Secret grand jury probing the 2003 death of a man in CIA custody and other potential torture-related abuses. [...]
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From Matt Ortega over at AMERICAblog Elections: The Right's Field:
Mitt Romney wins by simple nature that nobody hit him hard enough.Personally, I was bored to death. Best part of the evening was when Herman Cain explained why he wouldn't be "comfortable" hiring Muslims in his administration. You see, when asked the question the first time, Cain's mind immediately went to the Muslims who want to kill us, not the "good" Muslims. So naturally he said "hell no."
Tim Pawlenty was a huge loser because he proved himself to be an utter coward. He took big swipes at Mitt Romney recently with "ObamneyCare" and shrunk with Mitt Romney standing right next to him. He embarrassed himself with being too scared to do it to his face.
Herman Cain also lost because he failed to repeat his prior performance against the JV squad last month. He proved himself king of the second stringers but can't get the job done as QB1.
Also noteworthy: who announces their presidential candidacy at a debate? Michele Bachmann. Truly bizarre but she'll get the press for it tonight and will lead the media by the nose when she "formally" announces. The media will simply just play along as they always do.
This is really discouraging. We've entered the Age of Surveillance, and no matter who's in the White House, it will continue to get worse:
WASHINGTON ? The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.
The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.
The F.B.I. recently briefed several privacy advocates about the coming changes. Among them, Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who is now a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that it was unwise to further ease restrictions on agents? power to use potentially intrusive techniques, especially if they lacked a firm reason to suspect someone of wrongdoing.
?Claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse,? Mr. German said, pointing to complaints about the bureau?s surveillance of domestic political advocacy groups and mosques and to an inspector general?s findings in 2007 that the F.B.I. had frequently misused ?national security letters,? which allow agents to obtain information like phone records without a court order..
Here's the really bizarre part:
In addition, the manual clarifies a description of what qualifies as a ?sensitive investigative matter? ? investigations, at any level, that require greater oversight from supervisors because they involve public officials, members of the news media or academic scholars.
The new rules make clear, for example, that if the person with such a role is a victim or a witness rather than a target of an investigation, extra supervision is not necessary. Also excluded from extra supervision will be investigations of low- and midlevel officials for activities unrelated to their position ? like drug cases as opposed to corruption, for example.
The manual clarifies the definition of who qualifies for extra protection as a legitimate member of the news media in the Internet era: prominent bloggers would count, but not people who have low-profile blogs. And it will limit academic protections only to scholars who work for institutions based in the United States.
Why on earth would the FBI be investigating "prominent bloggers" in the first place? What am I missing?
The seven Republicans who took part in yesterday’s presidential debate in New Hampshire all promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act without offering alternatives for expanding access to insurance or lowering health care costs. Instead, the GOP fudged the facts of the law and stood by Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposal to privatize the Medicare program. Below is a one minute compilation of the GOP’s top six health care myths and the facts that undermine their claims:
– CLAIM 1 FROM BACHMANN: The Congressional Budget Office said the Affordable Care Act will kill 800,000 jobs. FACT: The CBO actually found that some people would leave the workforce or work less because they can find affordable health coverage elsewhere. This is a reduction in the supply of labor, not a reduction in the supply of jobs.
– CLAIM 2 FROM BACHMANN: Obamacare took $500 billion out of Medicare, shifted it to build a new entitlement for young people. FACT: The health law does not cut the current Medicare budget; it slows the growth in the program by removing $500 billion from future spending over the next 10 years. The cuts help stabilize Medicare by eliminating overpayments and slowly phasing in payment adjustments that encourage greater efficiency. As a result, the law extends the life of the Medicare trust fund by nine years and allows seniors to retain all of their guaranteed Medicare benefits.
– CLAIM 3 FROM ROMNEY: I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to all 50 states. FACT: The executive branch and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) don?t have the authority to grant blanket waivers ? those powers are reserved for Congress.
– CLAIM 4 FROM PAWLENTY: Medicare is not financially solvent. FACT: Medicare is fully solvent until 2024. After 2024, the hospital fund will still be able to meet ?90 percent? of its commitments.
– CLAIM 5 FROM SANTORUM: Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan is “identical to what seniors already have” — Medicare Part D. FACT: It’s not. The government pays 74 percent of costs in Medicare Part D and grows that support at the rate of program costs. “Ryan?s plan covers about a third of beneficiary costs, and that support grows at the rate of inflation ? so much more slowly than the rest of the program, or than Medicare Part D.”
– CLAIM 6 FROM SANTORUM: The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) will ration care to seniors beginning in 2014. FACT: The IPAB kicks in if health care spending goes beyond a certain threshold and is statutorily prohibited from rationing benefits or increasing co-pays. In fact, Paul Ryan even supported a more aggressive IPAB-type reform in 2009.
I really liked Clive Crook’s column on Tim Pawlenty’s fantasy budgeting, and particularly the use of the term “idiotic farrago” to describe it. But I’m afraid his last paragraph has inspired me to defend the honor of American politicians, Pawlenty included:
One way or another, the US is finally going to collide with fiscal reality. There need not be a crisis: deals might yet be cut to make this collision less violent. What seems ever less likely, though, is that the country?s politicians will frame intelligent choices to put before voters, or that voters will insist that they do.
Rather than blaming politicians or the voters for this state of affairs, I think it’s much better to blame the voters. Imagine a scenario in which both sides agreed to stop bickering about the long-term deficit for now. We just do a “clean” increase in the debt ceiling and then agree to the following. Both the Democratic Party and Republican Party congressional leaders have three months to write down long-term fiscal plans, Ó la the Peterson Summit exercise. Then after the plans are released on September 14, they’ll get CBO and Tax Policy Center scores and on the first Tuesday in November, the country will vote on a binding referendum to choose between the plans. Maybe I’m just a utopian, but I think this would produce pretty good results. That’s because both sides would have strong incentives to win the referendum.
The congressional bargaining process and the presidential campaign have a totally different structure. Let’s say you’re an influential donor sincerely convinced that both high levels of borrowing and high marginal tax rates are a real threat to American. Under the referendum scenario, you recognize that if the Democrats win the vote MTRs are going to go way up. So the best strategy for minimizing MTRs is to ensure that the GOP puts something reasonable on the table so as to actually win. But if you’re just voting in a GOP presidential primary, you’re not actually looking for the candidate with the most reasonable plan. You’re looking for the candidate who sends the strongest, most credible signal of tax-aversion. That militates in favor of extreme proposals. Similarly, the congressional bargaining process is skewed toward encouraging people to mark out extreme claims in order to push the “center” of debate closer to their ideal point. One of the alleged virtues of a political system laden with veto points is that in order to get anything done, politicians ultimately need to bargain and compromise with each other. But the flipside is that a system that depends much more on post-election bargains between elected officials than on decisive electoral victories encourages a lot of posturing as a negotiating tactic. Personally, I don’t like this feature of the system but it’s really a case where if you want to complain you should hate the player and not the game.
The Constitution guarantees that all persons born in the United States are U.S. citizens with only a handful of very rare exceptions. Nevertheless, in last night’s GOP candidate’s debate, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty criticized the Supreme Court for following the Constitution’s unambiguous language and promised to appoint justices who would strip many Americans of their citizenship:
This issue of birthright citizenship, again, brings up the importance of appointing conservative justices. That result is because the U.S. Supreme Court determined that that right exists, notwithstanding language in the Constitution. I’m the only one up here — I believe I’m the only one up here — whose appointed solidly, reliably conservative appointees to the court.
Pawlenty would do well to actually pick up a copy of the Constitution before he pretends to know what it says. Under the 14th Amendment, ?[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.?áThis language is unambiguous; it grants citizenship to all persons born in the US unless they are not subject to American ?jurisdiction? ? a very narrow exception that applies only to children of foreign diplomats and a handful of other people.
Moreover, the first Supreme Court decision recognizing birthright citizenship was hardly the product of excessive liberalism. The Court first acknowledged this right in an 1898 decision called U.S. v Wong Kim Ark. Three of the justices who joined the majority in Wong Kim Ark also voted with the majority in Lochner v. New York, an infamous Supreme Court decision holding that essential laws protecting workers from exploitation violate the Constitution. Five of the justices in the majority in Wong Kim Ark also voted to uphold Jim Crow in Plessy v Ferguson. So when Pawlenty promises to appoint justices who are more conservative than the ones in Wong Kim Ark, he is essentially calling for a Supreme Court that will immunize sweatshops from the law and uphold segregation.
Sadly, Pawlenty was not the only person on the stage to come out against the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. When asked whether he thinks the children of undocumented immigrants “should be considered a citizen of the United States,” former pizza executive Herman Cain replied, “I don’t believe so.”
A growing number of gay parents are adopting children, census data reveals, despite persistent legal barriers prohibiting same-sex couples from receiving many of the federal benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples:
About 19 percent of same-sex couples raising children reported having an adopted child in the house in 2009, up from just 8 percent in 2000, according to Gary Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law at the University of California-Los Angeles.
“The trend line is absolutely straight up,” said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a nonprofit organization working to change adoption policy and practice. “It’s now a reality on the ground.” [...]
Most of the legal obstacles facing gay couples intending to adopt stem from prohibitions on marriage, according to the Family Equality Council, an advocacy group for gay families. In most states, gay singles are permitted to adopt.
One of the ironies here is that the legal obstacles are advanced and promoted by the very same people who claim to work on behalf of family values and stronger families. But when it comes to same sex couples and their children, these groups would prefer that they have no legal obligations or protections. It’s a head-in-the sand mentality that pretends that these families don’t exist, when in reality they’re only growing.
Two U.S. soldiers were killed in southern Iraq yesterday, raising the number of American casualties this month to eight. The deaths come just months ahead of a year-end deadline for a withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa voiced “worry” yesterday about almost three months of clashes in Syria but said the 22-member body is divided on how to procede. “Though their views differ, Arab states are all worried, angry and actively monitoring the current crisis in Syria,” he said.
Lebanon?s new prime minister, Najib Mikati, announced yesterday that his new government will be dominated by members and allies of Hezbollah. In an interview with AFP, Mikati insisted that “there would be no radical shift in policy.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bluntly warned African leaders yesterday that authoritarian governments ruled by aging despots were ?no longer acceptable,? saying that those who refused democratic reforms would find themselves ?on the wrong side of history.?
Efforts to start peace negotiations between the government of President Hamid Karzai and the insurgent Taliban organization are making some of Afghanistan’s populace nervous about the possibility of the notoriously-hardline Taliban returning to a role of legitimate power.
Egypt’s Muslims Brotherhood party has announced its intention to forge an alliance with the Wafd party, a liberal party established after World War I, forming a powerful coalition for the upcoming parliamentary elections in September.
Leaders of Yemen’s political opposition met on Monday with the country’s acting president, Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi, in the first reported meeting between the government and opposition since the beginning of the year.
For nearly a year — while the bank was losing Libya’s investment dollars — Goldman Sachs employed the brother of the Libyan official that oversees the now-again-pariah nation’s sovereign wealth fund.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the head of the British Royal Navy, said that his country’s armed forces would be “comfortable” for another three months of military operation in Libya, but engagement beyond that would require “challenging decisions”, which he said commanders were already considering.
At last night’s debate, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty backed off his new line of attacking “Obamneycare” just as political analysts were calling on him to turn up the heat on frontrunner Mitt Romney. Pawlenty’s unwillingness to make the same charge to his opponent’s face that he had on a Sunday talk show revived doubts about his readiness to be a serious contender.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday that he will sign certification of the DADT repeal before he retires in June. Last night at the GOP debate, five of the seven Republicans on stage rebuffed Gates and suggested they would reinstate DADT.
A new poll reveals that U.S. immigration policy now eclipses the economy as the top issue for Hispanic voters. Of the 500 voters polled, 51 percent cited immigration as a priority; last year, 49 percent put the economy and jobs first.
President Obama broke his silence on Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY) sex scandal yesterday, telling NBC, “If it was me, I would resign.?? ?When you get to the point where, because of various personal distractions, you can’t serve as effectively as you need to,” it may be time to go, Obama said.
American and Afghan officials “are locked in increasingly acrimonious secret talks about a long-term security agreement” that could leave U.S. troops in the country in some form for decades. “There are US troops in various countries for some considerable lengths of time which are not there permanently,” said one unnamed U.S. official, explaining the talks.
Yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) vowed to block any Obama nominee to fill the post of Commerce Secretary “unless the White House disavows a legal complaint filed against airplane manufacturer Boeing for opening a new plant in the senator’s home state South Carolina.” Graham’s obstructionism is motivated by the National Labor Relations Board’s action against Boeing for moving their plant to a non-union state in violation of labor laws.
A new report by the ATF finds that most guns seized in Mexico are from the United States. The report shockingly found that “70 percent of the guns seized in Mexico and submitted to a U.S. gun-tracing program came from” American sources.
And finally: Even senators get excited about seeing the White House, apparently, as Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) was spotted queuing up for a White House tour Saturday morning.
ThinkProgress filed this report from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Earlier this year, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain told ThinkProgress that if he were elected president, he would not be comfortable appointing Muslims in his administration.
Cain was asked about this refusal during last night’s Republican presidential debate and whether he felt that American Muslims were less committed to the United States than Christians or Jews. The presidential hopeful conceded that while he would not ban Muslims outright from serving in his administration, they would be held to higher loyalty standards than applicants from other religions.
ThinkProgress and other reporters spoke with Cain following the debate to draw out why he plans to target Muslims alone for a special loyalty oath. After he defended his proposal to implement more stringent requirement for prospective Muslim appointees than non-Muslims, a reporter asked Cain whether he felt that this was bigoted. The Georgia Republican responded, “No, it is not bigoted, it is called being careful and cautious”:
CAIN: [...] All I’m saying is I’m just going to be careful about who I put in my administration.
REPORTER: Does that apply to other religions?
CAIN: No it doesn’t apply to other religions, because we don’t have the same threat that we have from that particular one.
REPORTER: Sir, do you think that’s bigoted?
CAIN: Ma’am, no it is not bigoted, it is called being careful and cautious. Because I don’t want to run the risk that we would have militant jihadists in a position to harm this country or to harm an administration.
Cain, who is courting Tea Party support, would do well to brush up on Article VI of the Constitution. It states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”