Shorter Question Everything
Will command of drones be moved out of the hands of the CIA and into the hands of the military, where it will face more oversight? Looks like that might be the plan. Maybe that was always the plan.
• Obama is close to filling all the key posts in his administration after the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday approved John Brennan as the next CIA director. In spite of dire warnings of obstructionism by Senate Republicans, Obama has seen his main choices go through without too much difficulty. Approval came after the Obama administration caved in to demands by the intelligence committee to see all classified legal advice prepared by the Justice Department about the use of drones. The Democratic chairwoman of the intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, said: “I have reached an agreement with the White House to provide the committee access to all opinions related to the targeted killing of Americans in a way that allows members to fulfill their oversight responsibilities.”
• Attorney General Eric Holder: Drone strike on U.S. soil ‘hypothetically’ possible. “As members of this administration have previously indicated, the US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so,” he wrote. “As a policy matter moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat.” “The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront,” Holder added. “It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001,” Holder continued, referring to the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center, respectively.
• A lopsided vote: “The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday voted 12-3 to approve John Brennan’s nomination to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.”
• The FBI is hunting down a UFO. Really. At John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Monday, a pilot reported seeing an unidentified black drone hovering about 2,000 feet from the ground as his plane made its final descent. The drone came within 200 feet of the plane, according to several news reports. Now, the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are investigating the sighting of the drone, said to be black, with four propellers and roughly three feet in diameter.
• Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, has died in a military hospital at the age of 58 after a long battle against cancer, the vice-president has announced, prompting a wave of mourning in the country he ruled since 1999 with a globally distinctive and influential style of leadership. The symbol of Latin American socialism succumbed to a respiratory infection on Tuesday evening, 21 months after he first revealed he had a tumour. He had not been seen in public for three months since undergoing emergency surgery in Cuba on 11 December.
Responding with humour
• Secretary of State John Kerry: “I have great respect for Dennis Rodman as a basketball player,” Kerry reportedly told CNN’s Jill Dougherty, reporting from Doha. “As a diplomat, he was a great basketball player.”
• Alan Grayson: “With the Norquist pledge, the Republicans have lined up on the side of millionaires, billionaires and multinational corporations. With our No Cuts pledge, we are lined up on the side of seniors, sick people, and poor people. We are comforting the afflicted, and they are comforting the comfortable.”
Right wing jackassery
• Wisconsin GOP wants end to weekend voting: We’ve known this bill was coming, and now here it is: a proposal by Wisconsin Republicans to cap the hours for early voting and end weekend voting altogether. Wisconsin Assembly Bill 54 got introduced and moved to committee on Friday.
• Two employees of a company once aligned with the Republican Party of Florida admitted to law-enforcement authorities that they forged voter registration forms.
• House GOP tries to defund nonexistent ACORN: Though ACORN has been shut down for some time, House Republicans are still trying to defund it. A provision in a short-term budget bill introduced by the House Appropriations Committee would cut funding to the group, which advocated for low-income families, but was stripped of all federal funding in 2009 and shut down in 2010.
• Can’t handle the truth: O’Reilly’s temper flared during a conversation about Barack Obama’s attitude toward spending cuts. Colmes, responding to suggestions that Obama has no interest in addressing the national debt, pointed out that the president has repeatedly offered Republicans in Congress a deficit reduction scheme of $2.50 in cuts for every dollar in extra taxes levied. The example visibly irritated O’Reilly, who demanded Colmes provide specific examples of programs Obama said he would cut. When Colmes answered “Medicare,” O’Reilly went off.
• Jeb Bush is switching positions on immigration reform yet again! The former Florida governor at first supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but then reversed course in a book he wrote that was released Tuesday. He publicly revealed the switch Monday during an interview on NBC’s “Today,” which raised some eyebrows because the well-known pro-immigration Republican had previously backed such a position. Bush now says he’s open to letting undocumented immigrants become citizens so long as the route to citizenship doesn’t encourage future illegal immigration. To recap what happened: Jeb Bush basically did a complete 360 on the issue of immigration reform. [link]
• Why is the Daily Caller only today getting around to verifying whether or not its story about Menendez was even true? Why, it’s the Daily Caller, of course. Truth doesn’t matter.
• Fox News has gone silent after questions emerged casting serious doubt on a Daily Caller report that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) paid women for sex in the Dominican Republic, a report that Fox News hyped during at least 22 segments.
• Fake Story About DHS “Tanks” Still Spreading Through Right Wing Talk Radio: I know it’s not a big surprise, but so far I have not found a single right wing blogger who has corrected the utterly false story about DHS “tanks” launched by Dim Jim Hoft and Drudge Report, even though we proved yesterday that it’s a complete fantasy concocted by a survivalist blog.
• Gun control debate fueling ‘explosive’ rise in far-right extremist groups: The number of anti-government, far-right extremist groups has soared to record levels since 2008 and they are becoming increasingly militant, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It says the number of groups in the “Patriot” movement stood at 1,360 in 2012, up from 149 in 2008 when Barack Obama was first elected president, an increase of 813%. The report said the rise was driven by opposition to Obama and the “spluttering rage” over federal attempts at gun control. Those who were identified as “militia” groups or the paramilitary wing of the Patriot movement, numbered 321, up from 42 in 2008, the SPLC said in its report.
• Rep. Paul Ryan has once again resurrected his hugely unpopular Medicare voucher plan (they’re calling it “competitive bidding”), now with even more stuff to make it unpopular. Bowing to the reality that his numbers just don’t add up to what he says will be a balanced budget in 10 years, Ryan has decided to break the promise Republicans made to protect people 55 and older from his cuts. That’s the promise he and Mitt Romney made on the 2012 campaign trail and the promise GOP Congress members ran on, and now some of them are “furious” with Ryan’s reversal.
In other news
• ‘A Palestinian Rosa Parks is needed’: Israel’s segregated buses spark outrage. For a country fighting allegations of racism and apartheid against its Arab citizens, introducing a “Palestinian-only” bus line for workers entering Israel from the West Bank may not be the smartest move. The line came into operation Monday and immediately had Israeli human rights groups up in arms.
• NDP MP demands Kitsilano coast guard station be re-opened after an accident in English Bay over the weekend: Don Davies, the NDP MP for Vancouver Kingsway, told the House of Commons the accident was a “close call.” He says it took way too long for help to arrive. Davies says Sea Island took 31 minutes instead of 11 minutes, and would have been at least an hour if the accident had taken place in Burrard inlet. The MP says the situation will get worse in the summer with more marine traffic and families on vacation.