U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Ryan Schulte, platoon leader for the Provincial Reconstruction Team security force, returns to his vehicle after a key leader engagement in Pusht-e Rod district in Farah province, Nov. 19, 2012. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup.

Update: Ars Technica reports on December 6 that the GOP staffer behind the progressive memo has been fired. 

The Republican Study Committee, whose members form the conservative wing of the House GOP caucus, released a report on Friday that took a remarkably progressive stance on copyright law. It argued that current copyright laws are "seen by many as a form of corporate welfare that hurts innovation and hurts the consumer" and argued for a wide-ranging overhaul of the system. But the triumph for tech activists—and DJs—was short lived. Over the weekend, the paper mysteriously vanished from the committee's website, leaving a blank web page in its wake. 

Brian Straessle, a spokesman for the Committee, told The Hill that the policy paper was pulled because it hadn't been properly vetted. "Due to an oversight in our review process, [the paper] did not account for the full range of perspectives among our members... It was removed from the website to address that concern."

But skeptics say that the GOP simply bowed to industry pressure.

"As soon as it was published, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) apparently went ballistic and hit the phones hard, demanding that the RSC take down the report," wrote Mike Masnick of TechDirt. 

A spokesman for RIAA, contacted by The Hill, denied that the organization asked the Committee to deep-six the paper"We understand that a decision was made to do so to allow for the appropriate process that would have otherwise taken place before issuing," he said. 

You can still view a copy of the paper here. It's worth reading solely for the part that says that copyright law is hurting the US DJ/Remix industry. "Many other countries have a robust culture of DJ’s and remixing, but the United States, quite perplexingly as the creator of a large portion of the world’s content, is far behind," the paper notes.

Who knew that a stodgy GOP study committee could be so cool? Oh wait. 

Ira Rennert owns the nation's largest inhabited residence.

A Peruvian judge has threatened to extradite bad-boy industrialist and private-equity bigwig Ira Rennert, according to a recent story in Peru's La Republica. Since January, the American billionaire has repeatedly refused to travel to Peru to respond to charges of defrauding the Peruvian government in connection with his management of Doe Run Peru, a lead smelter in the Andes that has poisoned a surrounding town.

According to La Republica, Rennert has claimed that he is "too occupied with his business" to address the charges in person. He asked Peruvian judge Martha Flores Gallardo to travel to New York instead.

"You know, I've been called a maverick; someone who marches to the beat of his own drum," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) boasted during his speech at the 2008 Republican convention. But for every instance of McCain bucking party orthodoxy or straddling the partisan divide, there's one of him being an obstinate, angry jerk. (The current example of this being his attempt to turn the Benghazi controversy into a Watergate-sized scandal.) This duality recalls Goofus and Gallant, the twin brothers who have long entertained Highlights for Children readers with their contrasting antics:

Goofus McCain

Gallant McCain

Tells this joke: "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno." Later befriends Sen. Hillary Clinton and calls her "one of the guys."
Unapologetically calls his Vietnamese captors "gooks"—in 2000. Says that torture is "unworthy and injurious to our country."
Freaks out over the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Says the Swift Boat ads about John Kerry's war record were "dishonest and dishonorable."
Votes against more disclosure for dark-money donors. Bashes Citizens United as "one of the worst decisions" ever.
Praises "spectacular" running mate Sarah Palin's "incredible résumé." Criticizes the "agents of intolerance" in the Christian right.
Says he'd be okay with US troops staying in Iraq for "maybe 100 years." Corrects a supporter who insists Obama is "an Arab."
Goes from backing climate legislation to saying climate science may be "flawed." Criticizes congressional tea partiers for their "bizarro" debt ceiling demands.
Says Susan Rice is "not qualified" to be the next secretary of state due to "not being very bright" and her comments about the Benghazi attacks. Defends Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin from Rep. Michele Bachmann's "specious and degrading attacks."


Mat Staver, an influential evangelical lawyer closely linked with the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University, has named an unlikely culprit for the passage of four pro-gay marriage measures this year: Mitt Romney.

Staver said Monday on the Christian radio program "Faith and Freedom" that Romney's refusal to talk about social issues led to voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State approving ballot measures backing gay marriage. Romney should've campaigned in those four states, Staver insisted, and played up the importance of defining marriage as being between a man and a woman only.

But because Romney's message focused primarily on jobs and the economy, "he could not speak about life or marriage and so he didn't campaign in those states speaking about those issues and associating himself with marriage," Staver said, adding, "had he done so, his numbers would've gone up and I bet the marriage polls would've gone up."

Staver called Romney "mealy" and a "one-note" candidate, and disparaged him for lacking true social values. "If you'd had a candidate that had social values, you'd have higher voter turnout," he said. "If you had Romney, you had lower voter turnout. What ultimately happened in the general election is you had lower voter turnout."

Watch the clip of Staver's comments above, captured and edited by Right Wing Watch. Here's the transcript:

"If you'd had a candidate that had social values, you had a higher voter turnout. If you had Romney, you had lower voter turnout. What ultimately happened in the general election is you had lower voter turnout.

And look at Maryland, for example: 36.6 percent voted for Romney, but 48.1 percent voted for marriage as a union between one man, one woman. Minnesota: 45 percent voted for Romney, 47.4 percent voted for marriage. In Washington, 41.8 percent voted for Romney, 46.8 percent voted for marriage. Each one of those states, more people voted for marriage than Romney. They had a contradictory vote: They voted for marriage and they voted for Barack Obama in great measure. Those are contradictory votes.

Why? Because Romney was a one-note candidate. Jobs and the economy. You'd ask him a question on what's he going to do on immigration: jobs and the economy. Benghazi: jobs and the economy. How did he all of sudden switch it back to jobs and the economy when we're talking about foreign affairs? He could not speak about life or marriage and so he didn't campaign in those states speaking about those issues and associating himself with marriage. Had he done so, his numbers would've gone up and I bet the marriage polls would've gone up.

Every time we get these mealy candidates like Romney or McCain, we have this problem and then Republican pundits come up and say, 'Oh, we need to change our position on marriage and abortion.'"

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.)

Predictably, the last person to realize that Rep. Allen West's political career is over—for now, anyway—seems to be Allen West himself. 

The Florida congressman famous for instructing a Muslim Republican to quit trying to "blow sunshine up my butt," asking his supporters to "grab your muskets," and suggesting that the Bureau of Labor statistics had fabricated the October jobs report, trailed Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy by 2,500 votes when the dust settled on November 7. For two weeks, though, West challenged the results, refusing to concede while charging that there had been "a willful attempt to steal the election" by St. Lucie County elections supervisor Gertrude Walker.

West's request for a full recount in St. Lucie County was officially rejected by a judge, and because his margin of defeat exceeded 0.5 percent, he had no grounds to demand a recount under Florida law. But the county went along with one anyway, and over the course of two days, double-checked their math, after which point West found himself trailing by an additional 274 votes. Womp womp. Despite conservative howls of voter fraud and West's pledge to fight on, it's almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which Murphy isn't seated come January.

Here are some of the highlights from West's one term in Congress:

The good news for West is that 2,500 votes is not an especially large margin in a presidential election year in which Democrats dominated the ground game in the Sunshine State. So maybe he'll be back in two years to take back the seat.

Well, that or he'll land a cushy job at Fox News.

A U.S. Marine CH-56E Super Stallion crew chief assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, makes his way to the ramp while flying over Helmand province, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012. HMH-361 is deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Here is one of the presumed contenders for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, in an interview with GQ's Michael Hainey:

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?

Marco Rubio: I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries.

Should be a fun four years.

It finally happened: The term "Super PAC" will be added to the dictionary. Politico reports that the term is expected to appear in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. The publication also talked to the woman responsible for the coinage:


Eliza Newlin Carney, the reporter who first coined the term in print on June 26, 2010, while working at National Journal...never imagined that a word she made up would find its way inside the big book. "I had a feeling it'd catch on, but not like this," said Carney, now with Roll Call...The term replaces the far more technical "independent expenditure-only political action committee."

"Super PAC" will appear along with other recently approved words, including "energy drink," "sexting," "mash-up," "game changer," "gastropub," "man cave," the Oprah-coined "aha moment," and "f-bomb."

Super-PACs have spent upward of $700 million during the 2012 elections, and have attracted nearly endless controversy. Here's a frame of reference to demonstrate just how relevant they were to this election season: In 2012, the New York Times published the term "super PAC" 1,126 times between January 1 and November 15. In 2010, the paper only published it three times.

The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in February turned a national spotlight on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Following widespread outcry about the killing—in which George Zimmerman shot the unarmed 17-year-old Martin allegedly in self defense—Florida Gov. Rick Scott convened a task force to evaluate the 2005 law. This week, the group came back with their report. Their conclusion? The controversial law is just fine as it is. But there's just one problem: That verdict flies in the face of much troubling evidence to the contrary.

Stand Your Ground essentially makes it legal to shoot one's way out of any situation that feels threatening: Unless law enforcement authorities can prove that's an invalid explanation from a shooter, a resulting homicide can be deemed justifiable under the law, and the shooter is immune from criminal and civil prosecution. As Mother Jones reported in June, Florida's Stand Your Ground law kicked off a wave of such legislation across the country, with 24 of them passed elsewhere since, thanks to much backing by the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The evidence to date indicates it is terrible public policy. Since the spreading of the law, multiple studies have found that Stand Your Ground laws:

But after six months of review, it looks like Gov. Scott's task force took little of this into account. The first recommendation in their final report is a firm endorsement of the Stand Your Ground law: "[A]ll persons have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be and are conducting themselves in a lawful manner."

The few recommendations for change that the report offers are vague. They recommend more training for law enforcement on the meaning of self-defense laws, that the legislature better define a shooter's criminal immunity, and that it fund study of the correlation between Stand Your Ground laws and diversity variables, including race. (Nevermind that such studies on race already exist.)