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Congress was giving spies a pass back in 1975, too


If you are outraged by American spies getting a free pass from their political masters (and you really should be), remember that this is an age-old tradition. Matt Stoller revisits the 1975 Congressional hearings in which radical Congresswoman Bella Abzug grilled CIA director William Colby over the CIA's records of the membership rolls of peaceful, domestic protest groups, only to have Arizona Congressman Sam Steiger suck up to the spook-in-chief, expressing concern that anti-American terrorists could destroy the CIA by sending it too many Freedom of Information Act requests.

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Young Oxford Conservatives leader abuses DMCA to censor reporting of his calling Mandela a "terrorist"


Jeff Vinall, a Conservative Party activist who is director of communications for the Oxford University Tories and is a second year law student at Brasenose College has abused the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act to censor a website that reproduced a posting from his Facebook account in which he called Nelson Mandela a "terrorist," shortly after Mandela's death.

Vinall sent a DMCA takedown notice to the hosts of the UK-based website Political Scrapbook after an initial demand to censor their reporting was declined. The DMCA is an American statute and notices issued under it have no standing in the United Kingdom; furthermore, it's clear that the brief quotation from Vinall qualifies as fair use under the American copyright law and fair dealing under English and Welsh copyright law.

In my opinion, Vinall is trying to have his cake and eat it too. I think he believes that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist, but he also believes that saying this aloud brings him and the party into disrepute. At the same time, I think he believes that repudiating his tasteless remarks will alienate a sizable number of Conservative supporters who also hated Mandela and cheered his death -- so using bullying, censorious tactics to suppress the reporting of his remarks is way for him to suppress news of the remarks without having to issue an insincere apology through gritted teeth that would disgust the party's reactionary wing.

However, the Streisand Effect is in full effect; The Oxford Tab has picked up the story and reproduced Vinall's remarks. They have spoken to Apartheid refugees, who expressed shock and horror at Vinall's callous remarks and his willingness to take the side of the totalitarian monsters who branded Mandela a terrorist and imprisoned him for a quarter-century.

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Putin your butt


Reddditor Amzfx created a Putin butt-plug by way of commentary on Russia's invasion of Crimea, and he's selling them on Shapeways for €20.22. The print medium seems a little too porous for safe sex play, and the nose looks like a likely candidate for painful snagging. Amznfx has more political 3d prints in his repertoire.

Check out my 3d printed Putin Butt plug (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Kansas Rep Pompeo wants to cancel Snowden's SXSW appearance

Edward Snowden is speaking at SXSW on Monday at an event that I'm also part of.Rep Mike Pompeo (R-KS), who sits on the House Intelligence Committee (and on whose watch the abuses that Snowden has detailed occurred) has demanded that his appearance be cancelled. Pompeo says that Snowden lacks credibility in the area of "privacy, surveillance, and online monitoring." Pompeo demonstrably lacks credibility in the area of the First Amendment. Cory 23

Rob Ford's pitiable moment on Jimmy Kimmel

Toronto Mayor Rob "Laughable Bumblefuck" Ford flew to Los Angeles for an appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show. What followed was more than a little awkward. Kimmel is a great pains to hide his dislike of Ford, but he's not entirely successful. The hardest part comes at the end, when Kimmel confronts Ford with the fact that he is an out-of-control alcoholic, whose blackouts, binges, abuse and dangerous behavior are putting him, the city, and the people he loves at risk. Ford's total denial is genuinely pitiable. Joey Davilla has a very thorough writeup of the appearance, with links to the other parts of the video.

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Comment-spammers threaten to sabotage their victims through Google Disavow if the evidence of their vandalism isn't removed

Tim got an email from someone trying to get rid of comment spams -- ever since Google started punishing sites that left comment spam on blogs, this has been going on a lot. When Tim told the guy to buzz off, he threatened Tim with sabotage by means of Google's "Disavow" tool, growing progressively more abusive as Tim stood his ground.

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Guy who "fixed" women's computers spied through their webcams


A London court has found a man named Andrew Meldrum guilty of "unauthorised access to computer material" and "voyeurism." Meldrum "helped" young women fix their computers and covertly installed snoopware on them, and subsequently spied on them via their webcams. He is to be sentenced in April. A forensics expert claims that this sort of thing is "very common."

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David Cameron's porn-filter advisor arrested for possession of images of sexual abuse of children


Patrick Rock, a Thatcherite who served as special advisor to UK Prime Minister David Cameron and played an influential role in the Prime Minister's national Internet censorship plan, has been arrested for possession of images depicting the sexual abuse of children. The National Crime Agency is conducting forensic analysis of the computer networks at the Prime Minister's office/residence, Number 10 Downing Street.

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US Trade Rep can't figure out if Trans-Pacific Partnership will protect the environment


The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a secretly negotiated trade agreement let by the USA. Though the text is secret, enough drafts have leaked to make it clear that one of its goals is to ensure that foreign corporations can sue governments over laws that impact their profits, especially when it comes to the environment.

The US Trade Representative and the Obama administration have asked Congress to "fast track" the treaty, passing it without any debate or revisions. Naturally, Congress wants to know what the treaty is likely to say before they agree to this.

So in a hearing on Jan 28, Rep Mark Pocan (D-WI) asked Michael Froman -- the US Trade Rep running the TPP show -- about the environmental standards in TPP. Froman listed four areas in TPP that were "absolutely non-negotiable from a US standpoint," including "tough new environmental standards."

When the meeting ended, Pocan asked "So does that mean that if we give you fast track, you won't send us a deal that doesn't have that stuff in it?' At which point, we learned that the US Trade Rep uses a highly specialized meaning for the phrase "absolutely non-negotiable," meaning "totally up for grabs," because he immediately said, "I didn't say that."

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South Carolina legislature confiscates budget of college for assigning Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home" as a reading

The South Carolina House of Representatives has withdrawn $52,000 from the College of Charleston for including Alison Bechdel's brilliant, celebrated memoir Fun Home in its summer reading program. Bechdel, creator of the Dykes to Watch Out For strip, published the memoir in 2006. In graphic novel form, it tells Bechdel's story of growing up closeted in a family riven by a father who can't admit that he is gay and an embittered mother who doesn't allow herself to notice her husband's affairs.

Representative Garry Smith said that the book "didn't merit scholarly consideration" because it "graphically shows lesbian acts." He led the campaign to withdraw the funds. $52,000 is the cost of the entire summer reading program.

Bechdel expressed gratitude to the college for assigning her book, and added, "It's sad and absurd that the College of Charleston is facing a funding cut for teaching my book – a book which is after all about the toll that this sort of small-mindedness takes on people's lives."

To its credit, the college is refusing to allow its reading choices to be affected. College president P. George Benson said, "Any legislative attempt to tie institutional funding to what books are taught, or who teaches them, threatens the credibility and reputation of all South Carolina public universities."

The College of Charleston isn't the only institution whose funding has been cut for assigning readings that don't meet with Rep Smith's approval; another $18,000 was confiscated from the University of South Carolina Upstate's budget for including a book with LGBT themes in its curriculum.

I would certainly contribute to a fundraiser to make up the colleges' shortfall, especially if they'd guarantee that the funds would go to a program whose readings consisted entirely of things that Representative Gary Price didn't like.


Update: In the comments, Tim​stellmach writes, "Money has been put where my mouth is. For reference, the name of the program in question is "The College Reads!", and the college's donation page is at https://giving.cofc.edu/donate.

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King no longer claims to own "candy," still claims it owns "saga"

King Games, makers of Candy Crush, have backed down from their insane campaign to trademark the use of "Candy" in connection with games, a gambit that brought them ridicule and opprobrium (for example, a game jam where all the games made use of "candy"), not least because the company bullied competitors who had created candy-themed games years before Candy Crush came to market. However, the company still asserts a trademark over the use of the word "saga" in connection with games, and is trying to shut down The Banner Saga. Cory 21

Austin cops violently crack down on scourge of anonymous jaywalking

Jonl sez, "Streets near the University of Texas at Austin today are safer, thanks to quick and effective action by the local police, who caught and arrested a jogger, observed wearing a pony tail, black shorts, and a headset in the area. She was apparently menacing traffic by crossing the street in a manner construed as 'jaywalking,' however her apparent arrest was due to her failure to provide identification: i.e., she was guilty not just of jaywalking, but of anonymous jaywalking."

Woman arrested on 24th street after crossing intersection (Thanks, Jonl!)

Archbishop of Newark builds himself a palace while the church shuts down schools for lack of funding

The Catholic Archdiocese of Newark is shutting down its schools due to lack of funding, but it still has a fortune it can use to build a small palace for its archbishop John J Myers, who is soon to retire after a career whose highlights include dismissing victims of sexual abuse and shielding abusing priests. Also, he insists on being addressed as "Your Grace." He's a made-in-America version of Germany's disgraced "Luxury Bishop." Cory 34

Kansas lawmaker introduces bill to permit teachers to hit children hard enough to bruise


Gail Finney, a Democratic Kansas lawmaker from Kansas, introduced a law that would expand Kansas's already broad protection for teachers who hit their students, making it legal to hit children hard enough to leave a bruise. Finney said that teachers and parents needed to bruise the children in their care because "some children that are very defiant and they’re not minding their parents, they're not minding school personnel."

The research on hitting children is pretty clear: it doesn't work. The bill would allow teachers and administrators to hit children, even those over 18, with permission from their parents -- legalizing the restraint and violent assault of a legal adult by a government agent.

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Report from a meeting of Wall Street's secret, tasteless plutocrats' club


In the process of writing his just-released book Young Money, an investigative look at the bankers who've joined Wall Street since the crash of 2008, author Kevin Roose snuck into a meeting of the secretive Kappa Beta Phi club -- an organization of hyper-rich Wall Street bankers.

Roose recorded the captains of of industry, whose shady dealing had crashed the world economy and plunged millions into untold misery, cavorting on stage, making jokes about poor people and Hillary Clinton, dressing up in drag, and singing an anthem about how much bailout money they'd suckered out of the feds, to the tune of Dixie: "In Wall Street land we’ll take our stand, said Morgan and Goldman. But first we better get some loans, so quick, get to the Fed, man."

New York Magazine has a membership roll of the Kappa Beta Phis, which is a who's who of the richest, most powerful men on Wall Street.

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