Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The death throes of white privilege

"This country values property rights over people."

And it begins not with black rage against cops, but white rage against progress.

When we look back on what happened in Ferguson, Mo., during the summer of 2014, it will be easy to think of it as yet one more episode of black rage ignited by yet another police killing of an unarmed African American male. But that has it precisely backward. What we’ve actually seen is the latest outbreak of white rage. Sure, it is cloaked in the niceties of law and order, but it is rage nonetheless.

Protests and looting naturally capture attention. But the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African American voting strength or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment. It goes virtually unnoticed, however, because white rage doesn’t have to take to the streets and face rubber bullets to be heard. Instead, white rage carries an aura of respectability and has access to the courts, police, legislatures and governors, who cast its efforts as noble, though they are actually driven by the most ignoble motivations.

The post-Civil War period, Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of the 1960s, the ascension of Barack Obama to the presidency.  Everyone thought this nation would improve after those things happened, but they didn't; things got worse instead.  And everybody knows why that is.

So when you think of Ferguson, don’t just think of black resentment at a criminal justice system that allows a white police officer to put six bullets into an unarmed black teen. Consider the economic dislocation of black America. Remember a Florida judge instructing a jury to focus only on the moment when George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin interacted, thus transforming a 17-year-old, unarmed kid into a big, scary black guy, while the grown man who stalked him through the neighborhood with a loaded gun becomes a victim. Remember the assault on the Voting Rights Act. Look at Connick v. Thompson, a partisan 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2011 that ruled it was legal for a city prosecutor’s staff to hide evidence that exonerated a black man who was rotting on death row for 14 years. And think of a recent study by Stanford University psychology researchers concluding that, when white people were told that black Americans are incarcerated in numbers far beyond their proportion of the population, “they reported being more afraid of crime and more likely to support the kinds of punitive policies that exacerbate the racial disparities,” such as three-strikes or stop-and-frisk laws.

A friend of mine wrote this.

"America is witnessing the death throes of white privilege. It's not going to be pretty -- it's been the operating principle of this continent for four centuries. The indigenous people and the imported labor and their descendants have been exceedingly polite up to this point, considering what they've endured. To my fellow Caucasians, I suggest you don't try to rub it in."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"A system cannot fail..."

"... those it was never meant to protect." -- W.E. B. DuBois


Just remember, as the mass media focuses on property damage, that this response is about something far more serious.

Police, dressed like soldiers, prepare to liberate a used car sales office.

"There's clearly a license for violence against minorities, specifically blacks," said Mike Arnold, 38, a teacher. "It happens all the time. Something's got to be done about it. Hopefully this will be a turning point."

Darren Wilson testified before the grand jury (highly unusual), auditioned television reporters for interviews, and got married -- to another Ferguson police officer -- prior to last night's decision.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Pre-Turkey Day Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance knows that even in a bad political year it has plenty to be thankful for as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff highlights Texas for Marriage, a new grassroots group whose goal is to bring marriage equality to our state.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos as well as for Daily Kos, is not surprised to know Greg Abbott has jumped on the Obama bashing bandwagon on immigration. Funny how the actual lawless ones try to pin their sins on the POTUS. Greg Abbott's reaction to immigration? The usual. TX Dems are not giving up.

Even as the United States Senate in the 114th Congress looks to be one of the most freakishly conservative in almost a hundred years, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs reminds everyone that -- two years from now -- nearly half of that Republican majority has to be defended, and many of those seats are in blue states. So maybe Democrats can work on building turnout then...?

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is furious over Greg Abbott's plan to take money away from projects that promote the general welfare. What does Abbott want to do with our money? Harass Mexicans and hurt the image of the Rio Grande Valley.

Easter Lemming Liberal News noted a Pants on Fire ruling from PolitiFact. Not their rating over an Obama statement on the XL pipeline but Easter Lemming's rating of PolitiFact's lie.

The Lewisville Texan Journal reported on the 3.3 magnitude earthquake that shook Irving. And Bluedaze, having reported on many of these, has a few comments also.

Texpatriate responded to the president's executive order on immigration.

Eye on Williamson had the news about the second resignation of the county's elections administrator.

======================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Trail Blazers covered megachurch hate pastor John Hagee's speech to the largest Christian Zionist organization in the US, where he declared that President Obama is an anti-Semite.

Socratic Gadfly observed that Obama's immigration plans lays bare of all the fears of the birthers.

The Texas Election Law Blog gently criticizes three less-than-stellar arguments from the week's news.

The Rivard Report highlights Texas' achievements in renewable energy.

The TSTA Blog reminds us that vouchers are a bad answer for education.

Newsdesk reviews Ted Cruz's "politics as prop comedy" act on net neutrality and other Internet issues.

Grits for Breakfast is busy analyzing pre-filed criminal justice bills.

Texas Clean Air Matters calls out ERCOT for missing the big picture on clean energy.

Better Texas Blog reminds us that immigrants drive Texas' economic success.

Concerned Citizens surveys the now much more interesting San Antonio mayoral landscape.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday Shorts

This is why people don't believe me when I tell them I've lived in Texas all of my life (except for a calendar year in Florida).  Putting mine on again as the weather warms a little, and posting them here because the time to blog is still too tight.

-- Ted Cruz understands the philosophy of the great Roman orators about as clearly as he comprehends net neutrality.  That, or he's a fraud.  I think it's both.

To adapt Cicero’s “Against Catiline” to his contemporary context, Cruz tweaked and replaced many of Cicero’s words and phrases. The speech becomes more disturbing when one considers the words Cruz writes over—what classical scholars and papyrologists call palimpsests. For the well-trained reader, lurking beneath Cruz’s already inflammatory words are suggestions that Obama, Cruz’s modern-day Catiline, “should long ago have been led to execution,” marks members of the Senate for death, and seeks “to destroy the whole world with fire and slaughter.” Dangerous words indeed.

Let’s return to that line about Obama openly desiring “to destroy the Constitution and this Republic.” Cruz positions himself as the defender of the Constitution, the state, and—by extension in our American context—democracy. But Cicero was no proponent of popular sovereignty. In “On the Republic (De re publica),” Cicero describes the lower classes as “insane” and very explicitly blames the decline of Athenian power on its democracy. Through his spokesperson Scipio, Cicero offers that “these democratic pleaders do not understand the nature or importance of a well–constituted aristocracy.” Cicero vehemently advocates for maintaining a rigid class system and for restricting the access of the lower classes to the political process. Cicero allied himself with the “Optimates” (“Best Men”), who wished to preserve the aristocracy’s power by limiting the powers of popular assemblies.

Is Cicero really the best symbol to defend our Constitution? The next time Senator Cruz feels inspired to deliver a public reading on the Senate floor, he might be on safer ground if he returns to reciting Dr. Seuss.

-- HPD or NSA?  How about neither one?

A recent report by Jace Larson at KPRC-TV confirmed the long-speculated but unestablished practice of HPD using technology that can spy on cellphones without needing a warrant. The device in question, called a StingRay, mimics a cellphone tower and tricks phones into connecting through it. This allows police to look at the metadata from any nearby cellphone, like who you call or text and where you travel throughout the day. And without a warrant, there is little way to stop police from looking at innocent bystanders alongside suspected criminals.

Our police department has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on hardware, software and training from Harris Corporation, which makes the StingRay device. HPD has asked for an additional $80 million in funds for its already-bloated budget; over the last decade HPD has seen its budget grow from $468 million to $722 million, and that doesn't include the cost of the crime lab and neighborhood protection departments. Meanwhile, HPD has actually lost more than 100 officers in that time.

City Hall needs to ask whether HPD is blowing its budget on these sorts of constitutionally questionable practices. Only two local police departments in Texas -- Houston and Fort Worth -- have these cellphone trackers, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Why does Houston find this technology necessary to fight crime and not, say, Dallas or San Antonio? Easy access to military hardware has folks worried about the militarization of police, but now it seems we need to worry about the police acting like the National Security Agency, as well. Like small town officers running around in tanks, HPD has yet to provide evidence that its gadgets add any value to police work besides threatening the civilians they're supposed to protect.

Texas' own Court of Criminal Appeals has held that citizens should have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of their cellphones. HPD's technological trickery shouldn't be a loophole to the Fourth Amendment.

Dozens of Texas legislators cosponsored a bill last session to end this sort of warrantless wiretapping, but it never made it to the governor's desk. The next legislative session is just around the corner, so tell your elected officials to guarantee that our 21st century police don't get to act like it is 1984. 

-- Speaking of spying, here's one really simple way to stop it.

Water, water everywhere and not a drop for the premier National Security Agency data collection center—if one conservative lawmaker gets his way.

Not only is Utah the second driest state in the nation, it’s also home to the largest NSA data collection facility. Located in the Salt Lake City suburb Bluffdale, the Utah Data Center guzzles up to 1 million gallons of water each day to cool its computers, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Cutting off the NSA’s water supply could effectively throw a wrench into the agency’s work collecting domestic phone and email records—and that’s just what Republican state Rep. Marc Roberts wants to do. His bill would force the city to “refuse material support or assistance to any federal data collection and surveillance agency.” That would mean no more cheap water to aid mass domestic spying, a regular practice unveiled by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year.

-- The assholishness of Uber is still news.

Uber is part of an increasing trend towards the casualisation of labour. This means fewer full time jobs, uncertain hours, less income, and less regulation. Recruiting a workforce from the sharing economy is a way companies can shift significant costs from themselves to employees, and to society more broadly.

-- Hide the children from their schoolbooks.

Christian conservatives win, children lose: Texas textbooks will teach public school students that the Founding Fathers based the Constitution on the Bible, and the American system of democracy was inspired by Moses.

On Friday the Republican-controlled Texas State Board of Education voted along party lines 10-5 to approve the biased and inaccurate textbooks. The vote signals a victory for Christian conservatives in Texas, and a disappointing defeat for historical accuracy and the education of innocent children.

The textbooks were written to align with instructional standards that the Board of Education approved back in 2010 with the explicit intention of forcing social studies teaching to adhere to a conservative Christian agenda. The standards require teachers to emphasize America’s so called “Christian heritage.”

In essence, Christian conservatives in Texas have successfully forced a false historical narrative into public school textbooks that portray Moses as an influence on the Constitution and the Old Testament as the root of democracy.

Critics called the whole process into question after publishers posted a number of last-minute changes to the textbooks yesterday, leaving board members and observers without time to figure out exactly what was in the approved texts.

According to reports, scholars did not have an opportunity to review and comment on the numerous changes publishers have submitted since the last public hearing. Some of those changes appeared to have been negotiated with state board members behind closed doors.

You have to tip your hat to the tenacious patience of the Godniks and Jeebus freaks; they pursued a long-term strategy of taking over the SBOE and it's paying off at last for them.   On the other hand, the Romans probably had the right idea re: lions and Christians.

It's time like this when I wish Obama had the resolve to do to the Talibaptists what he's doing once more to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Friday, November 21, 2014

'Pass a bill'


In a move that infuriated his Republican critics and drew unspecified pledges to counter it, Obama said nearly all undocumented people living in the country for more than five years and who have a child who is a US citizen or legal permanent resident can apply for a three-year work authorization.

The president also broadened the program he launched in 2012 that provides temporary residency to young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before the age of 16.

"There are actions I have the legal authority to take as president -- the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me -- that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just," Obama said in a 15-minute speech broadcast from the White House.

The order will affect about 44 percent of the 11.3 million people -- mostly from Mexico and Central America -- living in the United States illegally and doing menial jobs that most Americans snub.

"Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?" he asked.

But he quickly stressed that the sweeping order, the most comprehensive immigration step in years, "does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive.

"Only Congress can do that," he added. "All we're saying is we're not going to deport you."

Obama's executive order shifts US policy from a dragnet approach to all illegal immigrants to a focus on deporting convicted felons and those who pose a danger to society.

[...]

"If you're a criminal, you'll be deported. If you plan to enter the US illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up," he said.

Not really seeing why the Republicans are so mad about this.

"To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: pass a bill." [...] "I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary."

Update: Thank goodness; an explainer.

And what are their alternatives? Impotent rage? A government shutdown? A slow-moving lawsuit? A disastrous impeachment effort? A solemn vow that whatever damage Obama does to the constitutional order, Republicans will double it when they retake the White House? All of these are likelier to wound the GOP than Obama. None of these are likely to benefit the party in 2016. And none of them solve the underlying problem.

Nor does continued confusion around immigration help Republicans. Just ask Mitt Romney, who tried to split the difference between restrictionists and reformers by endorsing "self-deportation". That worked well enough that Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee, came out after the election to make clear that "it's not our party's position." But that's only because his party doesn't have a position.

That, really, is Obama's advantage right now. Even if you think he's going too far, he at least wants to solve the problem. Republicans don't seem to want to do anything except stop Obama from solving the problem. That's not a winning position. More to the point, it's not a responsible one.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Who's having the worst week?

-- Bill Cosby or Uber?  I say it's a tie.  Vote in the comments if you like.

-- I am refusing to pay much attention to 2016 presidential jockeying, but if you're not like me and want a much-too-early tell for what the GOP is in store for, then here are two articles you can read today.  A prominent local Republican I had lunch with post-election indicated that former governors are at the top of his list, and named Scott Walker specifically.

Jim Webb announced (that he's just, you know, exploring) yesterday.  Because there is a huge unrepresented constituency to the right of Hillary Clinton that the Democrats will need in order to hold the White House in 2016: conservative suburban, exurban, and rural white males who favor the military above all else.

That might be sarcasm; you decide.  Now you know why I ain't paying much attention.

-- The media keep making themselves the story.  This is really getting stale.

-- Leticia Van de Putte will run for mayor of San Antonio, spoiling the hopes of former state Rep. Mike Villarreal, who's already resigned his seat in the Texas House.  It also sets off a scrum for her Texas Senate chair; running first in speculative replacements is TMF.  There's a special election scheduled three weeks from now to replace Jethro Bodine Glenn Hegar in SD-BFE, and taking the early lead there is state representative Lois Kochwhore Kolkhorst.  (Sorry, that was mean.)  Can she out-crook this guySome country gal is already running for K's House seat.

Update (10/22): Turns out Villarreal did not resign, technically (see his letter saying he will 'decline to assume the office').  As QR notes, he may be able re-assume his place in the Texas House.  He's saying he will not, FWIW.  But another GOP House member has quit to work for Archie Bunker Sid Miller at Ag, so there will be one more HD special election called at some point.

Now you know why I haven't posted about the makeup of the next Lege yet.  Not much left in the way of breaking news; far right moves farther right, same as with our Washington representation.  Plenty of time to take a look at that, probably after Thanksgiving and maybe after all these special elections.

-- Ben Hall is running for mayor of Houston once more, and has gotten busy destroying his credibility all over again.  I thought rich people were supposed to be smart.

I got nothing else.  Still recovering from the latest (and extremely powerful) version of The Crud, and still need to close out my books for 2014.  Talk amongst yourselves in the comments.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

While we wait

... for Obama to bust his move on immigration reform, a few leaks begin to trickle.

President Barack Obama is poised to give relief from deportation to millions of undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or of permanent legal residents, according to a source familiar with White House deliberations.

Obama has promised to lay out the details of an executive order on immigration. The action could come as early as this week.

The source, who asked not to be identified, said some details were not yet available on which parents of citizens or permanent residents would be included. The Obama administration, the source said, had been looking at options including those parents who have been living in the United States for five years or 10 years.

A top Obama aide is scheduled to have lunch with Senate Democrats on Thursday on Capitol Hill. White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, who will discuss the state of the economy and the post-election legislative agenda, is likely to be pressed on the immigration issue in the closed-door luncheon.

On Monday, in an interview with Univision, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said that Obama should move on immigration "now."

Obama is expected to take actions to allow some undocumented people to live here at least temporarily without the threat of deportation and to hold jobs in the United States. Obama's executive order could also include further border security steps, according to sources. Obama is expected to stress that he wants to focus efforts on deportations of illegal residents with serious criminal backgrounds.

He might be waiting on the Ferguson grand jury's decision regarding the indictment of Michael Brown's murderer.  If he is, then the immigration news will take a back seat for a few days.

Update: He's not waiting much longer.  It makes sense that he would do it in the evening for primetime TV cameras.  (As opposed to the Ferguson grand jury matter, which will almost certainly be announced in the early hours of some morning, as far from nightfall as they can manage.)

... for Missouri to explode, and engulf the rest of the nation.

A St. Louis suburb that faced weeks of sometimes violent protests following August's fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman remained on edge on Wednesday as it waited to learn if the officer would face charges.

A grand jury has been meeting for nearly three months, considering whether to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an incident that laid bare long-simmering racial tensions in the mostly black city.

There's been some taunting going on as well.

Some of Wilson's supporters have been almost agitating for a showdown. One raised money to purchase a billboard with the slogan, "Pants Up, Don't Loot," playing off the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" rallying cry of Ferguson protesters. A Missouri chapter of the KKK threatened "lethal force" against protesters.

It's no exaggeration that the rest of the country is nearly as tense as Ferguson.  Not joking.

... to see how many more Texans will have to die from exploding or leaking toxic chemicals before Republicans and those who vote for them start demand some accountability.

On Saturday morning, four workers died at a DuPont chemical plant that manufactures the pesticide Lannate in La Porte, Texas after a leak of the poisonous gas methyl mercaptan. A fifth was hospitalized but later released. The plant hasn’t been visited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 2007.

Such a deadly accident without an explosion or fire is unusual, according to the Wall Street Journal.

[...]

The plant is also out of compliance with hazardous waste management and air emissions standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to records reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. The agency brought formal enforcement actions against it for violations in 2012 and 2014, resulting in $117,375 in penalties. DuPont is also in discussions with the EPA and Justice Department about these issues at the La Porte plant, which began after a 2008 inspection.

And over the last five years, the plant was cited for violating state law at least two dozen times by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, according to a review of state records by the Texas Tribune, for failures related to performing routine safety inspections, keeping equipment in working order, and preventing pollution leaks. Most recently, it released 36,500 pounds of sulfur dioxide over the course of three hours in September, well above the allowed limit, and in August last year it leaked 40 pounds of chlorine. Some of the more serious citations resulted in fines of a few thousand dollars.

Too bad the families of the dead La Porte DuPont employees didn't drive around and ask.

... for Uber to suffer some blowback for being the world's latest, greatest corporate assholes.  It's got to happen sooner or later, right?

Right?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Senate votes tonight on Keystone, NSA reforms

-- Approval of the Keystone XL pipeline falls one vote short of cloture -- 59-41 -- just minutes ago.

After six days of political wrangling and vote-whipping, the Senate failed to pass a bill on Tuesday forcing authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline, dashing hopes of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) to add the vote to her list of accomplishments heading into a tough runoff election.

Fifty-nine senators voted for the bill, one short of the 60 needed to clear a filibuster. Fourteen Democrats joined all the Senate Republicans in voting for the bill, which was cosponsored by Landrieu and John Hoeven (R-N.D.). The House passed companion legislation on Friday from Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Landrieu's opponent in the runoff election.

Landrieu said going into Tuesday's debate that it was "one of the first debates I've been in in eight years where the outcome is uncertain." She added, however, that she went into the debate "knowing in my heart we have 60 votes. I hope we've got the courage that supports that."

But that last vote never materialized.

The Landrieu Rescue Gambit is very likely also a failure.  The new Senate will take up the measure again in 2015, with an eye toward 67 votes... the number needed to override a presidential veto.

Update: Here are the 14 Democrats who voted 'aye'.

Mark Begich (Alaska)
Michael Bennet (Colorado)
Tom Carper (Delaware)
Bob Casey (Pennsylvania)
Joe Donnelly (Indiana)
Kay Hagan (North Carolina)
Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota)
Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)
Joe Manchin (West Virginia)
Claire McCaskill (Missouri)
Mark Pryor (Arkansas)
Jon Tester (Montana)
John Walsh (Montana)
Mark Warner (Virginia)

Begich, Hagan, Pryor, Walsh, and probably Landrieu won't be in the Senate next year, replaced by Republicans whose no votes don't add to the tally.  Republicans in 2015 who will switch Democratic yes votes include Ernst of Iowa, Gardner of Colorado, Rounds of South Dakota, and Capito of West Virginia.  Meaning they still don't have 67, but that won't slow them down any.

"If you look at new Congress, you can count four more (GOP seats) right away, and there may be others," Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, the lead sponsor of the bill, said after the 59-41 vote Tuesday. "You can see we're well over 60."

Hoeven acknowledged that Republicans would need 67 votes to override a veto, but said one possibility is to include Keystone in a larger energy package that may not prompt a veto threat.

Update (11/19): Or Obama could cut a deal with Republicans.

President Barack Obama might be open to using the Keystone pipeline as leverage with Republicans if they cooperate on other aspects of his long-stalled domestic agenda, such as investing in infrastructure, closing tax loopholes or reducing carbon emissions.

After years of fighting over TransCanada's crude oil pipeline from Canada, a Keystone deal is not entirely out of the question, sources inside the administration and others close to the White House told Reuters on Tuesday.

-- The Senate will also decide tonight how much spying on Americans -- and to what extent -- will continue happening.  Vox:

The original version of the USA Freedom Act, introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) in October 2013, had a number of provisions on the wish lists of civil liberties groups. But by the time the legislation was approved by the House of Representatives in May 2014, it had been watered down so much that leading civil liberties groups opposed it.

So, in July, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced his own version of the USA Freedom Act in the Senate. It is less radical than the original USA Freedom Act, but places more limits on the NSA than the legislation approved by the House.

Debate over the USA Freedom Act has focused on the best way to rein in bulk collection of Americans' phone records. The Senate version of the legislation requires any collection of phone records to focus on a suitably narrow "selector" — a search term that identifies an individual, phone line, or other specific entity.

The Senate bill would also take some other steps to make the NSA's activities more transparent and accountable. Right now, when the government asks the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to approve surveillance activities, there is no one around to present opposing arguments. The Senate bill would change that by creating several new positions for public advocates who could participate in FISC proceedings.

The bill would also require the government to disclose significant FISC opinions (though the government could decline to publish them if it decides doing so would damage national security) and to publish detailed statistics about the extent of domestic spying activities.

Here's the most interesting part; who stands against the legislation and why.

Advocates at both extremes of the surveillance debate oppose the bill. From the pro-surveillance side, former NSA director Michael Hayden and former attorney general Michael Mukasey recently blasted the bill as "NSA Reform That Only ISIS Could Love." At the opposite end of the political spectrum, some hard-core civil libertarians are opposing the bill for being too soft on the NSA.

Interestingly, Kentucky's two Republican Senators, Rand Paul and majority leader Mitch McConnell, oppose the bill for opposite reasons. Paul thinks it doesn't go far enough, while McConnell believes it ties the NSA's hands too much. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), the top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, agrees with McConnell.

The bill will need 60 votes to overcome an expected filibuster.

More there about how the various amendments to be offered might strengthen or weaken the bill.  I'll update here with the final vote later tonight (or tomorrow morning if they go on all night).

Update:

The Senate on Tuesday blocked a bill to end bulk collection of American phone records by the National Security Agency, dealing a blow to President Barack Obama's primary proposal to rein in domestic surveillance.

The 58-42 vote was two short of the 60 needed to proceed with debate. Voting was largely along party lines, with most Democrats supporting the bill and most Republicans voting against it. The Republican-controlled House had previously passed its own NSA bill.

The legislation would have ended the NSA's collection of domestic calling records, instead requiring the agency to obtain a court order each time it wanted to analyze the records in terrorism cases, and query records held by the telephone companies. In many cases the companies store the records for 18 months.

The revelation that the spying agency had been collecting and storing domestic phone records since shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was among the most significant by Edward Snowden, a former agency network administrator who turned over secret NSA documents to journalists. The agency collects only so-called metadata — numbers called, not names — and not the content of conversations. But the specter of the intelligence agency holding domestic calling records was deeply disquieting to many Americans.

The bill had drawn support from technology companies and civil liberties activists. Its failure means there has been little in the way of policy changes as a result of Snowden's disclosures.