Sunday, August 30, 2009

Last Call

When both Dick Cheney and Dianne Feinstein are on the same side, something fishy as hell. Both of them are strongly against Eric Holder's torture probe, and that means there will be more strong turbulence blocking any easy resolution to this mess.

Powerful Republicans and Democrats are starting to really not like this probe. It must mean there's something to it after all. The Village is trying to play the sympathy card as much as it can to protect the CIA here.
It is impossible to extrapolate from the small sample contacted by Washington Post reporters about the effect the varied inquiries are having on the thousands of agency employees, more than one-third of whom are spread around the world. But among the dozens of officials who were part of the program and either remain active or have retired, feelings run high about how the White House and the Justice Department have handled the issue.

One former senior official said President Obama was warned in December that release of the Justice Department memos sanctioning harsh interrogation methods would create an uproar that could not be contained. "They [the White House] thought that it would be a two-day story; they were wrong," this official said.

A much-discussed question is whether the legal reassurances of one administration carry over to its successor. "When a previous administration says something was legal, and the next says it doesn't matter, the result is hesitancy to take on cutting-edge missions," the former senior official warned.

Another former top official said senior managers detect a double standard. He pointed out that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. supported Obama's decision not to release photos of military abuses of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq because they would harm military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "The warning that CIA operations would be made more difficult were disregarded," former official said.

There are some very powerful people in the former -- and current -- administration, not to mention Congress, who are going to take a serious hit on this should AG Holder continue with his probe.

The voices are getting louder. Obama is not going to be able to remain silent on the issue much longer. He's going to have to publicly bless this probe...or very publicly kill it. One of the two is going to have to happen, and soon.

Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out

Raw Story reports on a secessionist rally in Austin, Texas.
Some 200 people rallied at the State Capitol in Austin on Saturday, a small but vocal crowd that set itself in opposition to pro-health care reform protesters.

Larry Kilgore, a Christian activist that the Texas Observer says has advocated execution for homosexuals, "drew some murmurs of disapproval" when he told the crowd: “I hate that flag up there. ... I hate the United States government. … They’re an evil, corrupt government. They need to go. Sovereignty is not good enough. Secession is what we need!”

“We hate the United States!” he declared later in his address.

Although the Texas independence movement is nothing new, observers say it has been given new life by the debate over health care, which some secessionists see as an attack on the US Constitution, and therefore grounds for abandoning the Union.

But many observers place responsibility for the movement's growth in prominence on Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who in April suggested that the Obama administration's policies may drive Texas to leave the United States.

"If Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that," Brian Beutler at TalkingPointsMemo quoted Perry. "But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot."

"Rick Perry's talk of secession appears to have buoyed efforts by Texas secessionists who want the governor to follow through," Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater blogged on Sunday.

Slater went on to debunk some of the assertions made by the secessionists:

Another self-styled patriot invoked George Washington as an ally of secession (History lesson: Washington presided over creation of the union) and Sam Houston - "You go ask Sam Houston what he thought about secession. He did it anyway." (History lesson: Houston opposed secession. He ran for governor as an independent Unionist in 1859. Despite his efforts, the people of Texas voted to secede, and he was forced out of office in March 1861.)

As the Texas Observer notes, no prominent Texas politicians showed up to the event, not even the 70 or so members of the state legislature who supported a declaration (PDF) earlier this year affirming the sovereignty of Texas over its own constitutional affairs.

Prior to the protest, organizer Gerry Donaldson told Robert Moon of that secessionists are "calling for an orderly process that will allow our federal government to fall back in line with the Constitution. ... Either we will restore America, we will live in a Marxist dictatorship, or we will secede and start over again."

Boy, I'd love to see some of these guys go. And these are the base that the Republicans are trying desperately to keep at all costs, a base that's virulently anti-federalist, anti-immigrant, anti-minority and anti-science.

1860 called, boys. They want their casus belli back.

Will Helicopter Ben Get Audited?

Something momentous has to be in the works if it unites House Republicans like Ron Paul and House Democrats like Dennis Kucinich, and that subject is auditing the Federal Reserve. Barney Frank is the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and he's now saying that Ron Paul's bill will clear his committee by the end of October, setting up the very real possibility the bill could be done by the end of the year.

“Here’s what we plan to do: I want to restrict the powers of the Federal Reserve in a number of ways,” he said. “First of all, they will be the major losers of power if we’re successful, as I believe we will be, setting up that, uh, financial product protection committee.”

The committee Frank mentioned was proposed by President Barack Obama during the campaign, as a way of protecting consumers. It was formally presented to Congress in the President’s financial regulatory reform white papers in July, noted law firm Wiley Rein LLP.

“The Federal Reserve is now charged with protecting consumers,” continued Frank. “They were supposed to do sub-prime mortgage restricted … Congress in 1994 gave the Federal Reserve the power to adopt rules to ban bad sub-prime mortgages. … They have the power to ban credit card abuses. They have the power to do most of it. They, under Greenspan, did nothing.

“Under Bernanke, they started to do things, but only after Congress started, when I became chairman of the [House Financial Services Committee], we began to act on these things: Sub-prime mortgages, credit cards, overdraft … And after we started, the Fed did. So, that’s why one of the reasons why in the new consumer protection agency we will take away from the Federal Reserve the power to do consumer protection.”

Frank added that Congress will reverse an action by the Democratic Congress of 1932 that gives the Fed authority to lend money at will.

“Under section 13.3 of the Federal Reserve Act, they can lend money to whoever they want,” he said. “We are going to curtail that lending power. We are going to put some constraints on it.”

Good. Like I've said before, the thing that make Ron Paul dangerous is that about 40% of his ideas make sense and I'd like to see them implemented, including auditing the Fed and us getting out of the world police business with our military. It's the other 60% of his far-right neo Goldwater agenda that is the problem.

He's right about the Federal Reserve, however.

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