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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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The FBI has turned over a redacted set of documents from its investigative archives related to Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious strong-man whose antics have cost the taxpayers millions in civil suit settlements for actions ranging from racial profiling to stealing a defendant's paperwork in open court to arresting newspaper owners who refused to turn over readers' identities to torching a house and killing a puppy in the process of investigating traffic citations.
The FBI archives, which go back to 2008, reveal that the Bureau recommended that some or all of former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Arpaio and his officers be indicted for felony counts of "obstructing criminal investigations of prosecutions, theft by threats, tampering with witnesses, perjury and theft by extortion." This recommendation was ignored by federal prosecutors, who concluded that there was not enough evidence to proceed.
County officials who tried to rein in Arpaio have had their offices swept for bugs, believing that Arpaio's regime engages in dirty tricks and illegal wiretapping against local politicians that are hostile to his tactics. Arpaio's office filed several charges against hostile local politicians, none of which led to convictions (by contrast, Arpaio's friendly county attorney Andrew Thomas was unable to get reelected and was eventually barred from practicing law altogether).
Arpaio's bid to quash the FBI investigation and his campaign against local politicians have cost Arizona taxpayers over $44M to date.
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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The South Carolina House of Representatives has withdrawn $52,000 from the College of Charleston for including Alison Bechdel's brilliant, celebrated memoir Fun Home in its summer reading program.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, Timstellmach 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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At least 16 fraudulent sites attributed to the National Republican Congressional Committee have been discovered. These sites, whose domains are the names of Democratic candidates, use large type and photos that make them appear to be fundraisers for those candidates, though the small-print text makes it clear that these are actually sites set up opposing their apparent candidates. The NRCC claims these are all fair game and blame Democrats for not registered their candidates' names as for campaign sites. But when there's a site at AnnKirkpatrick.com, with the words ANN KIRKPATRICK FOR CONGRESS and a DONATE button beneath it, and when that DONATE button sends money to Ann Kirkpatrick's GOP rival, the intent to deceive is pretty clear.
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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."
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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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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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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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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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."
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!)
The FBI has indicted Adam Paul Savader for "sextortion," alleging that he hacked women's computers, plundered compromising photos of them, and then threatened them with public embarrassment unless they performed private sex shows for him over their webcams. Savader was Paul Ryan's sole campaign intern in the 2012 elections, and Gawker reports that he also served on the 2011 Gingrich campaign, dressing up as Ellis the Elephant, a mascot for the campaign.
Clueless Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert can't get how Gmail ads work through his thick, thick skull
Rep Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is an ignoramus, as is demonstrated by his questioning during this hearing on reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Gohmert questions a Google rep about how Adwords in Gmail work. For the record, here's how it works: Google parses the email for keywords, checks to see if anyone has bid to have text-ads displayed on emails with those words, and displays ads that match. Here's how Gohmert thinks they work: A computer at Google reads your email, sends your identity to an advertiser, and asks it if it wants to display ads on your email.
Gohmert may have confused Adwords with some of the realtime auctions for display ads. Google rep very patiently, and repeatedly tries to explain this to Gohmert, who refuses to get it, and instead smugly keeps asking whether the government could buy the right to see who's sending what email from Google in the way he imagines (incorrectly) that advertisers do.
If watching the video is too painful, have no fear, TechDirt's Mike Masnick has thoughtfully transcribed some of the choicest moments:
Gohmert: Okay, so what would prevent the federal government from making a deal with Google, so they could also "Scroogle" people, and say "I want to know everyone who has ever used the term 'Benghazi'" or "I want everyone who's ever used... a certain term." Would you discriminate against the government, or would you allow the government to know about all emails that included those words?
Lawyer [confounded look] Uh... sir, I think those are apples and oranges. I think the disclosure of the identity...
Gohmert: I'm not asking for a fruit comparison. I'm just asking would you be willing to make that deal with the government? The same one you do with private advertisers, so that the government would know which emails are using which words.
Lawyer: Thank you, sir. I meant by that, that it isn't the same deal that's being suggested there.
Gohmert: But I'm asking specifically if the same type of deal could be made by the federal government? [some pointless rant about US government videos aired overseas that is completely irrelevant and which it wasn't worth transcribing] But if that same government will spend tens of thousands to do a commercial, they might, under some hare-brained idea like to do a deal to get all the email addresses that use certain words. Couldn't they make that same kind of deal that private advertisers do?
For the record, I think there are real privacy concerns with Gmail's ads, but not the dumbass ones that Gohmert is worried about. Also for the record, Gohmert believes that a trans-Alaskan pipeline will help caribou get more sex; denies climate change; and thinks that school shootings can be averted by giving school principals M-4 rifles.
CPAC racism panel derailed by audience member who suggests slaves should have been grateful for food, shelter & clothing
Gregory sez, "A conservative group looking to make inroads with African American Voters held a talk on Friday called 'Trump the Race Card'. It devolved into a chaos when Scott Terry of North Carolina suggested Fredrick Douglass should have been grateful for the food and shelter provided by his former slave master."
When asked by ThinkProgress if he’d accept a society where African-Americans were permanently subservient to whites, he said “I’d be fine with that.” He also claimed that African-Americans “should be allowed to vote in Africa,” and that “all the Tea Parties” were concerned with the same racial problems that he was.
At one point, a woman challenged him on the Republican Party’s roots, to which Terry responded, “I didn’t know the legacy of the Republican Party included women correcting men in public.”
He claimed to be a direct descendent of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Missouri lawmaker wants to redefine science to include "faith-based philosophy," force creationism into science class
A bill introduced in the Missouri legislature by Rick Brattin is a genuinely bizarre attempt to cram religion into the state's science curriculum. In what must have seen to Mr Brattin as a very clever move, the bill redefines what science is to include religion ("'Scientific theory,' an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy.") (emphasis mine). The bill just gets weirder from there.
If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught. Other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught. If biological intelligent design is taught, any proposed identity of the intelligence responsible for earth's biology shall be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation and teachers shall not question, survey, or otherwise influence student belief in a nonverifiable identity within a science course.
In other words, equal time for the leading scientific idea and intelligent design, but never mention who the designer might be. And not just equal time, but equal pages; the bill literally mandates that "course textbooks contain approximately an equal number of pages of relevant material teaching each viewpoint." Brattin is at least aware no textbooks actually have anything on "biological intelligent design," so he wants the state to identify "nine individuals who are knowledgeable of science and intelligent design" to create supplementary materials for use until the textbook publishers get in line.
Missouri bill redefines science, gives equal time to Intelligent Design [John Timmer/Ars Technica]
Senior campaign staffers who worked for Michelle Bachmann in the 2012 race say that she's refused to pay them unless they sign an NDA promising not to disclose any criminal and unethical activity they witnessed on the campaign. Now it seems that some are fed up with dickering with Bachmann for what they're owed, and are just going to the feds with their tales of corruption and crime:
[Peter Waldron, a widely known evangelist enlisted by the Bachmann campaign for outreach to Christian conservatives], formerly Bachmann's national field coordinator, is accusing the campaign of improperly dipping into money from MichelePAC to pay longtime fundraising consultant Guy Short for presidential campaign work he performed in the critical final weeks ahead of Iowa's caucuses last year.
Waldron also alleges that the campaign concealed payments to Iowa state campaign chairman Kent Sorenson, a state senator who abruptly left the Bachmann camp to join then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's insurgent campaign. Under Iowa Senate rules, Waldron maintains, Sorenson could not perform paid work for a presidential campaign.
...One of those involved in the payment dispute is Barbara Heki, who sued the campaign last year over the use of a database listing the names and e-mail addresses of thousands of Christian home-school families. Although the campaign eventually agreed to pay $2,000 for the list, the lawsuit continues, as does a separate criminal investigation.
Ex-Bachmann aide alleges campaign finance violations [Kevin Diaz/Star Tribune]
Derek Khanna, the Republican House staffer who wrote an eminently sensible paper on copyright reform that was retracted less than a day later has been fired. So much for the GOP's drive to attract savvy, net-centric young voters. After all, this is the party that put SOPA's daddy in charge of the House Tech and Science Committee.
But it's pretty terrible for Khanna -- what a shabby way of dealing with dissent within your ranks.
A stirring editorial in Time by Michael Grunwald calls out the US press for failing to report on contradictions in the GOP's platforms (for example, condemning Obama for not cutting Medicare enough while also telling people to vote against him because he wants to cut Medicare). Grunwald cites many examples of this, and says that the press is so anxious to appear nonpartisan that they're simply unwilling to state the obvious: the party's strategy is based on saying whatever is convenient at the moment.
I’ve written a lot about the GOP’s defiance of reality–its denial of climate science, its simultaneous denunciations of Medicare cuts and government health care, its insistence that debt-exploding tax cuts will somehow reduce the debt—so I often get accused of partisanship. But it’s simply a fact that Republicans controlled Washington during the fiscally irresponsible era when President Clinton’s budget surpluses were transformed into the trillion-dollar deficit that President Bush bequeathed to President Obama. (The deficit is now shrinking.) It’s simply a fact that the fiscal cliff was created in response to GOP threats to force the U.S. government to default on its obligations. The press can’t figure out how to weave those facts into the current narrative without sounding like it’s taking sides, so it simply pretends that yesterday never happened.
The next fight is likely to involve the $200 billion worth of stimulus that Obama included in his recycled fiscal cliff plan that somehow didn’t exist before Election Day. I’ve taken a rather keen interest in the topic of stimulus, so I’ll be interested to see how this is covered. Keynesian stimulus used to be uncontroversial in Washington; every 2008 presidential candidate had a stimulus plan, and Mitt Romney’s was the largest. But in early 2009, when Obama began pushing his $787 billion stimulus plan, the GOP began describing stimulus as an assault on free enterprise—even though House Republicans (including Paul Ryan) voted for a $715 billion stimulus alternative that was virtually indistinguishable from Obama’s socialist version. The current Republican position seems to be that the fiscal cliff’s instant austerity would destroy the economy, which is odd after four years of Republican clamoring for austerity, and that the cliff’s military spending cuts in particular would kill jobs, which is even odder after four years of Republican insistence that government spending can’t create jobs...
Whatever. I realize that the GOP’s up-is-downism puts news reporters in an awkward position. It would seem tendentious to point out Republican hypocrisy on deficits and Medicare and stimulus every time it comes up, because these days it comes up almost every time a Republican leader opens his mouth. But we’re not supposed to be stenographers. As long as the media let an entire political party invent a new reality every day, it will keep on doing it. Every day.
I'm all for pointing out this sort of thing whenever it arises -- including pointing out that Obama's "most transparent administration in history" is the most secretive in history. It's the press's job to hold politicians to account for their public utterances and to point out contradictions. If the press committed to calling out BS whenever it arose, we could, in fact, produce a who-lies-most scorecard, without letting anyone off the hook for lying less than the other guy.