Category Archives: Congress

House Panel Rejects Benghazi Conspiracies

John Johnson reports for Newser:

The House Intelligence Committee spent two years investigating conspiracy theories about the 2012 Benghazi attack and has concluded they’re mostly just hot air. Here’s the takeaway paragraph from the AP:

  • The investigation “determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.”

Yes, then UN ambassador Susan Rice wrongly stated that the attacks were the result of a protest against an inflammatory video, but the panel found that Rice had been given bad intelligence and that neither she nor anyone else in the White House deliberately tried to mislead the public.

The report further finds no evidence that CIA officers were ordered to “stand down” during the attack or were intimidated afterward to avoid testifying, reports CNN. “We concluded that all the CIA officers in Benghazi were heroes,” says Republican panel chairman Mike Rogers and ranking Democrat CA Dutch Ruppersberger. The panel does, however, fault the State Department for having weak security at the US consulate, and Politico expects that criticism to resonate. This is not the end of the Benghazi inquiries: A House select committee appointed in May is still conducting its own investigation.’

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Senator Who Put Pentagon Papers Into Public Record Urges Udall To Do Same With Torture Report

Dan Froomkin writes for The Intercept:

Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution establishes an absolute free-speech right for members of Congress on the floor or in committee, even if they are disclosing classified material. It states that “for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

Within hours of Colorado Senator Mark Udall losing his reelection bid last week, transparency activists were talking about how he should go out with a bang and put the Senate intelligence committee’s torture report into the congressional record.  The report is said to detail shockingly brutal abuse of detainees by the CIA during the George W. Bush administration, as well as rampant deception about the program by top officials. But the Obama White House is refusing to declassify even a summary of the report without major redactions. And Republicans take over the Senate in January.

Udall is one of two senators — along with fellow Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden — who have consistently demanded greater transparency from the intelligence community. If he made the report public on the Senate floor or during a hearing, he couldn’t be prosecuted.’

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Coming together to dismantle the corporate state: Interview with Ralph Nader

Mark Twain on Elections

Democrats Viciously Blame Obama As Era Of Compromise Begins

Senator Bernie Sanders: The United States is on the Verge of Becoming an Oligarchy

US Elections: Theater with Deadly Consequences

Editor’s Note: Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, he joined Paul Jay to discuss how the media helps create “a charade of democracy” and makes a ton of money in the process.

Hawks Triumph in Senate; Will Push More Aggressive US Policy

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘The Republicans took control of the Senate in Tuesday’s elections, but much more important than which party took control is the nature of the incoming Senators from the new ruling party.

It’s not an influx of Tea Party members, reluctant to waste US funds on overseas adventures and suspicious of federal power, but rather a series of hawks in the model of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC) that seized the reins of power last night.

The new senators are typified by Jodi Ernst (R – IA) and Tom Cotton (R – AR), who campaigned heavy on escalating the ISIS war in Iraq and Syria, as well as being more hawkish at essentially every opportunity.”

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You know who else won the 2014 election? The CIA

Ryan Cooper writes for The Week:

Good luck getting answers now.The Republican Party, as you may have heard, has taken control of the Senate, after fumbling chances to do so in 2010 and 2012. With President Obama’s veto power safe for another two years, this means little for any positive Republican agenda, which barely exists in any case. But it does have enormous repercussions for one crucial area: civil liberties.

The defeat of Colorado’s Mark Udall, in particular, is a disaster. He is possibly the most prominent and committed civil libertarian in Congress, which means President Obama will no longer have to deal with a high-profile opponent of due process–free assassination of American citizens. The NSA can say goodbye to an enemy of dragnet surveillance, while the CIA no longer has to worry about Udall pushing for the release of a long-awaited report on the torture the agency inflicted on terrorism suspects during the Bush years.’

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US Midterm Elections: Is This Democracy?

US elections a one-party monopoly: Interview with Ron Paul and John Bonifaz

Election Day Loser: the ‘American Voters’

Editor’s Note: Greg Palast has been covering issues related to voter suppression since in the stolen election in 2000 between Bush and Gore. You can read some of his reports here.

Lauren McCauley writes for Common Dreams:

Over 40,000 Georgia voters were either not added to voter list or not given any polling place information ahead of vote. (Photo: Stephen Velasco/cc/flickr)‘As Americans rushed to the polls on Tuesday, voting rights watchdogs reported that this election day marked the most “unfair, confusing, and discriminatory election landscape” in fifty years.

Voters nationwide reported a slew of problems, including: long lines; broken machines; voter intimidation and misinformation; a lack of foreign language assistance; missing and misspelled names from registration; and general misinformation over registration, polling place locations, and identifications required.

“Every election day should be a celebration of democracy but instead what we are hearing today from too many polling places around the country is that voters are having problems casting their ballots,” said Barbara Arnwine, President and Executive Director of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in a Tuesday afternoon press call. The Lawyers’ Committee along with the Election Protection Coalition hosted a national hotline for individuals experiencing voting day difficulties.

Voting rights advocates say that these complaints come as no surprise following the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County vs. Holder to abolish key voter protections from the Voting Rights Act.’

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Facebook’s “I Voted” sticker was a secret experiment on its users

Dara Lind writes for Vox:

Facebook I voted button‘You might think it’s just a decorative gimmick — a cute electronic version of the “I Voted” sticker you get upon exiting the polling station. And Facebook says it’s just doing its civic duty by encouraging its users to vote.

But there’s a lot more to it than that, as Mother Jones reported last Friday. For the last few elections, Facebook has been running a series of quiet, but massive, experiments on you to see if it can make you more likely to vote. And it looks like their encouragements are working.’

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GOP Threatens a Senate Takeover: Interview with John Nichols and Lee Fang

‘While each House seat is up for grabs in today’s midterms, only a few dozen races are competitive enough to be in play. It is control of the Senate that hangs in the balance, coming down to around 10 key races. Republicans need to gain six seats to recapture Senate control, with a slight edge over Democrats in the advance polls. A few races are so close that they could go to a runoff. That potentially means we end Tuesday night with the Senate still undecided. Senate control is crucial, with Republicans vowing an agenda that includes more cuts to public spending, and repealing environmental regulations, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants and control of committees addressing global warming. But no matter how the Senate goes, we can expect mixed results at the state level as incumbent governors from both main parties face a voter backlash. The midterms will also see votes on 147 ballot measures, covering a number of key issues. Four states will vote on raising the minimum wage — Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Polls show the measures will likely pass despite them all coming in Republican states. We get a roundup of the key issues from John Nichols, political writer for The Nation magazine.’ (Democracy Now!)

GOP Purge Threatens Millions of Voters: Interview with Greg Palast

Does Fear Sell? A Look At Midterm Candidates’ Scare Tactics

The Buying of Democracy: Congress for Sale

Dr. Binoy Kampmark writes for CounterPunch:

‘The US Congress seems to be an amphitheatre, less of unflinching fear in the face of vested interests than the personification of those interests. It is fitting, in fact, that the Corporation, vested with a legal personality, has become the greatest unelected owner of the US congress, the master ventriloquist that articulates through the puppets that take up the role of House representatives and Senators.

As the mid-term elections bears down upon the United States, the various lobbies are muscling their way into the coffers of candidates on both sides of the aisle, punting for their best men and women. The nefarious form such bodies take is the Political-Action Committees (PACs), the anthrax of America’s political system. According to the Wall Street Journal, a “significant shift” has been registered, with business groups giving more largesse “to Republican candidates than to Democrats in seven of the most competitive Senate races in recent months, in some cases taking the unusual step of betting against sitting senators.”’

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Mitch McConnell’s Grotesque Lobbyist Army Is Everything Wrong With Politics

Is Your Judge for Sale? Dark Money Groups Pour Millions into Judicial Races to Reshape Courts

‘With the 2014 midterm elections just days away, we look at how anonymous donors are reshaping judicial races by pouring millions of dollars in “dark money” into races. Some donors see giving to the campaigns of judicial candidates as a way to get more influence, for less money than bankrolling legislative campaigns. A new investigation by Mother Jones magazine is headlined “Is Your Judge for Sale?: Thanks to Karl Rove and Citizens United, judicial elections have been overtaken by secretive interest groups, nasty ads, and the constant hustle for campaign cash.” We speak to Andy Kroll, senior reporter for Mother Jones.’ (Democracy Now!)

How to Buy a City: Chevron Spends $3 Million on Local California Election to Oust Refinery Critics

‘The oil giant Chevron is being accused of attempting to buy the city government of Richmond, California. The company has spent more than $3 million to back a slate of pro-Chevron candidates for mayor and city council ahead of Tuesday’s election. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Chevron has paid for TV attack ads, purchased space on virtually every billboard in town, funded a flood of mailers and financed a fake “news” website run by a Chevron employee. The move comes two years after a massive fire at Chevron’s oil refinery in Richmond sent 15,000 residents to the hospital. It was the third refinery fire since 1989 in the city. The city of Richmond responded to the latest fire by suing Chevron, accusing officials of placing profits and executive pay over public safety. We speak to one of the politicians being targeted, outgoing Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. She was elected mayor of Richmond in 2006, becoming the first Green Party official to represent a city of more than 100,000. Due to mayoral term limits, McLaughlin is now running for Richmond City Council.’ (Democracy Now!)

The Priciest Midterms Ever, Brought to You by “Dark Money” and Election Finance Out of Control

Dark Money and the Five Scariest U.S. Midterm Candidates

“Toxic Obama”: Democrats running from president’s endorsement

You Can’t Vote Out National Security Bureaucrats: And They, Not Elected Officials, Really Run The Show

Mike Masnick writes for Techdirt:

‘A year ago, we noted a rather odd statement from President Obama, concerning some of the Snowden leaks. He more or less admitted that with each new report in the press, he then had to go ask the NSA what it was up to. That seemed somewhat concerning to us — suggesting that the administration wasn’t actually aware of what the NSA was up to until after it leaked to the press. Combine that with our more recent story of how James Clapper is basically ignoring the substance of President Obama’s called for surveillance reforms, and you might begin to wonder who really runs the show when it comes to surveillance. And, indeed, according to a guy who knows quite well, the national security bureaucracy basically calls the shots, and the President has little to no power. That’s the basic summary of an interview with Michael Glennon under the title Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change in the Boston Globe.

Glennon is the author of a new book called National Security and Double Government, as summarized by the Boston Globe.’

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The Special Interest Problem: How AIPAC and the NRA Came to Rule American Politics

Lawrence Davidson writes for CounterPunch:

‘The problem of special interests or lobbies was one of the foremost concerns of the Founding Fathers of the United States. In their day they were called factions. James Madison, who is considered the architect of the U.S. Constitution, devoted the entire tenth Federalist Paper (1787) to the problem. He defined a faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority … actuated by some common … interest, adverse to … the aggregate interests of the community,” and believed that within the context of liberal republicanism, they could never be eliminated. However, he did feel they could be controlled. To this end he sought to create representative bodies with high numbers of delegates and a wide diversity of interests in the hope that they would counterbalance each other.

When George Washington delivered his famous Farewell Address in 1796, he too noted the problem. Washington warned of “combinations and associations” which attempt to “direct, control, counteract and awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities” and thereby substitute their own desires for the “delegated will of the nation.” As Washington’s continued concern implied, James Madison’s approach to controlling special interests or factions never proved adequate.’

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Vote all you want, the secret government won’t change

Jordan Michael Smith writes for The Boston Globe:

‘[...] Why did the face in the Oval Office change but the policies remain the same? Critics tend to focus on Obama himself, a leader who perhaps has shifted with politics to take a harder line. But Tufts University political scientist Michael J. Glennon has a more pessimistic answer: Obama couldn’t have changed policies much even if he tried.

Though it’s a bedrock American principle that citizens can steer their own government by electing new officials, Glennon suggests that in practice, much of our government no longer works that way. In a new book, “National Security and Double Government,” he catalogs the ways that the defense and national security apparatus is effectively self-governing, with virtually no accountability, transparency, or checks and balances of any kind. He uses the term “double government”: There’s the one we elect, and then there’s the one behind it, steering huge swaths of policy almost unchecked. Elected officials end up serving as mere cover for the real decisions made by the bureaucracy.’

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Ebola Fears Turn Into an Epidemic of Racism and Hysteria

Andrew Jerell Jones wrote for The Intercept:

‘[..] Far more contagious here has been a new virus of hysteria — and of the sort of ignorant discrimination that immigrants in general and Africans specifically have endured for decades.

People are being shunned and mocked for having visited, or even for simply having been born in, Africa — and anywhere in Africa will do, afflicted with Ebola or not. Others face discrimination simply for living in the same neighborhood where a single Ebola patient once lived. Politicians and pundits have seriously discussed closing our borders to entire nations. Panic is dividing the country at a time when the U.S. and indeed the whole world needs to pull together to solve a viral health crisis.’

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Public trust in U.S. has dwindled with rise in income inequality

Science Daily reports:

‘Trust in others and confidence in societal institutions are at their lowest point in over three decades, analyses of national survey data reveal. The findings are forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Compared to Americans in the 1970s-2000s, Americans in the last few years are less likely to say they can trust others, and are less likely to believe that institutions such as government, the press, religious organizations, schools, and large corporations are ‘doing a good job,’” explains psychological scientist and lead researcher Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University.’

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Whistleblowers: IRS officials behind ‘fraudulent’ multi-billion dollar corporate tax giveaways

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Raw Story:

IRSArt‘A 10-year veteran Internal Revenue Service (IRS) attorney has demanded a Congressional audit of the IRS to investigate the agency’s alleged role in allowing American corporations to illegally avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes at the same time the agency is cracking down on individuals and small businesses.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, IRS commissioner John A. Koskinen, and IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, Jane J. Kim, an attorney in the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel in New York, accused IRS executives of “deliberately” facilitating multi-billion dollar tax giveaways. The letter, dated October 19, will add further pressure on the agency, which is under fire for allegedly targeting conservative and Tea Party groups.’

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Joe Biden’s Son Hunter Kicked Out of Navy for Cocaine

NBC News reports:

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) points to some faces in the crowd with his son Hunter. (Reuters/Carlos Barria )‘Vice President Joe Biden’s son was booted from the Navy Reserve because he tested positive for drugs, it was revealed on Thursday.

A U.S. official told NBC News that Hunter Biden was kicked out of the Reserve earlier this year after he failed a drug test.

The official said Biden failed the test in 2013, but he was not kicked out until Feb. 14 of this year. Senior U.S. officials told NBC News that Biden, 44, tested positive for cocaine. The Wall Street Journal first reported the incident.’

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