Friday, November 10, 2006

What can the House of Representatives do, all by itself? - Step#1

We have embarked upon an exercise prompted by a challenge:

What do you think the Democrats should do, from the start, to change the political climate in the USA and begin better days?

Before considering bills and legislation - that may face presidential vetores -let’s talk about things that the House could do, all alone, to set a new tone in America.


1) GOOD COP/ BAD COP: Politically, there are two inherently contrary tasks before Democratic leaders, like Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi.

First, they must strive to end “culture war” in order to help heal the nation and restore adult standards of political behavior. To do this, Democrats must be seen taking the high road -- reaching across the aisle, replacing no-prisoners partisanship with sincere debate and deliberation.

On the other hand we desperately need torrents of light to shine into every dark corner where corruption has festered, these six... no, twelve years. Subpoenas must flow!

But how, without playing into Karl Rove’s trap, making “red” America feel persecuted, feeding perpetual tit-for-tat Culture War?


-- Primly divide the good-cop/bad-cop roles... and say so, openly. Assign one or two committees (e.g. chaired by Waxman/Conyers) the task of finding out everything, protecting whistleblowers and chasing the truth. Announce that the investigations will have clear boundaries in both time and number of House participants... but not in their range of topics or number of witnesses. Give two dozen attack dogs a year and say “the rest of us will not join any chorus of rebuke. Our attention will be on governing.”

Moreover, let the time limit be firm... in stark contrast to the open-ended vindictiveness of Clinton-era witch hunts.*


-- Offer clemency in exchange for truth. In many places overseas, “truth & reconciliation commissions” have been terrifically effective at prompting political sinners (some of them heinous) to fall all over each other, rushing to be first to spill their guts.

If offered a similar kind of immunity by Congressional committees, many perpetrators of recent U.S. corruption may grab for this “bird in the hand” as a better bet than the Presidential Pardon that they have been promised, (for delivery in December 2008.) Remember, every canary that goes free because it sings may implicate several other birds. We can afford to reserve actual jail time for the reticent. Civilization needs truth more than it needs vengeance.

(Indeed, there are ways that Congress might hem in those Presidential pardons, too, without blatantly infringing on Constitutional prerogatives. Something well-worth doing in advance! But we’ll save that topic for another time.)


-- Protect Whistle-blowers. Already mentioned, but unbelievably important. There are dozens of ways to augment today’s incentives for tattling henchmen. Few actions could be more certain to change the culture of secrecy and unaccountability that has been fostered by a childish and unscrupulous leadership caste.


-- Give the minority party a permanent power of subpoena.

(This suggestion rightly belongs in tomorrow’s group #2, but I put it here because it will also help reinforce the image of “good cops.”)

Of course, you do not want to give away every majority advantage. But remember, Politics is more fluid, now. A day will come (maybe soon) when Democrats are back on the outs, yet again. Now is the time to set permanent precedents, by giving the GOP minority what they never had the maturity to give you. The power to summon at least a few witnesses and demand some answers, even when your party is out of power.

Of course, there are worries. Can we guarantee that powerful party leaders will never again stifle independent inquiry, while also keeping things orderly, preventing individual members from using these member subpoenas for petty squabbles?

How about this approach? Allow any THREE representatives to JOINTLY issue one subpoena per year, beyond those voted by committees. One for every three members. That’s 140 member-chosen testimonies. A large enough number to make sure that random pokes at Truth will keep going on, even during eras when a party machine dominates every branch of government. And yet, it’s a number small enough not to disrupt House business too much. (That is, in a House that actually tries to do business.) And requiring some consensus means each trio would discuss carefully how to expend their one-per-year.

This idea has two advantages. First, it will be seen as a genuine act of openness and transparency, unlike the promises of the 1994 Republican Contract With America, that were broken as soon as the ink was dry.

Second, by setting this firm precedent, Democrats may ensure they’ll never again be completely hobbled and gelded, even when they find themselves in a powerless minority.

Even then, they will retain at least a minimal power to ask questions, to demand testimony, to poke away... and to shine a little light..


Next time... offering more proof of goodwill...


-------

Notes:

* One clever trick. Announce in advance that the committees will shrug off minor thievery (below a million dollars) and minor personal peccadillos (like consensual adult sex), concentrating only on misbehavior related to performance of actual duties of office. This may sound elevated and mature, but it also carries devastating symbolism. From Whitewater to Monicagate, such minutia were all that Clinton pursuers had. Not one Clinton era official was ever convicted, or even indicted, for malfeasance in the actual performance of official duties.

27 comments:

Don Quijote said...

First, they must strive to end “culture war” in order to help heal the nation and restore adult standards of political behavior.


MoneyWeek - Why Western workers are set to become poorer



What do the world’s three largest economies have in common? The answer underscores one of the key tensions of globalisation – unrelenting pressure on labour income. The corollary of that phenomenon is equally revealing – ever–rising returns to the owners of capital. For a global economy in the midst of its strongest four–year boom since the early 1970s, this tug-of-war between labour and capital is an increasingly serious source of disequilibrium. It has important economic, social, and political implications – all of which could complicate the coming global rebalancing.


And there is your culture war, every thing else is just a dog and pony show.

Any honest investigations of the Bush administration will lead to impeachment, see The Impeachment of George W. Bush: A Practical Guide for Concerned Citizens



This book focuses on four articles of impeachment: The Offense of Wiretapping Surveillance in Defiance of the Law; the Offence of Lying and Inducing America to Support a War; The Offense of Reckless Indifference to the Lives and Welfare of American Troops; The Offense of Torture in Violation of U.S. Laws and Treaties. It also provides an invaluable guide to how citizens can get involved in campaigning for impeachment, as well as an important historical analysis of impeachments past. The publication of this book is a summons to action in this process.


But how, without playing into Karl Rove’s trap, making “red” America feel persecuted, feeding perpetual tit-for-tat Culture War?

F*ck Red America, those are the jackasses that elected Shrub and gave us 9/11, two lost wars, and added another four trillion to the national debt.

If the Democrats don't destroy Shrub and the political machine that brought him to power, two to four years from now we will be back in the same position we are in today, and the first Democratic president that they can impeach, they will.

On a positive note, I would support a $2 a gallon gas tax combined with a much higher standard deduction and a more generous Earned Income Tax Credit to compensate the working & middle classes, a repeal of all the tax cuts to the wealthy.

Carl said...

Actually the Clinton witch hunt was not the beginning of the petty ugliness. That began with the hazing of Clarence Thomas. The Monica thing was revenge.

I think there is more opportunity to have less culture war now than in a long time. The Democrats went back to their pre-1990s playbook and ran some conservatives in the South and West. The House may be almost as conservative now as it was when the Republicans were in charge. (Think of the 1980 Democratic Congress which passed much of Reagan's agenda.)

Warren said...

-- Give the minority party a permanent power of subpoena.

I really, really like this idea.

Andrew Smith said...

F*ck Red America, those are the jackasses that elected Shrub and gave us 9/11, two lost wars, and added another four trillion to the national debt.

You want them to do it again?

Nate said...

Well, if the Republicans don't change their stripes, and somehow manage to get back into power, I'm not sure things like giving the minority power permanent subpoena power would turn out to be that permanent. Much like they threatened to get rid of fillibusters and did get rid of a lot of the regular ways Congress operated.

That said, it's still a good idea. And it would help point out what exactly the Republicans are doing when they go and reverse it. I just don't trust the current Republicans to reciprocate at all if they get back into power.

The clemency for truth thing leaves me torn. I can understand it, but there's also the part of okay, so we get the truth on how so and so ripped the country off for $X billion. We still have to make sure they don't do it again. And they'll still HAVE that $X billion they ripped off, too. I guess it comes down to if the point of justice is punishment, or making sure it doesn't happen again. But for a lot of the theft, just finding out it happened will help, but it doesn't fix it since the thieves still have the money.

Similarly, while the Democrats probably shouldn't draw up articles of impeachment yet, (Though I suspect the Republicans would, if things were reversed) it's really stupid to take the option off the table. Especially not in some misguided attempt to appear "bipartisan" or something. If investigations find Bush has done impeachable things, which I'm almost sure they will, then we shouldn't be afraid to use it. Go up and present the case to the country as "This is what they did. We have evidence. That's now how the President of the United States is supposed to act, and it violates this, this, and this parts of our laws. Therefore, we are holding the President accountable." (I can't imagine finding enough to implicate Bush without finding Cheney even more involved, thus "they".) If the Democrats are too afraid to punish people for high crimes and misdemeanors because we think Karl Rove's going to spin it and they'll lose some in the next election, then they're going to lose anyway. It shouldn't be a witch-hunt, but we shouldn't be afraid to use it when justified, either.

And I have to agree with DQ about the real class warfare in the country being the Rich vs. the Rest. And the necessity of destroying the machine that got Bush and his merry band of Iran Contra criminals into power again. Because otherwise, it'll probably happen again. Which is actually why I say be patient on the impeachment type stuff, because if we do it, we need to make sure it's going to work.

Rob Perkins said...

"Red America gave us 9/11" ??

Never mind. David wants an end to culture war and DQ wants to keep fighting it.

Anonymous said...

Article 2 - The Executive Branch
Section 2 - Civilian Power Over Military, Cabinet, Pardon Power, Appointments

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

In other words, he can't pardon anyone for an impeachable offense - nor can any successor.

Your impeached, you NEVER get a pardon without an Act of Congress.

Pax,

MLO

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Dear Dr. Brin,

1) In what way is a Congressional pardon superior to a Presidential one? Why will the people in question not form a thin-blue-line conspiracy of silence?

2) Minority subpoena... as part of the same proceedings (a contrary view), or separate? It would be useful to break up the easy and seductive narratives that committees now construct by judicious choices of witnesses, but OTOH what is the penalty for choosing *overly* disruptive witnesses?

======================================

Don Quijote wrote:

"If the Democrats don't destroy Shrub and the political machine that brought him to power, two to four years from now we will be back in the same position we are in today, and the first Democratic president that they can impeach, they will."

And if we DO destroy them in the ruthless manner you prescribe, whoever REPLACES the Republican machine will impeach the first Democratic president they can. If you want to know what sort of America your suggestions would create, look up the Guelphs and the Ghebellines.

We don't need only to defeat kleptocracy. We also need to prevent the culture war from becoming an out-of-control class war.

I don't want Bush impeached; it's too much trouble and all it does is install President Cheney. Cheney might, or might not, be worth impeaching -- he deserves it, but it would make him a martyr to the wingers. Rumsfeld was going to be impeached, which is why he's already gone.

"'Cause I'm aaaaalready gone /
And I'm feeeeeeeeeling strong /
I will siiiiiiiiiing this victory song /
'cause i'm aaaaaaalready gone!"
-- The Eagles

Gonzales is now the only person I definitely think should be impeached... but if he resigns, or places himself completely at the mercy of the Judiciary Committees, I will be satisfied. Some CIA investigations need to happen... but those should take place behind closed doors (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, anyone?), not in the public glare of impeachment proceedings. There are also some generals that need to resign or be court-martialed for insufficient oversight of military detentions and interrogations... again, not Congress' direct responsibility.

====================================

Don Quijote at his worst:

"F*ck Red America, those are the jackasses that elected Shrub and gave us 9/11, two lost wars, and added another four trillion to the national debt."

Thank you for insulting my childhood friends and neighbors; I hope you are not a follower of the Golden Rule. They were fooled badly, no question about it, and enabled villains. I do give them this partial credit, though: at last, at long, long last, they know they were duped. And now they're pissed.

Nate said...

For pity's sake, DQ. If you'd left out the one stupid paragraph with the insults, most everybody probably would have agreed with the rest of your post. But instead everybody's distracted by that one stupid paragraph and missing the rest of the points you made. Especially since the insult part was just flat out stupid. Yeah, the folks who voted for Bush and the Republicans share some of the blame for Iraq and Afghanistan's descent, and much else of what Bush has done, because in 2004 it was obvious what monsters these folks were, they just let themselves be distracted by "OHNOES TEH GAY!" and Rove's slime-slinging. But you can't blame 9/11 on anybody but the people who did it.

If you want to rant about "red states", at least do it in style and with facts, like the F*ck the South site. (Which is really similar to some of what Dr. Brin's said, but with a lot more swearing.)

Anonymous said...

The balance of power between capital and labour is related to the fact that there is no centralized representative for labour, and capital moves more easily. When once again we have a single country that dominates the world economy, capital will be reigned in (or a large group of countries harmonize their policies and arrange sanctions for free riders).

Don Quijote said...

But you can't blame 9/11 on anybody but the people who did it.

Start Making Sense - Would Al Gore have prevented 9/11?


Would Al Gore have prevented 9/11?
As I look at the public information that has dribbled out over the last few years, I increasingly think that the answer is Yes.

I should note that this is nothing particular about Gore. The sense I increasingly get is that just about anyone and everyone who has been a serious Presidential candidate in the last 50 years could also have prevented 9/11.

If this reasoning is correct, then 9/11 would have been prevented, not only by Al Gore, but also (for example) by John McCain, Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, Dick Gephardt, Michael Dukakis, Ronald Reagan, Fritz Mondale, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard


. Yeah, the folks who voted for Bush and the Republicans share some of the blame for Iraq and Afghanistan's descent, and much else of what Bush has done, because in 2004 it was obvious what monsters these folks were, they just let themselves be distracted by "OHNOES TEH GAY!" and Rove's slime-slinging.

It was obvious in 1999, that George Bush was no more qualified to be President than I am. What were his accomplishments prior to 2000, had he been a successful legislator, business man, scholar, military leader? No! He had been elected twice to one of the weakest elected office in the US coasting on his family name.

And the people who voted for him in 2000, have caused the death of at least 6000 Americans (2,973 on 9/11, 2,842 in Iraq and 179 in Afghanistan) and lord knows how many Iraqis and Afghanis.

Nate said...

Blame doesn't extrapolate that easily. There were reasons for people to vote for Bush in 2000. Most of them are reasons I consider bad reasons, obviously, since I didn't vote for him. And neither did a majority of the country. But in 2000, the general perception was we were at peace and riding high, the economy was good, and the Republicans in Congress were had spent the past eight years digging into every stupid thing they could find about Clinton. And making things up. And in 2000, Bush presented himself as something he wasn't, and lots of the Republicans I know admitted he wasn't a very good candidate, but he'd have access to all of Daddy's competent people. They didn't know (then) that he wouldn't use that. The seeds of what Bush would become were visible then, but they could be missed, especially for people with an irrational loathing of Clinton. Gore wasn't great at campaigning (then), and the media's War on Gore didn't help. Bush didn't have any accomplishments other than as a failed buisnessman who got bailed out by daddy's friends repeatedly.

But it was possible for mostly reasonable people to think Bush would not be the disaster he's been. Who would honestly believe, if you'd told them in 1999, that the next Republican President would sit for twelve minutes at a school after terrorists crashed a plane into the WTC? Probably nobody.

2004 was a different matter, when the failings of Bush etc were obvious. And as I said, people who voted for him then bear some measure of blame for the things Bush has done since then, and for giving their stamp of approval to what he did before that. Including the Iraq war. But they had the chance to just elect him or Kerry, they didn't have any influence over the specifics of what Bush did and has done. Just like we all bear blame for what's happened with our country and in our names. The people really responsible for the disasters are the ones who planned and ordered and executed them, which isn't all the people who voted Republican.

And as a simple matter of tactics, it's counter-productive, like this thread shows. Everybody's fixated on that single paragraph you used, and ignored the rest of your message. Everything else has gotten lost in the indignation, and makes people write off the rest of your ideas, right or wrong, because of one unnecessary insult. That's the kind of thing Karl Rove loves, a chance to divert things from how they're failing in Iraq to "OMG SOMEBODY TALKED BAD ABOUT THE TROOPS KINDA!"

David Brin said...

Apologies for capitalization faults, below. Glitches...

Carl said: “Actually the clinton witch hunt was not the beginning of the petty ugliness. That began with the hazing of clarence thomas. The monica thing was revenge.”

Actually, carl, the right was far angrier about the earlier “hazing” of robert bork...

... and this is absolute bulls--t. Sorry. Fierce senate grilling during confirmation is a traditional part of advice and consent. Big boys n’ girls endure it and move on. The questions that were asked were sometimes immature... and yet they were relevant to character and policy (and thomas has proved to be one of the worst justices ever).

Moreover, those grillings cost the republic maybe three cents and maybe three weeks of distraction, max. (Don’t get me wrong. I believe anita hill told the absolute truth and that thomas lied... and yet, hill is the genuine villain of that whole episode. I despise thomas, but she is a true nightmare. A real piece of work.)

In any event, do not even remotely try to ascribe “culture war” to earlier normal political rough & tumble. Spending a billion dollars and squandering six years, taking the most honest us administration in all of us history, and convincing half the country that it was the “most immoral and dishonest?” that is beyond normal. It is deliberately heinous and psychotic. Turning rural america into a maelstrom of city-hating anti-future mania? propelling us toward nehemia scudder? waging war on the us officer corps? that has been genuine evil.

Finally. You honestly cannot tell how different bob dole was, than the more recent plague of b movie monsters? clinton-dole was actual politics. Even newt was politics. We haven’t seen politics since 96.

Dq: I am a pragmatist. I want bush repudiated and shamed and acknowledged as the worst president in history. I want the gop sent into the wilderness to squat at the feet of guv ahnold, studying the way of the noble warrior, so that when they come back, at least they will look buff. And no longer quote either leo strauss or the book of revelations.

Nate: some precedents can become too popular with the people to remove, no matter how much you want to. My proposal about subpoenas would put the goppers in a pickle; if they use those subpoenas, during the next two years, they would be trapped forever after, having to let others use em.

Also notice the clever way I did it! Instead of actually giving the minority these subpoenas, they become a member privilege! if any three members can have one each year, it becomes less a matter of party and more a matter of member prerogatives.

Nate, I would be happy to declare that immunity-for-testimony leaves people subject to civil lawsuits. People who fear jail are likely to accept that they may still have to dicker some $ payback.

Culture war is not rich vs the rest. It is feudalism vs enlightenment. Keep that in target. Adam smith would have hated these cronies of the king. But he would have quite liked jeff bezos and elon musk and sergey brin. Rich men who did it by providing competitive goods and services.

Mlo wow. I hadn’t read the actual constitutional clause. So, congress could pass a bill of impeachment against all administration officials “just to prevent pardons.” ??? With the stated intention of only doing it for that purpose? what a cute... tho unlikely ... ploy.

But note, congress could also define some crimes as not being “offenses against the united states”... e.g. violations of new york state securities laws. (The great eliot spitzer, my current fave for the dem nod in 98, used state law to save us from even worse stock crimes, while bush’s sec lay down. He just became ny guv.)

Catfish, immunity in exchange for total disclosure can be enforced. Moreover, it would be a lot better than these guys walking away with a prez pardon and giving us all the finger.


I will give dq this much. I believe that ordering several dozen fbi agents off other duties -- just before 9/11 -- in order to go trawling for evidence to prove that bill clinton was corrupt, was absolute treason and may have helped bring on 9/11. So was shipping home (charter first class) every member of a certain foreign aristocracy, on a day when no american was allowed to fly, when their testimony may have been useful....

tc said...

Carl said, Actually the Clinton witch hunt was not the beginning of the petty ugliness. That began with the hazing of Clarence Thomas. The Monica thing was revenge.

Though I agree with the spirit of what you’re saying, I think you’re being way too optimistic. The “petty ugliness” has been going on since the foundation of politics in America (well, even before that). Both the hazing and the incident with Monica were just two examples of a never ending stream.

Dr. Brin: I can’t tell -- are you saying that the Democrats might actually do these things, or you think it would be helpful if they would regardless of probability? The farther to the left you go, the closer you get to attitudes of aristocracy; I can’t see them being magnanimous. I doubt they’re any more capable of responsible government than anyone on the far right. If you’re saying you think they might actually do any of those responsible things, you’ve shattered one of my illusions: I didn’t think you were na├»ve!

I’ll grant you this: the Republican party was out of control and had to be stopped. The opportunity presented here depends on the Democrats understanding the opportunity handed them, and hearing Mr. Dean speak, I’m not convinced they’re there yet.

Of course, both parties are part of the problem. Our hope lies in the moderates. If by some miracle (and I’m talking direct divine intervention) the House implements any of your suggestions, it might well encourage moderation. But we’ll see.

I hope I’m wrong about the chances of any of it happening. I’ve watched the Democrats for too long (and to be fair, the Republicans, too), so I pretty expect disaster.

Anonymous said...

I feel it's a true shame that Bob Dole didn't run for the Presidency again. He seemed a decent enough person, though I didn't meet him in person (I did meet the Shrug, McCain, Gore, and Gore's opponent during the primaries, one of the benefits of working at a mid-sized newspaper back then. Bush gave me the chills. One of those gut feeling things. If it had come down to McCain and Gore's opponent in the Primaries (whom I sadly don't remember) then it would have been an interesting campaign instead of the dull power play we had in its place).

I find it interesting that the Shrug is saying "we'll work together" once again... I have to wonder though if it's just politicspeak or if he's been brought into a back room and told by both sides "you're going to behave like a good little boy or we're going to dig a deep hole and drop you and Cheney in it, and we've the dirt on both of you to do it." I mean, if you think of it, what's better? An unknown in the Presidency who may or may not toe the line, or someone whom you have by the throat and whom you can force anything through because if he doesn't behave, you can impeach him and toss him out of office so fast heads would spin like in the Exorcist?

Rob H.

Stefan Jones said...

Jack Williamson, R.I.P.

He was still writing SF novels until just a year or so ago.

David Brin said...

Aw... man... Stefan... you had to bring me down...

I will post about Jack tonight. Bummer.

----

Anonymous said...

The charming naivete of Dr. Brin's
list of suggestions makes up in amusement value for what it loses in credibility.

Doubtless the fluorescent-lit expensively-carpeted halls of ivor tower academia prove congenial to such suggestions of collegiality. Out in the real world, though, naked power is the goal -- and people will cut the throats of infants and carve foetuses out of pregnant women to get it and hold it.

"1) GOOD COP/ BAD COP: Politically, there are two inherently contrary tasks before Democratic leaders, like Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi.

"First, they must strive to end “culture war' in order to help heal the nation and restore
adult standards of political behavior. To do this, Democrats must be seen taking the high road -- reaching across the aisle,
replacing no-prisoners partisanship with sincere debate and deliberation."

Alas, this won't end the culture war. It will merely insure that the rational sensible pro-modern 51% of the electorate will walk into the raging culture war unarmed, where they'll be eviscerated and then strangled with their own intestines.

You can see what Brin's suggestion would entail. Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin and all the other hate mongers would vomit out bile and hurl McCarthy-style smears
to crush and defame and destroy
the rational sensible pro-modern 51% of the body politic. We'd hear a night-and-day chorus of "faggot" and "kiddy-raper" and "traitor" and "foetus-murderer" and "pervert"
and "defeat-o-crat" and "terrorist-helper" and "depraved criminals" and "godless atheists" and "gutless cowards" and "anti-American" and "family-haters" and "lesbo-queer-lovers" and "anti-military surrender monkeys" and "pointy-headed intellectuals" and "elitist big-word fancy-talking chrome domes."

Out here in the real world, the sad truth remains that if you throw enough sh*t at someone, some of it will stick, regardless how untrue the smear is. All someone has to
do is attack and attack and attack and attack and attack you and lie and lie and lie and lie and lie about you, and eventually the public will say, "Hm, with all that smoke, there must be some fire."

When the other side refuses to respect the decent rules of democracy, you cannot sit
by and play nice. You must hit back hard and hammer the liars as liars, brand them publicly as anti-American, smash them and
slash them loudly and publicly as fascists and sociopaths and compulsive pathological liars because that it is an accurate factual description of their heinous behaviour.
If you don't do that, and choose the "high road" instead, you will go down to defeat every time...just like the Menshiviks in 1910s Russia. Or the middle-of-the-road pols in 1859 America. Or the people who called for reason and cvility in the McCarthy era.

Note to Brin: the Big Lie works. If you don't fight it, you'll get crushed like a steamrollered
cockroach.

Brin goes on to suggest:

"-- Primly divide the good-cop/bad-cop roles... and say so, openly. Assign one or two committees (e.g. chaired by Waxman/Conyers) the task of finding out everything, protecting whistleblowers and chasing the truth. Announce that the investigations will have clear boundaries in both time and number of House participants... but not in their range of topics or number of witnesses. Give two dozen attack dogs a year and say `the rest of us will not join any chorus of rebuke. Our attention will be on governing.'

"Moreover, let the time limit be firm... in stark contrast to the open-ended vindictiveness of Clinton-era witch hunts."

The result? The red state Limbaugh/Dr. Laura/Michelle Malkin/WSJ smear machine will trumpet as END OF AMERICA!!! every pickyune nitpick with governance and utterly ignore all the revelations of criminality. The classic example here remains Iran-Contra, which elicited a giant yawn from the country...
Yet Iran-Contra stands as THE modern constitutional crisis. The White House went berserk, declaring and enacting war on its own, in violation of Congressional orders to the contrary. The maladministration run by Bonzo the monkey's co-star was truly a rogue presidency, notably for tearing the constitution and breaking countless laws, committing numberless high crimes and misdemeanors, then telling lie after lie after lie in a futile effort to cover up their crimes.
And yet they got away with all their crimes. Bonzo's co-star wiped his ass on the constitution and walked away scot free because the red state smear machine successfully dominated the news cycles on Iran-Contra and painted it as a "minor jurisdictional squabble of no account" and the gullible ignorant mainstream press went along with that Big Lie. The mainstream press has cravenly and obsequiously parrotted the red state smear machine ever since, echoing the Big Lies vomited out
by Limbaugh and company while denying and denigrating the facts and logic brought to light by the rational sensible pro-modern
51% of the electorate.

You can already see the smear headlines, can't you? CONGRESS REFUSES TO MOVE TO THE CENTER BY ACQUIESCING IN TORTURE -- MIDDLE AMERICA REBELS AGAINST FANATICAL FAR-LEFT PUSH FOR JURY TRIALS FOR KILLER TERRORISTS.

Or how about:
PRESIDENT OFFERS OLIVE BRANCH, PELOSI SPITS IN HIS FACE.

(Translation: the drunk-driving C student in the Oval Office orders his toadies to ignore all subpoenas and investigating committees find him in contempt of Congress.)

Or how about:

FAR-LEFT FREAK PELOSI TRIES TO IMPOVERISH AMERICANS BY RAISING TAXES. WAXMAN REFUSES TO END FUTILE WITCH HUNT.

Or how about:

ROGUE CONGRESS GOES COMMIE, CRUSHES CAPITALISM.
(Translation: Congress refuses to repeal anti-pollution regulation at Bush's request)

Or how about:
SADISTS CONTINUE TORMENTING INNOCENT BUREAUCRATS
(Translation: Congress presses charges against Americans who tortured prisoners.)

Or, best of all, this:
MAD DOG HIPPY CONGRESS HATES AMERICA, TRIES TO REPEAL PATRIOT ACT
(Translation: the Congress tries to restore trial by jury, habeas corpus, the 8th amendement prohibiting torture, the fourth amendement probihtibg unreasonable search and seizure, and the first amendment guaranteeing freedom
of speech.)

Of course, a time limit on any investigation is an open invitation to endless legal delays. The
classic example here is the Nixon tapes. After 30 years of litigation, most of those tapes
have still not been heard. The far right will simply delay and delay, obstruct and obstruct, until the time limit runs out...then the giant red state smear machine will trumpet "LOOK! LOOK! Those radical body-pierced faoggot-loving hippy anti-family freaks investigated for 2 full years and they couldn't FIND A THING! It was all a WITCH HUNT!!! Those gay-loving rump-riding America-hating elitists just WASTED THE TAXPAYERS' MONEY ON A GIANT BOONDOGGLE!!!"

(Translation: the President stonewalled all subpoenas and the Pentagon shredded all its
documents and the counsel for the President delayed and obstructed and suborned perjury and interfered with FBI and police investigations
until the time limit on the nivestigation ran out.)

----------
Dr. Brin's suggestions would work wonderfully well if we lived in a functioning democracy with two political parties. Unfortunately,
we live in a degenerate protofascist corporate kleptocracy in which one political party, the Republicans, consists of Jacobins who refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the political process itself. You cannot reason with Jacobins; their sole aim is to gain power, regardless of the method. If it takes torture, then they torture. If you win an election, they declare the election process invalid and move against you outside the law. If you pass legislation, they ignore it and fight you in the courts until democracy collapses.
This is not about politics. It is about a large bloc of Americans, most of them in the deep south, who refuse to recognize the legitimacy of any American institution which
does not bend to their will.

There is, sadly, only one way to solve that dilemma. You must send troops into these peoples' homes and shoot them in the head.
We did it in 1865 and burned the south to the ground. Eventually, after we killed enough radical seditionists who refused to recognize the legitimacy of any American institutions which failed to bend to their will and legalize
slavery, and after we burned enough of their homes to the ground, they decided this might not be the best way to act in a republic of democratic laws and democratic institutions.

Now, once again, we face a large bloc of radical seditionists who hate democracy and despise the rule of law (mostly from the deep South, like Newt Gingrich) and who simply refuse to accept the legitimacy of any American institutions which fails to bend to their will. If the Supreme Court refuses to legalize torture, they will pass laws to nullify the Supreme Court's decisions. If the congress refuses to abolish trial by jury, they will bypass it. If the press refuses to salute abolition of habeas corpus, they will crucify it. If ordinary citizens like the Dixie Chicks refuse to acquiesce in these abominations against the rule of law, the constitutional rights of those citizens wil be revoked and those citizens will be crushed and silenced and blacklisted and purged, in Stalinist fashion, from American culture.

There is only one way to deal with Jacobins who refuse to accept the legitimacy of democratic institutions.

Force.

Another civil war will eventually settle this issue. Unfortunately, you cannot legislate reasonableness. You cannot pass a law that makes people rational. You cannot get a judge to order someone to act sensibly. It just doesn't work that way.

At some point in the near future, the 51% of Americans who believe in facts and logic and observable reality and who are reasonable
and sensible and believe in free debate in an open society will have to take up arms and go to war against the 49% of radical seditionists who refuse to accept the legitimacy of open debate,
a free society, habeas corpus, trial by jury, the scientific method, facts and logic, and
observed reality.

There is no middle ground between the political position "we live in an open decmoratic society under the rule of law" and "I have the right to torture you to death without charges or a trial
and you have no right to object."
------
I respect Dr. Brin and his rational sensible suggestions would work wonderfully well if we lived in a rational sensible world. We don't. Sadly, I suspect that unless we in the relaity-based community steel ourselves for a civil war, people like Dr. Brin will wind up in concentration camps, scraping the lice out of their clothes with the shards of their broken laptops, while waiting for the next theocrat to try to torture them into accepting Creationism and admit that they have been Washed In the Blood Of the Lamb.

Don Quijote said...

An unknown in the Presidency who may or may not toe the line, or someone whom you have by the throat and whom you can force anything through because if he doesn't behave, you can impeach him and toss him out of office so fast heads would spin like in the Exorcist?

When you have a dangerous snake like Shrub by the throat, you kill it immediately, you cut it up into little pieces, you cremate the pieces, you bury them and then you get a Priest to exorcise the grave just to make sure.

And a big Ditto to anonymous who posted just prior to me.

rushmc said...

I read recently somewhere that a President cannot issue pardons while under an article of impeachment. Is there any truth to this? If so...well, you can see where I'm going...

rushmc said...

>>They were fooled badly...

Do we want to be polite or do we want to be honest? Most of those who voted for Bush in 2004 were in no way "fooled" by him, and that's probably a fair statement about most who voted for him in 2000 as well. They chose to embrace the authoritarianism of his pitch and to encourage his divisiveness, for various reasons of their own.

This is a particular weakness that I identify with liberals, wanting to patronize those they are in conflict with, to say "awwww, see? they aren't so bad, really! they didn't MEAN to do such terrible things!"

Wake up. Millions of Americans meant exactly to vote the way they did, to invite what happened (to be sure, they no doubt wish the war had been prosecuted a little more effectively). And guess what? They still do. I didn't see any 90% wins for any of the Democrats who got in this week.

Vigilance is the price, yadda yadda. Blink now and let those who have violated law, violated the Constitution, violated the public trust, violated basic decency off the hook and you will be paying for decades to come.

This whole notion that doing the right thing by enforcing the law and holding those who violate it accountable is "playing into the hands of the Republicans" and "bad political strategy" is absurd. We've seen time and time again that the public responds to those they perceive as straight-shooters, those with right and law on their side--this election was partially about that. Why are the Democrats so eager to abandon what works for them? Even Dean is all about appeasement now, abandoning the strength that got him where he is today.

You know what would *really* play into the hands of the Republicans? Accepting their paradigm that what is right is what you can get away with, and agreeing to look the other way while they limp off to lick their wounds and prepare for their next attack.

David Brin said...

Yipes. I appreciate "anonymous" for the vigor and zeal of his long posting, which boiled down to saying that Sherman had the right idea but never took it far enough. There certainly were some (Republicans!) who agreed at the time.

Me. I am planning to continue the plan that WORKED this time... reaching toward the serious and sincere American modewrates and (Goldwater or libertarian) conservatives who were honestly delusional and now seem capable of stirring, and recognizing (at last) how thoroughly they were fooled by monsters.

Let there be no mistake, this is how we won. All the lefty talk of "keeping faith with our base" (the 20% who radically push every left wing cause) has been proved to be hot (and useless) air.

It was the "Fighting Democrats"... moderate veterans... who won the battles. Not the Santa Monica libbies who took on ISSA and Bilbray in my neighborhoods, and in this year of all, gor 30% of the vote.

Dig it, if we are, as you assume, engaged in a genuine war, then it makes sense to DIVIDE YOUR ENEMY! Rob him of forces that you can attract over to your side. Do you think I want to do all these mature gestures in Congress only because they are mature and right? Foolish fellow. I am more at war with this monstrous for than you are, or ever will be!

I am not offering these gestures out of naivete, but out of calculated determination to win. And we will only win if an additional 10% to 20% of Americans join our side! Only then will we WIN THE GODDAM CULTURE WAR!

And that is the only victory that will not turn into ashes.

Yes, Rupert Murdoch will lie like hell, as he did during Clinton Era witch hunts. His shills will twist everything.... BUT THEY ARE BRUISED NOW, AND IF WE START GETTING REALLY CLEVER, WE CAN HIT THOSE BRUISES HARD.

Right in the credibility.

Yes, the repugnant repugs will take whatever concessions we offer while looking for ways to cut off the offering hand. So? If an added 10-20% NOTICE THIS and are repelled (AS HAS HAPPENED IN THIS ELECTION) then we'll do just fine.

Please stop assuming naivete in people who say things that jar you. The ultimate victory for our side will come when mature citizens can say what most mature scientists already can say.

"I might be wrong."

tc said...

I know that I (somewhat tongue in cheek) suggested your suggestions were naive. It occurs to me that if your suggestions don't come to pass, they can look like naivete.

But if they do, then they look visionary.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Anon., DQ, wow. I don't see how anything else needs to be said.

You advocate, and believe in the inevitability of, the Second American Civil War.

Everyone else please back away slowly. We have two Improvised Explosive Devices on the comments. I repeat, live IED's on the comments.

(In case you missed my earlier hints, I was born and raised in the South. Either you were not, or you harbor extreme pathos towards your childhood... because NO ONE who has seen the results of the War Between The States could EVER advocate doing it again.)

Anonymous said...

In truth, the second American Civil War has begun. It is up to us as to how it will be fought: with words and ideals or bullets and blood.

We can still retake our country peacefully. We've taken the first steps in that direction. And there is one of two things that will turn this "War" violent: first, that radicals among those seeking freedom for the American people strike out against the Neocons and their allies... second, that Bush and his allies decide to utilize the laws already in place, jail those who are their opponents, and declare martial law, trying to force America and Americans to march to their tune.

Hopefully those of us seeking peace can keep our "freedom fighters" from making a mistake by striking out at the Neocons and making them martyrs. The question is this: is Bush and his allies smart enough to realize this is a lost battle, or will they try to strike down this Democracy in order to seize complete power for themselves?

Perhaps we better hope that the more intelligent of the Neocons keep their powermongers in line, knowing that they lost and that bathing this country in blood will only serve to destroy everything both sides seek to preserve.

Rob H.

Nate said...

From kos,
Dear Everyone Who Thinks They Singled-Handedly Won the Last Election,
The DNC and Howard Dean couldn't have won this by themselves. They are not the source of all good in the world. Or all evil.
The DCCC and Rahm Emanuel couldn't have won this by themselves. They are not the source of all good in the world. Or all evil.
The DSCC and Chuck Schumer couldn't have won this by themselves. They are not the source of all good in the world. Or all evil.
The netroots and grassroots couldn't have won this by themselves. They are not the source of all good in the world. Or all evil.
The 527s and unions and allied organizations couldn't have won this by themselves. They are not the source of all good in the world. Or all evil.
The big dollar donors couldn't have won this by themselves. They are not the source of all good in the world. Or all evil.
They were all part of a glorious puzzle. And working together, even if not always harmoniously, led to great, great things.

Hugs and kisses.

kos


From hilzoy

"Basically, I think that we should focus, for the next two years, on doing things that large chunks of the country agrees on. This is partly for political reasons, but partly also because I think we've had enough division to last a lifetime, and we need to get beyond it. I also think that some of the things that fit that description badly need doing. We need elections that we can trust, for instance, and we need ethics reform in Congress. There's a lot of basic work that the GOP has left undone because they were to busy dealing with Terri Schiavo, flag-burning amendments, and amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage. I hope we roll up our sleeves and get to work on it.

After six years of a Congress about which I'd just wonder: gee, what new horror are they going to come up with next?, it's nice to know that 'just rolling up our sleeves and getting to work' is a possibility."

Anonymous said...

And THIS is suppose to be a discussion of the Enlightment and preserving civilization? Dr. Brin's points of view and opinions are often at the very least insightful, but all this bile and venom should be tossed overboard. The conservative stance IS a valid moral and ethnical stance taken by many people in this nation. Many of us do agree the current Administration and Congress have committed many infractions of good government, morality, and maybe even legality. BUT such issues should be handled with reason and contemplation, NOT rants of vile hatred. I just happen to BE one of those red state, cowboy boot wearing, pick up truck driving, conservative villians a few of you seem out to hate by stereotype. There are a huge number of us who happen to support science, reasonible government, fiscal responsibility, and thoughtful political discourse.

Personally I have been a registered Democrat for 17 years but seldom voted for a party that abandoned the conservative political values I was raised with in the state of Arkansas. I did NOT vote for Clinton, because I had seen what several terms as governor had produced first hand. The man was guilty of perjury and sexual harassment, and indecisive leadership in many elements of foreign policy. The military did NOT like many of his ideas, policies, nor foreign decisions. His inadequate response to Somalia and the African embassy bombings left us right square in the path of what produced 911. We have not had a great president in decades, maybe not even a competent one.

As far as social consevative stances such as redefining marriage at the legal level or abortion, these are massive legal and political issues that should involve civil discourse and consideration of ALL Americans. Neither should be decided by courts, shrill politicans looking for a vote, nor lobbyist. If it takes a constitutional amendment to settle the issues one way or another, then by all means let's have a full blown constitutional convention from all states and people and resolve these issues as decisions by THE People, FOr the People..period. And leave it resolved. Either way every american has core rights that neither side of the political spectrum should be touching: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Right to Bear Arms, Right to a Speedy Trial by a Jury of our Peers, Protection from illegal search and seizure, etc. Both sides of the aisle have been attacking one or another of those for decades now. I've served 15 years in the military in one service or another and I intend to continue to do so for many decades to come. Those like me serve where we are sent at the will of the People as represented by the elected officals of our constitutional republic. So calls of 'civil war' should have their advocates thinking very carefully. There are several million Americans that take that oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC, very serious. That includes liberal, conservative, moderates, and anyone of any political, religion, ethnicity or such period that would over throw the government of these United States.

There are a lot of people dead, some of them close personal friends of mine, from this series of wars currently raging. We did NOT start all of them, but some of them we did. To put it bluntly, the 'neocon's should be held to account within the full rule of law. But insulting those of us who 'fit' the label of redneck, Southerner, conservative, Constitutionalist, or what ever else you want to heap upon us is NOT going to resolve the cultural war. Discussion, discourse, and reason are the answer, not threats emotional childishness and attempts to destroy the very foundation of the American civilization.