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Progressive Caucus Begins to Wield Power?


[Video of Barbara Lee’s lone voice opposing the AUMF on September 14, 2001. Since then, progressives are beginning to stand together athwart current events to shout, “Stop!,” and that’s a damn good thing.]

I’ve spent the day trying to sort out what’s going on with the FISA bill. We’re operating in a political context of many liars, fraudsters, poseurs and kabuki artists, a DC fog machine of secrecy and deception. But there is something happening, a nascent bit of movement, that carries with it the germ of promise. . . maybe.

Last week, Bush Dog Lead Dog and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was all set to announce a total FISA sellout bill to make the imperial executive spying powers already granted to this president on a temporary basis permanent. But the progressive caucus in the House threatened revolt, and found they had power to force a bill that sucks in the context of any reasonable absolute standard of constitutional muster, but which, in the current perverted political environment, does not totally suck on all fronts, and it mandates sunlight provisions that could set the table for future reforms, should they be enacted. Still, it needs to be fixed, and we need to apply pressure, right now, to make that happen.

Here’s what’s of note: the progressive caucus has not been known for throwing its weight around or for its ability to overcome egos and petty squabbles sufficient to wield unified power. If they can do this on a consistent basis, we will have an ally inside the House that can exercise real leverage. We would have some group with whom to build, in addition to any Blue America candidates we can get elected. That’s the goal of our whole Blue America effort.

When negotiating (or changing the direction of politics), the initial stages of offer and counteroffer set the potential bargaining zone that might exist. The first offer tends to anchor the conversation, and since Republicans and Bush Dogs have been controlling the agenda, the next counteroffer from the Bush Dog leadership pretty much capitulates completely, every time. They won’t fight the longstanding right wing drift of politics, they’ll only drift with it while lying to the voters in order to expand their own personal fiefdoms.

The revised bill that came as a result of the progressive caucus made some effort to generate a counteroffer, a new anchor, that does in fact try to reopen the bargaining zone and national conversation toward a more rational, and constitutionally sound, spectrum.

The big push right now, until tonight, is to call members of the Progressive Caucus and ask them to stand up against the umbrella warrants written into the current bill and hold out instead for individualized ones FOR AMERICAN CITIZENS ONLY, before any surveillance can proceed. To call members of the progressive caucus now, use this list of names and these toll free Capitol Hill switchboard numbers:

1 (800) 828 – 0498
1 (800) 459 – 1887
1 (800) 614 – 2803
1 (866) 340 – 9281
1 (866) 338 – 1015
1 (877) 851 – 6437

When you’re surrounded by all the fraudsters, poseurs and liars, the only thing you can do is stick to your own principled agenda and find people with whom you can ally and build power, for the long term, and fight like hell for every inch of ground in the immediate term.

Let’s hope the progressive caucus gains a taste for coming together to make shit happen.

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Pachacutec did not, as is commonly believed, die in 1471. To escape the tragic sight of his successors screwing up the Inca Empire he’d built, he fled east into the Amazon rain forest, where he began chewing lots of funky roots to get higher than Hunter Thompson ever dared. Oddly, these roots gave him not only a killer buzz, but also prolonged his life beyond what any other mortal has known, excluding Novakula. Whatever his doubts of the utility of living long enough to see old friends pop up in museums as mummies, or witness the bizarrely compelling spectacle of Katherine Harris, he’s learned a thing or two along the way. For one thing, he’s learned the importance of not letting morons run a country, having watched the Inca Empire suffer many civil wars requiring the eventual ruler to gain support from the priests and the national military. He now works during fleeting sober moments to build a vibrant progressive movement sufficiently strong and sustainable to drive a pointed stake through the heart of American “conservatism” forever. He enjoys a gay marriage, classic jazz and roots for the New York Mets.