Trigger Happy over in the New Republic raises issues worth considering.
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.
This is a democracy. Take part.
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.
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.
…I won’t be the one to stop the angry mobs from grabbing these two:
- Tom “So very wealthy, so very persecuted” Perkins; and
- The CEO of drugmaker Bayer, who said “We did not develop this medicine for Indians. We developed it for western patients who can afford it..”
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.
Speaker of the House Boehner was on Leno last night, and was shockingly frank about his personal ambitions, the ups and downs of his job, and Congress in general.
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.
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.
Turns out, having secret laws and secret interpretations is a-okay with the SCOTUS. So much for transparency.
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.
As John Gruber notes, this means that in our two-party system, nearly half of one of the parties rejects settled science and believes that humans and other living things have existed in their present forms since the beginning of time.
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.
As it turns out, Hobby Lobby only hates contraception in the US. If it’s in China, and it’s mandatory, well, no problem!
How about you keep your goddamn trap shut, you slimy, disingenuous, brain-addled codger?
While I’m sure it was in part a matter of protocol, it delights me to imagine the President chuckling to himself at just precisely how bugfuck crazy unhinged the far Right will get when they see this picture.
Every time I see another story about how the GOP is trying to figure out how to stop alienating women, I’m reminded of this Onion piece from 1996.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over at TPM, Josh Marshall points out that Obama has gone Full Godfather, and thank God for it, as it appears to have worked.
As a followup, there’s also this. (h/t to Rob.)
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.
From Ezra Klein here:
This is all about stopping a law that increases taxes on rich people and reduces subsidies to private insurers in Medicare in order to help low-income Americans buy health insurance. That’s it. That’s why the Republican Party might shut down the government and default on the debt.
And also this:
Democrats won more votes than Republicans in the last election. That was true in the presidential campaign. It was true in the Senate campaigns. And it was true in the House campaigns.
That doesn’t mean the Republican Party is under any obligation to stand back and let Democrats do as they please. But imagine if the Republican Party had won the 2012 election and Senate Democrats threatened to breach the debt ceiling and cause a financial crisis unless Republicans added a public option to Obamacare. Does anyone think a President Mitt Romney would find that position reasonable? Does anyone think that position would be reasonable?
Over at Popehat: People Who Are Not In Federal Prison Today. Read this.
…they shoved through a measure in the House that cuts $39 billion from the SNAP program, i.e. food aid for the poor. Most of those impacted will be children.
Every single person who voted for this measure should be ostracized from polite society. They are heartless, horrible individuals, and are the truest example of “enemies of the people” I have heard of lately.
Yes, I mean every single one of the 217 Republicans who voted for this. All of them. The fifteen Republicans who voted against the measure get a pass.
Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), known to people my age as the lumberjack on the Boston season of The Real World, took to Morning Joe to blast Ted Cruz for bullying and abusing members of the House.
This Washington Post bit is a great distillation into the basics of the situation.
It’s hard to argue with this analysis.
Slightly more Louisiana Republicans blame Obama for the Federal response to Katrina than blame Bush.
Katrina, you may recall, hit in 2005, when Bush was President — and Obama was an effectively powerless freshman senator from Illinois.
(Preface: I was away for a week, so this is a bit of an omnibus post, largely drawn from the excellent TechDirt. TD has in the past focused mostly on abuses of intellectual property law — copyrights and patents — and their damaging effects in the tech world. Since the NSA disclosures, though, they’ve been a vital source for anyone trying to keep up; you should be reading them directly.)
As always, Bruce Schneier is on top of it. The clear takeaway here is that the terrorism law provisions were clearly misused to bully and intimidate Miranda as a proxy for Greenwald and Snowden — in other words, to “send a message“. From Schneier’s piece:
This leaves one last possible explanation — those in power were angry and impulsively acted on that anger. They’re lashing out: sending a message and demonstrating that they’re not to be messed with — that the normal rules of polite conduct don’t apply to people who screw with them. That’s probably the scariest explanation of all. Both the U.S. and U.K. intelligence apparatuses have enormous money and power, and they have already demonstrated that they are willing to ignore their own laws. Once they start wielding that power unthinkingly, it could get really bad for everyone.
Once again: Fuck That. This is not how honorable nations behave. I’m increasingly skeptical this matters to anyone in power (even if it mattered to them before they gained power, even). The government’s incredibly illegal reaction to Manning’s leaks — n.b. that she’s been given a sentence well in excess of those convicted of actual espionage, and that the criminal acts exposed by the leaks have resulted in ZERO punishments — make it pretty clear Snowden did the right thing by leaving.
The NSA and the rest of the American security apparatus are wildly out of control. They have no real oversight (and are probably not worth the money they cost), and their apologists think this is fine. It’s not. Anyone given power over their fellow citizens must be policed MORE than average citizens, not less, because power absolutely corrupts. Just as the standard of behavior for a beat cop must be higher than that of a civilian, we must hold our spy agencies to similarly high standards. And that means civilian oversight. Government secrecy is anathema to freedom, and is self-evidently out of control — I mean, if the idea of secret laws and *secret courts** don’t freak you right the hell out, I don’t know what I can do for you.
Instead of a rollback, though, so far we’ve just gotten metastasis. Government agents are acting like thugs, blatantly intimidating perceived enemies. You probably heard that a secure email service called Lavabit shut down earlier this month after receiving one of those so-called “national security letters;” the thought at the time was that he was afraid of what the Feds might ask for in the future (and that he wouldn’t be able to complain about it, because of the gag provisions in the security letters). In response, the Feds are now threatening him with arrest and charges for shutting down — which makes us wonder if their real goal wasn’t a back door that would allow them access to everyone’s Lavabit mail. Good on Levison for doing the right thing, because it’s a matter of record that, when given the chance, the NSA is datamining the shit out of everything they can get their hands on, which at this point we realize includes about 75% of US Internet traffic.
Fortunately, we’re getting outrage on both sides of the pond to the overreach of intelligence organizations — outrage that can only be fueled by amazingly tone-deaf defenses from the British Home Office and American right-wing hacks like John “Torture is A-Okay!” Yoo (who, amazingly, argues that while the Justice Department should be governed by the 4th Amendment, military and intelligence agencies should be free to ignore it). In the UK, the fire’s been further fueled by the darkly hilarious development that spooks showed up at the Guardian and demanded to be allowed to destroy the hard drives holding the Snowden documents, and invoked the Prime Minister’s authority to do it — and never mind that Greenwald has clearly made copies and backups kept in other locations. It’s just more hamfisted intimidation tactics, and it’s not likely to work well for the Cameron government. Fortunately.
It’s become clear that we can trust absolutely nothing that the NSA says about its programs, and that Congress should have the same expectation. It’s time to clean house and start over. Neuter these fucks. Remind them who they work for, and put to rest forever the bullshit “well, if you knew what I know, but can’t tell you, you’d be happy I was doing $Illegal_thing in your name” defense.
Civil forfeiture remains an enormous problem. Basically, law enforcement can confiscate anything they like, and it’s on you to try to get it back. Due process doesn’t apply.
In general, you needn’t be found guilty to have your assets claimed by law enforcement; in some states, suspicion on a par with “probable cause” is sufficient. Nor must you be charged with a crime, or even be accused of one. Unlike criminal forfeiture, which requires that a person be convicted of an offense before his or her property is confiscated, civil forfeiture amounts to a lawsuit filed directly against a possession, regardless of its owner’s guilt or innocence.
Go read it. It’s long; it’s from The New Yorker. But you need to read it. A critical fact here is that law enforcement organizations have grown fat and happy on the ill-gotten gains that civil forfeiture brings, and are loathe to back away from it as a result because it directly benefits them, and never mind the people they’re stealing from.
“But that won’t happen to me!” you may think, but you’d be wrong. It just takes a few corrupt officers to create a Tenaha situation. For a while, maybe it won’t happen to nice, upper-middle-class white people who can afford lawyers and a court fight — but it won’t stay that way. And it’s utter BULLSHIT that this happens to anyone, regardless of race, class, or wealth.
Is it a powerful tool? No one contests that. But it’s a tool the government should NOT have, because it’s so prone to abuse. There’s no real recourse for the victims, and insufficient oversight of the criminals in charge. As with most problems with law enforcement or prosecutorial misconduct, their fundamental immunity from any personal consequences to their actions exacerbates the problem.
- The government has the capability to eavesdrop on every call and email, and the laws that govern this ability are state secrets that cannot be challenged in court.
- The government has asserted its right to declare someone and “illegal combatant” — basically, enemy of the state — and asserts that, in so doing, it is free to imprison, punish, or torture that person without due process, and without opportunity for judicial relief.
- The government can and does confiscate private property without compensation on trumped-up charges with only the slimmest of chances of getting anything back.
If we do not insist that this shit STOP with a furious quickness, it’s game over for this so-called land of the free. It’s not about what Obama might do with these powers; it’s about what a bad guy might do. Or a misguided good guy. We should never give the government a power that we would not want our worst political enemies to have, but we’ve been asleep too long, and the state has gradually acquired several such powers under cover of the (utterly bullshit) war on drugs, or because of 9/11.
It’s time to stop it.