Sunday, August 04, 2013

Report on Congress


Dona:  Hadn't planned on it, but we are back with another "Report on Congress."  What changed? Last Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing which C.I. reported on in "Iraq snapshot," Wally's "THIS JUST IN! RUSS FEINGOLD WHERE ARE YOU NOW!" and Cedric's "Punchline: US Senate" joint-post took on,   Ava reported on the hearing in "Blumenthal disappoints (Ava)," Wally in ""Leahy and Feinstein are disgraces," Ann in "The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing" and Kat in "The Constitution has been shredded."  For the discussion, I'm  joined by Ann, Ava, Cedric, C.I., Kat and Wally who attended the hearing.  This will be a quick roundtable. Cedric, I'd like to start with you because you and Wally do joint-posts, they are humorous posts.  And they generally take on items in the news.  Instead, this post was a blistering and biting commentary on the Senate.  Talk a little about the thinking of that.

Cedric:  Sure.  Well the hearing was scheduled and I knew Ann was getting crazy, we've just had a baby and she's on family leave, so I mentioned the hearing and she was interested in it.  But the hearing got move up in terms of time of day and so we're scrambling because we didn't realize that.  So Wally and I decided to forget about doing our usual morning post.  We were pretty sure we wouldn't do a post that day, we'd double up later or just be one short.  But then we went to the hearing and we were just so appalled.  We were talking about the Senate and how it refused to stand up for the Constitution.  And that's when we decided we needed to do a post on the topic, to express our outrage and to make it clear how badly the Senate Judiciary Committee performed that day.

Dona: Alright, thank you for that.  The Senate Judiciary Committee was holding a hearing on the spying.  Kat, why?

Kat: Because they'd refused to do so and the House was doing its job and holding hearings -- the House Judiciary Committee held an infamous hearing last month where Democrats and Republicans were shoulder-to-shoulder on how outrageous and unacceptable the spying on every American was.  The Senate Committee was a huge disappointment, a lackluster moment where the participants appeared unaware of the Constitution. 

Dona: Which would specifically be the Fourth Amendment regarding Americans protection from search and seizure. 

Cedric: Right.  Instead, we've learned, via the revelations of NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden.  It's spying on all Americans.  It includes, but is not limited to, the government obtaining "mega data" on every American's phone calls. 

Kat: Yes, and that data Cedric's talking about is the information on who you called and how long you were on the phone with the person.  There's also the going through of e-mails and much more.  A great deal to be outraged by.

Dona: But, Wally, where is the outrage?

Wally: In the House.  US House Rep. John Conyers did a great job at the House Judiciary Committee hearing. 

Dona: That's the July 18th hearing.  For coverage, you can see C.I.'s  "Iraq snapshot,"  Ava's  "Officials disrespect House Judiciary Committeem,"  C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot," Kat's "FISA rulings,"  Wally's "Proof that we should be thanking Ed Snowden (Wally)" and  C.I.'s  "House Judiciary Committee hearing."  You can also see it in "Report on Congress" from last week.  Wally, you wrote of Conyers standing up last week, at that hearing, and at the caving going on at the hearing last week.

Wally: If I could pull one person off the Committee, it would be Senator Dianne Feinstein.  She is the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee.  In that role, she failed.  She failed repeatedly and she failed over and over.  That may be why she covers for the unconstitutional program today.  It may not be.  But she needs to exit the Judiciary Committee.

Dona: She's not the chair of this committee, though.

Wally: No, that's the shameful Patrick Leahy.  Chuck Grassley is the Ranking Member.

Dona: Ava, you were disappointed as well -- by many.  Among those you found disappointing was Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Ava: He's been good on some issues.  He was lousy on this one.  He was all about excuses and how to 'fix' the problem but he doesn't really see a problem.  In 2009 and 2010, when we attended hearings, we'd frequently attend a House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing Chaired by John Hall.  He'd make everyone rise and say the pledge of allegiance.  I'm not joking.  I like Hall but I didn't see the point in that.  That said, maybe it's time to have the Congress start every hearing by reading the Bill of Rights -- the first ten amendments to the Constitution.  That way they might actually grasp what it says.

Dona: C.I.?
C.I.: What is taking place in unconstitutional.  That's  a point John Conyers made in the July 17th hearing.  He's correct.  And when something's unconstitutional, you end it.  The Senate Committee hearing last week was an embarrassment as multiple senators failed to talk about how we end this spying on the American people and instead focused on how to keep these programs but try to make them legal.  It was disgusting.  These senators took oaths, they swore to uphold the Constitution.  They should all be embarrassed and ashamed. And it was really appalling to watch people try to find 'fiery' moments to report on from the hearing and ignore the real point of the hearing which is that the Senate Judiciary Committee has accepted the spying as necessary, needed and wanted.  The American people don't think so.  The House doesn't think so.  It was really appalling to watch.

Dona:  Ann, this was your first hearing to attend.

Ann: Correct.  And, as I said in my post, I was expecting some grandeur and I don't know what.  I found a hearing room that was dirty, dusty and had tears in the carpet.  Likewise, I found the senators to be dirty, old and shredded.  I'm a Green, not a Democrat.  And to me, the state of the room was indicative of what happens when we buy into the myth that a duopoly is good for us.  It's not.  And as the Democrats and Republicans become more and more alike, we suffer more and more from the duopoly. 

Dona: I'd recommend everyone read the reports the community did if you haven't already.  I did follow the press coverage.  It was limited.  It was also ignoring the reality that the Committee is embracing the spying.  This is a rush transcript.
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