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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Just leak it already

by digby

I'm hearing lots of pathetic spinning about Laura Poitras' documentary an James Risens' new book as people try to dance on the head of a pin to exonerate the Obama administration's full capitulation to the security state. But this puts the lie to that spin if nothing else does:
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough is personally negotiating how much of the Senate's so-called torture report, a probe into the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program, will be redacted, according to sources involved in the negotiations.

McDonough's leading role in the redaction discussion has raised eyebrows in the Senate, given that his position comes with a broad array of urgent responsibilities and that the Obama White House has a team of qualified national security advisers.

Despite the White House’s public reluctance to get involved in the widely aired spat between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the report, McDonough’s role suggests that the Oval Office sees the feud as a high-stakes one.

The White House confirmed McDonough’s involvement in the negotiations, but would not discuss the extent of it.

“We’re not going to get into the details of our discussions, but White House officials, including Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, are in regular touch with [Intelligence Committee] leadership on a variety of matters, including to discuss the committee’s review of the Bush Administration’s rendition, detention and interrogation program, in an effort to help ensure the executive summary is completed and declassified consistent with national security interests,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

Sources involved in the discussions also said McDonough's involvement has gone beyond negotiating redactions. During the last weeks of July, the intelligence community was bracing itself for the release of the Senate investigation's executive summary, which is expected to be damning in its findings against the CIA. The report was due to be returned to the Senate panel after undergoing an extensive declassification review, and its public release seemed imminent.

Over the span of just a few days, McDonough, who makes infrequent trips down Pennsylvania Avenue, was a regular fixture, according to people with knowledge of his visits. Sources said he pleaded with key Senate figures not to go after CIA Director John Brennan in the expected furor that would follow the release of the report’s 500-page executive summary.

The White House said the purpose of the trips was to negotiate the terms of the report's release, not specifically to defend the CIA head. "The Chief of Staff's agenda was about how we could work together to meet the President’s desire to ensure the executive summary is completed and declassified consistent with national security interests, so that we can shed light on this program and make sure it is never repeated. These were not discussions about Director Brennan," Meehan said.

McDonough's personal involvement in the decisions around which parts of the torture report to redact illustrates how in the national security realm, differences between the two parties often dissolve when one takes control of the executive branch. The report itself, meanwhile, sidesteps the role of Bush administration officials in ordering or approving torture, focusing instead only on the agency, McClatchy Newspapers has reported.

This is torture we're talking about. It's not "sources and methods" or a program that the administration even alleges we need to keep going to keep the boogeyman at bay. This is about something done in the past which the administration says is wrong and should never be done in the future. (That is, of course, not exactly the case, but for the sake of argument we'll just accept that they don't think torture is ok.) An yet they have the White House Chief of Staff negotiating with the Senate over what to be released in a Senate report.

Obviously someone will have to leak this report. At this point I guess it's the only way we'll ever really know what the Senate says happened. (And that's probably a long way from knowing everything...) Back in the day the House refused to release the Pike Committee report and someone leaked it to Daniel Schorr who leaked it to the Village Voice.

There's too much secrecy in this government.  And all those who are wringing their hands over Big Mean Risen and that kooky Poitras are aiding and abetting this. Enough.


Now here's a good answer from a politician #Merkley

by digby

It's not that hard to explain why you are a progressive guys. Senator Merkley shows how it's done:

Can David Brooks see what's wrong with this picture?

by digby

How do you suppose the "conservative intellectuals" rationalize this to themselves?

Basically, this means that the liberal equivalent of Breitbart and Limbaugh is Slate and the New Yorker. And Fox News is the conservative equivalent of the New York Times.

Also note the sad fact that the numbers who read Daily Kos, Think Progress and Mother Jones are too small to measure . Not so with nutcases like the Glenn Beck show and Breitbart.


Everyone calm down. If Nigeria can contain Ebola the US can too.

by digby

This observation from Vox seems to me to be important:
Amid the panic and fear about Ebola sweeping the US, let's be clear about one fact: as far as we know, two nurses who cared for Duncan got the virus — but no one else. Not the passengers who sat next to Duncan on his flights or touched the same surfaces as him in airports. Not the school kids and friends he met in Dallas. Not the Texas Presbyterian hospital staff who met him on his first visit, when he was misdiagnosed and sent home. Not the ambulance drivers who brought him to the hospital on his second visit, when he was vomiting with a high fever.

Most importantly, his fiance, Louise Troh, didn't catch the virus either. She shared a cramped apartment with him and several other family members while he was already contagious, and then stayed in the same contaminated space, cooped up for days in a quarantine, after Duncan was admitted to hospital.

So far, all these people have been declared virus free. And the dozens of suspected cases of Ebola across the US have turned out to be negative, except for three — Duncan and his two nurses, Amber Vinson and Nina Pham. The fact that they got sick while caring for Duncan should also remind us of the science of this virus: that fits what we know of the science of the virus, which is that people are most contagious late in the infection.

This is really important: part of what makes people so afraid of Ebola is that people infected with the disease can mistake it, in its early stages, for a normal flu, and, say, board a plane. But at that point, the disease just isn't very contagious yet.

Ok, all the data aren't in and maybe somewhere somebody was infected in that chain from Duncan. Time will tell.

But this should give everyone pause --- and comfort:
Ebola-free Nigeria hailed as 'success story' in battling outbreak

It was an epidemiologist’s worst nightmare: one of the world’s deadliest contagious diseases loose in one of the world’s most densely populated and sometimes chaotic megacities — Lagos, Nigeria.

With its teeming slums, bogus pastors selling miracle cures, six-hour traffic jams and street vendors hawking goods at car windows, some feared an apocalyptic urban outbreak and the spread of Ebola into Nigeria’s highly mobile population of 170 million, which could entrench the disease in West Africa for years.

But in an extraordinary success story, Nigeria contained the Ebola outbreak and was declared free of the virus by the World Health Organization on Monday, after 42 days without a new case (double the incubation period for Ebola). Nigeria confirmed 19 cases, according to the WHO, seven of them fatal. That survival rate of 63% is more than double the 30% average in other West African countries

The top-down effort took political determination, the redeployment of doctors and facilities from Nigeria’s polio-eradication campaign, a vast contact-tracing operation involving members of the State Security Service, tens of thousands of text messages sent out to educate people on prevention, and some hefty donations from wealthy Nigerians.
They had 19 cases. We've had 3. They believe they've managed to track down all the cases in this particular outbreak which is key. And I'd venture to say that our education on the virus has been equal to Nigeria's even if our media has been running around like a bunch of hysterics scaring the hell out of people. If they can do it it seems likely the US can too. Duh.

The weight and counter-weights at the far end of both parties

by digby

I've always seen partisan politics in America as a tug of war where the weight of the truest believers, the activists, the hard core ideological members of the two main parties weight the ends of the political rope. When they are not equally engaged and pulling equally hard, one side has a built in advantage.

Anyway, Pew has another poll about polarization that I'll delve into in more detail over the next few days. But this is interesting for starters:

Overall, the study finds that consistent conservatives:

Are tightly clustered around a single news source, far more than any other group in the survey, with 47% citing Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics.

Express greater distrust than trust of 24 of the 36 news sources measured in the survey. At the same time, fully 88% of consistent conservatives trust Fox News.

Are, when on Facebook, more likely than those in other ideological groups to hear political opinions that are in line with their own views.

Are more likely to have friends who share their own political views. Two-thirds (66%) say most of their close friends share their views on government and politics.

By contrast, those with consistently liberal views:

Are less unified in their media loyalty; they rely on a greater range of news outlets, including some – like NPR and the New York Times– that others use far less.

Express more trust than distrust of 28 of the 36 news outlets in the survey. NPR, PBS and the BBC are the most trusted news sources for consistent liberals.

Are more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or “defriend” someone on a social network – as well as to end a personal friendship – because of politics.

Are more likely to follow issue-based groups, rather than political parties or candidates, in their Facebook feeds.

And yet the news media persists in presenting conservatism as "mainstream" and liberalism as "fringe." You can make a case that both are fringe but I don't think you can make a case that conservatism if mainstream when they rely on openly partisan, often crackpot media for their information and only talk to each other.

Now it's true that liberals tend to "unfriend" people on Facebook, and are somewhat intolerant of conservative views. I think that's human on both sides. But the information flow really seems to be different between the two and I think that requires those who talk about trends and factions to be specific.

An, by the way, there are a lot of reasons why the hard core conservatives are more successful in party politics than the hard core liberals (even though, according to Pew's definition there are actually more of the latter) but one of the reasons has to be this:

They vote in primaries more often than we do. Liberals could bring a lot more weight to bear in this whole thing if they just bothered to do that.

Testing the attacks for 2016

by digby

I'm fairly sure that in addition to the obvious current scare stories, a lot of the GOP strategists are keeping an eye on this for use in the next presidential campaign:
More than in any election in the past decade, Republicans are counting on terrorism fears to win votes -- especially in races against female Democrats.

At least 60 terrorism- or national security-related ads have aired in congressional contests in such states as Georgia, Kentucky and North Carolina. They’re running with the most intensity since President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, when the airwaves were full of ads depicting Democrat John Kerry as weak on national security, data provided by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group show.

Of the top five Democratic targets, four are women.

“There is a phenomenon that I haven’t seen in my lifetime, and that is this fear factor, whether it’s Ebola or the wars,” said Ed Rollins, a Republican who directed Ronald Reagan’s 1984 presidential re-election campaign.

“If there wasn’t the overarching fear out there, you couldn’t run this without being painted as anti-woman,” Rollins said. “It’s a subtle or not-so-subtle way of saying: These candidates are not as strong as they should be.”

One ad attacking Democrat Michelle Nunn, who is running for an open U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, says she has admitted that a foundation she ran for six years gave money to groups linked to terrorists -- a claim deemed “pants on fire” false by Politifact Georgia.

Here's a question: How do we think that a Democratic woman presidential candidate will react to such a campaign?



Warren on message

by Tom Sullivan

Not unlike ghosts in The Sixth Sense, The Village hears just what it wants to. Itself, mostly, and the jangle of coins. The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson hears in Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts something different, something many Democratic politicians lack: a clear message.

Stumping for Democrats across the country, Warren has a powerful message that ordinary persons can hear if the Village cannot. Like South Dakotan Rick Weiland's prairie populism, Warren (born in Oklahoma) gets traction from a populist narrative:

There once was consensus on the need for government investment in areas such as education and infrastructure that produced long-term dividends, she said. “Here’s the amazing thing: It worked. It absolutely, positively worked.”

But starting in the 1980s, she said, Republicans took the country in a different direction, beginning with the decision to “fire the cops on Wall Street.”

“They called it deregulation,” Warren said, “but what it really meant was: Have at ’em, boys."

Americans who have been had by the boom-and-bust economy that resulted (and which Democrats abetted) are tired of being lectured about pulling themselves up by their bootstraps by a Wall Street elite wearing golden parachutes. Warren says plainly what the faltering middle class knows in its gut, “The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it.” Warren is ready to fight when it seems many Democrats -- including the incumbent president -- just want to go along to get along.

Robinson writes:

So far this year, Warren has published a memoir, “A Fighting Chance,” that tells of her working-class roots, her family’s economic struggles, her rise to become a Harvard Law School professor and a U.S. senator, and, yes, her distant Native American ancestry. She has emerged as her party’s go-to speaker for connecting with young voters. She has honed a stump speech with a clear and focused message, a host of applause lines and a stirring call to action.

A Democratic candidate with a stirring message derailed Hillary Clinton's presidential bid eight years ago, Robinson concludes. It might just happen again.

The Village parachute riggers are on notice.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hey, remember that ban on embryonic stem cell research?

by digby


ACTION ALERT! Developing Ebola vaccines use aborted fetal cell lines - moral options exist

(Largo, FL) Children of God for Life announced today that several Ebola vaccines in development for use worldwide are made using aborted fetal cell lines despite the fact that moral alternatives are reported as equally effective.

Glaxo SmithKline (GSK) and NIAID are jointly developed their ChAd3 vector for delivering the Ebola virus gene using HEK-293 (human embryonic kidney) cells. Likewise, NewLink Genetics of Iowa used HEK-293 cells for their VSV-EBOV Ebola vaccine in Canada, while Johnson and Johnson/Crucell developed theirs using PER C6 cells, derived from retinal tissue of an 18 week gestation aborted baby.

"There is absolutely no reason to use aborted fetal cell lines," stated Debi Vinnedge, Director of Children of God for Life. "At least two other Ebola vaccines in development by the University of Texas and GeoVax are using either Vero cells or chicken eggs. Likewise, therapeutic products such as ZMapp(LeafBio) and TKM-Ebola (Tekmira) are using plant or Vero cells"

Vinnedge wrote to the Department of HHS, the NIH, the FDA and NIAID pointing out that even the US Department of Health listed other options such as yeast, insect, plant, bacteria, CHO, BHK, heLa and OS cells, in their own patent, stating, "The attenuated [ebola]virus can replicate well in a cell line that lacks interferon functions, such as Vero cells."

"It is completely irresponsible of this Administration to put these problem vaccines on fast-track for approval and ignore the fact that a massive number of people may very well refuse them. Why not fast track a product that everyone can use in good conscience?" asked Vinnedge.
Children of God for Life is urging the public to contact US government agencies and their members of Congress requesting that they expedite the morally acceptable alternatives.

You It's tempting to say that if people refuse an Ebola vaccine simply because it was developed from embryonic stem cells they are free to take their chances. Unfortunately, vaccines depend on the herd effect and everyone would need to do it.

I suspect there would be very few to refuse. But who knows? Then what?


Republican doctors are dangerous

by digby

It must be Rand Paul day...

And yes, it's fine for Paul to eat as many donuts as he likes.  But for a doctor to be a smart assed jerk about Michelle Obama's very mild healthy eating and exercise campaign to get kids to eat their vegetables and go outside to play is just idiotic.

Note Kentucky:

But sure, let's make fun of anyone who is concerned about this public health crisis. (And be sure to stoke panic about Ebola while you're at it.)

Is the US Government going to reaffirm the torturer's right to immunity?

by digby

I don't know how I missed this. Marcy Wheeler reports:

Yesterday, the New York Times reported (though the newspaper buried the story on page A21) that Obama Administration lawyers are debating whether the US has to comply with the Convention Against Torture’s prohibition on degrading treatment overseas.

It is considering reaffirming the Bush administration’s position that the treaty imposes no legal obligation on the United States to bar cruelty outside its borders, according to officials who discussed the deliberations on the condition of anonymity.


The administration must decide on its stance on the treaty by next month, when it sends a delegation to Geneva to appear before the Committee Against Torture, a United Nations panel that monitors compliance with the treaty. That presentation will be the first during Mr. Obama’s presidency.

State Department lawyers are said to be pushing to officially abandon the Bush-era interpretation. Doing so would require no policy changes, since Mr. Obama issued an executive order in 2009 that forbade cruel interrogations anywhere and made it harder for a future administration to return to torture.

But military and intelligence lawyers are said to oppose accepting that the treaty imposes legal obligations on the United States’ actions abroad. They say they need more time to study whether it would have operational impacts. They have also raised concerns that current or future wartime detainees abroad might invoke the treaty to sue American officials with claims of torture, although courts have repeatedly thrown out lawsuits brought by detainees held as terrorism suspects.

In other words, in the next month or so, the Obama Administration will decide how serious it really is about Obama’s 5-year old promise to end torture.

Marcy's analysis follows. It's not clear what's going to happen. Which is bad news because it should be.

No white hood? No rebel flag? Then you aren't discriminating on the basis of race. Carry on.

by digby

My piece in Salon today is about an upcoming Supreme Court decision about the Fair Housing Act. I recount some of the history of how it came to be:
In his epic history of the 1960s, “Nixonland,” Rick Perlstein observed something that few people remember: The price was very, very high for politicians who backed these civil rights laws and that’s because there was a furious white backlash. It’s common knowledge that some of that backlash was formed by the urban riots of the period. But there was something else, which he explored in greater depth in this article:

[Whites were in] terror at the prospect of the 1966 civil rights bill passing, which, by imposing an ironclad federal ban on racial discrimination in the sale and rental of housing—known as”open housing”—would be the first legislation to impact the entire nation equally, not just the South.

He recounts the confrontations that took place in Chicago, then the most segregated city in America, in “Nixonland”:

You could draw a map of the boundary within which the city’s seven hundred thousand Negroes were allowed to live by marking an X wherever a white mob attacked a Negro. Move beyond it, and a family had to face down a mob of one thousand, five thousand, or even (in the Englewood riot of 1949, when the presence of blacks at a union meeting sparked a rumor the house was to be”sold to niggers”) ten thousand bloody-minded whites. In the late 1940s, when the postwar housing shortage was at its peak, you could find ten black families living in a basement, sharing a single stove but not a single flush toilet, in”apartments” subdivided by cardboard. One racial bombing or arson happened every three weeks…. In neighborhoods where they were allowed to”buy” houses, they couldn’t actually buy them at all: banks would not write them mortgages, so unscrupulous businessmen sold them contracts that gave them no equity or title to the property, from which they could be evicted the first time they were late with a payment.

He published some of the constituent letters he found hidden in the archives of a congressman who lost his seat in 1966 over civil rights, protesting those “Open Housing” provisions in the bill before the Congress. Here’s just one example:

I am white and am praying that you vote against open housing in the consideration of Equal Rights. Just because the negro refuses to live among his own race–that alone should give you the answer. I was forced to sell my home in Chicago (‘Lawndale’) at a big loss because of the negroes taking over Lawndale–their morals are the lowest (and supported financially by Mayor Daley as you well know)–and the White Race by law. Please don’t take away our bit of peace and freedom to choose our neighbors. What did Luther King mean when he faced the nation on TV New Year’s day–announcing he will not be satisfied until the wealth of America is more evenly divided? Sounds like Communism to Americans. ‘Freedom for all’–including the white race, Please!

Martin Luther King and his fellow marchers were met with vicious anger, hostility and violence from whites in Chicago that summer culminating in MLK making his famous quip, “I think the people of Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate.” It was very, very ugly.

The case coming before the Supremes has to do with the "disparate impact rule.” That rule holds that you don’t have to be a an outright racist to discriminate. Recent rulings indicate that the conservative majority is convinced that unless you're wearing a white hood and burning crosses you cannot be accused of discrimination. So, this is likely to go down the same drain in which they flushed the Voting Rights Act.

Crackpots 'O the Day

by digby

And no, they aren't Louie Gohmert and Michelle Bachman. One is a highly respected conservative columnist and one is a serious presidential candidate:
In the weeks since news broke of the first Ebola case in the United States, government officials have stressed that the disease cannot spread through the air, by water, or in food. George Will, however, doesn’t think that’s true.

On Fox News Sunday, the conservative columnist came head to head with his fellow panelists — and even host Chris Wallace — in his attempt to spew misinformation about Ebola.

“The original problem was that you need to have direct contact, meaning with bodily fluids, because it’s not airborne,” Will said. “Now there are doctors saying we’re not so sure that it can’t in some instances be transmitted airborne.”

Will later added: “Well, when you get on an airport perhaps you should clean the armrest and the tray. There are some doctors saying in a sneeze or cough, some of the airborne particles can be infectious.” Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, appeared on the show alongside Will and immediately challenged his claims. “Where are you getting the doctors who are saying it’s not airborne?” she asked, pointing out that medical experts have repeatedly said that the virus can only be transmitted through close contact with bodily fluids.

Indeed, Will made his comments minutes after Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, assured Wallace that the likelihood of an Ebola epidemic in the United States remains slim, despite the infection of two health care workers who treated patient zero Thomas Eric Duncan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees. According to the federal agency’s website, humans come into direct contact with Ebola through the blood and bodily fluids of the infected and medical equipment that has been used. Experts say that means that the virus essentially poses the highest risk to health care workers caring for Ebola patients and family members of the infected.
This is a man who doesn't believe in climate change so this makes some sense.

And then there's this crackpot who makes Will sound like Albert Einstein:
In 2010, before winning his Senate seat, [Rand] Paul sat for an interview with Luke Rudkowski, a libertarian YouTube personality who specializes in quizzing political leaders about the plot to establish a "one-world socialist government." Rudkowski asked what Paul knew of the Bilderberg Group, a collection of government and business leaders whose annual conference is a favorite target of conspiracy-mongers. Paul replied, "Only what I've learned from Alex Jones." That's right: Alex Jones, the radio host who claims that Bilderberg is a key part of a global plot to create a "scientific dictatorship" that will exterminate the "useless eaters," a.k.a. 80 percent of the human population.

Paul described the group to Rudkowski in unequivocally Jonesian terms, as "very wealthy people, who I think manipulate and use government to their own personal advantage. They want to make it out like world government will be good for humanity. But guess what? World government is good for their pocketbook." The previous year, Paul had appeared on Jones' radio show, noting that he had watched his host's videos and expressing support for the effort to "expose people who are promoting this globalist agenda." (In turn, Jones urged his listeners to send money to Paul's Senate campaign.)
Paul also has embraced one of the conspiracy theories promoted by his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul: that leaders from the United States, Canada, and Mexico are seeking to merge their countries into a socialist megastate that would issue the "Amero" currency to replace US and Canadian dollars and the Mexican peso. (Anti-feminist campaigner Phyllis Schlafly and Jerome Corsi, who led the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign, are among the key proponents of this idea.)

At an appearance for his father's 2008 presidential campaign in Bozeman, Montana, Rand Paul was asked what steps his dad would take to thwart the scheme to impose a North American superstate. The first thing to do, he said, was "publicizing that it's going on" and pushing Congress to "stop it." He insisted the Amero push was "a real thing" but cautioned, "If you talk about it like it's a conspiracy, they'll paint you as a nut. It's not a conspiracy, they're out in the open about it. I guarantee it's one of their long-term goals—to have one sort of borderless mass continent." He did not specify who "they" were.
And that's not all. There's more at the link.

He's running away from all this looney stuff now, but this wasn't that long ago. It's not like his father's racist newsletters from the 1980s.

How about this:
Contrast the fate of Duncan’s family, which was locked in a small apartment saturated with Duncan’s bodily fluids, with what Senator Rand Paul told Bloomberg News while campaigning for Scott Brown in New Hampshire last week.
I think from the very beginning they haven’t been completely forthright with us. They’ve so wanted to downplay this that they really I don’t think have been very accurate in their description of the disease. For example, they say, “Don’t worry, it’s only mixture of bodily fluids through direct contact.” So what are you thinking? I’m thinking like AIDS, you don’t get AIDS at a cocktail party, so my level of alarm goes down. And if I am treating somebody or looking at them around, I’m thinking, oh no it’s like AIDS, I am not going to get it. But it really isn’t like AIDS. And then they’ll say in a little lower voice, “Oh, but direct contact can be three feet from somebody.” But if you ask any American on the street, “Do you think direct contact is standing three feet from somebody?” Because they so much wanted to downplay that “We were in charge, we know everything about this,” I think they made mistakes in not really being accurate about talking about the disease.
He said something similar to a group of college students, to whom he described Ebola as "incredibly contagious." This is a strange statement in many ways, because the AIDS comparison is a straw man, and Paul basically admits it’s a straw man. He never quite puts the words in the mouths of government officials, and instead sets up his own false interpretation of their statements in order to knock it down.

Time Magazine calls him the most interesting man in politics referring to him as “a visionary determined to reinvent the conservative Republican story line.”

I'll say.

Update: Oh, I forgot Bill Maher who rent his garments and practically ran screaming from the stage on Friday over Ebola. Between that and the 1.6 billion Muslims who want to kill us all in our beds, I'm afraid poor Maher is going to have a full blown nervous breakdown on national television. He was completely uninformed, of course, repeatedly screeching incomprehensibly about "shit piled to the ceiling", which was based upon an anonymous report from a Dallas nurse and refused to listen to the one person who had experience dealing with the disease (as usual) instead insisting that the sky is falling.

The NSA isn't the only one

by digby

This is a very creepy story about an app called Whisper which promises anonymity to its users so they'll share their secrets. Guess what?
A team headed by Whisper’s editor-in-chief, Neetzan Zimmerman, is closely monitoring users it believes are potentially newsworthy, delving into the history of their activity on the app and tracking their movements through the mapping tool. Among the many users currently being targeted are military personnel and individuals claiming to work at Yahoo, Disney and on Capitol Hill…

Separately, Whisper has been following a user claiming to be a sex-obsessed lobbyist in Washington DC. The company’s tracking tools allow staff to monitor which areas of the capital the lobbyist visits. “He’s a guy that we’ll track for the rest of his life and he’ll have no idea we’ll be watching him,” the same Whisper executive said.
Oddly, it seems some journalists are upset that the Guardian reported the story since they came upon the information in an on the record business meeting between the two companies. I get that reporters need to protect their sources. But this was a business meeting in which the Whisper executives were bragging about spying on people, not a whistle blower in a dark garage trying to get a story out to the public. Jesus. As CJR noted:

The questions focus on whether The Guardian somehow tricked Whisper into giving it the information or whether it violated an understood compact of business secrecy. This is absurd. What The Guardian did was entirely ethical. Whisper told its reporters highly newsworthy facts about its own service. The information was all on the record. The Guardian reported it. It would have been a journalistic lapse for the paper not to have told readers what it had learned.
Sometimes I think the biggest problem with the journalism profession is that they cannot see the forest for the trees. Their job is to serve the public interest. I suspect that if you keep that in the forefront of your mind the rest is a lot less complicated than they think. Certainly, the idea that if you find out that if a company your newspaper is in business with does something tremendously unethical means you can't report it (an "understood compact of business secrecy"!) is so twisted that it worries me that journalists were confused about it. Actually, if you stop and think about this a little bit, it may just explain a few things ...

Still not getting it

by digby

Robert Kuttner has written a good piece in Huffington Post today about the European rebellion against Angela Merkel's austerity program. But as he points out, it isn't just them. We suffer from the same malady, even if it's less intense:
Last fall, there was an interesting debate about whether the economies of the U.S. and Europe were in a period of what economists call "secular stagnation." The term means that the economy gets stuck in an equilibrium well below its potential. Economists such as Larry Summers and Paul Krugman considered whether the post-collapse stagnation revealed perhaps that the economy had become dependent on consumer borrowing and bubbles, or whether technology and changing demographics might be implicated.

Similar worries were voiced in economists in the late 1930s, when the Great Crash was already a decade old yet the economy seemed stubbornly unable to reach its potential and unemployment remained very high. Then World War II intervened.

The government borrowed money at levels previously unthinkable. Government spending recapitalized U.S. industry, and put people back to work. "Secular stagnation" vanished overnight. Oh, and the government also leashed the private money market for the duration of the war and several years beyond -- the Federal Reserve simply bought bonds in the quantity necessary to keep interest rates (and war finance costs) extremely low.

Ever since the great experiment of the Good War as an accidental recovery program, economists should understand that "secular stagnation" is never something that must be lived with. It is optional. Public investment and the leasing of private speculative finance are always available as a road not taken. But World War II as a public investment led recovery program is typically treated as an anomaly, not as an alternative path.

Neither in Europe nor in the U.S. are the political stars in alignment for the recovery led by social investment -- that our economies on both sides of the Atlantic need. Barring a much more robust political revolt, stagnation and human suffering are likely to continue -- and continue to be political gifts to the far right.

This is the tyranny of orthodox thinking and of governments still in thrall to the financial industry -- fully six years after the collapse should have discredited such thinking. It is encouraging that there are some stirrings of dissent, but they need to imagine on a much grander scale.

It never fails to amaze me just how short sighted we are about this. There is a huge challenge ahead of us with climate change and our country's physical infrastructure is falling apart. And yet we just can't get it together to spend big on these projects and truly work our way out of this slump. It will probably take horrible, destructive war to do it. And that's just sad.


Guns and voter fraud vigilantes

by Tom Sullivan

As early voting gets started here this week, more thoughts about new voting restrictions.

Call a gun rights advocate's AR-15 an assault rifle and he'll think you're a dumbass liberal who a) doesn't know the first thing about weapons, and b) has no business anywhere near laws affecting his right to bear arms. What should voting rights advocates think of voter fraud vigilantes who call any and every form of election irregularity voter fraud?

Imposing new gun laws is counterproductive, many Republicans believe, because most criminals get guns illegally. More regulation just infringes upon honest Americans’ rights. But more regulations passed to prevent voting illegally? A nonissue.

The University of Texas-Austin's Daily Texan weighed in on that last week:

The fact that over half a million Texans do not have the proper form of ID in order to comply with the law and will thus be disenfranchised this November is apparently a nonissue. That these Texans belong to groups that historically vote Democratic is also a coincidence.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker this month:

"I was at a town hall meeting yesterday in Appleton, and took questions from the crowd, and one person asked me how many cases of fraud there have been in the state. I said, does not matter if it was one or a hundred or a thousand. I ask amongst us, who would be that one person who would want to have our vote canceled out by a vote cast illegally?"
How many married couples who "cancel out" each others' votes each election advocate laws preventing spouses from "stealing" their votes? Who amongst the tens of millions of real Americans without photo IDs would want to be kept from voting because of vigilantes' "downright goofy, if not paranoid" fears about what they insist might be a "widespread problem"?

Mark Fiore takes on the Voter Fraud Vigilantes here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sorry ladies, your nice little war is a loser

by digby

The furious pushback on The War on Women among Republicans on This Week from virtually everyone says two things: the GOP doesn't want this on the table in 2016, which makes sense since there will likely be a woman on the ticket. Unfortunately, it probably also signals what the establishment is going to hold responsible for the loss of the Senate should that happen.

Check it out:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So is the Democrats' "war on women" charge falling flat this year? Add it all up, Nate Silver and his FiveThirtyEight team gives Republicans a 62 percent of taking the Senate, up 4 points since last week.

So a little more movement in the Republican direction this week. I want to bring that last question to Stephanie Schriock, and this idea that the "war on women" just isn't taking hold this year.

SCHRIOCK: Well, that's not what we're seeing at all. And we're seeing continued large gender gaps in places like North Carolina and New Hampshire, you know, even in Wisconsin recently in the governor's race, where not only is Scott -- or excuse me; Scott Walker, you know, he's starting to run away from his record because he knows that the policies that he has supported and the policies that the Republicans have supported are so bad that they're trying to blur that they took these votes or they signed these bills.


STEPHANOPOULOS: -- the gender gap is much smaller than it's been in past elections.

SCHRIOCK: Only in a few. And the truth is, you know, we still see Democrats definitely winning women across the country --

MATALIN: No, they're not. They're winning single women and they were -- by they're winning women as a cohort is because of the disproportionate minority support.

You have a horrible gender gap, men don't like you. You've got a double digit men against Obama and the female vote, if you're married, if you have kids, all of that, they'll -- those women are opposed to Obama, who is on the ticket. And the gap that we typically saw -- I don't know what numbers you're looking at. The ABC poll has that three -- most three in the margin of error of women that are --


SCHRIOCK: -- individual races, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgia, New Hampshire, Michigan -- Gary Peters against Terri Lynn Land, we are seeing gender gaps. Women are going to decide these races. They're going to decide it on issues of economic stability and they're looking for --

MATALIN: Why do you only ever talk about abortion on demand and contraception if you think that women are more than a homogeneous herd --


SCHRIOCK: -- health care is part of an economic future. We talk about equal pay and minimum wage and you bet we talk about access to health care --

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- bring this to you. You've seen Arkansas, Louisiana, Colorado, Iowa, still all pretty close. But Republicans maintaining an edge now in all of those critical key states right now.

So is this the Republicans' race to lose at this point?

And what worries you about how they could lose it?

KRISTOL: I think Republicans could win the Senate. I think they'll win it pretty comfortably. They'll do it mostly by doing no harm at this point. President Obama's dragging the Democrats down.

I do think Democrats have made a mistake. The upscale consultants in Washington have said war on women worked in 2012. It'll work again this year.

But it -- the thing -- (INAUDIBLE) Republican consultant said to me the other night, thank God they're running war on women and it's not war on working class ads. If they ran a more economic populace message, they would do better than this kind of upscale single 27-year-old women are going to be deprived of contraception by Republicans, which is just silly and implausible.

Look at the Republicans who are under -- look at the Republicans who are underperforming, incidentally: Georgia, right? Where Republicans are at some risk, nominated a very wealthy business man.

What is the -- what are the attacks on him that are working? They're not war on women --


KRISTOL: -- outsourcing. It's the Romney type attacks that are working.

So I'm happy that the Democrats are going down this war on women road and not focusing on the economic populace issue.

SMILEY: That's a good point. And I think that issue would probably play better. And a lot of the reasons it might not be the top of the agenda is that Democrats, respectfully, know that they haven't even done everything they could have done on this issue.

The slogan that it could have been worse is not a winning slogan. And I think the economy is certainly better now that we expected it would have been a couple years ago. I think the president gets some credit for helping put what policies that have turned this economy around slowly.

Having said that, there's been no real fight even by Democrats for increasing the minimum wage to a living wage in this country. That measure can only go so far if you don't have the record to back that up.

There's a front-page story, George, as you know, in "The New York Times" today. They talk about the --


SMILEY: -- exactly, that the black vote is what the Democratic Party is relying upon now to save the Senate. News flash: if you're relying on the black vote, in a midterm election -- and I'm not suggesting that black voters don't care about this -- but if you're relying on that vote, then I think it's uninspired because we have double- and triple-digit unemployment in the African American community.

And again, if the message is something other than employment and what we're going to do for you, then what's the reason to go vote?

SCHRIOCK: Now this is not the message in North Carolina, in Georgia, in Kentucky, in Louisiana. We've got candidates -- we keep saying the war on women is only about contraception. The war on women is a construct about equal pay, minimum wage and access to health care and jobs. And what we're seeing in Georgia, by the way, where you've got David Perdue (ph), who has a terrible business record, Michelle Nunn, who's a common sense leader, who's going to work across party lines, we see a race that's incredibly close. The momentum is on Michelle's side. The African American community is excited. And EMILY's List folks have decided we're going to double down and actually --


MATALIN: -- Colorado where "The Denver Post," no conservative publication called the incumbent, Mark Uterus (ph), for being such a single issue abortion on demand, sex selection abortions. So yet and going to your point, when you have this identity politics, you're also losing Hispanics on the same grounds, it being -- a cohort being treated so passively and the presumption, like there's a presumption about what women prioritize, the presumption that Hispanics prioritize. (INAUDIBLE).

It's economic --

SMILEY: But if you're black or brown, let's be frank about this. If you're black or brown, other than helping to save the Democrats' hide, give me three good reasons and you turn out the vote this time.

Now I'll catch hell for saying that --


STEPHANOPOULOS: -- watching Bill Kristol nod his head --


SMILEY: No, I am not suggesting -- I'm not suggesting that people ought to stay home and sit on their hands. What I'm suggesting is that neither party has focused clearly enough on the issues of black and brown voters to inspire them and motivate them to turn out in 2014. And we may see the same thing in 2016.

Mary Matalin remains one of the most malignant creatures in American politics, her spin so ugly and so obvious that I can feel my gorge rising automatically once she starts to speak. But you have to love the idea that she can parse the electorate in such as way so as to say blandly that Democrats are "winning women as a cohort is because of the disproportionate minority support" as if that means something and nobody challenges it.

Hey, we're winning all the white women ("the right women") by a big margin. And we're winning white men like crazy. In fact, you wouldn't win a thing if you had to depend on getting the votes of Real America ...

And then she oozes sanctimony about "the Hispanic vote" as if the Republicans aren't working themselves into such a frenzy over immigration that they've forced the issue off the political map. What a loathesome pundit.

This looks to me to be the set up for the big fall guy (gal) over this election loss. (A loss which was probably inevitable seeing as it's in the 6th year of a Democratic presidency and the swing seats in play are close margin seats.) It's important to realize this because many Democrats are anxious to spin this election as a repudiation of progressive messaging so they can get on to the 2016 Clinton campaign where she will be running as a woman who is above all those other silly women's issues that everybody knows don't really matter.

Meanwhile, the lunacy on the right continues apace:

KRISTOL: One -- I think one underreported aspect of this year's race is do the Republicans have high-quality, interesting younger candidates? Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Joni Ernst in Iowa --

Oh dear God ...

The decision making process is different for girls and boys

by digby

I hate to say it, but well ... duh:
Neuroscientists have uncovered evidence suggesting that, when the pressure is on, women bring unique strengths to decision making...

Across a variety of gambles, the findings were the same: Men took more risks when they were stressed. They became more focused on big wins, even when they were costly and less likely.

Levels of the stress hormone cortisol appear to be a major factor, according to Ruud van den Bos, a neurobiologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands. He and his colleagues have found that the tendency to take more risks when under pressure is stronger in men who experience a larger spike in cortisol. But in women he found that a slight increase in cortisol seemed actually to improve decision-making performance.

Are we all aware when our decision making skews under stress? Unfortunately not. In a 2007 study, Stephanie D. Preston, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Michigan, and her colleagues told people that after 20 minutes, they would have to give a talk and would be judged on their speaking abilities. But first, they had to play a gambling game. Anxious, both men and women initially had a harder time making good decisions in the game.

But the closer the women got to the stressful event, the better their decision making became. Stressed women tended to make more advantageous decisions, looking for smaller, surer successes. Not so for the stressed men. The closer the timer got to zero, the more questionable the men’s decision making became, risking a lot for the slim chance of a big achievement.

The men were also less aware that they had used a risky strategy. In the last few minutes of the game, Dr. Preston interrupted each person immediately after he or she had just lost money. She asked people to rate how risky each of their possible choices had been, including the unsuccessful one they had just made. Women were more likely to rate their losing strategy as a poor one.

Consult folk wisdom on this and you'll see that people have noticed this since ... forever. (Of course our patriarchal society chose to characterize these different approaches as signs of men's "strength" and women's "weakness" but that's a different story. And really, far more important ...)

To borrow a macho sports metaphor, there's a time for a bold Hail Mary and there's a time for grinding it out a few yards at a time.  It would be good for the human race if there was a better balance of temperament in the halls of power. We need all the help we can get.

*And yes, all of these observations are tremendously broad and individuals of either sex cannot be easily defined by them.  Still, it's interesting to see neuroscience back up some of the differences in the way men and women often tend to go about organizing their thoughts and greeting challenges that people have "known" for ages.


Can't we all just get along?

by digby

This article by Reza Aslan and Chris Stedman points out just how much in common Muslims and atheists have:

Lost in the venomous arguments that have recently been flying back and forth between Muslims and atheists – on HBO and on op-ed pages, in the United States and beyond – is just how much these two marginalized, underrepresented groups have in common.

According to a Pew poll conducted this year, Muslims and atheists are the two least favorably viewed religious or ethical groups in the US. Both communities are severely underrepresented in the general population – roughly 2% of Americans identify as atheists, compared to 1% for Muslims. Both face rising levels of animosity from the general public. And both tend to be defined by the loudest voices within their communities.

The media may be saturated with images of Islamic terrorists and suicide bombers, but a 2011 Gallup survey concluded that Muslims are actually more likely than any other religious or ethical group in America to reject violence against civilians. At the same time, the vocally “anti-theist” atheists who dominate the airwaves and the bestseller lists may get all the press, but a 2013 study from the University of Tennessee indicated that less than 15% of atheists fall into the “anti-theist” category.

So why hasn’t there been more dialogue and solidarity between Muslims and atheists? Can’t we all just get along?

This is not surprising. Aside from the fact that they are both despised by everyone else, they are, more importantly, all humans. I guess I should have said this before now since everyone seems to require that extremism is called out by those who share a common identity: the anti-theists don't speak for me. I am of the school that says we need a secular civic life so that everyone has freedom to believe what they choose, including those of us who are atheists or members of minority religions. But I have no interest in battling believers of any religion on a theological basis. In fact, it strikes me as absurd.

People believe many things that I find offensive and I take issue with those specific beliefs, even those which are religious in nature. But I have found over the years that painting any religion with a broad brush is so imprecise as to be useless as a form of argument. I take on the beliefs of social conservatives and extremists of all religions without compunction. But religion itself? A specific religion itself? It's pointless since the beliefs are as varied as the people who subscribe to it. Once you ignore that part of it it transforms very easily into bigotry.


Sunday funnies

by digby

Speaking of the surgeon general:

And this too:

Conservative priorities

by digby

Here's a good example of what they really care about:
Crowley asked how the sequester hurt funding for the Centers for Disease Control and how the National Rifle Association's opposition to President Obama's nominee for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, also hurt the American response.

"We haven’t had a Surgeon General — who is the nation’s leading public health official, at least the voice of it — for a year. Some Democrats and some Republicans had opposed the particular surgeon general the president had nominated. Do you think it would have helped A. If NIH and CDC had had a little more money and B. Had there been a surgeon general to kind of calm what has been the fear of Ebola?" Crowley asked on CNN's "State of the Union."

"Of course we should have a surgeon general in place," Cruz responded. "And we don’t have one because President Obama, instead of nominating a health professional, he nominated someone who is an anti-gun activist."

"And a doctor," Crowley jumped in.

Cruz conceded that Murthy is a doctor, but he then called him a "crusader against second amendment rights."

He isn't a "crusader" against second amendment rights. He's a public health official who believes in science. And that means he believes that the epidemic of gun deaths in this country is a public health issue.

And frankly, right now, it's a bigger public health issue than Ebola which has killed exactly on person inside the US so far.


The terrorists have super-powers

by digby

... or, at least, they have extremely sophisticated technology:

Cheney says that he and his doctor, cardiologist Jonathan Reiner, turned off the device’s wireless function in case a terrorist tried to send his heart a fatal shock. Years later, Cheney watched an episode of the Showtime series “Homeland” in which such a scenario was part of the plot.

This isn't surprising. Cheney and his crew routinely thought that the fictional series "24" was a realistic depiction and he was well-known to have been so overwhelmed by Ken Burns' "Civil War" documentary back in the 90s that he sent it around to his generals in the first Gulf War so they could learn something about tactics and strategy.

Dick Cheney is a little bit nuts. Not that we didn't know that ...


God has wonderful plan: $#!+ happens

by Tom Sullivan

Psychologists at the Yale Mind and Development Lab explore the human tendency to believe that "everything happens for a reason." Not just religious believers think this, either. They found many atheists believe it as well:

This tendency to see meaning in life events seems to reflect a more general aspect of human nature: our powerful drive to reason in psychological terms, to make sense of events and situations by appealing to goals, desires and intentions. This drive serves us well when we think about the actions of other people, who actually possess these psychological states, because it helps us figure out why people behave as they do and to respond appropriately. But it can lead us into error when we overextend it, causing us to infer psychological states even when none exist. This fosters the illusion that the world itself is full of purpose and design.

That maybe puts too fine a point on it. People don't just do this in relation to others and to events. Growing up, I heard the quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Man is a tool-making animal.” Man is also a pattern-seeking animal. We see faces in ink blots, madonnas in toast and in stains on buildings. We find animal shapes in the clouds and in the stars. We read messages in palms and tea leaves. And after a tragedy, we ask reflexively, "Why did this happen?" As if there is a why.

However, the human impulse to impose meaning on a chaotic world is both a blessing and a curse, the researchers find. It is comforting to believe there really are no accidents. But?

It tilts us toward the view that the world is a fundamentally fair place, where goodness is rewarded and badness punished. It can lead us to blame those who suffer from disease and who are victims of crimes, and it can motivate a reflexive bias in favor of the status quo — seeing poverty, inequality and oppression as reflecting the workings of a deep and meaningful plan.

Shit never just happens in this view. God has a wonderful plan for your life and financially blesses His elect, per the prosperity gospel. If you're poor? You didn't believe hard enough. Decades ago in Harpers, Peter Marin criticized the 1970s human potential movement for teaching that misfortune is a failure of consciousness:

... I listen for two hours in a graduate seminar to two women therapists explaining to me how we are all entirely responsible for our destinies, and how the Jews must have wanted to be burned by the Germans, and that those who starve in the Sahel must want it to happen, and when I ask them whether there is anything we owe to others, say, to a child starving in the desert, one of them snaps at me angrily: "What can I do if a child is determined to starve?"

Randians would feel right at home. The Yale researchers conclude:

If there is such a thing as divine justice or karmic retribution, the world we live in is not the place to find it. Instead, the events of human life unfold in a fair and just manner only when individuals and society work hard to make this happen.

Because sometimes the plan is, shit happens. End of sermon.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies

Songs in the key of grief: Rudderless

By Dennis Hartley

Sad fact #3,476: Mass shootings have become as American as apple pie; so much so that they have spurred their own unique (and identifiably post-Columbine) film subgenre (Bang Bang You're Dead, Zero Day,Elephant, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Beautiful Boy, etc.). Not that its progenitor, the Grieving Parent Drama, hasn't been a Hollywood staple over previous decades; films like Don't Look Now, Ordinary People, The Sweet Hereafter, and The Accidental Tourist deal with the soul-crushing survivor's guilt that results from the loss of a child. The child's demise in those dramas was usually attributed to an accident, or a terminal illness. But it's a different world now. And so it is that we can addWilliam H. Macy's Rudderless to the former list, with a shrug and a sigh.

There is only brief exposition in the film's opening scene that alludes to the tragedy which lies at the heart of the story. A college student named Josh (Miles Heizer) sits alone in his dorm room with guitar in hand, playing and singing with fiery intensity as he records a demo of an original song into his laptop. He is visibly perturbed when he is interrupted; first by a fellow student who ducks his head in the door to say hey, then by a phone call from his father, an ad exec named Sam (Billy Crudup), who tries to talk his son into ducking his next class so he can join him to help celebrate the fact that he's just landed a big account (or something of that nature). When we next see Sam, he's alone at the bar, glancing at his watch...indicating Josh was a no-show. As he prepares to leave, something catches his eye on the bar's TV. There's been a mass shooting at Josh's college.

Josh, we hardly knew ye. But we will get to know him...through his songs, which Sam discovers after his ex-wife (Felicity Huffman) drops off a car load of their late son's musical equipment and cassette demos. It's now two years after the incident, and a decidedly more Jimmy Buffetized Sam is living on his docked boat, working odd jobs and wasting away every night in Margaritaville. He eventually steels himself to sift though Josh's demos, and discovers that his son not only had a gift for writing soulful lyrics, but for coming up with good hooks. He learns to play and sing Josh's tunes. At first, he does it as personal grief therapy, then one night he features one of the songs in an open-mic performance. A young musician (Anton Yelchin) is so taken that he hounds Sam until he forms a band with him (or are they really "forming" a father and son bond?)

 Perhaps not surprisingly, Macy's directorial debut is very much an "actor's movie", beautifully played by the entire cast (which also includes Laurence Fishburne, Selena Gomez, Ben Kweller, and Macy as a club manager). Crudup is a particular standout; this is his most nuanced turn since his breakout performance in the 1999 character study Jesus' Son. The script (co-written by the director along with Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison) could have used a little tightening (by the time the Big Reveal arrives in the third act, it lacks the intended dramatic import due to the overabundance of telegraphing that precedes it). Certain elements of the narrative reminded me of Bobcat Goldthwait's dark 2009 sleeper, World's Greatest Dad (recommended, especially for Robin Williams fans). Still, despite some hiccups and predictable plot points, Macy has fashioned an absorbing, moving drama, with a great soundtrack (composed by Eef Barzelay, Charlton Pettus, and Simon Steadman). The songs performed by the band are catchy...in a mid-1990s, Chapel Hill alt-rock kinda way. Macy's film is a sad song, but you can dance to it.

Previous posts with related themes:

Torn/ The Broken Circle Breakdown

Saturday Night at the Movies review archives

This war on leaks is unbelievable

by digby

Speaking of James Risen, get a load of this from the ACLU:
James Risen is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He's also currently under subpoena, possibly facing jail time, because of his reporting.

Specifically, he's being investigated because of an article on a CIA ploy to hinder Iran's quest for a nuclear bomb that went epically sideways and may have actually helped Iran along. 60 Minutes ran a great story on him this weekend, during which they cited a well-known statistic: the Obama administration has prosecuted more national security "leakers" than all other presidencies combined, eight to three.

But the story also prompted me to look into another figure, which is less well known and potentially more dramatic. Partially because of press freedom concerns, sentencing in media leak cases has historically been relatively light. Not so under President Obama. When it comes to sending these folks to jail, the Obama administration blows every other presidency combined out of the water – by a lot.

By my count, the Obama administration has secured 526 months of prison time for national security leakers, versus only 24 months total jail time for everyone else since the American Revolution.

That's quite a record wouldn't you say?

Read on for the details. They will probably surprise you.


"It just seemed to me the war on terror was becoming increasingly bizarre"

by digby

Here's a must read interview with James Risen from Elias Isquith at Salon:
James Risen, the New York Times reporter responsible in part for the 2005 Times bombshell on the Bush administration’s use of warrantless surveillance — which is widely seen as one of the seminal pieces of journalism of its era — has plenty of experience when it comes to battling the federal government. Not only in his celebrated investigative reports but, perhaps more prominently, in the courts, where for years he’s held his ground in refusing government demands that he reveal a confidential source. 
For Risen, in other words, fighting the post-9/11 national security state is a full-time job, albeit one for which he never truly applied. But while he may be at a profound disadvantage when it comes to defending himself (and, some would say, his profession) in our federal courts, “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War,” his new exposé of the malfeasance and waste behind the war on terror, offers ample evidence that he’s still a Pulitzer Prize winner when it comes to combat on the page... 
So here we are, more than a decade into the war on terror, and I’d guess that a lot of people think that at this point they know everything they need to know about how our government conducts counterterrorism and the growth of the national security state. But considering you wrote this book — which features a lot of new information — I’m guessing you’d disagree. 
Yes. I felt like we had this whole period, 13 years now, where we essentially “took the gloves off,” in Dick Cheney’s famous words, in order to fight a global war on terror. And what Cheney meant by that was deregulating national security, and what that meant was eliminating or reducing or relaxing the rules that had been put in place for 30 years, from the post-Watergate era, which were

At the same time, we were pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into the war on terror, and what, to me, had not been getting much attention is how the combination of deregulating national security while pouring massive amounts of money into a new national security state was having enormous unintended consequences and leading to bizarre operations and a runaway new national security state. And I felt like that was not being reflected in a lot of the things people were writing about.
It just seemed to me the war on terror was becoming increasingly bizarre, and I didn’t feel like that was being captured in the press.
Read on ...

I can't wait to read his book because this subject is what animates me the most as I think about the War on Terror and America's role in it --- this idea of the expansions of the Deep State, without restraint, oversight or accountability. It's not just about money, it's about this organism (for lack of a better word) just operating on its own, with its own logic at the hands of individuals who might each have perfectly good motives but which ends up creating a monster nonetheless.

The problem is the empire and until we grapple with that we'll just be trying to contain this around the edges. It's important to try to contain it, of course. Every effort from the press or from whistleblowers like Edward Snowden helps curb its power. But we won't solve this without a thorough reassessment of our place in the world. And I have no idea how that's going to happen.

Anyway, it's good to see that Risen is talking about this.  It's not new but the post 9/11 ramp up after a period of slight calm after our long Cold War was over needs to be discussed.

As I said, it's not new...

Let's party like it's 1988

by digby

Willie Horton rides again:

[T]he reality is that Nebraska has a longstanding framework of relatively long prison sentences that are moderated by the good time law. Ashford has only played a minor role in shaping this framework, and the 2011 amendment that Ashford co-sponsored enjoyed the enthusiastic support of the state’s GOP governor. There is now an important debate going on in Nebraska about whether the state’s good time law should be amended once again, as Heineman argues, or whether the errors which led to Jenkins being released are best addressed within the Corrections Department, as Ashford appears to believe.

But it is absurd to suggest, as the GOP ad does, that Ashford is responsible for Jenkins’ release and the tragedy that soon followed. If his support for the state’s good time law makes Ashford responsible for Jenkins’ crimes, then Heineman and numerous other state lawmakers share that blame.

This one's right out of the Nixonian "law and order" racist appeal handbook. And it's depressing to see it deployed by the Republican party itself which I've been reassured by libertarians and moderate liberals everywhere is no longer a partisan issue since they are all on board with criminal justice reform. And I'm sure some of them are. But the minute it becomes useful to tickle the racist lizard brain with this stuff, they will not hesitate. It's evergreen.

Who's the civic illiterate, George?

by digby

Gird your loins ladies, George Will is wading into women's issues again:
One of the wonders of this political moment is feminist contentment about the infantilization of women in the name of progressive politics. Government, encouraging academic administrations to micromanage campus sexual interactions, now assumes that, absent a script, women cannot cope. And the Democrats’ trope about the Republicans’ “war on women” clearly assumes that women are civic illiterates.

Access to contraception has been a constitutional right for 49 years (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965). The judiciary has controlled abortion policy for 41 years (Roe v. Wade, 1973). Yet the Democratic Party thinks women can be panicked into voting about mythical menaces to these things.


LIMBAUGH: What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke [sic], who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps.

The johns, that's right. We would be the johns -- no! We're not the johns. Well -- yeah, that's right. Pimp's not the right word.

OK, so, she's not a slut. She's round-heeled. I take it back. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 2/29/12]

Uh huh:

The Family Research Council hosted a panel discussion Wednesday on religious liberty in America. If you have paid any attention at all to the frantic warnings from FRC’s Tony Perkins that tyranny is on the march, you could have guessed what was coming. The overall theme of the conversation was that the HHS mandate for insurance coverage of contraception is a dire threat to religious freedom in America. So are the advance of marriage equality and laws against anti-gay discrimination – or the “sexual liberty agenda.”


"I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery, and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies."


One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, “Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.”

It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also [inaudible], but also procreative.


“This same administration said that the churches and the institutions they run, such as schools and let’s say adoption agencies, hospitals, that they have to provide for their employees free of charge, contraceptives, morning after pills, in other words abortive pills, and the like at no cost,” Romney said.


There has been a lot of talk about the Obama administration’s attack on the Catholic church,” Gingrich said. “The fact is Governor Romney insisted that Catholic hospitals give out abortion pills against their religious belief when he was governor. So you have a similar pattern.”

Now maybe there's little chance that any of these men are serious about banning birth control. Some of them, like Gingrich and Romney, seem to be using the term "abortion pill" as a red meat sleight of hand to entice their voters. Nonetheless, all of those quotes are sufficient to give the "civic illiterates" cause to think that any pro-life Republican who votes for "personhood" might be a tad hostile to contraception. After all, while it's true that the right to access contraception has been the law of the land for more than 40 years so has the right to have an abortion. And I don't think even George Will is so out of touch that he doesn't know that Republicans are as serious as a heart attack about reversing that right. Why should we believe they are only kidding when it comes to birth control? After all, people as different as Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum seem to think that women who use birth control are either sluts who "can hardly walk" or are unfortunately driven by their base desires and refuse to see that sex is supposed to be procreative.

The basis of the objection to abortion is an objection to women's agency. Reproductive freedom is intrinsic to that. There is no reason to assume that the people who are trying to end abortion rights are any less serious about ending the right to contraception. Any woman would be a fool to take that chance.

Oh, and George Will understands women's issues about as well as I understand video games. He makes a fool of himself every time.


Fear for all

by digby

I don't know what the practical application of this bit of knowledge is, but it's interesting.  It's the result of polling people around the world about what they fear the most:

Vox explains:

Each country seems to equate the greatest threat to them or their region with the greatest global threat. So what this ends up showing, in effect, are the largest threats to each of the polled countries, according to popular opinion. And, in that sense, many of these are pretty good assessments. 
Fairly developed countries, where economic inequality tends to be a problem — Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, and Argentina — tend to be worried about inequality. Ukraine and Pakistan see nukes as a big threat; both have gone to war relatively recently with adjacent nuclear powers (Russia and India). Japan, the only country to have been attacked by nuclear weapons, is still worried about them. 
Middle Eastern countries tend to be more worried about ethnic and religious tensions. Rapidly developing but polluted East Asia is concerned about the environment (an unsurprising fact if you've visited Beijing or Manila). And sub-Saharan African countries, where HIV infection rates are by far the highest, often see AIDS and other diseases as the world's biggest problems. People, it turns out, are pretty good at figuring out their country and region's own biggest problems — but then they generalize those problems to the rest of the world.

The US is equally terrified of religious and ethnic hatred, inequality and nuclear weapons.  We don't seem to fear environmental problems or disease although I'd guess that's changed in the last few weeks.

And the truth is that these are all problems for all of us.

QOTD: Amity Schlaes

by digby

There is apparently some kind of kerfuffle between some right wing economists and Paul Krugman which is not worth pursuing because it's stupid. But this quote from the perpetually wrong Amity Schlaes (the Laurie Mylroie of wingnut economics) is one for the ages:

[I and some others] signed a letter a few years ago suggesting that Fed policy might be off, and that inflation might result. Well, inflation hasn’t come on a big scale, apparently. Or not yet. Still, a lot of us remain comfortable with that letter, since we figure someone in the world ought always to warn about the possibility of inflation. Even if what the Fed is doing is not inflationary, the arbitrary fashion in which our central bank responds to markets betrays a lack of concern about inflation. And that behavior by monetary authorities is enough to make markets expect inflation in future.

Krugman must be laughing his ass off.  They cannot prove his point any more starkly than that.


Six Degrees of Ebola

by Tom Sullivan

Is America playing Six Degrees of Ebola yet? Connect yourself to someone on Amber Vinson's Frontier Airlines flight in six steps or fewer, then run around freaking out? (Something to play on a cruise, maybe?)

Best wishes for a swift recovery, of course, to the two caregivers infected in Texas. Yet Ebola fever (the psychological kind) has so gripped the country that articles are popping up with titles like, Ebola hysteria is going viral. Don't fall for these 5 myths. Fox News' Shepard Smith went off script the other day and urged viewers, "Do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio and television or read the fear provoking words online." Michael Hiltzik felt it necessary to write 6 ways to avoid being stupid about Ebola in this week's L.A. Times. His number five is pithy:

5. Listening to Rush Limbaugh may be hazardous to your health. As a one-stop shop of Ebola misinformation, you can't beat the guy. Limbaugh's only purpose is to stir up fear, alarm and mistrust of government among his listeners. Inform them, not so much.

But informing listeners was never the point. Fear, mistrust, alarm, and misinformation is right-wing talk's business model. It's what listeners tune in for. It's just not church in some circles -- you haven't been touched by the spirit -- unless the preacher works up the congregation with a mind-numbing, shouted cant into a hair-standing-on-end, ecstatic state followed by emotional catharsis.

Right-wing talk works the same way. A kind of addictive drug, maybe it has begun to lose its zing (along with Limbaugh's ratings). Perhaps over the years, the ginned-up, faux outrage peddled every day by Rush and his kin has lost its punch. Perhaps the fear-addicted (and fear peddlers) hungering for stronger stuff to give them that old rush again just found it in an ISIS and Ebola cocktail?

That and, as Digby pointed out yesterday, it's crazy season.

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