Saturday, June 21, 2008

FISA: Obama's fault, or ours?

The blogosphere has been going crazy all day at Obama's apparent support of the FISA bill that just passed the House. (See here. And here. And here. And here.)

While Obama says he'll "try" to remove the immunity provisions for the telephone companies who provided the government illegal access to our phone calls, emails, and other electronic communications, others say he should focus on the other provisions of the bill, which take away our right to privacy.

They want Obama's head on a platter. And if they're not careful, they're going to get it.

People who do what we are asking of Obama have been killed. Over and over.

Those who did the noble, right thing, who challenged big money head on, who protested war and took steps to end it, have paid a heavy price. President John Kennedy. Senator Bob Kennedy. Martin Luther King.

Obama is not naive. He knows what the stakes are. A part of me is mad at him for not trying harder, but another part is hearing him say to himself, "but when I'm president, things will be different."

I'd argue the voice in his head is wrong. Because it's what you do in a crisis that defines who you are. And our country is facing a constitutional crisis. We need giants, but have only some men and women on the hill, more interested in protecting their own careers than in fighting the epic battle that needs to be waged. But I also feel sorry for him.

He aspires to be someone great. But so far, he is only a man, not a giant.

Obama can't do this alone. We need to help. And so far, most people not on liberal blogs aren't even aware of this battle. And even some who ARE aware think immunity is okay. We feel we are the core of the party, but we are not. There are many in the party who believe that immunity IS the right thing. I am not of that persuasion.

I sometimes wonder if we're just going to have to go through fascism to truly understand it's danger, the insidiousness of it all. Will we have to suffer a holocaust of our own - not Jews, this time, but perhaps liberals, or maybe Muslims - to understand why we can't give away our rights in this fashion? Ask a German. They have incredibly strict laws (or had, prior to the EU) preventing the collection of personal data because THEY KNOW how dangerous the accumulation of such data can be.

This is OUR fight. This has ALWAYS been OUR fight.

Over and over, whenever the government has overstepped, WE have failed to reign it in. When Nixon overstepped, he was forced from office. But when the CIA overstepped, performing illegal domestic activities - spying on Americans right here at home, infiltrating student groups and peace movements - Congress failed to serve up an appropriate remedy. Cowed by the death of a CIA station chief they claimed had been exposed by the incessant prying atmosphere (when they weren't prying nearly hard enough), Frank Church, perhaps due to his own presidential ambitions, refused to push for accountability, and allowed the laws to be opened up, to give the CIA greater leeway to commit what previously had been an egregious breach of the law.

WE failed by not protesting this in the streets, by rolling over and going back to sleep. By pretending that didn't mean anything. It set a dangerous precedent.

During Iran-Contra, when Robert Parry made the cover of Newsweek with an article that demonstrated how Reagan's aids were rewriting chronologies to hide his hand in the deal, did Congress rise up and impeach Reagan? No. Newsweek pulled that issue from the stands! As the title of a wonderful little play cries, everything was "in the hands of its enemy."

What did WE do? Nothing. There was no outrage, outside a few tiny groups of people paying attention.

I submit WE have not done OUR part.

How many of us have pressed for the truth about the deaths of those who WERE brave, who DID stand up against huge forces and do battle?

WE didn't have their back. WE didn't do our part.

So we can rant and rave all we want. But WE are a big part of the problem.

I'm trying to do my part. I've done a lot of homework. I've been very vocal about who I think the killed our best leaders and why. I speak out loudly and often on the subject because I believe doing so helps protect future leaders. But it will take much more than a handful of researchers. It will take an entire country saying no more lies. No more unelected goverment. No more domestic spying. No more cover-ups for political assassinations.

If the price may be an assassination for which no one will be held accountable, is it too much to ask Obama to do the right thing?

Do WE have his back?

Are we truly going to take to the streets and hold our elected leaders accountable? No one else will do it. This is still a government of the people, and by the people, if not often FOR the people. And WE have shirked our duties.

This is on us as much as him. Because so long as we're only talking to each other, we're not changing things.

We need to spend more time talking to people who AREN'T on left-wing blogs. Reaching NEW audiences. Commenting on sites where right-wing libertarian-type allies may see it. Then we may build enough awareness to truly have Obama's back, and the back of anyone trying to do good.

I was sorry to see all the vitriol re Ron Paul. He wasn't going to win, so his more extreme views didn't bother me. Those weren't the reasons people were supporting him. They supported him because he said government is corrupt and broken, and that we shouldn't be at war in Iraq. And he was dead on re the need to reform our money system.

When we shut our ears and go "La-la-la can't HEAR you because you're a Republican/Democrat," we're missing some chances to build bridges and forge powerful coalitions.

We need to listen to the arguments of others, if only to better refute them. But we should listen with an ear to learning, and perhaps reaching a point of agreement in a surprising place.

And we need to teach each other history, and specifically, conspiratorial history. Conspiracy theory is simply pattern recognition. But you can't recognize the patterns if you don't know what they look like. The only way to prevent a conspiracy from happening is to expose it before it happens. The only way to expose it is to recognize the signs. And the only way to recognize the signs is to study conspiracies. We can't prevent large-scale corruption until we gain some conspiracy literacy.

I believe strongly the many voices crying out re Iran have prevented us, so far, from creating a fake event that would drag us into war.

By not being willing to deal with the weirdnesses around 9/11, we have shirked our duty. Many don't want to be associated with a few truly paranoid people who surround that case, but there are deeper issues that have nothing to do with planes and buildings that we should be pursuing, specifically, where did the money come from to pay the hijackers? It went from the ISI, the CIA-trained intelligence service in Pakistan, to the hijackers. Who gave the money to ISI? And isn't that worth finding out? If we shriek "conspiracy lunacy" every time the subject comes up, we can't find out. And if we can't find out, we can't prevent future attacks.

So yeah, we can claim to be holier than thou - but really, what are WE doing?

How can Obama or anyone stand up to such enormous power when the costs to his predecessors have been so very high? The only way he'd dare is if we bring him right up to the goal line.

Re illegal wiretapping, this IS a big deal. This is THE big deal of our collective rights, so far. And those who get it are working hard on this. Many more don't have a clue. And it's going to take so many more to win this one.

It's going to take something more along the lines of a general strike to shake the business community to its knees. And that's the positive option. The negative option is that we have to suffer a period similar to that in Nazi Germany to wake people up, to make them realize politics is as important as life itself. Most people in America find politics boring, something removed, something they don't have to participate in. But most people in Germany of my generation and earlier understand that not paying attention can have truly disastrous results.

So stop whining about Obama. Press him. Support him. Push him to do the right thing. But understand as well that he's all we've got. No one else is coming.

And most importantly, remember this surprisingly sage advice from Michael Jackson's song "Man in the Mirror":

If you want to make the world a better place,
take a look at yourself and make a change.


Blogger xoites said...

Repeal FISA is up and running. Anyone who wants to is welcome to sign up and become a Poster on it. The purpose of the blog is to organize a drive to repeal the FISA laws and all laws that pardon or give immunity from prosecution anyone who has violated the Constitution during the Bush Administration.

That is why we want everyone to be able to Post so they can start a conversation about an idea they have to make this happen.

Stop on by and check it out. By all means leave a comment and sign up to blog with us as we figure out what needs to be done to return our Fourth Amendment Rights and our rule of law.

If you have a blog already and you become a poster we will link to your site.

3:59 PM  
Blogger MacDaddy said...

Well stated. My thoughts concisely. I'm going to mention your article and guide them to your site. You're the real historian. Thanks for th work you do.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Thanks, MacDaddy. We have so much work to do. I'm glad you and others are doing so much already!

7:50 PM  
Anonymous James O'Neill said...

As much as one would like to believe that you are right Obama has some way to go to persuade me that he represents real change. Listen to Ralph Schoenman's program 'Taking Aim' for example on how much Obama is tied to the 'same old, same old' policy viz a viz Palestine. Or his enthusiasm for bombing Pakistan for heaven's sake.If he fails the Palestine litmus test why should we believe he represents the kind of change we can believe in?

11:31 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

First, Schoenman is ridiculous and often wrong. He blames John Kennedy for Lumumba's massacre, even though it was plotted and carried out by the CIA just before Kennedy took office! So Schoenman is a man with an agenda that is not leftist, despite his protestations. Frankly, I've long suspected he served the intelligence community, and they are afraid of Obama because he's the unknown quantity.

Second, on Israel, it's a fact that in this country, you can't speak out against Israel and get elected. They can't stay in office long if they oppose Israel. So reread the post above. That's not Obama's problem to solve. That's OURS.

I think he will do the best he can given the circumstances. If we want him to do more, we have to help change the circumstances so he can do his best in a broader context.

8:45 AM  
Blogger MacDaddy said...

I will check out the repeal FISA and will probably post on it.

I also agree that Obama can only do so much; and what WE can do is push him and the party to which he belongs to develop more progressive policies. FISA is winnable for him and for us.

My blog is Good work.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

And I don't want to "repeal" FISA - I want to fix it. We had a system whereby someone had to get a court order to spy on someone. They were granted quickly in almost every case, without challenge. That's scary enough. But what Bush did is he stopped seeking even the perfunctory permission. He's acting like King instead of President, and that should be an impeachable offense here in America.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous DHSmd said...

True Confessions - another Kos reply
I am repeating here, after initially begining the meditation on it in response to you... I hope you don't mind.

Aside from being disappointed, concerned, and opposed to his position, I remain curious about his thought process.

He has to know that his base HATES this bill, so he's not appealing to them.

Glenn Greenwald has demonstrated clearly that there is no political risk with the voters in opposing this legislation, no matter what the Republicans and their clients in the press have to say about it. I'm sure this is no secret to the Obama campaign leadership.

His position is directly counter to a clear campaign promise that he made, and carries considerable political risk - not so much in votes as in enthusiasm.

The DNC money situation, and the prospect of getting telecom funds flowing into various congressional campaign coffers, so it doesn't spread the DNC money too thin could be a factor. However, I would think that he could assure that outcome without so strongly and publicly putting his own influence behind the bill. So I think it has to be something more than that.

Blackmail? NAH!! Couldn't be! (That is certainly an evidence-free bit of speculation.)

How about political realities of winning and American political history of the past half century, in the context of the nature of the forces that will be arrayed against him from the moment he is sworn in?

How appealing would it be to you, if you were in his position, and about to take over a government run by a fascist regime, and stacked with its supporters through illegal politicization of every department for the past eight years? How useful would you consider a comprehensive and fast intelligence gathering program that could be focused on any "enemy" you might want to identify? What if you could only trust a few people within your own administration, and needed their help to keep informed of the deep political machinations of those forces?

Would access to such a program appeal to you? Would it be like a security blanket on your first sleep-over? One thing is for sure, if this was your motivation, you would never say it out loud to anyone outside a circle of about 3-5 people.

Obviously, I've become "stuck" on this as an explanation, and as much as I oppose the rationale on pure principle, I have a hard time getting angry over it anymore.

just FWIW.

11:43 PM  
Anonymous mondo said...

Lisa, a huge amount of 9-11 research that deals with the MONEY end of it can be found on Alex Constantine's Blacklist blog (
and Richard Grove's higly informative podcasts over at Grove worked at the WTC in the exact offices that had the first explosion. Very damning evidence. In fact, Constantine draws some very convincing parallels between the 3rd Reich and the Bush admin. Choicepoint in particular has a huge role in 9-11. The same Choicepoint that now does most of the domestic spying and won the 2000 presidential election for Bush in Florida by disenfranching tens of thousands of democrat voters.

11:14 AM  

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