They’re Not Getting Warrants!

It seems Edward Snowden wasn’t exaggerating when he said he could access the contents of anybody’s communications.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) says he learned during a classified briefing that the NSA isn’t getting warrants to listen to our phone calls, and by extension to reading our emails and texts.  He was told that low-level analysts can make that decision.

For more, see “NSA admits listening to U. S. phone calls without warrants,” Declan McCullagh, CNET News.

Note that Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo is questioning the accuracy of this story.  But Marshall seems to be relying on an unclassified briefing (he uses video from C-Span), whereas Nadler is referring to a classified briefing.

With Friends Like These…

In trying to show the absurdity of claiming that White House economic adviser Gene Sperling threatened Bob Woodward, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo notes that Sperling is “as diminutive as he is nerdy.”

And Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine calls Sperling “a diminutive but feisty policy wonk.”

Ouch!

How short is this poor guy exactly?  Are we talking Robert Reich, are we talking “follow the yellow brick road”?

GOP Looks to Win Ugly

The GOP plan to win presidential elections by allocating electoral college votes based on congressional districts rather than winner-take-all in states Obama won twice is finally getting attention.  Rachel Maddow has been raising the alarm, and here’s Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

“Rather than going by the overall vote in a state, they’d allocate by congressional district. And this is where it gets real good, or bad, depending on your point of view. Democrats are now increasingly concentrated in urban areas and Republicans did an extremely successful round of gerrymandering in 2010, enough to enable them to hold on to a substantial House majority even though they got fewer votes in House races than Democrats.

“In other words, the new plan is to make the electoral college as wired for Republicans as the House currently is. But only in Dem leaning states. In Republican states just keep it winner take all. So Dems get no electoral votes at all.

“Another way of looking at this is that the new system makes the votes of whites count for much more than non-whites — which is a helpful thing if you’re overwhelmingly dependent on white votes in a country that is increasingly non-white.

“This all sounds pretty crazy. But it gets even crazier when you see the actual numbers. Here’s a very illustrative example. They’re already pushing a bill to do this in the Virginia legislature. Remember, Barack Obama won Virginia and got 13 electoral votes. But… if the plan now being worked on would have been in place last November, Mitt Romney would have lost the state but still got 9 electoral votes to Obama’s 4. Think of that, two-thirds of the electoral votes for losing the state. If the Virginia plan had been in place across the country, as Republicans are now planning to do, Mitt Romney would have been elected president even though he lost by more than 5 million votes.

“Remember, plans to do this are already underway in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states in the Midwest.

“This is happening.”

Got that?  Mittens would be president today with five million fewer votes than Obama.  If the GOP can’t win with women and minorities, they’ll just win with gerrymandering.  Be afraid, be very afraid.  They know demographics are against them, but if they soften their crazier stands, they will lose their base.  So desperate times call for desperate measures, and this is pretty damn desperate.

Josh Marshall Not Buying Hagel Battle Hype

“Will Republicans uniformly oppose a former member of their own caucus when the issues at stake are complaints that look comical when held up to the light of day? One who was one of the top foreign policy Republicans in the Senate? I doubt it.

“Will Democratic senators deny a reelected President Obama his choice for one of the top four cabinet positions when he is quite popular and the expansion of their caucus is due in significant measure to his popularity? Please. Chuck Schumer will oppose the President? Not likely.”

Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo

“Devastating”

From “Devastating,” Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo:

“It’s rare when the impact of some gaffe or embarrassment or revelation isn’t overstated on first blush.  But this may just be that rare exception.  This tape strikes me as absolutely devastating.

“As for the tape itself, this is a fine distillation of the most rancid version of the libertarian conservative worldview.

“This is the caricature of Mitt Romney, who was born on 3rd base (in Ann Richards’ memorable phrase), thinks he hit a triple and thinks the broad middle class who’ve relied on government for student loans or social security or anything else are losers who can’t get their act together and take responsibility for themselves.  Only this tape says that caricature Mitt Romney is the real Mitt Romney.

“Big problem.”  Emphasis added.

Mitt’s Doing It on Purpose

I love Josh Marshall and his site Talking Points Memo.  But I think he’s wrong about this one.

Yesterday on Meet the Press, Mitt said he’d keep the popular stuff in Obamacare, like making sure people with preexisting conditions can get insurance.  Not long after, his campaign walked that back, saying that it wasn’t a policy change, and that it was only for those with continuous coverage, not those buying insurance for the first time or coming back into the market.

Josh Marshall says that shows either a “disorganized campaign” or Mitt’s “ingrained flipfloppery.”

I think both the comment yesterday and the walkback today were planned and on purpose.

Meet the Press attracts moderate and independent voters, many of whom are undecided.  Mitt was trying to appeal to them, to make them think he’s a reasonable guy.

By contrast, many of those viewers will never find out about the campaign’s walkback.  So Mitt gets credit with them, while calming down his base, which does pay more attention.

The campaign is fully aware of this, that you reach out to moderates in a high-profile way, and then pull back in a quieter way, knowing a chunk of them won’t notice.

If you want more evidence, Mitt did exactly the same thing quite recently on abortion.  All of a sudden, he said that he supported the right to an abortion in the case of rape, incest, health and life of the mother.  He had been saying rape, incest, and life, but not health.  So the reference to health of the mother was a change, one intended to make him seem more reasonable.  It was taken back by the campaign right after.  But many more people heard Mitt and read the reports of his softer position than heard his campaign spokesperson disavow it.

Disorganized, my tush.  They know exactly what they’re doing.

A Perfect Match — Mitt and a Snake Oil Salesman

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo reminds us that the economic “expert” Mitt is using to push his “Romney Economic Boom” plan, Kevin Hassett, wrote a best-selling book in the late 1990’s.

That book was Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting from the Coming Rise in the Stock Market.

You remember when the Dow hit 36,000, don’t you?  Me either.