Y'know, we were all pretty hard on Issa and the House GOP for having one-sided, inherently misogynistic hearings on birth control. We, as a progressive community, kvetched that having a panel of men testify on a women's health issue was a mistake born of political gamesmanship and intolerance.
Boy, is the egg on our face. Recently found footage, seen here, suggests that there WAS an attempt at balance in these hearings--a chance for turnabout, fair play, and justice.
So, our apologies to Issa, Walsh, and all the other gentlemen of the House GOP. You guys clearly know how to treat women. Maybe that will help with this little problem.
Republicans in Congress make fools of themselves yet again on a hearing that they are leading. Can't they take any issue seriously except for trying to undermine the rights of women or cut off funds to Planned Parenthood? When you're a hack, you're a hack.
The head of the House Oversight committee muted one of his invited witnesses on Wednesday for testifying in favor of tougher gun laws.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said an ATF official's promotion of gun reform fell "outside the scope" of the hearing and "would not be considered valid testimony."
Appearing before the panel, Peter Forcelli, a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), told lawmakers that straw purchasers – those who buy guns on behalf of others – should be hit with stiffer penalties to discourage gun trafficking. "I think perhaps a mandatory minimum one-year sentence might deter an individual from buying a gun," Forcelli said.
He was responding to a question from Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who said the current penalties are so weak that they discourage state prosecutors from pursuing straw-purchase cases. Forcelli agreed the current penalties do little to intimidate straw purchasers.
That brief exchange prompted Issa to intervene.
"We're not here to talk about proposed gun legislation," Issa said.
We're repeatedlyasked whether Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) hearings into a controversial ATF operation that allowed certain shipments of firearms to cross the border into Mexico would also address the weak statutory authority that law enforcement are forced to rely on to prevent trafficking to Mexican drug cartels. Today, we learned that law enforcement witnesses called by Issa are eager to discuss the issue, but the Oversight Committee chairman is willing to do everything in his power to stop that problem from coming to the forefront.
During this morning's hearing, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) asked ATF Special Agent Peter Forcelli whether he has heard that district judges criticize the prosecutions of straw purchasers as "paper violations" because they are based on statutes that carry such low penalties. Forcelli replied, "I have, and I agree with it," and called for a one-year mandatory minimum sentence for such offenses to better deter purchasers. Issa immediately broke in to cut off this line of discussion, saying that the witness was testifying outside of the scope of the hearing.
After an extended exchange between Issa and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) in which Cummings said that Issa couldn't tell the witness what to testify to, Maloney explained why this line of questioning is crucial.
ISSA: I'd only caution we're not here to talk about proposed gun legislation. That would be outside the scope of this hearing.
MALONEY: I wasn't discussing that. I was trying to figure out why the Justice Department and the [Inspector General] found that prosecutors often decline these gun cases. I want to know why they're declining them. And to quote from the testimony, one of you said because they believe it is difficult to obtain convictions in these violations.
Aren't Republicans supposed to be tough on crime? We're talking about guns being brought into Satan's backyard; or if you're not talking to Pat Buchanan---Mexico. Here's what this hearing is about:
Issa had called the hearing to examine a controversial ATF operation – dubbed "Fast and Furious" – that put firearms into the hands of known drug smugglers in order to track them to Mexican cartel leaders.
Hundreds of those firearms have gone missing and several have been linked indirectly to the murder of border patrol agent Brian Terry, who was killed in a December firefight in Arizona. Terry's family submitted a statement to Wednesday's oversight hearing, calling for the prosecution of everyone – even government agents – involved in the tragedy.
Why aren't the penalties for bring guns into Mexico relevant to the investigation? I guess his NRA buddies wouldn't approve.
Amanda Terkel catches a historic moment in the fight for gay rights, as all our military leaders admit to Sen. Mark Udall that they can implement the repeal of DADT and make it work:
In an important moment, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) asked each service chief to go down the line and answer whether, if DADT is repealed, their branch can implement it and make it work. Every single chief answered in the affirmative.
After a morning of testimony from top Marine Corps, Army and Air Force officers who said Congress should not scrap the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the near-term, John McCain says he might block the bill.
After hearing testimony from the service chiefs, who said repealing the ban now would add more stress to troops during a time of war, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) suggested he could move to prevent floor debate on the 2011 defense authorization bill, which contains the repeal provision.
McCain expressed confidence that the rest of the Republican conference would join him because repealing the ban is not a "compelling" issue at a time when the military is fighting two wars and the U.S. economy is "in the tank." All Senate Republicans have pledged to block consideration of any bill that does not address extending current tax rates or funding the federal government.
Keeping America fastened to pre-FDR policies and 1950s morality seems to be the driving force of the religious right and Tea Party advocates. Another sadly memorable day for the blockers of progress, but the fight continues on.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying that the American people are demanding "discipline and accountability" following the multibillion-dollar federal bailouts, vowed today to initiate a legislative commission with broad oversight to investigate the causes of Wall Street irregularities and their full costs to taxpayers.
Pelosi, speaking to the Commonwealth Club of California, said she wants the panel to be modeled after the Pecora Commission, a bipartisan investigative body established by the U.S. Senate in 1932 to examine the causes and abuses of the Wall Street crash of 1929 and to prevent a repeat.
"They investigated what happened in the markets," including conflicts of interests and irregularities that set off such devastating effects on the U.S. economy, she said. When the commission issued its findings during the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "they had tangible recommendations," she said, which helped generate widespread public support for major banking system reforms and new securities laws.
We applaud House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to create a special commission to investigate the roots of the financial collapse similar to the Pecora Commission that exposed the crimes and collusion's of Wall Street in the 1930s.
The devil, of course, is in the details – and the people. The commission needs subpoena power. It needs to be able to expose what appears to be widespread fraudulent and illegal practices – that can only be done with the power to demand production of documents and witnesses. It needs a large, aggressive and competent staff able to sort through volumes of material. It needs time to lay out the case to the public. And it needs courageous commissioners and a fearless prosecutor, a modern day Pecora, committed to unearthing the truth.
I was watching FOX News and every panelist was so terrified by the fact that there could be any kind of hearings about any of the garbage that happened these last eight years. They were calling in madness, but not what the Bush administration did of course. That's why the country is in this frakkin' shape. We need to know why and we need people held accountable.
Thanks again to all of you who signed petitions and made phone calls and helped push the resolution to open a Congressional inquiry into Torture Judge Jay Bybee, which the California Democratic Party adopted at its convention yesterday. I have been told by the authors of the resolution that the pressure from the outside really aided their efforts.
The passage of the resolution was a beginning, not an ending. I view the impeachment of Jay Bybee from the 9th Circuit Court as a moral and legal imperative, but also an entryway into the larger fight for justice and accountability for those who authorized and directed torture in our name.
UPDATE: Ryan Grim of The Huffington Post has the full story of the passage of the resolution at the convention.
So what do we do next? Keep the heat on.
So what do we do now? Members of the California Democratic Party include 34 members of Congress, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and six men and women who sit on the House Judiciary Committee, where an impeachment inquiry would be remanded. They need to hear that their party just recommended that they open an immediate Congressional inquiry into Judge Bybee, with all appropriate remedies and punishments available. In fact, the entire House Judiciary Committee needs to hear this.
You can contact all the members through d-days site, the tools were provided for by Jane, and you can call you can call your members of Congress and tell them that they must support an immediate inquiry into the actions of Jay Bybee, federal judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Congressional switchboard at 1-866-220-0044 can connect you to your member of Congress as well.
The House has started their AIG hearing this morning, but we are waiting for the Big Kahuna, head of AIG, Edward Liddy. He's a typical right wing disaster capitalist, who was in business with Rumsfeld in the 80's, destroyed companies, maxed out his campaign contributions to McCain---so in essence---he's the perfect Bush pick.
I can't understand why a big Republican donor-- obviously a crook-- like Liddy was put in charge of a company the government basically owns. And it isn't just because he was a maxed-out McCain donor, as well as a contributor to the RNC, that should disqualify him from employment.
He was the chairman of Allstate when they were cheating Hurricane Katrina victims out of their insurance coverage. Before that Liddy was the CFO at a pharmaceutical company where Don Rumsfeld was the CEO.
Together they axed most of the employees in order to make it an attractive property for Monsanto, which bought it in 1985 making Rumsfeld and Liddy immensely wealthy (although neither had contributed anything to the value of the company aside from firing 60% of the employees who had built it up.) See Liddy's swell digs on the right. I wonder who vetted Liddy for Bush when he wound up-- including himself, no doubt, among the losers he terms "the best and the brightest"-- as head of AIG in June, 2008.
These idiots at AIG are so insulated in their thinking that they actually thought America would just sit back and not take notice of what they are doing with our money? The public outrage is palpable and Howard Beale's are being born every second. And the Obama administration better keep on top of this too. Very bad communication and political skills have been practiced by the President Obama's economic team on this one and that was stunning to me...
Rep. Maxine Waters asks CEO's about their practice of raising credit card limits at the Bank CEO hearing today. How many of us have had a sudden jump in our interest rates without ever even knowing it.Which of course never allows people to pay off the debt. Waters is making a key point here.
Waters: Since you received TARP money, have any of you increased the amount of interest on the credit cards by sending out letters to the consumers, to your credit card holders indicating that this was part of the contract even though this was in small print and you now have the ability to do it, have any of you Did any of you do that?
Did you do this?
CEO: I was volunteering. First of all I feel like corporal of the universe not captain of the universe.
Waters: Did you increase your credit card interest rate?
CEO: In 2008, we increased interest rates on 9 % of our customers.
Waters: Thank you very much, did anyone else increase credit card rates after you received TARP money? Anyone else, if so would you please raise your hand. (most of them did)
You sent out the letters I'm trying to describe? Saying that you have the authority to do that. Did any of you reduce the amount of credit that was available to credit card holders because they shopped at certain stores? Just raise your hand if you did. None of you did. Let the record reflect, none of them raised their hands.
Tom Geoghegan has repeatedly talked about the idea of helping the American consumer with their credit debt by canceling their private consumer debt which would immediately stimulate the economy. He often speaks about how these institutions can raise their rates to as high as they want. The consumer can never catch up and it's a sad practice which will cripple Americans with overriding fear about their state of finances. And as he points out in the linked video, we always come up with the money for war....
The former Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee will support Eric Holder's nomination for attorney general, giving him a major boost toward confirmation.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), who chaired the panel for a decade beginning in 1995, told The Hill that he will support Holder. “I intend to,” said Hatch.
His decision could undermine GOP efforts to stall or block the confirmation. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said Friday that Holder would be the only Cabinet nominee to face a tough confirmation fight.
Hatch said that Republicans should try to strike a cooperative tone with President-elect Obama during the first days of his administration.“I start with the premise that the president deserves the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think politics should be played with the attorney general,” he said.
“I like Barack Obama and want to help him if I can.”
As obstructionists, I understand that the GOP will do everything they can to attack Obama, but I didn't see the political advantage to start the process by targeting Holder's nomination. I guess Orrin Hatch understands that his party should at least appear to want to work with Obama with them being so loathed in America and all, at least for the time being.
Specter’s dismay at Leahy’s prediction is ironic, considering his past statements. On December 24, 2000, two days after then President-elect Bush announced that he had selected John Ashcroft for Attorney General and three weeks before Ashcroft’s confirmation hearings, Specter went on Face the Nation and confidently predicted that Ashcroft would be confirmed by the Senate:
SCHEIFFER: Senator Specter, you’re on the Judiciary Committee. Can John Ashcroft be confirmed?
SPECTER: Yes, I think he can be, and will be. I think the president is entitled to great latitude in the selection of his Cabinet officers. And I know John Ashcroft very well. He’s a first-rate lawyer. He was attorney general of Missouri.
As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:
1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers' expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses. Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise.
2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.
3) Its long-term effects. If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America's dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity. Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.
For these reasons we ask Congress not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come.
As the Wall Street meltdown causes John McCain to throw in the towel and George Bush attempts to pull off the biggest heist in history, it's becoming clear that pushing any bailout legislation too far, too fast, could be a total disaster for our country. The Democrats need to listen to people who really know economics, keep a tight leash on Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, say no to Disaster Capitalism and take the time to get this right the first time.
The list of economists who signed the letter is below the fold.