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.
Darrell Issa proposes 2-year ban on Internet legislations, will appear in Reddit AMA today to discuss
Rep Darrell Issa (R-CA) has pretty good credentials as a friend of the Internet, being one of the early Congresscritters to stand up to SOPA and PIPA (though there's the little matter of sponsoring a corporatist bill to limit open access for state-funded research). He's introduced a bill called the "The Internet American Moratorium Act (IAMA)" which proposes a two-year moratorium on Internet-related legislation. Presumably, this would give Internet freedom activists a couple years to prepare an offense game, rather than having to always be reacting to pro-surveillance and pro-censorship proposals from Hollywood and the DHS.
Issa's appearing in a Reddit AMA today at 1030h Eastern to discuss the bill.
Staffers for millionaire/wrestling magnate/failed GOP Senate candidate say they were stiffed, got bad checks and condoms: "you're screwed"
Linda McMahon (a wrestling magnate who built up the WWE with her husband Vince McMahon) is a failed Republican Senate candidate in Connecticut with a reported net worth of $500M, who has spent a reported $100M on a pair of failed Senate bids. She has also reportedly stiffed her staffers, who claim that they were sent bounced checks from the campaign, and, when they complained, were sent more rubber checks, along with a condom and a message saying "you're screwed." From CBS:
Campaign staffer Twaine Don Gomes was reportedly among the first to make the matter of the bad checks public knowledge through local news media – an action which allegedly inspired the campaign to send a second check with something extra.
“Basically he handed me a check with a condom in it, told me I was screwed,” Gomes told WTNH. “That’s the rudest gesture you can ever do to a person, it’s like spitting in a person’s face.”
It took less than 24 hours for the entertainment industry's lobbyists to bully the House Republican Study Committee into retracting its eminently sensible copyright position paper. They did it with a mealy-mouthed apology, claiming the paper "was published without adequate review." Here's Mike Masnick on the subject:
The idea that this was published "without adequate review" is silly. Stuff doesn't just randomly appear on the RSC website. Anything being posted there has gone through the same full review process. What happened, instead, was that the entertainment industry's lobbyists went crazy, and some in the GOP folded.
Frankly, if they wanted to win back the youth vote, this was exactly how not to do it. If you just look through the comments on our post on the original, or through the Twitter response to this report, there were tons of people -- many of whom were lifelong Democrats -- claiming that they would switch parties if the GOP stuck with this. Instead, they folded like a cheap card table in less than 24 hours.
Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it (PDF) is a position paper just released by House Republicans, advocating for a raft of eminently sensible reforms to copyright law, including expanding and clarifying fair use; reaffirming that copyright's purpose is to serve the public interest (not to enrich investors); to limit statutory damages for copyright infringement; to punish false copyright claims; and to limit copyright terms.
This is pretty close to the full raft of reforms that progressive types on both sides of the US political spectrum have been pushing for. It'll be interesting to see whether the Dems (who have a much closer relationship to Hollywood and rely on it for funding) are able to muster any support for this.
Mike Masnick's got good analysis of this on TechDirt, and notes that this is a huge shift from the House that, 10 months ago, was ready to pass SOPA.
Update: It took less than 24 hours for the entertainment industry's lobbyists to bully the House Republican Study Committee into retracting its eminently sensible copyright position paper. They did it with a mealy-mouthed apology, claiming the paper "was published without adequate review." Here's a mirror from KEI, and another from the MD Pirate Party.
This document really is a watershed moment. Even if it does not lead to any actual legislation, just the fact that some in Congress are discussing how copyright has gone way too far and even looking at suggestions that focus on what benefits the public the most is a huge step forward from what we've come to expect. In many ways, this is the next logical step after the completion of the SOPA fight. Rather than just fighting bad policy, it's time for Congress to recognize that existing copyright law is bad policy and now is the time to fix it. It comes as a surprise, but kudos to the Republican Study Committee -- and specifically Derek Khanna, the policy staffer who wrote the document -- for stepping up and saying what needed to be said, but which too many in Congress had been afraid to say for fear of how the entertainment industry lobbyists would react.
Ohio GOP Secretary of State orders secret, last minute, unaudited software updates to voting machines
Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has asked voting machine giant ES&S to install last-minute, unverified, custom firmware updates on the state's voting machines. This is highly irregular, and the details of it are shrouded in secrecy and silence -- the few, terse statements from Husted's office on the matter have been self-contradictory and unhelpful. On Salon, Brad Friedman tries to untangle the mess, and concludes that it's impossible to say what the new software in Ohio's voting machines actually does, nor why unaudited, unapproved software should be added to voting machines in a critical swing-state at the last minute, but that it's highly suspicious and possibly illegal.
I’d like to have been able to learn much more before running anything on this at all, frankly. But the lack of time between now and Tuesday’s election — in which Ohio’s results are universally believed to be key to determining the next president of the United States — preclude that.
So, based on the information I’ve been able to glean so far, allow me to try to explain, in as simple terms as I can, what we currently know and what we don’t, and what the serious concerns are all about.
And, just to pre-respond to those supposed journalists who have shown a proclivity for reading comprehension issues, let me be clear: No, this does not mean I am charging that there is a conspiracy to rig or steal the Ohio election. While there certainly could be, if there is, I don’t know about it, nor am I charging there is any such conspiracy at this time. The secretive, seemingly extra-legal way in which Secretary of State Husted’s office is going about whatever it is they are trying to do, however, at the very last minute before the election, along with the explanations they’ve given for it to date, and concerns about similar cases in the past, in both Ohio and elsewhere, are certainly cause for any reasonable skeptic or journalist to be suspicious and investigate what could be going on. And so I am …
One thing that Friedman doesn't say is that this all wouldn't be such a problem if voting machines produced voter-verified paper audit trails of their actions. That is, after you vote, the machine could print out a paper record of your vote, move it into position in front of a plastic widow so you could verify the vote, and then move it along into a locked audit-box. Virtually every other kind of digital tabulating device does this, from EEGs to ATMs to cash-registers. The technology is trivial. And it would give us the ability to verify, after the fact, whether the votes had been correctly counted and transmitted from each machine.
Update: Friedman updates via Twitter: "The machines in question are the tabulators. The machines already have 'paper trail'."
More fine housewares/gift ideas from New York Comic-Con: Frank Kozik's pink bust of Ronald Reagan. Only 50 were made! Sold by Clutter Magazine.
A group of public TV fans have announced a "Million Muppet March" on November 3 on the National Mall in DC. They are upset at Mitt Romney's vow to have Big Bird waterboarded. This will be a Bring Your Own Puppet event. More from Reuters:
Within 30 minutes of the end of the debate they were on the phone with each other, planning the march.
"I figured, why just make it a virtual show of support? Why not take this opportunity because it seemed like there was already a growing interest in it and actually make it an active, participatory event," Bellavia said. "I literally just said, 'It's happening.'"
Both men consider themselves fans of "Sesame Street," perhaps the best-known program on PBS, which received $445 million of $3.8 trillion in federal budget outlays in 2012.
Coming from rural Idaho, Mecham said he was aware how important public broadcasting was in sparsely populated areas that receive no other signals over the air.