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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

 
Girls up front

by digby

I'm pretty sure they feel darned clever about this:
Some allies of rancher Cliven Bundy were prepared to make as much of a media spectacle as possible if violence were to erupt, saying they would put women on the front lines in the event federal officials turned to deadly force. Former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack told Fox News Monday, as reported by the Blaze:

We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front. If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.

Mack, a self-professed Tea Partier, is one of a host of right-wing figures who stood behind Bundy and made him a conservative celebrity after he refused to pay grazing fees based on his claim that the federal government is not entitled to own land.

Mack served as sheriff for Graham County between 1988 and 1997, and is part of a group known as the “Oath Keepers” that denies the supremacy of federal law and has been deemed part of a wave of new militia groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the federal government that challenged the constitutionality of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.
This is actually not all that uncommon. Human shields are often used in certain kinds of conflicts. The Taliban does it, for instance. Bashar Assad does too. Saddam and Qaddafi both did it with relish.

You can certainly see who their inspirations are.

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Fergawdsakes. Shoe Truthers? Really?

by digby

The right wing is staging one of the stupidest hissy fits ever. They are saying that Hillary Clinton staged that shoe throwing incident the other day. It's so dumb even Rush seems a little bit embarrassed by it and I didn't think that was possible:

Rush Limbaugh jumped on board the crazy train Monday, telling listeners that he can "totally relate" to those who believe that "everything the Clintons do is staged or choreographed." While he has not studied the incident in detail, he believes what people told him about Clinton's reaction not being "natural."

"I'm sorry, I'm ill-equipped to comment," Limbaugh said, proceding, of course to comment at some length. "Maybe it's because, in my subconscious, I think it was staged, or set up, or whatever. ... I don't know why anybody would be throwing a shoe at Hillary unless -- maybe it's an attempt to make the Benghazi people look like nuts and lunatics and wackos."

You don't need to have shoes thrown at you to make the Benghazi people look like nuts and lunatics.

The think Clinton didn't "react naturally" because in their minds she should have jumped on a broom and flown at the assailant cackling madly and screaming "I'll get you my pretty!!!!"

Jesus. Did they find that plane yet?


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Sexual abuse in the quiverfull movement. Is anyone surprised?

by David Atkins

While repulsive, I don't think this should be a surprise to anyone:

A leading advocate of the patriarchal Quiverfull movement groomed a teenage girl as his “personal sex object” and then used the purity culture to shame her into silence, according to a lawsuit filed by his victim.

Douglas Phillips resigned last year from Vision Forum and Vision Forum Ministries over what he described at the time as an extramarital affair.

But the lawsuit, reported by Right Wing Watch, revealed more details about this relationship and the ways that women are treated in the Quiverfull movement – which has been popularized by the prolific Duggar family and their TLC reality show, 19 Kids and Counting.

Attorneys claim Phillips, a close friend to the Duggar family and an associate of actor Kirk Cameron, “methodically groomed” Lourdes Torres since she was 15 years old and led her to believe they would be married.

Phillips told the girl this was possible because his wife, Beall Phillips, “was going to die soon.”

Torres appeared in two Vision Forum films, “Alone But Not Alone” and the anti-feminist documentary “Return of the Daughters.”

Right Wing Watch also noted that when Torres graduated from high school in 2003, Phillips wrote a blog post commending her parents for “bringing their daughter into mature Christian womanhood.”

But at the same time, according to the lawsuit, Phillips indoctrinated Torres with the “patriarchal mindset” and “subtly began to manipulate Ms. Torres, so that he could use her for his sexual gratification.”

The suit claims Phillips repeatedly groped and touched Torres inappropriately and masturbated on her, “against her wishes and over her objections,” over a period of years.

“While Ms. Torres would have felt compelled to submit to Douglas Phillips, the purity culture would have meant at the same time, her submission made her ‘damaged goods’ in her eyes, the eyes of her family, and her community — raising the cost for her to come forward to call him to account,” the suit claims. “She was, in fact, in a ‘no-win’ situation.”
That "no-win situation" is exactly what religious patriarchs want women to be in. It's all about sexual control.


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A tinderbox waiting to explode for at least three decades

by digby

This story in the Washington Post about the Kansas assassin is just creepy:

When I learned that the man accused of shooting innocent bystanders Sunday at a Jewish community center and Jewish retirement home in Kansas City was a former Klansman named Glenn Miller, I shuddered.

Thirty-three years ago, when I was an undergraduate at Duke University, I read a small item in the Raleigh News & Observer that mentioned Miller, then the grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Miller, it turns out, ran a paramilitary training camp in rural North Carolina.

I couldn’t understand how, in late-20th-century America, the KKK could operate in the open less than an hour from our elite, ivory-tower campus. I was an editor of Duke’s daily newspaper, the Chronicle, so I did what any reporter would do: I called Miller and asked for an interview. Always looking for publicity, Miller readily said yes, but he had one condition. “We ain’t no equal-opportunity employer, you know,” he said. “So don’t bring down no blacks and no Jews.”

It get worse. "I smell a Jew....."

I saw Morris Dees last night on Chris Hayes and he explained that this guy lost face among his fellow Nazis and may have been trying to prove his bonafides to his cohorts with this latest shooting. My God ...


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Why isn't this called what it is: terrorism?

by digby

The authorities have charged the Kansas assassin with a hate crime, which it surely is. But just because he was a white American male who wanted to kill Jews instead of a Muslim fanatic wanting to kill Jews (or other Americans) doesn't make it something other than terrorism, does it?

Mark Potok at the SPLC had this to say on PBS last night:

GWEN IFILL: For anybody watching who is a little confused, I want to be clear this man goes by a couple different names, Frazier Glenn Cross, Glenn Miller, Frazier Miller, just so everybody knows we’re talking about the same person.

Are people like this always loners, individuals, or are there conspiracies out there we should be keeping — or that you are keeping an eye on?

MARK POTOK: Much, much more often than not these days, they are loners, so-called lone wolves.

And that is largely because conspiracies tend to be found out so very quickly, and often quite easily by law enforcement. And also conspiracies, when actually a whole group of people actually plan a crime or a domestic terrorist attack, they will very likely all go down if even only one of them is caught.

So, today, almost all of these attacks, certainly the most dangerous attacks, come from lone wolves or people with operating with just one or two friends like, for instance, Timothy McVeigh in the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995.

GWEN IFILL: At what point — you mentioned Timothy McVeigh — that is an example. At what point do we begin to treat these kinds of attacks as domestic terrorism, not just as hate crimes or individual acts?

MARK POTOK: Well, I mean, they are domestic terrorism. Let’s be plain.

There is nothing to distinguish this from other forms of terrorism. It is a way in this case of terrorizing the Jewish community around Kansas City in particular, but around the country in general. And that’s what terrorism is. It’s a criminal act that is aimed at far more people than the immediate victims.

You know, the law enforcement has been off and on about being candid about the terrorist nature of these attacks. But I think, today, by and large, American law enforcement is perfectly well aware that there is a very serious domestic radical right and some people within that milieu are, in fact, terrorists.

It's not that they never charge white supremacists with terrorism. But they don't seem to see it in the same light as Islamic terrorism. But then, white supremacy terrorism has always been given a wide birth in this country. (As is anti-abortion terrorism.)

Juan Colehas a good piece up about this case. And he links to his earlier piece called the Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others, which is useful at times like these:

1. White terrorists are called “gunmen.” What does that even mean? A person with a gun? Wouldn’t that be, like, everyone in the US? Other terrorists are called, like, “terrorists.”

2. White terrorists are “troubled loners.” Other terrorists are always suspected of being part of a global plot, even when they are obviously troubled loners.

3. Doing a study on the danger of white terrorists at the Department of Homeland Security will get you sidelined by angry white Congressmen. Doing studies on other kinds of terrorists is a guaranteed promotion.

4. The family of a white terrorist is interviewed, weeping as they wonder where he went wrong. The families of other terrorists are almost never interviewed.

5. White terrorists are part of a “fringe.” Other terrorists are apparently mainstream.

6. White terrorists are random events, like tornadoes. Other terrorists are long-running conspiracies.

7. White terrorists are never called “white.” But other terrorists are given ethnic affiliations.

8. Nobody thinks white terrorists are typical of white people. But other terrorists are considered paragons of their societies.

9. White terrorists are alcoholics, addicts or mentally ill. Other terrorists are apparently clean-living and perfectly sane.

10. There is nothing you can do about white terrorists. Gun control won’t stop them. No policy you could make, no government program, could possibly have an impact on them. But hundreds of billions of dollars must be spent on police and on the Department of Defense, and on TSA, which must virtually strip search 60 million people a year, to deal with other terrorists.

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Factoid 'O the Day

by digby

Via the AFL-CIO's awesome web-site called "Executive Paywatch":

In 2013 the CEO to worker pay ratio was 331:1 and the CEO to minimum wage worker pay ratio was 774:1. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, a country where hard work and playing by the rules would provide working families a middle-class standard of living. But in recent decades, corporate CEOs have been taking a greater share of the economic pie while wages have stagnated and unemployment remains high.

So what's the point? This just means that the CEOs work 774 times harder than a janitor or a waitress. Obviously. Also too, they have better character and higher morals. Otherwise, this might be seen as a self-dealing system of exploitation. And it can't be that. Because if God didn't think rich people were simply worth more he wouldn't make it so they could keep all the money.


Is it possible to make too much money? “Is it possible to have too much ambition? Is it possible to be too successful?” Blankfein shoots back. “I don’t want people in this firm to think that they have accomplished as much for themselves as they can and go on vacation. As the guardian of the interests of the shareholders and, by the way, for the purposes of society, I’d like them to continue to do what they are doing. I don’t want to put a cap on their ambition. It’s hard for me to argue for a cap on their compensation.” 
So, it’s business as usual, then, regardless of whether it makes most people howl at the moon with rage? Goldman Sachs, this pillar of the free market, breeder of super-citizens, object of envy and awe will go on raking it in, getting richer than God? An impish grin spreads across Blankfein’s face. Call him a fat cat who mocks the public. Call him wicked. Call him what you will. He is, he says, just a banker “doing God’s work”


 
Good timing

by digby

Well, not exactly:
The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said.

The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said.

An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a “total revision to health insurance questions” and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured. Thus, officials said, it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.

“We are expecting much lower numbers just because of the questions and how they are asked,” said Brett J. O’Hara, chief of the health statistics branch at the Census Bureau.

I suppose they figure with all the hoopla around the new law it's better to have it be part of the chaos rather than waiting another year when it will look as though the numbers are dropping. But honestly, couldn't someone have thought of this a couple of years ago, before the law took effect?

I cannot say for sure that a conservative regime wouldn't have managed this timing better. The government is a big lumbering beast and it's often hard to control all the moving parts. But in general, conservative governments tend to use the government for political purposes more overtly --- and get away with it.

For instance, remember this slick play from the Bush admnistration?



They could have just sent the checks.  But instead they first sent every taxpayer a letter taking credit for it. At taxpayers expense! This administration couldn't even get the funds legitimately necessary to educate people about Obamacare.  And when they went to the private sector to ask if they'd pick up the slack the Republicans went ballistic and accused them of lawbreaking.  (I won't even go into the bogus IRS scandal that continues to this day.)

The most notorious use of the government for overtly political purposes in the Bush administration was the use of the US Attorneys office to tilt election results, although that one backfired when some prosecutors decided they didn't want to risk their reputations. But it's a testament to their chutzpah that they felt so comfortable wielding power that they even tried.

I don't think the Democrats should stoop to that level of manipulation (and lawbreaking) obviously. But knowing what the other hand is doing and plan ahead for maximum results is simply good management. And I think Democrats tend to discount that skill from a political perspective and often fail to take advantage of opportunities.  At the very least they should be alert to opportunities that avert political problems.

Perhaps it wasn't possible to effect this change in census questions earlier, although at the pace government moves it's hard to believe this hasn't been in the works for some time. Sure, they might have been accused of playing politics. But so what? The Republicans will accuse them of playing politics anyway --- and the Democrats would do the same if the shoe were on the other foot.  The difference is that Republicans weigh the pros and cons and don't worry about the Democrats' handwringing.  It's a big advantage for conservatives: they get to rail against Big Government inefficiency even as they use it for their political advantage.

Update: It turns out that the NY Times article is a bit misleading.The change will measure the difference between 2012 and 2013, which should give them a proper baseline for Obamacare.

And yes, the right wingers are freaking out saying this is jacking the number somehow in Obamacare's favor, which is nonsense of course. And as the Vox link above points out, most of those who follow this issue use a number of tools including Gallup which measures a large sample.

Still, this sort of thing is unhelpful:

Census officials did have at least some concerns about changing the measurement of the uninsured rate at this moment. In a memo obtained by the Times, it was described as "it is coincidental and unfortunate timing."

"Ideally," the same memo says, "the redesign would have had at least a few years to gather base line and trend data."

Maybe they could just get them to shut up?

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ABC must not want a latino audience. They've just hired a hardcore immigrant basher

by digby

My new piece for Salon is on Laura "anchor fetus" Ingraham:
Nobody has been more of a vociferous critic of the news media’s alleged liberal bias than talk radio host and conservative commentator Laura Ingraham. Going all the way back to her years as a notorious campus activist making her name as a vicious homophobe (since partially recanted,) she has been hitting the mainstream media for its so-called liberal bias. This “Reliable Sources” exchange with E.J. Dionne from early 2003 is an amusing example of how the best of them get the job done:

KURTZ: Let’s turn now to media bias. E.J. Dionne, you wrote a column recently saying there is no longer any such thing as the big, liberal media. Is this a fantasy we’ve been talking about for some years now? … You’re saying that the “New York Times” and the “L.A. Times” and “The Washington Post” and the networks and magazines have been intimidated and they’re cowering and they can’t do their jobs anymore?

INGRAHAM: I must have missed that.

DIONNE: That’s not what I said…

INGRAHAM: When they cover a Bush press conference, how is it covered? Is it covered in a fair and balanced way…

DIONNE: Bush has gotten an extraordinarily good press. I challenge you to compare…

INGRAHAM: He’s been an extraordinarily good president, much to the media’s chagrin.

You see, when a Republican president gets bad coverage it’s because the press has a liberal bias. When he gets good coverage it’s because he’s so good.

Read the whole thing to get a taste of her real passion: hating on undocumented workers.

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In other privacy news, app maker secretly sells location data of 50 million people. Almost no punishment.

by David Atkins

I have this flashlight app on my phone:
Even judging by the low standards of creepy data-mining apps, “Brightest Flashlight” did something pretty egregious. The free app, which was installed by at least 50 million Android users, transmitted users’ real-time locations to ad networks and other third parties. It was, in other words, a stalking device disguised as a flashlight.

In December, the Federal Trade Commission exposed the app’s antics and also announced a proposed settlement with the app maker, GoldenShores Technologies, a one-man operation based in Idaho. In doing so, the agency explained how Brightest Flashlight used legal flim-flam in a privacy policy and user license agreement to obscure what the app was up to.

The terms are now final, and they’re underwhelming, to put it mildly.

In a Wednesday announcement, the FTC confirmed that GoldenShores and owner Erik Geidl are not to collect app users’ geolocation without clearly explaining how and why they’re doing so and, in broad terms, say who is receiving that information. The flashlight app maker will also have to keep records for the FTC to inspect, and Geidl will have to tell the agency about any new businesses he decides to start in the next 10 years. He also has 10 days as of the order to delete all the data he collected.

On paper, the order looks like stern stuff but, in practice, it’s hard to see how this amounts to real punishment. Even though Geidl did something deeply unethical, compromising the privacy of tens of millions of people, he will not pay a cent for his misdeeds.
I suppose I could uninstall the app from my phone, but what would be the point? It's not as if Google, Verizon, Microsoft, Twitter and about a dozen other companies don't also know my precise GPS location every single second of every single day. Facebook would know, too, in addition to the hundred other things it knows about me--if I bothered to put a Facebook app on my phone.

Dozens of companies know every single website I've ever visited. A dozen different financial institutions know every single purchase I've ever made that wasn't in cash. I guess a few dozen more companies knowing exactly where I am every single day won't much much of a difference. I pretty much gave up on any passive expectation of privacy long ago.

I wouldn't be surprised if Google, Verizon and AT&T couldn't essentially ID most drug dealers and their customers just by using big data to figure out who hangs out suspiciously long in places people wouldn't normally hang out, and who comes to visit them at those places. Fairly soon dozens of different companies will have the ability as well. Given what we know about the NSA at this point, I'd be surprised if the government didn't already have that data. I just think they probably don't care all that much.


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Monday, April 14, 2014

 
Chasing leakers by any means necessary

by digby

Kind of fitting that this piece by Spencer Ackerman ran the day the Guardian and its NSA reporters (including Spencer) won the Pulitzer Prize:

The US government’s troubled military trials of terrorism suspects were dealt another blow on Monday when proceedings were halted after an allegation surfaced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation turned a member of a 9/11 defendant’s defense team into a secret informant.

Judge James Pohl, the army colonel overseeing the controversial military commission at Guantánamo, gaveled a hearing out of session after barely 30 minutes on Monday morning, following the revelation of a motion filed by the defense stipulating that the FBI approached an unidentified member of the team during the course of an investigation into how a manifesto by accused 9/11 architect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed found its way to the media.

Defense attorneys argued the government plunged them into a potential conflict of interest, as they would need to potentially defend themselves against a leak investigation, risking their ability to put their clients’ legal needs ahead of their own.

They implored Pohl to investigate, and if necessary, assign their clients with new independent counsel to advise the defendants about the existence and implications of conflict of interest. That could be a lengthy process – potentially the next delay for a proceeding that has yet to get out of the pretrial stage nearly two years after the latest incarnation of the 9/11 military trials began.

“We have an impossible situation in terms of representing our client … on any issue,” said James Harrington, a civilian attorney for Mohammed’s co-defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh in the case, which carries the death penalty.

“To say this is a chilling experience for all of us is a gross understatement,” Harrington said.
That would be the point, I'm pretty sure. Nothing must stop the pursuit of leakers. Nothing. Even if it means subversion of the constitution. Because freedom.

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The Pulitzers reward real journalism

by digby

Congratulations to the winners. It gives me hope that journalism still understands its role in a free society:



Totally deserved in every way.

Update: Of course...






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Welfare works. Private sector charity doesn't

by David Atkins

Matt Yglesias puts together a simple chart showing the awesome power of the welfare state to do good:



The "T&T" in the chart refers to "taxes and transfers": i.e., the implementation of large-scale social welfare programs.

The only reason that our poverty rates haven't gone down as much as those those of other countries is, of course, that our social welfare programs are far weaker than in those other countries. As Yglesias says:

The point? Child poverty is a problem government can help solve, if voters want it to. In Scandinavia, voters do want the problem solved, and they're willing to pay the taxes necessary to get there. In the United States, not so much.
We may be a more religious nation than most. But that quite clearly hasn't made us more moral.


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Those silly younger voters

by digby

You just can't trust them at all:
President Obama inspired a generation of young people to support his historic election in 2008. And in 2012, despite the struggles of his first term, Mr. Obama still managed to win the support of a full 60% of voters age 18-29. But the man who once dreamed of being a transformative leader in the Reagan mold is inspiring few of those young people to follow his lead.

"For all the talk about the movement that elected Mr. Obama, the more notable movement of Obama supporters has been away from politics. It appears that few of the young people who voted for him, and even fewer Obama campaign and administration operatives, have decided to run for office. Far more have joined the high-paid consultant ranks," reports the New York Times NYT. "Unlike John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, who inspired virtual legislatures of politicians and became generational touchstones, Mr. Obama has so far had little such influence."

The Times quotes Harvard pollster John Della Volpe: "If you were to call it an Obama generation, there was a window...That opportunity has been lost." Mr. Della Volpe's polling of 18- to 29-year-olds shows that only 35% now believe that running for office is an honorable pursuit. "We're seeing the younger cohort is even less connected with [Mr. Obama] generally, with his policies, as well as politics generally," he told the Times. The paper also quotes former Obama pollster Sergio Bendixen saying that Mr. Obama's onetime core supporters among the young "went on to the next website and then the next click on their computer. I just don't see the generation as all that ideological or invested in causes for the long run."

You mean that whole "come to Obama" thing didn't invest young people in ideology and causes? Go figure. (There were some of us who predicted that the delirious American Idol "I've got a crush on Obama" approach might result in some disillusionment when Real Life intruded on the fantasy, but we were naysaying fools.)

You cannot blame young people for feeling like their excitement about Obama didn't really add up to all that much. It's not that they have short attention spans. It's that their lives are shit and it's doubly disappointing that their lives are shit after they placed such faith in "Hope 'n Change."

But hey Democratic strategists, go ahead and blame the voters for feeling like it doesn't matter if they vote. What could possibly go wrong?


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The demographic tale

by digby

This tells the story better than anything else I've seen:

Pew demographics photo 847889448_zps3dc36b29.gif

That bulge you see going through the snake is the baby boomers of course. And as you can see, we're going to be nothing but a group of very old ladies before too much longer. So all the panic about Social Security and the other old age problems are going to work themselves out quite naturally in a fairly short period of time. There is no need to panic. Indeed, it's important not to cut the programs for those very old ladies. They (we) are probably not going to be able to be big "job creators" or producers at that point and will need help before we finally die off.

And if I might just add a little boomer's lament: we didn't ask to be born any more than the rest of you did. To the extent we are selfish, destructive failures as a generation, take a look at just how huge a generation that is and consider that a whole lot of us as individuals tried to do the right thing in our lives. There were just so many of us.


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Lady Liberty is a hippie

by digby
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Sunday said that America "can't invite the whole world" to enter the country, no matter how much some immigrants may love the U.S.

Speaking on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Paul said that when lawmakers focus only on the reasons immigrants enter the U.S. illegally, it makes "people think, 'Well, because they're doing this for kind reasons,' that the whole world can come to our country."
So true.

I think we probably need to do something about this, though.




Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Maybe it's time to rip that old statue down and put it in a museum somewhere.


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It's torture. If they still won't call it what it is, you know it will happen again.

by digby

There is just no excuse for this:
Much has been made in the past decade or so about the news business' sudden conversion to euphemism when it came to describing techniques that had been previously universally recognized as torture. One study, for instance, found that major outlets abruptly stopped defining waterboarding as torture when the Bush administration began using it.

That tendency has not abated in recent years, and a look through recent newspaper and television coverage shows that many outlets are still hesitant to use "torture."

McClatchy, which published the leaked findings from the Senate report, called them "harsh interrogation techniques," even as it provided a gruesome description of what those techniques were:
The techniques included waterboarding, which produces a sensation of drowning, stress positions, sleep deprivation for up to 11 days at a time, confinement in a cramped box, slaps and slamming detainees into walls. The CIA held detainees in secret “black site” prisons overseas and abducted others who it turned over to foreign governments for interrogation.
The Washington Post referred to "brutal," "harsh" and "excruciating" techniques.

A New York Times article mentioned "brutal methods."

Reuters wrote about "brutal interrogation methods that critics say amount to torture."

The Associated Press actually described the report in one article as a "torture report," though it later used the term "enhanced interrogation techniques" in quotes.

Read on. Television is just as bad.

This is unacceptable. And at this point the news media has to take some responsibility for perpetrating the myth that "the US doesn't torture." If you won't put the word in black and white, you aren't being truthful with the American public. Indeed, they are making it safe for the government to do it again.

They are now officially propagandists for the torture regime.

Does everyone recall what the US media used to call what the North Vietnamese did to prisoners? Torture:

"Stress positions"  



Many men were handcuffed or tied to a stool as a means of slow torture. The [detainee] sat in one position, day and night. Each time he would fall over, the guards would sit him upright. He was not allowed to sleep or rest. Exhaustion and pain take their toll. When the [detainee] agreed to cooperate with his captors and acquiesced to their demands, he would be removed. Here, I have pictured a guard named "Mouse," who liked to throw buckets of cold water on a man on cold winter nights. 

You're always sitting either on the floor or on a stool or concrete block or something low. The interrogator is always behind a table that's covered with cloth of some kind, white or blue or something. And he sits above you and he's always looking down at you asking you questions and they want to know what the targets are for tomorrow, next week, next month. You don't know. You really don't know. But he doesn't -- he's going to have to have an answer of some kind. Now the back of the room comes the -- the torture. And he's a -- he's a big guy that knows what he's doing. And he starts locking your elbows up with ropes and tying your wrists together and bending you
"Sleep Deprivation"  



Some men were tied to their beds, sometimes for weeks at a time. Here, I have drawn a picture showing the handcuffs being worn in front, but the usual position was with the wrists handcuffed behind the back. A man would live this way day and night, without sleep or rest. 

The guards come around the middle of the night just rattling the lock on your door. That's a terrifying thing because they may be taking you out for a torture session. You don't know. 

"... obviously this is an emotional thing to me, was listening to the screams of other ... prisoners while they were being tortured. And being locked in a cell myself sometimes uh, in handcuffs or tied up and not able to do anything about it. And that's the way I've got to spend the night."

"Isolation"  

The ten months that I spent in the blacked out cell I went into panic. The only thing I could do was exercise. As long as I could move, I felt like I was going to -- well, it was so bad I would put a rag in my mouth and hold another one over it so I could scream. That seemed to help. It's not that I was scared, more scared than another other time or anything. It was happening to my nerves and my mind. And uh, I had to move or die. I'd wake up at two o'clock in the morning or midnight or three or whatever and I would jump up immediately and start running in place. Side straddle hops. Maybe four hours of sit ups. But I had to exercise. And of course I prayed a lot

I won't go into how much those "harsh techniques" resembled the torture methods used by our own government. It's obvious. And it's just a small sample.

That little excerpt above was from a post I wrote 10 years ago. And they don't even include "waterboarding" which Vice President Cheney called a "no brainer" and said he'd do again without a second thought.

I don't know what these news organizations fear from calling torture what it is. But I can guarantee it's not as bad as what was done to those prisoners or to the reputation of the United States of America. If we can't even call the torture by its real name it's hard to see why the government won't see this as just another semantic debate and do the same thing if they feel it's "necessary." I guess much of the news business feels it's immune from that sort of thing but the rest of us should worry. If the US government has officially defined deviancy down to the point where torture is no longer torture, you have to wonder where it might end? After all, the world is full of danger. Who knows who they might think they need to "interrogate" with "enhanced methods" next time?

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Float like a butterfly sting like a ... never mind

by digby

My latest at Salon on the Democrats' fall strategy to combat the Koch's assault on Obamacare:
Suppose you were a manufacturer who created a new product that could conceivably benefit everyone at some point in their lives but will only be needed by a small number of them at any one time. And further suppose that this product was a threat to another manufacturer who would suffer long-term erosion of its customer base if this new product really took hold in the marketplace. Would it make sense for the manufacturer of the new product to sit idly by while this rival spent millions and millions of dollars on false advertising about the new product? Would it be reasonable to believe that after being inundated by lies for months the public would be positive about this product and the people who made it?

Apparently, that’s what Democratic Senate incumbents are all counting on happening. According to Politico, they are keeping their powder dry for the fall campaign while the Koch brothers and lord knows how many other radical right-wing billionaires spend unlimited sums spreading lies about Obamacare.

That’s a great strategy — if you’re Muhammad Ali. For normal humans it’s a very big gamble to allow yourself to be relentlessly pummeled in the hopes a late surge of energy will allow you to score a knock-out.  Read on ...
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Year of Living Dangerously: First Episode

by David Atkins

James Cameron's series on climate change Year of Living Dangerously premiered its first episode this weekend. It's free with minor edits on Youtube. Check it out:



It's good to see this sort of material out there. Kudos to James Cameron and all the talented people involved for making this series happen, demonstrating the immediate and very human impact that global warming is already having at home and abroad. It's not as if Americans can count on cable news to tell them the truth about climate change.


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Sunday, April 13, 2014

 
Yes, they will marry your girlfriends

by digby

... and your girlfriends will like it:


Via Howie, who took the time to put this into proper political context.

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You think the Kochs don't really matter?

by digby

Here's just one example of the their malevolent intent:

When Congress passed the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act, the goal was to keep the National Flood Insurance Program afloat after insurance payouts from several devastating hurricanes, including Katrina, left the program in debt. However, lawmakers did not foresee the legislation’s impact on Louisiana homeowners: sky-high flood insurance premiums for some of the same families that had already suffered through the “single most catastrophic natural disaster” in U.S. history. The Biggert-Waters Act hit some Louisiana families with annual premiums as high as $18,000 and threatened to destabilize the state’s property values and housing market.

Yet when Congress, backed by a wide bipartisan coalition, was preparing to halt the harmful effects the flood insurance hikes were having on Louisiana, the Koch brothers tried to intervene and kill the legislation. Their Tea Party-affiliated group, Americans for Prosperity, backed plans to end all federal flood insurance subsidies for property owners and preserve “the crux” of the faulty Biggert-Waters Act despite its harm to Louisiana homeowners. Although opposition from conservative groups like AFP caused House leaders to delay a vote on the fix, Congress passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act in March 2014, staving off Biggert-Waters’ extreme premium hikes despite the Koch Brothers’ efforts.

What horrible people these are.

I wonder if they'll have better luck now that they can give even more money to candidates than they did before?

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The meanest Christian

by digby

I told you Huckabee was a nasty piece of work. And this is really nasty:

Noting that President Barack Obama said years ago that he opposed gay marriage because of his Christian beliefs, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee openly questioned those beliefs Friday because the president had since changed his position.

Huckabee spoke with Fox New's Laura Ingraham about his own comments regarding same-sex nuptials. He had told an Iowa audience Tuesday that his opposition was "on the right side of the Bible." On Friday, he argued that it was the same stance that Obama had taken in 2008.

"He said it was because of his Christian convictions. Does he have them or does he not?" Huckabee told Ingraham. "If one has them, they don't change depending on what the culture does. You don't take an opinion poll to come up with a new point of view."

He laid out three possible scenarios to explain the president's change of heart: "Were you lying then or are you lying now or did the Bible get re-written?"

He's insulting President Obama in his usual nasty way by calling him a liar. But he's also insulting all the Christians who believe in gay marriage, which I assume includes quite a few of the people who are reading this right now. There are lots of them.

The Barna group, which tracks religious attitudes in America, did a poll last summer:


I guess all those people who've changed their minds are liars or heretics.

And here's another example of their ongoing problem with younger voters:

A striking diference emerged in this survey both in 2003 and 2013: Both among the national average and the Christian population, views on same-sex relationships vary significantly by age. Across the board, twenty- and thirty-something Americans are more likely than Americans 40 and over to support legal changes favoring the LGBTQ community (65% compared to 46%), to view same-sex relationships as morally acceptable (47% compared to 30%), and disagree that marriage is defined as one man and one woman (61% compared to 46%).

Within the Christian community, this generational trend remains the same, though the gap is smaller. Younger practicing Christians are statistically more supportive of the LGBTQ movement than their parents’ generation. Nearly half of of practicing Protestants under 40 today support changing laws to enable more freedoms for the LGBTQ community, while just one-third of their parents’ and grandparents’ generation feel the same.

The ways younger practicing Christians understand the goals of the LGBTQ community also differ significantly than their predecessors’ perceptions. Twenty- and thirty-something practicing Christians today are twice as likely as practicing Christians over 40 to identify protection from violence and discrimination (11% compared to 6%) and sexual freedom (13% compared to 6%) as goals of the LGBTQ community. Younger Christians (19%) are also nearly three times as likely as older Christians (7%) to understand adoption as a desire within the LGBTQ community.

So keep insulting Christians and other Americans with this nonsense, Huckabee. It'll only hurt your political ball team. And that's a good thing.


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The worst thing about McKutcheon according to Republicans? No more "sorry I'm maxed out"

by digby

I can think of a lot of reasons why this is such a bad decision, from the flood of money from rich donors to further sway government to act in their interest to the continuing absurdity of this "money equals speech" concept which makes a mockery of democracy. Most people seem to think those are pretty substantial problems. But this Republican lawmaker from Maryland, which just voted to lift its state law limiting contributions in light of the Supreme Court ruling, has a different take on the pros and cons:

"This will be a game-changer," said state Sen. J.B. Jennings, a Republican who represents Baltimore and Harford counties.

"Is it good or bad? I don't think we necessarily know yet," he added. "For some business people who love politics and love to play the game, it's going to take the reins off them. But for the others, it's just going to annoy them. Anybody who is running is going to be calling these people, and they won't be able to say, 'Sorry, I'm maxed out.'"

The main drawback he sees is that rich people will be annoyed because they won't have the excuse that they've already maxed out. It could be quite a problem. Maybe they could just have one of the servants say they're not home.


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Come on honey, money can't buy you love

by digby

In case this sort of thing matters to you, you might want to print it out and give it to your woman friends before the next election. Maybe they're fine with this. But it can't hurt to remind them:



Just make sure your friends aren't "liberals" like Ruth Marcus however. She's more offended by Democrats being political than she is about equal pay for women. Of course, she's paid very well.

Update: Marsha Blackburn, congresswoman from Tennessee (and rumored presidential candidate) says that Republicans have always led the way for equal rights for women. So there.


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Dispatch from torture central: aka America

by digby

As people who have read this blog for years know, I've been writing about the use of tasers as torture-to-compliance tools for a very long time. I've also written about how it's used for punishment on people who have been convicted of nothing but failing to be properly "respectful" of certain men and women in uniform. This is not what I think of as freedom, but apparently many Americans think of it as comedy.

Last week there was a great brouhaha on the right over a western land stand-off with the BLM over grazing rights. Federal agents moved in and tasered some protesters who, in this case, are nice white people in cowboy hats. Republican politicians howled, calling it akin to Tianenmen Square.

But this happens every day to people all over the country who try to assert their rights to a policemen or a judge, people who are mentally ill, who legally protesting their government or other institutions, or are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is used against people who are handcuffed and on the ground, it's used against deaf people who cannot hear the policeman's command, it's used against epileptics in the throes of a seizure, it is used against bedridden 90 year old ladies suffering from delusions. It is used against people who refuse to be taken to a hospital.

And it is used against children. The New York Times raised the issue a couple of days ago with this editorial:

Federal investigators have opened an inquiry into the tragic case of a high school student in Bastrop County, Tex., who suffered severe brain damage and nearly died last fall after a deputy sheriff shocked him with a Taser, a high voltage electronic weapon.

In North Carolina, civil rights lawyers have filed a complaint with the Justice Department, charging the Wake County school system with violating the constitutional rights of minority children by subjecting them to discriminatory arrest practices and brutality by police officers assigned to schools. In one nightmarish case described in the complaint, a disabled 15-year-old was shocked with a Taser three times during an interrogation at school, resulting in punctured lungs. And in New York, civil rights lawyers have sued the city of Syracuse on behalf of two students. One was shocked three times, not for threatening behavior but for lying on the floor and crying, they say, and another was shocked while trying to break up a fight.

Complaints about dangerous disciplinary practices involving shock weapons are cropping up all over the country. The problem has its roots in the 1990s, when school districts began ceding even routine disciplinary duties to police and security officers, who were utterly unprepared to deal with children. Many districts need to overhaul practices that criminalize far too many young people and that are applied in ways that discriminate against minority children. In the meantime, elected officials need to ban shock weapons in schools.

The Taser, the most popular of these weapons, uses a powerful electrical charge to create intense spasms that drive the suspect to the ground. Police organizations view such weapons as a means of defusing violent confrontations without resorting to deadly force. But a growing body of research shows how lethal these weapons can be.
[...]
In the Texas case, Noe Niño de Rivera, a 17-year-old at Cedar Creek High School, collapsed after being shocked and struck his head on the floor. Doctors performed emergency surgery to repair a severe brain hemorrhage and subsequently placed him in a medically induced coma, in which he remained for 52 days. He now needs rehabilitation and is unlikely to fully recover.

The sheriff’s department said that a Taser was used against the teenager because he interfered while the deputies were breaking up a fight. A security video leading up the incident shows that the fight was already over when the officers arrived, and it seems to show the student backing away when one of the officers shocked him.

Civil rights groups point out that Texas has already prohibited Taser use in its juvenile justice facilities. The state should extend the restriction to its public schools. That would be a sensible start. Beyond that, school administrators need to reclaim responsibility for disciplinary matters from security or police officers, who too often treat students like criminals.

There have been reports of police using tasers to subdue school children as young as six years old. Or to simply train 8 year olds to comply with the police.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: tasers are killing people. And there's no way of knowing who they're going to kill. It depends on where the taser lands on the body, underlying health conditions, how the person falls (as one always does when hit with 50,000 volts of electricity) and just random bad luck. Unless we think that all those situations described above should be subject to summary execution, we need to rethink the use of this torture compliance weapon. It's lethal. It's also un-American -- or should be anyway.


h/t to @walizonia










 
Sunday Funnies

by digby

From Brian McFadden












"History? We won't know. We'll all be dead" :





Actually that isn't really a funny, is it?

Also too, Woodward is a putz. Hillary is right about Bush being a fatalist and it is completely inappropriate --- not to mention terrifying ---  for a sitting president of the United States to say such a thing.


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The best way to "put points on the board" is to put Republicans on the defensive

by David Atkins

John Podesta and President Obama are apparently concerned about "putting points on the board" in terms of legislation and executive orders:
White House senior adviser John Podesta is running against the clock.

Time is winding on Podesta’s objective, which is to make sure President Obama put points on the board in the final three years of his second term through either legislation or executive action.

With Obama and the White House flailing in late 2013, Podesta returned to the West Wing in January as part of an Obama reboot. 
A little more than three months later, the former chief of staff for President Clinton gets good marks from Democrats and fellow West Wingers for helping to improve the White House’s strategy and communications.

They say Podesta has improved the White House’s chances of moving meaningful regulatory actions through the government while better coordinating with Democrats in Congress.

“Lawmakers feel more engaged now,” said one former senior administration official, who called Podesta a “hell of a supplement” to the White House legislative affairs office.

A senior Democratic aide who had grumbled about relations with the White House in previous months, said it has been “a lot better than before” under Podesta.
With all respect, the current Republican House is quite possibly the most intransigent in all of American history. It is also, not coincidentally, among the most ideologically extreme in American history.

That means that the chances the passing meaningful legislation are near zero. It also means that any remotely controversial legislation that does manage to get passed is likely to be only marginally beneficial to the American people, if not actively harmful.

In an environment where nothing good can get passed through Congress, the only legislative tool left in the arsenal is to shame the opposition until they either give in or lose the next election. Rather than attempt to figure out what good bills have a larger-than-zero chance of passing the House, the President should simply work alongside the Democratic Senate to craft good, popular bills and dare the House to reject them and refuse to bring them to a vote.

That was essentially the strategy with equal pay, and it can work for a variety of other issues as well. The Democrats should engage in a full court press on issue after issue, from student loans to jobs programs to income inequality to tax fairness to immigration to climate change to voting rights to campaign finance and anything and everything in between. Rack up issue after issue after issue on which Americans agree with Democrats and hammer Republicans for refusing to hold votes on them until the cows come home.

Frankly, if Democrats lose the Senate in 2014 and cannot make gains in the House then Obama is already a lame duck President. He might as well do everything in his power to make life miserable for Republicans and maximize Democrats' electoral chances in 2014.


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

 
Swinging 60-ish: On My Way & Le Week-End 

 By Dennis Hartley


Grandmere du jour: On My Way


















So if you have been staying away from theaters because you're one of those folks who feels the majority of Hollywood product these days is just big, dumb, loud (in 3-D IMAX) and targeting sub-literate 12 year-olds, I have good news for you (this week, at least). Two (count 'em, two) eminently watchable flicks for grownups. Two films featuring fully fleshed out characters over 60...who are neither senile or terminally ill (!).

(First up). I think smoking is a disgusting habit. But there's something about a beautiful French woman puffing on a Gitane that makes it seem...how do you say? SoDamSexy. Consider Catherine Deneuve, who maintains her ageless allure even while taking up a chunk of screen time in Emmanuelle Bercot's On My Way bumming cigarettes, scrounging for money to buy cigarettes, desperately seeking any place that sells cigarettes, and of course, smoking cigarettes. Like a chimney. Deneuve is Bettie, an ex-beauty queen (Miss Brittany 1969!) turned restaurateur, who has actually been on the cigarette wagon, at the encouragement of her cashier (Claude Gensac) who also happens to be her mom. But Bettie is about to fall off the wagon. She has reluctantly inherited her family-owned eatery, which is operating barely above water. Living with her overly-protective elderly mom further elevates Bettie's stress level, and now she hears it through the grapevine that her lover has dumped her for someone else ("Some 25 year-old slut," her mom informs her, unhelpfully adding, "...a beautician."). Say...anybody got a smoke?


Suddenly overwhelmed by life in general, Bettie impetuously hops into her car Thelma & Louise -style and hits the road, with (as Chuck Berry once sang) no particular place to go. When she calls one of her employees a day or two later to assure everyone that she hasn't gone missing, she finds out that her estranged daughter Muriel (Camille) has been desperately trying to reach her. Muriel has had a last-minute shot at an internship in Brussels, but can't find anyone else available to take her precocious son (Nemo Schiffman, real-life son of the director) to his grandfather's house in the country. To the surprise of both her daughter and herself, Bettie agrees to do her the solid (despite the awkwardness of barely knowing her grandson and having never even met her daughter's father-in-law). And so they are off on their adventures through pastoral provincial France.


While Bercot's script (co-written with Jerome Tonnerre) doesn't venture too far from the traditional road movie tropes (unexpected detours, episodic meet-ups with quirky characters, etc.) the film is buoyed by her intelligent direction and the ever-radiant Deneuve's engaging performance. Cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman (OSS 117: Cairo, Nest Of Spies, The Artist ) nicely captures the sun-dappled beauty of central France for a pleasing backdrop. It's interesting, I finally got around to seeing Alexander Payne's Nebraska recently; and I found On My Way to be strikingly similar, from a thematic standpoint. Both films examine an aging parent and an adult child coming to grips with an estranged relationship. Granted, Deneuve's sixty-something character is relatively "younger" and more sound of mind than Bruce Dern's dementia-suffering octogenarian, but both of these protagonists need to embark on a meandering road trip before ultimately coming home (both literally and figuratively) to the realization that what they were really looking for was tucked away in the bosom of their family all along...unconditional love.


Just another happy couple: Le Week-End


















Among the Boomers, who are now finding themselves irrevocably "turning into their parents" and thereby forced to commit previously unthinkable acts (e.g., sheepishly flashing an AARP membership card for a senior discount, or maybe going out for dinner at 4pm) those who are married with children arguably face the most dreaded crossroads of all: The Empty Nest Years. Personally, I wouldn't know, being a barren bachelor, but you know...this is what I've heard. The kids all have moved away, and now here we are, staring at each other across the table thinking: "So...now what do we do for excitement?"

If taking a young lover or a new sports car is off the table, how about a weekend in Paris? That's what English couple Meg (Lindsay Duncan) and Nick (Jim Broadbent) are banking on to spice things up for their anniversary. That is the setup for Le Week-End, an uneven yet absorbing effort from Notting Hill director Roger Michell and Sammie and Rosie Get Laid screenwriter Hanif Kureishi. Meg and Nick, both academes, don't appear overtly affectionate, but they seem comfortable with...whatever "it" is that they do have (like a well-worn yet cozy pair of slippers you won't toss). However, once they run into an old colleague (Jeff Goldblum, playing the Ugly American to the hilt) and he invites them to a soiree at his upscale Parisian digs (swarming with French hipsters), all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out. The film is marketed as a comedy, but Kureishi's literate screenplay is darker in tone; closer to Harold Pinter or Edward Albee (at times, Nick and Meg are like a benign George and Martha). Still, Paris is gorgeous, Duncan and Broadbent give great performances, no shots are fired...and there isn't even one car chase.



 
It's not about cows, it's about freedom

by digby

In case you're curious about what the conservatives are frothing about this week-end, it's this:
A group of Republican Arizona lawmakers are upset with a brewing showdown in Nevada between the federal government and a rancher who claims rights to graze his cattle in a remote area about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Rep. Bob Thorpe of Flagstaff said Thursday he is among about three dozen state legislators sending a letter to federal and Nevada officials about the standoff between rancher Cliven Bundy and Bureau of Land Management officials.

Federal officials say Bundy has racked up more than $1.1 million in unpaid grazing fees over the years while disregarding several court orders to remove his animals.

Thorpe says lawmakers aren’t arguing over whether Bundy has broken laws or violated grazing agreements. They’re more concerned with what they perceive as government heavy-handedness and how officials are restricting protesters to “free speech zones” near the closed off federal land.

Tea Party Republican state Rep. Kelly Townsend tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal she was shocked after seeing the video where federal police used a stun gun on one of Bundy’s sons.

“Watching that video last night created a visceral reaction in me,” Townsend told the Review-Journal. “It sounds dramatic, but it reminded me of Tiananmen Square. I don’t recognize my country at this point.”
I don't blame her for being upset about that video, although I'm not sure it qualifies as a Tienenmen moment. Those taser videos make me sick to my stomach every time I see them.  I wonder if this Tea Partier realizes how often these are used on people she doesn't like?  After all these same folks cheered on the cops brutalizing Occupy protesters. (But then they deserved it. According to Fox News they were randomly shitting everywhere, so what could you do?)

On the other hand, maybe this is a teachable moment. If the government can even use electric shock on good, God fearing conservatives, maybe it's not such a good idea after all.

Anyway, they won:
A Nevada cattle rancher appears to have won his week-long battle with the federal government over a controversial cattle roundup that had led to the arrest of several protesters.

Cliven Bundy went head to head with the Bureau of Land Management over the removal of hundreds of his cattle from federal land, where the government said they were grazing illegally.

Bundy claims his herd of roughly 900 cattle have grazed on the land along the riverbed near Bunkerville, 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, since 1870 and threatened a "range war" against the BLM on the Bundy Ranch website after one of his sons was arrested while protesting the removal of the cattle.

"I have no contract with the United States government," Bundy said. "I was paying grazing fees for management and that's what BLM was supposed to be, land managers and they were managing my ranch out of business, so I refused to pay."

The federal government had countered that Bundy "owes the American people in excess of $1 million " in unpaid grazing fees and "refuses to abide by the law of land, despite many opportunities over the last 20 years to do so."

However, today the BLM said it would not enforce a court order to remove the cattle and was pulling out of the area.

"Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public," BLM Director Neil Kornze said.

"We ask that all parties in the area remain peaceful and law-abiding as the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service work to end the operation in an orderly manner," he said.

The roundup began April 5, following lengthy court proceedings dating back to 1993, federal officials said. Federal officers began impounding the first lot of cows last weekend, and Bundy responded by inviting supporters onto his land to protest the action.

"It's not about cows, it's about freedom," Utah resident Yonna Winget told ABC News affiliate KTNV in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"People are getting tired of the federal government having unlimited power," Bundy's wife, Carol Bundy told ABC News.
Huzzah! A Major Patriotic Victory. Well sort of.

Perhaps I'm being cynical but I just have a feeling that these people will not enthusiastically support other protesters when they are forced to confront police armed with tasers. Or be as upset when the DEA storms through someone's house and confiscates all their belongings and auctions them off without any due process. They haven't been up to this point anyway.

But hey, maybe this is a turning point. We live in hope.


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Brave New World

by digby

And I do mean brave:
The journalists had been threatened, cajoled and condemned by the British and American governments. Their work together had set off a hunt for their source and a debate on both sides of the Atlantic about government surveillance.

But they had never met — until Friday.

That was when Glenn Greenwald, the journalist, lawyer and civil liberties crusader, and Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian newspaper, finally shook hands after months of working remotely on articles based on material from the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. The two were in New York for the prestigious Polk Award presented to Mr. Greenwald and his colleagues, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, and the Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman, for national security reporting.
[...]
The crowd of journalists at the Polk ceremony at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan cheered and applauded when it was announced that Mr. Greenwald and Ms. Poitras had cleared customs and were en route. They arrived just after 1 p.m., trailed by flashing cameras. With the ceremony already underway, Guardian editors, including Mr. Rusbridger, welcomed the two.

Oh my goodness. Cheering? How unpatriotic of them.

I probably wouldn't have come back. Not just because I was afraid of what the government might do --- arresting journalists as they are accepting a prestigious award for exposing government wrongdoing would be beyond foolish ---  but because this country is full of loons who are armed to the teeth who might think it was a patriotic act to take down a high profile "traitor," a claim which, after all, is something that quite a few high government officials (and even people who erroneously think of themselves as journalists) have validated all over the TV. You just don't know these days.

Read the whole NY Times piece which talks about the difficulty of doing such a complicated story remotely from various places all over the world and not being able to trust that your communications are secure. I can only imagine the hoops they went through. But it was important and somebody had to do it.

My warmest congratulations to Glenn, Laura, Barton and the others for being acknowledged for their journalistic achievement. It is well deserved. This is the story of a lifetime, for sure, but it took real guts to do it anyway. I hope they win the Pulitzer as well.

Oh, and about that once in a lifetime thing. I'm sure people said that about Seymour Hersh's expose of My Lai. But lookee here: he's got a new story out about Syria.

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Who's the biggest hypocrite on civil liberties? You might be surprised.

by digby

So Rand Paul is agitating for the youth vote with the privacy issue:
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told New Hampshire Republicans Friday night that the key to winning the youth vote could come by appealing to them on privacy issues, arguing that one of his potential rivals — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — is vulnerable on the topic.

“They’ve all got a cell phone and they all think the government shouldn’t be looking at their cell phone or listening to their cell phone without a warrant. We get to the young people with privacy,” Paul said at an NH GOP rally at the Cottage by the Bay in Dover, N.H., Friday night.

“It’s not a conservative or Republican issue. It’s an area where we can connect with people who haven’t been connecting. Obama won the youth vote 3 to 1 but he’s losing them now. Hillary Clinton’s as bad or worse on all of these issues,” he said. “It’s a way we can transform and make the party bigger or even win again, but we’ve got to be as proud of the Fourth Amendment as much as we are the Second Amendment.”
He's probably right about Clinton being as bad as Obama on the NSA stuff. I've seen no evidence that she will do anything different, although like Obama himself in 2008, I'm fairly sure she'll make a lot of noises in the campaign about protecting privacy rights but will likely end up doing the bidding of the intelligence apparatus once in office. That's the usual pattern since WWII,  regardless of party.

But Paul will fail to get any traction in this despite the fact that he might be perceived as having more credibility when it comes to government intrusion into individual privacy. And that's because he has one of the most glaring inconsistencies on this issue imaginable. He is personally anti-choice and would allow states to ban abortion. If deciding when you wish to reproduce isn't a matter of privacy, I don't know what is. Certainly, it's very hard to see how it's wrong for government to read your emails but requiring you to have children against your will is perfectly fine.

The bottom line is this: Rand Paul's position on privacy is even more inconsistent than Obama's or Clinton's. The latter at least pay lip service to the basic philosophical principles even if they disregard them in the national security sphere. Paul is right up front saying that the government has a right to intrude on a woman's most private decisions even as he holds himself up as an avatar of civil liberties. That says he really doesn't understand these principles and probably holds his position on civil liberties as a convenient tool with which to broaden his appeal beyond his radical libertarian goals on taxes, regulations, guns, civil rights etc.

The "youth vote" cares about civil liberties.  But it sees it a little more broadly than Paul fantasizes.  Young people also care about  gun proliferation, climate change, racial equality, economic and social justice and private debt, all of which are things that Paul is on the wrong side of. He will not be able to gain more than a few rich young tech geeks and maybe a handful of conservative hipsters who are embarrassed to be regular Republicans. They aren't stupid. His manipulative inconsistency is obvious.

Is he a useful member of congress on these NSA issues? Absolutely.  It's common to have members of both parties taking up the cause of civil liberties. By definition, civil liberties often requires strange bedfellows who must defend the right of their ideological foes to have the same freedoms they want for themselves.  In fact, it used to be a lot more common than it is today now that the GOP has congealed into a hard core conservative bloc with a handful of libertarian cranks like Paul.  But you defend the constitution with the Senators you have not the Senators you'd wish to have so it's a good thing he's there making that case even if his actual philosophy is full of holes.

But if you think Paul is leading the Republican party into neo-isolationism and a shrinking of the national security state, think again.  They only care about this stuff when a Democrat does it. Look at the polling over the years as well as today to see that the Republican Party is, at it's core, a martial, chauvinistic, authoritarian political party. That's not changing. And yes, the Democrats are nearly as bad (and sometimes even worse in practice) but the party has a large, permanent faction which believes in peace, diplomacy, transparency and civil liberties and which at least puts pressure on their own from time to time. The Republicans have a couple of guys from Silicon Valley who say they care about civil liberties but not at the expense of getting their tax rate lowered. So they support a presidential gadfly who has no chance of winning or influencing anything within the GOP on civil liberties but whose Party will help them with that tax problem. Fair enough. But let's not kid ourselves about what this is all about.



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