Today is the day to call Congress about the TPP [PLEASE SHARE!]


Even though both parties' presidential candidates say they oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership -- the secretly negotiated "trade" deal that lets corporations sue governments to repeal their environmental, labor and safety laws if they hurt profits -- Obama's plan to ram through a vote before the election is alive and well. Read the rest

Pharma price-gouger Martin Shkreli smirks at Congress, refuses to answer questions


Summoned to a congressional hearing into price-gouging, entrepreneur Martin Shkreli smirked, dodged and insulted those before him, even when all they wanted to talk about was Wu-Tang Clan.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the committee treated with such contempt,’’ Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican, said after Mr. Shkreli was excused and left the room. Mr. Mica asked if Mr. Shkreli could be held in contempt of Congress. The committee chairman, Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, said he did not intend to do so. The theatrics surrounding Mr. Shkreli’s appearance, which included his smirking at some remarks by committee members, overshadowed some of the more substantial discussion about huge overnight price increases in the prices of old drugs by Turing and another company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International.

Shkreli famously raised the price of a cheap generic medication to $750 a pill, knowing that it would take years for other companies to get products approved. He was recently arrested on unrelated fraud charges and released on bond, thereby justifying his use of a phrase — "On the advice of councel… I respectfully decline" — used seemingly to mock his interrogators today.

Read the rest

What happened at yesterday's Congressional hearings on banning crypto?

Cryptographers and security experts gathered on the Hill yesterday to tell Congress how stupid it was to ban crypto in order to make it easier to spy on "bad guys." Read the rest

62 years of Congressional cooperation in a single gif


NPR’s Science Tumblr Skunk Bear created this cool data visualization based on a study of the rise of partisanship in the U.S. House of Representatives: Read the rest

Computer scientist/Congressman: crypto backdoors are "technologically stupid," DA is "offensive"

Rep Ted Lieu (D-CA) is a USAF reserve colonel, former member of the Judge Advocate General Corps and holds a computer science degree -- he's one of the four members of Congress with any formal computer science qualifications. Read the rest

Hereditary Republican Congressjerk who leads Transport Committee admits sleeping with airline lobbyist

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster [R-PA] admits that he's having an affair with Shelley Rubino, vice president for global government affairs for Airlines for America, but swears that's not why he gave her industry so many awesome legislative gifts. Read the rest

Senate passes phone unlocking bill

The Senate has approved a bill (which already passed in the House) that makes it legal for you to unlock the phones you own so you can choose which carrier you use. Read the rest

Stupid Congress: 20 years of GOP war on congressional competence

Ever since Newt Gingrich consolidated power in 1995, purging any Congressional technical experts who might question his judgment, the GOP has waged war on intelligence in the halls of Congress, leaving an expertise void that has been filled by lobbyists, especially the Heritage Foundation, and an oversight void that hasn't been filled at all. Read the rest

Anti-Net Neutrality Congresscritters made serious bank from the cable companies

The Congressmen who sent letters to the FCC condemning Net Neutrality received 2.3 times more campaign contributions from the cable industry than average. The analysis, conducted with Maplight's Congressional transparency tools, shows that Dems are cheaper to bribe than Republicans (GOP members received 5x the Congressional average from Big Cable; Dems only 1.2x) and shows what a chairmanship of a powerful committee is worth: Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who chairs the FCC-overseeing Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, got $109,250 (the average congressscritter got $11,651).

29 Congresscritters own stock in Comcast, and Comcast is the 25th most-held stock in Congress. Read the rest

Happy Mutant congressman: if Bitcoin should be banned, why not dollar bills?

Senator Joe Manchin delivered a grandstanding, technologically clueless, facepalm-inducing request to the Treasury Department to ban Bitcoin. In response, Rep Jared Polis (who proudly wears Boing Boing tee-shirts in his spare time, and rocks some snazzy duds on the floor of Congress) wrote a mock-serious request for dollar bills to be removed from circulation, pointing out that practically every objection that Manchin raised over Bitcoin applies equally well to paper money. Read the rest

Patriot Act's author to spooks: roll over or you get nothing

James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the architect of the Patriot Act, has repudiated his Frankenstein's monster -- though it took the NSA mass-spying scandal to do it (yo, James, where were you for the 10-ish years of horrors before Snowden's leaks?). He's told American spooks that if they keep on blocking reform to their habits, he'll lead an effort to tank the Patriot Act's spying provisions when they come up for renewal this June, and he sounds serious: "Unless Section 215 is fixed, you, Mr. Cole, and the intelligence community will end up getting nothing because I am absolutely confident that there are not the votes in this Congress to reauthorize 215." (via Ars Technica) Read the rest

Congress's private health club spared from shutdown by Boehner: "essential"

Congress's private gym -- whose budget is a closely held secret for "security" reasons -- has remained open during the shutdown. It was deemed an essential service. By John Boehner himself. (Possibly because so many Tea Party Congressmen live in their lavish tax-funded/tax-free offices and use the fancy club as their personal showers, rather than renting DC lodgings)

The staffers' gym was closed, however. Read the rest

Let's Bring Digital Liberties into the Big Conversation

Photo: Shutterstock

We've been CISPA'd again.

For a second year the US House has passed the embarrassingly vague Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a bill that could scatter your personal information like a tornado hitting a trailer park. Echoing last year, the Obama administration has threatened to veto CISPA if it fails to incorporate privacy controls, but we shouldn't have to rely on presidential intervention or the Senate's questionable wisdom to save us. Though Congress is gifted in the arts of incompetence and believes digital liberties only matter to basement-dwelling teens, we cannot entirely vilify the House, either. If there's one thing our representatives actually represent about us, it is our ignorance of technology. Read the rest

Cellphone unlocking is the first step toward post-SOPA copyright reform

Derek Khanna was a Professional Staffer for the Republican Study Committee in the House of Representatives. Khanna, 24, previously worked on Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign and in the office of Senator Scott Brown (R-MA).

Mystery panties incinerated

Two weeks ago, Brazilian legislators rushing into congress left an unusual item in their wake: a pair of women's underwear. No-one has claimed them since, and they were subsequently incinerated. "We have a suspicion as to who the owner is," congressman and professional clown Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva told Reuters' Brian Winter, "but we're not going to turn him in." Read the rest

Rep Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)

has come out against SOPA. He previously had no public position on it. Read the rest

SOPA dead until 2012 for real this time?

Tomorrow's special session of the House Judiciary Committee to finish markup on the Stop Online Piracy act have been summarily cancelled. Either they saw the mounting opposition and freaked out and decided to negotiate; or they saw the opposition and figured that they could wait it out; or something else altogether. (Thanks, Adam!) Read the rest

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