Obama administration contradicts its new spying advisory committee in court

James ClapperDNI James Clapper, who has admitted lying to Congress about the NSA.

Charlie Savage and David Sanger have a new story in the Times tonight that perfectly illustrates the truth behind the spin when it comes to domestic spying by the NSA, and President Obama’s attempts to shield it from judicial review.

Some of this behavior is more laughable than it is upsetting, because it’s gotten so absurd:

Mr. Clapper’s unclassified affidavit to the court – he also filed a classified version, the documents state – contrasts sharply with the findings of President Obama’s advisory committee on signals intelligence, which said in a report made public on Wednesday that the collection of bulk telephone data was of little proven value.

The panel’s experts concluded that “there has been no instance in which N.S.A. could say with confidence that the outcome would have been different” in a terror investigation without the collection of the telephone data. “Moreover, now that the existence of the program has been disclosed publicly, we suspect that it is likely to be less useful still.”

Mr. Clapper, however, suggested that the program was one of many that needed to continue, and he discussed a litany of threats, mostly emanating from Al Qaeda and its affiliates, that he said made the program vital. He argued that revealing additional details, including whom it targets or how companies like AT&T and Verizon have given the N.S.A. access to its equipment and data, would be harmful.

It’s one thing to bullshit the public about the usefulness of controversial government programs, where officials can’t be questioned at length under oath and be forced to provide evidence of their claims. It’s quite another matter to bullshit a (real) federal court.

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Forget 2016, union bashing Walker may not survive 2014.

Walker ProtestsVoters protest the controversial policies of Republican Governor Scott Walker in 2011.

I get the feeling today that the conservative pundit class is coalescing around Scott Walker for 2016. Some of it is his book tour, but there’s more to it than that. Walker has political victories that Paul Ryan and Chris Christie don’t, putting a government boot on the throat of the middle class and his own employees, but isn’t seen as either too conservative or too moderate.

If there’s anything the pundits love, it’s squeezing the middle class to protect government spending and policies to make life easier for the wealthy and corporations.

Real accomplishments are few and far between. Walker’s record on job creation is predictably awful, with Wisconsin being the last in the nation in 2011 and probably 2012 as well. That shouldn’t be surprising from a party that still believes the fantasy that government can’t create jobs.

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Reminder 532,919,442: Republicans invented Obamacare.

Stories like this one from Ezra Klein today reminding everyone that Obamacare is made up mostly of Republican/conservative ideas, and not just old ones either, are the kind that need to be spread far and wide. Americans deserve to know the truth about what their government does, good and bad, so they can know who to rightly blame:

This, too, is a success for a longtime conservative health-policy idea. Insurance exchanges have been in every major Republican health-care bill since the early 1990s. They were in Paul Ryan’s 2009 health-care proposal. They’re the basis of the GOP’s plan for Medicare reform.

I have a small soap box so people mostly don’t see it, but I’ve been saying for years that most GOP criticism of Obamacare is insultingly stupid.

What Republicans want to do to Medicare is what Democrats just did with private insurance — give you “vouchers” or “subsidies” to go buy insurance on the private market. It’s the basis of Medicare Advantage, a program that ended up spending more than Medicare does and is generally considered a failure from what I understand.

If it really is a Democrats like it/Republicans hate it paradigm, then Republicans need to be made to understand that they are hating their own ideas:

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Who would benefit if America were more democratic?

A conservative commenter on my previous post wrote that he’s glad that America isn’t a democracy (assuming a democracy is a form of government or civil society where the majority truly rules).

He should be.

If this country were a true democracy, we’d have a sweeping wave of new gun regulations including limits on the number of bullets that a magazine can hold and universal background checks, the latter of which has the support of 90% of the citiznry yet was blocked by Republicans in the Senate.

Same-sex marriage would be legal across the nation and we’d be spending more money on education and less on defense. Obamacare would be expanded, taxes on the wealthy increased, defense spending cut, the minimum wage increased, social safety net programs like Social Security would be forever protected from benefit cuts and program-ending privatization, and we’d see new spending on a jobs bill.

Polls consistently show majority public support for all of that.

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“Don’t blame radical right Senators for nuclear option. Blame moderate GOPers, who, over and over again, voted to filibuster.”

Harry ReidI should be working instead of doing this, but I want to expand just a little bit on what I said on Twitter this afternoon.

There’s nothing “nuclear” about what Democrats just did in the Senate, revising the rules in the middle of a session on a majority vote which the rules wouldn’t normally allow. The argument for this change is that Senate rules are superseded by the Constitution, which says that votes in the Senate are subject to a simple majority.

That’s why everyone agrees that it only takes 51 votes to set the rules at the beginning of a new session of Congress. Nobody argues otherwise. If the Constitution dictates that it only takes 51 votes to set the rules — regardless of when — then no rule or federal law can change that.

Similarly, that line of thought would make the filibuster rule itself unconstitutional anyway.

What today’s action does is return the Senate to the way it was envisioned to function by the founders and the way it is supposed to function according to the Constitution. That was a good start, but the work isn’t done. There are other ways to keep extremist judges off the bench, the best of them is probably to eliminate lifetime appointments.

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CBS News apologizes for misleading Benghazi story; book publisher yanks book at center of controversy

BenghaziSimon & Schuster imprint Threshold Editions is yanking the book at the center of the CBS News/’60 Minutes’ Benghazi scandal, after CBS apologized for publishing falsehoods.

It’s good to finally see some accountability in the media for misleading the public about important issues, but this isn’t enough. The real scandal involving Benghazi has been the circus that Republicans have put on in the House of Representatives wasting time on frivolous investigative hearings. More money and time has been spent by the GOP trying put more of the blame for the attacks on the Obama administration than the terrorists who committed it.

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’60 Minutes’ Benghazi report completely implodes

Dylan DaviesCBS News issued a statement a little over an hour ago announcing that they were reviewing their “60 Minutes” report on the attack against the United States Special Mission in Benghazi last year.

The statement ran just 52 words:

60 Minutes has learned of new information that undercuts the account told to us by Morgan Jones of his actions on the night of the attack on the Benghazi compound.

We are currently looking into this serious matter to determine if he misled us, and if so, we will make a correction.

CBS News is in panic mode right now. All video and clips from the special have been pulled offline.

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Rand Paul’s big problem

Rand PaulAnother day and another example of Rand Paul stealing work from other people for profit. Doing it in political speeches and even newspaper op-eds is one thing, that’s the plagiarism part. But doing it in a for-profit book changes the offense to copyright infringement and demonstrates a clear lack of respect for the intellectual property rights of other people.

It puts to rest any notion that Rand Paul can be taken seriously when repeating the cute little stories that Republicans love to tell during campaigns about how people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and be self-reliant instead of relying on government to help them.

Remember how Mitt Romney’s solution for young adults who can’t afford to go to college is to magically have a brand new set of rich parents to pay for it on their behalf? I guess Rand Paul’s version of that is if you can’t be troubled to do research of your own, just take it.

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When getting kicked in the balls counts as a win

Ken CuccinelliWho does this remind you of?

Republican Governors Association executive director Phil Cox, whose group has spent nearly $8 million boosting Cuccinelli, firmly rejected the idea that the Virginia race reflected any limitations of conservative ideas. But he allowed that there may be lessons to learn about how you go about delivering a conservative message.

Cox sounds like nearly every Republican in America I heard speak the day after the 2012 election. What people like Cox don’t understand is that there’s a difference between accepting the limits of ideology, and surrendering on everything you believe in and completely caving to the opposition.

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Poll details continue to show most Americans support Obamacare

Detailed non-entertainment polls continue to show the same results as they have every year since 2010, that most Americans actually support the Affordable Care Act if you dig down further than simplistic support/oppose questions.

If you only ask the topline question, you’ll keep finding the same thing: most people “oppose” the ACA. But if you ask what people want done with it, most want it either left alone (25%), or expanded (22%). The repeal and replace (13%) crowd is small, probably because the Republican Party hasn’t said what they would replace the ACA with. Only 24% want it repealed with no replacement.

Even 18% of Republicans want Obamacare left alone or expanded, more than the 11% of Democrats that want it repealed and/or replaced (the latter with single payer, which could easily fall under “expand”).

Add it up: 47% want the law left alone or expanded, 37% want it gone and/or replaced. Obamacare is not a train wreck or a disaster and it’s a law that most Americans favor.

There’s lots to be said about what’s going on, what we should take away from all of this, and then what should be done about it. Republicans are hammering the exchange roll out failure but they’re essentially shooting at themselves.

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