We’re Coming for You

That’s right.

No more free lunch for incumbents. No more job security. No more helpless handwringing as you Blue Dogs and spineless gits and corporate bitches get drunk on your own power. There will now be consequences for your actions:

Some of the most prominent names in progressive politics launched a major new organization on Thursday dedicated to pinpointing and aiding primary challenges against incumbent Democrats who are viewed as acting against their constituents’ interests.

Accountability Now PAC will officially be based in Washington D.C., though its influence is designed to be felt in congressional districts across the country. The group will adopt an aggressive approach to pushing the Democratic Party in a progressive direction; it will actively target, raise funds, poll and campaign for primary challengers to members who are either ethically or politically out-of-touch with their voters. The goal, officials with the organization say, is to start with 25 potential races and dwindle it down to eight or 10; ultimately spending hundreds of thousands on elections that usually wouldn’t be touched.

[snip]

It is a concept bound — indeed, designed — to ruffle the feathers of powerful figures in Washington, in part because the names behind it are now institutions themselves. With $500,000 currently in the bank, Accountability Now will be aided, in varying forms, by groups such as MoveOn, SEIU, Color of Change, Democracy for America, 21st Century Democrats and BlogPAC. FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher and Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald will serve in advisory roles, while Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos will conduct polling, with analytical help from 538.com’s Nate Silver.

This has been in the works since that FISA fuckery in June. Remember that time? Our vaunted political rulers lined up with Bush and voted an appreciable chunk of our Constitution away. Strange Bedfellows arose out of our anger and disgust, and morphed into Accountability Now PAC. While we weren’t able to defeat Blue Dogs Chris Carney and John Burrows, we surely gave them the shock of their young political lives. And you may have noticed that Steny Hoyer has all of a sudden discovered that it may be a good idea to sound like a Democrat again. All that, before the PAC was even fully functional.

2010′s gonna be interesting, especially for Dems who don’t serve their constituents’ interests.

And, lest you think this is just a far-left witch hunt borrowing a page from the Cons, keep this in mind:

In a conversation with the Huffington Post, Hauser, Hamsher and Greenwald said that the process by which targeted incumbents were chosen would not constitute an ideological litmus test. The goal, they noted, was simply to follow the numbers: figure out which Members were casting votes that were out of tune, philosophically speaking, with their constituent’s public opinion readings.

Granted, we’d love more progressives. But following the numbers means that it’s truly the will of the people that decides. If that means we don’t end up with an ultra-progressive challenger, so be it. Incumbents who aren’t incurring their constituents’ wrath likely have nothing to fear – much. Unless, of course, they pull another stunt like trying to immunize corporations for illegal spying, in which case I wouldn’t count on polling data to save their hides.

And if they were planning to stand in the way of broadly popular initiatives, they’re fucked:

By empowering the grassroots, Accountability Now will help create the political space needed to enable President Obama to make good on the many progressive policies he campaigned on – such as getting out of Iraq, ensuring access to affordable health care for every man, woman and child, restoring our constitutional liberties and ending torture.
In 2007, grassroots activists banded together to oust Al Wynn out of office, and it shook House Democrats to their core. Similarly, we learned in 2006 how even a primary challenge that does not win could change behavior, as Jane Harman has been more accountable to the concerns of her constituents after a tough primary race against Marcy Winograd.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this impacts the Washington old-incumbents’ club. As Accountability Now notes, “nothing focuses the mind of a politician on listening to citizens better than a primary.”

Change is coming. About damned time.

It’s Not Too Late to Jump Into Bed

We’ve settled the difficulties with Jane Hamsher’s elbows, Cujo359′s stopped shedding, and I’ve gotten help with my snoring. There’s no better time than now to join us in bed.

There’s 3,240 of us right at the moment. That means your donation doesn’t have to be big to talk big.

Why donate, you ask me? Why should I bomb Washington with my hard-earned dough? So glad you asked:


The force and power of a moneybomb is simple and straightforward. We all donate on the SAME DAY, and working together we send our political leaders (Democrat and Republican) a freedom message they will never forget. So help us make it work. Pledge today; then come back and donate on the 8th. Let’s show our leaders once and for all that there is a POWERFUL movement here that will settle for nothing less than constitutional governance in America.

That’s right. It’s for that poor, abused bit o’ parchment otherwise known as the Constitution of the United States of America. It’s for that document that has stood between us and tyranny for over 200 years. It’s for that hope, and promise, and the rule of law.

Some politicians have gotten the idea that once elected, they don’t have a mandate to protect the freedoms and rights enshrined in that document. We beg to differ. Money talks, and we plan to force them to listen.

We’re doing it on August 8th for the symbolism:


That is the day in 1974 when Richard Nixon was forced to resign from office for his lawbreaking and surveillance abuses. That day illustrates how far we have fallen in this country in less than 35 years, as we now not only permit rampant presidential lawbreaking and a limitless surveillance state, but have a bipartisan political class that endorses it and even retroactively protects the lawbreakers.

And if you want to know how your cash will be used, Glenn Greenwald can ‘splain. He doesn’t just sum up.

What we’re doing here is no more and no less than changing the way politicians calculate the cost/benefit ratio of their actions. If they realize there’s a steep political price to be paid for shitting upon our constitutional rights and freedoms, they’ll likely choose to shit elsewhere. Those who don’t will rightfully get their arses kicked.

The politicians who have enabled Bush to break our laws with impunity, who have extended vast warrantless wiretapping powers without so much as a thought for the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee that we shall be secure from unreasonable search and seizure, who have allowed America to slip-slide down the slope toward a totalitarian surveillance state, need to be made very aware that there are consequences for their actions.

Money talks. Our money can make them listen.

Bob Barr Endorses the Constitution

It’s no secret I’m thrilled that Bob Barr is running for President. I’m hoping he’ll draw off a good number of reluctant McCain supporters: he’s just conservative enough to manage it. And now I have a whole new reason to recommend him: he’s a privacy advocate who’s decided that FISA is poison to privacy. He’s endorsed the Strange Bedfellows coalition by way of saying, “That’s just about enough unbridled government power, thanks so much:”


A lot of media attention has been focused on our privacy or, more appropriately, the invasion of our privacy by the government. The recent law that allows the government to intercept our phone calls and emails without any legitimate probable cause is the most glaring example. Ultimately we lose some freedom with virtually every new law or government regulation, but this particular law, FISA, is the granddaddy of all invasions of our privacy.

For the last several years Bob Barr has been fighting the government’s intrusion into our privacy at every step. There have been other organizations standing shoulder to shoulder with Bob. But, the recent focus on the invasion of our privacy has motivated a whole new group of concerned activists to join together in an effort to stop the government’s encroachment into our lives.

Some of the names of the organizers of this new group, AccountabilityNowPac, may be familiar to you. They come from a large variety of backgrounds and political beliefs joined in the common interest of protecting our privacy.

If you get a chance please take a look at their web site to learn more about them.

Feels pretty good to be recognized by a presidential candidate. I hope his stand shames the other two into remembering this little thing called the Fourth Amendment. Maybe then we’ll see that nice, embarrassed shuffle sideways. That delightful, “What FISA fiasco? Oh, that. Yeah, I, uh, now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’ve realized I was temporarily insane in supporting that idiotic bill. My first act as President will be to kick that bit of legislation to the curb. Yay, Fourth Amendment!”

Look, one can dream.

Someone Get This Disaster Out of Office

I suspect Bush is going to spend the next six months doing his level best to destroy everything he can get his hands on. He knows he won’t be leaving a legacy, but scorched earth. He won’t try to turn things around: he’ll play the screaming, spoiled toddler he always does, and break the toys he’s been playing with rather than give them back.

Need proof? Digby has the latest in an unbroken string of outrages, coming just after Bush gleefully vetoed the Medicare bill:


But this thumb in the eye of doctors and medical providers who dared to oppose his cuts to their paychecks is nothing compared to what his Health and Human Services Department has in store:


The Bush administration wants to require all recipients of aid under federal health programs to certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion and even certain types of birth control.

Under the draft of a proposed rule, hospitals, clinics, researchers and medical schools would have to sign “written certifications” as a prerequisite to getting money under any program run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The rule defines “abortion” so broadly that it could also apply to birth control pills and emergency contraception. And because the rule would apply to federal health programs, low-income and uninsured women will be most affected.


This is an extension of the “Landmine Project,” to install both personnel and federal rules requirements that would enshrine radical conservative goals inside of government.


Even if we have a century of careful, conscientious Democratic rule, I don’t think we’ll be able to undo all of the evil this one spiteful fucktard has done. I hope this man ends up in the Hague for war crimes. I just wish it would happen before he finishes his little project to ensure that Americans don’t get proper healthcare and women end up as chattel in the eyes of the government.

Bush should have been impeached in 2006. Cheney should have ended up in prison. Our witless Democrats left them in power, and I’m afraid the cowards won’t have the political will to clean up the mess once they’re gone.

We’re going to have to work hard to elect people who have actual spines this time around.

Become a StrangeBedfellow and Hold Washington Accountable!

We’ve Lost the Battle – But the War Must Go On

So. A travesty of a surveillance bill has passed. The Powers that Be seem to expect the furor to die down now that the FISA amendment’s a done deal. Some former defenders of civil liberties might buy the argument that “I’m not a terrorist, I don’t talk to terrorists, so FISA ain’t nuthin’ to me!” Others contort themselves to find reasons why the new bill isn’t a total “Fuck you!” to the Fourth Amendment.

It would perhaps be beneficial to point out that you’re all utterly fucking wrong. There are tremendous good reasons not to let Wednesday’s vote go unchallenged.

First, let’s have a look at what broad spying powers have been used for in the past (emphasis added in all):

From Wikipedia’s COINTELPRO article:


The Final report of the Church Committee concluded:

“Too many people have been spied upon by too many Government agencies and too much information has been collected. The Government has often undertaken the secret surveillance of citizens on the basis of their political beliefs, even when those beliefs posed no threat of violence or illegal acts on behalf of a hostile foreign power. The Government, operating primarily through secret informants, but also using other intrusive techniques such as wiretaps, microphone “bugs”, surreptitious mail opening, and break-ins, has swept in vast amounts of information about the personal lives, views, and associations of American citizens. Investigations of groups deemed potentially dangerous — and even of groups suspected of associating with potentially dangerous organizations — have continued for decades, despite the fact that those groups did not engage in unlawful activity. Groups and individuals have been harassed and disrupted because of their political views and their lifestyles. Investigations have been based upon vague standards whose breadth made excessive collection inevitable. Unsavory and vicious tactics have been employed — including anonymous attempts to break up marriages, disrupt meetings, ostracize persons from their professions, and provoke target groups into rivalries that might result in deaths. Intelligence agencies have served the political and personal objectives of presidents and other high officials. While the agencies often committed excesses in response to pressure from high officials in the Executive branch and Congress, they also occasionally initiated improper activities and then concealed them from officials whom they had a duty to inform.

Governmental officials — including those whose principal duty is to enforce the law –have violated or ignored the law over long periods of time and have advocated and defended their right to break the law.

The Constitutional system of checks and balances has not adequately controlled intelligence activities. Until recently the Executive branch has neither delineated the scope of permissible activities nor established procedures for supervising intelligence agencies. Congress has failed to exercise sufficient oversight, seldom questioning the use to which its appropriations were being put. Most domestic intelligence issues have not reached the courts, and in those cases when they have reached the courts, the judiciary has been reluctant to grapple with them.”[17][18]


From Bill Moyers’s journal, regarding Project Shamrock:


One important program brought to light by the Committee was Project Shamrock — domestic surveilliance that was subsequently prohibited by FISA. Shamrock was a NSA surveillance program stretching from 1947 to the mid-70′s that involved the copying of telegrams sent by American citizens to international organizations. L. Britt Snider, former CIA Inspector General and council on the Church Committee, describes the project he was tasked to investigate:


Every day, a courier went up to New York on the train and returned to Fort Meade with large reels of magnetic tape, which were copies of the international telegrams sent from New York the preceding day using the facilities of three telegraph companies. The tapes would then be electronically processed for items of foreign intelligence interest, typically telegrams sent by foreign establishments in the United States or telegrams that appeared to be encrypted.


Shamrock actually predated the NSA, which was created by President Truman in 1952, and began as a continuation of censorship efforts conducted by the the Army Security Agency during WWII. As Fritz Schwarz explains to Bill Moyers, the program began with benign intentions, yet, “if you have secrecy and lack of oversight, you’re going to get abuse.” By the time the hearings began, many estimate the NSA was analyzing 150,000 messages a month.


And then there’s the Huston Plan:


The Huston Plan was a 43 page report and outline of proposed security operations put together by White House aide Tom Charles Huston in 1970. It first came to light during the 1973 Watergate hearings headed by Senator Sam Ervin (a Democrat from North Carolina).

The impetus for this report stemmed from President Richard Nixon wanting more coordination of domestic intelligence in the area of gathering information about purported ‘left-wing radicals’ and the anti-war movement in general. Huston had been assigned as White House liaison to the Interagency Committee on Intelligence (ICI), a group chaired by J. Edgar Hoover, then Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director. Huston worked closely with William C. Sullivan, Hoover’s assistant, in drawing up the options listed in what eventually became the document known as the Huston Plan.

Among other things the plan called for domestic burglary, illegal electronic surveillance and opening the mail of domestic “radicals”. At one time it also called for the creation of camps in Western states where anti-war protesters would be detained.


The American Prospect points out another delight in the surveillance smorgasboard:


It’s important today to recall that the object of much of the Church committee’s investigation were the abuses the CIA and other intelligence agencies inflicted on Americans here at home. They included the Huston Plan, a proposal to have the agencies infiltrate and disrupt student and other dissenting organizations; Operation HT Lingual, in which the CIA had for 20 years been opening the mail that Americans (including Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey) had sent to the Soviet bloc; and other operations that kept files, ran wiretaps, and performed medical experiments on U.S. citizens.


Now. Tell me again how giving the government broad, unchecked spying powers is something no law-abiding citizen should ever worry about.

“But Dana!” some of you will undoubtedly wail. “Things are different now. FISA still stands – in fact, Barack Obama himself said that this new law ‘restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.’ How could Obama-wan be wrong?”

To which I reply, “Glenn Greenwald knows.”

And it’s only gotten worse since more information has come out:


In the podcast, Jaffer details exactly what warrantless surveillance powers the new FISA bill vests in the President, along with the reasons they are so pernicious. He underscores the extraordinary fact that the surveillance program implemented by Congress yesterday does not merely authorize most of the President’s so-called “Terrorist Surveillance Program” that gave rise to this scandal in the first place, but is actually much broader in scope even than that lawless program, because there is not even any requirement in the new FISA law that the “target” of the surveillance have any connection whatsoever to Terrorism, nor is there any requirement that the Government believe the “target” is an agent of a foreign power or terrorist organization, or even guilty of any wrongdoing at all. As Georgetown Law Professor Marty Lederman wrote today (emphasis his):


The new statute permits the NSA to intercept phone calls and e-mails between the U.S. and a foreign location, without making any showing to a court and without judicial oversight, whether or not the communication has anything to do with al Qaeda — indeed, even if there is no evidence that the communication has anything to do with terrorism, or any threat to national security.


Those claiming that this new FISA law is just some sort of innocuous or mild extension of the Government’s surveillance powers under the old FISA law should listen to Jaffer’s extremely clear and detailed explanation of what this law really is, how invasive the powers it creates are, and why it tramples on core Constitutional protections. The podcast can be heard here.


Scary enough, but of course there’s more. Russ Feingold knows more about the illegal spying program this law is designed to enshrine than we ever will. And he has nothing good to say about this:


I sit on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, and I am one of the few members of this body who has been fully briefed on the warrantless wiretapping program. And, based on what I know, I can promise that if more information is declassified about the program in the future, as is likely to happen either due to the Inspector General report, the election of a new President, or simply the passage of time, members of this body will regret that we passed this legislation. I am also familiar with the collection activities that have been conducted under the Protect America Act and will continue under this bill. I invite any of my colleagues who wish to know more about those activities to come speak to me in a classified setting. Publicly, all I can say is that I have serious concerns about how those activities may have impacted the civil liberties of Americans.


And as if that’s not enough, I’ve got a cherry to put on top:


And then there is the entire, unresolved matter of what James Comey was describing
when he said that the spying activities in which the Bush administration was engaged for years were so patently illegal and unconscionable that even he, John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller — right-wing ideologues all who approved of the lawless “Terrorist Surveillance Program” — all threatened to resign en masse if those still-unknown activities continued.


Can you imagine how bad that had to have been? These aren’t leftist ACLU-loving civil libertarians we’re talking about here – quite the opposite – and even they couldn’t stomach what Bush was getting up to. Those lawsuits that just got shut down by retroactive immunity were our best chance of finding out just what was done in the name of national security.

Digby has a chilling conclusion to make:

We will have no way of knowing if or how they are using these powers to “preserve the nation” (In the days after 9/11 we know for a fact that they did use them to monitor dissenters.) Presidents will undoubtedly be tempted to use them for political purposes under that doctrine, just as Nixon did, if the populace ever becomes that vociferous again. Who knows what “preserving the nation” will mean next time?

Whatever doesn’t kill the authoritarian beast only makes it stronger. We’ll be dealing with the fallout from this for yet another 30 years. Indeed, this time it may just stick forever.


We ain’t letting it.

No fucking way.

The ACLU filed suit against the new law within an hour of Bush signing it. You can show your whole-hearted support for their effort to derail this travesty of a bill by pledging a small monthly donation here. You can sign their newspaper ad here.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is also filing suit on a complimentary front. Support their efforts here.

And you can join me and my Stange Bedfellows in bed here.

Trust me in this. We can make a difference. We just have to make enough of a ruckus so that we’re impossible to ignore.

Our civil liberties depend on it.

Become a StrangeBedfellow and Hold Washington Accountable!

Look Who Dana’s Sleeping With!

It’s a little hard to see, but this is what I found when I was looking for my name on the Strange Bedfellows list:

That’s right. I’m sleeping right next to this fellow:


I was delighted to discover Slobber and Spittle camped so close to En Tequila Es Verdad. We’re not strange bedfellows at all: we share many of the same viewpoints, especially regarding the outrage that is the new FISA legislation. Which is what makes us Strange Bedfellows, o’ course.

You can jump into bed with us, too. All you have to do is sign up. And there you’ll be, cuddled up with a bunch of folks who take their Constitution seriously, no matter what part of the political spectrum they happen to hail from.

Look at that face. Can you resist that face? You know you can’t.

You could do a lot worse than end up in bed with Dana, Cujo359, Glenn Greenwald, Jane Hamsher, and a whole passel of other folks who are passionate about civil liberties.

Heh. Passion. And you see the rich possibility for innuendo here, right?

Update: Slightly clearer version, courtesy of Cujo359 himself!