After Snowden, We Get Snow Job

The House passed the USA FREEDOM Act today, which is supposed to fix the PATRIOT Act and rein in the NSA, but falls far short of what we need to get our rights back.  The vote was 303-121, with 179 Republicans and 124 Democrats in favor.  The bill now goes to the Senate, but I doubt it will get fixed enough to keep this from being a huge wasted opportunity to restore our privacy.

Here’s James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), the chief sponsor of the bill:  “Let me be clear:  I wish this bill did more.  To my colleagues who lament the changes, I agree with you.  The privacy groups who are upset about lost provisions, I share your disappointment.”

Here’s Zoe Logren (D-California), who supported the bill that came out of the Judiciary Committee, but voted against the final bill:  “This is not the bill that was voted out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously.  Regrettably, we have learned that if we leave any ambiguity in the law [on bulk data collection], the intelligence agency will run a truck through that ambiguity.”

Companies like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and Facebook had supported the original bill, but did not support the final version, believing that it contains a loophole for government surveillance of our Internet data.

The bill also dropped the provision creating an independent public advocate at the FISA court.  It removed provisions about public reports from the government about its targeting activity and FISA court requests.

The bill requires phone companies to keep records for 18 months, with the NSA having to get a court order to access those records.

 

Will the Senate Flip?

Over at Politico, Larry Sabato predicts that the GOP will pick up four to eight seats in November.  The Senate flips at six seats; at five, the Dems have Biden to break a tie.  Sabato ranks the likelihood of seats flipping by state, from most to least likely:  South Dakota, West Virginia, Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Virginia, and Oregon.

As you watch polls between now and November, if the GOP does well in the states towards the bottom of that list, you may see a Republican wave breaking.  Conversely, if the Dems look good in the states near the top of the list, 2014 may not be so bad for them.

 

Drip, Drip, Drip

Add Indiana to the list of GOP-controlled states that will expand Medicaid, so long as they don’t have to call it an Obamacare expansion.  Gov. Mike Pence (who may run for prez in 2016) has negotiated an expansion with the feds under his Healthy Indiana Program.  It’s a win-win — the feds get another state to insure people who fall in the ridiculous gap between those who qualify for Medicaid and those who qualify for Obamacare subsidies, and Pence can say it’s different from the Obamacare expansion.  But bottom line, more people get covered.

The arc of the health insurance universe bends slowly, but it’s bending toward coverage.

The Circus Comes to Town

As expected, the House voted, 232-186, to establish a select committee to investigate Benghazi.  The 232 included 7 Dems, no Republicans voted against.

This is the downside to Obamacare working out.  And the Prez failing to ‘splain.  Which you could still do, Barry.

Quote of the Day

“The darkest secret in the big money world of the Republican coastal elite is that the most palatable alternative to a nominee such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas or Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky would be [Hillary] Clinton, a familiar face on Wall Street following her tenure as a New York senator with relatively moderate views on taxation and financial regulation.”

If Hillary in the WH is good for the Hamptons oceanfront crowd, why would those of us in the Holiday Inn crowd want her?  Bill Clinton’s deregulation policies bear as much blame for the financial meltdown as do Bush 43’s.