The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers." -- CW 

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends." -- CW

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

CW: No idea why the picture is teeny-tiny.

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

CNN: "21st Century Fox and the private equity firm Blackstone are in talks to launch a bid for Tribune Media, one of the nation's largest television broadcasting companies, a source with knowledge of the matter said Sunday. The deal currently under discussion would see Blackstone and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox forming a joint venture. Blackstone would provide the cash for the acquisition while Fox would add all its owned-and-operated television stations to the joint venture." -- CW 

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 

 


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Thursday
Dec112014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 12, 2014

New York Times Editors: "When the long-lost grail of bipartisan compromise finally re-emerged on Capitol Hill this week, the spending bill for 2015 turned out to be weighted with some of the most devious and damaging provisions imaginable for good government. Written in secrecy, presented as the take-it-or-leave-it alternative to a government shutdown, the bill, which narrowly passed the House Thursday night, includes two regressive 'riders' aimed at warming the big-money hearts of donors who leave Congress increasingly vulnerable to special-interest corruption." ...

... Rebecca Shabad, et al., of the Hill report on some of the arm-twisting that got the bill passed: "The bill's passage, as a result, was a remarkable victory for both Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Obama, who were able to cobble together the votes for passage." CW: So Boehner & Obama were "victorious" over the citizenry. Congratulations, fellas. And you wonder why the public holds these guys in low regard. ...

... Greg Sargent is fairly sanguine about the deal. ...

... Charles Pierce, not so much. ...

... Thursday @ 9:05 pm ET: MSNBC is reporting the House will vote "shorty" on the appropriations bill to fund the government. ...

     ... Update: @ 9:50 pm ET, the spending bill passed the House 219-206, with 57 Democrats voting for it. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Hang tight for another Orange Man crisis." ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Just hours before a possible government shutdown, House leaders were struggling to shore up support for a sweeping bill to fund most of the federal government, change campaign finance laws and make it harder for the District of Columbia to legalize marijuana. The White House said President Obama supports the bill and would sign it, but also criticized lawmakers for using the 1,603-page bill to tweak financial regulations and campaign donation limits.... In a notable public break with the White House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) used a floor speech to blast Obama and Republicans for backing the bill." ...

     ... Update. New Lede: "A sweeping bill to fund most of the federal government for the next year, change campaign finance laws and make it harder for the District of Columbia to legalize marijuana passed the House on Thursday even as Congress plans to give itself more time to avert a government shutdown and complete unfinished business."

... Emma Dumain & Matt Fuller of Roll Call: "Unsure whether they have the votes to pass a trillion-dollar federal spending package, House GOP leaders on Thursday afternoon delayed a final vote on the 'cromnibus.' They did so with mere hours to go until the government is set to run out of funding, and just before the House was scheduled to vote." ...

... Mike Lillis of the Hill: "With just hours to go before a scheduled government shutdown, the Democrats launched a lobbying blitz to counter calls made by Obama and other White House officials urging passage of the bill. Leading the charge was Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, who is up in arms over the face that Obama has agreed to accept a GOP rider to undo parts of the 2010 Wall Street reform law as part of the package. 'We don't like lobbying that is being done by the president or anybody else that would allow us to support a bill that ... would give a big gift to Wall Street and the bankers who caused this country to almost go into a depression,' she said. 'So I'm opposed to it and we're going to fight it.'" ...

... Peter Schroeder & Kevin Cirilli of the Hill: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday sought to rally opposition to the $1.1 trillion government funding bill, spearheading a revolt on the left that has put her influence in the Democratic Party to the test. The Massachusetts liberal pleaded for House Democrats to withhold support for a government funding package due to a provision she said would change the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to let 'Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money.'"

Mark Mazzetti & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "John O. Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, defended the agency's use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation tactics on Thursday, sidestepping questions about whether agency operatives tortured anyone. Mr. Brennan, responding to an excoriating Senate report detailing years of brutal interrogation tactics in secret C.I.A. prisons, criticized only those officers who he said went 'outside the bounds' of the guidelines established by the Justice Department. Those guidelines allowed for waterboarding, a week of sleep deprivation, shackling prisoners in painful positions, dousing them with water, and locking them in coffin-like boxes." CW: So the Democrats' very own Dick Cheney. ...

... Rosa Brooks of Foreign Policy: "Writing in the Wall Street Journal, former CIA Directors George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Michael Hayden and three former CIA deputy directors insist that all that waterboarding and rectal feeding wasn't pointless: 'It led to the capture of senior al Qaeda operatives ... [and] the disruption of terrorist attacks ... [and] added enormously to what we knew about al Qaeda as an organization.' Besides, they say, the SSCI report leaves out the all-important 'context' -- which is that everything the ACLU insists on calling 'torture' happened way back when things were really scary.... [But] in real life you don't get actual ticking bomb scenarios, with their certainty, simplicity, and urgency. In real life, you get ambiguity and uncertainty.... The insistence that 'torture works' just leads to more slippery slopes.... Once we start justifying immoral actions based on their utilitarian outcomes, there's no principled place to stop." ...

... Kimberly Dozier of the Daily Beast: "A top CIA official in charge of the agency's interrogation program claimed he was unaware of some of the most gruesome techniques revealed by the Senate's torture report. Working from CIA documents, the report said detainees were made to stand on broken limbs, or forced to take in food or water rectally. But Jose Rodriguez, head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center at the time, said the newly revealed abuses caught him off-guard, too.... Rodriguez's narrative of those early years of the war on terror appears to be contradicted in part by the Senate report." ...

... Putting Torture "in Context," Ctd. Matt Spetalnick & Bill Trott of Reuters: "One of the two psychologists who devised the CIA's harsh Bush-era interrogation methods said on Wednesday that a scathing U.S. Senate report on the torture of foreign terrorism suspects 'took things out of context' and made false accusations. 'It's a bunch of hooey,' James Mitchell told Reuters from his home in Florida when asked for his response to the Senate Intelligence Committee's findings released on Tuesday. 'Some of the things are just plain not true.'" CW: It sure looks like the torture proponents are all working off the same talking points memo. ...

Digby has an excellent post in Salon on another secret torture report, the "Panetta Review," a taste of which Sen. Mark Udall revealed in his Senate speech (embedded in yesterday's Commentariat). According to Udall, here's the smoking gun: "The Panetta Review found that the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Congress, the president, and the public on the efficacy of its coercive techniques." ...

     ... Driftglass: "If CIA and top White House goons and National Security officials really did conspire to create and execute torture policy while keeping the Commander-in-Chief in the dark for years, then what happened can only be described as the first coup d'etat in American history." ...

... ** Frank Rich: "Whatever credit [President Obama] deserves for shutting down our government's practice of torture is mitigated by his refusal to hold anyone accountable for the crimes committed in our country's name." Read the whole commentary.

... Tim Egan contrasts reactions from Dick Cheney & John McCain to release of the Senate torture report. "As McCain walked off the [Senate] floor, with the cautious gait of a man physically hobbled by his service nearly a half-century ago, Senator [Dianne] Feinstein kissed him on the cheek. It was a way of saying thanks to a war hero whose words, if this country believes what it preaches, will outlast the scowling remarks of a chicken hawk. ...

... Duped! Adam Serwer in BuzzFeed: "Most damningly -- and politically conveniently -- the report somehow manages to combine harrowing details of torture while exonerating nearly every top official whose job it was to prevent it from happening, and place the blame on a powerful political entity that is the most likely to emerge unscathed: the CIA itself."

Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Thursday to authorize the military campaign against the Islamic State, a party-line decision that raises difficult questions for Republicans and intensifies a debate over war powers that has split President Obama from many in his own party. The 10-to-8 vote put on display an unusual alliance between some Democrats and some Republicans as well as contemplations about morality, obligation, constitutional prerogatives and the proper balance of power between branches of government."

Rachel Bade of Politico: Republicans are planning multiple attacks on the IRS, gutting appropriations, forbidding it to do its part in administering the ACA, disallowing its regulatory oversight of PACs & cutting taxpayer services as well as audits.

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "The share of prime-age men -- those 25 to 54 years old — who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s, to 16 percent. More recently, since the turn of the century, the share of women without paying jobs has been rising, too. The United States, which had one of the highest employment rates among developed nations as recently as 2000, has fallen toward the bottom of the list." ...

... Amanda Cox of the Times looks at what these non-working men are doing,

"Mad as Hellas." Paul Krugman: The latest flare-up in the long-running Greek economic crisis "is what happens when an elite claims the right to rule based on its supposed expertise, its understanding of what must be done -- then demonstrates both that it does not, in fact, know what it is doing, and that it is too ideologically rigid to learn from its mistakes.... There's a real lesson in its political turmoil that's much more important than the false lesson too many took from its special fiscal woes."

Cecilia Kang, et al., of the Washington Post: "The hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment has escalated into a humiliating public crisis for the company as deeply held secrets -- including business practices, pay disparities and ugly personal feuds -- continue spilling onto the Internet in ways that experts say could damage the Hollywood studio for years to come.... The consequences for Sony have been swift and devastating since the attack became public last month, exposing the company to potential lawsuits and backlash from key Hollywood players. The inside drama revealed this week was the unraveling of a high-profile project at Sony to produce a biopic of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs -- the movie was eventually lost to a rival studio." ...

... Michael Cieply & Brooks Barnes of the New York Times: "Salaries of its top executives. Unpublished scripts. Sensitive contracts. Aliases that stars use to check into hotels. Those are just some of the disclosures from a devastating hacking attack on Sony's movie studio last month. But among all of the information that has spilled forth, perhaps nothing has riveted Hollywood more -- and laid bare the machinations at the highest levels of the film industry -- than a humiliating email exchange between Amy Pascal, Sony's co-chairwoman, and the producer Scott Rudin over Angelina Jolie and a planned Steve Jobs biopic.... Mr. Rudin referred to Ms. Jolie as 'a minimally talented spoiled brat' and pressured Ms. Pascal to shelve 'Cleopatra.' .... 'This is not about salacious emails being batted around by Gawker and Defamer,' Mr. Rudin said on Wednesday. 'It's about a criminal act, and the people behind it should be treated as nothing more nor less than criminals.'" ...

... Those Rich, White Liberal Obama Supporters Are Racists, Too. In the latest revelation, Sony Pictures chair Amy Pascal & producer Scott Rudin exchanged e-mails making fun of President Obama's race, stereotyping him as someone who would prefer movies starring & about black men. Matthew Zeitlin of BuzzFeed first reported the e-mail exchange. ...

... Cecilia Kang: "Thursday, Pascal apologized, breaking weeks of silence on the building and damaging leaks." ...

... Mike Fleming of Deadline: "Producer Scott Rudin has issued a public apology for the racially insensitive comments that surfaced last night in an exchange of hacked private e-mails between him and Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Amy Pascal." ...

... If you can about Hollywood backstabbing, Sam Biddle of Gawker has the scoop on some exchanges re: the making of the Steve Jobs biopic.

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "A woman charged with shooting and killing her ex-husband and stepdaughter has strong connections to groups advocating for expanding open carry gun laws in Texas. Local news outlets on Wednesday reported that Veronica Dunnachie was arrested and charged with shooting and killing her ex-husband and step daughter." ...

... Adam Weinsten of Gawker has more.

Top model Beverly Johnson, in a Vanity Fair essay, recounts how Bill Cosby lured her to his home & drugged her in the 1980s. Johnson has not previously revealed this incident publicly.

CW: I haven't followed this because it's a stupid story, but in case you were wondering if Harvard professors are pricks, well, yeah. Clint Rainey of New York: "Harvard-educated Harvard professor Ben Edelman has now apologized for threatening legal action against Sichuan Garden for overcharging him $4, and now Boston.com, where four of the top five stories right now involve the academic, breaks the news to readers that he may have done something similar in 2010." Make that serial pricks. Here's the Boston Globe's latest, by Hillary Sargent.

Presidential Election

Joshua Green & Miles Weiss of Bloomberg Politics: "Jeb Bush has a Mitt Romney problem.... Bush's recent business ventures reveal that he shares a number of liabilities with the last nominee, Mitt Romney, whose career in private equity proved so politically damaging that it sunk his candidacy.... BH Global Aviation is one of at least three such funds Bush has launched in less than two years through his Coral Gables, Fla., company, Britton Hill Holdings. He's also chairman of a $26 million fund, BH Logistics, established in April with backing from a Chinese conglomerate, and a $40 million fund involved in shale oil exploration, according to documents filed in June.... 'Running as the second coming of Mitt Romney is not a credential that's going to play anywhere, with Republicans or Democrats,' says John Brabender, a Republican consultant and veteran of presidential campaigns. 'Not only would this be problematic on the campaign trail, I think it also signals someone who isn't seriously looking at the presidency or he wouldn't have gone down this path.'" ...

... Ed Kilgore thinks Jeb's "Mitt problem" makes Mitt look better to GOP fatcats: "f you're going to run a candidate who is perceived as 'the second coming of Mitt Romney,' why not go with the original." ...

... Ben White & Maggie Haberman of Politico: "While some people close to Romney insist he hasn’t moved from saying he has no plans to run, the 2012 Republican nominee has sounded at least open to the idea in recent conversations, according to more than a dozen people who've spoken with him in the last month. In his private musings, Romney has sounded less than upbeat about most of the potential candidates in the 2016 Republican field, according to the people who've spoken with him....

CW: Aw, c'mon, Mitt. There's this guy:

Running for the presidency's not an IQ test. -- Rick Perry, the GOP's dumb candidate, touting his bona fides.

Perry, dumb as he is, seems to be aware that a dumb Texas governor can become president. -- Constant Weader

Running a close second in the contest for dumbest GOP presidential candidate is Scott Walker, who wrote to a Jewish constituent, "Thank you for you letter regarding the Menorah Display. Yes we would be happy to display the Menorah celebrating 'The Eight Days of Chanukah' here at the Courthouse.... Thank you again and Molotov." ...

... As for Perry, he's totally cool with "the Jews":

News Lede

Guardian: "Attempts by opposition parties in Germany to bring Edward Snowden to Berlin to give evidence about the NSA's operations have been thwarted by the country's highest court. The Green and Left parties wanted the whistleblower to give evidence in person to a parliamentary committee investigating espionage by the US agency, but Germany's constitutional court ruled against them on Friday." ...

... CW: Forget Ed Snowden. The lede is an excellent example of why every newspaper should ban use of the passive voice. Using it twice in one lede is extraordinary.

Wednesday
Dec102014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 11, 2014

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Even as [President] Obama repeated his belief that the techniques constituted torture and betrayed American values, he declined to address the fundamental question raised by the report, which the committee released on Tuesday: Did they produce meaningful intelligence to stop terrorist attacks, or did the C.I.A. mislead the White House and the public about their effectiveness? That debate, after all, has left Mr. Obama facing an uncomfortable choice between two allies: the close adviser and former aide he installed as director of the C.I.A. versus his fellow Democrats who control the Senate committee and the liberal base that backs their findings." ...

... Matt Apuzzo & Jim Risen of the New York Times: "Initially, agency officials considered a path very different from the one they ultimately followed, according to the newly released Senate Intelligence Committee report.... They envisioned a system in which detainees would be offered the same rights and protections as inmates held in federal or American military prisons. Conditions at these new overseas prisons would be comparable to those at maximum-security facilities in the United States. Interrogations were to be conducted in accordance with the United States Army Field Manual, which prohibits coerced, painful questioning. Everything at the prisons would 'be tailored to meet the requirements of U.S. law and the federal rules of criminal procedure,' C.I.A. lawyers wrote in November 2001." Read the whole report. ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The Obama administration has urged a court to reject a request to disclose thousands of pages of documents from a Justice Department investigation into the torture of detainees by the Central Intelligence Agency, including summaries of interviews with about 100 witnesses and documents explaining why in the end no charges were filed. The administration made the filing late Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by The New York Times, hours after the Senate Intelligence Committee made public a 524-page executive summary of its own investigation into C.I.A. torture...." ...

... John Heilprin of the AP: "All senior U.S. officials and CIA agents who authorized and carried out torture like waterboarding as part of former President George W. Bush's national security policy must be prosecuted, top U.N. human rights officials said Wednesday.The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, said it is 'crystal clear' under international law that the United States, which ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 1994, now has an obligation to ensure accountability." ...

... Mark Udall Makes Good on His Threat. Lauren Fox & Dustin Volz of the National Journal: "In a career-defining speech, Sen. Mark Udall took to the Senate floor Wednesday to discuss a largely classified internal CIA investigation into the agency's Bush-era 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' and to call for the current CIA director's resignation. Udall, an outbound Democrat from Colorado, began highlighting key conclusions from the CIA's so-called Panetta Review, written in 2011 and named after then-agency Director Leon Panetta. Its critical findings, in addition to the agency's attempts to prevent the Senate from seeing it, Udall said, demonstrates that the CIA is still lying about the scope of enhanced-interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration." ...

... Richard Norton-Taylor & Ian Cobain of the Guardian: "MPs and human rights groups have demanded a judge-led inquiry into Britain’s involvement in CIA abductions of terror suspects, following the devastating US Senate intelligence committee's report. Under pressure from Britain and other allies, their role in the CIA renditions were redacted from the report." ...

... What Did the President Know & When Did He Know it? Fred Kaplan of Slate examines the question, concluding -- contra some implications in the Senate report -- that George W. Bush knew & approved the broad outlines of the torture program early on, but made an effort to retain "plausible deniability" as to the specifics. CW: And, hey, it looks as if the Most Heartless Man in America backs up Kaplan: "Contrary to the report's conclusion that Bush didn't know the extent of the CIA's efforts, [in a Fox "News" interview] Cheney said the President was involved in discussions about the interrogation techniques, and that Bush even pointed out some of those conversations in a book he wrote after leaving office." Cheney added, "I think we were perfectly justified in doing it. And I'd do it again in a minute." Notice he doesn't say "in a heartbeat." Because he doesn't have a heart. ...

... Peter Sullivan of the Hill has more: "The report says that Bush did not know the details of the techniques until 2006, years after they began, and that he 'expressed discomfort' when he learned of an incident involving a detainee chained to a ceiling and wearing a diaper. 'I think he knew certainly the techniques, we did discuss the techniques, there was no effort on our part to keep him from that,' Cheney said on Fox News. 'That the president wasn't being told is just a flat out lie.'" CW: Dick Cheney wants you to know that the buck didn't stop with him. "No effort on our part"? Who is this "we"? Cheney is acknowledging/boasting that he & unspecified others ran the whole 9/11 response -- including the torture program -- but they would occasionally report to the President on what-all they were up to & allow him to nod his approval. Now the bastards are not going to let the "Decider" off the hook. ...

... Gail Collins on James Mitchell & Bruce Jessen, the psychologists/contractors to whom the CIA outsourced our immoral, useless torture program, to the tune of $81MM, & counting. ...

... Benedict Carey of the New York Times has much more on Mitchell & Jessen's role. "'My impression is that they misread the theory,' said Dr. Charles A. Morgan III, a psychiatrist at the University of New Haven who met Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jessen.... 'They're not really scientists.'"...

The report's full of crap. -- Dick Cheney ...

... Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: "In his aggressive efforts to salvage his reputation in the wake of a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's use of torture, former director Michael Hayden has offered a number of defenses for the agency's conduct.... 'I mean what are they doing — trying to score my public speeches? What's that about?' he said in an interview with Politico magazine. 'You want me to go out and score [Sen.] Ron Wyden's [D-Oregon] speeches?' ... Wyden's former top spokeswoman, Jennifer Hoelzer, emailed over the following:'1. That's really fucking offensive given that all of Ron's statements are directed towards informing the American people and exposing the [intelligence community's] attempts to mislead, while Hayden's all about the lying/misleading. 2 - While I'm no longer Ron's official spokesperson, I think I speak for everyone on team Wyden, when I say 'Go the fuck ahead.'" ...

I don't believe these are torture at all.... We're not talking about anyone being burned or stabbed or cut or anything like that. We're talking about people being made to stand in awkward in positions, have water put into their nose and into their mouth. Nobody suffered any lasting injuries from this.... -- Rep. Peter King (R-NY), former IRA bagman, explaining "enhanced interrogation" ...

Okay, Petey, let's test that. We'll let the CIA stand you "in an awkward position," the way they do, preferably with one of their professional rectal-feeding implements up your ass. -- Constant Weader

... James Downie of the Washington Post: "... if the program was successful, then why hide it and lie about it? The CIA repeatedly 'impeded' oversight from Congress, the White House and even the agency's own inspector general." ...

The Feinstein report ... risks undermining the ability of our intelligence agencies to protect the nation at a time when threats abroad are rising, not falling. -- John Yoo, author of the torture memoranda, in a New York Daily News op-ed ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Bob Kerrey hasn't read the Senate Intelligence Committee's summary of the 'Torture Report.' But he's taken to the op-ed page of USAToday to condemn it. Why? '... The Republicans checked out early when they determined that their counterparts started out with the premise that the CIA was guilty and then worked to prove it.... This committee departed from that high road and slipped into the same partisan mode that marks most of what happens on Capitol Hill these days.' When Republicans 'check out' of a bipartisan process because they cannot control it, it is by definition the fault of the Democrats for not finding a way to prevent it."

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post on the "CRomnibus" bill. "So, what's in the bill? We've sifted through the legislation, consulted supporting documents from Democratic and Republican aides, and called out some of the more notable and controversial elements below. (If you want to review detailed reports on all 12 parts of the spending bill, click here.) Please note: This is a fluid report that will be updated to add more detail or correct errors." ...

... Good News for Oligarchs. Ashley Parker & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The $1.1 trillion spending agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators on Tuesday night would vastly expand the amount of money that donors can give political parties, bolstering party leaders' ability to tap into the wallets of their largest contributors and reclaiming some clout from the outside groups that can accept unlimited dollars.Depending on how the new law is interpreted by election officials, the provision could expand the amount that any one person can give to national party committees to more than $777,000 each year from what is now a maximum of $97,200.... Neither party's leaders in Congress would claim responsibility for inserting the new provision, which was tucked into the final pages of the more than 1,600-page spending bill on Tuesday evening." ...

     ... Matea Gold & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "A massive expansion of party fundraising slipped into a congressional budget deal this week would fundamentally alter how money flows into political campaigns, providing parties with new muscle to try to wrest power back from independent groups. The provision -- one of the most significant changes to the campaign finance system since the landmark McCain-Feingold measure -- was written behind closed doors with no public debate." ...

... Screw You, Working People. Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post: "A measure that would for the first time allow the benefits of current retirees to be severely cut is set to be attached to a massive spending bill, part of an effort to save some of the nation's most distressed pension plans. The rule would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets." ...

Jake Sherman & John Bresnahan of Politico: "Nancy Pelosi and progressives aren't ready to support a carefully crafted government funding compromise, throwing the $1.1 trillion bill into doubt one day before a potential shutdown. In question are a provision that would weaken Wall Street regulation and a measure that would loosen campaign finance laws."

... Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Democrats in the House to use their leverage and reject a bipartisan spending bill to keep the government open until a measure tucked inside rolling back a piece of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law is removed. 'Who does Congress work for?' Warren said in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon. 'Does it work for the millionaires, the billionaires, the giant companies with their armies of lobbyists and lawyers, or does it work for all the people?'" ...

     ... The Washington Post story, by Lori Montgomery & Sean Sullivan, is here. "Meanwhile, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that 'it is certainly possible that the president could sign this piece of legislation,' even though it would undo a pillar of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul by freeing banks to more readily trade the exotic investments known as derivatives. The legislation ranks among the administration's biggest domestic achievements." ...

... Erika Eichelberger of Mother Jones: "Citigroup Wrote the Wall Street Giveaway Congress Just Snuck Into a Must-Pass Spending Bill. The bill, drafted almost entirely by Citigroup, would allow banks to do more high-risk trading with taxpayer-backed money." ...

... Dana Milbank argues that Ted Cruz has lost his ability to create havoc in the House & Senate.

Annals of "Justice," Ctd. Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times: "A federal judge has told the Obama administration to decide by next week whether it intends to force a reporter for The New York Times to testify at the trial of a whistle-blower, bringing to a head the most serious confrontation between the government and the news media in many years. The reporter, James Risen, has been fighting government subpoenas in the case since 2008, but the Justice Department has refused to abandon its effort to force him to discuss his confidential sources. In June, the Supreme Court declined to review the matter, letting stand a federal appeals court ruling that allowed the government to compel his testimony."

Timothy Phelps of the Los Angeles Times: "Opening the door for what could be a lucrative and controversial new industry on some Native American reservations, the Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands, even in states that ban the practice."

Americans Getting More Gun-Happy. Pew Research Center: "For the first time in more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys, there is more support for gun rights than gun control. Currently, 52% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership. Support for gun rights has edged up from earlier this year...."

CW: Help Me! I think I agree with George Will: "The scandal of mass incarceration is partly produced by the frivolity of the political class, which uses the multiplication of criminal offenses as a form of moral exhibitionism. This, like Eric Garner's death, is a pebble in the mountain of evidence that American government is increasingly characterized by an ugly and sometimes lethal irresponsibility."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Rees Shapiro of the Washington Post: "In their first interviews about the events of that September 2012 night, [Jackie's] three friends separately told The Post that their recollections of the encounter diverge from how Rolling Stone portrayed the incident in a story about Jackie's alleged gang rape at a U-Va. fraternity.... The friends said they were never contacted or interviewed by the pop culture magazine's reporters or editors." ...

... Hanna Rosin of Slate: "The Post story doesn't connect all the dots, but it's not hard to do. Jackie has now given her friends two different names for the man she was with that night. Neither of them was in fact with her, ever dated her, or even knew her all that well. She appears to have invented a suitor, complete with fake text messages and a fake photo, which suggests a capacity for somewhat elaborate deception.... When confronted with what appear to be so many orchestrated lies, it's getting harder to see Jackie as a person whose memory may have been shaken by trauma." CW: Again, I have to ask, WTF was the supposed fact-checker doing? It is beginning to sound as if Jackie fabricated the whole gang-rape story, perhaps to attract a young man who wasn't interested in a romantic relationship with her. Her semester-long depression, then, could have been a result of that failure, not of trauma caused by a grotesque sexual assault.

Oh Lord, no. -- Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), on whether she would run for public office again, after having lost her Senate seat in a run-off election last week ...

... What a Surprise. Anna Palmer & Burgess Everett of Politico: "Mary Landrieu may have lost her Senate seat, but the Louisiana Democrat is a hot commodity on K Street. Several headhunters, veteran lobbyists and consultants said Landrieu's status as a moderate Democrat and senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee make her a top recruit from Capitol Hill."

Nobody Loves You When You're Out. Marin Cogan of New York on Michele Bachmann's lonely good-bye. CW: I'd advise Bachmann to get a dog, but she's got Marcus.

Nicole Egan of People: "Tamara Green, a retired California attorney who says Bill Cosby drugged and groped her in 1969 or 1970, filed a defamation lawsuit against the entertainer Wednesday. In the suit, filed in Springfield, Massachusetts, not far from where Cosby has a home, Green says comments made by Cosby's representatives to The Washington Post and Newsweek this year 'impugned' her reputation and exposed her to 'public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace.'" Via New York.

Presidential Election

We don't grapple with that here. -- Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), on how he mitigates income inequality in his state (Texas "ranks fifth or sixth among states on income inequality")

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont & former chair of the Democratic National Committee, in Politico Magazine: "Hillary Clinton is by far the most qualified person in the United States to serve as President. If she runs, I will support her."

Beyond the Beltway

Nathan Bomey & Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press: "With Detroit officially out of bankruptcy, now-former emergency manager Kevyn Orr said it's not the next couple of years he's worried about for the city, or even five years out.... Crediting [Mayor Mike] Duggan's administration as being top-tier, Orr said he worried that, if Detroit does well, starts to turn around and even reflect some of the remarkable recoveries that parts of cities like Miami and New York have seen in recent decades, Detroit leaders and residents won't remember the lessons learned." Via New York.

Dillon Thomas & Zuzanna Sitek of 5 News Fayetteville, Arkansas. "Fayetteville voters have repealed the city's Civil Rights Ordinance following a special election Tuesday.... Those in favor of repeal got 52% of the vote.... The ordinance would have prohibited local businesses and entities from discriminating against employees and customers based on gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and other factors. The Fayetteville City Council passed the ordinance in August...." CW: Fayetteville, BTW, is a university town. One might have hoped the voters would be a little more enlightened.

News Lede

Time: "The [U.S.] Department of Defense said Thursday that it had shuttered the last American detention facility in Afghanistan, bringing to an end a controversial practice of holding prisoners in the country without trial. The U.S. said it no longer had custody of detainees in Afghanistan following the transfer on Wednesday of remaining detainees from Bagram Airfield north of Kabul, which once held hundreds of detainees, Reuters reports."

Tuesday
Dec092014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 10, 2014

The Torture Presidency

Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "A scathing report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday found that the Central Intelligence Agency routinely misled the White House and Congress about the information it obtained from the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects, and that its methods were more brutal than the C.I.A. acknowledged either to Bush administration officials or to the public." ...

... Greg Miller, et al., of the Washington Post: "An exhaustive, five-year Senate investigation of the CIA's secret interrogations of terrorism suspects renders a strikingly bleak verdict of a program launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, describing levels of brutality, dishonesty and seemingly arbitrary violence that at times brought even agency employees to moments of anguish." ...

... Scott Shane of the New York Times: "The bitter infighting in the C.I.A. interrogation program was only one symptom of the dysfunction, disorganization, incompetence, greed and deception described in a summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report. In more than 500 pages, the summary, released on Tuesday, paints a devastating picture of an agency that was ill equipped to take on the task of questioning Al Qaeda suspects, bungled the job and then misrepresented the results." ...

... The Los Angeles Times is liveblogging reactions to the report. The Guardian is liveblogging reactions. ...

... The summary report is here. ...

... Katie Zavadski of New York: "Five appalling takeaways...: 1. The "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" went beyond what the agency ever admitted.... 2. The interrogators were poorly screened and basically untrained.... 3. Torture didn't really provide great intelligence.... 4. The CIA did everything it could to avoid critical oversight.... 5. The CIA tortured innocent people -- including, accidentally, its own informants -- and killed at least one detainee." ...

... Here's the New York Times' summary of seven key points. ...

... ** The Biggest Liar. The Washington Post publishes a side-by-side comparison of (1) then-CIA Director Michael V. Hayden's testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on April 12, 2007, & the findings in the Senate's summary report. The report entries begin with something like, "This testimony is incongruent with CIA interrogation records" or "This testimony is inaccurate." These aren't "misstatements"; they're active, purposeful making-stuff-up lies. Hayden is currently running around denouncing the Senate report on Fox "News" & many major media outlets. ...

... Shane Harris of the Daily Beast: "Interrogations that lasted for days on end. Detainees forced to stand on broken legs, or go 180 hours in a row without sleep. A prison so cold, one suspect essentially froze to death. The Senate Intelligence Committee is finally releasing its review of the CIA's detention and interrogation programs. And it is brutal. [Harris recounts] some of the most gruesome moments of detainee abuse from a summary of the report." ...

... Charlie Savage & James Risen of the New York Times: "Months before the operation that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, the Central Intelligence Agency secretly prepared a public relations plan that would stress that information gathered from its disputed interrogation program had played a critical role in the hunt. Starting the day after the raid, agency officials in classified briefings made the same point to Congress. But in page after page of previously classified evidence, the Senate Intelligence Committee report on C.I.A. torture, released on Tuesday, rejects the notion that the agency would not have found Bin Laden if it had not tortured detainees."

... Jesse Singal of New York: The Senate report "highlights and adds some details about the important role two psychologists had in both developing the 'enhanced interrogation' program and carrying it out.... "Both the New York Times and NBC News have identified them as Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two psychologists who have been previously singled out for their roles in developing and legitimizing the torture program." According to the report, the contractors "received $81 million prior to the contract's termination in 2009. In 2007, the CIA provided a multi-year indemnification agreement to protect the company and its employees.... The CIA has since paid out more than $1 million pursuant to the agreement." ...

... Taylor Berman of Gawker: George W. Bush realized he was too scatterbrained to keep a secret & "asked not to be told the locations of CIA detention facilities because he was worried he'd 'accidentally disclose' the secret intel.... This man was president for eight years." ...

... Scott Shane: "Senator Saxby Chambliss, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, and five other Republicans released a 100-page dissent attempting to refute the 6,000-page main report, which was written solely by Democratic committee staff members. Those Republicans denounced it as a sloppy, partisan effort that got the facts wrong.... The program's outspoken defenders say the C.I.A. was advised that its methods were not torture, that the program played a critical role in dismantling Al Qaeda and that the interrogators deserve praise, not vilification." ...

... Statement from President Obama: "Today's report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence details one element of our nation's response to 9/11 -- the CIA's detention and interrogation program, which I formally ended on one of my first days in office. The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests. Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America's standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again." The full statement is linked. ...

... Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) issued a "summary of the summary" upon releasing the report. ...

... Statement by John Brennan, now CIA director: "... despite common ground with some of the findings of the Committee's Study, we part ways with the Committee on some key points. Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives. The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qa’ida and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day." The full statement is linked. ...

     ... Ed Kilgore: "... does the current leadership of the CIA get to have its own position on the basics that contradicts the president's?" CW: Yes, apparently so. This does seem like the perfect time to fire John Brennan. ...

... ** When your right-wing friends tell you the report is a partisan screed against an agency dedicated to "keeping us safe," blah-blah, tell them this. David Cole of the New Yorker: "The committee, which reviewed over six million C.I.A. records, based its report entirely on the agency's own documentation of what transpired. The records depict a program founded on false premises, maintained for five years despite the absence of any evidence that it worked, and covered up by repeated falsehoods to the White House, Congress, and the American public. The report's central lesson is that when government officials abandon the obligation to treat human beings with dignity, that decision will corrode all that follows." Emphasis added. Read the whole post. ...

... The Onion (satire): "Warning that it would be reckless to release the full findings to the general public, critics in Washington condemned the Senate's 480-page report detailing the CIA's interrogation tactics Tuesday, saying it puts the country at considerable risk of transparency. 'Publishing the results of this five-year investigation is an extremely hazardous move, as it gravely jeopardizes our country's ability to obscure and cover up human rights abuses that may or may not have occurred following 9/11,' said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)...." ...

... Even the Onion could dream up this one:

... You can read the CIA's redacted response to the report, dated June 2013, beginning here. ...

The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome. But we've had this discussion. We've closed the book on it, and we've stopped doing it. And the reason they want to have this discussion is not to show how awesome we are. This administration wants to have this discussion to show us how we're not awesome.... They apologized for this country, they don't like this country, they want us to look bad. And all this does is have our enemies laughing at us, that we are having this debate again. -- Andrea Tantaros, Fox "News" host of "Out Numbered," explaining why Senate Democrats released the report

I have deep sympathy & compassion for the developmentally diabled and I love 10-year-olds. I just don't think they should get their own teevee opinion shows. Yoo Ess Ay! Yoo Ess Ay! -- Constant Weader

... K. T. McFarland of Fox "News": "Democrats in the Senate are behaving like tenants who got evicted and decide to trash the house on their way out the door.... Yes, it's another chance it's to blame Bush! This is the apology tour on steroids." ...

... Torture Report Released to Axe "Gruber Day." Jason Easley of Politics USA: "Like clockwork, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are in full paranoid conspiracy mode and claiming that the release of the Senate's report on torture is a conspiracy to distract from Obamacare.... Rush Limbaugh ... [said], 'The Democrats, the main story, the lead story today, by design, is the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, dumping on the Bush administration on 'Jonathan Gruber Day.'"

... Paul Waldman: "... prior to 9/11 the CIA had virtually no experience in interrogation, and they had no idea what would be effective and what wouldn't. But they were being told by the White House that they needed to be 'tough,' and torture is tough. The people who actually had experience in interrogation tried to tell the CIA that it wouldn't be effective, but they were shut out because their methods weren't tough enough.... The people who created, executed, and defend the torture program don't want history to declare them the villains of this story. But that's what they are. And one day -- even if it takes some time -- there will be a consensus on that." ...

... Charles Pierce: "As was the case with the Church commission [1975], I believe, this Senate investigation shrank from demonstrating to the American people the kind of monsters they freely elected. I believe this investigation shrank from the obvious conclusion that the legislative branch fell down on its oversight responsibility and, therefore, to its responsibility to the country.... George W. Bush, and Richard Cheney, and a whole host of others ... are now acting out of spectacular ingratitude and excoriating the report that allowed them largely to walk away from their crimes in office ... because they know, by defending the CIA and the criminals within its ranks, they are defending themselves as well ... against the CIA itself." Read the whole post. ...

... New York Times Editors: "The litany of brutality, lawlessness and lack of accountability serves as a reminder of what a horrible decision President Obama made at the outset of his administration to close the books on this chapter in our history, even as he repudiated the use of torture.... Republicans, who will soon control the Senate and have the majority on the intelligence panel, denounced the report, acting as though it is the reporting of the torture and not the torture itself that is bad for the country." ...

... Pardon the Bastids, Ctd. Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg View: "As generously as possible (and whether he believes it or not), the president should say that the Bush administration was motivated by only the best intentions in dealing with an unprecedented scary situation and that the mistakes they made by authorizing and using torture should be forgiven. This step is critical to keep the issue from becoming partisan, with Democrats being against torture and Republicans allowing it. If torture is to remain banned, it's going to take reviving the consensus of the elite against it that was broken in the Bush administration. Pardons take care of the legal jeopardy part for the officials; generous pardons might lessen their reputations as bad guys."


Jake Sherman, et al., of Politico: "Government funding, which expires Dec. 11, is not in peril, and a shutdown is still very unlikely. House leaders are set to offer a short, one-to-two-day funding bill in order to allow the Senate time to complete work on the broader 'cromnibus'; funding package and avoid any chance that federal agencies would be forced to close, House GOP aides said Tuesday." But negotiators are still squabbling over aspects of the bill, and Republicans are blaming Elizabeth Warren "for dragging the negotiations to the left." ...

     ... Update. Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Congressional leaders unveiled a massive $1.01 trillion spending bill Tuesday night that will keep most of the federal government funded through September. The legislation is expected to pass in the coming days and will allow the incoming Republican-controlled Congress to clear the decks of lingering spending issues while setting the stage for a prolonged fight with President Obama over immigration policy."

Daniel Strauss of TPM: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) made clear on Tuesday that she is not swayed by supporters of Obama administration nominee for Treasury undersecretary for domestic policy Antonio Weiss. Warren upped the ante in the unusually heated nomination fight, even mocking his defenders who point out that he supports 'poetry.'"

"Jonathan Gruber Day." (All Is Not Lost, Rush.) Dylan Scott of TPM recounts the big moments in the House Oversight Committee's interrogations of Jonathan Gruber & Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Marilyn Tavenner. ...

... Dana Milbank has more on the "zany coda to Darrell Issa's tumultuous tenure.... It was the last scheduled hearing under Issa's chairmanship.... Issa, who hit his term limit as chairman of the high-profile panel, has been assigned to legislative Siberia: chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee's intellectual property subcommittee."

People Who Don't Have to Wait in Line Don't See Waiting in Line as a Big Deal. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled unanimously that a temp agency was not required to pay workers at Amazon warehouses for the time they spent waiting to go through a security screening at the end of the day. The workers say the process, meant to prevent theft, can take as long as 25 minutes." CW: Let me just say this is an incredibly stupid ruling. These people waiting in line are at work, for pete's sake, & like the young women who died in the Manhattan shirt factory, they can't get out till they get frisked, an insulting, humiliating, invasive routine. So, thanks, each & every one of you Supremes, for adding injury to insult.

American "Justice," Ctd. Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post: Overnight, Missouri & Georgia each executed a man with a low IQ.

Ken Kurson of the New York Observer: "... in the wake of Rolling Stone's blockbuster story about campus rape at the University of Virginia and the subsequent fire that that story's reporting has come under, the magazine's deputy managing editor [Will Dana] offered to resign.... Sean Woods[, who edited the story, also] presented a letter of resignation to founder and publisher Jann S. Wenner.... Mr Wenner ... declined to accept the resignation." Wenner said the story is "not true." "According to the source, Rolling Stone is right now planning to assemble a 're-reporting project' akin to the one the New York Times put together in the wake of the Jayson Blair fabulism scandal...."

Presidential Election

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post interviews the "new" Rick Perry. "Perry comes across as studious, contemplative and humble.... After Republican Greg Abbott is sworn in as governor Jan. 20, Perry's immediate priority will be to make serious money, something he has never done." ...

... OR, as Ed Kilgore puts it, "First step for Perry is getting filthy rich.... Unsurprisingly, Perry's proto-message for 2016 will focus on his 'economic miracle' claim, based on the exciting new idea of growing the economy by whorishly giving 'investors' any damn thing they want. But ... the trouble with encouraging governors to hang out with extremely rich people in the guise of 'economic development' is that they start wondering Why ain't I as rich as my new friends? ... Something tells me Ted Cruz is going to eat Perry's lunch as the candidate of feral Texas conservatives while Perry's trying to 'make serious money' and convince people he's not as stupid as he sometimes sounded four years ago."

News Ledes

New York Times: "A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned two of the government's signature insider trading convictions, a stunning blow to prosecutors and their campaign to root out illegal activity on Wall Street. In a 28-page decision that could rewrite the course of insider trading law, sharply curtailing its boundaries, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan tossed out the case against two former hedge fund traders, Todd Newman and Anthony Chiasson. Citing the trial judge's 'erroneous' instruction to jurors, the court not only overturned the convictions but threw out the cases altogether."

Washington Post: "A senior member of Palestinian administration in the West Bank died Wednesday after a confrontation with Israeli forces at a protest march over land seizures, Palestinian officials and witnesses said. The death of Zaid Abu Ein, a longtime member of the Palestinian Authority cabinet, could further sharpen tensions after a recent wave of protests and clashes over a contested holy site in Jerusalem."

Monday
Dec082014

The Commentariat -- Dec. 9, 2014

CW: My power may go out again for an extended period beginning some time today; ergo, I won't post any updates to Reality Chex till (1) it's safe to travel & (2) I can find an operating public wifi source.

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Negotiators were racing the clock Monday to release a more than $1 trillion spending package to keep the federal government open through the end of the fiscal year, capping the least productive congressional session in modern American history. House and Senate leaders were reviewing the final details of the massive bill on Monday afternoon with the goal of posting the text by midnight so that the Republican-controlled House can vote as early as Wednesday morning. Failure to do so might delay plans to approve the legislation by Thursday night when current funds expire." ...

     ... Oops! New Lede: "Plans to quickly approve a $1.1 trillion spending package to keep most of the federal government open through the end of the fiscal year fell apart late Monday, increasing the chance lawmakers will miss a Thursday deadline. Just in case, top appropriators said Monday that they were ready to pass a short-term extension of a few days in order to give the House and Senate more time to pass the final bill and end the least productive congressional session in modern history.... Both sides had reached agreement on continuing the program by Monday evening, but differences remained regarding proposed changes to 2010 financial regulatory reforms that were sought as part of the deal...." CW: Not surprisingly, Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Secessions is also causing problems: he considers it an "abdication of congressional responsibility" not to use the bill to halt President Obama's immigration reforms.

Mark Landler & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "On the eve of a long-awaited Senate report on the use of torture by the United States government -- a detailed account that will shed an unsparing light on the Central Intelligence Agency's darkest practices after the September 2001 terrorist attacks -- the Obama administration and its Republican critics clashed on Monday over the wisdom of making it public.... While the United States has put diplomatic facilities and military bases on alert for heightened security risks, administration officials said they do not expect the report ... to ignite the kind of violence that killed four Americans at a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. Such violent reprisals, they said, tend to be fueled more by perceived attacks against Islam as a religion than by violence against individual Muslims. But some leading Republican lawmakers have warned against releasing the report...." ...

... Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "The Senate intelligence committee is poised to release a landmark inquiry into torture as early as Tuesday, after the Obama administration made a last-ditch effort to suppress a report that has plunged relations between the CIA and its Senate overseer to a historic low point.. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday the administration welcomed the release of the report, but warned US interests overseas were at risk of potentially violent reactions to its contents." ...

... AP: "The chairman of the House intelligence committee..., Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican..., told CNN [Sunday] that the US intelligence community had assessed that the release of the report would be used by extremists to incite violence." ...

... Mark Hosenball & Jeff Mason of Reuters: "Graphic details about sexual threats and other harsh interrogation techniques the CIA meted out to captured militants will be detailed by a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the spy agency's anti-terror tactics, sources familiar with the document said." ...

... ** Pardon the Bastids! Anthony Romero, head of the ACLU, in a New York Times op-ed: "That officials at the highest levels of government authorized and ordered torture is not in dispute. Mr. Bush issued a secret order authorizing the C.I.A. to build secret prisons overseas. The C.I.A. requested authority to torture prisoners in those 'black sites.' The National Security Council approved the request. And the Justice Department drafted memos providing the brutal program with a veneer of legality.... My organization and others have spent 13 years arguing for accountability for these crimes.... Prosecutions would be preferable, but pardons may be the only viable and lasting way to close the Pandora's box of torture once and for all.... Pardons would make clear that crimes were committed.... Mr. Obama could pardon George J. Tenet for authorizing torture at the C.I.A.'s black sites overseas, Donald H. Rumsfeld for authorizing the use of torture at the Guantánamo Bay prison, David S. Addington, John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee for crafting the legal cover for torture, and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for overseeing it all." ...

The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.... They deserve a lot of praise.... As far as I'm concerned, they ought to be decorated, not criticized. -- Dick Cheney, to the New York Times, yesterday

We're authorized. -- "Law & Order" Det. Joe Fontana (Dennis Farina), to people from whom he wanted to get something without bothering to obtain a court order

... "Dick Cheney Was Lying About Torture." Mark Fallon, a former interrogator, in Politico Magazine: " It's official: torture doesn't work. Waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, did not in fact 'produce the intelligence that allowed us to get Osama bin Laden,' as former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted in 2011. Those are among the central findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation and detention after 9/11... As those of us on the inside knew.... The ostensible purpose of torture was to save lives, but it has had the exact opposite effect. Torture was a PR bonanza for enemies of the United States. It enabled -- and, in fact, is still enabling — al Qaeda and its allies to attract more fighters, more sympathizers, and more money."

Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "The US government suspected that a mole inside the FBI was passing secrets to Irish republican militants who repeatedly plotted to assassinate Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and 90s, files released to the Guardian showed on Monday."

Charles Babington of the AP: "Appearing before a House Oversight panel Tuesday, [MIT professor Jonathan Gruber] expanded on earlier apologies [for remarks he made while discussing the healthcare law]. Gruber said his comments were uninformed, 'glib, thoughtless and sometimes downright insulting.' He said passage of the health law was transparent and heavily debated in public, despite his earlier comments. Gruber said he was not the 'architect' of the law, and apologized for 'inexcusable arrogance.'" ...

     ... CW: Hats off to Gruber. Admitting stupid mistakes & apologizing for them is hard enough, but it takes real guts to make those apologies in front of Darrell Issa. ...

... This Is Sick. Jennifer Haberkorn & Manu Raju of Politico: "In high-level strategy sessions on Capitol Hill, Republicans are going through reams of historical information and sitting through marathon slide show presentations, trying to figure out how to gut Obamacare through a complicated budget process that requires only a simple majority -- a sign of how seriously they're taking their best shot yet at dealing a long-term blow to the health care law." ...

... CW: Republicans decided to oppose ObamaCare in 2009 as a political strategy. They made up a long list of phony arguments against it, but since it was a Republican-inspired idea, they must have favored it (in what passes for their hearts) in principle. But somewhere along the way, these calculating bastards morphed their strategic plots into an ideological belief system. Now they really think depriving millions of people of health insurance is a good thing. They must be crazy. ...

... Greg Sargent: "A new Bloomberg poll finds that by a large margin of 55-34, Americans believe Republicans are acting 'more out of antagonism towards Obama' than out of a 'deep belief in their vision for the country.' By contrast, Americans believe by 54-36 that Obama is more driven by his vision than by antagonism towards Republicans. Perhaps the American people ought to have a word with our both-sides-to-blame pundits. On the other hand, the poll also finds the GOP's approval rating at a five year high while Obama has hit bottom. So maybe there's no downside in being perceived as driven by antagonism towards Obama!" The poll is here.

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Vivek Murthy, who has drawn opposition for remarks drawing a link between gun violence and health, is likely to get a [confirmation] vote [for surgeon general] before Democrats hand control of the chamber to Republicans in January, a senior Senate Democratic aide said Monday evening. But winning confirmation is another matter."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court on Monday rejected BP's challenge to a multibillion-dollar settlement arising from the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, declining to hear the company's case that it is being forced to compensate businesses with losses unrelated to the disaster.... But the Supreme Court without comment declined to review lower-court rulings that rejected BP's claims . Those courts said the company must abide by an agreement that did not require the kind of proof BP now insists upon."

Independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption. -- Anthony Kennedy, who is probably not the dumbest Supreme ...

... Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Charles Pierce applauds the New York Times piece (linked here Sunday, I think) that takes an "incredibly deep dive into the reeking, murky waters of legalized corruption and influence-peddling that our Nine Wise Souls in Washington have enabled so blithely.... This is smooth and edgeless corporate fascism in its classic sense -- a marriage of government and industry that is so tightly consummated that the former is entirely indistinguishable from the latter.... The real work of converting a self-governing republic into a seamless corporate oligarchy -- is being done in the states, where politicians can be purchased more cheaply, and where the infrastructure of the corruption on the national level is developed." ...

... CW: As David Byler of Roll Call pointed out early last month, "The GOP now controls 68 out of 98 partisan state legislative chambers -- the highest number in the history of the party. Republicans currently hold the governorship and both houses of the legislature in 23 states (24 if Sean Parnell wins re-election in Alaska [he didn't, but the governorship went to Bill Walker, a former Republican who ran as an independent]), while Democrats have that level of control in only seven." No word of what percentage of these neanderthals (apologies to Neanderthals!) are corporate puppets, but I'd bet it's most of 'em. There is a reason fatcats & their Tea Party minions are pushing for repeal of the 17th Amendment, which provides for the direct election of U.S. senators. If repealed, state legislators could once again choose U.S. senators. This process would save fatcats a lot of money -- Senate races are expensive; legislators come cheap. That is, the oligarchs would change the Constitution -- not just the interpretation of the Constitution -- in the interest of maximizing their profits.

David Leonhardt of the New York Times on the GOP debate about whether or not to reappoint Doug Elmendorf as head of the CBO. CW: The value of CBO reports is in their apolitical nature. As Leonhardt points out, Elmendorf's CBO has not always been right. But its judgments have been based on actual calculations, not on political calculations. Surely, surely Republicans will go for a charlatan, making CBO reports meaningless political craptrap.

Charles Pierce comments on Michael Tomasky's post, linked yesterday, urging Democrats to abandon the South: "To me, the key to the problem is to break the stranglehold of the Washington-based consultant class over what candidates will be run in what places.... Forging an actual alliance of working people, black and white, in the places that need it the most, is a worthwhile effort whether it fails initially or not." CW: Pierce's view is interesting, especially in light of Nicholas Confessore's article about the GOP establishment picking that party's presidential candidate (linked under "Presidential Election" below).

Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times: "A correction officer who was on duty when a homeless veteran died in an overheated cell at Rikers Island was charged on Monday with lying on jail records, falsely claiming she had checked on the inmate that night, according to prosecutors. The charges against the officer, Carol Lackner, come 10 months after the death of Jerome Murdough, who was arrested on trespassing charges in February after seeking shelter from the cold in the stairwell of a Harlem public housing project. Officer Lackner, 35, so far is the only person to face criminal charges in the 56-year-old man's death, which provoked condemnation from city leaders and drew attention to deep-seated problems at Rikers that have become the focus of federal and city investigators."

Seth Masket in Pacific Standard with a history lesson on the civil rights movement: "... if the [current] movement fails to achieve much, it won't be because it got push-back from white moderates. Pretty much every important movement faces that."

Jesse McKinley & David Goodman of the New York Times: "Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York asked Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday to immediately grant his office the power to investigate and prosecute killings of unarmed civilians by law enforcement officials. Mr. Schneiderman also challenged state legislators to pass new laws to repair public confidence in the criminal justice system, which he said was badly damaged after grand juries in Missouri and on Staten Island declined to bring criminal charges against officers in fatal encounters with unarmed black men." ...

... New York Times Editors: "In 2010 alone, federal prosecutors sought indictments in 162,000 cases. All but 11 times, they succeeded.Yet the results are entirely different when police officers kill unarmed civilians. In those cases, the officers are almost never prosecuted.... Whether or not bias can be proved in a given case, the public perception of it is real and must be addressed. The best solution would be a law that automatically transfers to an independent prosecutor all cases in which a civilian is dead at the hands of the police."

... Soraya McDonald of the Washington Post: The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge meet (or rather avoid) "I Can't Breath" protesters at a New York Nets/Cleveland Cavaliers game in New York. "Those protesting the death of Eric Garner rallied abound the hashtag #RoyalShutdown, determined to make the event more than just a lighthearted photo-op for the NBA and William and Kate.... LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack and Alan Anderson all warmed up in 'I Can't Breathe' shirts to pay tribute to Garner and protest the lack of charges against officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death." Kate & William didn't show up till the third quarter. CW: The royals did meet Beyonce & Jay Z at the game, a meeting which this Post decided to treat to a slo-mo video, because it's such an historic event, I guess. ...

... Charlotte Alter of Time: "Prince William visited the White House for the first time Monday during the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first official trip to the USA." ...

... Andy Borowitz: "President Barack Obama spent several hours on Monday in a closed-door Oval Office meeting seeking advice on how to establish a monarchy, Fox News reports.... According to the Fox report, the President came away 'intrigued' by the meeting and said he would explore the idea further next week when Congress is on vacation."

Speaking of titled (and entitled) people, James Kirchick of the Daily Beast does quite a number on "America's Worst Gay Power Couple," Chris Hughes of the New Republic & Sean Eldridge of nothing. He also does a nice job knocking down their (former) fans: "They are little more than entitled brats who, like most fabulously wealthy arrivistes who attain their fortunes through sheer luck rather than hard work, are used to getting everything they want, when they want it, and throw temper tantrums when they don't." ...

... Ha Ha. Brad DeLong, "Jamie Kirchick, who benefitted mightily in launching his career from being part of a corrupt and compliant media establishment that grasped at Martin Peretz's filthy lucre, complains about Chris Hughes.... No, there is not a hint of self-consciousness, self-reflection, or irony in there." DeLong has a good roundup of commentary on the fiasco that is/was the New Republic. CW: Maybe journalists shouldn't write about journalists. They're not very good at it.

Presidential Election

Oh, Who Will Be the Billionaires' Man? Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "Dozens of the Republican Party’s leading presidential donors and fund-raisers have begun privately discussing how to clear the field for a single establishment candidate to carry the party's banner in 2016, fearing that a prolonged primary would bolster Hillary Rodham Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate. The conversations, described in interviews with a variety of the Republican Party's most sought-after donors, are centered on the three potential candidates who have the largest existing base of major contributors and overlapping ties to the top tier of those who are uncommitted: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Mitt Romney.... With the midterms over, Mr. Christie and Mr. Bush have begun pushing top bundlers to commit to them in advance should they announce a White House bid...." ...

If I were Mitt Romney, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, I would be really irritated by that article. The last thing they need to become is the pet candidate of billionaires. It's a disastrously bad idea and it won't happen. -- Newt Gingrich

... Ed KIlgore: "... the Daddy Warbucks wing of the GOP does not seem especially aware of the hate-rage that will break out among 'movement conservatives' if the Establishment culls the field before 'the base' weighs in." ...

... digby: "This is democracy?... The Democratic elites would be no better if the rank and file were clamoring for a left wing fire-brand they assumed would lose them the election. In fact, they took the reins under very similar circumstance back in 1976. It worked out really well for them. They ended up with a one term presidency followed by 12 years of Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Let's just say that this "move to the middle" is no panacea." ...

... CW: digby doesn't say so, but that what the Democrats' "super-delegates" are all about: restraining the liberal wing. ...

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "This isn't to say others won't run, of course. There will be the usual half-dozen batshit insane candidates hailing from the various regions of teapartyism and theocracy-lite.... But the 'real' candidate, the 'establishment' candidate, need only putter and try to dodge blows until it is time to flood the market with the necessary ads, and we'll have our winner. Don't think of it as damaging to democracy -- think of it as a streamlining of the process. The megadonors will pick the best candidate for you, then you will get to vote for that person. It certainly sounds more efficient, doesn't it?"

November Elections

Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star: "Campaign reports filed late last week revealed that key Democrats funneled money to Greg Orman's campaign for the U.S. Senate in Kansas. A political committee known as the Senate Majority PAC run by former advisers to Majority Leader Harry Reid sent about $1.5 million to two other campaign committees that were backing Orman's campaign.... Meanwhile, HuffPost reported that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, gave $1 million to pro-Orman groups." CW P.S.: Orman lost big anyway.

News Ledes

AP: "U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday to consult with Iraqi government officials and confer with U.S. commanders about the campaign to defeat Islamic State fighters."

NBC News: "An Ohio man who spent 27 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit was brought to tears Tuesday when a judge dropped all charges against him. Kwame Ajamu, 56, was the last of three men exonerated in the 1975 robbery and murder of a Cleveland-area money order salesman.... Ajamu was originally sentenced to death, but it was vacated because of a paperwork error. He later earned parole in 2003."