Cops are very protective of their own privacy, but not yours. Also, other countries’ oligarchs are bad but ours are just fine, and conservatives love to hate women…. (More)

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”

North Dakota just became the first state to legalize the police use of weaponized drones. Ironically, in its original form that bill banned weapons on police drones and required police to get a search warrant before employing drones for surveillance.

But police and the state’s large drone industry objected that the bill would curb innovation and industry growth. When it comes to personal privacy versus defense industry innovation and growth, hey, let’s be real here. Surprisingly, the warrant requirement remained in the final bill, but an amendment was added allowing police drones carry “non-lethal weapons” like Tasers, rubber bullets, and sound cannons.

What really soured my macadamias was this:

Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost said his department’s drones are only equipped with cameras and he doesn’t think he should need a warrant to go snooping.

“It was a bad bill to start with,” Rost told The Daily Beast. “We just thought the whole thing was ridiculous.”

Rost said he needs to use drones for surveillance in order to obtain a warrant in the first place.

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” Becker remembered opponents like Rost saying.

Yet the sheriff’s department is hiding a full accounting of how many drone missions they’ve flown since 2012. Records requests by The Daily Beast were initially denied by the sheriff because they would “cost a fortune,” and were only handed over after an appeal to the state’s attorney general’s office.

The sheriff and lobbyists assured lawmakers that drones would only be used in non-criminal situations, like the search for a missing person or to photograph an accident scene. What they didn’t mention was the 2011 arrest of Rodney Brossart, a cattle thief who was caught by a Department of Homeland Security drone.

So there ya go. Law enforcement agencies want secrecy for their operations, but the rest of us get warrantless snooping and “non-lethal” weaponized drones. Because we have to protect the drone industry’s innovation and growth.


“Only politically connected wealth inequality and economic growth have a negative relationship”

A new study found that other countries’ oligarchs are bad but ours are just fine. Yes, I’m exaggerating, but only slightly. The Journal of Comparative Economics study by Sutirtha Bagchi and Jan Svejnar used wealth data from the Forbes 500 list, estimated which billionaires used government connections to acquire and build their wealth, and ran a correlation analysis on GDP in the billionaires’ home countries. The Washington Post’s Ana Swanson explains:

Looking at all the data, the researchers found that Russia, Argentina, Colombia, Malaysia, India, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea and Italy had relatively more politically connected wealth. Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. all had zero politically connected billionaires. The U.S. also had very low levels of politically connected wealth inequality, falling just outside the top 10 at number 11.

When the researchers compared these figures to economic growth, the findings were clear: These politically connected billionaires weighed on economic growth. In fact, wealth inequality that came from political connections was responsible for nearly all the negative effect on economic growth that the researchers had observed from wealth inequality overall. Wealth inequality that wasn’t due to political connections, income inequality and poverty all had little effect on growth.

So if GDP growth is the Holy Grail of economic analysis, only oligarchs who rely on government cronyism are a problem. Like those corrupt oligarchs in Russia and so on. Our oligarchs are just fine.

According to Bagchi, one takeaway of the research is that developing countries should limit how much businesses have to interact with the state to get things done – those interactions rarely turn out well for average people. The other lesson is that it’s not just inequality, but the source of inequality that really matters.

A few notes. First, as Thomas Piketty discusses at length in Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the Forbes 500 list is a very unreliable source for estimating wealth. Second, their sample focused solely on billionaires, thus the sample size for many countries is ridiculously small. In a comment at the Post article, Bagchi notes that Australia’s 65% of billionaires acquiring wealth by government connections is due to exactly one individual. Finally, neither the abstract nor the Post article indicates that the authors corrected for other factors that influence GDP growth … and that’s a major problem when you’re correlating for such a small sample size.

But why let statistical rigor get in the way of proving a libertarian meme that wealth inequality is only a problem when government gets involved….


“Know your role and shut your mouth”

And at Talking Points Memo, Amanda Marcotte explains that Donald Trump will only benefit from attacking Fox News host Megyn Kelly:

Donald Trump has reignited his sexist harassment campaign against Megyn Kelly, and the folks at Fox News are, in seemingly coordinated fashion, striking back. Fellow Fox News hosts and pundits are asking Trump to cool it, and even Roger Ailes has released a statement calling Trump’s abuse “unacceptable” and “disturbing.” It’s almost touching, watching all these conservative media people who usually profit at peddling sexism choose, this time at least, to join together in an effort to stop this one particular instance of it.

It’s also going to backfire.

Conservative media and Fox News in particular have spent years – decades, if you count talk radio – training their audiences to believe that exhortations against sexism and racism are nothing but the “political correctness” police trying to kill your good time. Indeed, one reason that Trump was able to get so much attention for his presidential run in the first place is that Fox has spent years building him up, knowing that their audience enjoys vicariously needling imagined liberals and feminists with his loud-mouthed insult comic act.
Hell, this is a network where a man literally told a female host, “Know your role and shut your mouth.”

Marcotte cites Jill Filipovic’s disturbing Cosmopolitan article on how right wingnuts use Twitchy to coordinate social media harassment:

A few hours after sending out those initial tweets, the @ replies column of my TweetDeck went nuts. Tweet after tweet after tweet streamed in. I was a life-hating bloodthirsty ghoul; a soulless bitch; pro-dead-babies-incinerated-as-biohazardous-trash; a sad, degenerate monster; a fucking heartless beast; a human sewer; the female Hannibal; a soulless wino psychopath; an ignorant twat; a Caitlyn Jenner look-alike; an Obama taint-licker; a dumb, sniveling fuckwhistle; perhaps “some type of transgender”; nasty skank trash; and an elitist snot (that one came with a photo of dozens of dead children), among other pleasantries.
I had been Twitchied.

Twitchy may be one of the most powerful political platforms online, but its role as an organized harassment tool is almost never discussed. Founded in 2012 by conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, the site has half a dozen editors who troll Twitter for content to post; each post consists of a tweet or series of tweets along with some brief and often outraged commentary. Malkin sold Twitchy to Salem Media, a for-profit Christian company in 2013, but the religiosity of its new owners has not shifted its acidic content.
One recent afternoon, most of the people negatively singled out by name and photo on Twitchy’s front page were women: Hillary Clinton, Mia Farrow, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Nancy Pelosi, Wendy Davis, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, though Barack Obama and Joe Biden each got a mention as well. The folks being applauded were mostly white men (actor Adam Baldwin, conservative Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol). Many women say when they are put on Twitchy, the responses are sexualized and sexist; for people of color, a Twitchy post means a waterfall of racism.

I guess I should be grateful that Twitchy hasn’t discovered squirrels….


Photo Credit: Montgomery County Police Reporter


Good day and good nuts