If There’s One Thing Attorney General Barr Knows Its Legally Questionable Surveillance Programs

Well this is awkward…

From USA Today (emphasis mine):

Justice under AG Barr began vast surveillance program without legal review – in 1992, inspector general finds

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department under Attorney General William Barr launched a vast surveillance program that gathered records of innocent Americans’ international phone calls without first conducting a review of whether it was legal, the department’s inspector general concluded Thursday.

It happened in 1992, the last time Barr served as attorney general.

The secret program, run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, ultimately gathered billions of records of nearly all phone calls from the United States to 116 countries, with little oversight from Congress or the courts, a USA TODAY investigation found. It provided a blueprint for far broader phone-data surveillance the government launched after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Justice Department’s inspector general said both the DEA and the Justice Department “failed to conduct a comprehensive legal analysis” of its authority to gather those records.

The Inspector General’s report identified areas in which the program would be vulnerable to legal challenges, but did not reach a conclusion about whether it was lawful.

Attorney General Barr is going to be very, very sorry that he came out of retirement. The news media is going to go through his dirty laundry and the Intelligence Community is going to leak. The question is whether he’ll be smart enough to recognize the warning shots or whether he’ll just keeping doing what he was appointed to do: protect the President, not be the Attorney General of the United States.Attorney General Sessions was, amazingly enough, smart enough to get the hint. Is William Barr as smart as Jeff Sessions? Only time will tell.

Open thread!








About that Mueller Report

While the dimmer bulbs in the media are slowly starting to figure out that maybe, just maybe, the Mueller Report didn’t exonerate Trump (I suppose the first clue was Mueller explicitly stating the report did not exonerate him, but hey- I’m not paid the big bucks like Maggie Haberman and company), the House is busy supboenaing the hell out of everyone and everything in sight. We will eventually get to see the Mueller report, I think, but it might be some time.

It’s pretty clear that the reason Trump was uncharacteristically quiet on twitter the weekend the report was sent to Barr was that they were trying to figure out how they were going to do damage control. Apparently they settled on throwing Barr to the wolves, letting him issue the bullshit 4 page memo, and the use that to blow up and out the puke funnel to try to firm up the opinion that there is no there, there. They had some help from the typically idiotic press who, as usual, took the Republican’s word on things and uncritically blasted it out for a few days before doing what they always, which is make the story about themselves and spend the next few days deciding who the winners and losers in the media are. Another assist came from various useful idiots (see Michael Tracey, Matt Taibbi, and others), who have decided without seeing the report that there was nothing inappropriate going on with Russia and because of that, none of the other criminal shit matters, either. I wish I was kidding:

If you want a brutal take down of these guys, you should definitely read Klion on Taibbi and Greenwald (whom I still like and respect even though I think he has been crazy about this whole Trump investigation and who is always worse on twitter than he is in his longer pieces- the price of being a contrarian with a temper, I suppose).

Despite all of that, it ain’t working. Polls show that only around the crazification factor thing that Trump is innocent, with around 70% saying either no or dunno. So, for those of you who are cynical as fuck, like me, and sick of going high, it is my personal opinion that the longer Barr drags this out, the worse it is for Barr, the worse it is for Trump, and the worse it is for Republicans. Additionally, while there may be a number of redactions done for legitimate national security reasons, it’s excellent fodder for “WHAT ARE THEY HIDING?” I spent a lot of time listening hearing Republicans say “If you haven’t done anything to hide” while they stomped all over our civil rights and privacy, and I watched them launch ridiculous investigations over Benghazi and stoke birther bullshit and spew nonsense about Hillary’s emails, so you know what, fuck it. Let’s beat them up and use what they are giving us.

So yes, I am dying to read the Mueller, but the cynic and political opportunist in me is to hope the Republicans keep self-owning themselves and drip it out in pieces and redact a ton of shit. Anything that hurts these guys is a win for the country. Period.








Just Burn It Down, Too

I’m of the opinion that the Senate, as currently constructed, has outlived its usefulness:

The filibuster is in peril.

With Republicans expected to change the Senate rules to slash debate time on President Donald Trump’s nominees this week, it will mark the third time the “nuclear option” — changing Senate rules by a simple majority — has been triggered in just six years.

Each of those unilateral moves by a Senate majority to weaken the Senate’s age-old precedents centered on nominations, leaving the legislative filibuster and its 60-vote threshold unscathed. But some senators say it’s just a matter of time before even that Senate institution is more or less wiped away by a majority tired of seeing its big ideas blocked.

Though the Senate is up for grabs in 2020, neither party is expected to come away with a supermajority due to the limited number of competitive races. And that likely puts the supermajority requirement itself in jeopardy — particularly if one party controls the White House, House and Senate and wants to move its agenda.

I’m not completely up to speed on British politics, but maybe it is time to send the Senate the way of the House of Lords. Remake it so the Senate only deals with, I dunno, appointments. Leave everything else to the house. I dunno, but right now, all the Senate does is act like the House of Representatives with majority rule, but the majority is actually the minority viewpoint in the country. It does nothing to slow down the wishes of a radical majority, but instead pushes the fantasies and vulgar outlook of a minority of the country. A they’ve shown the past few years, they have no desire to act like a co-equal branch of government and serve as a check on the executive. All the Senate does right now is harm the country. Just burn it down.








Another Day in the Third Year After the End of the American Century

I’m sure Stephen Miller’s and Kirstjen Nielsen’s parents are so proud…

Open thread!



Today in Great Moments in Senatorial Debate: Senator Mike Lee Edition!

Senator Lee gave a speech delineating his opposition to the Green New Deal today as part of Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s attempt to put the Senate Democratic caucus in a bind by making them take a stand either for or against one of the House Democratic caucus’s signature issues. Fortunately for us all, Senator Lee is, well, Senator Lee, which is sort of the Congresswoman Virginia Foxx of Senator Ted Cruzes. Or something… Even more fortuitously, Senator Lee posted a YouTube video of his remarks and posted a transcript of them at his Senate website.  He’s so considerate!

Senator Lee’s major proposal for resolving the problem that is climate change is to have more babies*, because one of them might actually come up with a good idea to resolve the problem at some point in the future.

This, Mr. President, is the real solution to climate change: babies.

Climate change is an engineering problem – not social engineering, but the real kind.
It’s a challenge of creativity, ingenuity, and technological invention.

And problems of human imagination are not solved by more laws, but by more humans!

More people mean bigger markets for innovation.

More babies mean more forward-looking adults – the sort we need to tackle long-term, large scale problems.

American babies, in particular, are likely going to be wealthier, better educated, and more conservation-minded than children raised in still-industrializing regions.

As economist Tyler Cowen recently wrote on this very point, “by having more children, you are making your nation more populous – thus boosting its capacity to solve [climate change].”

Finally, Mr. President, children are a mark of the kind of personal, communal, and societal optimism that is the true pre-requisite for meeting national and global challenges together.

The courage needed to solve climate change is nothing compared with the courage needed to start a family.

The true heroes of this story aren’t politicians or social media activists.

They are moms and dads, and the little boys and girls they are, at this moment, putting down for naps… helping with their homework… building tree houses… and teaching how to tie their shoes.

The planet does not need us to “think globally, and act locally” so much as it needs us to think family, and act personally.

The solution to climate change is not this unserious resolution, but the serious business of human flourishing – the solution to so many of our problems, at all times and in all places: fall in love, get married, and have some kids.

I yield the floor.

This, however, wasn’t the most batshit insane part of Senator Lee’s audio-visual extravaganza. Pride of place for that honor goes to the graphics and images he used to help make his point.

President Reagan on a velociraptor wielding a machine pistol while the velociraptor carries a tattered American flag – this is apparently big on one of the Chan boards/sites:

A still image from The Empire Strikes Back of Luke Skywalker riding on a tauntaun on the ice planet Hoth:

A still image from the Hannah-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon series Superfriends of Aquaman on his seahorse Storm from the early 1970s (in the earlier 1960s Filmation Aquaman-Superman Adventures Storm was white with gold ears – do not ask how I know this…):

A picture of a bunch of babies (awww!):

This is stupidity, disingenuousness, and bad faith on par with Kyle Reese’s description of the Terminator:

Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

I don’t care if you’re Senator Booker who is claiming one of his key strengths is that he can, because he has in the past, work effectively across the aisle or Howard Schultz who keeps stating that as an independent centrist that he can work with both sides, THERE IS NOTHING HERE TO WORK WITH!!!!! There’s no difference to split here, there’s no accommodation that can be made here, and there is no compromise that can be reached. Right now, whether you agree, partially agree, or disagree with what the Democrats are proposing, you’ve got one party actually proposing solutions that have been thought through and one party that proposes the same four things no matter what is going on: 1) cut taxes, 2) cut regulations, 3) gut the social safety net and undo the New Deal, 4) and allow unlimited amounts of money in politics because money equals speech and corporations equal people. And, if there’s a crisis involving brown people with funny accents: 5) deploy troops to deal with them. The shame that is the United States in 2019 is that there is one party, the Democratic Party, that is dealing with reality, even if you don’t agree with what they’re proposing and then there’s this insanity being peddled by the Republicans.

At this point I’m about two weeks away from declaring myself Sub-Commandante Citizen-Leftenant Zero and storming a radio station… **

Which leads to one of my favorite political cartoons of all time:

Open thread!

* I’m sure at some point this will be rolled into an argument why Roe V. Wade must be overturned and abortion made illegal so we don’t accidentally abort the baby that will save us from the climate change crisis that Senator Lee doesn’t actually believe exists.

** This is SARCASM, lest someone eventually show up or use this to claim I’m advocating the overthrow of the US government or endorsing the use of low intensity warfare and political violence.