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Democrats Propose Commission To Investigate Spying 302

Posted by kdawson
from the no-immunity-for-you dept.
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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Democrats Propose Commission To Investigate Spying

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  • 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.
    • by theM_xl (760570) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @08:15AM (#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.
      • by Dachannien (617929) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @08:41AM (#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.
        • by rbanffy (584143) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @11:25AM (#22728506) Homepage Journal
          "Of course, the funny thing is that they could just wait a year. All three of the remaining Presidential candidates are against waterboarding."

          It makes a powerful political statement to stand up against torture, even if it's bound to fail. It also makes a powerful statement to just sit and do nothing about it and hope the next president maintains his/her current opinion on torture.

          This is a very necessary "waste of time".
        • by Jeremi (14640)
          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.


          That's if you can assume that "statements by the Administration" have even a passing relation to the truth. Recent history has shown that to be a very shaky assumption.

        • by Nimey (114278)

          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.

          That assumes that one is naive enough to believe anything the Bush Administration says at this point.

          All three of the remaining Presidential candidates are against waterboarding.

          Funnily enough, McCain has reversed position on being against torture. I suspect he's being a good boy and playing along with the GOP leadership instead of pissing them off.

        • by snarfer (168723)
          A comment above says that you should look at people's actions, not their words.

          McCain voted AGAINST banning torture. He says he is against torture, but when it came to a vote, he vote to allow it.
      • by rbanffy (584143)
        "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 unavoidabl
      • 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.

        • by sumdumass (711423)
          But this show is pointless when the bills are buried in with other stuff not related to torture. This recent defeat was included into another bill that contained earmarks for pork barrel projects and other clauses that should outright be defeated in it's own right. The original anti torture bill wanted to confine the CIA to the Military code of operations manual's set of rules which restricted interrogation by more then just torture. So when you look at a bill being presented, and look at it beyond the name
      • there have been number of times where the presidents party wasn't the majority.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      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.
      • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @08:39AM (#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.
        • by mdarksbane (587589) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @09:58AM (#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.
          • by Xtravar (725372) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @10:56AM (#22728158) Homepage Journal

            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.
            Exactly. Political gridlock is the only way citizens are safe in this country. People complain that the President and/or Congress "can't get anything done" when one branch is of the opposite party... well, when did that stop being a good thing?

            What really scares me is when this final "party-check" doesn't work... like 70% of what we've seen from the Democratic congress so far.
            • Not that I would be a democrat, but the politically incited hatrade and terminology against a "welfare state" has always been unfounded.

              Do you guys have any idea how small amount of money do the social programs consume compared to the military budget? The difference is likely around or more than a hundredfold. The size of the military budget in the USA stayed the same even under democrat controlled Congress and Senate and it stayed the same even after the collapse of the Soviet Union (ok, there was a 7% b
              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by GigG (887839)
                You are just plane wrong on this. According to this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:US_budget_2007.svg [wikipedia.org] the Defense makes up 19% of the budget. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment, Welfare, make up 56% of it.

                If you add in some of the 0.9% of agriculture which includes food stamps and Education and training and Community and regional development which has got to have some "welfareish" stuff in there that's another 3.1% and 0.9%.

                To be fair I'll add the 2.5% for Vets to the defense budget
              • by mdarksbane (587589) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @11:44AM (#22728732)
                I think the basic difference of opinion is that I consider the military a valid expenditure and part of the correct habits of our national government - whereas I don't think that healthcare and retirement plans are.

                I know this makes me a horrible, old-fashioned, poor-person hater in the eyes of liberal European government.

                I maintain that the only reason that Western Europe in general can afford so many government programs is that in the last fifty years our military budget has been paying for a large part of their safekeeping. Military requirements can grow and shrink, but they never go away, and as bad of a hegemon as the US can be at times, most people would consider the Soviet Union or China to be worse. We're in a rare lull with a single super power here - it's not going to last.

                And finally - I don't believe that government handouts are the way to help poor people. My family background is poor, dirt farmer poor - but they never took farm subsidies because that meant that the government had control over your land. In just one generation after that their children were solidly middle class, and now my generation is all college educated with good jobs. The government lifting people up isn't the answer - giving people opportunities to lift themselves up is. That means stop worrying about healthcare for unemployed people and try to fix why those people don't have jobs in the first place.
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by sumdumass (711423)
                  To find a voice of reason among so many crazies.

                  Your right, the government lacks the constitutional authority to have welfare programs and such where they don't for the military. IF you go back and study the situation, you will find that Roosevelt basically did the same thing as Bush has done and ignored existing laws, taken out massive loans, ignored supreme court rulings and at one point basically told the courts to "make me abide by your ruling" knowing the the president control the executive branch. Thi
        • by geekoid (135745)
          "I'm "radical" like Congress in wanting to ban this form of torture. "

          Congress does have the power to eliminate it. They didn't take it up with them.

          "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."

          A clear example of Confirmation bias. The most controversial ones will get the most notice.

          YOu would ahve to be crazy to have disagree with all the vetoes that happened in the last 50 years.

          "because the execu
        • by Z34107 (925136) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @03:17PM (#22731494)

          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.

          The courts are not supposed to be legistlating. Never, ever, ever! That's why we have the legislative branch.

          The "constitutionality check" still happens - it's called judicial review, but the way it happens, it keeps judges somewhat removed from the political process. Which is a good thing; I at least like the illusion that politics shouldn't play a role in justice.

          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.

          Problem is that a direct democracy is a synonym for mob rule. They didn't want a skilled sophist or propaganda mill to convince the 51% to vote to kill the 49%. The idea was to separate the government from the people, yet still have the government accountable to them.

          Originally, we elected the House of Representatives, and the House elected the Senate. (IIRC, this is how the Japanese government works.) The House was designed to be responsive to the needs of the people, the senate more deliberate and long-sighted, and the courts even more long sighted.

          I look around me, and most of the people I see are idiots. Granted, I am arrogant and elitest - but the prolefeed I see when I watch television scares me. Celebrities? Al Gore? (But I repeat myself.) Crime is given more airtime than ever before - it's shocking and will get viewers and ratings, but without being controversial.

          The idiots^H^H^H^H^H^H human beings and individuals at my college who will vote for Obama because "He'll give more money to teachers and I'm an education major" or the editorials in my local newspaper agonizing over the problem of choosing between black man or a white woman for president. Because, of course, superficial things like race and gender should matter in an election more than what they'll do with the office.

          American Idol had better turnout than some primaries. The population as a whole has screwed up priorities, and I want those less represented in my government, thank you very much.

      • by JrOldPhart (1063610) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @08:40AM (#22726956) Journal
        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.
        • And who elects the electoral college?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by jeisen83 (1189783)
            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 n
        • by Descalzo (898339)
          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.
          • 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.
        • 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 requ
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      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 s
    • by downix (84795) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @08:27AM (#22726878) Homepage
      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.
    • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @08:45AM (#22726978) Homepage Journal
      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.
  • 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... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bhima (46039) * <Bhima...Pandava@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @08:19AM (#22726820) Journal
      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @08:12AM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bconway (63464)
      Yes, the 9-11 Commission was actually very informative and thorough. You can read all their findings here [gpoaccess.gov].
      • 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.... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by tbannist (230135) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @09:27AM (#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.
          • 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: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by moeinvt (851793)
        "Yes, the 9-11 Commission was actually very informative and thorough . . ."

        I'd hardly use those adjectives to describe it, considering the fact that they "forgot" all about the 47-story skyscraper (WTC7) that collapsed on the day of the attacks WITHOUT being hit by an aircraft . . . among other things.

        http://911research.wtc7.net/post911/commission/report.html [wtc7.net]

        Why am I NOT encouraged by the government investigating itself about domestic spying?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pease1 (134187)
      Such committees have done NOTHING.

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

    • by zappepcs (820751)

      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 lobbyi

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 0xdeadbeef (28836)
      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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Nimey (114278)

      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.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)
      The Watergate Committee definitely turned up some useful information.
    • by Abcd1234 (188840)
      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.
      • Again, 9/11 commission had NO SITTING CONGRESSMEN, and Watergate was in the SEVENTIES. I'm talking CURRENT.
        • by Abcd1234 (188840)
          Good job moving the goalposts! Hard to lose an argument when you're constantly changing the rules.
  • 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.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      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.
    • by Idiot with a gun (1081749) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @08:37AM (#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.
    • 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 poo

      • 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.
      • by Etrias (1121031) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @10:53AM (#22728124)
        I have mod points but seeing that the other response got modded for flamebait, I'm compelled to answer.

        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.


        Okay, first of all, as the earlier response mentioned, Congress has only been in the Democrats hands for a couple of years. During the time that the Republicans were in control, there was virtually no oversight of the administration. When the Democrats did gain control, they have razor thin margins in both houses. I will admit that occasionally there is grandstanding, but at least they are trying to do some of the oversight that is spelled out in the Constitution. And I believe that your "efforts to fabricate evidence" needs a big fat citation needed.

        Also worth mentioning is the size of those Haliburton no-bid contracts. It means nothing for the pure numbers of contracts if the size of those contracts are not the same. A wartime budget surely is higher in price than the previous contracts they may have gotten.

        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.


        Again, citation needed please. Plus, let's just wait to see what "W" does in his last few days in office. That's traditionally when previous Presidents have handed out their bulk of pardons.

        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.


        Once again, please cite where you get this kind of classification for domestic spying. One of the main arguments the Democrats have had against expanded wiretap authority has been the availability of the FISA courts which in the past has worked quickly, efficiently and rarely if ever turns down a legitimate request. It sounds to me that this description of the Democrats stance on domestic spying is the product of the echo chamber of conservative radio and pundits.

        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.


        Let's not forget that the Republican congress two years ago, in the final months before they lost control of Congress decided to go into recess early and not finish the budget at all during their calendar year. This action unnecessarily passed responsibility of the previous Congress onto the incoming Congress. They could have done the nation's business, they could have passed budget items the nation needed, but instead decided to pick up camp stakes and go home.

        However, the current problem with government is that they have forgotten how to govern. Part of that responsibility is the ability and the necessity to compromise. However, with hard-nose tactics and frequent grandstanding by both parties, the very thought that just this Congressional session is a do-nothing Congress full of grandstanding is just not seeing the Congress over the last fifteen years.
    • by clickety6 (141178) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @08:45AM (#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.
    • 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 tak
      • 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.
  • 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.
  • by theonetruekeebler (60888) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @08:32AM (#22726908) Homepage Journal
    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.

    • by faloi (738831)
      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 noti
    • 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.
    • by Nimey (114278)
      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:
  • by txoof (553270) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @08:39AM (#22726948) Homepage
    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...
    • by Nimey (114278)
      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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ngarrang (1023425) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @09:12AM (#22727194) Journal
    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.
    • 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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by theM_xl (760570) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @10:38AM (#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?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bogjobber (880402)
        For the last time, we don't have to be grateful that our taxes are lower than yours. That's the way we want it. We can still complain that taxes should be lower. Prices elsewhere in the world are completely irrelevant. If the Dutch people wanted it that way, taxes would be lower there as well.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Wesson (250639)
        Most people here are complaining about gas prices because not just our cars but our entire economy runs on gasoline. Keep in mind that rail systems here are laughable compared to that of your average Western European country, and nearly every kind of commerce is at some level dependent upon petroleum-powered transit - trucking, shipping, aviation, etc. In aggregate, this means that oil prices have a huge effect on the US economy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ngarrang (1023425)

        ...which with current exchange rates translates to roughly 8.91 dollars/gallon. Why are you complaining again?
        Answer me this question: Why are you paying such a rate per liter of petrol? Where is that money going? What is it really paying for? The processing of oil into gas/diesel is an incredibly inexpensive process.
  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @09:39AM (#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.

  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Wednesday March 12, 2008 @10:09AM (#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.
  • 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.
  • Congress is proposing a draft of a bill to enact a commission to investigate the possibility of something having had or have had not happened - and being met with resistance. The Republic in Action.
  • The president will be gone in a year.
    Maybe Obama will sign it.

    Yes, it's a presidential prediction, don't get you panties in a twist.

"Love may fail, but courtesy will previal." -- A Kurt Vonnegut fan

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