I've been rereading (for obvious reasons) Hannah Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism, and have just gotten to the Dreyfuss case, where the French public pretty much caved on civil rights, too.

The Gris:

"this administration might deliberately let another terrorist act though and end us
That's a good point, and sadly, I wouldn't put it past Cheney for an artificial heartbeat."

More likely drop a "big" bust along the lines of Fuel tank explosion, bridge blowtorching, or Sears tower crumbling plot.

It was a lose-lose situation. lose the base, or lose the party to the weak on terror framing.
They should have worked harder to protect the constitution but this was clearly a Rovian Wedge Power Play.

See Rove's parting WSJ interview where he said he belives the debate on warrantless wiretapping will divide the Democratic Party through the fall.

The GOP is salivating at the prospect of the Progressive Left advancing 16 Senate and 41 House Primary challenges to the capitulators.

The trick is punishing capitulators without destroying the Dem party, unless we are ready to give up the rest of the constitution.


i have just taken the time to read your dkos column.

for me the importance of your work is in the details you make available. those details illuminate demo leadership behavior that would otherwise have been easy to obscure under a few lines of public rhetoric.

and i, for one, would have believed that rhetoric,

in particular with respect to pelosi for whom i have great admiration as a leader and a woman leading.

but your work shows me i need to be permanently skeptical of pelosi and hoyer and reid and (who is the senate whip? - durbin?).

i echo casual observer's plea that you keep your detective work going.

it obviously takes a lot of time to go thru the sources and create a chronology.

we can read it in minutes but it must have taken you many hours to put together.

thank you for taking the time to paint the picture.

I say you been had. You been took. You been conned by Conyers, et al. Sad to say.

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