In the absence of accountability, you get stuff like this

The TSA destroyed Cory Doctorow’s suitcase because it looked like it might be locked.

  1. It was not locked; and
  2. Even if it was, the case was one with the “TSA locks” on it, which TSA agents supposedly have a master key for.

The TSA cannot be held responsible for the destruction, though, because terrorism. Accountability is anathema to this organization; just look at the distance they went to keep their serial gropers from being prosecuted.

Bug Bounties and Law Enforcement

In the 90s, Dilbert was still relatively novel, and was pretty often VERY on-point, as in this strip from almost 20 years ago:


As with most of Adams’ work, this one is predicated on the self-evidently ridiculous behavior of management, and the ability of the technical employees to see the failure immediately. Closely tied to this is the feeling we nearly always get from this kind of comedy: that’s pretty funny, but nobody would actually DO that. I mean, it’s stupid.

Well, yeah. About that. Bug bounties absolutely WERE a thing, but they’re positively benign compared to what the FBI has been doing for nearly 15 years. In the era of the War on Terror, it became necessary for Federal law enforcement to show success against terror plots. That terrorism in the US is fantastically rare isn’t an excuse, apparently, for not stopping terror plots.

So what does the FBI do? They go out and write themselves a minivan. A huge percentage of the “plots” they’ve crowed about stopping since 9/11 are plots that were set up by the Feds themselves as pseudo-sting operations. They’d target ineffectual loners and radicals, and then create a situation for them to get carried away and join other “radicals” — typically undercover officers — in an ambitious plot, only to find at the last minute that the plot never existed, but that they were nevertheless guilty of numerous felonies.

But the real winner is the FBI, who gets to trumpet their “success” here and use it to justify more power grabs and more funding. The 20-year-old would-be terrorist may be going to prison behind this, but the REAL losers are all of us, because eventually we’ll have to deal with the metastasizing cancer of overreaching, roll-your-own-crime law enforcement coupled with pols like Boehner using synthetic plots to justify additional government power.

But, hey, my guess is that entrapping basement-dwelling 20-year-olds is a lot easier than catching actual bad guys.

Turns out, being on the wrong side of history costs a lot of money

The gay-hatin’ National Organization for Marriage is drowning in debt after their donations dropped by half from 2012 to 2013.

An between 2012 and 2013, NOM saw a staggering 50 percent drop in donations. The group raised $5.1 million in 2013, and two donors accounted for more than half the money raised by the group, according to HRC.

Emphasis added. That’s some grassroots org you’ve got there, bigots.

“To prevent Obama from becoming the hero who fixed Washington, McConnell decided to break it. And it worked.”

This piece is very, very spot on, and it makes clear something I’ve been trying to articulate for years: People like Mitch McConnell are not Americans. They are Republicans, concerned first and foremost with the good of their party, not the nation, and certainly not those whom they purport to represent.

Edit: Messages like this one from the National Review just make this point even clearer: don’t do things; people will start to expect that. Keep your eyes on 2016.

I mean, seriously. WTF?

This is the platonic ideal of “barnburner”

Kentucky Secretary of State and Democratic senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes took Mitch McConnell to the goddamn WOODSHED in this speech — and he was sitting right in the room. The cutaways to his face are fucking DELICIOUS; he clearly has no idea what hit him.

I mean. DAMN.

McConnell had to follow her, which put him behind a pretty serious eight ball, and he absolutely failed to help himself in any way — as Grimes predicted, he basically just tried to run against Obama, who, as she pointed out, isn’t actually running for any office in Kentucky.

Turns out…

…the US isn’t much of a democracy anymore, at least not by the metrics that matter, according to a new study.

“[T]he preferences of economic elites,” conclude Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin I. Page, who work with the nonprofit Scholars Strategy Network, “have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do.”

So, yay?

Rancor, ignorance, and. . . power

The House of Representatives Committee on Science is Turning Into A National Embarrassment.

Leading the charge was Texas congressman Randy Weber:

Several members, for example, appeared to be trying to mock rather than engage Holdren on climate change. “I may want to get your cellphone number, Dr. Holdren,” said Representative Randy Weber (R–TX), “because, if we go through another few cycles of global warming and cooling, I may need to ask you when I should buy my long coat on sale.”

Weber, a freshman from the Galveston area, began his interrogation by asking Holdren whether “when you guys do your research, you start with a scientific postulate or theory and work forward from that? Is that right?” Holdren gamely played along, explaining that “it depends on the type of science, but the notion of posing a hypothesis and then trying to determine whether it is right is one of the tried and true approaches in science, yes.”

But Weber’s question was really just a setup for his concluding statement. “I just don’t know how you all prove those theories going back 50 or 100,000 or even millions of years,” Weber said.

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.