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Democrats Propose Commission To Investigate Spying

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the no-immunity-for-you dept.

Government 302

metalman writes "Wired has a story on a proposal by House Democrats to 'establish a national commission — similar to the 9/11 Commission... to find out — and publish — what exactly the nation's spies were up to during their five-year warrantless, domestic surveillance program.' The draft bill would also preserve the requirement of court orders and remove 'retroactive immunity for telecom companies.' (We've discussed various government wiretaps, phone companies, and privacy violations before.) But it seems unlikely that such an alternative on phone immunity would pass both the House and Senate, let alone survive a Presidential veto."

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Speak really slowly for me... (2, Interesting)

FoolsGold (1139759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726784)

How exactly is it that one man, the President, has the power to veto any bill that's passed by Congress? What happens when a bill comes along which could threaten him in some way? Didn't someone think about this before granting veto ability for the Prez?

I don't live in the US so please forgive me if there's actually some method to this madness, but frankly, it's still madness.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (5, Informative)

theM_xl (760570) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726802)

A presidential veto can then in return be overridden by a two-thirds majority. The Democrats intend to try and get the ban on waterboarding [cnn.com] through a veto, I believe. The problem is that the Americans have a two-party system and the one the president belongs to generally has plenty votes to block the two-thirds thing easily.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (0, Flamebait)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726832)

The problem is that the Americans have a two-party system and the one the president belongs to generally has plenty votes to block the two-thirds thing easily.
No, we actually don't have a two-party system, we here Stupid Ass Americans (SAA's, for short) just think we do. But, we also think french fries come from France, so I'm sure that explains a lot.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22726862)

Even though the two parties act similar, it's still a two-party system and saying "nuh huh" when someone brings it up is silly.

What we don't have is two reasonably distinct ideologies. We certainly have two distinct parties despite the fact that they only oppose each other out of spite and grandstanding rather than on principles.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22726982)

Those are FREEDOM fries... and you call yourself a stupid ass american. pfffttttt.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (4, Interesting)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727002)

You have a two party system because the system is built in a way to favor a two party system, smaller parties have huge barriers of entry and they cannot gain traction.

Of course as ultimately a society is determined by the people composing it, the responsibility belongs to the people for the state of matters, but the current sitation is different than just living in a two party system and most people accepting it.

Consider voter turnout, it is considered very low, even for a (sort-of) democratic country. People would vote for other parties, but those parties never get the chance to gain traction due to the built-in favorism in the system towards major power blocks. Ultimately, this is going to be an uphill battle for you guys, you need to change the way your system works and probably the most success you'd have is by going on a roundabout way on this matter: start from education, from history: do not worship your founding fathers because they established this system (even if it was considered enlightened in their age), teach critical thinking, disrespect for authority, establish independent information channels, inform, inform, inform. Tell people about things they don't want to hear: individual social responsibility, collective action for the individual (but overally positive-sum) good, etc.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (4, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727634)

You have a two party system because the system is built in a way to favor a two party system, smaller parties have huge barriers of entry and they cannot gain traction.
No, actually, it's really not inherently set up that way. Read this info about how loosely-organized parties [wikipedia.org] are.

do not worship your founding fathers because they established this system
Not really.

teach critical thinking
We do, but we usually either do it poorly or not at all -- most folks don't get classes in critical thinking until they're in college, and not all colleges require that students take a dedicated class in critical thinking, often feeling that critical thinking is something that students will pick up as they go along (yeah, right)

do not worship your founding fathers because they established this system
Not really. Look through the link above, (it's above what I linked to) and check out that really means -- we have a two-party system because that's what it 'defaulted' to, not because anyone went out of their way to set it up that way. Voting has also changed and evolved with the country. It's important to remember that states run elections in this country. There is no national election other than the meeting of the electoral college once every four years.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (1)

MrMonroe (1194387) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727968)

We have a two party system because of the economy of votes and most voters being satisfied with one or the other party mostly; not because the system is built this way. If I share most views with the Republican party, but I'm farther to the right on certain issues, it doesn't serve my voting interests to vote for a third party unless those are the only issues I really care about. The result of going 3rd party means that the party with whom I share a lot of ideas with is going to lose out against a party that I share nothing with, and my 3rd party won't ever have the votes to get a President in, so it serves my interests more to vote Republican. Please do not tell us what America "needs" to do if you are not one of us. The going is tough enough as it is without backseat drivers.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22728030)

i'm sure all those silly, helpless americans are queuing up @ ellis island waiting for your ship to come in ....

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (5, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726960)

The Democrats intend to try and get the ban on waterboarding through a veto, I believe.
They failed on that yesterday in the House, 225-188. Of course, both sides are playing politics on the issue - the provision was part of a spending authorization bill, and so there are a bunch of other provisions (earmarks, for example) that muddy the issue and make it more complicated than just being a bill banning waterboarding. The statement by the Administration that they haven't used waterboarding for some time now also prevents any sense of urgency from forming around the issue.

Amusingly, one of the Republican talking points was a complaint that the Democrats were wasting their time on a doomed-to-fail veto override attempt instead of working on passing a renewal of the previously-expired wiretap legislation (honestly, the Democrats hold all the cards on that situation, since "no action" is much closer to their desired position than to that of the Republicans).

Of course, the funny thing is that they could just wait a year. All three of the remaining Presidential candidates are against waterboarding.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727374)

All three of the remaining Presidential candidates are against waterboarding.

McCain doe not consider it torture. He supports Bush on this. He does not oppose Bush on this.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727074)

>> let alone survive a Presidential veto

CliBama is unlikely to veto it ... ;-)

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728014)

"The problem is that the Americans have a two-party system and the one the president belongs to generally has plenty votes to block the two-thirds thing easily."

This would be less of a problem if representatives had the assurance they would never get elected again if they vote in favor of such dangerous nonsense as presidential vetoes on bills that are, in the end, about investigating president's misdeeds.

Any democracy's fate (oh invisible-all-mighty-mythical-being-of-choice please enlighten the unavoidable trolls that insist the US is a republic and excludes being a democracy) rests ultimately in the hands of an informed electorate.

And, while we are discussing it, it really should be easier to get rid of such a bad president. Bush would never survive 6 months as a prime-minister. As it is now, it will be decades before any meaningful fraction of the damage can be corrected.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (1)

thomas.galvin (551471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728048)

A presidential veto can then in return be overridden by a two-thirds majority. The Democrats intend to try and get the ban on waterboarding [cnn.com] through a veto, I believe. The problem is that the Americans have a two-party system and the one the president belongs to generally has plenty votes to block the two-thirds thing easily.
I think the real point of these bills is to show who is for torture, and who is against it, and who is for an open government, and who is against it. If they had passed, wonderful, but at least we're making people declare the fact that they are pro-torture and pro-big-brother.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (2, Informative)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726806)

Study up on early American political theory. Remember, the President is elected (typically) by the people as well as Congress. It prevents Congress from becoming too radical. Go study "checks and balances." Vetoes CAN be overridden.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (4, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726942)

It prevents Congress from becoming too radical. Go study "checks and balances"
All it does is give more power to the president. I guess I'm "radical" like Congress in wanting to ban this form of torture. I would say that I can't remember a single presidential veto that was a good thing in the past 50 years, but I can remember plenty of them that were bad. Checks and balances is a poor justification on this level, because the executive should not be overwriting the legislative in my opinion. I believe a nice compromise would be if the president could send the bill to the supreme court for a constitutionality check and suspend signing the bill into law until the court decides. That system works elsewhere with quite good results.

I think that a stronger Congress and a weaker president is better, because it makes things less radical and responsibility is divided more evenly. It would also make people able to vote for representatives locally who could eventually influence things, but while the president is too powerful change is not possible if you have to gain the presidential seat to actually do anything, given the state of media and related issues.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727320)

If you would like to see an incomplete list of Vetoes, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_presidential_vetoes [wikipedia.org]

It's mostly incomplete pre-WWI era.

I would guess most Vetoes are occurring because of the fact that most bills are not single purposed. They have their 'named' purpose. But then they also do x, y, and x that will rarely have anything to do with the named purpose.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (3, Insightful)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727608)

I think that the veto override system would theoretically work - except for the fact that the President's party in congress lately almost always goes along with him. It makes it very hard to get a 2/3 vote when congress is still as evenly as it is now.

I've been very disappointed with elected republicans ignoring their responsibility as congressmen to actually do their job as a balance to the president instead of just cheerleading him on - just because he's from the same party doesn't mean you should give up all your power to him.

Btw - that's actually why I'm a little worried about electing a democrat president this election - the democrats are in a very good strategic position in the house and senate this year, and will likely maintain their lead in the house and create one in the senate. Which removes the separation of powers again next year if we don't elect a republican president, and suddenly instead of rubber-stamping terror bills and invasions we're rubber stamping a whole new level of welfare state.

The only way powers are separated in the current system is by party lines.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (5, Insightful)

JrOldPhart (1063610) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726956)

Actually the President is elected by the electoral college not the people. That is the government's ace in the hole for the off-chance that the people actually elect someone the government doesn't want.

So your vote really is worthless.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (1)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727630)

And who elects the electoral college?

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (3, Informative)

jeisen83 (1189783) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727780)

The state appoints the electors to the electoral college as representatives of the state. There is no federal law mandating this; however, every state (and Washington, DC) currently has a law specifying that the electors are selected through a popular vote. Of those, 24 states have laws to punish electors who do not vote as determined by the popular vote (faithless electors). Historically, no faithless elector has ever been prosecuted, and the constitutionality of the laws to punish faithless electors has not yet been challenged in the Supreme Court. So yes, in practice, individual voters elect the electoral college, but constitutionally, they're only guides.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727830)

Each state's legislature determines how the electors are chosen. Currently they are all appointed by popular vote, but they could just as easily appoint them themselves.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (1)

Descalzo (898339) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727960)

I would understand the 'Informative' and 'Insightful' mods if he had at least given us an example of a time the electoral college had acted as "ace in the hole" instead of casting votes according to the rules.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22728096)

It's no longer an "ace in the hole" after it's been used.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (1)

thomas.galvin (551471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728106)

I would understand the 'Informative' and 'Insightful' mods if he had at least given us an example of a time the electoral college had acted as "ace in the hole" instead of casting votes according to the rules.
That's something of the wrong question. The electoral college acted according to the rules when they overrode the popular election and put Bush in office over Gore.

Also, FWIT, I am a registered Republican, and voted for Bush. Regretfully.

What a troll. (1)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728112)

You are correct that the Electoral College and not the People elect the President, but your supposition of a conspiratorial safety valve there is exaggerated.

The Electoral College is not a static group of Illuminati holding secret rites in the basement of the Lincoln Memorial. It's just an artifact of the fact that the States elect the President. Each State gets a certain number of Electors, equal to the number of its representation in Congress (House + Senate). As mentioned upthread, States are not required to have a popular vote to decide their Electors; they could decide it in the State Legislature, let the Governor pick, or even draw straws. Now that would be fun.

The system was designed to keep one massively overpopulated region of the country from ruling over the rest. Today it has the effect of keeping the cities from dominating the rural areas.

It's possible, in an asteroid-hits-Earth kind of way, that something substantial could happen in the few days between the general election and the assembly of the Electoral College to make them change their votes. Even then, an immediate impeachment would be more likely than an Electoral College rebellion. It's also within the Constitutional rules for the Electors as a group to abstain from voting or to try their best and fail to elect a President, putting the election in the hands of the House of Representatives.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22726808)

Actually the exact point is that the President serves as a balance to the powers of congress and can veto anything sent from congress. However, if congress feels overwhelmingly behind something they can revote after a presidential veto and override it if they can muster a certain percentage of votes. However, given the overwhelming loyalty the republicans feel to party and president, it is unlikely that this bill would be able to override the veto.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726816)

It's a system of what they call "checks and balances". There are 3 branches of government in the U.S. -- the Executive (President, cabinet, military, law enforcement), the Legislative (Congress -- House and Senate), and Judicial (the Courts). The purpose of the veto is to keep Congress from having absolute power to pass whatever they see fit. That's the "check". The "balance" is that Congress can override a veto by a 2/3rd's majority -- something that almost never happens except bills with bipartisan support.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (4, Informative)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726878)

The Veto is not automatic nor absolute. A 2/3 vote by Congress can overrule the president. In addition, a ruling by the Judicial System can overrule either. Congress also has a check on the President in that they are the sole people able to issue money for programs, the power of the purse, but they are acting like an abused spouce, afraid to actually cut the purse strings that prop this president up.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727342)

And the people have the 2nd amendment, which is our check against all 3.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (1)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727746)

No, our check against all three is the power of the vote, and when that fails, the right to hold a Constitutional Convention, which can dump all of them on their butts.

Re:Speak really slowly for me... (5, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726978)

He doesn't.

He needs the support and agreement of one third of each of the houses of Congress. In effect, a supermajority is required to pass any law in the face of opposition by the President.

The reason that it doesn't happen all the time is that the President wants things from Congress he can' get any other way. It works better than you'd think, but it makes slanting the power balance between Congress and the President in the direction of the President a very bad idea. The veto power makes that balance unstable the moment the President can pursue his ends without Congressional cooperation. As soon as the President and his aides feel they can operate independently of Congressional oversight and appropriations power, Congress becomes powerless and Presidential power becomes practically unlimited.

That's what made the Iran-Contra affair in the Reagan administration a much bigger deal than most people realized. It wasn't just that it was a strategically stupid thing to do, what prompted the stupidity was the desire of the Reagan administration to develop their own sources of funding which Congress did not control, in fact was completely unaware of. To a lesser degree, that's why the Bush administration's insistence on exempting the DHS from civil service worrisome. Civil service regulations are a form of Congressional oversight; the idea that the President should be able to move personnel around and have them do whatever he wants is really giving him a kind of de jure power to alter the DHS budget under any circumstances whatsoever, over and above the de facto power he has to do this in a clear national emergency.

There are a number of structural faults in the US Constitution, and one of them is the delicacy of balance between the President and Congress. The basic idea was patterned on the relationship between George Washington and the Continental Congress: you get a powerful leader who has a free hand within the scope of his powers, but that "free hand" is subject to oversight, regulation and budgetary restraint. When this works, it works extremely well. But when you have a narcissistic and self-righteous President, supported by a sufficiently large block of Congressional sycophants, his power is only limited by what he imagines it to be.

This Is Why The Democrats Will Lose (Again) (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22726788)

Because they just don't get it.

Americans don't want their government protecting the rights of terrorists - they want their government to kill the fucking terrorists.

Congratulations President-elect McCain.

Re:This Is Why The Democrats Will Lose (Again) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727104)

The terrorists already killed themselves, in a suicide mission, 7 years ago. Who were you talking about?

Why not wait... (1)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726792)

Till after the presidential elections??

Obviously the outcome is not guaranteed, however there appears to be a good chance that the next president will most likely be a democrat. If this happens, the chance of a veto is far less likely. Why constantly push for bills in an environment where there is a 100% chance of failure?

Re:Why not wait... (4, Insightful)

bhima (46039) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726820)

If they, then they will be labled a "do nothing congress". By sending bills to the president they know will vetoed they are able to propose much stronger bills than they would be really comfortable with, have them Vetoed, have the Bill & the Veto to talk about during the campaign. Then next year they can quietly pass a weeker bill and no one will notice.

Re:Why not wait... (2, Insightful)

feed_me_cereal (452042) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727278)

Why constantly push for bills in an environment where there is a 100% chance of failure?


If I was naive, I'd say it's because they're idealistic and feel the must do the right thing. However, I'm cynical, and believe it is because they want the next president to be a democrat, so they're forcing republicans to reveal some of their shadier motives. Honestly, though, I really don't think I blame them...

Useless.... (2, Insightful)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726794)

Has ANY of the "investigating committees" actually been able to do ANYTHING other than political grandstand? If the dems had actually been focused on holding to their ideals and getting their votes done rather than waste our taxpayer money on pointless exercises that produce no real results (unless you count publicity), they may not have wasted the last few years.

Such committees have done NOTHING. All they do is provide platforms for speeches and "questions" which the speaker doesn't care about any findings or answers, just their own political position.

At least they're not screwing anything up when they do this, they're just spinning their wheels.

Re:Useless.... (2, Informative)

bconway (63464) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726854)

Yes, the 9-11 Commission was actually very informative and thorough. You can read all their findings here [gpoaccess.gov] .

Re:Useless.... (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726866)

There weren't that many current sitting members of congress on there, and one person who should have been questioned (Gorelick). I'm talking about our current elected nincompoop do-nothings.

Re:Useless.... (5, Insightful)

tbannist (230135) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727322)

I think you need to put your prejudices down for a second a take a clear look at the situation. The administration is actively partisan and hostile to the Democrats. The Democrats have something along the lines of 51% of the Congress. They can't override a veto without a significant portion of the Republicans breaking ranks to do so, and there's very little chance of them doing so on any issue. Any issue of substance that they could pass a bill will either a) serve Bush's (and Republican) interests or b) get Vetoed. So the essence is, there really isn't anything they can accomplish.

They're biding their time until they face a less hostile president, but while doing so, Republican media assets are accusing them of being a "do nothing congress", so they're working on useless projects that they know are useless but look better than doing nothing.

It's all politics.

Re:Useless.... (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727776)

It's been a two-way street. BOTH sides of the aisle are openly hostile toward each other, and neither has been able to get much done. It's coming down to a do-nothing government, and the only things which MIGHT be good for the country and both sides could probably come to a conclusion on (immigration, MAYBE taxes), the Dem-controlled congress won't do because Republicans would be able to take credit for it.

Re:Useless.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727886)

If they can't pass bills, how about they spend their time on oversight instead? No, rather than do something they'll just keep trying to score political points.

Re:Useless.... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727032)

from wikipedia:

"In addition, commissioners believed that key agencies of the U.S. government, including the Pentagon, the FAA and NORAD were deliberately deceiving them,[7] and that the CIA was deliberately impeding the work of the commission.[8] On the whole, the chairmen of the commission believed the commission was set up to fail.[9]"

I fail to see how this can be interpreted as "informative" or "thorough". And this is even without bringing up other, more controversial, issues (insider trading, ISI money transfer,...)

Re:Useless.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727514)

really? I must have missed the memo! It appears though there are a lot of people with significant levels of critical thinking left intact still to be able to pinpoint the inaccuracies and omissions in that report...

Re:Useless.... (2, Insightful)

pease1 (134187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726880)

Such committees have done NOTHING.

Sure they have, they've spent our money for nothing.

Re:Useless.... (1)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726892)

A few things. Unfortunately for us, they seem afraid to use the one power that the president hasn't managed to convince the Republicans to give to him, the power of the purse. Then again, if they did, it is likely that the Republicans would proclaim them as the obstructionists.

Re:Useless.... (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726906)

At least they're not screwing anything up when they do this, they're just spinning their wheels.
While I agree with you on this, they also are not getting anything done. Neither is the US 'killing terrorists' as one poster suggested. The game of politics in Washington is rather like a game of chess. Often it's about how to look like you're cutting pork spending while not actually cutting any pork in your district. To out right do something right about spying there are many legislators that have to be willing to cut ties with all the lobbyists that are tied to those that are tied to the telecomm lobbyists. You can't take out the bishop without losing some pawns. Sacrifice is part of the game, and what everyone is willing to sacrifice is the question. Obviously not much lately, at least for the majority. That brings in the question of neocons being both democrat and republicans... an irrefutably difficult mess to clean up or sort out.

The nice thing is that when the new president is elected it does NOT mean that Bush is free and clear. He would have to be pardoned by the new president to avoid jail or worse. If the spying is brought to light, and is as bad as some believe, the WhiteHouse is in some serious shit. They won't go down without a fight. There will be blood. It's not quite as simple as Watergate where the guilty could be kept on one side of the aisle.

Re:Useless.... (1, Insightful)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727066)

I'm not sure which is more pathetic - the fact that so few Democrats are willing to risk their careers to really go after these traitors, or that there are so many whiners who blame them instead of the Republicans committing the treason.

Though this is a standard psychological coping mechanism - the powerless blame an external entity instead of their actual oppressor. That way, they get to complain with their ego intact, rather than bring attention to how they're actually being dominated.

Re:Useless.... (2, Insightful)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727298)

Has ANY of the "investigating committees" actually been able to do ANYTHING other than political grandstand?
Kind of hard to, when the President's party is more interested in protecting the President than the Constitution.

Re:Useless.... (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727304)

The Watergate Committee definitely turned up some useful information.

Re:Useless.... (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727324)

Yeah, you're right! The 9/11 commission, the watergate investigation... those things were totally useless. I say to hell with government oversight. I mean, what's the point, they don't do anything, right? Might as well just forget the whole thing.

Re:Useless.... (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727732)

Again, 9/11 commission had NO SITTING CONGRESSMEN, and Watergate was in the SEVENTIES. I'm talking CURRENT.

Re:Useless.... (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728086)

Good job moving the goalposts! Hard to lose an argument when you're constantly changing the rules.

Dems grandstanding so far (0, Troll)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727524)

I agree with you that this is what they've been doing--posturing while the country and Constitution burn. Perhaps they think it will help them win the Whitehouse.

And it is frustrating to watch them do that when they were elected to a majority to put a stop to the run-away corruption and incompetence of the other side.

But the FISA fight is not partisan. Bush and the neoconservative leaders in Congress want a free pass to break the law and spy on all Americans. But Americans, left, right, and center, don't want to give it to them. As much as we have lost the last 8 years, there still is a core of decency in the American soul, and enough paranoia to give government, any government, carte blanche.

See, it's fine to have those powers when your party is in power, but the trouble is that only works as long as your party is in power. The fear is that your party will lose power, and then those powers will be turned against you. The thought of Hillary Clinton, for instance, in the Whitehouse with the powers Bush and Cheney have arrogated to the Executive branch makes my blood run cold.

Re:Dems grandstanding so far (2, Interesting)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727958)

There's the problem. This congress was put into office to deal with two things - spending and immigration - NOT corruption. All it appears they've been doing is trying to "deal with corruption" and the populace has gotten more and more disgusted.

Re:Useless.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727856)

If the dems had actually been focused on holding to their ideals

Maintaining and holding onto power?

Merely Posturing... (-1, Flamebait)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726814)

Nothing more.

The Sooner We Clean Out Bush's Closets, The Better (3, Insightful)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726834)

This is a great idea as we all know that Bush & Co. have been doing all kinds of rapacious acts behind closed doors, from political prosecutions (as in the US Attorney scandal) to others making money off of their political associations. I'm sure we will find that Bush & his cronies were using those unfettered investigations for political purposes, to help them win difficult elections. Does the United States need any more evidence of the deeply-based corruption that lies at the beating heart of the Republican party? They are rich people trying to stay rich, nothing more.

Re:The Sooner We Clean Out Bush's Closets, The Bet (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22726932)

Bush & Co. have been doing all kinds of rapacious acts - Dubya himself, helped by the Secret Service tried to break into my house last week to steal my children so he and Dick can sell them to white slave traders so they can stay rich. When I tried to report this to my local police, they refused to take a report; said it didn't happen.

Your Bias is Annoying (4, Insightful)

Idiot with a gun (1081749) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726936)

I'd like to point out that the last sentence is pretty much true of both parties. People tend to forget that politicians in the Democrat party are also fabulously rich, and are magically "Just like us" because they're a Democrat. Mostly they're just angry that the Republicans got to abuse the system, and they didn't.

Re:Your Bias is Annoying (0)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727362)

Mostly they're just angry that the Republicans got to abuse the system, and they didn't.

Really? You've interviewed most of the democrats in government, and most of them feel this way?

Frankly, I think this kind of cynical whining is a) pointless, and b) deeply damaging to the American political system. The reality is that, in all probably, a good number of republicans *and* democrats disagree with what the president has done, and desire to change things. Unfortunately, armchair cynics like yourself will probably swing people over to your side, and the result? Yet more apathy that will allow the executive to run roughshod over the rights of the people. Nice work, guy. Really great contribution.

Re:Your Bias is Annoying (2, Insightful)

nschubach (922175) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727712)

Yup, I recently had email conversations with a friend who is doing just that. With Bush screwing up, he's classified ALL Republicans in a category he likes to call "Republican't" and feels that there is absolutely no way any Republican is sane. Not a single one. He's even gone so far as to proclaim that all past Democrats were setup by Republicans to take the fall for their mistakes. The only way I can sum up his failure is that he's allowing the Democratic party get away with murder because they are not Republican at this point. Anything they suggest is good in his eyes, and he's falling victim to misplaced aggression. (I'd even say brainwashing.)

Re:The Sooner We Clean Out Bush's Closets, The Bet (2, Insightful)

gryf (121168) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726972)

Too bad that despite eight years of intense scrutiny, multi-million dollar bounties, and boundless efforts to fabricate evidence, no attempt to show that this Administration has flagrantly broken the law, let alone for the purpose of self-enrichment, has succeeded. This idiotic expenditure of congressional calendar and of taxpayer money won't either. Haliburton has received fewer no-bid contracts under Bush than they did under Clinton.


In fact, 'Bush & Co.' will leave the White House significantly poorer than the previous Administration who received all kinds of payments for things like pardons, government subsidized loans, putting friends up in the White House, and selling White House furniture and flatware. Al Gore alone is worth two hundred million these days, more than the entire administration combined.

I wouldn't oppose this kind of investigation if there were any legal standing for a complaint. But it's been quite clear for years now that what Democrats refer to as 'domestic spying' includes phone calls that route through the US but whose endpoints are both foreign and made by non-citizens. The Constitutional protections of due process were not intended to protect these calls any more than they protected the Soviets and Nazis internal communications.

Even with all of that, I could accept that it's the prerogative of the party in power to cudgel the party not in power if only Congress wasn't still trying to finish last year's budgets. They've accomplished nothing so far and they're not even doing that well.

First, the nation's business, THEN play self-indignant party apparatchik.

Re:The Sooner We Clean Out Bush's Closets, The Bet (3, Insightful)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727152)

Hold on cowboy, for the first six years of Bush's reign, they held on to both houses of congress and there were no investigations of the Bush Administration. And I must disagree with your blanket whitewash of the Bushies. I think getting us into a war on the basis of false information is a pretty big stain on this administration. Your statement better applies to Bill Clinton, who was indeed investigated to the hilt with the only result being that he was caught with Monica. There was never shown an example of Clinton enriching himself or any of his friends during his time. Bush, however, and Halliburton? I think it is really obvious that Bush is dishonest and corrupt. But we will wait for history to judge.

Re:The Sooner We Clean Out Bush's Closets, The Bet (1)

Dusty00 (1106595) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727888)

Al Gore alone is worth two hundred million these days, more than the entire administration combined.
First of all, Bush's cabinet is estimate to be worth 181 to 643 million dollars. I doubt the actual is under 200 million. Secondly, it's been eight years since Gore has been in the White House and I doubt he left the White House with more than he has now.

Cabinet's net worth according to Democrats.senate.gov [house.gov]

Re:The Sooner We Clean Out Bush's Closets, The Bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727912)

Whoa....don't expect this post to stay "3, Insightful" for long. Talk about kicking a hornet's nest.

Re:The Sooner We Clean Out Bush's Closets, The Bet (3, Insightful)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726974)

They are rich people trying to stay rich, nothing more.

Nothing wrong with rich people trying to stay rich. The problem occurs when they are rich people trying to stay rich at your expense.

Re:The Sooner We Clean Out Bush's Closets, The Bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22726988)

> The Sooner We Clean Out Bush's Closets, The Better

You mean Cheney's "for my eyes only" archives?
Even I can see that Bush is nothing more than a sock puppet.

Re:The Sooner We Clean Out Bush's Closets, The Bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727106)

And Democrats in Congress aren't rich trial lawyers trying to stay rich by buying off the voter with Welfare and free medical coverage?

Re:The Sooner We Clean Out Bush's Closets, The Bet (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727598)

I'm sure its ONLY the Bushes who have ever done such a thing, clearly there have never been self-interested rapacious Democrats who've used the White House as their private bordello, and/or leveraged the power of their office for constant personal and familial financial gain.
(rolls eyes)
And people wonder why our political system is a shambles? That someone could make the comment above mine with a straight face and not immediately question their own objectivity? You expect to make such a comment and be taken seriously? Hello?

Re the OP, I'd find it more useful if there was an investigation into the constant and repeated FAILURES of US intelligence agencies over the last 20 years:
- the Soviet Union's collapse was a surprise to them
- the failure to find/kill Bin Laden
- the entire mess of Iraqi WMDs (no matter what they say NOW, it was a widely accepted fact pre-Bush that Saddam was working on WMDs)
- internal political bias
- cronyism

Frankly, I wish our intel agencies were even HALF as effective as the tinfoil-hatters presume they are. I'm sure they accomplish a lot of wonderful things for our country that I'll never be privy to, but from here in the cheap seats, it certainly seems like they aren't terribly effective.

Re:The Sooner We Clean Out Bush's Closets, The Bet (1)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727816)

Well, I have followed politics for the past thirty years and I would say that you do see crooks in both parties. The distinction I would make is that Republicans generally lie to make money while Democrats lie more for personal, non-monetary gain. Certainly you can find exceptions but I do believe that most people would agree that the GOP loves money most of all.

In related news (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726904)

The Democrats also choose pork barrel politics to police accountability [theagitator.com] . What else is new? Congress gets paid for making the system work for some people, not the people.

How much spying was political? (3, Interesting)

theonetruekeebler (60888) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726908)

I'm reading about the Eliot Spitzer [wikipedia.org] case, which all started with surveillance wiretap [huffingtonpost.com] ordered by the justice department. Asking a prostitute to cross a state line is a federal crime [wikipedia.org] , see.

Not being from New York I didn't know much about the man, so I checked [wikipedia.org] , and it turns out he's a Democrat. So ever since yesterday I've been wondering if this was an attempt to bring down [wnbc.com] the Democratic Governor of a key state, like they did in Alabama [cbsnews.com] . I'll be curious to see how much media complacency [rawstory.com] there is in the New York case.

Re:How much spying was political? (1)

toddabalsley (1163625) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727022)

The case started because he withdrew over $4,000 in cash to pay for the "service". Banks are required to report that kind of activity to the IRS, and maybe other departments (DEA seems likely) because it can indicate money laundering, tax fraud or other underground economic activity. It is also illegal to travel with large amounts of cash on you (I forget the amount, but don't sell your car for cash in another state).

What is remarkable is that the former Attorney General for the state of New York never thought that he might get caught.

Re:How much spying was political? (1)

oyenstikker (536040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727062)

"It is also illegal to travel with large amounts of cash on you

[citation needed]

It is illegal to carry large amounts of cash across international lines, but I've never heard of any law prohibiting it within the country.

Re:How much spying was political? (1)

toddabalsley (1163625) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727222)

Under the RICO act, the government can seize your assets before proving that you are engaged in illegal activity. You could conceivably get it back, if you weren't facing a prosecutor like Spitzer.

Illegal was the wrong term for domestic travel. I am sorry.

Re:How much spying was political? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727386)

Don't worry, the current state of search and seizure laws ensures that the local police will find a law that applies.

They need some new cars and riot gear, you know.

Re:How much spying was political? (1)

hedu (1215514) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727678)

It is illegal to carry large amounts of cash across international lines, but I've never heard of any law prohibiting it within the country.
Even that is not illegal. The customs form that I get to fill in every time I enter the US says something like: "Bringing monetary instruments into the US, regardless the amount, is legal. However, failure to report carrying more than $10,000 may lead to seizure of the monetary instruments and a penalty."

Re:How much spying was political? (2, Informative)

theonetruekeebler (60888) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727258)

The case started because he withdrew over $4,000 in cash to pay for the "service". Banks are required to report that kind of activity to the IRS, and maybe other departments (DEA seems likely) because it can indicate money laundering, tax fraud or other underground economic activity. It is also illegal to travel with large amounts of cash on you (I forget the amount, but don't sell your car for cash in another state).

What is remarkable is that the former Attorney General for the state of New York never thought that he might get caught.
According to my tax attorney the reporting threshold is $5,000. It used to be $10,000. If there was a $4,000 withdrawal and they knew about it, they were already watching him.

It is not illegal to carry large amounts of cash, though there are numerous reports of it being confiscated on suspicion of drug trafficking, suspicion of income tax evasion, or suspicion of being a large amount of money and we no-knocked the wrong house and we need an excuse to be here. Getting it back can be hell -- all of a sudden you find yourself having to prove your innocence (e.g. documenting the income source behind every asset you have) instead of them proving your guilt. The war on drugs is the worst enemy the Fourth Amendment ever had.

I was a motorcycle salesman for a couple of years, and we had absolutely no problem selling to customers for cash, regardless of where they came from. If a customer spent over $10,000 in cash we had to fill out an IRS form because hey, large cash transaction. The only problem we had with out-of-state buyers was handling their registration. Located in Colorado, we had forms for our state, bordering states and Texas (damned Texans). I personally handled a customer from Georgia. For him we had to get forms FedEx'd to us from a dealership there.

If you're worried about selling your car out-of-state for cash, get a receipt for it so you can prove its origin. Or get a money order or go to the bank with the buyer and have them turn it into a cashier's check.

Re:How much spying was political? (1)

faloi (738831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727076)

Spitzer, a former attorney general who prosecuted both clients and prostitutes to clean New York up, transferred money between banks in amounts that caused the bank to flag the IRS. That got law enforcement, whose job happens to be finding and prosecuting people who break the law, involved. The discovered the nature of the business and that it was against the law. This is less a story about political prosecution as it is a story about a hypocritical political figure doing stupid stuff to get himself noticed by law enforcement. And the US loves pointing out hypocrisy.

Re:How much spying was political? (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727208)

So ever since yesterday I've been wondering if this was an attempt to bring down [wnbc.com] the Democratic Governor of a key state
And ever since yesterday I've been wondering how somebody with such a gaping character flaw (money for sex) came (pun intended?) to be Governor.

Re:How much spying was political? (1)

vil3nr0b (930195) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727378)

How is money for sex such a heinous act to anyone but the guy's family? Elliot Spitzer took on Wall Street and they found his weakness. At least he didn't spy on US citizens which should be a capital offense punishable by public hanging in the town square.

Re:How much spying was political? (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727596)

I thought it seemed kind of fishy. Apparently Spitzer used his own money (not the state's) to pay for the hooker, so other than putting a bad face on the State, he did no harm to New York or his office (OK, unless prostitution is illegal, but IMO it should be legal and regulated). IMO the whole thing smells strongly of what the GOP did to Clinton after the Lewinsky scandal broke. Since consensual sex is so much worse than /anything/, especially to social conservatives. :rolleyes:

Transparency and Oversight (5, Insightful)

txoof (553270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22726948)

All this commotion about domestic spying, wire-tapping, etc. could have easily been avoided if everybody was playing by the rules and held accountable to the rules. There already exists a method for the president to issue warrant-less wiretaps within FISA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSA_warrantless_surveillance_controversy#FISA [wikipedia.org] . The big difference between the current methods and FISA is the lack of oversight. FISA requires that a warrantless wire tap is brought before a judge in closed session within 72 hours of its inception.

This means that in a "ticking time bomb" scenario, investigators have the power to tap and begin monitoring suspects before a proper warrant can be obtained. Once the surveillance has begun, investigators have 72 hours (an ample amount of time in a ticking bomb scenario) to collect evidence and present it. If there indeed is a bomb out there, the judge should have no problem issuing a proper warrant.

The current problem is this; nobody wants to play by the rules. Everybody in the intelligence community along with most of the executive branch want to play king. They want to work independently and forgo the checks and balances. It is not that uncommon for branches of government to try to gain more power so they can do their work "easily." Unfortunately, it's our civil liberties that are being stomped on.

Transparent and balanced oversight is the only thing that will cure this ill. Without a diverse and unconnected group monitoring each other, we will lose the liberties that make this country so fantastic. Sure, it's scary to think about dying in a World Trade Center type attack, but it's much more scary to live in a state with secret police secretly monitoring you. The chances of dying in a terrorist attack are vanishingly small; the chances of losing your civil liberties if laws like the Protect America Act are allowed to exist are alarmingly high.

I for one, believe that laws like the Protect America Act http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protect_America_Act_of_2007 [wikipedia.org] are just the thing that erode our liberty for the fleeting promise of a tiny bit of security. Without judicial or congressional oversight, who polices the police? The answer is scary and we only need to look to Peru, East Germany or any other state with Stazi like organizations for the answer.

Ben Franklin said it best over 200 years ago, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." It's almost like he knew what he was doing...

Re:Transparency and Oversight (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727638)

The people who are in such a hurry to violate the Constitution never believed in it anyway, their bullshit to the contrary.

Thinking about that sort makes me start humming "The March of Cambreadth".

Yup, Posturing (3, Insightful)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727194)

I gotta agree with another poster. This just smacks of posturing, an effort to grab some sort of "positive" attention from the negativity of the Democratic candidates and cast a bad light on the GOP (as if they needed help!). We have more important things to spend time on, like addressing gas prices or how to tell private sports leagues how to run their drug testing programs.

Gas prices? (1)

bigtrike (904535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727506)

Personally, I'd prefer they at least try to protect our freedoms. If you want to spend less on gasoline, alter your lifestyle or living situation so you don't need to rely on it as much, if at all.

Re:Yup, Posturing (3, Insightful)

theM_xl (760570) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727964)

On gas prices: According to google the current US gasoline price hovers around 3.22 dollar/gallon, though it's going up. Meanwhile, if I try and fill my gas tank in the Netherlands, I'm looking at a price of 1.55 euros/liter, which with current exchange rates translates to roughly 8.91 dollars/gallon. Why are you complaining again?

"Similar to the 9/11 Commission"? (1)

crazymulgogi (1173005) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727240)

The 9/11 Commission was a joke, so I guess this one will be.

Re:"Similar to the 9/11 Commission"? (1)

yamamushi (903955) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727586)

I wish I could mod you 'insightful' right now

Re:"Similar to the 9/11 Commission"? (1)

crazymulgogi (1173005) | more than 6 years ago | (#22728068)

Thank you.

I admit, it was a sick joke, but that perfectly fits the sense of humor of those in key positions of this major coverup.

It was ground breaking though: after the 2001 laws of physics revolution, we must now be afraid full-time of high buildings collapsing randomly all over the place.

Scary thought.

.Bitch (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727274)

getting tOgether to from the OpenBSD

domestic surveillance program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727352)

The political hacks will first have to find a "domestic surveillance program" rather than the surveillance of international terrorists who are phoning co-workers in the USA or in other countries through equipment in the USA.

Yes, but it's a credit to us, the public (5, Insightful)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727422)

That the House even put something like this out there at all. If we hadn't been sending many, passionate letters demanding Congress deny amnesty to the telcos for illegally spying on us, then they wouldn't have bothered to float this proposal.

So to all those out there who think that there's nothing anyone can do to change the course of government, this is evidence you can; you just have to take a little time to write a letter or make a phone call to your representative.

How's That Impeachment Coming Along, Y'all? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22727578)

C'mon! You've had almost EIGHT years to impeach Bush and Cheney! What's wrong with you fucktards?

Ha ha ha!

Don't destroy our freedom, encourage theirs (4, Interesting)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727686)

The administration's instinct to strip away our freedoms in the name of desperate fear is misguided. Rather, we should be supportive of people in the middle east who are growing weary of being ruled by fundamentalist Islam. Fundamentalism, whether Islamic, Christian, or otherwise is fine for those folks who self select into it but it is tyranny when it gains the backing of coercive power.

This article [bbc.co.uk] is about one Sheikh in Saudi Arabia who is tired of being bullied by fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia. The US should invest 1.0% of its current Iraq war budget in people like him rather than creating converts to funadmentalist Islam with our war in Iraq. Nurture a moderate alternative and fundamentalism will remain small.

Is this about Patriots spygate? (1)

us7892 (655683) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727956)

For a second there, I thought this news item was regarding the "New England Patriots Spygate". Perhaps the most overblown, who-gives-a-shit story of the past year. I'm sure Arlen Specter http://specter.senate.gov/public/ [senate.gov] would much rather talk NFL football spying than dig into FBI domestic surveillance.

Yes but (1)

PieceofLavalamp (1244192) | more than 6 years ago | (#22727992)

Yes it does smack of posturing but i'd rather they at least posture than just lay around and do nothing (anymore than they already do)
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