The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is expanding the military budget enormously. Pentagon spending is set to hit levels not seen since the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The national military budget that President Joe Biden is expected to approve this week comes to a whopping $858 billion.
That's $45 billion more than even Biden was requesting, and it's a 10 percent increase over last year's $778 billion authorization. (You can find a summary of NDAA-approved spending here.)
"If approved at this level, the Pentagon budget will have grown at 4.3 percent per year over the last two years—even after inflation—compared with an average of less than 1 percent a year in real dollars between 2015 and 2021," reports The New York Times.
83 Senators voted to pass a $858 BILLION defense budget this week.
That's $2.3 billion a day.
$97 million an hour.
All being funneled to an agency that has never passed a SINGLE audit and can't account for over HALF its assets ????????????
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) December 17, 2022
This stems in part from a scramble to stockpile weapons after so many U.S. munitions have been shipped to Ukraine. This year's NDAA would authorize $800 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative—"an increase of $500 million above the President's budget request," the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee points out.
"The Ukrainian military has run through years' worth of the missile production capacity of Western suppliers in a matter of months," notes the Times. More:
Lockheed Martin, the nation's largest military contractor, had booked more than $950 million worth of its own missile military orders from the Pentagon in part to refill stockpiles being used in Ukraine. The Army has awarded Raytheon Technologies more than $2 billion in contracts to deliver missile systems to expand or replenish weapons used to help Ukraine.
An analysis from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, commissioned by the Times, found that inflation-adjusted military spending is set to reach its highest level "since the peaks in the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2008 and 2011, and the second highest in inflation-adjusted terms since World War II—a level that is more than the budgets for the next 10 largest cabinet agencies combined."
Antiwar.com lays out some more of the spending particulars.
This ignominious plan passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 83–11 last Thursday, having already passed the House. The measure now awaits Biden's signature.
Meanwhile, Congress is scrambling to pass an omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government through next September. The $1.7 trillion proposal is expected to include even more funding for Ukraine, with the White House seeking $37.7 billion for this purpose.
North Carolina's Supreme Court has struck down a state requirement that voters must show photo identification. The court held that the 2018 law was passed "to target African-American voters who were unlikely to vote for Republican candidates."
"Given the rarity of voter fraud in North Carolina, a less restrictive law could have been sufficient to deter voter fraud and promote voter confidence in elections had this goal been the law's only actual purpose," states the court's ruling.
It also ruled against North Carolina's redrawn Senate electoral map. The Wall Street Journal editorial board accuses the majority in this case—all Democrats—of partisan-minded shenanigans on this front:
The Democratic Justices cast aside their earlier ruling that maps that complied with statistical tests would be "presumptively constitutional." The Senate map complied, but the Justices struck it down anyway because of the "contextual factual finding" that Democrats didn't vote for it.
In sum, the Democratic Justices gave themselves unchecked authority over redistricting. As Republican Chief Justice Paul Newby explained in a dissent, the majority's vague criteria for judging maps "ensures that four members of this Court alone understand what redistricting plan is constitutionally compliant."
Another turbulent weekend for Twitter. The company announced Sunday that it would ban linking to or promoting a number of other social media sites, including Instagram, Facebook, Truth Social, and Mastodon. But by the end of the day, Twitter appeared to have reversed course, deleting the tweets that had announced this change and removing the new policy from its website. Twitter CEO Elon Musk posted Sunday night that going forward, he would not make any major policy decisions without putting it to a poll first.
Musk then posted a poll about whether he should step down as CEO.
This weekend also saw further fallout from Musk's decision to ban an account that tweeted about his private jet trips and journalists that mentioned the account. Musk said he was motivated to do so out of concern for his children, claiming that the jet location sharing had allowed a stalker to approach his car at a gas station. But geolocation data suggests the car was nowhere near the airport where his jet landed and that the alleged incident happened nearly a day after any his jet's location had last been shared. (Cathy Young has a good thread on the situation here.)
The Washington Post talked with the alleged stalker, who seems to have some delusions about Musk and the musician (and mother of two of Musk's children) Grimes. "There's no indication in videos shared with The Post that Musk's children were present," the paper reports. The alleged stalker—Brandon Collado—"claimed he was making Uber Eats deliveries and visiting a friend when he pulled into the gas station and said Musk's security worker then confronted him without reason. Collado said he believed that Musk was monitoring his real-time location."
Los Angeles police said over the weekend that no crime report had been filed. "South Pasadena police were called to the gas station, according to the business's manager, but made no arrests," reports the Post.
But there's another huge problem with the bill: it would censor abortion content.
— Evan Greer is on Mastodon (@evan_greer) December 16, 2022
• "The House Jan. 6 committee met Sunday to finalize its plans to issue at least three criminal referrals for former President Donald Trump," NBC reports.
• Two tech trade groups, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, are asking the Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision upholding Texas' social media law.
• Oberlin College will pay $36 million to a bakery that students and faculty accused of racism.
• A Wetumpka, Alabama, court recently sentenced two women to two years of probation, $100 in fines, and 10 days in jail for feeding stray cats (though the jail sentence was suspended). "I have never seen or heard of a case more absurd than this," lawyer William Shashy told The Washington Post.