- - Sunday, December 16, 2012

Even in retirement, Barney Frank plans to antagonize conservatives.

The 72-year-old Massachusetts congressman leaves office in less than three weeks after more than three decades on Capitol Hill. He announced last year that he wouldn’t seek a 17th term.

Mr. Frank’s days on C-SPAN may be almost over. He’s already moved out of his Capitol Hill office and Washington apartment. But he will not go quietly.

He has retained a Hollywood agent to ensure he is a paid fixture on cable television, the lecture circuit, in bookstores — and maybe the occasional sitcom or Broadway show.

Known for his quick wit, Mr. Frank has become a polarizing figure on the national stage. He’s celebrated by liberals and hated by conservatives.

Mr. Frank says the hatred is a source of pride.


Big inauguration tab not passed on to taxpayers

The pomp surrounding the inauguration of the president of the United States carries a hefty price tag, from the glitzy galas to all those inaugural balls.

But taxpayers aren’t on the hook for the fun stuff such as the balls.

A big chunk of the tab for the 57th inauguration next month will be picked up by loyal supporters and other private donors.

In 2009, then President-elect Barack Obama raised $53 million in private money for his first inauguration, but his second inaugural is expected to be smaller.

The other gigantic part of the tab is security, which is picked up by taxpayers.

The government reimbursed the District of Columbia $44 million in 2009. Much of that was inaugural security, but doesn’t include Secret Service or military personnel costs.


Justices closer to hearing issues of gun rights

The next big issue in the national debate over guns — whether people have a right to be armed in public — is moving closer to Supreme Court review.

A provocative ruling by a panel of federal appeals court judges in Chicago struck down the only statewide ban on carrying concealed weapons, in Illinois. The ruling is somewhat at odds with those of other federal courts that have largely upheld state and local gun laws, including restrictions on concealed weapons, since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling declaring that people have a right to have a gun for self-defense.

In 2008, the court voted 5-4 in District of Columbia v. Heller to strike down Washington’s ban on handgun ownership and focused mainly on the right to defend one’s own home. The court left for another day how broadly the Second Amendment may protect gun rights in other settings.

Legal scholars say the competing appellate rulings mean that day is drawing near for a new high court case on gun rights.

The appeals court ruling in Chicago came early in a week that ended with the mass shooting in Connecticut that left 28 people dead, including 20 elementary school children and the presumed gunman.

Laurie Levenson, a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said that along with thorny legal issues, “we have the overlay of these tragedies hitting us on a somewhat regular basis.”


Video: RNC’s finance chairman blasts voters

DETROIT — A video recorded secretly during a tea party meeting this summer in Michigan shows the finance chairman for the Republican National Committee making disparaging comments about voters in Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press reports Sunday that it obtained video of Ron Weiser’s Aug. 9 talk in Milford, northwest of Detroit, from a Democrat shadowing a Republican congressional candidate.

Mr. Weiser said Detroit’s influence on state elections has decreased because the city’s population has dropped and there’s no longer a strong mayoral “machine” that can get some voters “to stop playing pool and drinking beer in the pool hall.” He added: “And it does make a difference.”

Some Detroit leaders and state Democrats say the statements are racist.

Mr. Weiser told the newspaper that his comments were “never” intended to be racist.


Officials seek dismissal of case involving drones

The Obama administration urged a federal court Friday to dismiss a damage lawsuit over the drone-strike killings of three U.S. citizens in Yemen last year, including an al Qaeda cleric.

In a court filing, the Justice Department said the issue is best handled by the government’s political branches, not the judiciary.

U.S.-born al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, an al Qaeda propagandist, were killed in a drone strike in September 2011. Al-Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman, was killed the following month.

The lawsuit filed by relatives of the three charged that senior CIA and military officials violated the Constitution and international law when they authorized strikes by the unmanned drones. It named as defendants Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, then-CIA Director David H. Petraeus and two commanders in the military’s Special Operations forces.

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory damages.

“Courts repeatedly have recognized that the political branches, with few exceptions, have both the responsibility for — and the oversight of — the defense of the nation and the conduct of armed conflict abroad,” the Justice Department said. “The judiciary rarely interferes in such arenas. In this case, plaintiffs ask this court to take the extraordinary step of substituting its own judgment for that of the executive.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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