April 8, 2015 archive

The End of Section 215?

Congress must end mass NSA surveillance with next Patriot Act vote

by Trevor Timm, The Guardian

Wednesday 8 April 2015 12.01 EDT

Despite doing almost everything in their power to avoid voting for substantive NSA reform, Congress now has no choice: On 1 June, one of the most controversial parts of the Patriot Act – known as Section 215 – will expire unless both houses of Congress affirmatively vote for it to be reauthorized.

While the government claims that its other uses of Section 215 are “critical” to national security, it’s extremely hard to take their word for it. After all, the government lied about collecting information on millions of Americans under Section 215 to begin with. Then they claimed the phone surveillance program was “critical” to national security after it was exposed. That wasn’t true either: they later had to admit it has never stopped a single terrorist attack.

We also just learned two weeks ago that the NSA knew the program was largely pointless before the Snowden leaks and debated shutting it down altogether. Suddenly, after the Snowden documents became public, NSA officials defended it as “critical” again when they had to go before an increasingly skeptical Congress.

Whatever else they’re doing with Section 215 behind closed doors, the phone surveillance program is illegal. As the author of the Patriot Act, Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner has said: “I can say that without qualification that Congress never did intend to allow bulk collection when it passed Section 215, and no fair reading of the text would allow for this [mass phone surveillance] program”.

It’s also likely unconstitutional, as the first federal judge to look at the program ruled almost a year ago. Judge Richard Leon wrote at the time in his landmark opinion: “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval”.

These days, Congress can barely get post office names passed, let alone comprehensive reform on any subject affecting the American people. So the fact that they haven’t passed NSA reform yet says more about their near-total dysfunction than the American public’s views about privacy.

But now they have no choice. A year and a half ago, the House came within a few votes of cutting off funding for Section 215 in an unorthodox appropriations vote and, since then, opposition to the NSA’s massive spying operation on Americans has remained strong.

Only time will tell if Congress will actually receive this message. But if citizens call their representatives, they might just get it. Then, come June, the NSA will have a lot less of our private data at their fingertips.

The Breakfast Club (April Showers)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Funeral of Pope John Paul II; Pablo Picasso dies at 91; Teen aids patient Ryan White dies at 18; Hank Aaron hits 715th home run; Kurt Cobain found dead in home from self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

It takes a long time to become young.

Pablo Picasso


Earbugs (You Know The Words)

2015 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament: Finals

Sunday’s Results-

Score Seed Team Region Record Score Seed Team Record Region
66 1 Notre Dame 35-2 South 65 1 South Carolina 33-3 Mid-West
81 1 UConn 37-1 East 58 1 Maryland 34-3 West

Today’s Matchups-

Time Channel Seed Team Record Region Seed Team Record Region
8:30pm ESPN 1 UConn 37-1 East 1 Notre Dame 35-2 South

It was destined to be.

The first thing you have to realize is the Muffet and Geno hate each other.  No, really.  They try to appear all polite and stuff on the record but they’re really seething underneath.

Well, Muffet does anyway.  I think Geno hardly notices anyone now that Pat Summit is safely in the rearview mirror.

So the question everyone asks is why is UConn so dominant.  For one thing it is the top sports program in Connecticut.  We have no Major League teams, UConn Throwball is a joke, likewise Men’s Basketball.  You want to know the only one that comes close?  Women’s Soccer.

Also Geno could be coaching rabbits or aliens.  He doesn’t care.  The Lady Huskies are are as tough as nails and better than the guys who they regularly scrimmage with and almost always beat.  Geno is the type of coach who would do a split squad simulated game with the Red flags those players with the skills closest to the team they’re matching against, Starter or not, and the Blue flags everyone else, Scrub or not.  Winner hits the hot tub, loser gets extra practice with Geno “patiently” explaining what they did wrong.

He only looks like a nice guy, he’s a godless killing machine.

Now some people see UConn dominance as a problem and have proposed various fixes.  Diana Taurasi says- “grow up.”

And most of Connecticut agrees.  You see, before 1985 it wasn’t much of a program at all and we’ve more than paid our dues.  Some things you can never change no matter how you jigger the rules and one of them is the best teams attract the best players.

There are those who look forward to Geno’s retirement before he doubles John Wooden’s record, that’s as may be.  We won’t have to look far to find some alum he’s taught the system and until the other teams change to keep up, UConn will continue to win baring flukes, injuries, or some super human player.

(ps. Please read the link and for the record I think the Men and Women should play under exactly the same rules, if you want more scoring you need to shorten the shot clock, not lengthen it, and lowering the rims (Geno’s big idea) is just dumb- if you want a dunk contest where only the last 4 minutes matter watch the NBA.)