** Charles Pierce: "Congress seems on the brink of ceding not only the power to conduct acts of war ... but its clearly designated power to create and conduct a war itself.... Any member of Congress who votes for a permanent [Authorization to Use Military Force] along these lines is acting contrary to the expressed will of the Founders and contrary to the plain text of the Constitution itself. Ditto for any president who acts upon it, and any court that upholds it. Absent an amendment, Congress cannot constitutionally abandon its war powers to another branch of government. Oh, in reality, it can do it, and it has, and it likely will in the future, but it cannot cloak what it does in the Constitution because the Constitution was specifically written to say otherwise." ...
... Here's the underlying story, by John Bresnahan of Politico.
Obstructionism 2.0. Rachelle Younglai & Roberta Rampton of Reuters: "The Senate's top Republican on Wednesday came out strongly against President Barack Obama's labor secretary nomination, accusing Thomas Perez of being a crusading ideologue who would bend the laws to advance his agenda. The speech from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggests that Republicans will throw up procedural hurdles to prevent Perez from serving as the Obama administration's next labor secretary." Thanks to contributor Diane for the link.
... Obama 2.0. New York Times Editors: "President Obama has picked a former telecommunications lobbyist and campaign fund-raiser to serve as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, raising serious questions about hid 2007 pledge that corporate lobbyists would not finance his campaign or run his administration... [The nominee, Tom Wheeler] was also a big 'bundler' for Mr. Obama in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, which means ... it is almost certain that he raised money from people whose companies he would regulate, creating potential conflicts of interest." ...
... CW: This pick is a career move for Obama. He's going to leave office a young man. He & his wife still have a long future to consider. Some of that future would certainly benefit -- directly or indirectly -- from keeping on the good side of media moguls. (Obama's choosing Mary Jo White to head the S.E.C. was a similar career move.)
Richard Cowan & Thomas Ferraro of Reuters: "A Senate committee on Thursday rejected a Republican proposal [offered by GOP Delayer-in-Chief Chuck Grassley] that would have significantly delayed the legalization of 11 million undocumented residents in the United States as part of a broad immigration bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-6 against the amendment. It was the first major test of a bipartisan bill that is being debated in the Senate." ...
... Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg News: "... Obama has ceded much of the spotlight on immigration to Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who has been actively trying to sell immigration reform to the conservative base. Among Republicans, and perhaps among Democrats, too, it's possible immigration reform is now more identified with Rubio than with Obama.... If that's so, it's an example of the 'permission structure' at work."
Sarah Kliff & Dan Keating of the Washington Post: "For the first time, the federal government will release the prices that hospitals charge for the 100 most common inpatient procedures. Until now, these charges have been closely held by facilities that see a competitive advantage in shielding their fees from competitors. What the numbers reveal is a health-care system with tremendous, seemingly random variation in the costs of services."
Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post: "The veteran diplomat who oversaw the response to the deadly attacks on U.S. installations in eastern Libya last year offered a riveting account on Wednesday of that frantic night, as House Republicans sought to use his testimony to bolster their view that the Obama administration tried to shield embarrassing facts about the ordeal. Gregory Hicks, the deputy chief of mission in Libya during the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks, testified before a House committee that he was frustrated when the U.S. military turned down a request to dispatch four Special Operations troops from Tripoli to Benghazi the next morning, saying he felt they were urgently needed to help evacuate Americans." ...
... Jeremy Peters & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "A State Department official on Wednesday offered the first public testimony from an American diplomat who was on the ground in Libya the night last September when the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi was attacked. And he said he was later demoted for raising questions about how the attack was handled." CW: Oh. A disgruntled employee. Who coulda guessed? ...
... Erik Wemple of the Washington Post: Hicks' account was riveting, & the public deserved to hear it. ...
... Kevin Drum: "Was Benghazi mishandled? Maybe. Are there lessons to be learned? Probably. Is there a scandal or a coverup? There's never been any evidence of it, and there still isn't. This is a show that goes on and on without end, but it never delivers a payoff. Issa and his colleagues need to start paying more attention to stuff that actually matters, and give up on the Fox-friendly conspiracy theories that never pan out. Enough's enough." ...
... Steve Benen: according to Darrell Issa & Friends, "This was a hearing so significant, so monumental, that Republican staffers on Capitol Hill felt the need to make movie posters to help promote it. Issa over-promised and under-delivered. The dramatic hearing that Republicans and Fox News hoped to use to bring down the Obama presidency and permanently derail Hillary Clinton's still-unknown ambitions did neither -- there's still no conspiracy; there's still no cover-up; there's still no political scandal.... Enough should be enough at this point, but if recent history is any guide, the next pointless hearing is just around the corner." ...
... Update: Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post tries to pinpoint what we learned from Hicks' testimony.
Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "Lawmakers across Capitol Hill furiously turned their attention on Wednesday to sexual assault in the military, as members scrambled to introduce legislation focused on preventing and better prosecuting attacks, and continued sharp questioning of Air Force leaders about recent events that have underscored the problem." ...
... MEANWHILE, at the NRA. Dyland Stableford of Yahoo! News: "Anti-violence groups are criticizing the NRA for allowing a vendor at its annual conference to display 'the Ex,' a scantily-clad, blood-splattered female shooting-range target. According to Zombie Industries, the company that produces the $89.95 Tactical Bleeding Zombies, the targets are 'life-sized, three-dimensional tactical mannequins that 'bleed' when you shoot them.'" With photo. CW: yes, some spoilsports have no tolerance for encouraging gun-toting he-men to murder their ex-wives & girlfriends.
Holy Moola, Batman! What Happened to He-Said/She-Said Reporting? Jackie Calmes & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The nation's unemployment rate would probably be nearly a point lower, roughly 6.5 percent, and economic growth almost two points higher this year if Washington had not cut spending and raised taxes as it has since 2011, according to private-sector and government economists. After two years in which President Obama and Republicans in Congress have fought to a draw over their clashing approaches to job creation and budget deficits, the consensus about the result is clear: Immediate deficit reduction is a drag on full economic recovery."
We have spent more than what we have brought into this government for 55 of the last 60 years. There's no business in America that could survive like this. No household in America that could do this. And this government can't do this. -- John Boehner ...
... Josh Barro of Bloomberg News: John Boehner accidentally explains that federal deficit spending is not dangerous. "It's hard to think of better evidence for the sustainability of budget deficits than the fact that we have run them for 55 of the last 60 years.... Boehner doesn't really care about the public debt, as he made clear when he repeatedly supported debt-expanding measures under a Republican president. What Boehner and House Republicans really want are excuses to cut federal spending, particularly on programs such as Medicaid and food stamps that support low-income Americans. But those cuts are unpopular, so Republicans frame fiscal debate to make such cuts appear necessary to avoid disaster." Also, the accompanying chart which compares the rate of grown of U.S. public debt & WalMart's debt is illuminating. (WalMart up 5,760 percent since 1987; U.S. public debt up 600 percent.) Barro also explains to 5th-graders some differences between the government & a household. ...
... Paul Krugman on "the dwindling deficit." P.S. Simpson & Bowles (does anybody remember who they are?) are idiots.
Millionaires Party. If millionaires were a political party, that party would make up less than 10% of the country, but it would have a filibuster-proof super-majority in the Senate, a majority in the House, a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court, and a man in the White House. If the Millionaires' Party ever gets its act together, watch out. -- Nick Carnes of Duke University
Carnes' research -- and common sense -- shows that the simple fact of being a white-collar millionaire leads to different priorities. It leads to different social circles. It leads to different bills. -- Ezra Klein
Have Cake, Eating It, Too. Steve Benen reiterates the chain of chained CPI events: "1. Congressional Republicans demand that the White House put chained CPI on the table as part of budget talks. 2. President Obama reluctantly agrees to put chained CPI on the table as part of budget talks. 3. Congressional Republicans criticize the chained CPI policy they said they wanted.... What's stopping the president from simply walking away from the idea he doesn't like anyway?" CW: sounds like a plan (perhaps one hatched Way Back When.
Greg Sargent: "Two new polls show Dem Congressman Ed Markey with a solid lead over GOP challenger Gabriel Gomez: Suffolk University finds him up by 52-35, while WBUR finds him up by 46-38. However: Both polls show that very large chunks of the Massachusetts electorate are not familiar with Gomez, so there's still a long way to go for Markey." ...
... Tax Scammer. Frank Phillips of the Boston Globe: "Republican US Senate nominee Gabriel E. Gomez claimed a $281,500 income tax deduction in 2005 for pledging not to make any visible changes to the facade of his 112-year-old Cohasset home, a concession so valuable that it is classified as a charitable contribution under a federal law designed to protect historic homes. But Gomez and his wife, Sarah, were already barred from making any changes to the exterior of their home under the bylaws of the local Historical Commission, raising the question as to whether their donation -- the price of which is based on the loss of value in their real estate -- had any monetary worth.... Five weeks after the Gomezes claimed the deduction, the Internal Revenue Service listed programs such as this ... as one of its 'Dirty Dozen tax scams.'"
Gail Collins does not seem all that upset about Mark Sanford's election victory, & John Boehner does not seem all that thrilled about it.
New York Times: "The United States on Thursday expanded its roster of those violating Iran sanctions, blacklisting four Iranian companies and one individual suspected of helping the country enrich nuclear fuel. It also singled out two other companies.... [Wednesday] the Senate introduced legislation that could effectively deny the Iran government access to an estimated $100 billion worth of its own money parked in overseas banks...."
AP: "A 72-foot-long, high-tech catamaran sailboat capsized Thursday in San Francisco Bay while practicing for the America's Cup races this summer, killing an Olympic gold medalist from England and injuring another sailor, authorities said. Artemis Racing said Andrew 'Bart' Simpson died after the capsized boat's platform trapped him underwater for about 10 minutes shortly after 1 p.m."
AP: "California's attorney general sued one of the nation's largest banks Thursday, alleging that JPMorgan Chase & Co. used illegal tactics in its debt collection efforts against about 100,000 credit card holders. The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court says the company filed thousands of debt collection lawsuits each month between 2008 and April 2011 using improper practices that shortcut procedures required by California law." New York Times story here.
New York Times: "... new accounts out of Kizlyar, [Russia,] where [Tamerlan] Tsarnaev spent time with a cousin who is a prominent Salafi Islamist leader, have begun to flesh out a picture of what he did during his six months in Russia last year."
New York Times: "A judge ordered the man accused in the kidnapping of three women and a young child to be held on $8 million bail, $2 million for each case, on Thursday morning. The man, Ariel Castro, 52, appeared in court for the first time since his arrest during an arraignment hearing in municipal court in Cleveland. Mr. Castro did not speak and kept his head down and his eyes lowered during the proceedings."
** Los Angeles Times (via the Chicago Tribune): "Five days before two bombs tore through crowds at the Boston Marathon, an intelligence report identified the finish line of the race as an 'area of increased vulnerability' and warned Boston police that extremists may use 'small scale bombings' to attack spectators and runners at the event."
AP: "Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in an undisclosed location outside the city of Worcester, police said Thursday after a frustrating weeklong search for a community willing to take the body."
New York Times: "Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a son of former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Thursday, according to media reports, throwing an already violence-ridden election campaign into more tumult."
Reuters: " The head of the Arab League on Thursday welcomed a new effort by Russia and the United States to seek a negotiated end to Syria's civil war and called on the Syrian government and opposition to participate."
AP: " A fire at a sweater manufacturer killed eight people -- including a senior police officer, a Bangladeshi politician and a top clothing industry official -- barely two weeks after the collapse of a building housing other garment factories where the death toll approached 1,000 on Thursday. Unlike the collapse at the Rana Plaza building, which was blamed on shoddy construction and disregard for safety regulations, the Tung Hai Sweater factory appeared to have conformed to building codes."
Reuters: " The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid fell last week to its lowest level in nearly 5-1/2 years, signaling labor market resilience in the face of fiscal austerity."
Cyber-Heist! Reuters: "The U.S. government charged eight individuals with stealing debit card data from two Middle Eastern banks in a scheme that prosecutors said netted $45 million in a matter of hours - a crime they called one of the biggest bank heists in history. A New York-based group hacked into credit card processors' computers to steal Mastercard Inc debit card data, which they used to make approximately 36,000 transactions over a total of 10 hours in 24 countries, the Justice Department said."
AP: "The Statue of Liberty is reopening July 4 after Superstorm Sandy flooded the island where it stands. The statue has been closed since Sandy struck the region on Oct. 29 and damaged much of Liberty Island's infrastructure. The statue itself is on higher ground and was not damaged."