Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "A stinging report by the Senate Intelligence Committee released Wednesday concluded that the attacks 16 months ago that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, could have been prevented, and blames both American diplomats and the C.I.A. for poor communication and lax security during the weeks leading up to the deadly episode." The report is here. ...
... Adam Goldman & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "The report found no evidence of the kind of political coverup that Republicans have long alleged.... The committee described the attacks as opportunistic and said there was no specific warning that they were about to be carried out." ...
... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post assesses how the report could affect Hillary Clinton's image. ...
... Peter Baker of the New York Times: How Obama Learned to Love the Surveillance State.
Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday, 359 to 67, to approve a $1.1 trillion spending bill for the current fiscal year, shrugging off the angry threats of Tea Party activists and conservative groups.... The legislation, 1,582 pages in length and unveiled only two nights ago, embodies precisely what many House Republicans have railed against since the Tea Party movement began, a huge bill dropped in the cover of darkness and voted on before lawmakers could possibly have read it." ...
... Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "Congress has moved to block President Obama's plan to shift control of the U.S. drone campaign from the CIA to the Defense Department, inserting a secret provision in the massive government spending bill introduced this week that would preserve the spy agency's role in lethal counterterrorism operations, U.S. officials said. The measure, included in a classified annex to the $1.1 trillion federal budget plan, would restrict the use of any funding to transfer unmanned aircraft or the authority to carry out drone strikes from the CIA to the Pentagon, officials said." ...
... CW: Wait a minute. As Jonathan Weisman wrote (see yesterday's Commentariat), "The legislation, 1,582 pages in length and unveiled only two nights ago, embodies precisely what many House Republicans have railed against since the Tea Party movement began, a huge bill dropped in the cover of darkness and voted on before lawmakers could possibly have read it." If they didn't have time to read the public part, do you think they had time to read the "secret" part? I don't think "Congress has moved to block" moving the drone program to the Pentagon; I think certain elite members of Congress have done so. In short, we have no idea what the sense of the Congress is because, as is common, members had no idea they what they were voting on. ...
... CW: Depending on how the townfolk vote on a proposed ordinance, you may be able to get your drone-hunting license in Deer Trail, Colorado, a "no-drone zone." Deer Trail is not in one of the Colorado counties that voted to secede.
White House: "At North Carolina State University, President Obama announces new steps with the private sector to strengthen the manufacturing sector, boost advanced manufacturing, and attract good jobs with good wages that a growing middle class requires":
... Dana Milbank can't figure out why Obama was in North Carolina talking about "wide bandgap semiconductors, whatever they are.... We've seen this before on health-care reform, gun control and other subjects: Obama will speak about a topic (as he did last week on unemployment benefits) and then move on before the job is done. But unemployment benefits should be a particularly easy sell for Obama, because Republican opposition to helping job-seekers (unless the money is taken from somewhere else) makes them sound heartless."
Matt Miller has an excellent piece in the Washington Post that at least partially explains why -- despite growing inequality -- the unwashed masses aren't marching on Washington bearing pitchforks. We've previously covered his second point -- that Americans have no idea how unequally income & wealth are distributed. But his first point -- that there is "a narrowing difference in the actual consumption experiences of the rich and the rest of us" -- is something I've never really thought thru. It also explains why wingers think it's appropriate to claim the poor are lucky duckies because they own $20 coffeemakers & used refrigerators.
Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "It's a coincidence, White House aides say. President Barack Obama did not deliberately schedule his big NSA speech for Friday to mark the anniversary of Dwight Eisenhower's warning that the 'military-industrial complex' posed a potential threat to American democracy." As Knox characterizes it, "In 1961, Eisenhower tried to make Americans more mistrustful of the encroachments of a national-security state. In 2014, Obama is trying to win back their faith...."
Jad Mouawad of the New York Times: "The National Labor Relations Board, in a sweeping complaint filed on Wednesday, said that Walmart illegally disciplined and fired employees after strikes and protests for better pay. The complaint listed violations of federal law in 14 states involving more than 60 workers and 34 stores. It said Walmart fired 19 employees for taking part in strikes and demonstrations against the company. Other employees were given verbal warnings or faced other disciplinary action. In some cases, according to the complaint, the company spied on employees."
David Ingram of Reuters: "A judge on Wednesday upheld subsidies at the heart of President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul, rejecting one of the main legal challenges to the policy by conservatives opposed to an expansion of the federal government. A ruling in favor of a lawsuit brought by individuals and businesses in Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia would have crippled the implementation of the law by making health insurance unaffordable for many people. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman in Washington D.C. wrote that Congress clearly intended to make the subsidies available nationwide under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." CW: One of the nastiest suits ever: the plaintiffs want to deprive residents of states that don't have insurance exchanges of federal tax subsidies.
Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "The Justice Department will significantly expand its definition of racial profiling to prohibit federal agents from considering religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation in their investigations.... The move addresses a decade of criticism from civil rights groups that say federal authorities have in particular singled out Muslims in counterterrorism investigations and Latinos for immigration investigations."
... Janet Reitman in Rolling Stone: "While more Americans support upholding 'Roe v. Wade' than ever, the Tea Party and the Christian right have teamed up to pass hundreds of restrictions eviscerating abortion rights in GOP-controlled state legislatures across the country."
** Zack Kopplin in Slate: A Texas-based charter school system called Responsive Education Solutions "has a secular veneer and is funded by public money, but it has been connected from its inception to the creationist movement and to far-right fundamentalists who seek to undermine the separation of church and state.... Operating more than 65 campuses in Texas, Arkansas, and Indiana, Responsive Ed receives more than $82 million in taxpayer money annually, and it is expanding, with 20 more Texas campuses opening in 2014.... When it's not directly quoting the Bible, Responsive Ed's curriculum showcases the current creationist strategy to compromise science education, which the National Center for Science Education terms 'stealth creationism.' ... The movement also undermines the study of history." Like, "anti-Christian bias" was a cause of World War I. And the New Deal didn't help the economy; it "ushered in an era of dependency...."
Nick Cumming-Bruce of the New York Times: "In an unusual appearance before a United Nations committee, Vatican officials faced questions on Thursday about the Holy See's handling of sexual abuse of children by the clergy.... Human rights organizations and groups representing victims of clerical abuse welcomed the hearing as the first occasion the Vatican has had to publicly defend its record."
Richard Simon of the Los Angeles Times: "Rep. Howard 'Buck' McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), a onetime western wear haberdasher who rose to become chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, is announcing Thursday that he will retire after more than two decades in Congress. His departure at the close of the current term will further diminish California's clout on Capitol Hill, at least in the short term, and set the stage for a competitive race to choose his successor."
Gail Collins: State of the state speeches are boring & forgettable.
"A 'Free' Press isn't That Kind of Free." Rachel Maddow, in the Washington Post: "Be inspired by the beleaguered but unintimidated reporters of Chris Christie's New Jersey: Whatever your partisan affiliation, or lack thereof, subscribe to your local paper today. It's an act of civic virtue." ...
... CW: Maddow mentions some of the dirty tricks Christie's henchmen have played on local reporters. She does not mention the time Christie shut down New Jersey's only public television station, ostensibly because one of NJN's reporters wrote a story about Christie's under-the-table loan to a subordinate at the U.S. attorney's office. (The same subordinate, as it happens, Christie later rewarded with two better jobs. She is currently head of the state's economic development team, now being audited for a questionable Christie-starring, federally-funded "visit New Jersey" ad campaign.)
Right Wing World
"Invincible Ignorance" of the Right, Ctd. Jonathan Chait: "While I'd agree that a completely state-dominated economy would probably have less innovation on the whole, it's pretty obvious that the simplistic libertarian caricature -- government can only stifle innovation -- bears little resemblance to observed reality." Chait gives a bunch of examples. You can probably think of more.
Reuters: "The U.S. government on Thursday provided merchants with information gleaned from its confidential investigation into the massive data breach at Target Corp, in a move aimed at identifying and thwarting similar attacks that may be ongoing."
AP: "An attorney for the family of a killer whose Ohio execution by lethal injection was marked by several minutes of unprecedented gasping and unusual sounds plans to sue the state over what happened. Dayton defense lawyer Jon Paul Rion says Dennis McGuire's family is deeply disturbed by his execution and believes it violated his constitutional rights."