Narrow vote blocks (for now) warrant-free FBI attempt to collect American’s email, browser history

Via ZDNet:

An amendment designed to allow the government warrantless access to internet browsing histories has been narrowly defeated in the Senate.

The amendment fell two votes short of the required 60 votes to advance.

But the effort is far from dead. Majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who switched his vote at the last minute, submitted a motion to reconsider the vote following the defeat.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced the amendment as an add-on to the commerce, justice, and science appropriations bill earlier this week. McCain said in a statement on Monday that the amendment would “track lone wolves” in the wake of the Orlando massacre, in which Omar Mateen, who authorities say radicalized himself online, killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in the Florida city.

The amendment aims to broaden the rules governing national security letters, which don’t require court approval. These letters allow the FBI to demand records associated with Americans’ online communications.

If the amendment becomes law, federal agents won’t need a court order to access phone logs, email records, cell-site data used to pinpoint locations, as well as browsing histories of recently visited websites.

It is outrageous that mass surveillance of such user information without a warrant came so close to success. And it may still pass. How is it that warrants are viewed as unnecessary to breach the privacy of American citizens?

Here are some Twitter reactions:

Welcome to Night Vale

One of my favorite podcasts is Welcome to Night Vale. It is simultaneously twisted, scary, and funny.  Mainly funny.

Here is an excerpt from one episode, quoting Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the creators of the series, from the episode “The Lights in Radon Canyon:”

We lead frantic lives. Filled with needs and responsibilities, but completely devoid of any actual purpose. I say let’s try to enjoy the simple things. Life should be like a basket of chicken wings: salty, full of fat and vinegar, and surrounded by celery you’ll never actually eat, even when you’re greedily sopping up the last viscous streaks of buffalo sauce from the wax paper with your spit-stained index finger.

And here is one full episode you can check out.

You can access Welcome to Night Vale in iTunes (free) or your favorite podcast catcher. You won’t be disappointed.

Matthew Continetti on the GOP

Matthew Continetti, a conservative Republican, has penned an op-ed describing, in stark terms, the “self-immolation of the Republican party.” Not good news for Trump.


[Trump] is not a good man. This is not a stable man. It is in the self-interest of no rational person to have him near the situation room. So it does not come as a surprise to see support for Donald Trump collapsing in the Real Clear Politics poll average. Hillary Clinton now leads him by about six points. His unfavorable rating in the ABC News / Washington Post poll is up to 70 percent, a record high. The election isn’t until November 8. Where will Trump’s unfavorable rating be then? 85 percent? 90? He’ll make the record books all right—as the most reviled nominee in U.S. history.

A majority of voters told CBS that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency. An analysis of 11 battleground states conducted by Politico has Clinton winning 8 of them. The GOP as a whole has a favorable rating of only 32 percent, the lowest number since Bloomberg started polling in 2009. Maryland governor Larry Hogan, one of the most popular officials in the country, said he would not vote for the nominee of his party. The Reuters poll has the Democrats leading the Republicans in the congressional generic ballot by 11 points. In recent days Trump has hired a pollster for indigo-blue New York and traveled to Georgia, Texas, and Arizona, even though Ohio, Virginia, and Florida will decide the election. Next week Trump plans to travel to Scotland—not to meet with foreign dignitaries but to reopen one of his golf resorts. He knows nothing, has done nothing but promote himself for 30 years, and deserves nothing. And he’s not going to change. Seventy year olds do not change.

* * *

Trump supporters will tell me that I am paying too much attention to the polls, even though they fetishized the same polls throughout the primary. They are wrong. Any serious campaign analyst looks at the polls. It is mid-June, Clinton has had a consistent lead that is beginning to widen. What is likely to change the trajectory of this race? The terror attack in Florida did not change it. Whatever bounce Trump gets from the convention will dissipate by October. The debate—and there may be only one—is unlikely to move the needle in his direction. He’ll probably be able to hold himself together for about 35 minutes, then the moderator or Clinton will say something and he’ll let himself go, ranting about Monica Lewinsky and how Mitt Romney is a choke artist and all the people Hillary has murdered. And when we are in late October, and Trump is still behind, his supporters will dismiss the polls as skewed, as phony. And when Trump loses, his cheerleaders in talk radio and on the Internet won’t accept a smidgen of responsibility, but will blame the neocons and the media and the Republican establishment for not doing more to help a lunatic become president.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal on US gun violence


Writing in the New York Times, General Stanley McChrystal lays out his position on the horror of gun killings in the US.

Some opponents of closing these gaps in our laws will continue to argue that dangerous people will obtain guns in our country no matter what, and therefore that taking steps to make it harder for them is fruitless. That is both poor logic and poor leadership.

Just as something as complex as a combat operation in a war zone meant that we could not eliminate every enemy combatant or prevent every American casualty, we cannot prevent every dangerous person from getting a gun, and we cannot prevent every gun tragedy. But wouldn’t preventing many of them be worth it? I believe it would.

We Americans are not a uniquely bloodthirsty people. We do not have more violent video games or movies than other countries. We do not have more dangerously mentally ill individuals than other countries. We are not unique in facing down the threat of global terrorism and active shooters.

But we have uniquely high rates of gun deaths and injuries that make us stand out in the worst of ways. Our communities should not feel like war zones. Our leaders can start by doing more to keep guns out of the hands of those who cannot be trusted to handle them responsibly. That must be our mission.

The hypocrisy of Paul Ryan

Here is what he said regarding Trump’s positions yesterday:

There’s a really important distinction that every American needs to keep in mind: This is a war with radical Islam. It’s not a war with Islam. The vast, vast majority of Muslims in this country and around the world are moderate, they’re peaceful, they’re tolerant, and so they’re among our best allies, among our best resources in this fight against radical Islamic terrorism.

However, of course, Ryan is still supporting Donald Trump despite Trump’s bigoted attack on Muslims in America. The GOP cannot have it both ways.

Donald Trump attacks Muslims in America

Donald Trump is revealing an ugly truth about himself. He is openly demanding that American Muslims are failing to report others to protect themselves. And he lies about the the number of Muslims admitted to the country, and the shooter’s status as a “Afghan,” even though he was born in the United States.

From the New York Times:

Citing the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 by two men with ties to Chechnya and instances of radicalization in Minnesota’s Somali immigrant community, Mr. Trump painted a bleak portrait of the country as under siege from within and abroad.

“They’re trying to take over our children and convince them how wonderful ISIS is and how wonderful Islam is,” Mr. Trump said, referring to the Islamic State. “And we don’t know what’s happening.”

He accused American Muslims of failing to “turn in the people who they know are bad,” effectively blaming other Muslims for the shooting in Orlando and the attack last year in San Bernardino, Calif., that was carried out by a married couple inspired by the Islamic State.

“They didn’t turn them in,” Mr. Trump said, “and we had death and destruction.”

* * *

He repeatedly stretched the facts, for example, in describing the United States as overrun by dangerous migrants. He claimed the country has an “immigration system which does not permit us to know who we let into our country,” brushing aside the entire customs and immigration enforcement infrastructure. And he asserted that there was a “tremendous flow” of Syrian refugees, when just 2,805 of them were admitted into the country from October to May, fewer than one-third of the 10,000 Syrians President Obama said the United States would accept this fiscal year.

Mr. Trump described the gunman in the Orlando shooting as “an Afghan,” though he was born an American citizen in New York City to parents who had emigrated from Afghanistan to the United States over three decades ago.

* * *

[Trump] used the hours after the Orlando massacre to claim prescience about the attack and to demand Mr. Obama’s resignation. Then, in a television interview on Monday morning, Mr. Trump darkly suggested that the president was sympathetic to Islamic terrorists.

“We’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind,” Mr. Trump said. “There is something going on.”

Aside from the effect on the Muslim community in the US, Trump himself must be called out by his own party if the GOP has any care about the damage being done by the guy.

Responses to the Pulse night club massacre

President Obama:

The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub. It is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds and to advocate for their civil rights. So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.

Eric Garcetti:

Today we know that we are targeted as Americans, because this is a society where we love broadly and openly, because we have Jews and Christians and Muslims and atheists and Buddhists marching together, because we are white, black, brown, Asian, Native American. The whole spectrum and every hue and every culture is here.

Hillary Clinton:

This was an act of terror. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are hard at work, and we will learn more in the hours and days ahead. For now, we can say for certain that we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad. That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home. It also means refusing to be intimidated and staying true to our values.

This was also an act of hate. The gunman attacked an LGBT nightclub during Pride Month. To the LGBT community: please know that you have millions of allies across our country. I am one of them. We will keep fighting for your right to live freely, openly and without fear. Hate has absolutely no place in America.

Finally, we need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals. This is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and it reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets.

This is a time to stand together and resolve to do everything we can to defend our communities and country.

John Oliver:



When will this country cease fetishizing guns

The slaughter at a gay dance club early this morning is appalling.

From the New York Times:

A gunman killed 50 people and wounded 53 in a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday, officials said, in the worst mass shooting slaughter in American history, and law enforcement officials said it was an act of terrorism.

The gunman was Omar Mateen, an American citizen living in Port St. Lucie, Fla., federal law enforcement officials said.

The killer stormed the Pulse nightclub armed with an assault rifle and a handgun — investigators were still looking into the possibility that he had explosives, as well — at about 2 a.m., when more than 300 people were inside dancing and drinking, said John Mina, the Orlando police chief.

The gunman exchanged fire with an off-duty police officer working security at the club, then mowed down dozens of patrons, sending hundreds of others, some of them bleeding, fleeing down the darkened streets of the surrounding neighborhood.

The gunman holed up inside with dozens of people effectively held hostage, some of them hiding in a restroom frantically calling for help, until after 5 a.m., when the police, using an armored vehicle and stun grenades, assaulted and killed him. The raid saved about 30 people, Chief Mina said.

Ronald Hopper, an assistant agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Tampa Division, raised the possibility that the killer was an Islamist radical, and law enforcement officials said they were investigating the slaughter as an act of terrorism.

Why do we need to allow anyone to freely purchase assault weapons. How many more slaughters are needed to get people, and the government, to take action. The continued carnage sickens me.

Peter Wehner on Donald Trump

Peter Wehner, writing in the New York Times, raises loud alarms for Republicans watching the developments of Donald Trump‘s campaign and the damages the party may suffer. It is a master stroke of a take-down. But, of course, Trump will not go away, despite pleas from some of the saner members of the GOP.


Over the course of his nearly 70 years, and this primary campaign is no exception, Mr. Trump has shown no real desire to limit the size, cost or reach of the federal government. He has no interest in economic liberty as it has been understood since Adam Smith. He wants an economy in which trade and immigration are tightly restricted and the government makes mercantilist deals on behalf of large domestic producers.

Mr. Trump is the very embodiment of the culture of narcissism and decadence that moral traditionalism exists to counteract. Republicans used to argue that character mattered in our political leaders. But apparently that applied only to Democrats like Bill Clinton. Today, we’re told such considerations are irrelevant, inapposite, quaint. We’re electing a president rather than a pope, after all, so there’s no problem wrapping Republican arms around a moral wreck. At least he’s our moral wreck.

The hypocrisy isn’t lost on anyone.

And Mr. Trump wants America to further retreat from world affairs. He believes the United States is too weak to shape events. Rather than reach out to allies, he wants to bludgeon many of them, even as he has shown a disturbing affinity for tyrants. Mr. Trump also wants Americans to think about global affairs in terms of financial transactions that net America money rather than relationships that promote security, freedom and order — and therefore advance American interests.

* * *

This is not the conservatism of William F. Buckley Jr. or Ronald Reagan or Jack Kemp; it is blood-and-soil conservatism primarily aimed at alienated white voters who believe they have lost the country they once knew. Trumpism also includes a heavy dose of conspiracy theories. It is no coincidence that Mr. Trump burst onto the national political scene in 2011 by claiming that Barack Obama, our first black president, was not a natural-born American citizen but rather was born in Kenya.

Mr. Trump knows his target audience, which explains why, beginning the morning of the Indiana primary on May 3 (the day he became the de facto nominee), he has — among other in-the-gutter moments — implied that Senator Ted Cruz’s father was implicated in the assassination of President Kennedy; insinuated that Vince Foster, a friend of the Clintons who was White House deputy counsel, was murdered (five official investigations determined that Mr. Foster committed suicide); engaged in a racially tinged attack on Gonzalo Curiel, a district court judge presiding over a fraud lawsuit against Trump University; and expressed doubt that a Muslim judge could remain neutral in the case. This is conspiratorial craziness and rank racism — and all of it has happened after we were told Mr. Trump would raise his game.

Donald Trump is being called out by Republicans

The New York Times is reporting a major breach between Donald Trump and Paul Ryan and the rest of the GOP. An event was held by Mitt Romney during which Meg Witman likened Trump to Axis leaders. Good for her.


Meg Whitman, the chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and a major contributor to Republican candidates, railed against Mr. Trump on Friday at a closed-door meeting of Republicans in Park City, Utah, comparing him to the Axis leaders, according to several people in attendance who declined to be identified because the discussion was private.

The comments, first reported by The Washington Post, came at Mr. Romney’s annual retreat of Republican donors, leaders and business executives. Mr. Trump’s candidacy, and the divisions it is causing among leading Republicans, was an undercurrent of the gathering. Mr. Romney has been outspoken in his refusal to support Mr. Trump, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, even as other party figures have grudgingly fallen into line.

No one has personified the party’s divisions like Paul D. Ryan, the House speaker, and the pressure on him intensified this weekend. At the Utah retreat on Friday, Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor, pressed Mr. Ryan on his decision to support Mr. Trump, according to an attendee, saying she did not know how to explain it to her children.

Then, on Saturday, Dan Scavino Jr., a senior adviser and the social media director for the Trump campaign, criticized Mr. Ryan on Twitter, linking to an article on a conservative website that accused him of harming his party, complete with the headline “Paul Ryan Is the Reason the G.O.P. Is Losing America.”

The discord appeared to bring a quick end to a period of relative peace in the party that began Tuesday when Mr. Trump issued a statement in which he backed away, slightly, from remarks accusing a federal judge of being biased against him because of the judge’s Mexican heritage. Mr. Trump did not apologize but said his remarks had been “misconstrued.”

* * *

A representative for Ms. Whitman did not respond Saturday to a request for an interview about her comments. Ms. Whitman, according to one of the people present, did not stop at comparing Mr. Trump to Hitler and Mussolini. She also warned the gathering that if Republicans compromised on their principles to win an important election, they would be entering fraught territory.

“What happens next time?” she asked, implying that it could lead to more compromises and more candidates like Mr. Trump.

New York Times editorial board praises efforts of Bernie Sanders

He exhorted Americans to use the power of democracy to force change — in contrast to Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, who also promised to elevate the nation’s disaffected but did it mainly by scapegoating the weak.

Mr. Sanders forced Hillary Clinton to pay attention to much of this message. In order to appeal to his followers in the months to come, she will be challenged to generate the same passion, especially among the young, who at rally after rally sat through an hour’s worth of economic lecturing from a wild-haired man they found to be honest and authentic. It may have been the same lecture over and over again, but die-hard supporters trailed him like fans of the Grateful Dead, attentively listening for occasional improvisations in his shouted assaults on the status quo. On Thursday night, at what may prove to be Mr. Sanders’s final rally, some 3,000 people turned up in Washington’s R.F.K. Stadium to cheer his commitment to them.

True to his pledge, Mr. Sanders shunned big money, often beating the monthly totals of Mrs. Clinton — much admired by more than a few billionaires — by raking in tens of millions, 27 bucks at a time. In this age of unbridled campaign spending, that alone is a signal achievement, and may it prove a transformative one.

You can access the entire editorial here.

I still think that the NYT was in the bag for Clinton, but I hope that Sanders can pressure some Democratic delegate to support much of his efforts to protect portions of his programs.