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Watch "The Daily Show" Explain the Insanity of America's Campus Rape Epidemic

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 5:17 PM EDT

Campus rape is an epidemic in America. According to a 2007 study commissioned by the Justice Department, 19 percent of women report being sexually assaulted by the time they leave college. For reasons that make decent people pull their hair out, many colleges do absolutely nothing to punish the asshole student perpetrators and in fact seem to go out of their way to see that allegations of assault go unreported. Not because they want their students raping other students, of course. But because "boys will be boys" or some bullshit.

This is the deeply insane reality of many campuses in America. Here is a video of Jon Stewart and friends explaining this perfectly.

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This Guy Just Summed Up America's Climate Inaction Beautifully in 15 Lines

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 4:52 PM EDT
"Is there consensus among the crew?"

Pretty much as a rule, the comments section below any post on climate change will contain all the same dreary back-and-forth about how the world hasn't actually warmed in 15 years, or some thing; how fat cat Al Gore is profiting off global warming; and all those petty attacks over intellect/punctuation/spelling. That was certainly true for my recent post about Australia's climate politics, and the ongoing craziness Downunder that has resulted in more than a little political bloodletting in recent years. And then, reading down through the comments, just when I was giving up hope...a sudden bolt, as if the clouds parted and a little (uncharacteristic) humor was allowed to shine down upon all the silliness. Thank you "ThatDudeOnABike", for neatly summarizing some of the ridiculousness with this 30-second double-hander. A micro-Tony Award for you!

"Captain, there's a large iceberg ahead that will cause us to sink." 
"No there isn't" 
"Yes, captain, it's right there."
"Ice berg schmice berg. Oh, that berg. Right. It's not our fault."
"Regardless, sir, It will still sink us."
"No it won't"
"99% chance."
"So you don't know. Is there consensus among the crew?"
"We don't really have time..."
"If we stop the ship it will cost jobs and the economy will tank."
"We don't have to stop, just change course if we do it right away, before it's too late."
"You liberal elites just want to scare us."
"I'm not liberal, I just looked off the starboard bow and there it was."
"So it just appeared? You made it up. Why do you hate America?"
CRASH!

[Aaand, scene—thanks ThatDudeOnABike!]

And a reminder, we do love your comments. In fact, we once tracked down our biggest troll... and kind of liked him. You could be next:

Another Geopolitical Triumph For Vladimir Putin!

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 4:44 PM EDT

From the Guardian:

It was the document that started a revolution and ended up bringing Europe to the brink of war. Ukraine's association agreement with the European Union, a mainly economic document setting up a free trade area that nevertheless has political and strategic ramifications, will finally be signed on Friday.

Along with Georgia and Moldova, two other post-Soviet countries keen to move out of Moscow's orbit, Kiev will sign the deal with Brussels to establish a free-trade area and introduce a raft of measures designed to synchronise economies with EU nations, as well as improve rule of law and human rights.

Yep, that Putin is a geopolitical strategic mastermind, isn't he? Every country on Russia's border is now hellbent on better economic and military ties with the West. Nice work.

Watch: The Neocon Reunion Tour Starring Cheney, Wolfowitz and Bolton [Fiore Cartoon]

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 4:04 PM EDT

Mark Fiore is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and animator whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and dozens of other publications. He is an active member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and has a website featuring his work.

No, the Aereo Case Doesn't Endanger Cloud Computing Services

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 2:11 PM EDT

I'm puzzled by much of the commentary on the Aereo case. Much of it echoes a point in Scalia's dissent, namely that ruling against Aereo puts all sorts of cloud computing services at risk. After all, if it's a copyright infringement for Aereo to rent you an antenna and some hard disk space, then why shouldn't it be an infringement for, say, Google to rent you cloud storage that allows you to copy—and potentially share—copyrighted music?

I think David Post has the answer right:

The majority is at pains, in several places, to say that the case is just about broadcast television and the re-transmission of broadcast signals. Not about cloud storage, or streaming services, or gaming platforms, or anything else. Just broadcast TV, and what you may or may not do with over-the-air broadcast signals. Congress has made a choice about those signals; anyone who re-transmits them (like the cable companies do) has to pay royalties to the broadcasters. If that’s what it means ... the decision has nothing to say about any other content-delivery or content-storage platforms that deal with the vast array of non-broadcast-TV content.

The Aereo case turns almost entirely on the fact that Aereo was retransmitting TV signals, which are covered by a very specific statute. Despite Scalia's huffing and puffing, I simply don't see how this applies to cloud storage platforms.

Beyond that, there's another crucial distinction: Aereo was explicitly in the business of retransmitting content that was almost 100 percent copyrighted. That's fundamentally different from a third-party service—email, cloud storage, etc.—that can be used for infringing purposes but has a generally legitimate intent. The Supreme Court has ruled in cases like this before, and it's why VCRs and Gmail are still around even though people sometimes use them to copy and share copyrighted material with each other, while Napster is dead.

It's hard not to conclude that much of the opposition to the Aereo decision is based on a simple libertarian dislike of enforcing copyright law at all. But like it or not, commercial TV is almost entirely copyrighted content, and the stations that produce it have every right to control how it's distributed. The fact that current copyright law is overly expansive doesn't really affect that.

POSTSCRIPT: It's interesting that we've seen back-to-back decisions that, to my mind, were confirmed in diametrically opposite ways. In the Aereo case, Aereo thought it had discovered a clever loophole in copyright law, but the court ruled against them. The general intent of the law was more important. In the recess appointment case, Senate Republicans found a clever loophole to stay technically in session, and the court ruled that this was perfectly fine. The fact that it was a hypertechnical sham didn't move them.

Unions Should Brace Themselves for a Major Supreme Court Loss

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 1:04 PM EDT

It's official: The Supreme Court will wait until Monday, the final day of the current term, to issue its decision in Harris v. Quinn. As I explained in May, Harris is a blockbuster case that could, in a worst-case scenario, wipe public-employee unions such as SEIU and AFSCME off the map. And the chances of a damaging decision in Harris just increased—here's why.

Heading into Thursday, the Supreme Court had Harris and three other cases left to decide. The justices chose to issue their opinions concerning presidential recess appointments (Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board) and so-called buffer zones keeping protesters at a distance from abortion clinics (McCullen v. Coakley). Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal member of the court, wrote the Canning opinion; Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, took the lead in McCullen.

This makes it more likely that Justice Samuel Alito, who we've yet to hear much from, will write the opinion in Harris, which points to bad news for public-employee unions. "There's almost no question [Justice] Alito has this opinion unless he lost his majority along way," tweets Rick Hasen, a University of California-Irvine law professor. "Anti-union is his signature issue."

Labor officials can only hope Hasen is wrong. Alito is strongly anti-union. In the 2012 case Knox v. SEIU, Alito essentially invited labor's foes to challenge the basic model of public-employee unionism, in which non-union employees can be made to pay dues to a union for bargaining on their behalf, representing them in grievance issues, etc. Harris makes such a challenge; it's what Alito asked for.

Unions like to call those non-member payments "fair share" dues. If it's the union's job, they reason, to represent all members and nonmembers in a unionized workplace, then all those workers should pay their fair share for that representation. Conservatives—and Alito—say fair-share fees violate the First Amendment rights of non-union workers.

The outcome in Harris could cut a number of ways. The Supreme Court could uphold the lower court's decision dismissing the suit—a big union victory. It could strike down fair share fees—the equivalent of Congress passing a national right-to-work bill. (Right-to-work laws ban unions from collecting those fair-share fees from non-members.) Public-employee unions would survive that decision, but it would be a blow. The court could also effectively enact right-to-work nationwide and kneecap a union's ability to exclusively represent employees in a unionized workplace. That would be catastrophic for public-employee unions.

If there's any judge who might go that far, it would be Samuel Alito.

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Digital Privacy Is Fundamentally Different From Physical Privacy

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 11:34 AM EDT

Tim Lee argues—or perhaps merely hopes—that yesterday's decision protecting cell phones from warrantless searches might signal a turning point for the Supreme Court's attitude toward digital information in general:

The government has typically pursued a simple legal strategy when faced with digital technologies. First, find a precedent that gave the government access to information in the physical world. Second, argue that the same principle should apply in the digital world, ignoring the fact that this will vastly expand the government's snooping power while eroding Americans' privacy.

....The government hoped the Supreme Court would take this same narrow, formalistic approach in this week's cell phone privacy case. It wanted the justices to pretend that rifling through the vast quantity of personal information on a suspect's cell phone is no different from inspecting other objects that happen to be in suspects' pockets. But the Supreme Court didn't buy it.

....The Supreme Court clearly recognizes that in the transition from information stored on paper to information stored in computer chips, differences of degree can become differences of kind. If the police get access to one letter or photograph you happen to have in your pocket, that might not be a great privacy invasion. If the police get access to every email you've received and every photograph you've taken in the last two years, that's a huge invasion of privacy.

This is a problem that's been getting more acute for years. The basic question is whether courts should recognize the fact that digital access to information removes practical barriers that are important for privacy. For example, the state of California keeps lots of records about me that are legally public: DMV records, property records, birth and marriage records, etc. In the past, practically speaking, the mere fact that they were physical records provided me with a degree of privacy. It took a lot of time and money to dig through them all, and this meant that neither the government nor a private citizen would do it except in rare and urgent cases.

In the digital world, that all changes. If a police officer has even a hint of curiosity about me, it takes only seconds to compile all this information and more. In a technical sense, they don't have access to anything they didn't before, but in a practical sense I've lost a vast amount of privacy.

In the past, the Supreme Court has rarely (never?) acknowledged this. In yesterday's cell phone case, they not only acknowledged it, they acknowledged it unanimously. Is it possible that this means they'll be applying a more skeptical view to similar cases in the future? Or even revisiting some of their past decisions in light of the continuing march of technology? We don't know yet, but it's certainly possible. Maybe the Supreme Court has finally entered the 21st century.

The Coach of the US Soccer Team Wrote You a Note To Get Out of Work

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 11:05 AM EDT

This should come in handy today.

Jürgen Klinsmann, the US men's national soccer team coach, signed the following tongue-in-cheek letter excusing American employees from work on Thursday. The US is playing Germany in a highly anticipated World Cup match.

Here's the get-out-of-work letter, via the US Soccer Twitter feed:

US Soccer excuse note world cup
@ussoccer/Twitter

If you tried to use this on your boss, please do tell us how it went in the comments below. Go USA!

Read the Supreme Court's Decision Striking Down Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 10:52 AM EDT

Read our explainer of the Court's ruling here.

 

Supreme Court Rules That Even a Sham Recess is Still a Recess

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 10:47 AM EDT

See? If you take President Obama to court over an issue of executive overreach, you might win:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday limited the president’s power to fill high-level vacancies with temporary appointments, ruling in favor of Senate Republicans in their partisan clash with President Barack Obama.

The court’s first-ever case involving the Constitution’s recess appointments clause ended in a unanimous decision holding that Obama’s appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012 without Senate confirmation were illegal.

Republicans had argued that the Senate wasn't really in recess when Obama made those appointments. Obama argued that, in practice, the Senate was indeed in recess, and simply gaveling open a few pro forma "sessions" during the break didn't change that. In this case, the justices decided to go with the letter of the law, and Obama lost.

This result doesn't bother me much. I actually agree with Obama that these pro forma sessions are shams, but sometimes the law allows you to get away with technicalities like this. In any case, it's good that we have a definitive ruling here.

On the other hand, the related ruling on a tea party hobbyhorse—that virtually all recess appointments are illegal anyway because the only real recess is the annual end-of-year break—is more problematic. This one struck me as completely ridiculous and contrary to 200 years of precedent, but the court rejected it only by a 5-4 margin. That's four votes for an entirely invented bit of nonsense, and that's not a good sign.