Monday, June 1, 2009

Stopped Clock Is Right Alert

And this time it's a big one. Dick Cheney may not be my favorite person, and he has done some pretty execrable things in his political career.

He is however one of the more enlightened Republicans on the subject of gay marriage.
Speaking at the National Press Club for the Gerald R. Ford Foundation journalism awards, Cheney was asked about recent rulings and legislative action in Iowa and elsewhere that allowed for gay couples to legally wed.

"I think that freedom means freedom for everyone," replied the former V.P. "As many of you know, one of my daughters is gay and it is something we have lived with for a long time in our family. I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish. Any kind of arrangement they wish. The question of whether or not there ought to be a federal statute to protect this, I don't support. I do believe that the historically the way marriage has been regulated is at the state level. It has always been a state issue and I think that is the way it ought to be handled, on a state-by-state basis. ... But I don't have any problem with that. People ought to get a shot at that."

Which is funny, because I honestly want to see which Republican is going to attack Cheney's position on gay marriage first.

It doesn't begin to make up for the horrific things Cheney has done. But even he is human, and has a lesbian daughter who he cares about enough to think she should be able to get married.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

John Cole asks:
What major manufacturing do we have left in the United States?
We don't. The US has reached a critical collapse in manufacturing base. Those jobs aren't coming back, no matter what Obama or anyone does. They will be replaced by low-paying service jobs or temp jobs with little or no benefits.

No modern economy can survive without manufacturing, and in the last 30 years we've killed it.

Ground Control To Helicopter Ben

Dean Baker: We don't need a new systemic risk regulatory agency. We already have one, the Fed. The guy in charge of it? Fire his ass.
Firing Bernanke is not just a question of justice, although the millions of workers who have lost their jobs because of his mistake may see it that way. It is also an essential step in creating regulators who are actually held accountable for the quality of their work and therefore have a reason for taking their job responsibilities seriously.

As things work now, there is no risk for simply going with the flow. If you just repeat what everyone else is saying, and it turns out to be wrong, the Washington elite steps in for you with a supportive chorus of "who could have known?"

However, if a regulator were to step out line - imagine someone at another regulatory agency began to openly challenge Alan Greenspan and warn about the enormous danger created by an $8 trillion housing bubble - then they would be risking their future career path and their current job. It is an extremely rare public servant who will put their career path in jeopardy to promote the public good.

This is why none of the other regulators could see an $8 trillion housing bubble. They would have borne enormous career risk to make an issue out of the bubble after Alan Greenspan and Co. at the Fed had said that everything was fine.

It is not the responsibilities of the regulatory agencies that needs to be changed, but the incentives for the regulators. If the regulators face no sanction for just going along - even when they thereby get it horribly wrong - then they will always just go along.

In short, if we want regulators that actually police against systemic risk rather than ignore it, then we have to fire the regulators who failed horribly in the past. If we are serious about getting a real systemic risk regulator then Ben Bernanke must go.
Works for me. As long as we're holding people accountable, how about the guy that failed to see an $8 trillion problem and in fact made it much, much worse?

Why Did GM Go Bankrupt?

So why is GM filing for bankruptcy today?

Here endeth the lesson. Note that is for domestic brands, not imports. Less than 20% of American cars are GM. The company's market share including imports is much, much smaller.

GM also announced up to 20,000 job cuts today as it's closing 14 facilities.

A Law Enforcement Issue

Ann Freidman has a very informative article on what Congress's reponse to the George Tiller murder should be. Long story short, there are federal laws on the books protecting abortion clinics and their employees from harassment -- but surprise! -- during the Bush Administration, these laws and the task force Janet Reno created to enforce them went MIA.

From the immediate post-Roe years to the mid-1990s, clinic violence and blockades were a constant threat. After Dr. David Gunn was assassinated in 1993, Congress passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which specifically banned such acts as blocking clinic doors, trespassing, making violent threats, arson, vandalism, stalking clinic employees, and other forms of violence. Many of these acts were illegal already, but the law made clear that targeting a clinic with these crimes merited a federal response.

While FACE improved the situation (the number of clinics experiencing severe violence dropped from 52 percent in 1994 to 20 percent in 2000), it didn't succeed in ending the violence. Attacks against women's health clinics -- both those that provide abortions and those that do not -- continued throughout the Bush years. According to the National Abortion Federation, since 2000 abortion providers have reported 14 arsons, 78 death threats, 66 incidents of assault and battery, 117 anthrax threats, 128 bomb threats, 109 incidents of stalking, 541 acts of vandalism, one bombing, and one attempted murder.

Add one murder to that list.

The last time an abortion provider was murdered, when Dr. Barnett Slepian was killed in 1998, it was a wake-up call to the fact that passing the FACE Act wasn't enough. Attorney General Janet Reno established the National Task Force on Violence against Health Care Providers, which committed the Department of Justice to enforcing FACE, coordinating information on national anti-abortion extremist groups, funding clinic safety efforts, and training local law enforcement. The following year, the White House budget requested $4.5 million to beef up security at abortion clinics. But other than finally bringing James Kopp, Slepian's killer, to justice in 2003, the task force was largely dormant for eight years under the Bush administration.

Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement responding to Tiller's murder, promising that "Federal law enforcement is coordinating with local law enforcement officials in Kansas on the investigation of this crime, and I have directed the United States Marshals Service to offer protection to other appropriate people and facilities around the nation." He also pledged to take steps to prevent related acts of violence. Obama expressed that he was "shocked and outraged" by the killing. Neither mentioned the FACE Act or reviving the task force.

Make no mistake: the targeting of abortion clinic employees with intent to bring about political change is the very definition of terrorism. The difference between murdering abortion providers to in effect eliminate abortion and terrify clinic employees and their families and those who murder Iraqi or Afghan officials in order to in effect eliminate democracy is only a matter of degree and location. It's still terrorism. It's going on in America right now.

This was a terror attack on American soil, folks. We already have laws on the books...let's enforce them.

[UPDATE] As Atrios points out, somebody in the Obama administration got the message loud and clear.

Knocking Heads On The Norks

Ahh, good to see our neocon buddies are more than willing to have us get into our third fourth ahh screw it next war, this time with North Korea.
In light of North Korea's recent nuclear and missile tests, international leaders are pondering how best to proceed, weighing a series of unsatisfying options. On Fox News yesterday, Bill Kristol presented the same idea he always presents when faced with a national security challenge.

Kristol explained, "I don't rule out the possibility of us deciding -- and I think it might be wise for us to decide -- to knock out a few. They're apparently rolling a long-term missile to a base to test another one, long-range missile to test another one. You know, it might be worth doing some targeted air strikes to show the North Koreans, instead of always talking about, 'Gee, there could be consequences,' to show that they can't simply keep going down this path."

Brit Hume, on the same program, endorsed Kristol's proposal, but said he "can't imagine" the Obama administration actually launching a military strike on North Korea. (They follow Newt Gingrich, who began urging strikes in April, calling on the administration to use "lasers" to attack North Korea.)

Matt Yglesias noted, "Kristol doesn't even attempt to say what he thinks this will accomplish. He just kind of tosses it out there for no reason because arguing that the United States should start wars is what he does."

Yeah, let's just send a few missiles into Pyongyang. I'm sure that'll shut Kim Jong-Il up real fast, before he decides to start lobbing his own nifty missiles at other Asian capitals.

Also, that won't draw China into this mess with their huge army and their own missiles and air force or anything. But the Village Neocons do love their wars so. What's another conflict when you have three on your plate already? Just add to the Pentagon budget.

Reaping Whirlwinds

In probably the least-surprising story of the year, the Kansas City Star is reporting that the suspect held in Sunday's murder of late-term abortion doctor George Tiller at Tiller's church is a man named Scott P. Roeder who -- surprise! -- belonged to a right-wing anti-government militia movement and viewed the murder of abortion providers as justifiable homicide.(emphasis mine)
"I know that he believed in justifiable homicide," said Regina Dinwiddie, a Kansas City anti-abortion activist who made headlines in 1995 when she was ordered by a federal judge to stop using a bullhorn within 500 feet of any abortion clinic. "I know he very strongly believed that abortion was murder and that you ought to defend the little ones, both born and unborn."

Dinwiddie said she met Roeder while picketing outside the Kansas City Planned Parenthood clinic in 1996. Roeder walked into the clinic and asked to see the doctor, Robert Crist, she said.

"Robert Crist came out and he stared at him for approximately 45 seconds," she said. "Then he (Roeder) said, 'I've seen you now.' Then he turned his back and walked away, and they were scared to death. On the way out, he gave me a great big hug and he said, 'I've seen you in the newspaper. I just love what you're doing.'^"

Roeder also was a subscriber to Prayer and Action News, a magazine that advocated the justifiable homicide position, said publisher Dave Leach, an anti-abortion activist from Des Moines, Iowa.

"I met him once, and he wrote to me a few times," Leach said. "I remember that he was sympathetic to our cause, but I don't remember any details."

Leach said he met Roeder in Topeka when he went there to visit Shelley Shannon, who was in prison for the 1993 shooting of Tiller.

"He told me about a lot of conspiracy stuff and showed me how to take the magnetic strip out of a five-dollar bill," Leach said. "He said it was to keep the government from tracking your money."

Roeder, who in the 1990s was a manufacturing assemblyman, also was involved in the "Freemen" movement.

"Freemen" was a term adopted by those who claimed sovereignty from government jurisdiction and operated under their own legal system, which they called common-law courts. Adherents declared themselves exempt from laws, regulations and taxes and often filed liens against judges, prosecutors and others, claiming that money was owed to them as compensation.

In April 1996, Roeder was arrested in Topeka after Shawnee County sheriff's deputies stopped him for not having a proper license plate. In his car, officers said they found ammunition, a blasting cap, a fuse cord, a one-pound can of gunpowder and two 9-volt batteries, with one connected to a switch that could have been used to trigger a bomb.

Jim Jimerson, supervisor of the Kansas City ATF's bomb and arson unit, worked on the case.

"There wasn't enough there to blow up a building,'' Jimerson said at the time, ``but it could make several powerful pipe bombs...There was definitely enough there to kill somebody.''

Well apparently he's being held because he's suspected of doing just that. All the warning signs were there, this guy was a hard core domestic terrorist with a record of anti-government activity, exactly the kind of right-wing nutjob Bush's Homeland Security department issued a report about.

But the Wingers said it was another sign of fascism that the Obama administration dare to worry about the "politically motivated exaggeration" of the threat of right-wing domestic terrorists. These are the same folks who say if waterboarding saves a single American life, then we're bound to torture people for information.

So how many late-term abortion providers have to die before the Right realizes the screaming hatred they direct at the groups they don't agree with has consequences? After all, there's only two left in the country now.


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