NSA metadata programs wouldn’t have stopped 9/11

Khalid al-Mihdhar

Since the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs were publicly exposed in June 2013, President Barack Obama and intelligence officials have argued that the surveillance had foiled dozens of terrorist plots, a claim that has recently been proven false.

Other supporters of the programs opined that it could have prevented the September 11 terrorist attacks. That opinion was promulgated by U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley, who held last week that the NSA metadata collection is legal.

“Prior to the September 11th attacks, the National Security Agency intercepted seven calls made by hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar, who was living in San Diego, California, to an al-Qaeda safe house in Yemen,” wrote Pauley in ACLU v. Clapper. “The NSA intercepted those calls using overseas signals intelligence capabilities that could not capture al-Mihdhar’s telephone number identifier.”

“Without that identifier, NSA analysts concluded mistakenly that al-Mihdhar was overseas and not in the United States. Telephony metadata would have furnished the missing information and might have permitted the NSA to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the fact that al-Mihdhar was calling the Yemeni safe house from inside the United States,” he added.

But the notion from Pauley and others is counterfactual thinking. It cannot be proven. But Justin Elliott of ProPublica, a public interest organization, noted last summer that federal law enforcement officials had the means to bring in al-Mihdhar, who was on the flight that crashed into the Pentagon, and simply didn’t act.

CNN poll: Just 17% support Afghanistan war

After more than 12 years of fighting and occupation, the American public has soured on the war in Afghanistan to some of the highest levels recorded for any conflict, according to a CNN poll released this morning (emphasis added):

The CNN/ORC International survey released Monday also indicates that a majority of Americans would like to see U.S. troops pull out of Afghanistan before the December 2014 deadline.

Just 17% of those questioned say they support the 12-year-long war, down from 52% in December 2008. Opposition to the conflict now stands at 82%, up from 46% five years ago.

“Those numbers show the war in Afghanistan with far less support than other conflicts,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “Opposition to the Iraq war never got higher than 69% in CNN polling while U.S. troops were in that country, and while the Vietnam War was in progress, no more than six in 10 ever told Gallup’s interviewers that war was a mistake.”
The discontent evident in the CNN poll is also seen in two other national surveys conducted earlier this month. Two-thirds of those questioned in an ABC News/Washington Post poll said the war has not been worth fighting, and an Associated Press/GfK survey showed 57% saying the U.S. did the wrong thing in going to war in Afghanistan.

The truth is that the United States should have withdrawn from Afghanistan years ago. Had Washington focused on only one war at a time — never invading Iraq in 2003 on false pretense — perhaps that could have been possible, but history says that would still have been an unlikely endeavor, given Afghanistan’s reputation as the “graveyard of empires.”

Poll: Americans pessimistic about the economy

More than five years after the recession officially ended, there are some signs of life in the economy. There have been a couple months solid job growth and the stock market is surging. But the vast majority of Americans are still pessimistic about the economy as they head into 2014, according to a new CNN poll:

A new CNN/ORC poll released Friday showed people were pessimistic that the economy was improving. Nearly 70% said the economy is generally in poor shape, and only 32% rated it good.

Two-thirds of respondents said most of the economic news they’ve heard recently was bad news. More rural than urban dwellers said the economy was in poor shape.

And just over half expected the economy to remain in poor shape a year from now.
Those people aren’t buying big-ticket items like furniture or appliances, and some were cutting back on essentials. Thirty-six percent said they were cutting back spending on food or medicine, up from 31% in late 2008, the year the housing market collapsed.

It hard to blame people for feeling this way about the economy and for doubting that there will be any improvement in the next year. They’ve been told time after time by President Obama that the economy was improving. How many times were we told that the 2009 stimulus saved the economy or hear the phrase “summer of recovery”?

Republicans gain in the congressional ballot, Obama drags on Democrats

Just two months ago, it seemed that Democrats were poised to compete for control of the House of Representatives, but the plagued rollout of the federal Obamacare exchange website and insurance cancellations caused by the law have given Republicans a lift, according to the latest generic congressional ballot poll from CNN (emphasis added):

Two months ago, Democrats held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates. That result came after congressional Republicans appeared to overplay their hand in the bitter fight over the federal government shutdown and the debt ceiling.

But the Democratic lead evaporated, and a CNN poll a month ago indicated the GOP holding a 49%-47% lead. The new survey, conducted in mid-December, indicates Republicans with a 49%-44% edge over the Democrats.

The 13-point swing over the past two months follows a political uproar over Obamacare, which included the botched rollout of and controversy over the possiblity of insurance policy cancelations due primarily to the new health law.

It’s not just the generic congressional ballot where Democrats find themselves in trouble. The CNN poll also found a severe lack of enthusiasm from Democratic voters. What’s more, voters are more inclined to vote for a congressional candidate opposed to President Barack Obama (emphasis added):

CNN poll: Obamacare opposition rises to 62%

The opposition to Obamacare has risen to its highest point, according to a CNN poll released on Monday, despite the Obama Administration’s efforts to fix the federal exchange website after a disastrous launch in October.

The CNN poll found that just 35% support Obamacare, while 62% said that they oppose the law. Those numbers are up since last month, when the news channel showed that 40% supported the law and 58% opposed it.

Opposition is spread across ideological beliefs. Forty-three percent (43%) said that they oppose Obamacare because the law is “too liberal.” On the other hand, 15% oppose Obamacare because it is “not liberal enough.”

CNN’s polling director Keating Holland noted that the poll showed that opposition among women rose by 6 points over the last month, to 60% in December from 54% in November. That reflects a similar trend in other polls, despite supporters using the purported benefits for women in the law as part of their pitch to the public.

President Obama and supporters of the health insurance reform law have insisted that Americans will see lower healthcare costs and increased benefits. But poll shows that Americans aren’t buying the rhetoric.

Forty-two percent (42%) of Americans believe that they will be worse off because of Obamacare and 63% said that the law will increase their costs for medical care. Just 16% surmise that they’ll be better off under the law and only 7% believe it will decrease their costs.

Piers Morgan wants to limit the First Amendment

Let’s just get this out of the way. The First Amendment protects popular and unpopular speech from government regulation. This recognized and protected fundamental civil liberty should be celebrated.

But the right to free speech is also a two-way street. In short, you have the right to express an opinion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re free from criticism or derision from those who disagree.

A&E is a private company and can do what it wants, provided it’s within the terms of contractual agreements, just as MSNBC seemingly forced out Alec Baldwin and Martin Bashir. With that said, if you don’t agree with its decision to suspend Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty, you don’t have to watch the network or buy from its advertisers. Indeed, the free market is a great thing.

Enter Piers Morgan.

The CNN talk host weighed in on the controversy on Thursday with this tweet:

Now it’s a free speech issue.

Media Matters declares victory over Fox News despite ratings dominance


Media Matters for America, the leftist “watchdog” organization funded in part by George Soros, declared victory on Friday in its long battle against Fox News and is moving on to other fronts, including social media and blogs:

[I]n the coming years, Fox will no longer be the center of Media Matters’ universe. That’s because the group believes it has effectively discredited the network’s desire to be seen as “fair and balanced.”

“The war on Fox is over,” said Media Matters Executive Vice President Angelo Carusone. “And it’s not just that it’s over, but it was very successful. To a large extent, we won.”

According to its strategic plan for the next three years, a copy of which was provided to The Huffington Post, Media Matters envisions shifting its focus to new, increasingly influential targets, including Spanish-language media, social media streams, alternative online outlets and morning and entertainment sources. It will enhance its state media and issue-based monitoring, as well as continue its focus on right-wing radio and legacy outlets.

Fox News has long-been a target of the left. Media Matters and others claim that it has a conservative bias. President Barack Obama has called Fox News “destructive” and some of his subordinates have labeled the news channel as a “wing of the Republican Party.”

No, Americans don’t trust President Obama

Some of President Obama’s most ardent apologists spent some time on the Sunday talk show circuit desperately trying to spin the Obamacare implementation disaster and the millions of insurance cancellation notices that Americans are receiving because of the law’s narrowly written grandfathered plan regulations.

The message was that President Obama didn’t lie when he said people could keep their health plans under Obamacare, Americans just misunderstood what he was saying, and that people still trust him. Or something.

During a panel discussion on ABC’s This Week, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), one of the most leftist members of the House, tried to spin President Obama’s oft-repeated, now-infamous promise. The problem is that the Minnesota Democrat was incredibly misleading in doing so.

“You know, I just want to say that I think that everything that the president said and did was in pursuit of trying to get Americans, all Americans health care. So I think even though he may have said, if you like your decent insurance, your insurance that works, then you can keep it, I think that people really get that,” Ellison said. “He owned it. He said, look, man, if you misunderstood what I was trying to say, I’m sorry about that.”

“I think that shows integrity. He didn’t do anything to self-promote. He did — what he was doing he was trying to do — to help Americans all over this country for decades,” he added.

Many young people not getting Obamacare subsidies despite promises

Obama and young people

President Barack Obama and administration officials have been promoting the subsidies available to many Americans looking to purchase health insurance in hopes that it will draw people to enroll, especially young and health individuals. But CNN reported last week that many of the people that the administration desperately needs to sign-up for coverage won’t have access to these subsidies, after all:

One of the basic tenets of Obamacare is that the government will help lower-income Americans — anyone making less than about $45,900 a year — pay for the health insurance everyone is now mandated to have.

But a CNN analysis shows that in the largest city in nearly every state, many low-income younger Americans won’t get any subsidy at all. Administration officials said the reason so many Americans won’t receive a subsidy is that the cost of insurance is lower than the government initially expected. Subsidies are calculated using a complicated formula based on the cost of insurance premiums, which can vary drastically from state to state, and even county to county.

That doesn’t change the fact that in Chicago, a 27-year old will receive no subsidy to help offset premiums of more than $165 a month if he makes more than $27,400 a year.

In Portland, Oregon, subsidies for individuals making just $28,725 a year phase out for those younger than 35 years old.

Poll: GOP holds edge in congressional ballot

The advantage that Democrats had built in the generic congressional ballot has been completely wiped away, and Republicans now hold a slight lead, according to the latest poll from CNN.

The poll, released yesterday, showed that Republicans hold a 49% to 47% edge over Democrats in the generic congressional ballot. That’s a 7-point swing for Republicans from last month’s CNN poll, conducted just after the government shutdown, which found Democrats with a 50/42 advantage.

Other polls have found a similar swings. In recent weeks, Quinnipiac and Fox News showed that Republicans had washed away 9- and 8-point advantages to tie or lead Democrats by a 3 points in the generic congressional ballot. The Real Clear Politics average currently shows Republicans up by 1 point.

The swing in the congressional ballot comes amid the Obamacare meltdown, including a problematic, unworkable exchange website,, and more than 5 million insurance policy cancellations, despite President Obama’s oft-repeated promise that Americans could keep their plans under the law.

These controversies have led to a significant drop in President Obama’s approval rating and strengthened public disapproval of Obamacare, in some cases polling firms recording their highest level of opposition.


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