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) Cory 12

Republican Congressman threatens to kill reporter after State of the Union

Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY/Staten Island) felt a little tense after the State of the Union. After giving a terse statement to an NY1 reporter, he was asked about the ongoing issue of his campaign finance. He declined to discuss the matter and stormed off, then returned a moment later, apparently unaware that the camera was still rolling, and threatened to "throw [the reporter] off this fucking balcony." Grimm followed this with "you're not man enough, you're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy."

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Texas governor Rick Perry moots pot decriminalization

Texas Governor Rick Perry has endorsed the idea of decriminalizing marijuana. Note that this is not Colorado/Washington-style legalization (which would give Texas access to a flood of tax-dollars from a legal industry), rather, it's decriminalization, which means that you will get a ticket if you get caught with small amounts of pot. That deprives the state of tax revenue, but saves the state some money on the prison system, and allows police the all-important discretion to disproportionately hassle brown people and anyone they find suspicious. (via Reddit) Cory 23

GOP declares war on itself

GOP power-brokers have raised a $50M war-chest to fight the nomination of "fools" to GOP seats in the upcoming mid-term elections. Effectively, the Republican big-business-friendly establishment has declared war on the Tea Party, in an effort to ensure donors that the slate will not be full of what Matt Taibbi calls "a bottomless pit of brainless Bachmanns and Cruzes and Santorums, all convinced our Harvard-educated president is a sleeper-cell Arab and that Satan is a literal being intent on conquering Nebraska with U.N. troops."

Taibbi is, as always, fucking incandescent on the subject. He points out the delicious irony of svengalis like Karl Rove and Dick Armey -- who put GW Bush in the White House by gleefully pandering to the ignorant and prejudiced with "faith-based initiatives" to bring in "the nuts" (as Rove calls evangelicals when he thinks he's in private) and Swift-Boating -- now having to keep those people from derailing the party and scaring off all the millionaires and billionaires.

If they're going to keep on donating to the GOP, they need to be assured that the party's elected reps understand that gay marriage and no-abortion-for-rape-victims are just distracting side-shows to win votes, and should be set aside once in office to pursue the serious business of looting the nation and spying on everyone to prevent any kind of popular uprising.

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Republicans against evolution

Republicans are increasingly skeptical of evolution. All in all, a third of Americans reject evolution. Cory 104

Mitt Romney's bookcase-concealed secret room


Mitt Romney is building a new family manse in Salt Lake City, and it includes a hidden room that you access via a swinging bookcase.

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Tea Party insult generator

The collapse of the GOP-engineered shutdown has the Tea Party in a fury, and they're showing their wrath with a series of vicious posts to John Boehner's Facebook. The Tea Party Insult Generator teases these insults apart and recombines them to make them stronger, faster, better than before.

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Republican congresscritters in clown makeup


I blogged the GOP clown college (WMxdesign's Flickr set of Republican politicians, leaders, and mouthpieces in clown makeup), but it's worth revisiting today, given all the shenanigans.

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Onion accurately predicts GOP opposition to anti-asteroid initiative


Congressional Republicans are fighting Obama's plan to put a base on the moon and use it to launch an asteroid-capture program which would give NASA some practice in deflecting future asteroid-strikes -- as well as setting the stage for more ambitious missions, such as one to Mars. This whole kerfuffle was predicted by the Onion, two years ago, in a story called "Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill That Would Destroy Asteroid Headed For Earth."

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14-year-old girl who was called a "whore" for her pro-Choice sign expresses disappointment in adult world


Tuesday Cain is the 14-year-old Texas girl who designed the "Jesus isn't a dick so keep him out of my vagina" sign that went viral in a photo that showed her friend holding it up in front of the Texas Capitol. She was protesting Texas's misogynist, retrograde anti-Choice law. Afterward, a number of self-identified Christian opponents of abortion heaped the vilest, cruelest abuse on her, calling her a "whore" and worse. In this editorial, young Ms Cain explains how this made her feel, and reminds us that calling young women "whores" does not make your case for you.

I'm going to be honest about what it feels like to be called that as a 14-year-old girl who has never had sex and who doesn't plan to have sex anytime soon.

I feel disappointed.

It's hard for me to understand why adults would be calling me this. It's hard for me to understand why anyone would use this term for a 14-year-old girl.

It's not anyone's business, but as I said, I am a virgin, and I don't plan to have sex until I am an adult.

But none of those facts make me feel any less passionate about fighting for a woman's right to choose and the separation of church and state in my home state of Texas.

I'm The 14-Year-Old Who Wrote The "Jesus Isn't A Dick So Keep Him Out of My Vagina" Sign In Texas And Was Labeled A "Whore" By Strangers Online [Tuesday Cain/XOJane]

(via Skepchick)

North Carolina House Republicans sneak abortion rules into motorcycle safety bill without notice

North Carolina House Republicans have, without notice, inserted sweeping changes to the state's abortion rules into a motorcycle safety law. Effectively, they've reintroduced the abortion bill that Governor Pat McCrory had threatened to veto.

“It is a disgrace to North Carolina that legislators have again resorted to sneak attacks to move their anti-women’s health agenda forward,” said Melissa Reed, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Health Systems said in a statement. “Once again there was no public notice that this bill would be heard. The public and even many legislators on the committee only learned this was a possibility at 9:57am -- three minutes before the committee was to meet -- when a political reporter was tipped off and posted it on Twitter. This is outrageous and not how the people’s business should be conducted.”

Without notice, NC House rushes forward new abortion bill

San Diego jury acquits on anti-bank chalk-art, thumbs nose at City Atty's 13 year jail threat

When Jeff Olson used chalk to draw an octopus whose tentacles were full of money, and to write "No thanks, big banks," and "Shame on Bank of America," on a San Diego sidewalk, Bank of America complained to the Republican City Atty. Jan Goldsmith. Goldsmith threw the book at him, charging him with misdemeanor vandalism and threatening him with 13 years in prison for writing in water-soluble chalk. Goldsmith was not swayed by the mayor's disapproval of this course of action -- Mayor Bob Filner said it was "stupid" and a "waste of money" -- and pressed on.

Yesterday, a jury acquitted Olson on all charges. The #chalkgate tag is full of congratulatory messages and photos of supportive chalking.

San Diego jury finds protester not guilty in chalk-vandalism case

700+ Texans ask lawmakers to hear "People's Filibuster" about abortion rights

Over 700 Texans gathered in their legislature to testify before the state government about the impact of Texas's pending omnibus abortion bill. This bill would impose complex, punitive restrictions on abortion clinics that would have the effect of shuttering all but five of the clinics where Texans can have a safe, legal abortion.

The participants in this "People's Filibuster" have found their elected representatives openly contemptuous of comment from the public, especially State Affairs Chair Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) who called the individual, personal testimony "repetitive" and who eventually adjourned the meeting.

Only one woman is filibustering today, Senator Wendy Davis, who is in the middle of a 13-hour filibuster. (livestream)

Reproductive Health Reality Check has done excellent work covering the story, and today, they're raising funds to buy food to support the participants who are waiting all day and all night to tell their stories and be heard. I gave $50. Will you match it?

Doonesbury's transvaginal ultrasound/Republican state house strips


I missed this back in March 2012, but it bears re-visiting. Here's a series of Doonesbury strips that some newspapers refused to run in spring 2012. The strips criticize Republican state legislatures' plans to require transvaginal probes for women contemplating abortion, with special emphasis on Texas governor Rick Perry.

Trudeau wrote: "Ninety-nine percent of American women have or will use contraception during their lifetimes. To see these healthcare rights systematically undermined in state after state by the party of 'limited government' is appalling. "In Texas, the sonograms are the least of it. The legislature has also defunded women's health clinics all over the state, leaving 300,000 women without the contraceptive services that prevent abortions in the first place. Insanity."

Trudeau is dismayed by the newspaper reaction. "I write the strip to be read, not removed. And as a practical matter, many more people will see it in the comics page than on the editorial page," he wrote.

"I don't mean to be disingenuous. Obviously there's some profit to controversy, especially for a satirist. If debate is swirling around a particular strip, and if its absence creates blowback, then I'm contributing to the public conversation in a more powerful way. But I don't get up in the morning and scheme about how to antagonise editors. Some of these folks have supported me for decades."

Oh, Texas... This is why I want to leave you. (via Reddit)

SOPA's daddy is now in charge of government science funding, and he hates peer-review

Lamar Smith (R-TX) is the goon who brought SOPA to the nation. Now he's in charge of science funding in the House, and he's got some spectacularly stupid ideas for science as a whole.

Stuart sez, "The new chair of the House of Representatives science committee has drafted a bill that, in effect, would replace peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a set of funding criteria chosen by Congress. For good measure, it would also set in motion a process to determine whether the same criteria should be adopted by every other federal science agency."

Smith's request to NSF didn't sit well with the top Democrat on the science committee, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). On Friday, she sent a blistering missive to Smith questioning his judgment and his motives.

"In the history of this committee, no chairman has ever put themselves forward as an expert in the science that underlies specific grant proposals funded by NSF," Johnson wrote in a letter obtained by ScienceInsider. "I have never seen a chairman decide to go after specific grants simply because the chairman does not believe them to be of high value."

In her letter, Johnson warns Smith that "the moment you compromise both the merit review process and the basic research mission of NSF is the moment you undo everything that has enabled NSF to contribute so profoundly to our national health, prosperity, and welfare." She asks him to "withdraw" his letter and offers to work with him "to identify a less destructive, but more effective, effort" to make sure NSF is meeting that mission.

U.S. Lawmaker Proposes New Criteria for Choosing NSF Grants (Thanks, Stuart!)

(Image: Congressman Lamar Smith visits JWST @ SXSW, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from nasawebbtelescope's photostream)