Washington Post

NSA tracks cellphone location data around the globe

After The Guardian reported that only 1 percent of the files leaked by Edward Snowden have been published, the Washington Post reported that the NSA also tracks location data from mobile phone users around the world, allowing the agency to gather “nearly 5 billion records a day.”

The NSA is able to do that because it manages to tap into the mobile networks’ cables that happen to serve worldwide cellphones as well as U.S. phones. The NSA does that to collect information regarding its targets.

With this data in its power, the NSA locates and analyzes data from cellphones anywhere in the world. This represents an effort that might have no matching historical precedent since analysts can use this data to retrace cellphones’ movements and uncover potential relationships among users anywhere.

Elements of the intelligence community are not collecting the bulk cellphone location data intentionally, according to Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA. But the NSA collects this information anyway, mainly because one of the agency’s most powerful analytic tools, the CO-TRAVELER, can search unknown associates of intelligence targets by tracing intersecting cellphones.

Beware the Obamacare concern trolls

Ezra Klein

While it was a coincidence that the Obamacare insurance exchange website launched on October 1, the same day the partial federal government shutdown began, there have been few coincidences since. It is thus no twist of fate that many prominent liberals seem to be worried that the GOP is wasting an opportunity to criticize the failure of the exchange roll-out. This is concern trolling at its transparent worst.

The most blatant example comes from a usual source of concern trolling, Ezra Klein at the Washington Post. In a “Wonkblog” piece titled “Five thoughts on the Obamacare disaster” (bait deployed), the first three of those “thoughts” are overt criticisms of the law and its implementation so far (bait taken). Then Klein gets to the GOP’s “missed opportunity” (reeling in):

Their decision to shut down the government on the exact day the health-care law launched was a miracle for the White House. If Republicans had simply passed a clean-CR on Oct. 1 these last few weeks would’ve been nothing — nothing at all — save for coverage of the health-care law’s disaster. Instead the law has been knocked off the front page by coverage of the Republican Party’s disaster.

The answer to government shutdown is less federal power, not more

In the wake of the now five-day long federal government partial shutdown, center-left pundits have wasted no time calling for drastic changes to the republic.

In the Washington Post, Dylan Matthews openly called for fascism:

Max Weber, in conversation with Gen. Erich Ludendorff, advanced my personal favorite theory of democracy: “In a democracy the people choose a leader in whom they trust. Then the chosen leader says, ‘Now shut up and obey me.’ ” People and party are then no longer free to interfere in his business.

Max Fisher, also in the Post, called for monarchy:

You might find yourself wishing that the United States could follow Australia’s example: Fire everyone in Congress, hold snap elections next month and restart from scratch. But we can’t, because we haven’t recognized the British monarchy or had a London-appointed governor -general in more than two centuries. Maybe, if we ask nicely, Britain will take us back?

The New Republic suggested the President dissolve Congress and then attack it:

Almost exactly 20 years ago, he dissolved parliament. The vice president and the speaker of the parliament dissolved Yeltsin’s presidency, and holed up with their supporters in the parliament’s headquarters, now known as “the White House.”

Then Yeltsin [sent in the tanks].

Washington Post: Democrats Are Abandoning Obamacare

From The Washington Post’s The Fix:

Moderate Democrats are quitting on Obamacare

By Scott Clement, Published: July 23 at 9:00 am

The landmark health-reform law passed in 2010 has never been very popular and always highly partisan, but a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that a group of once loyal Democrats has been steadily turning against Obamacare: Democrats who are ideologically moderate  or conservative.

Just after the law was passed in 2010, fully 74 percent of moderate and conservative Democrats supported the federal law making changes to the health-care system. But just 46 percent express support in the new poll, down 11 points in the past year. Liberal Democrats, by contrast, have continued to support the law at very high levels – 78 percent in the latest survey. Among the public at large, 42 percent support and 49 percent oppose the law, retreating from an even split at 47 percent apiece last July.

2013-07-22 hcare among Democrats

Gun Control Backfires on Obama

Barack Obama

President Obama loves to point to a poll that said 90 percent of all Americans wanted tougher background checks.  After the measure failed in the Senate, Obama wanted that 90 percent to let Congress know how they felt.

Talk about your backfires:

But a new Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll suggests that post-vote attitudes stray from the wide support for the background check measure before the debate, which hovered around 85% in multiple polls.

A plurality of Americans–47%–say they are either “angry” or “disappointed” with the Senate’s action on gun legislation, far different from the amount of people who strongly approved the proposal before the vote. Meanwhile, 39% say they are “relieved” or “happy” about the vote.

I always thought those earlier numbers were soft, and they were.

You see, one of the issues has always been that many polls don’t really capture how committed to something a respondent really is.  Someone may support the idea of tougher background checks, but how important is really is to them.

Washington Post uncovers earmarks used near lawmakers personal property

The practice of earmarks has come under scrutiny in recent years and some members in both chambers have pushed for bans on the practice because of the propensity of their colleagues to use them for less than noble purposes. The House of Representatives did enact a moratorium, though it doesn’t seem to be all that effective.

Some say that restricting earmarks is unconstitutional because it cuts in on congressional spending authority in Article I, Section 8. Others say that earmarks represent a fraction of the budget and eliminating them does nothing in the way of restoring fiscal responsibility. The former has some merit, but we know how James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, felt about spending for pork projects. It’s hard to see that he would find funding peanut research meets any constitutional litmus test.

The latter is true; however, earmarks are the epitome of what is wrong with Washington, DC. Yes, reforming entitlements and cutting spend elsewhere is incredibly important, but earmarks are a symbolic part of the battle. If we can’t cut this fraction of spending out of the budget or reform the earmark process, are we naive enough to believe that we can reform entitlements?

Back in 2006, at the height of the discussion about ethics in Congress, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) explained that earmarks are the “currency of corrpution.” Not only were members using them to steer business to donors and friends, they were being used by leadership of both parties to sway votes on legislation.

Washington Post stumped by Rand Paul because he’s shattering media narratives about the Tea Party

Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) outreach efforts to minorities and young people with a heavy focus on criminal justice reform, police militarization, and civil liberties has perplexed the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake.

Over at Washington Post’s The Fix, Blake declared that the “Tea Party” label — which, as he notes, has been overused since the peak of the movement in 2010 — is “far too simple” for Paul. He points to the Kentucky Republican’s piece in Time on the startling scenes from Ferguson, Missouri and police militarization:

Given Paul’s political rise — he defeated an establishment-aligned Republican in a 2010 primary — it was natural to label him a tea partier. We have done it too — repeatedly. It’s the easiest short-hand for a GOP outsider. But more and more, it’s looking like that label doesn’t really fit. While Paul is certainly aligned with the tea party on a lot of stuff, the label doesn’t describe him as well as it does someone like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). An op-ed Paul wrote Thursday in Time magazine was just the latest example of that. The things Paul said in it are not the kind of things you would expect from a tea partier.
The trouble with Paul is that no well-known labels seem to fit him well. While his dad, Ron Paul, is a pretty straight-line libertarian, that’s not really who the younger Paul is. He’s not an establishment Republican, a neo-conservative, an arch-conservative or a moderate Republican.

We still don’t know what label would be better than “tea party,” but it’s becoming clearer and clearer that this label doesn’t really fit. Maybe he’s just a Rand Paul Republican.

WaPo columnist says that Millennials should move back home to help cut costs so they can pay for those expensive student loans

Hey, Millennials, you worked hard for four years in college, and now you’re ready to find a job making a lot of money in the field in which you studied as well as find a place of your own to settle down.

And, then, comes  reality. You’re left with thousands of dollars worth of student loan debt that’s going to take you several years to pay off and that degree you worked hard to receive isn’t helping you find a job related to your major. Now, you’re stuck trying to figure out how you’re going to achieve your own individual version of the American Dream.

Well, Michelle Singletary, a business columnist at the Washington Post, has a brilliant idea (not really) to help you cut back your expenses so you can work on paying down student loan debt until your finances have improved: move back home and live with your parents.

“When people ask me about what they should do about their student loans, I ask: What are you willing to do to get rid of them as fast as you can?” Singletary writes. “And here’s my suggestion: Live for as long as you can with your parents, relatives or anyone who will allow you to stay rent-free or charge you a super-low rent.”

It has come to this.

In many instances, students have lived away from home in college dorms or their own housing to get the full experience of a four-year education. Young people, who have a particular fondness of their independence, may not want to go back home after they’ve left school.

Surprise! 90% of Internet users caught up in NSA dragnet surveillance aren’t suspected of any wrongdoing

Don't Spy on Me

The NSA apologists have told Americans countless times that the agency’s collection programs target only those believed to be involved in terrorist activity. Though they admit that Americans are caught up in the dragnet overseas surveillance, administration officials and lawmakers who defend the NSA insist that these instances are limited.

But a report from Barton Gellman, Julie Tate and Ashkan Soltani at the Washington Post explains that online communications and information of thousands of innocent people — including American citizens — were swept up by the NSA (emphasis added):

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.

Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

CNN: ABC/WaPo Poll A “Low Point For Obama, For His Entire Presidency”

See Video

In a panel discussion this morning on CNN’s New Day, John King brought up the new Washington Post/ABC News poll which found President Barack Obama’s approval rating falling across the board.

“The one constant if you look at history to track, to get a sense of where we’re going is the president’s approval rating. [The] ABC News/Washington Post poll out just this morning, the President’s job approval rating [is] at 41 percent,” said King. “In the ABC/Washington Post poll, that is the lowest of the Obama presidency.”

The Atlantic’s Molly Ball agreed, telling King that the poll “is absolutely a low-point for Obama, for his entire presidency.”

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