Thursday, July 21, 2011

Last Call

Don't look now, but the Pentagon's about to end DADT for good.

The Pentagon is set to certify that the U.S. military is prepared to accept openly gay and lesbian service members, and doing so will not harm military readiness, a U.S. official told CNN on Thursday.

According to the official, who spoke on condition of not being identified, an announcement of that certification -- which is required to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy -- is likely to come Friday.

Under a bill passed last year that set up a process for repealing the controversial policy, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, along with President Barack Obama, have to sign a certification that confirms the military's ability to accept the integration of openly gay and lesbian troops.

Even after certification, there will be a 60-day waiting period before the repeal is fully implemented.

So bottom line, end of September you can check off another Obama promise kept that the GOP never, ever would have done.   The list of "Things Obama Has Gotten Done" gets bigger, and in a good way.

Hacked Off In The UK, Part 5

Former News of the World employees say that James Murdoch was telling big old fibs in his testimony to Parliament earlier this week.

Gordon Taylor, then the chief executive of the PFA, sued News Of The World for phone hackings that took place in 2005. In an out-of-court settlement, News Corp paid Taylor a confidential six-figure sum in 2008. Though Murdoch told Parliament the company was advised by lawyers to pay Taylor £250,000 (around $400,000), according to a report by The Guardian the total may have been closer to £600,000 (around $1 million), including legal expenses.

According to Murdoch's testimony to Parliament, he made the deal without knowing about a piece of evidence known as the "for Neville" e-mail. The e-mail, from 2005, contained transcripts of 35 hacked phone messages from Taylor's phone, and identified them as "the transcript for Neville." The Guardian identified "Neville" as News Of The World reporter Neville Thurlbeck.

With you so far.

When asked whether he knew about the e-mail in the hearings, Murdoch said: "No, I was not aware of that at the time." He had previously said in a statement that he "did not have a complete picture" of the extent of the hackings when he OKed the settlement.

But Colin Myler, former editor of News of the World, and Tom Crone, former legal manager of News of the World, said in a statement on Thursday that they informed Murdoch of the "for Neville" e-mail at the time.

"Just by way of clarification relating to Tuesday's Culture Media and Sport Select Committee hearing," they said in a statement, "we would like to point out that James Murdoch's recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the Gordon Taylor litigation was mistaken. In fact, we did inform him of the 'for Neville' email which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor's lawyers."

If Thurlbeck was involved and Murdoch knew about it, it would undermine much of the Murdochs' -- and News International's -- defense that they thought the the phone hackings were only the work of reporter Clive Goodman. It would additionally imply that the Taylor settlement was an effort to cover up the extent of the scandal by keeping revelations about Thurlbeck out of court.

News Corp put out a statement in response, saying: "James Murdoch stands by his testimony to the select committee." 

Things are unraveling fast, folks.  Of course the Murdochs knew and lied to Parliament.  And when all is said and done, I expect one hell of a plea deal for these clowns.

One More For The Clown Car, Please

Another Republican has joined the Race To Lose To Obama in 2012, but it's probably nobody you've heard of.

Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer officially declared his candidacy at the Hanover Inn at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, becoming the 11th Republican candidate to jump into the race.

"You don't want to miss this campaign," said Roemer. "It will be something else."

Roemer blasted President Barack Obama and the other candidates, saying they're ignoring two issues he sees as major problems: "unfair trade" and special interest campaign contributions.

Pledging to refuse PAC money and only accepting donations of $100 or less, Roemer has so far raised nearly $96,000, with nearly $41,000 raised in the second quarter.

"I ask the 98 percent of Americans who never give to a presidential candidate to stand with me," Roemer said.

Roemer served four terms as a Democratic congressman from Louisiana then became governor of the state in 1988. He made headlines when switching affiliation to the GOP in his third year as governor and lost re-election to a second term. In the private sector, the Harvard graduate worked as the CEO of Business First Bank after leaving office.

So he's Mike Gravel of the 2012 GOP side.  Got it.  Wake me up when he's replaced by Fred Thompson.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 41

Remember GOP Sen. Judd Gregg, President Obama's one-time pic for Commerce Secretary?  He retired and got a nice job with Goldman Sachs Of Cash and tells Business Insider that the House GOP will in fact force a government shutdown over the debt ceiling and risk America's credit rating to default rather than give in.

Former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) says Social Security checks will need to be halted before House Republicans will agree to a deal to raise the debt limit.

A deficit hawk and former Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Gregg turned down an offer from President Barack Obama to be his Secretary of Commerce.

Now an analyst with Goldman Sacks, Gregg said on a conference call this morning that there is a better than 50 percent chance that Congress will not reach an agreement before August 2nd.

Gregg said that if that were to happen, it "would put the blame on the Republicans," saying House GOP'ers are the biggest obstacle to a deal.

"In the Senate, you've got a center of 40 members who are willing to sign on to something dramatic AND you have the President endorsing it — that's good news. We have agreement on the problem and a resolution," he said.

"BUT the House is nowhere near an agreement. The Gang of Six plan will not come to fruition in the next few weeks — maybe not even until the next election. The best thing that could happen is that a special committee might be set up to continue to work on the Gang of Six agreement. Ultimately, it won't affect the debt ceiling debate in the short-term."

Pretty sobering assessment, and I don't disagree with him.  Some sort of last minute deal will have to be reached, but the deadline now is literally just days away and some put the effective date for a deal as early as Friday.  If nothing is reached by then, things could get ugly by Monday, folks.

Real ugly.  And Judd Gregg is warning that things could get far worse by the week after that.  Still seeing a last minute deal coming through but then again, the GOP could just decide to screw all of us.  Meanwhile Treasury is now actively making plans for managing a major government shutdown or even a default...just in case.

Charles Plosser, president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank, said the U.S. central bank has for the past few months been working closely with Treasury, ironing out what to do if the world's biggest economy runs out of cash on August 2.

"We are in contingency planning mode," Plosser told Reuters in an interview at the regional central bank's headquarters in Philadelphia. "We are all engaged. ... It's a very active process."

Plosser said his "gut feeling" was that President Barack Obama and Congress will come to an agreement to increase the Treasury's borrowing authority in time to avert a default on government obligations.

Obama was due to meet with top Republicans in Congress on Wednesday to discuss the latest attempts to end the dispute over raising the country's debt ceiling, a row which has raised the prospect of the Treasury Department running out of money to pay its bills next month.

The Treasury has repeatedly said default was unthinkable and that there was no alternative to raising the debt ceiling. Plosser's remarks marked the most extensive public comments yet on preparations for a default from a U.S. official.

A Treasury spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.

We crossed "This is getting real folks" about a week ago.  Now we're into "Holy god, do we get out of this intact?"

Still think we will, but it's now going to cost us.  And that cost can be, should be, and will be laid directly at the feet of the GOP's Tea Party whackjobs.

Nah, It's Cool... You Keep 'Em

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A California prosecutor says U.S. officials have rejected a request to seek the extradition of actor Randy Quaid and his wife from Canada to face felony vandalism charges.
Authorities in Santa Barbara have sought the couple's return for months. Senior Deputy District Attorney Lee Carter says the U.S. State Department notified him last week that it would not pursue extradition.
I'm not sure if I'm more amused or horrified.  I just thought he was a brilliant character actor, but I was wrong.   

DOMA: You Keep Using That Word...

I do not think it means what you think it means.  You can read the full article, I am going to hit the highlights below.  I'd like to know how defending a word can possibly mean denying rights to everyone else.  The only greater misnomer is the Patriot Act.

(CNN) -- Ron Wallen met the person that he says completed his life in 1953.
At 19, he met his match in 23-year-old Tom Carrollo. The pair spent the next 58 years together. On June 24, 2008, they were able to marry when California for a short time legalized and then began performing same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Wallen, now 77, shared his story and his struggle with the Defense of Marriage Act in a congressional hearing Wednesday in which he and others asked lawmakers to pass the Respect for Marriage Act.

DOMA exists only to block rights for people, it isn't intended to defend anything.  Those who believe in traditional marriage are free to practice it, but instead of allowing other people to declare they are married and share benefits, the holier than thous are reduced to semantics (but check out, they have caught up to the times).  Religious freedom exists as long as you believe what they tell you to.  

Or of course there is the tried and true ridiculous accusations:

King called marriage a "sacred, cornerstone of our society" and said opening it up to change could lead to "polygamist relationships, incestuous relationships."

Because two adults of the same gender can't possibly love each other without falling under the spell of Satan and having sex with their relatives.  If you're rural and gay, I'm sure barnyard animals would be at an increased risk.  What a load of crap.

If you live together for decades, laugh and cry and fight, you are a spouse.  Period.  There is no danger to society if we allow gays to marry.  All that would happen is the jackasses who are used to getting their way don't get to tell others how to live.  God forbid, pun intended.

Greek Fire, Part 41

Reuters is reporting this morning that the "temporary Greek default plan" I flagged down earlier this week is now a go.

The European Central Bank is willing to let Greece slip into temporary default as part of a crisis response that would involve a bond buyback but no new tax on banks, EU sources said on Thursday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy crafted a common position on a second Greek bailout in late night talks in Berlin with ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet, sources in both governments said.

Minds have been concentrated by the danger Europe's debt crisis could engulf the much bigger economies of Spain and Italy. Greece, Portugal and Ireland have already succumbed.

Merkel told reporters on arrival in Brussels for a crucial euro zone summit: "I expect that we will be able to seal a new Greece program. This is an important signal. And with this program we want to grasp the problems by their root.

She gave no details but Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager said a short-term or selective default for Greece, previously opposed by the ECB, was now a possibility.

"The demand to prevent a selective default has been removed," he told the Dutch parliament.

So it turns out that of the three parties I talked about earlier involved in the Greek bailout (the ECB, Germany, and the rating agencies) one of them had to eat My Big Fat Greek Crap Sandwich. It looks like Zero Hedge called it and the ECB is the is the big loser, followed by Germany.

Hopefully details will be forthcoming, but any plan that involves a technical default means the EU is now 100% committed to fighting the Greek Fire.  If they can't put it out -- and there's no reason to believe they will be able to -- then the game's over on the EU side.

More on this as we get details.

My Old Kentucky Home(less)

Barefoot and Progressive reports on how Kentucky's congressmen voted on the "Cut, Cap, and Balance" nonsense.

As Joe pointed out earlier, John Yarmuth took to the House floor today, denouncing the bill as a charade from a delusional party dead set on returning the country to 1966, before Medicare existed (and, implicitly, before that darn Civil Rights movement had really done its damage). It was an awesome speech — because John’s pretty awesome — and you should watch it.

The Bill passed (for basically the reasons Yarmuth outlined) by a vote of 234 to 190.

Five Democrats voted for the circus act, and normally we’d at least toy with your emotions before telling you how Ben Chandler voted… but no, Quiet Ben voted just the right way. He was not one of the Blue Dog Five and he joined Michelle Bachmann (Why? Who really cares.) in voting against HR 2560.

Mark one down in the bipolar Ben Chandler ‘Yes!’ column.

Here's Yarmuth's speech:

"Slash, Shred and Punish" is a much better name. Good for Yarmuth. And yes, the plan will cap spending at 1966 levels, an utterly ridiculous concept that would basically annihilate the country's poor.  And yes, other than Chandler and Yarmuth, the rest thought doing that was a great idea, along with my own congressman, Geoff Davis.

Definitely committed to getting rid of him in 2012.  I'm hoping Waltz will run again.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter Part 75

The Obama administration is starting to crack down on the banks, finally.  This time it's Wells Fargo being hit with an $85 million fine for bad subprime loans.

The Fed accused the nation's fourth largest bank by assets of steering potential borrowers who could have qualified for prime rates into more expensive subprime loans.

The authorities also claimed that employees of Wells Fargo Financial, a non-bank subsidiary closed last year, doctored income information on mortgage applications to push through borrowers that would not have qualified for based on income.

The fine is the largest the Fed has ever issued under its consumer-protection authority and is the first action taken against a bank for predatory lending practices related to the housing bubble.

The loans in question were made between 2004 and 2008 and are estimated to involve up to 10,000 borrowers. 

Finally, banks are getting dinged for their role in Foreclosuregate, robo-signing of mass numbers of bad subprime loans,  and conning customers into bad loans they couldn't afford.  It's a small fine considering the trillions this activity cost our economy, but it's more than I expected any Republican administration to lay into the banks.

Sadly, there's still a long, long way to go before any semblance of justice is achieved.  But it's a start.  Meanwhile on Wall Street itself, NYPD cops have busted a major prostitution ring, its clients all Wall Street players.

The ring pulled in more than $7 million over three years, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said at a news conference.

"The business of high-end prostitution is enormously profitable," Hynes said.

The prostitution service, named High Class NY, was run 24 hours a day out of an office in Brooklyn and charged from $400 to $3,600 an hour for its services, according to the 144-count indictment. It also provided customers with cocaine and other narcotics, the indictment said.

Hynes said clients often spent in excess of $10,000 in a single night.

They were "all high-end customers coming from the financial markets. People with nothing but money," he said.

Police said the business was extremely sophisticated, running several escort websites and using dummy corporations with misleading names and codes during business-related phone calls.

High Class NY even had a law firm draw up employment contracts for its prostitutes, who described themselves as models and fraudulently agreed to refrain from sexual contact with clients, police said.

"They were on the high-end of sophistication," said Vice Detective Joe Panico.

Remind me to buy Det. Panico a round if I'm ever out that way.   And remember, this ring was going on over the last three years...during and after the big financial meltdown.  Wall Street certainly wasn't hurting, and the big boys rebounded fast.  Hopefully these High Class NY folks will name names, and we can see some of the big boys do the perp walk into Riker's Island.

Not bad work, folks.


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