Friday, December 28, 2012

Irritable Bipartisan Syndrome

Whoever keeps saying that Congress is gridlocked is wrong, wrong, wrong. Of course, they become chronically constipated whenever they need to pass legislation that benefits regular people. But when it comes time to reward the defense contractors and the corporate sugar daddies, the diarrhea part of political Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) always kicks in. The money and the bullshit both flow freely.

Just today, for example, the Senate overwhelmingly approved continued warrantless wiretapping/internet spying on the inhabitants of the global battlefield of make-believe terror. In other words, everyone. (You can find out how your own rep voted by clicking here.) Less than a quarter of all senators believe that domestic spying under the guise of anti-terror is unconstitutional. Not only that, we now officially have no right to know whether we're among the countless lucky duckies who've already been sucked up into the voracious maw of the Homeland Security behemoth.
Before final passage, the Senate voted against an amendment from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), which would have required the Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress on whether any U.S.-based email and phone communications have been picked up in the process of conducting overseas surveillance, and whether any wholly domestic U.S. communications have been swept up under the program.
Wyden said intelligence officials have so far failed to provide such an estimate.
There's more. The goons are also refusing to even confirm or deny whether a list of millions or billions or trillions of victims even exists. The money may flow, but the info it pays for is bound up deep within the bowels of the secrecy fetishists. Talk about anal retention! And the complicit Senators are not about to administer a massive dose of Ex-Lax, either. The constipation part of Irritable Bipartisan Syndrome will continue for another five years, at least. And the gasbaggery, needless to say, will be infinite.

Chief FISA Scold Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who has never met a Homeland Security sub-agency bureaucrat she didn't like, testily insists that any illegal spying on Americans has been sparse and inadvertent, so there is no way in hell that we will ever be allowed to see if our names are on any list. Because, like President Obama's Kill List, the Spy List has never been officially confirmed. The lists exist, but mainly in the mist, is the gist.

Glenn Greenwald has written an excellent smackdown and back-story on the latest bipolar bipartisanship. An excerpt:
In doing so, the new 2008 (FISA Amendments) law gutted the 30-year-old FISA statute that had been enacted to prevent the decades of severe spying abuses discovered by the mid-1970s Church Committee: by simply barring the government from eavesdropping on the communications of Americans without first obtaining a warrant from a court. Worst of all, the 2008 law legalized most of what Democrats had spent years pretending was such a scandal: the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program secretly implemented by George Bush after the 9/11 attack. In other words, the warrantless eavesdropping "scandal" that led to a Pulitzer Prize for the New York Times reporters who revealed it ended not with investigations or prosecutions for those who illegally spied on Americans, but with the Congressional GOP joining with key Democrats (including Obama) to legalize most of what Bush and Cheney had done. Ever since, the Obama DOJ has invoked secrecy and standing doctrines to prevent any courts from ruling on whether the warrantless eavesdropping powers granted by the 2008 law violate the Constitution.

When it comes to serving the regular people who elected them, senators are famous for obfuscation, delays and can-kicking. But when it comes to wars, and weapons, and national security, and keeping fear alive, and doing pretty much whatever President Obama wants in the way of destroying the Bill of Rights, they always manage to get a massive jolt of bipartisan adrenaline:
Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) urged his colleagues not to support any amendments because he said the bill would then have to be reconsidered by the House. He said unless the House version passed, surveillance would halt after Dec. 31, posing a threat to national security.
“We’ve got to get this bill on the desk of the president by Dec. 31,” Chambliss said on the floor Friday.
Or else, what? We go off the FISA Cliff and millions of spy state listening posts go dark?

We will never know. It's been officially decreed as none of our business. And if you complain about it, you're supporting the terrorists. More than three-quarters of the Senate has just declared: "We are all Dick Cheney now."

This reminds me of Rick Sanchez of CNN, who used to run a segment called The List You Don't Want to Be On. Then he got fired. 


Fred Drumlevitch said...

Great post, Karen.

My first urge is to label such Democratic support for the growing neo-fascism as pitiful, or pathetic --- and indeed it is. But, of course, that doesn't even begin to describe it. It's obscene, it's profoundly dangerous to liberty and the claimed goals of Constitutional democracy, and the Democrats, at least, should be ashamed of their role in the piecemeal deconstruction of freedom that has taken place since 2001. (The Republicans should too, but for decades they have known no shame, so I haven't expected any from them more recently).

The majority of politicians in both major political parties have lost all credibility with regard to their oath of office to defend the Constitution. When they raise their right hands this January to swear to that, it will be at once an act of collective perjury with regard to defending the Constitution, plus a genuine promise to screw the majority of the U.S. populace, while serving dangerous power concentrated in a variety of forms including established wealth, corporate-economic, military-security-industrial, and the entrenched political order.

As 4Runner wittily commented the other day (I'm still chuckling), we need to be able to say to them: "Serfs up".

Denis Neville said...

Keeping fear alive…relieve us of the burden of freedom and responsibility

Freedom is one of humankind’s most precious gifts.

But this gift of freedom only increased humankind’s sufferings.

The Grand Inquisitor visits Jesus in prison and explains to him that he is no longer needed by humankind.

“Do you see these stones in this bare, scorching desert? Turn them into bread and mankind will run after you like sheep, grateful and obedient, though eternally trembling lest you withdraw your hand and your loaves cease for them. But you did not want to deprive man of freedom and rejected the offer, for what sort of freedom is it, you reasoned, if obedience is bought with loaves of bread?”

“Nothing has ever been more insufferable for man and for human society than freedom!”

“Did you forget that peace and even death are dearer to man than free choice in the knowledge of good and evil?”

“With us everyone will be happy, and they will no longer rebel or destroy each other, as in your freedom, everywhere. Oh, we shall convince them that they will only become free when they resign their freedom to us, and submit to us.”

“We alone shall feed them in Thy name, declaring falsely that it is in Thy name. Oh, never, never can they feed themselves without us! No science will give them bread so long as they remain free. In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet, and say to us, ‘Make us your slaves, but feed us.’”

“These people are more certain than ever before that they are completely free, and at the same time they themselves have brought us their freedom and obediently laid it at our feet. It is our doing, but is it what you wanted? This sort of freedom?”

- Dostoevsky, The Grand Inquisitor, The Brothers Karamazov.

spreadoption said...

Enjoyed Fred's lament about the state of the Democratic (and Republican) Party in support of Karen's consistent insight: Pitiful, pathetic, obscene, and dangerous. Also irresponsible, reckless, unconscionable,immoral, and utterly utterly stupid. Have fun adding your own expletives.

The question I keep asking myself is, What can we do about it?

While I appreciate local actions - food banks, Habitat, charity, foundations, etc. - I see them as also a distraction from what really needs to get done, which is nationwide movement. As Einstein said, Nothing happens until something moves.

The trouble is, we're 30 years (since Reagan), 70 years, or more down the wrong road. I tend to agree that the assassination of JFK was the coup d'etat by the plutocracy; it sent a clear, if subconscious, message about who's in charge now. Perhaps Obama has understood that all along, and in line with his narcissism that's okay.

We are moving at an evolutionary pace in a direction that is unsustainable. Yet who amongst us has the power to stop it? Not Bernie Sanders, not Elizabeth Warren, not you or I. It seems the IRS will thwart Occupy's effort to aid homeowners (another local action at best). It takes many miles to turn a ship. And are we past the point of no return? As little as we can do, isn't it all too little too late anyway? ...

Unless we can somehow engender a people's movement, an uprising, an American Spring. But I don't see that happening in this country. When nearly half of us routinely vote for idiot-bastards like Romney and McCain (and don't get me started on Palin!), aren't we more likely to get a civil war than a revolution?

I feel like the old comic strip character saying, #arrgh!*fbljrugh!?

In his most recent posts Paul Krugman is beginning to address another Big Question that's been bothering me for years: Where are all the jobs supposed to come from? Not just short-lived pothole jobs provided through government stimulus (which isn't on the agenda anyway!), but the kinds and numbers of jobs created through new industries. When it's every man for himself and greed reigns, we lack the long-term vision for that and we lack the kind of visionary leadership needed to inspire it.

Oh well, I've got some football games to watch...

Denis Neville said...

Karen, nice response to Krugman’s “Brewing Up Confusion”

Another example of how predatory pharmaceutical corporations aggressively create markets and profits for their products:

A drug that used to cost fifty dollars is now one of Wall Street’s highest fliers, selling for $28,000 a vial.

The pharmaceutical company is marketing the drug for various conditions, despite the lack of evidence that it is more effective than much cheaper alternatives.

They could lower the price and make less money, but they “fear” being sued by their shareholders.

They will take the drug where it goes. It has taken them to $$$$$ they never expected. Beyond even their wildest dreams.

Yep, just like predatory drug companies.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Denis. It's all about the corruption, all about the Class War. Happy New Year to All!

Zee said...

This op/ed piece from the NYT seems very relevant to the current discussion regarding how the Federal government is currently shredding the Constitution with its re-authorization of FISA.

This so-called "constitutional law professor" from Georgetown University, Louis Michael Seidman, proposes that we "give up on the Constitution."

He (1) itemizes a list of past historical events wherein our elected Federal officials have chosen to ignore the Constitution in order to get things done, (2) views our Federal government's current paralysis with dismay, (3) concludes that it's all the fault of the hidebound Constitution and (4) therefore decides that it's time to effectively burn the Constitution.

Well, not burn it, exactly. He wants to keep the parts HE likes and toss out the rest. You know, those annoying little parts that might presume to protect the rights of the rest of us.

"No one can predict in detail what our system of government would look like if we freed ourselves from the shackles of constitutional obligation, and I harbor no illusions that any of this will happen soon. But even if we can’t kick our constitutional-law addiction, we can soften the habit.

If we acknowledged what should be obvious — that much constitutional language is broad enough to encompass an almost infinitely wide range of positions — we might have a very different attitude about the obligation to obey."
– “Professor” Louis Michael Seidman (Bold emphasis added.)

Well, I think that we are seeing the results of "free[ing] ourselves from the shackles of constitutional obligation" and it seems to me that this is the root cause of the problem under discussion, @Karen.

We now have a Federal government, viz., the President and both houses of Congress, and probably the Supreme Court to boot, who have decided that in the vague interests of national security, the Fourth Amendment need no longer be obeyed. And “Professor” Seidman has given them the justification: the language of the Constitution is almost infintely elastic, justifying a “wide range of”—read: “any”—positions.

(After all, if the illustrious John Adams could shamelessly violate the Constitution with the Alien and Sedtion Acts, why should not Obama feel sufficiently liberated “from the shackles of constitutional obligation” himself, to re-authorize FISA and the NDAA? There's adequate “precedent,” after all.)

This is the “living document” approach to the reading of the Constitution, carried to the extreme, and is the very reason that when interpreting the Constitution, trying to understand the original intent of the Founders should be our absolute starting point, even if it is not the final arbiter of our interpretation.

I wish you all a safe and happy New Year, insofar as any of us can really be safe from our own government.