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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

It's Giving Tuesday

by digby

This went out to all out Blue America members this morning:

With Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday having become something of an orgy of over-indulgence, somebody somewhere came up with the idea that the Tuesday after Thanksgiving should usher in the benevolent side of the holiday with a call to give back. They are calling it Giving Tuesday and it seems as though it might be refreshing reset from the endless eating and shopping of the long holiday week-end.

Unfortunately, this past Thanksgiving holiday was not just marked by the usual Walmart brawls and long lines waiting for Best Buy to open. This year we had to endure an act of terrorism perpetrated on our own soil: a man gunned down 12 people, killing three, in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Afterwards, he was said to have declared "no more baby parts." Those two words-- "baby parts"-- are used by Republican demagogues to describe the practice of life-saving scientific research which uses fetal tissue. It refers to some hoax videos circulated by anti-choice zealots in furtherance of their cause.

It is inflammatory incitement and it did its job this last week-end.

The GOP presidential candidates were all very slow to condemn this murderous attack. And when they did, it was in the most grudging terms possible. Carly Fiorina, the candidate who blatantly lied before 25 million people in the GOP presidential debate, describing something that never happened in lurid, graphic detail even went so far as to cast blame on the left for even bringing up the possibility that rhetoric such as theirs may have contributed to this atrocity.

All Blue America candidates are crystal clear on where they stand, both in support for Planned Parenthood and against the NRA which makes it possible for zealots to easily acquire the firearms they use to carry out their deadly missions. This statement from state Senator Jamie Raskin, candidate for Maryland's 8th Congressional District speaks for all of us: 

"The nightmare in Colorado Springs brought together two lethal threats to the American people: the epidemic of gun violence made possible by lax gun laws and the NRA, and the relentless attacks by right-wing fanatics on Planned Parenthood and the right of American women to access basic reproductive health services. Let this outbreak of homegrown terror in Colorado give us the resolve we need to impose civilized gun safety laws in our country and to stop all of the appalling efforts to defund and destroy Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of reproductive health services in the U.S."

In the spirit of Giving Tuesday, Blue America has decided to match the first $1,000 we collect for any candidates on this page and donate it to Planned Parenthood. We want to help the organization in every way we can and that means giving directly but it also means electing leaders to congress who will stand up and fight for women's rights. It is imperative that we do both.

We are at a critical time in American politics. Please consider spending some of your "Giving Tuesday" dollars by donating to the Blue America candidates of your choice and we will double the effort by matching it with a donation to Planned Parenthood.
Goldman eyes $20 oil — Glut overwhelms storage sites

by Gaius Publius

The price of two oil benchmarks, Brent Crude and West Texas Intermediate (WTI), in danger of collapse? (source)

Ever since the "Exxon Knew" story broke, and especially since NY AG Eric Schneiderman announced his Martin Act investigation of Exxon and other carbon companies for fraud, I've been watching to see how this disrupts the oil and gas markets.

To be clear — I consider a disrupted carbon fuel market to be good, since the supply of fossil fuel does have to be interrupted, and forcefully. Consider that if they dig it, we will burn it. So we have to prevent them digging it, and again, with force. The law, when applied with penalties, counts as force. A collapsing commodity price market also counts as force, as does a collapsing stock market price for companies like Exxon.

The alternative, if the market for extracted carbon starts to collapse or become wildly chaotic, is for government to prop it up with even more subsidies and "bailouts" — the opposite of what any climate-aware citizen should want. We need to get off of oil, as a nation, quickly, and we need all the help we can get doing it. I don't want to see government standing in the way of the destruction of the oil and gas industry. (Do you?)

So, is the carbon market headed for chaos? I don't know, but the possibility of oil at $20/barrel is frightening many analysts, including those at Goldman Sachs. From the Telegraph (my emphasis):
Goldman eyes $20 oil as glut overwhelms storage sites

“The world is floating in oil. The numbers we are facing now are dreadful," said David Hufton from PVM Group

The world is running out of storage facilities for surging supplies of oil and may soon exhaust tanker space offshore, raising the chances of a violent plunge in crude prices over coming weeks, experts have warned.

Goldman Sachs told clients that the increasing glut of oil on the global market has combined with mild weather from a freak El Nino this winter. The twin-effect could send prices plummeting to $20 a barrel, the so-called ‘cash cost’ that forces drillers to abandon production. “Risks of a sharp leg lower remain elevated,” it said.

Oil has fallen from $110 a barrel early last year and is hovering near $40 for US crude, and $44 for Brent in Europe.

The US investment bank said the overall glut in the commodity markets may take another twelve months to clear. It cited ‘red flag’ signals on the Shanghai Future Exchange over recent days. Copper contracts point to “imminent weakening” in China’s ‘old economy’ of heavy industry and construction, it said.
The chart at the top shows that benchmark prices have dropped to about $36/barrel, risen but not to new near-term highs, then dropped again. A technical analyst would say, watch that $35 price point. A drop below that could be trouble.

Now for the fundamentals. Note in the quote above: "$20 a barrel [is] the so-called 'cash cost'." At present, people are keeping their oil off the market, not selling their inventory in hopes of a better price ...
It is estimated that at least 100m barrels are now being stored on tankers offshore, waiting for better prices. A queue of 39 vessels carrying 28m barrels is laid up outside the Texas port of Galveston, while the Iranians have a further 30m barrels offshore ready to sell as soon as sanctions are lifted.

“The world is floating in oil, and commercial stocks on land are at a record high,” said David Hufton, head of oil brokers PVM Group. “The numbers we are facing now are dreadful. Stocks have been building continuously for two years. This is unprecedented.”
... yet even so, prices are falling, despite current buying by the Chinese for their strategic reserve (see the article for those details). We're in new territory at present — low prices, high inventory, high production — and could be headed for even newer territory.

The story is complicated; the outcomes are many

This is not a simple story, as the article makes clear. No one in position to comment expects a permanent collapse, yet the items in play are both many and varied. To name just a few, they include conflict among the OPEC nations about how much to produce, the length of time the bear market in oil will stay depressed, the ability of marginally-financed producers — the U.S. shale oil producers qualify here — to stay afloat in a "below cost of production" sales environment, the worldwide growing awareness that climate change and carbon emissions are linked, and so on.

At some point, if these conditions prevail (the last will certainly grow stronger), carbon production will drastically slow and companies will simply go bankrupt. At that point, absent government intervention, if you're an investor do you buy or sell the stock of these companies?

Now add in AG Schneiderman's fraud lawsuit, and then, way down the road, the potential for a Sarbanes-Oxley prosecution to yield criminal charges and jail time for oil and gas execs — assuming some AG (that's you, Ms. Lynch; that's you, whomever President Sanders appoints) is bold enough to pursue that course. That will certainly stir the pot even further, and not in a good way. Just the announced intent to pursue Sarbanes-Oxley prosecution could further roil this market — the roilage of which is your friend, since an uncertain energy market drives an increased move to "safer" renewables.

At this point, it's all up in the air. Oil prices may recover and the market re-stabilize. That would be a bad thing, assuming you have grandchildren and care about them. But the good news is ... right now, it really is all up in the air. That good thing that could turn into a very good thing with just a few more breaks our way. 

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)




by Tom Sullivan

Is Donald Trump inspiring the crazy or simply reflecting it? And I mean simply. The guy seems to be running for president of the 8th grade.

If violent rhetoric can inspire violent action, I am wondering, can widely reported crazy talk inspire craziness in a population?

I suggested yesterday, if Edward Snowden somehow "inspired" the Paris attacks by ISIS (as some authorities allege), couldn't wild talk by Republican presidential candidates have inspired the attack on the Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs? Digby pointed out as Salon yesterday how authorities worry about homegrown terrorism from "troubled souls" radicalized to violent action by propaganda. It might be talk of jihad or it might be talk of Planned Parenthood allegedly "dismembering children purely for monetary profit."

Matt Taibbi traded barbs on Twitter with people convinced that is true:

Last night, Chris Hayes observed that Trump makes wild, disproved assertions about American Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks and, when his followers echo them back, uses their support as proof that his false claim is true. Dick Cheney did the same thing by leaking bogus "intelligence" about Iraqi WMDs to the media and then after the New York Times reported it, Cheney went on TV and used their reporting as support for his bogus claims. He convinced a wide swath of the American public that attacking Iraq was justified. I'll bet a few of them -- in New Jersey -- even celebrated bombing Baghdad. As Herman Cain said, "I don't have facts to back this up." Conveniently, facts no longer matter, do they?

What is most worrisome is the possibility of crazy talk inducing a kind of moral panic or a "virus of the mind" (to use the Richard Dawkins' term) in the broader public.

Vice President Joe Biden worried about that back in September. He sought to reassure Americans we would overcome it:

"There's one guy absolutely denigrating an entire group of people, appealing to the baser side of human nature, working on this notion of xenophobia in a way that hasn't occurred in a long time," Biden told the group of about 75 people.

"This isn't about Democrat - Republican. It's about a sick message. This message has been tried on America many times before. We always, always, always, always overcome," he said.

Let's hope he is right.

Monday, November 30, 2015

He's not 69, he's 6

by digby

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

This guy:

Listening to the military

by digby

All the Republicans are saying they would "listen to the military" and follow the Pentagon's advice on how to keep America safe. (Ben Carson is pretty much saying now that he'd turn over all national security to the Pentagon, no questions asked.)

Well, not always:

The 2014 Department of Defense Climate Change Adaptation Road Map report details all the ways our changing climate will impact international conflict and military operations. Sea level rise and more extreme weather events will exacerbate ongoing global conflicts. The effects of climate change will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic diseases, as well as disputes over refugees and dwindling resources.

The Pentagon report does not just allude to terrorism—it mentions it by name:

“We refer to climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today—from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts.”

The report goes on to explain how climate change could topple fragile governments by creating an environment that fosters extreme ideologies and terrorism.

But Republicans on Tuesday (the same day the Senate voted to undo President Obama’s power-plant regulations) treated Sanders as if he had made a ludicrous claim. “There is a ballot initiative in Arizona concerning the substance that he must have been consuming,” Senator John McCain said, referring to a measure that would legalize marijuana.



The real threat

by digby

Ian Millhiser:

Friday afternoon, one week after elected officials all over the country tried to block Syrian refugees from entering their states in an apparent effort to fight terrorism, a white man in Colorado committed what appears to be an act of terrorism in a Planned Parenthood clinic. 
Though the details of Robert Lewis Dear’s motives for killing three people in the clinic and injuring nine others are still being revealed, Dear reportedly told law enforcement “no more baby parts,” an apparent reference to heavily edited videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress, which numerous politicians have cited to falsely claim that Planned Parenthood sells “aborted baby parts.” Dear’s actions, in other words, appear to be an act of politically motivated terrorism directed against an institution widely reviled by conservatives. 
Though terrorism perpetrated by Muslims receives a disproportionate amount of attention from politicians and reporters, the reality is that right-wing extremists pose a much greater threat to people in the United States than terrorists connected to ISIS or similar organizations. As UNC Professor Charles Kurzman and Duke Professor David Schanzer explained last June in the New York Times, Islam-inspired terror attacks “accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.” Meanwhile, “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.” 

Kurzman and Schanzer’s methodology, moreover, may underestimate the degree to which domestic terrorists in the United States are motivated by right-wing views. As they describe the term in their New York Times piece, the term “right-wing extremist” primarily encompasses anti-government extremists such as members of the sovereign citizen movement, although it also includes racist right-wing groups such as neo-Nazis. Thus, it is not yet clear whether Dear, who made anti-abortion remarks but also reportedly referenced President Obama, was motivated in part by the kind of anti-government views that are the focus of Kurzman and Schanzer’s inquiry.

Eric Boehlert took a look at how the press is covering this:

The deadly gun rampage that erupted inside a Planned Parenthood health care facility in Colorado Springs last week capped a disturbing week of political violence and intimidation from the far right:

*November 22: Armed vigilantes who gathered outside a Dallas area mosque announced they were going to publish the home addresses of local Muslim worshipers and label them "Muslim sympathizers."

*November 23: A man was arrested for leaving a phony explosive device at a Falls Church, Virginia mosque. The suspect allegedly also threw two smoke bombs and a Molotov cocktail toward the building.

*November 23: A Black Lives Matter protester was kicked, punched, and choked at a Donald Trump rally.

*November 24: Four men have been arrested in connection with a shooting at a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis. Three of the suspects reportedly were fascinated "with guns, video games, the Confederacy and right-wing militia groups."

If we scan back a few more weeks we see an equally troubling trend:

*November 11: "Two men described by authorities as white supremacists have been charged in Virginia with trying to illegally buy weapons and explosives to use in attacks on synagogues and black churches."

*October 12: Georgia state prosecutors indicted 15 members of a Confederate flag-waving convoy on terroristic threats after they menaced a black family celebrating a birthday party.

Meanwhile, recent months have seen a plague of terror attacks targeting Planned Parenthood facilities, to the point where the FBI in September warned that "it is likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities." (The current campaign of terror and harassment is not a new one.)

As CBS reported [emphasis added]:

At that time, there had already been nine criminal or suspicious incidents in seven states and the District of Columbia. In one incident, someone poured gasoline on a New Orleans Planned Parenthood security guard's car and set the vehicle on fire.

According to the FBI, there was another incident in July in Aurora, Colorado, in which someone poured gasoline around the entrance of a Planned Parenthood facility there, causing a fire.

So, in just the last three months we've seen a car set on fire, Molotov cocktails allegedly thrown at a house of worship, terroristic threats leveled against a family, liberal protesters gunned down by radicals, and a medical facility stormed by an anti-abortion/anti-government gunman who killed civilians and a policeman.

What portrait do those events paint in your mind? And is that portrait of radical homegrown violence and terrorism the one you've seen conveyed in the press following the Colorado Springs terror attack?

It's not the one I've been seeing.

Media Matters for years has documented how Fox News in particular has used a blinding double standard in terms of casting wide, cultural and religious aspersions when covering terror attacks involving Muslim attackers, versus how it deals with homegrown political violence from the right. (It was Fox News' Brian Kilmeade who once confidently declared, "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.")

But the problem extends beyond Fox News. The larger conservative media echo chamber seems to have convinced the mainstream press that domestic terrorism, often carried out by white American men, somehow doesn't pose the same threat and doesn't need to be treated as a lurking menace the way ISIS terrorism does. (That heightened sense of panic also fanned the right-wing media hysteria about Syrian refugees.)

In other words, the endless dots of domestic terrorism in the U.S. simply are not connected to portray a larger danger to our safety. (For more recent examples of deadly plots and attacks see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

The simple truth is that from neo-Nazis killers, to a rash of women's health clinic bombings and attacks, as well as assaults on law enforcement from anti-government extremists, acts of right-wing extreme violence continue to unfold regularly in the United States.

There's more at the link including some of Boehlert's typically sharp analysis (as well as links to all the press counts he mentions.)

Nothing to see here people. Move along.

QOTD: Anti-choice zealots "they had it coming" edition

by digby

Hey, if you don't want to get shot, don't go to a Planned Parenthood clinic. That's pretty much what these anti-abortion leaders told Irin Carmon at MSNBC:
“After all these years and millions of babies that have gone to their death, violence is to be anticipated,” said Judie Brown, president of American Life League, in a phone interview with MSNBC. “Because it’s acceptable to violently kill a baby, so why isn’t it acceptable to violently kill other people?”

“We never approve of violence against anybody, whether it’s the unborn babies or the clients of Planned Parenthood or anybody else,” Ann Scheidler, vice president of the Pro-Life Action League, told MSNBC. But, she added, “it’s not the fault of the pro-life movement that someone found out that Planned Parenthood is doing these things. It’s the fault of Planned Parenthood for selling the baby parts.”

Yes, they really said that. And more:

Evidence linking Dear to the movement is still scant, Mahoney said. “Let’s not take the death of innocent people to promote a political agenda,” he said. “Planned Parenthood is doing exactly what they accuse the pro-life community of doing. They accuse us all the time of using inflammatory rhetoric and hateful language to promote our agenda.”

In 1995, after a gunman killed two Planned Parenthood workers in Brookline, Massachusetts, Bernard Cardinal Law, then the Archbishop of Boston, called for a moratorium on protesting outside abortion clinics. (New York’s archbishop disagreed, saying he would follow suit only “on condition that a moratorium be called on abortions.”) There have been no such calls forthcoming this time around.

The suggestion makes Scheidler, vice president of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, bristle. “Planned Parenthood is a villain,” she said. “They undermine the integrity of families and the morality of young teen girls and kill babies on a regular basis, day after day. We’re not going to say, ‘Oh, poor Planned Parenthood, we should never say anything negative about what they call ‘services.’ Because they are a blight on our culture.”

The Christian Defense Coalition’s Mahoney said, “Our movement utterly condemns violence.” Asked about the fact that Operation Rescue’s Cheryl Sullenger was convicted of conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic, Mahoney said, “Cheryl Sullenger did time in prison for her actions. She now works peacefully to end the violence of abortion.” (Operation Rescue did not return a message requesting an interview but condemned the attack on their website.)

What about Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue and an advisor to the Center for Medical Progress? Newman wrote in his 2003 book that “the United States government has abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty. This responsibility rightly involves executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge bloodguilt from the land and people.” (Last week, presidential candidate and Senator Ted Cruz accepted Newman’s endorsement.)

“If you read that within the entire context of the book,” Mahoney said, “Troy addressed that is after they held a trial.”

Scheidler’s Pro-Life Action League is among the organizations that publishes the names, faces, and addresses of abortion providers. Asked if such disclosures could make providers feel unsafe, she replied, “We don’t pose any threat, we in the mainstream pro-life movement…. If they feel threatened, they can always get out of that business, I suppose. It’s not something that would make us back off on our mission.”

One notorious anti-abortion activist, who has long been an open supporter of violence against abortion providers, broke with the movement in offering direct support to Dear.

Donald Spitz, who runs the Army of God website and is based in Virginia, said of his fellow anti-abortion activists’ condemnations of violence, “They say that all the time. I think they’re hypocritical.”

While many groups insist violence against abortion providers is counterproductive to their cause, Spitz suggested such rhetoric is disingenuous. Referring to Scott Roeder, who murdered abortion provider George Tiller and who Spitz calls a friend, Spitz said, “How could that be counterproductive when he stopped them from providing abortions? They’ve lost their mind. They’re into political correctness way too far.”

As for Spitz’s own reaction, “I think Planned Parenthood is an evil organization, so I didn’t lose any sleep when I heard about it,” Spitz said. “They sell baby parts, and they reap what they sow, and now they’re complaining about it.”

He added, “There are no innocent people in Planned Parenthood. They’re in there for a reason.”

Just don't say any of these people are inciting anyone to kill people because that would be wrong. They just think that Planned Parenthood is dismembering living babies for profit and that it's perfectly natural for someone to want to kill them. And if someone happens to be there to support a friend it's unfortunate collateral damage. Maybe people should think twice before supporting any woman who would go to Planned Parenthood for any reason.

You can decide for yourself whether it matters that one of our major political parties is completely cowed by these terrorists.


They're picking up sides

by digby

The movement conservatives are making their choice:

"Troubled souls" and terrorism

by digby

I wrote about the Planned Parenthood attack for Salon today:

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the head of the FBI James Comey made this statement:
“We are not aware of any credible threat here of a Paris-type attack and we have seen no connection at all between the Paris attackers and the United States. The threat here focuses primarily on troubled souls in America who are being inspired or enabled online to do something violent for ISIL. We have stopped a lot of those people this year.”
He’s been saying this for some time, often using this phrase, “troubled souls,” to describe would-be terrorists. He’s also frequently used the term “lone wolves,” which are usually defined this way:
“A lone wolf or lone-wolf terrorist is someone who commits violent acts in support of some group, movement, or ideology, but who does so alone, outside of any command structure and without material assistance from any group. Although the lone wolf prepares and acts alone, he/she may be influenced or motivated by the ideology and beliefs of an external group.”
“These homegrown violent extremists are troubled souls, who are seeking meaning in some misguided way. And so they come across the propaganda and they become radicalized on their own, sort of independent study, and they’re also able to equip themselves with training again through the Internet, and then engage in jihad after emerging from their basement.”
All the experts say this is the scenario that keeps them up at night. It’s no longer a group of foreign terrorists simultaneously hijacking four jet liners and flying them into skyscrapers and the Pentagon that worries them, it’s these lone wolf attacks like the Tsarnaev brothers and their homemade pressure cooker bombs or the man who opened fire on two military installations in Chattanooga, Tenn., killing five servicemen.
There are several approaches to dealing with this problem but it really comes down to a question of whether the government should surveil everyone to find that lone wolf who might become radicalized through exposure to terrorist rhetoric or work through community outreach to try to calm the waters and keep these people from becoming radicalized in the first place. It’s a difficult challenge in that the internet allows those with mental and emotional issues to seek out demagogues who are happy to encourage their violent tendencies, focus their anger and give them license to to carry out terrorist acts as a twisted demonstration of deepest moral conscience. Most experts suggest some combination of those approaches stand the best chance of success.
In the case of ISIS, appealing to the decency of the terrorists who are encouraging this behavior is obviously a waste of time. But there are a lot of “troubled souls” in this country who are not Muslim and do not look for meaning from the likes of ISIS terrorists in the Middle East. They look a little closer to home for permission to carry out their violent desires. And there is plenty of inspiration. They don’t have to search in the dark corners of the internet or use encryption or travel to a foreign land to meet people who will stoke their violent urges and give them a moral purpose.  They can just tune in to a Republican presidential debate:
Carly Fiorina: I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.
Ted Cruz: Well, let me tell you, Dana, number one, I’m proud to stand for life. These Planned Parenthood videos are horrifying. I would encourage every American to watch the videos. See — seeing your Planned Parenthood officials callously, heartlessly bartering and selling the body parts of human beings, and then ask yourself, “are these my values?” These are horrifying. On these videos, Planned Parenthood also essentially confesses to multiple felonies. It is a felony with ten years’ jail term to sell the body parts of unborn children for profit. That’s what these videos show Planned Parenthood doing.
Huckabee: It’s time that we recognize the Supreme Court is not the supreme being, and we change the policy to be pro-life and protect children instead of rip up their body parts and sell them like they’re parts to a Buick.
If some “troubled soul” didn’t know better, he might just think he needed to step up to do something serious about what these very important, mainstream presidential candidates are describing as not just criminal, but barbaric behavior on the level of say… ISIS. They are describing gory mayhem that actually goes beyond the radical jihadi’s horror show because the depraved Planned Parenthood butchers are alleged to be dismembering children purely for monetary profit.
None of it is true, of course. It has have all been thoroughly Fact Checked and the claims on those doctored videos have been proven false. A few Planned Parenthood facilities provide scientists with fetal tissue for vital and important medical research, with the permission of the woman from whom it’s obtained, and the only money that was ever exchanged was for reimbursement of costs. There was no selling of “baby parts.” There were no live infants being killed on the table to “harvest their brains.” The tissue that was donated to medical research has resulted in important breakthroughs in the hunt for a cure for many life threatening diseases. But that hasn’t stopped irresponsible political leaders and anti-abortion zealots from flogging this reprehensible lie in a race to see who can most graphically prove his or her anti-abortion bona fides.
At the time of this writing we don’t know for sure that a man who shot a dozen people, killing three, in the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic this past weekend did what he did as a form of terrorism against abortion providers. Members of the right wing, who are obsessively vigilant in their warnings about radical Islamic terrorism, have been twisting themselves into pretzels for days trying to excuse this event as the simple act of a madman or finding some inane way to suggest that he was actually a bank-robber or a leftwing activist. But let’s just say that it’s unlikely he hit the Planned Parenthood clinic by coincidence and started babbling about “baby parts” out of the blue.

Much more at the link...
They built this

guest post by Cliff Schecter

I've purposely not written about what happened at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs until now. As someone who proudly sits on the Boards of Planned Parenthood of SW Ohio and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio (where I serve at Treasurer), and a longtime advocate for gun safety, I don't think it would've been a good idea. My anger level had reached a point where I would have said a number of things I'd probably regret.

That's because lying guttersnipes like Carly Fiorina & Ted Cruz played a role in this, as did edited-video-producing snake oil salesmen, back-bench Congressmen/women holding hearings doubling as witchunts and television & radio shows that don't care a whit about the truth. They all work their hardest to incite riot, and then act shocked when the lone wolf--the crazy Christianist version of the suicide bomber--takes it upon himself to stop the atrocities only going on in their monologues and his head.

They built this.

Then there are our gun laws. Right wing lunatics who pretend to be our "representatives" wail about how this is a "mental health" issue, but then block the very background checks that would look at someone's mental health records before selling them a weapon whose only purpose is to kill. So the same people who rile up murderers, arm them. Charming.

I can only speak for myself, and not any of the organizations where I play some role. I'm more determined than yesterday to make sure my kids grow up in a state, country and world where women have true equality, including the abortion rights they're guaranteed by our Constitution. And gun laws that prioritize the safety of the rest of us, our "general welfare" and "domestic tranquility" as the document says, over "rights" of terrorists & murderers.

The French were out at cafes the night after the attacks. That seems like a model worth emulating.

ISIS update: The world is halfway to 2°C warming

by Gaius Publius

Bernie Sanders at the second Democratic debate. Because Debbie Wasserman Schultz scheduled this debate on a Saturday during the run-up to the college football playoffs, close to half of the previous Democratic debate audience missed this exchange.

This is Bernie Sanders at the second Democratic debate:
CBS's John Dickerson, the event's moderator, asked Sanders if he still believes climate change represents the biggest outside threat to U.S. safety one day more than 120 people were killed in terrorist attacks on Paris that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has taken credit for.

“Absolutely,” the Vermont senator responded. “Climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism and if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you’re going to see countries all over the world ... struggling over limited amounts of water and land to grow their crops and you’re going to see all kinds of conflict.”

Earlier at the debate, Sanders hit party front-runner Hillary Clinton for voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq, saying the war had led to the rise of ISIS.
While right-wing pundits, many Democrats and some in the debate audience were surprised by this claim, it has been verified in many venues, including the pages of Time magazine. Sanders reiterated this position on "Face the Nation":
“The reason is pretty obvious: If we are going to see an increase in drought and flood and extreme weather disturbances as a result of climate change, what that means is that peoples all over the world are going to be fighting over limited natural resources,” Sanders said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“If there is not enough water, if there is not enough land to grow your crops, then you’re going to see migrants of people fighting over land that will sustain them, and that will lead to international conflict,” he added.
Notice that Sanders' claim is that climate change is "directly related to" terrorism, not the "sole cause of" it. Even Politifact agrees (my emphasis): "We couldn’t find any evidence of a "direct" relationship between climate change and terrorism, though many reports have noted an indirect link," despite its bottom-line negative rating.

My piece on that is here — "ISIS, Climate Change & Mass Migration of Peoples" — and I'm not the only one making this case. There are peer-reviewed papers (pdf) making the same point. So let's move to the real news, a short peek at the future.

The world is halfway to 2°C

I called this piece an "ISIS Update" for a reason. If you hated what happened in Paris — which also happened to people you've probably never seen a moment of silence for, the recently murdered, unmourned in the West, dead in Beirut — then you're not going to like this news. While we've been coddling the billionaires and politicians who control and enable the oil and gas industries, global warming has hit another milestone (my emphasis):
The World is Halfway to 2°C

It’s all but certain that 2015 will end up as the hottest year on record. And in setting that mark, the world is on track to finish the year 1°C above pre-industrial levels, a dubious milestone.

That would make 2015 the first year to crack the halfway mark of 2°C warming, the benchmark that’s been targeted as “safe” climate change and what nations are working toward meeting ahead of climate talks in Paris in December. But Monday’s announcement by the U.K. Met Office hints at how difficult achieving that target will be.

Unlike carbon dioxide, which has risen steadily like a drumbeat every year since the Industrial Revolution due to human activities, the temperature is likely to fluctuate annually and could dip slightly in the coming years (though signs already point to 2016 being even hotter). But the 1°C of warming shows how humans are reshaping the climate in the here and now and not some distant future.

The Met Office maintains one of the four major global temperature records. It shows that through September, the planet is running 1.8°F (1.02°C) above normal. El Niño, the warming of waters in the eastern tropical Pacific, is a contributing factor. But it’s being layered on top of a long-term climate change signal, which has seen the world get hotter and hotter since record keeping began in the late 1800s.
Don't be confused about what that means. Not only is the rate of increase in carbon emissions accelerating, but there's a hidden additional number, the amount of warming that's already "in the pipeline," inevitable, no matter what we do.

Add the "in the pipeline" warming and we're half a degree away

Halfway to 2°C warming is what we're experiencing at present. But if you touch a very hot stove, your hand continues to "cook" even after you remove it from the heat. There's damage "in the pipeline" even if you remove the cause, even if that hand goes into very cold water immediately.

The same with global warming. If we stopped all carbon emissions now, there's still warming "in the pipeline." According to climate scientist Michael Mann in an interview I did with him last year, even if we stopped this minute — zero carbon dioxide emissions from this second forward — the atmosphere would still heat to +1.5°C from pre-Industrial levels.

If you don't want to translate that warming to sea level rise four decades from now, translate that to stressed populations around the world now. Or as Sanders says, to people suffering from "an increase in drought and flood" and "not enough water ... not enough land to grow your crops" today. Translate it as a force multiplier to what we're seeing this minute, in every growing season, from California to Syria, as water becomes more and more scarce.

We can (falsely) blame only religion for the Middle East blowing up. We can burn through every dollar we can create in a massive military response. But every turn of the climate screw ratchets a pressure that just won't go away — until we stop placing men like Exxon's Rex Tillerson (below) in charge of whether he and his friends stay rich.

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, setting U.S. energy policy for as long as we let him.

Climate change causes global chaos in an increasingly aggressive spiral. That chaos takes many forms, from the mass migrations we're now seeing, to increasing drought, famine and disease — i.e., mass death — to an increasing fight for fewer and fewer resources by more and more desperate and angry people. None of this will be pretty. None will be simply explained. And none will be stoppable until stress factors, including climate-induced factors, are reduced and removed.

How soon is too soon to act against climate stress? Should we stop the deadly climate spiral now? Or should we maybe wait another decade? Your call.

Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. If you like, you can help him here; adjust the split any way you wish at the link.

(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)



Blame by what mechanism?

by Tom Sullivan

Going to talk about the Paris and Colorado Springs attacks, but first...

On Saturday, the government's program for bulk collection of phone records ended, sorta:

The language in the US Justice Department statement is far from inspiring, written in bland legalese, but it still represents an important victory for the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The statement, dated 28 November 2015, says: “Final temporary reauthorization of the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata data program in the US expires.”

But only sorta, says Marcy Wheeler:

Just a tiny corner of the phone dragnet will shut down, and the government will continue to collect “telephony metadata records in bulk … including records of both U.S. and non-U.S. persons” under EO 12333. Hypothetically, for every single international call that had been picked up under the Section 215 dragnet and more (at a minimum, because NSA collects phone records overseas with location information), a matching record has been and will continue to be collected overseas, under EO 12333.

They’re still collecting your phone records in bulk, not to mention collecting a great deal of your Internet records in bulk as well. BREAKING.

What interests me here is how a former government official (and a former George W. Bush press secretary) can blame Snowden somehow for the Paris attacks. Glenn Greenwald took to the pages of the L.A. Times last week to counter that claim:

Former CIA chief James Woolsey said Snowden "has blood on his hands" because, he asserted, the Paris attackers learned from his disclosures how to hide their communications behind encryption. Woolsey thus decreed on CNN that the NSA whistleblower should be "hanged by the neck until he's dead, rather than merely electrocuted."

In one sense, this blame-shifting tactic is understandable. After all, the CIA, the NSA and similar agencies receive billions of dollars annually from Congress and have been vested by their Senate overseers with virtually unlimited spying power. They have one paramount mission: find and stop people who are plotting terrorist attacks. When they fail, of course they are desperate to blame others.

Greenwald continues, "CIA officials simply made that up" about Snowden. It is just as likely the attackers laid their plans in face-to-face meetings. Nevertheless, As someday it may happen that a victim must be found, the CIA has got a little list. They've got a little list.

What the Snowden disclosures actually revealed to the world was that the U.S. government is monitoring the Internet communications and activities of everyone else: hundreds of millions of innocent people under the largest program of suspicionless mass surveillance ever created, a program that multiple federal judges have ruled is illegal and unconstitutional.

So, I'm just wondering. If Snowden's disclosure of illegal and unconstitutional government spying is somehow to blame for motivating terrorism in Paris (by people who need no further motivation), why can't the makers of the doctored videos that allege Planned Parenthood sells "baby parts" be somehow to blame for motivating what the Justice Department reportedly considers domestic terrorism against Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs? And Carly Fiorina too, for vigorously hyping the "baby parts" narrative? Not saying they are somehow to blame – Robert “no more baby parts” Dear's motivations are still unclear – but the murky mechanism for assigning Snowden blame for Paris might seem, on its face, to apply to assigning blame for Colorado Springs as well. And if not, why not? Just looking for the operative principle here. Or is it lack of principles?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Nothing to offer but fear itself

by digby

Paul Rosenberg has a nice piece up at Salon today about the fear party. Worth reading the whole thing:

Under the presidency of George W. Bush, the so-called “Daddy Party” failed spectacularly on all major adult-male-gender-stereotyped fronts.

On the economic front, its record was terrible, even before it brought us the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression; on the military/national security front, its failure to prevent 9/11—the worst foreign attack on American soil since the War of 1812—was only compounded by its fighting-fire-with-gasoline response, turning both Iraq and Afghanistan into incubators for new generations of jihadists. On the science front, it presided over a widening war on science. In short, the entire framework of the “Daddy Party” construct fell into disrepute by the time Bush left office in 2008.

But now—thanks to the terrorist attacks in Paris—there’s a full-on rush to try to resurrect it. Only of course it’s an incoherent mess, with more focus on spreading fear than countering it. Donald Trump has benefited most on the GOP side, with his quick-draw tough talk, but it was similarly mindless, fact-free tough talk that made such a mess of things post-9/11 in the first place, and this time there’s not even a hint of an actual plan—it’s all just heated bluster, and denouncing Democrats for not frothing at the mouth just like them.

The panic over Syrian refugees is particularly revealing in this regard. Not one American has died at the hands of a refugee either during or since 9/11, although there have been 745,000 of them. Yet, irrational fear of these refugees has defined the only “coherent” policy response the GOP has come up with—both among myth-driven governors and in the shutdown-happy Congress. But when it comes to actually confronting ISIS, they’ve got nothing unified except a PC rampage against Democrats not using the phrase “radical Islam;” aside from that it’s a smorgasbord of proposals ranging from basically endorsing Hillary Clinton’s position (John Kasich) to cutting off their money (Paul and Fiorina) to grandstanding in Congress (Cruz), to reinvading Iraq, with a side of Syria (Bush, Graham and Santorum), to total war (“destroy them”—Carson) or multi-front bellicosity (Trump).

Overall, it skews heavily toward an amped-up front-line war, which is exactly what the terrorists want. It’s what they wanted from the 9/11 attacks, and it’s just what we gave them, and we only got a vastly stronger terrorist enemy as a result. So the “Daddy Party” script is already a proven failure. It’s done. It has no foundation in the adult world of facts, only in infantile, fear-filled imaginations, which is why there’s been so much GOP focus on circulating discredited scare stories.

The only thing that doesn't scar them is all these heavily armed white guys roaming the country and randomly mowing down strangers. For some reason that's just no big deal.

read the whole thing.
Sunday Funnies for an unfunny Sunday

by digby

This one's from the great Tom Tomorrow, back in June of 2009:

Deja vu all over again.

"Gentle loner" or "rabble-rouser"? Just don't call them terrorists.

by digby

Ask yourself what kind of manhunt would be on if this guy were Muslim:

After tracing the cross-country movements of a menacing anti-Muslim rabble-rouser from Arizona, the FBI took the unusual step of issuing an alert to New York law enforcement agencies to look out for him, sources said.

The FBI got involved after a Muslim group based near Albany notified the agency that Jon Ritzheimer, 32, of Phoenix had posted a video on Nov. 18 in which he showed a gun, made profane anti-Obama statements and said he was driving cross-country to confront them, sources and a group spokesman said.

Agents were able to talk with him initially, but two days later, when he was in Scranton, Penn., he got angry and cut off communication with them. At that point, the alert, citing a “potential threat to law enforcement,” was issued, sources said.

Ritzheimer, a former Marine, has made threats against Muslims a personal cause. He has organized an armed protest at a Phoenix mosque, threatened to “arrest” all senators who voted for President Obama’s nuclear pact with Iran, and encouraged all Americans to carry rifles in public.

I'm glad they're on the look-out, but if his name were Mohammed and this alert went out, do you think the news media would have been on it? I think they would have.

Meanwhile, The New York Times described the Planned Parenthood attacker as a "gentle loner":

They later removed the word "gentle." But the overall assumption in the press is that this was just some crazy loner guy whose political agenda is not to be taken seriously because he just a crazy loner guy. Except for all the Planned Parenthood attacks, bombings, and murders over the years, they might even be right.

It's obvious that we cannot describe white Americans as terrorists no matter what they do. FBI chief James Comey refused to characterize that Charleston killer Dylan Roof as a terrorist. Very few right winger have been even been willing to speculate that a man who shot a dozen people in a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic and said "no more baby parts" might have been politically motivated, much less a terrorist.

This anti-Muslim nutcase who is threatening to kill Muslims and threatens to "arrest" Senators is just a tabloid story. It's a good thing they aren't over-publicizing his threats and making him into some kind of superman monster because that's what he wants. But then, so does ISIS and that never stopped them from fearmongering 24/7.



Your moment of respite in a world gone mad

by digby

Otters and others:

Uhm... there you go.

Lies, damned lies and statistics

by digby

An interesting little piece about Florida 2000.

An example of an extremely significant, decidedly unintended result of a relatively tiny event can be nightmarish. This one is, at least for me. It concerns the role I played in getting George W. Bush elected president in 2000. That I was the butterfly whose fluttering cascaded into Bush’s election still pains me. I had written an op-ed for the New York Times titled “We’re Measuring Bacteria with a Yardstick” in which I argued that the vote in Florida had been so close that the gross apparatus of the state’s electoral system was incapable of discerning the difference between the candidates’ vote totals. Given the problems with the hanging chads, the misleading ballots (in retrospect, aptly termed “butterfly ballots”), the missing and military ballots, a variety of other serious flaws and the six million votes cast, there really was no objective reality of the matter.

Later when the Florida Supreme Court weighed in, Chief Justice Charles T. Wells cited me in his dissent from the majority decision of the rest of his court to allow for a manual recount of the undervote in Florida. Summarizing the legal maneuverings, I simply note that in part because of Wells’s dissent the ongoing recount was discontinued, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and George Bush was (s)elected president.

Specifically, Judge Wells wrote, “I agree with a quote by John Allen Paulos, a professor of mathematics at Temple University, when he wrote that, ‘the margin of error in this election is far greater than the margin of victory, no matter who wins.’ Further judicial process will not change this self-evident fact and will only result in confusion and disorder.” (Incidentally, the CNN senior political analyst at the time, Jeff Greenfield, cited the quote in his book on the 2000 presidential election, “Oh, Waiter! One Order of Crow!,” and wrote, “The single wisest word about Florida was delivered not by a pundit but by mathematician John Allen Paulos.” I doubt, however, that Greenfield thought it was reason to stop the recount.)

I was surprised and flattered, I admit, by the judge but also very distressed that my words were used to support a position with which I disagreed. Vituperative e-mails I received didn’t help. Many were angry that I would support Bush. Some were clearly demented. With all due respect to these correspondents and the esteemed judge, I believed and still believe that the statistical tie in the Florida election supported a conclusion opposite to the one Wells drew. The tie seemed to lend greater weight to the fact that Al Gore received almost half a million more popular votes nationally than did Bush. If anything, the dead heat in Florida could be seen as giving Gore’s national plurality the status of a moral tiebreaker. At the very least the decision of the rest of the court to allow for a manual recount should have been honored since Florida’s vote was pivotal in the Electoral College. Even flipping a commemorative Gore-Bush coin in the capitol in Tallahassee would have been justified since the vote totals were essentially indistinguishable.

I have always thought this made sense. The tie should have gone to the guy who had the most votes nationally. But the Republican line at the tome was "rulz-is-rulz" (except when they're not) so they did everything in their power to preserve that supposed 535 vote margin so they could say they "won" even though it was clear that they didn't.

I don't know how much that move has contributed to this country's cynicism about our leaders, our system and our government but it sure contributed to mine.


The Running Imam

by Tom Sullivan

More tales of the drone wars.

Citizen, now you can do your part to fight international terrorism from the comfort of your own MQ-9 Reaper drone console. Citing "lack of appropriately cleared and currently qualified MQ-9 pilots," the Air Force is now hiring civilian contractors to fly the patrols in "global hot spots," reports the L.A. Times:

For the first time, civilian pilots and crews now operate what the Air Force calls "combat air patrols," daily round-the-clock flights above areas of military operations to provide video and collect other sensitive intelligence.


Civilians are not allowed to pinpoint targets with lasers or fire missiles. They operate only Reapers that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, known as ISR, said Air Force Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command.

So that's comforting. Still:

A lengthy article in the 2013 Air Force Law Review, a publication of the judge advocate general's office, contended that over-reliance on contractors in a combat zone risks violating international law that prohibits direct civilian participation in hostilities.

It cites a Predator missile attack that killed 15 civilians in central Afghanistan in February 2010. Although the military piloted and operated the drone, the decision to fire a Hellfire missile "was largely based upon intelligence analysis conducted and reported by a civilian contractor."

Pardon my noticing, but the United States abandoned all pretense of following international law when it invaded Iraq on Trumped-up™ intelligence and began torturing prisoners. Now we are worried about blurring the lines between the military and civilians? Does Blackwater ring any bells?

There is a reason the Air Force is having trouble finding and retaining drone pilots for its point-and-click assassination program. Pilots are quitting in record numbers:

Some say that the drone war has driven them over the edge. "How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile? How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?" Heather Linebaugh, a former drone imagery analyst, wrote in the Guardian. "When you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience."

"It was horrifying to know how easy it was. I felt like a coward because I was halfway across the world and the guy never even knew I was there," Bryant told KNPR Radio in Nevada. "I felt like I was haunted by a legion of the dead. My physical health was gone, my mental health was crumbled. I was in so much pain I was ready to eat a bullet myself."

Four former drone-team members held a press conference this month about killing by remote control and the grotesque culture of it. “We have seen the abuse firsthand and we are horrified,” said former Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Bryant:

The killings, part of the Obama administration’s targeted assassination program, are aiding terrorist recruitment and thus undermining the program’s goal of eliminating such fighters, the veterans added. Drone operators refer to children as “fun-size terrorists” and liken killing them to “cutting the grass before it grows too long,” said one of the operators, Michael Haas, a former senior airman in the Air Force. Haas also described widespread drug and alcohol abuse, further stating that some operators had flown missions while impaired.

Haas was reprimanded for failing a trainee who expressed a willingness to kill people spotted on the ground because "they look like they are up to no good." But pilots are in short supply. Superiors ordered him to pass students in the future to maintain a steady supply. Bryant told reporters of a time his Predator drone crew fired a Hellfire missile at "five tribal individuals and their camel" believed to be carrying explosives from Pakistan to Afghanistan for use in attacking American troops. Bryant saw no sign of weapons:

“We waited for those men to settle down in their beds and then we killed them in their sleep. That was cowardly murder,” he said.

The group issued a public letter to President Obama about their concerns. Their bank accounts and credit cards have since been locked, alleges Jesselyn Radack, a national security and human rights attorney, known for her defense of whistleblowers, journalists, and hacktivists:

It is all pretty creepy. Like a real-life version of The Running Man, except the targets of the game show's "stalkers" are not even convicted murderers, but people who from 20,000 feet and half a world away look like they are up to no good, people who "must have done something" to justify death. What do we call this ugly reality show, The Running Imam?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Because you need this

by digby

Love those guys.

Tyranny in the eye of the beholder

by digby


Here's an interesting factoid about contemporary policing: In 2014, for the first time ever, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than burglars did. Martin Armstrong pointed this out at his blog, Armstrong Economics, last week.

Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.

That turns out not to be quite right because it didn't count other forms of larceny. Still, this is a truly amazing statistic. They just take the stuff, no due process, nothing. And they keep it to use for more law enforcement.

For some reason most conservatives have no problem with this. But taxing you for roads and bridges is tyranny. I don't get it.

How to make a paranoid police state

by digby

There are lots of methods. They probably work best in combination but you can get a lot done with just one thing: fear.

Here's an interesting piece in the New York Times about Trumpism by Timothy Egan;

In “The Plot Against America,” the novelist Philip Roth imagines an alternative history at the dawn of World War II. Charles A. Lindbergh, aviator hero and crypto-fascist, defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. Rather than go to war against Nazi Germany, he foments an atmosphere of hatred directed at Jews in the United States.

President Lindbergh’s rule is based on fear. He can violate the Constitution because enough Americans do not mind limiting the freedom of a suspect minority in the name of security.

Of course, it could never happen here. It’s a novel, silly boy — one of late-stage Roth’s better efforts. Made-up stuff. That’s what I’ve always thought. But over the last three months, in listening to plans of the Republican presidential front-runner and the views of his increasingly thuggish followers, I’m starting to have some dark fears should Donald Trump become president.

Do read on. It's quite interesting.

Oh, and apropos of nothing:

It was 21h32 on November 13th when time stopped in France and around the world as Paris was attacked in its heart. One hundred and thirty people were killed while enjoying dinners with friends, celebrating birthdays, and dancing at a concert. The French government, with the support of most of the population and political groups, rapidly declared a state of emergency that was initially scheduled to last 12 days. This drastic measure, not used since World War II, altered the normal balance of powers in France, giving more discretion to the President and the government.

The following week, as the police and military forces were tracking the perpetrators of the attacks, people around the world sent messages showing their support for the people of Paris, and France was moved by an unprecedented rush of solidarity. Since several suspects remained at large, the President requested that the parliament extend the state of emergency to three months, and modify the French law on the state of emergency, which dates from 1955. Parliament granted both requests with limited opposition, despite the absence of justification for the changes, and despite the fact that the modifications created new measures extending surveillance powers and limiting freedoms. More radical changes could come as the French have government has chosen this difficult period to consider modifying the Constitution, which would officially shift France from the Fifth to the Sixth Republic.

Before the attacks

France has historically been a country with a strong tradition of defending human rights. The French Revolution and the Enlightenment inspired many human rights declarations around the world. Despite this proud record, more recently abuses and violations of those universal rights have taking place in France, as highlighted in a recent Human Rights Watch report. The past two years have been particularly liberticide. Ostensibly in response to terrorist threats, France has passed no fewer than four separate laws extending its surveillance powers since December 2014: the Military Programming law, the Anti-Terrorism law, the Intelligence law, and the International Surveillance law. Together, these laws have made France an all-seeing state, capable of monitoring the population, collecting and retaining personal data for excessive periods, snooping on the private communications of individuals in France or abroad, and the list goes on. Given France’s ever-expanding surveillance authorities, many see the government’s immediate response to the attacks in Paris as relatively measured and calm. However, it may simply be that there are not many more surveillance powers for the government to seek. That said, the newly adopted proposals have nevertheless further extended the French surveillance state to extremes never previously seen in the digital age.

What is in the new law on the state of emergency?

The law adopted on November 20th declares a state of emergency in all French territories for three months, during which:

Warrantless house searches are authorised night and day, unless the house is occupied by a lawyer or a member of Parliament. This authority is granted by the Home Affairs minister or the Prefect of a region. The law also provides that a prosecutor be notified without undue delay. While remaining broad, this measure is a limitation of the 1955 law that authorised such house searches without notifying a prosecutor. If there is a wrongful or unsupported search, an individual can seek redress from of an administrative court.
Warrantless searches of electronic devices are authorised. Data can be accessed and copied by law enforcement.

The Home Affairs minister has the power to place individuals under house arrest if “there are serious reasons to believe that his/her behavior constitutes a threat to security and public order”, a provision created under the 1955 law. Now, these individuals can also be placed under invasive surveillance. While the parliament debated whether to prevent these individuals from accessing the internet, members of parliament abandoned the idea because the French constitutional court previously established that access to the internet is a fundamental right. However, the Home Affairs minister can order a limit or temporary suspension of their communications.

The government has the right to dissolve groups or associations that "take part in the execution of acts that represent a serious infringement to public order or whose activities facilitate or incite the execution of such acts." Under French law, public order is a subjective notion, which can be interpreted in different ways depending on the situation. It has never been defined by the French constitutional court.

The law includes a measure to allow authorities to block websites that promote or incite terrorism, without the intervention of a judge. However, this mirrors a proposal that was already adopted in November of last year during reform of the Anti-Terrorism law, and that measure remains in effect. This makes the new measure nearly duplicative. Under the new provision, the limited oversight mechanism provided in the Anti-Terrorism law, which has been executed by the national data protection authority called CNIL, is no longer compulsory, and it is not clear whether there will be any mechanism for redress.

Silver lining: The 1955 law gave authorities control of the media, and this is no longer authorised.

But the biggest change might be yet to come. François Hollande, the French President, has announced a proposal to modify the French constitution to “adapt the State’s response to emergency situations.” The Prime Minister has been tasked with preparing this proposal, and it is expected to be released in the next few weeks. While everyone awaits the release, several political groups are already expressing doubt as to whether the government needs to modify the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, which has been in place since 1958. A change in the constitution would officially create the Sixth Republic in France.

More at the link. They've put climate activists under house arrest.Evidently they must believe they are in cahoots with ISIS. Or they're using their expanded powers for other purposes. I wonder what it could be?


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