Monday, January 28, 2008

Orwell Was More Than Right

The other night, I learned on Countdown that recently appointed Attorney General Robert Mukasey keeps two portraits hanging in his new office. One is of a Supreme Court justice of whom I know nothing. It's the other one that startled me. Eric Blair, aka George Orwell has the dubious honor of sharing wall space with a Supreme Court justice in the office of the top arbiter of what masquerades as justice these days.

The irony is more than rich, as Keith Olbermann duly noted. For the new occupant of the AG's office, in the now thoroughly gutted and politicized Justice Department to be choosing this particular writer to hang on the wall is deeply disturbing. Though when asked, he reportedly praised Orwell's writing for its 'spare and concise' clarity. Nary a mention of his masterwork's nightmare vision in which we have appeared to be living for quite some time. Apparently this man, (who has yet to decide whether waterboarding is torture or not), was absent from school the day when simple rhetorical tropes such as irony were introduced. And, it appears, that he totally missed the dystopian warning Orwell so chillingly and dispassionately described in 1984. That is, if he ever read the book in the first place.

Olbermann, who has long been invoking Orwell with regard to the lawlessness and invasive tendencies of the $hrub administration, put it perfectly in one of his Special Comments last year (and I paraphrase): "Mr. President, Orwell's novel is not a how to manual!" Indeed. Of course, we all know that they never got that memo, or missed school the day when some brighter kid in the class gave the book report.

Yes folks, we've got a real life constitutional crisis going on here, and for those who have been willing to pay attention to the details of what's been happening to our constitution and basic rights to privacy and in particular the 4th amendment (anybody seen habeus corpus or posse comitatus lately?), there is much reason to despair. Honestly, there are many days when I dread getting up in the morning because I fear learning about something even more nefarious that will come to light about the activities of this government. The current Democratic 'majority' (such as it isn't) has been only too willing to cave, time and again, to the dictatorial whims of the Enfant Terrible who currently holds office as his sinecure from a tainted and unfair Supreme Court ruling.

Fortunately, and yet of some small, yet palpable, solace, we do have some constitutional defenders speaking out consistently against these increased, shameless usurpations of power. Olbermann frequently features Former (Nixon!) White House Counsel John Dean and Constitutional Law Professor Jonathan Turley on Countdown, and they, along with other notable guests such as Senators Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold have contributed to informing the willing public about our current dire state of affairs. Dodd, in particular, has become a hero of mine of late (alas his presidential ambitions fell short in our caucuses earlier this month) for his tireless efforts to defeat the current version of the FISA bill being pushed to the Senate floor by Majority (mis)Leader Harry Reid. Dodd and Feingold have been out front on this issue for quite some time and I gratefully thank them for it. Had Dodd made this his signature issue two years ago, I think he might have had a much greater chance in his presidential efforts. I hope he holds no rancor against Iowa and learned much during and enjoyed his time living in Iowa, because he has become truly a remarkable figure we can look to for his efforts to restore the Constitution. Now, with the Democratic field narrowing to the pre-ascribed media horse race narrative, it's even more important to get the remaining "front runners" on board. John Edwards has been there right along, despite his media-imposed 'invisibility' that has led to his diminishing perceived 'viability' as a credible candidate. (Full Disclosure: I proudly and enthusiastically caucused for Edwards on January 3.)

So that brings us to the 'inevitable ones,' Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

I've got my beefs with both of them, but I'm more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to Obama at this point. Both have disappointed me recently with their votes (or lack thereof) on certain weighty issues, namely the Kyl-LIEberman act declaring Iran's Revolutionary Guards as 'terrorists,' a war-mongering act if there ever was one. Hillary voted for it, once again hedging her bets as the neo-neocon she is and capitulating to the god of political expediency. Obama just didn't show up to vote. Shame on them both. Well now, they both have an historic chance to prove their claims of superior leadership, and they'd better go into it full well knowing that at least some of us are watching how they weigh in on this issue. If not, there's no clothespin big enough for me to vote for either of them in good conscience. If Obama's smart (and I do think he is and I will enthusiastically support him if he is the nominee), he'll be there to cast a progressive vote against the Intelligence Committee's version of the bill (e.g. capitulation with immunity) and will join Dodd's filibuster in favor or the Judiciary Committee's version (e.g. no telecom immunity). Yes, this may take precious time away from the frenzy leading up to February 5, but in the larger view of things, wouldn't the support of Dodd's filibuster be the more important priority of the two? I think we should all be watching. And writing our senators about this issue. (So far mine, Tom Harkin, is on the good side. Grassley's a hopeless $hrub shill.) Pay attention 'Tsunami Tuesday' voters. Your privacy is at stake when you vote in your primary. Think about this seriously. And pay attention to these votes. I've already cast my lot in the much maligned Iowa Caucuses, so I can't vote again until fall. I'm just hoping that the Democratic primary and caucus voters start moving things in the appropriate, progressive direction we need.

I read an article published today in the Nation, calling on Senators Obama and Clinton to work to defeat the soon to be debated Senate version of the Telecom Immunity provision of the FISA domestic wiretapping act. This comes at a critical moment, namely because $hrub has threatened to veto even an extension of the current status quo (without immunity) that's already giving away too much of the store as it regards citizens' rights to privacy. This is a critical vote, and how Obama and Clinton weigh in on it will speak volumes about their worthiness to be the 'agent of change' they both purport to be. Yes, Obama has inspired me recently with his speeches in Iowa and South Carolina, but he's yet to seal the deal and close on this voter. Hillary? I have serious doubts, and may, for the second time in my life, elect not to vote if she is the nominee. But then there's that nagging Supreme Court Justice appointment nightmare I keep having ... I can say that I'd trust her more to make a sane appointment than the ResKunKliKans, but that's really pushing it hard for me. When it comes down to damning a candidate for President with faint praise, I tend to get a bit grumpy. I suspect that large clothespins will soon be available online. I hope I don't have to buy one.

The Nation article references the Democracy For America website, which is currently lobbying Clinton and Obama on this issue, and I give them a big shout out for their efforts. I'm inclined to throw them $20 towards their NYT ad on this vote. If you're so inclined as well, show them some love for getting out front of this during this contentious and very important vote.

DFA, I hope you don't mind I hijacked your graphic for this post.


FARfetched said...


Very good, IVG. I agree with pretty much every word (except that I know I'll be voting in November, regardless of the nominee).

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Thanks, FAR, for reading. I'm glad you found some value in my 'rant.' But seriously, I am very passionate about this particular issue (among others, of course) because spying on your own people is just wrong, just as much as assaulting habeas corpus and torturing people.

I'm still up in the air about voting if HRC gets the nod, but at this point I'm still optimistic enough that Obama might just pull it off. In which case, I will celebrate when I fill out my absentee ballot (only way I vote these days, it's just soo much easier and does appear to get counted, at least in these parts).

dada said...

l had not heard that about muckasey's orwell portrait…how apropos. that aside, well said.

l'm in total agreement with your entire essay, but now that edwards is out, it's obama, by default.

imo, clinton will not be elected should she prevail and get the nomination. the most likely result of that will be 4 more years…minimum…of the status quo because of the negative coattails she will bring.

l will not hold my nose and vote for her…and it's a moot point here. she'll not win in the mountain west.


Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey there Dada, nice to see you stopping by ....

I agree w/you about Obama by default, and had Edwards not made the threshold at the caucus, I probably would have moved over to his side, despite my nagging doubts about some of his positions (e.g. homophobe 'ex-gay' Donnie McClurken on the SC church tour). I think he's the last best hope with Edwards and Kucinich out of the race (alas!)

I still struggle with the HRC vote by clothespin due to the Supreme Court Issue, but I will say I am sooooo done voting for the triangulating Clintons! I made it out of the 90's alive and I don't want a rerun ...