Come for the guns! Stay for the racism!

At TPM: “Tea Partiers Livid State GOP Wants Clarification On White Supremacy Affiliation.”

There is so much derp in this bit:

[State Senator Chris] McDaniel had been slated to be the keynote speaker at a combined Firearm Freedom Day/ Tea Party Music Festival in Guntown, Mississippi. That event featured a vendor who sold Confederate memorabilia and founded the Council of White Patriot Voters and the Confederate Patriot Voters United, which the Southern Poverty Law Center listed as an active white nationalist group.

In a story full of amazement, I was even MORE amazed to discover that there is a place called Guntown, MS. Because OF COURSE THERE IS.

The dangers of poor science education

One of the key arguments being made by Hobby Lobby in their contraception coverage case is that some of the birth control methods being covered are “abortifacients.”

What they mean by this is that they believe they cause abortions, and reject the scientific information on offer that establishes conclusively that these drugs instead prevent conception.

This is a dangerous place to be: we have let science education get so mired in political, right-wing, evangelical bullshit combined with a populace that’s effectively illiterate that these fools are on the verge of winning a landmark case about health care on the back of their claim that their BELIEF that these drugs cause abortions, despite all medical evidence.

More at TPM, which you should read.

How the Halfwit States will Hold Us Back

You’re a long way from high school civics, I know, but I’m sure you know how the US Congress works: one chamber apportions representation based on population (with the will of the people widely thwarted by gerrymandering) while the other gives each state equal representation.

The US population has been migrating to urban centers for years, which concentrates progressive votes in small geographic areas — and in fewer states. The way Congress works, though, means that the GOP could gain control of the Senate while representing a minority of the US population.

And it’s likely they will.

The mistake would be expecting Scalia to be intellectually consistent

Scalia is widely viewed as the most hostile Supreme Court justice to Obama in general, and to health care and birth control specifically, so it’s no surprise that progressives see him as the enemy in the upcoming case challenging the requirement that most businesses provide health coverage that includes birth control. However, it turns out that Nino’s own rulings in the past establish a strong legal precedent for precisely the kind of requirement that Hobby Lobby, et. al., are challenging.

In 1990, the issue was whether or not two men fired from their jobs for smoking peyote could collect unemployment, which is ordinarily not available to those fired for cause (i.e., for using drugs).

Scalia said no:

“[T]he right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability,” Scalia wrote in the 6-3 majority decision, going on to aggressively argue that such exemptions could be a slippery slope to lawlessness.

“The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind,” he wrote, “ranging from compulsory military service, to the payment of taxes, to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races.”

So terribly proud

The idiot represesntive being aggressively, arrogantly wrong in this story about copyright infringement hearings in Washington is, of course, our own.

The ignorant right-wing anti-gay Poe, by way of a truly shameful degree of gerrymandering, represents both distant exurbs AND most of Montrose, i.e. one of Texas’ oldest “gayborhoods.”

We’re completely sure that district was rationally determined and not constructed to minimize the Democratic vote bloc that is Montrose.

In conclusion: Fuck Ted Poe.

Just so we’re clear: the anti-choice right is objectively anti-birth control

This should be obvious, since they want to both ban abortion AND make it harder to get access to any family planning services — hence the hostility to Planned Parenthood, and their ongoing support for folks like Hobby Lobby, who are suing to avoid having their insurance plan cover contraception at all.

You’d think that, if their actual desire was to reduce the incidence of abortion, they’d work super, super hard to make sure all women had access to highly effective means of birth control. But that’s not what they want. What they want is for sex to always carry the significant risk of pregnancy, for everyone, all the time. They see the fact that we’ve decoupled sex and childbearing as a problem, not an advance, and they’re desperate to roll back the clock.

Cases like Hobby Lobby’s force them to drop their veil just a bit, so we can see what they want more clearly. My guess is that even the notoriously halfwitted American public don’t really agree with them here; the Democrats should remember this issue come fall.

Busy? I don’t care. Do this.

Today is the day we fight back against ridiculous, overreaching, plainly illegal surveillance from the NSA.

Go to the link. The EFF will help you determine who your reps in Congress are, and will even set up the phone calls and give you talking points.

Make time. Even if your reps are, as mine are, generally weasels. This kind of day of action is precisely what pols respect.

This is a democracy. Take part.

I swear to God, I thought this was the Onion

But no: Fox News is freaking out over CVS’s decision to stop selling tobacco products.

Professional halfwit Gretchen Carlson actually asked, on air, “Is it OK legally … to restrict tobacco availability in a private store like this?” Apparently, Ms Carlson thinks some body of law governs what must be sold in any given store, and implicitly supports such laws, despite the rather alarming implications.

This is really yet another example of Fox being primarily interested only in stories they can warp into a club to hit the President with. How anyone takes them seriously is completely beyond me.

TDS on the Minimum Wage

Just go watch.

It remains amazing to me that the Wal-Marts and McDonald’s of the world get away with opposing minimum wage hikes when their own employees require public assistance to make ends meet. In effect, every taxpayer is subsidizing their subpar wages. And very few folks are calling them on it.

Friday Letdown: There Is No Ghost Rat Ship

Well, not really, anyway. From The Smithsonian:

Off the coast of England there is a ship. Well, there are probably many ships, but this ship in particular is interesting because it has no people on it. It’s a ghost ship — a 1,400 ton ocean liner of a ghost ship. If you believe the headlines, it’s full of cannibal rats, and it’s heading for England. Neither of those things are true.

The Lyobov Orlova disappeared on Febrauary 4th of last year while it was being towed from Newfoundland to the Dominican Republic. How and why the ship was cut loose is still a mystery, and for months, no one knew where it was.

According to some sources, the ship is infested with “cannibal rats.” But this is more theory than fact, as no one has been on the ship in a year. The cannibal rat theory comes from Pim De Rhoodes, a Belgian salvage hunter, who told tabloid The Sun, “There will be a lot of rats and they eat each other. If I get aboard I’ll have to lace everywhere with poison.” De Rhoodes has no actual information about whether there are rats on the boat, or whether they’re diseased, cannibalistic or perfectly civilized.

According to the BBC, the ship has yet to be sighted off English waters. The Irish Coast Guard isn’t worried, nor is the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency. For more Orlova sightings, the blog Where is Lyubov Orlova tracks sightings and theories about the ship. You can see map of sightings, as well as the ship’s deck plan, and there are shirts and mugs on offer for the most intrepid Orlova hunters.

Disappointing, I know.

This is not of course to say that ghost ships like these aren’t a thing.

“The end of hypocrisy”

This extraordinarily clear and on-point essay over at Foreign Affairs examines the real outgrowth of the Manning/Snowden leaks (and, really, the years of dissembling before them about issues like extraordinary rendition and torture):

[The leaks] undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it. Their danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. When these deeds turn out to clash with the government’s public rhetoric, as they so often do, it becomes harder for U.S. allies to overlook Washington’s covert behavior and easier for U.S. adversaries to justify their own.

Few U.S. officials think of their ability to act hypocritically as a key strategic resource. Indeed, one of the reasons American hypocrisy is so effective is that it stems from sincerity: most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is. Yet as the United States finds itself less able to deny the gaps between its actions and its words, it will face increasingly difficult choices — and may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches.

We can only hope! I’m reminded of Stephen Colbert’s line about torture during the early years of the Iraq war, which was something along the lines of “that we did this doesn’t change the fact that it’s not something we would do,” which frames the situation rather nicely. But go read the whole thing.

The only possible explanation: Rick Perry doesn’t want you to have insurance

No, seriously. Check it out:

The antipathy towards health insurance comes through in everything Rick Perry – and David Dewhurst and Greg Abbott and the rest of the sorry lot – does, from imposing needless burdens on navigators to refusing to expand Medicaid to refusing to implement an exchange, and on and on. If there were some honest ongoing effort over the past decade-plus to do something about the millions of uninsured in Texas, that would be one thing. But the record, and the inactivity, speak for themselves. There’s really no other way to characterize it. Millions of people have become insured around the country, but all we get here is rage and denial.

Go read the whole thing. This ought to be a real issue in the upcoming campaigns.

Dept. of Reaping What You Sowed

A group of conservatives led by the Chamber of Commerce has ginned up a $50 million war chest to, in their own words, keep fools off the tickets.

No, really. Over at Rolling Stone, the ever-entertaining Matt Taibbi outlines just exactly how hilarious it is that we’ve come to this point, especially since Karl Rove is involved in the “no fools” campaign.

Recall it was Rove who, in large part, got us here in the first place:

The situation with Rove is particularly delicious. This is someone who foisted upon the world the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush, a man who couldn’t speak English, didn’t read books or newspapers, and won his second term via the political version of an Inspector Clouseau routine, rallying middle America behind an enraged invasion of the wrong country in retaliation for 9/11.

For a political adviser, getting a blockhead like Bush elected president not once but twice was a major accomplishment. It’s the sort of thing that impresses industry insiders, the same way PR professionals genuinely admire the job Burson-Marsteller did hushing up the Bhopal disaster for Union Carbide, or whitewashing Indonesia’s image after the East Timor massacre.

As such the “Turd Blossom” was continually hailed as a kind of genius throughout the Bush presidency (even liberal pundits got in the act, although they usually called him an “evil genius”), despite the fact that nothing Karl Rove ever did was all that smart.

Rove’s sole insight as a political thinker was that if you completely dispense with the patriotic aspects of governing – you know, that whole doing-what’s-right-for-the-country thing – then winning elections is no different than selling cheeseburgers or scoring high sitcom ratings. You give people what they want, and it doesn’t matter if it’s bad for them.

Exactly. The post-Clinton GOP has never given a single shit about any of their “social issues” at all. They use gays, abortion, immigrants, and now muslims and sharia law as wedge issues to scare the rubes into voting for them. And it keeps working.

Turns out, though, there’s a downside.

If you spend years letting your voters think Saddam Hussein was an agent of al-Qaeda, that passing a national health care program will result in the formation of Stalinist “death panels,” or that Barack Obama is secretly a foreigner, you’re going to end up with some loopy candidates prone to saying crazy things that will turn off voting majorities, which in turn will make it hard to the deliver policy objectives you actually care about for your big-money donors.

The Republican establishment is only just figuring this out.

Go read the whole thing.

Empathy: Not a GOP value

In a recent documentary, Jim Buchy, a state legislator in Ohio, is on record as saying he wants there to be NO legal abortion in Ohio at all except to save a woman’s life.

The interviewer then asks him “Why do think a woman might want to have an abortion?”

Buchy’s response: “It’s a question I’ve never even thought about.”

It’s really not possible to make good policy when you refuse to even consider why the other side might disagree. Sure, you might consider the position and reject it, but to profess complete ignorance means you really haven’t looked into the issue at all.

We see this over and over with the GOP — on taxes, on social programs, on civil rights for gays, etc. It’s endemic. And it needs to stop.

How To Tell That We’re Screwed

When Jim Sensenbrenner, the author of the PATRIOT Act, a mad power-grab by executive power enthusiasts, thinks the NSA and the FBI have gone too damn far:

As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely troubled by the FBI’s interpretation of this legislation. While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses. The Bureau’s broad application for phone records was made under the so-called business records provision of the Act. I do not believe the broadly drafted FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.

Go Home, DHS, You Are Drunk

The Department of Homeland Security is in increasingly hot water over its utterly goatfucked “no-fly” program. Something like 800,000 people are on it, but the DHS insists its classified, and that there’s no oversight or procedure to challenge your inclusion.

Predictably, this has not been popular with, oh, anyone with a brain, which apparently excludes DHS officials.

Anyway, a Stanford PhD student is suing over her inclusion in this list, and that suit is finally at trial. And that’s when the fun starts, because it turns out the DHS has put one of her witnesses on the no-fly list to keep her from testifying. As the witness is the plaintiff’s American-born daughter, this is absolutely NOT going over well with the judge.

Said judge was even less impressed when the DHS lawyers defending the suit lied to him about the situation. This one’s going to be fun to watch; go read the linked article.

Buried in the linked story is a data point that, if true, shows you just exactly how much respect you should have for the DHS program:

It would appear that the lawyers for [plaintiff] Ibrahim are making a (rather compelling, from the evidence) case that bumbling US law enforcement officials confused two very different Malaysian organizations with similar names: Jamaah Islamiyah Malaysia, which is a terrorist organization, and Jamaah Islah Malaysia, “a non-profit professional networking group for Muslims who have returned to Malaysia after post-secondary schooling in the U.S. and Europe.” The two organizations are, as you would imagine, quite different. Ibrahim is involved in the latter, and has no connection to the former, but it sounds like the FBI agents who interviewed her were unaware of the difference.

Feds: We don’t need no steenking transparency!

The Feds are refusing to comply with a court order insisting they disclose the secret interpretation of the PATRIOT Act, under which they commit who-knows-what.

Yes, this means there are still secret laws and secret courts, and they insist it needs to stay this way. This can’t be allowed to stand.

On more minor notes, it seems that the NSA and FBI have decided that, as far as FOIA requests are concerned, enough’s enough. The NSA is (understandably) getting a LOT more requests — up almost 1000% — but it’s no trouble, as they just deny them all.

The FBI, for its part, has stopped responding to the most prolific requester on the grounds that, well, he might learn something. Guess we can’t have that.

Seriously, fuck ALL these people.

What Snowden Has To Say

I’ve actually had this in tab for a few weeks; it’s worth your time to click through and watch the dialog available. Snowden makes some very, very good points. If you don’t have time, here’s the bullet points:

It’s led us to a point in our relationship with the government, where we have an executive — a Department of Justice — that’s unwilling to prosecute high officials who lied to Congress and the country on camera, but they’ll stop at nothing to persecute someone who told them the truth. And that’s a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy.

Hard to argue with that. But he keeps going:

This is not about any particular program. This is about a trend in the relationship between the governing and the governed in America, that is coming increasingly into conflict with what we expect as a free and democratic society. If we can’t understand the policies and programs of our government, we cannot grant our consent in regulating them….

He’s not wrong. Not even a little bit. And the vigor with which he’s been pilloried by those in power shows precisely why he fled rather than work through channels to correct the wrongs he saw happening.

Fun with NSA Apologist Bullshit

This TechDirt post in response to Rep. Mike Rogers’s hilarious pronouncements (basically, “Since nobody complained when nobody knew about this!”) is pretty fantastic.

Colbert’s bits are stellar here; really TOP NOTCH:

Let’s say, instead of falling in the forest, the tree is standing outside your house and I’m hiding in it watching you shower. So far, I’m not violating your privacy. But the second you see me through the window, suddenly I’m the criminal? What about my privacy? I’m trying to masturbate here. Come to think of it, there are all sorts of victimless crimes like this. We know people getting assaulted because they call the police. But I’ve never heard of anyone calling the cops because they were murdered. Therefore, clearly, no one was killed. **By the same logic, folks, I have not insulted Mike Rogers as long as he never hears me say: The reason Mike Rogers uses circular logic is because his head is jammed up his own ass. **

I admire what historians will now call “The Rogers Doctrine”: when it comes to privacy vs. security, we can have one of them, as long as we don’t know which one it is. That way, we can maintain our constitutional rights. Or, if they do take away our rights, just don’t let us find out. That way, we’ll still have them.

How Good Tech Firms Tell the NSA, et. al., to fuck off

The first example is Apple’s new “Warrant Canary” clause. It works like this: there’s a section in their periodically-released transparency report that states very clearly that

Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.

This report is re-issued periodically. Apple may receive a gag-protected demand for user data at some point, and not be able to say anything about it, but if this happens we can expect this clause to vanish from future transparency disclosures. If it’s gone, Big Brother came calling.

The even better example is how furious and enraged Google’s security team is about the disclosure that the NSA was listening on their internal traffic. As a result, they’ve encrypted every bit of that traffic, which renders the NSA’s taps worthless:

We designed this system to keep criminals out. There’s no ambiguity here. The warrant system with skeptical judges, paths for appeal, and rules of evidence was built from centuries of hard won experience. When it works, it represents as good a balance as we’ve got between the need to restrain the state and the need to keep crime in check. Bypassing that system is illegal for a good reason.

Unfortunately we live in a world where all too often, laws are for the little people. Nobody at GCHQ or the NSA will ever stand before a judge and answer for this industrial-scale subversion of the judicial process. In the absence of working law enforcement, we therefore do what internet engineers have always done – build more secure software. The traffic shown in the slides below is now all encrypted and the work the NSA/GCHQ staff did on understanding it, ruined.

Thank GOD for Snowden’s disclosures.

It’s rare to see a Republican be so completely honest

On the Daily Show, correspondent Aasif Mandvi traveled to North Carolina to discuss their new voter ID law with a local GOP activist and precinct chair, Don Yelton.

What followed was bizarre in its candor. The freakshow starts when he says “well, I’ve been called a bigot before…”

His commentary is so amazing that the Bunscombe County GOP has asked him to resign his position as precinct chair, lest we correctly surmise that he is completely representative of the party.

Wait a minute here. Are you telling me the Mississippi Tea Party might be RACIST?

The GOP’s idiot Taliban is funding a loonybird neo-Confederate to run against Sen. Thad Cochran.

I haven’t kept up with him recently, but he’s been historically considered the less-embarrassing senator from the Magnolia State since Lott was elected to fill Stennis’ seat 1989. (I know nothing of his successor, Roger Wicker, who took the seat in 2007.)

My guess is that Mississippi elects the know-nothing, though.

Amazingly, some folks will still insist this isn’t about voter supression

As of this November, Texans must have a photo ID to vote — with their up to date, correct legal name.

Sound innocuous? Sure. Then realize that (a) many women don’t update their driver’s licenses immediately after getting married, because it’s a hassle and (b) women might be a big deal in the next governor’s race down here, on account of Wendy.

It’s not enough to work to disenfranchise the poor, blacks, and others who may not have a state-issued ID; now they’re going after women, too. The is in increasingly dire demographic trouble, so their response is to limit the ability of citizens who dislike their policies to vote. That’s amazing and brazen.

More at MeFi.

The TSA Admits That It Is Useless

I’m sure they meant to redact the document in question, but BoingBoing reports that our boondoggle agency of self-important timewasters has admitted that there is no evidence of terror groups threatening American air travel.

The TSA has a lot of explaining to do, both to members of Congress and to the general public, all of whom were misled as to the threat we face and the justification for the most intrusive searches ever performed on the public at large in the United States in the history of this great nation. The terrorists that the TSA has made the country fear, it admits, do not actually exist.

Maddow sums it up

From here:

In other words, Boehner’s stated position is that the party that won the election should make major concessions to the party that lost the election in exchange for nothing. If the party that won the election balks at this attempted extortion, Republicans will start hurting Americans on purpose.