More than a year after it approved a report critical of the CIA's interrogation and detention policies, the Senate Intelligence Committee has voted to make a portion of the document public. It's now up to President Obama to ensure that the agency doesn't mount a rear-guard attempt to censor or sanitize the committee's findings in the name of national security.Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post:
Thanks to news reports and a report by the CIA's inspector general, Americans long have been aware of both the broad outlines and some abhorrent details of the Bush administration's mistreatment of suspected terrorists after 9/11. [...] And we have read the memos in which Bush administration lawyers used contorted reasoning to justify torture.
But the Intelligence Committee's 6,200-word report, based on a review of millions of pages of documents, contains additional accounts of abuse, including (according to a Washington Post report) the alleged repeated dunking of a terrorism suspect in tanks of ice water at a site in Afghanistan. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Intelligence Committee chairwoman who aggressively has sought its declassification, said the report "exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation."
Torture is immoral, illegal and irreconcilable with this nation’s most cherished values. If defenders of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program disagree, they should come out and say so. Instead, they blow smoke.More on the day's top stories below the fold.
Sexist smoke, at that: Former CIA director Michael Hayden said Sunday that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is being “emotional” rather than “objective” as the Senate intelligence committee, which Feinstein heads, moves toward release of a comprehensive report on CIA detention and torture during the George W. Bush administration.Feinstein coolly responded that the report is indeed “objective, based on fact, thoroughly footnoted, and I am certain it will stand on its own merits. . . . The only direction I gave staff was to let the facts speak for themselves.”
Those facts, from what we know so far, are appalling.
On the subject of extending unemployment insurance, Wesley Lowry at The Washington Post examines House strategy:
Republican House leadership has repeatedly stated their opposition to the Senate-passed bill, noting that they do not want to bring any unemployment legislation to the floor for a vote unless it includes job-creation provisions. But Democratic House members and their aides insist they won't go down without a fight As the legislation now moves to the lower chamber, here's how Democrats plan to force the issue [...] The starting point for Democrats is re-enlisting the support of a group of moderate Republicans -- Reps. Joe Heck (R-Nevada), Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), David Joyce (R-Ohio), Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Jon Runyan (R-N.J.). -- who in December signed a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner asking the Republican House leadership to consider a temporary extension to the unemployment benefits.Rep. Gwen Moore:
"Now that I need help it's nowhere to be found..."Richard Hansen gives his a take on campaign financing:
My constituent, Cassie Jones,* sits in her apartment, which she has rented since 1986, wondering how she will pay the rent next month. Since she lost her job of 18 years, she has been surviving on unemployment benefits and her savings account. Over 150 job applications later, her benefits are exhausted and her savings account is nearly dry. She needs help.**
Failing to extend unemployment benefits is nonsensical and callous. Yet, in the past three months, House Republicans have failed to consider an unemployment insurance extension eight times. Political affiliation should have no weight in determining whether to place food on the table of your constituents and lift them out of poverty.
While McCutcheon’s narrowing definition of corruption has gotten attention, a related change by the court majority in McCutcheon has been all but ignored: the virtual disappearance of the “appearance of corruption” as a basis for limiting campaign contributions. Its troubling disappearance demonstrates the extent to which the Supreme Court majority is willing to ignore political reality for the sake of its extreme free speech views. [...] In McCutcheon, the appearance of corruption interest all but disappears — collapsing into a concern about actual bribery. The court writes that “the Government’s interest in preventing the appearance of corruption is equally confined to the appearance of quid pro quo corruption, [and therefore] the Government may not seek to limit the appearance of mere influence or access.” Never mind that Buckley spoke not of an “appearance of quid pro quo corruption” but instead of the broader “appearance of improper influence.”And Anne Kim writes about one angle of McCutcheon that hasn't really been highlighted before:
Some of the commentators who downplay the impact of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC say the decision affects only a small universe of mega-donors who’ve bumped up against the federal limits on campaign donations, which the Court now says are unconstitutional.On the topic of that disastrous Ryan budget, Chad Stone at US News explains why it's no path to prosperity:
But guess what? The vast majority of those super-donors are men – who now have a chance to make the big megaphones they’re holding even bigger. [...] Women political donors already lag behind in their giving, and the Court’s decision in McCutcheon is only likely to worsen this disparity.
The Congressional Budget Office projects significantly larger budget deficits over the next 10 years than it did a year ago, largely due to weaker economic growth projections. While some observers expected this to require Ryan to find deeper budget cuts, the chairman took another tack. He used different economic assumptions.Turning to unemployment, Kathleen Geier reminds us of some stark numbers:
In particular, Ryan asked CBO to analyze how the paths of federal revenues and noninterest spending in his budget might affect the economy and how any resulting changes in the economy would feed back into projections of deficits and debt. There’s nothing wrong with such an exercise, but we should regard the results with caution. As I’ve discussed here before, such macroeconomic effects are uncertain, and the resulting budget estimates will inevitably be controversial and subject to political manipulation.
[T]here are good reasons to be extremely skeptical about the notion that an undereducated workforce is to blame for soaring economic inequality. Evidence that is supportive of that skepticism can be found in the Bureau of Labor Statistics report released last month, Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers, 2013.The New York Times looks at proposals to curb the use of plastic shopping bags:
According to the report, there are 260,000 worker’s with bachelor’s degrees and 200,000 workers with associate’s degrees who are making the minimum wage. As a reminder, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and the minimum wage for tipped workers is a shockingly low $2.13 an hour. In some cities and states, the minimum wage is higher, but the BLS report defines only those making $7.25 an hour or less as “minimum wage workers.”
Derelict bags flutter from tree branches and power lines; they float in the ocean; they foul beaches and roadsides. If they are not offending the eye they are endangering fish, clogging storm drains or, most likely, bulking up a landfill. Some find brief second lives through reuse, like picking up dog droppings,but those noble detours, too, are short and swift, and end most often in the trash.
The New York City Council has a bill to limit the use of plastic bags. It would charge people a dime for them at retail and grocery stores. The money would go directly to retailers, who would use it to stock paper and reusable bags. The idea is to get New Yorkers to cut back on the 5.2 billion plastic bags they go through each year.