The Democrats in Congress are on the verge of what could be one of their best electoral triumphs in decades; nearly every poll out shows that they will increase their margins in the House, perhaps by double digits, and will gain anywhere from 2-6 seats in the Senate. In fact, they could gain as many as 9 Senate seats and pass the 60-vote margin that they've allowed the minority GOP to wield as a weapon of control. They enter this upcoming election facing one of the widely acknowledged worst, most unpopular, least trusted presidents in recent US history, a man whose rhetoric, though still dangerous, is so ineffectual--save on the warmongering calls against Iran--that he might as well not open his mouth ever again until he leaves office.
And yet, these Democrats, particularly in the House, have repeatedly found ways to give this deeply loathed president and his party what they want, again and again. On issues surrounding the Iraq War and civil liberties, they have been abominable.
Really and repeatedly abominable.
The newest abomination is the "bipartisan," "compromise," FISA-gutting, telecom amnesty bill, which the Democrats have decided must not only provide the White House and GOP with everything they want in terms of the freedom to spy without a warrant on Americans, but also a giveaway to the telecom industry in the form of grandfathered amnesty; although several lawsuits are now underway to see if the telecoms broke the law (since they are alleged to have been spying on Americans since early 2001, months before 9/11), and although the US had a perfectly workable FISA law that could, with some minor changes, have been updated to make it as effective as possible, the Bush administration decided it must have this horrible draconian new law, in effect protecting itself and the telecoms from possible crimes they committed, and the Democratic leadership in both the House, led by Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, and the Senate, led by West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller, are doing their damnedest to make it pass.
In fact, when the GOP controlled Congress, they couldn't get this telecom amnesty debacle through. And yet now that Democrats control both houses, it's almost law.
How bad have the violations been that this bill is trying to wipe away? From Glenn Greenwald:
As Judge [Vaughn] Walker [a Republican appointee and the chief judge of the Northern District of California] ruled, the alleged actions by the telecoms "violate the constitutional rights clearly established" by prior Supreme Court rulings and "no reasonable entity in [the telecoms'] position could have believed [the spying program] was legal." Beyond that, the telecoms -- by allowing the Bush administration to spy on their customers with no warrants -- knowingly violated at least four separate federal statutes (.pdf).
This is the bill that Senator Chris Dodd repeatedly threatened to filibuster when he was still a candidate for president.
And Steny Hoyer has stonewalled and dissimulated about it. Repeatedly. WHY?
Barack Obama has said that he strongly opposes this law. He has not yet spoken out about this new House-led effort. Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold says that the bill was not a "compromise" but a "capitulation" to the White House. In Eric Lichtblau's New York Times article, the GOP are already gloating about how they rolled the Democrats on behalf of Bush. Again.
So what can you do?
You can visit this site, Blue America PAC vs. Retroactive Immunity, for more information on this horrible bill, and to donate money for a targeted campaign to oppose several of its most heinous Democratic enablers. So far, the PAC has collected over $200,000 from 4,000 donors. You can write, call or fax your Congressperson or Senator, demanding that she not support this bill, which will be put up for a vote tomorrow.
A coalition calling itself "Strange Bedfellows" has drawn people from across the political and ideological spectrum. They are concerned with yet another serious threat to civil liberties, and the possible legislation of behavior that drew strong rebukes after it reached some of its worst abuses under the Nixon administration. You can visit the site at:
And you can call Senator Obama's campaign, at (866) 675-2008 [Dial 6, then 0, on the menu], and demand that he take action to prevent its passage, since he is on record claiming that he opposed it. Or you can contact his office directly, if you're an Illinois resident. From his Senate webpage: Phone: (202) 224-2854 / Fax: (202) 228-4260 / Email
Tayari has posted on the NEA's recent comprehensive report on artists in the workplace. It's worth checking out. Three of her bullet points:
The percentage of female, black, Hispanic and Asian artists is bigger among younger ones. Among artists under 35, writers are the only group in which 80 percent or more are non-Hispanic white. I wonder why it is that all other areas of art are becoming more diverse, but not writing? I would think that writing would really lend itself to inclusion since the start up costs are so low. A question worth thinking about is whether this means times are good or hard for writers of color. On the one hand being so darn rare makes us attractive, or at least it does, theoretically. But on the other hand, the scarcity suggests steep challenges. The “Artists in the Workforce” report, prepared by Sunil Iyengar, the endowment’s director of research and analysis, identified 185,000 writers.... That's a lot of people. Overall, the median income that artists reported in 2005 was $34,800 — $42,000 for men and $27,300 for women. That's just depressing. No comment needed.