Thursday, April 30, 2009

Not Your Grandfather's Filibuster

There's a photo in an old Life magazine from the Great Depression showing two or three exhausted young couples, days into a dance contest, desperately clinging to one another as they try to stay on their feet long enough to beat out the competition for a cash prize.

As the Democrats inch closer to the magic sixty-senator majority, it is useful to remember this: Democrats do not fall in line with one like mind, as Tom DeLay's Republicans once did. Sixty Democrats do not mean sixty votes, and whether Norm Coleman continues to dance on his own grave or lies down in it with whatever semblance of dignity he has left, the Democrats will not be overpowering the Republicans with a phalanx of linked arms and shields just yet.

And so, the filibuster will live.

My old understanding of the filibuster included images like those young dance contestants: bleary-eyed, disheveled senators standing in woozy exhaustion, refusing to relinquish the floor for a vote, blocking legislation they could not otherwise fend off. Images out of Frank Capra, of Jimmy Stewart gone to Washington to fight for the Little Guy. Back then, in the halcyon days, to filibuster was to engage in a marathon of physical and oratorical endurance.

Somehow, the filibuster of modern times has taken on a different, milder meaning. Today, if a piece of controversial Senate legislation leaves committee without a guaranteed sixty votes, it is considered FILIBUSTERED.

Now, the Gun-Toting Liberal loves legislation that undoes the excesses of our would-be corporate feudal overlords. I love legislation that protects the weak from the powerful, the outcast from the mob, the prisoner from his would-be torturer.

And like a tree standing by the riverside, the GTL will not be moved. I want my old filibuster BACK.

What if there were, say, fifty-five guaranteed votes for a worthy piece of legislation, not quite enough to guarantee success, but a clear majority nonetheless?

Instead of crying, "we don't have the requisite sixty votes, so we won't bring it to the floor for debate," fellow Liberals and other democrats ought to just say:

"To Hell with it. Let 'em filibuster."

If the Republicans want to block votes on popular bills regarding medical research, climate change, torture, secret spying, deregulation of major industries, and the undoing of dozens of other toxic talismans of our recent foray into one-party wingnut rule, make them do it the old-fashioned way. Make them talk for twenty-four hours. Hell, make 'em stand there for ten days. Make them fight against the tide of the people's will with their bodies, their sweat, their wheezing, hoarse voices - and do it in full view of the cameras and scribes.

In short, the time has come to call the bluff.

Every opposition party has the procedural right to filibuster, but in recent times only the Republicans have been daring enough to use it so flagrantly, at the drop of a hat they drop themselves. When Democrats were in the minority back in the nineties, and dared to filibuster, dared to shake their dainty little girl-fists at the mighty-whitey-Righties, the GOP ferociously threatened the Nuclear Option - destroying the filibuster outright through cunning procedural trickery and being done, once and for all, with the concept of an "opposition party."

Hard to believe, I know, since Republicans today hold the record on filibusters.

Shameless hypocrites.

So I say, let 'em filibuster all they want. But make 'em do it slow, one spoken word at a time, one speaker, one speech at a time, until there is nothing left to say. Make them kick it old-school, or just kick the bucket.

The Right will never go away, will never quit, will never find a tactic too unscrupulous, or an insinuation too low. Having lost their power we see their lust for power all the more clearly in the bare light of day.

So let 'em fight the tide. Let 'em hold the floor like those desperate, starving, poor depression-era couples, propping themselves up as they dance, dance, dance for the one win that will revive their hopes in desperate times.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Passover Comes Late. Ten New Plagues, Bush-style.

A comparison of the plagues God inflicted upon the Egyptians and those George W. Bush inflicted upon prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Hebrew Bible plagues
1. blood.
2. frogs.
3. lice.
4. beasts or flies.
5. disease on livestock.
6. boils.
7. burning hail.
8. locusts.
9. darkness.
10. death of the first-born.

Bush Torture Memo Plagues
1. attention grasp.
2. walling.
3. facial hold.
4. facial slap (insult slap).
5. cramped confinement
6. wall standing.
7. stress positions.
8. sleep deprivation.
9. insects placed in a confinement box.
10. the waterboard.

Read here for the grim blow-by-blow. Watch in slow motion as a proud nation debases itself out of fear.

Why does this stuff always come in tens?