Wyoming calls it the Data Trespass Bill. But it sounds more like the Sergeant Schultz Act: You will know nothing, see nothing, and hear nothing! Via Charlie Pierce, this mind-bite from Think Progress:

Passed by the Wyoming state government and signed into law by Gov. Matt Mead (R) in March, the law makes it illegal to “collect resource data” from any land outside of city boundaries, whether that land be private, public, or federal. Under to the law, “collect” means to “take a sample of material, acquire, gather, photograph or otherwise preserve information in any form from open land which is submitted or intended to be submitted to any agency of the state or federal government.”

Pierce writes:

That last provision is just bizarre. Clearly, it’s meant to punish anyone who submits photographic proof of environmental damage to the responsible federal authorities. It is nullification by a thousand cuts — make it illegal to cooperate with The Government in protecting yourself from being poisoned. The Invisible Hand’s second career as a proctologist is going quite well.

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Categories : Environment, National
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Friday Open Thread

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Try not to derail it.

Categories : Open Thread
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Move over oppo researcher. Now that fact checking has been “weaponized” (according to Mark Stencel), you may be out of a job:

Weaponizing fact-checks is just one of many ways politicians use and abuse fact-checking. One positive response is that candidates now vet their own messages, prepare background materials, dedicate staff to answering fact-checkers’ questions—and when called out on a particular comment or line of attack, they often adjust what they say going forward. But politicians also often “stand their ground,” after being told their pants are on fire—particularly when it comes to key strategic messages. Mitt Romney’s repeated attacks on President Obama’s international “apology tour” and the Obama campaign’s relentless focus on Romney’s time at Bain Capital were just two examples from the 2012 election where politicians refused to cower to fact-checkers.

“You just decide the fact-checker is wrong,” one Obama adviser I spoke to said.

But most of the time, people in politics do the opposite: They use fact-checks to validate or reinforce their position—and bloody their opponents. That was the case in nearly every reference to fact-checking I found in House and Senate debates and congressional floor speeches from 2013 and 2014. Of 83 statements (57 from Republicans and 26 from Democrats), only three challenged the fact-checkers’ findings. The rest used the fact-checks to label themselves as truth-tellers or their opponents as liars. But, even when using fact checks to attack a political rival, politicians frequently take a swipe at fact checking itself.

If only the facts counted in politics as something more than confirmation bias. I used to call Iraq Whose War Is It Anyway? – Where Everything’s Made Up and the Facts Don’t Matter.

Stencel prepared a report for the American Press Institute on how fact checking has changed politics. But even as they check ads’ political claims, who fact-checks closing zingers such as “A lying politician, just like Obama”? For an audience that largely doesn’t seem to know the difference between fact and opinion, that’s as much of an issue as how many Pinocchios an ad receives.

“When did fact checking and journalism separate?” the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart once asked NBC News’ Tom Brokaw. No journalist deploys fact-checking to greater effect than Stewart, a comedian.

Stewart just did marvelous take-down of Fox News’ pompous, stuffed shirt, Stuart Varney. Nothing like an arsenal of TiVos for fact checking propagandists:

Never did like that Varney guy. Know what I mean, Vern?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Media, National
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The NCSBE’s has issued proposed rules for applying NC’s new photo ID law. Democracy NC summarizes:

WHAT ARE THE RULES: Democracy NC believes the rules are relatively good in the context of a very bad law. Here are some highlights:

  • The address on the ID does not matter; it can be different from your registration address.
  • Names on the ID and registration roll should be “substantially similar.” Variations are okay, such as: parts of the name in different order or missing or with hyphens, or a maiden and a married name on the ID and voter roll.
  • Changes in your appearance from the photo are expected – hair color, weight, aging, etc.
  • The three top precinct workers at the poll (called judges) must ALL agree that the ID does not resemble the voter for it to be rejected. If any one of those precinct judges says it is OK, then it’s OK.
  • A voter may provide additional documents to help the judges decide in the voter’s favor.
  • If the ID is rejected, the voter can cast a pro-visional ballot, but it won’t count unless the voter presents a photo ID within a few days. (This is the worst part of the ID law.)
  • Curbside voters who vote from a car may use a wider range of IDs, such as a utility bill or document from a government agency with their name and address. Curbside voters must swear they can’t stand in line or walk to the poll due to their “age or physical difficulty.”

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O Rotten Gotham

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The court ruling in Manhattan Monday against Nomura and the Royal Bank of Scotland over mortgage losses may be the tip of an iceberg we never see the bottom of. The firms knew they were “packaging and selling bad loans to unwitting victims, but did it anyway, because the money was good,” writes Matt Levin for Bloomberg. Wall Street long argued that “the banks did not generally break the law.” Finally, a court has found otherwise.

Levin writes:

There’s some good anecdotal history of how hard everyone was working to churn out mortgage securitizations. I liked this bit about the real estate appraisers who testified at trial (page 167):

They performed hundreds of appraisals apiece each year during the housing boom, but assured the Court that they never took shortcuts and in fact spent many hours on each and every appraisal. Clagett reported that he performed more than 700 appraisals each year in the period of 2005 to 2008, and took about five to six hours on each of them. Platt performed about 300 to 400 appraisals each year in 2005 and 2006, taking a minimum of four to five hours to perform each one despite the fact that he was also working fulltime as a fireman. For the period of 2004 through 2008, Morris conducted approximately 600 appraisals per year, which is about 12 per week. To justify those numbers, Morris claimed to have worked long hours seven days a week.

Apparently appraisers needed to appraise 70-80 hours a week, every week, for four years, to feed the mortgage securitization beast.

Speaking yesterday of culture, and of culture, and of culture, yet again no one will go to jail for the massive Nomura/RBS bank fraud. That too is cultural, filtering from Wall Street down to fireman/appraisers in Maryland. As they say, the fish rots from the head.

It seems people still reference Tom Wolfe’s essay, “O Rotten Gotham—Sliding Down into the Behavioral Sink,” published as the last chapter of “The Pump House Gang” in 1968. Touring the city with anthropologist Edward T. Hall of the Illinois Institute of Technology, Wolfe examined how New York affects people, referencing the work of ethologist John B. Calhoun. From Wikipedia:

The ethologist John B. Calhoun coined the term “behavioral sink” to describe the collapse in behavior which resulted from overcrowding. Over a number of years, Calhoun conducted over-population experiments on rats which culminated in 1962 with the publication of an article in the Scientific American of a study of behavior under conditions of overcrowding. In it, Calhoun coined the term “behavioral sink”. Calhoun’s work became used, rightly or wrongly, as an animal model of societal collapse, and his study has become a touchstone of urban sociology and psychology in general.

A friend from South Carolina got a masters at NYU in the 1980s, commuting in each day from Brooklyn. She said, “I learned to navigate the city. Where to go. Where not to go. But when I got on the subway every morning, packed in with a thousand people, I knew I was different. I knew I didn’t have to live this way.” Or as Wolfe put it:

In everyday life in New York– just the usual, getting to work, working in massively congested areas like 42nd Street between Fifth Avenue and Lexington, especially now that the Pan-Am Building is set there, working in cubicles such as those in the editorial offices at Time-Life, Inc., which Dr. Hall cites as typical of New York’s poor handling of space, working in cubicles with low ceilings and, often, no access to a window, while construction crews all over Manhattan drive everybody up the Masonite wall with air-pressure generators with noises up to the boil-a-brain decibel levels, then rushing to get home, piling into subways and trains, fighting for time and space, the usual day in New York– the whole now-normal thing keeps shooting jolts of adrenaline into the body, breaking down the body’s defenses and winding up with the work-a-daddy human animal stroked out at the breakfast table with his head apoplexed like a cauliflower out of his $6.95 semispread Pima-cotton shirt and nosed over into a plate of No-Kloresto egg substitute, signing off with the black thrombosis, cancer, kidney, liver, or stomach failure, and the adrenals ooze to a halt, the size of eggplants in July.

I mean, really. The poor dears on the Street can’t help acting like criminals, all nervous and agitated (and medicated), shuttered up for long hours staring at computer screens, slaving away for their bonuses. We should just thank them for what they add to the Potemkin economy and ask them not to do it again, again.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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At war with ourselves

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It really is Orwellian. Or else deeply funny. A people taught to fear the totalitarian world Orwell warned them about have adopted the same permanent war footing of Orwell’s Oceania. Wikipedia describes Oceania as “a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and public manipulation.” Except whereas for Oceania the shape-shifting, intractable foe was always out there somewhere on foreign battlefields, here in America he is — like the Devil — lurking around every corner. We are at war with ourselves.

Police shoot unarmed citizens over perceived threats. And why not? They’re “on the front lines.” Everybody says so. The job is described as a war and the police are dressed for it. Citizens shoot each other over perceived threats because they’ve been empowered by law both to carry sidearms and to “stand their ground,” as though from an enemy frontal assault. War on drugs, war on terror, front lines, stand your ground, talk of tyranny and cattle cars? And pundits, politicians, and experts claim our inner-cities suffer from a “culture of violence“?

In the New Yorker, Amy Davidson looks at paranoia in Texas over Jade Helm 15 exercises bringing martial law, rumors of ISIS camps on the border, and a real-life attack on a “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest:

What these bewildering scenarios have in common is a perception of Texas as a battlefield in a constant war waged on all fronts. That presumption of a state of siege, fostered by politicians willing to pander to fears of mystery maps and foreign infiltration—perhaps in the White House itself—makes it harder to respond rationally, and with respect for civil liberties, when danger truly is clear and present. There are real threats, and that is what makes scaremongering so destructive. If ISIS is the answer to everything, what is the answer to ISIS?

A wild guess: 42?

The battlefield everywhere is bigger even than Texas.


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By Lcj (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Asheville property owners may soon pay more in property taxes. Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer began to explain to WCQS the other day that legislative changes passed in Raleigh are why:

Privilege license tax: “This last year the legislature got rid of the privilege license tax for all cities across North Carolina … for Asheville what that means is a loss of $1.5 million dollars in revenue.”

Sales Tax redistribution: “the proposed legislation was absolutely devastating for Buncombe County”

But then Manheimer got into the economic weeds and lost track of the broader message. “Absolutely devastating” NC cities is not a byproduct of the legislation. That is the goal.

How many times do I have to say this?

What we’re seeing is an extension of the GOP’s “defund the left” strategy of undermining the largest concentrations of manpower and funding that support Democrats. First they went after private-sector unions, then public-sector unions, and teachers, firefighters, trial lawyers, etc. Then with Voter ID they attacked seniors, college students and minorities. They’ve taken away control of Asheville’s airport. They tried to take away Charlotte’s. They’re still trying to take Asheville’s water system to blow a huge hole in the city budget. Collectively, Republicans in Raleigh are hoping to render cities irrelevant in future state and local elections. And with redistricting, they’ve isolated Asheville in House District 114 and won’t even bother running candidates there for now.

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An analysis posted Thursday at Daily Kos found that since Pat McCrory moved into the North Carolina governor’s mansion, voter registration applications received through state public service agencies (as required by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993) have fallen off drastically. DocDawg and colleagues did some data mining:

Finding 1: A systematic sharp decline in new voter registrations originating from Public Assistance (PA) programs began on or about January 2013 and continues to this day
Figure 1, below, summarizes statewide new voter registrations originating from PA programs, by month, and compares these with new voter registrations originating from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Fig. 1: North Carolina new voter registrations originating via Public Assistance programs (top panel) and via the Dept. of Motor Vehicles (bottom panel) from May 2010 through March 2015. Red and green horizontal lines indicate overall averages for the periods May 2010 through December 2012 (green lines; “Pre-McCrory Average”) and January 2013 through March 2015 (red lines; “McCrory Average”). Months for which reports are missing, or contain incomplete data, are excluded from these averages (5/2010, 9/2010, 3/2011, 5/2011, 8/2011, 5/2012, 6/2012, and 3/2015).

In all, “an overall deficit of 39,177 ‘missing voters’ (i.e., NC citizens who would have been registered had this decline not occurred).” Checking for benign explanations, the study finds that the decline does not appear to be connected to an improving economy and “occurs statewide, not merely in a handful of counties.”

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Sunday Morning Music

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The torture never stops

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Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the watchful eyes of Military Police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing to the temporary detention facility on Jan. 11, 2002. DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ten years ago I wrote a newspaper piece condemning extraordinary rendition. It was so graphic that the editors felt it necessary to include a caveat. It was so detailed that the right-wing backlash I expected never materialized. The trolls went strangely silent.

It is pretty disheartening that a decade later we are still dealing with the aftermath of the still-unlitigated U.S. torture regime. “Omar Khadr is believed to be the only child soldier put on trial in modern history,” declares Amnesty International. This week, Guantanamo Bay’s youngest prisoner was finally released in Canada. His father, a Canadian, had taken him to Afghanistan at 15 to fight for al Qaeda:

As the youngest prisoner at the US military base in Cuba, he was seen by rights groups as a juvenile, and entitled to much more lenient treatment than he was receiving.

But neither Canada’s government nor Washington agreed. Omar was subjected to brutal treatment on his way to Guantanamo and at the base detention centre.

Canada not only condoned such treatment, it sent spies and diplomats to take part in his interrogation and obtained information that the Supreme Court of Canada later declared inadmissible because it was obtained under duress, even torture.

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Categories : National, Torture
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