Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Questions For Larry North

Another day, another arrest of an anti-government individual with an axe to grind, only this one seems far more serious.  He was not just making threats, but carrying them out.
An East Texas man who federal prosecutors allege left explosive devices including pipe bombs in multiple area mail boxes, was motivated in part by anger at the government, Brit Featherston, first assistant U. S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas tells TPMmuckraker in a phone interview.

"It does appear that there were two motives: one, that he was disenchanted with the federal government, and, two, he was disenchanted with an individual who he perceived that had wronged him," says Featherston of 52-year-old Larry North, who was arrested today.

North was indicted Wednesday on a charge of illegally possessing a pipe bomb. (Read the indictment here.) Authorities had identified North as a person of interest in connection with a string of incidents in which explosive devices were placed in mailboxes in East Texas.

They say that he was witnessed putting a pipe bomb in a collection box in Tyler Wednesday. Prosecutors say North distributed 36 devices in 23 locations, but he has not been charged beyond the possession count.

No injuries have been reported from the string of incidents. Prosecutors released this timeline of the alleged incidents.
And we should all be thankful that none of these devices detonated and injured or even killed anyone...and that includes the suspect himself.   But three dozen pipe bombs?  That's insane.  That's repeated acts of terrorism right there.  When I say America has a domestic terrorism problem that is far worse than anything coming at us overseas, this is what I mean.

But here is the real kicker.
Video of North's arrest by the Tyler Morning Telegraph show police easing a wheelchair-bound man into a van.
Now, I don't know Larry North's story.  I hope that I learn it, because if I could, I'd like to ask him some questions, mainly if a man who despised the federal government enough to put three dozen potentially dangerous explosive devices in mailboxes recieved any government assistance for whatever medical condition that was responsible for Larry North being in that wheelchair in the first place.  I'm making some assumptions here, but that's why I would like answers to these questions in order to clarify.

Did he receive any Social Security disability benefits from the government he hated so much?  How about Medicaid?  How about anything provided him at his workplace, should he have instead been employed, as a result of the Americans With Disabilities Act?  Did his home have a wheelchair ramp?  Did he have a van with a lift?  What about the wheelchair itself?

Did Larry North, if he allegedly hated the government so much that he was motivated to physically harm government employees like mail carriers and emergency first responders, in fact receive a dime of federal government money for his physical condition through taxpayer-funded programs?

Because if he did, I'm thinking he needs to pay that back if he's found guilty of this.  If he's really, really honestly guilty of this, and did it in part because he hated the federal government, and he got taxpayer dollars to assist him because of his medical condition, there's a real issue here.

"Get your government hands out of my Medicare" is no longer a facepalm-inducing statement.  It's become, possibly in this case here, an episode of such staggering self-denial that it needs to be addressed.  As I said earlier, I'm a big believer in government providing assistance to those who are truly in need.  But there are those out there who want to deny that assistance to anyone...except themselves.

I hope I'm wrong about Larry North.  Again, this is all very preliminary.  We do not have the full story.  But that's the first question I'm asking:  why is a wheelchair-bound man raging against the government in such a sustained pattern of inchoate rage?  Did the government perhaps deny him the resources he so badly needed?  Did he refuse to accept any assistance at all?  Or did he take government money and then try to injure government workers?

There's a pretty deep story here, and I'd like to know more.

The Republican Mask Slips Once Again

And as it slips, Republicans accidentally tell the truth. Today's contestant, Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King on HCR:
I didn't want to confuse the message on repeal by adding the word "replace" because there's a question mark that hangs on "replace," which is, "What would you replace it with?" and then the discussion gets drug down [sic] into something that all Republicans are not going to agree on.
That's because a significant number of Republicans want to replace "Obamacare" with "the same damn status quo we had before Obamacare" and admitting that little gem robs the Republicans of their main talking point this fall.  They have to replace it with something better, because the onus is on them to do so, especially since the plan that exists now incorporates a great many of their initial ideas:  a mandate to expand the pool of insured to spread risk, health insurance exchanges, and high-risk pools to help defray costs.

The bigger admission of course is that the GOP simply doesn't have a plan to replace HCR with, because they never bothered to make one.  They never bothered to make one when they were in power, and they don't have one now.  They will not have one in the future, because they never really wanted a plan to "reform" health care.  They're happy with the system the way it was and so were the insurance companies that back the GOP.

There is no "replace" in "repeal and replace".  There never will be.  Might want to keep that in mind when voting this fall.

Your Apology Is Not Accepted

Former Citigroup execs went before Congress today to apologize.
Charles O. Prince III, Citigroup’s former chairman and chief executive, apologized for the billions of dollars of losses that caused the company he helped build to nearly collapse. The bank required three government rescues and some $45 billion in taxpayer aid.

“I’m sorry the financial crisis has had such a devastating impact for our country,” Mr. Prince told the commission. “I’m sorry about the millions of people, average Americans, who lost their homes. And I’m sorry that our management team, starting with me, like so many others could not see the unprecedented market collapse that lay before us.”

Robert E. Rubin, an influential Citigroup board member and adviser, also showed some contritionbut stopped short of accepting personal responsibility for the bank’s woes.

“We all bear responsibility for not recognizing this, and I deeply regret that,” Mr. Rubin said. 
Apology not accepted, gentlemen.  Return our trillions, give the thousands of American families who have lost their homes, give us our 8 million lost jobs back, and make sure this never happens again.

That's for starters.  You're sorryScrew you.  You and people like you ruined countless American lives, homes, jobs, families, communities and companies through your ignorance and greed.  How many millions were in your golden parachute there, boys?

You couldn't see the collapse coming because you were blinded by sheer greed.

We want our country back, thanks.  Pay up.

That Pesky Enthusiasm Gap Again

Greg Sargent notes Gallup's latest poll numbers showing Democrats don't even like Congress, and don't particularly want to see them re-elected.
Forty-six percent of Dems say most members of Congress deserve to be reelected, and a surprisingly high 41% say they don’t. The number is much better for Dems when they’re asked if their own member deserves to be reelected (58% of Dems say yes). But this makes the overall point clearer: While Dems like their own representatives, they’re strikingly disillusioned with the Dem-controlled Congress’ overall performance.
That's not good, folks.  I would have liked very much to see a follow up question to those Dems who said that most members of Congress do not deserve re-election, and that is "Which party would you like to see in control of Congress after the election?"  If the answer among Dems was "the Democrats" then the real problem is that many Democrats don't particularly think Congress is progressive enough, which is noteable.

If the answer among Democrats is "the Republicans" then yes, the Dems are really and truly screwed in 2010.

More data is needed.  The first pass however is not looking very good for the Dems this fall at all.  They will lose seats, the question is how many?  Republicans are going to vote against Democrats no matter what the Democrats do.  Tacking to the right will be a mistake.  At best, it will cost Democrats the same number of votes among independents gained that they will lose from demotivated Dems, and it will be a wash compared to the much larger and motivated Republican base.

The only way to limit the damage is to prove that the Democratic agenda works, and that means motivating the base to turn out by proving the Dems in Congress did something worthwhile.

I've Got A Golden Twinkle In My Eye

The only proper response to this: of course, this.

By all means, let's see a Palin/Bachmann 2012 ticket.  I cannot think of a better way to assure four more years of President Obama.

Not A Black And White Issue

Dave Weigel discusses Krissah Thompson's piece on black conservatives in the Tea Party movement.
Thompson finds a mixture of black conservatives who are worried about [racism] and those who are angrier at the media for pretending there's any racism in the movement at all. The ones who are angry at the media have, up to now, gotten the most attention. Black tea party speakers such as Angela McGlowan and Lloyd Marcus spent a good amount of their time and energy defending tea parties from charges of racism, painting progressives and Democrats as the real racists for maintaining the welfare state.

I'm always surprised when I hear tea partyers argue that the presence of black speakers onstage -- welcomed by thunderous applause -- proves that the movement is diverse. Obviously, it's overwhelmingly white. But for a very long time, conservatives tried to appeal to black voters on social issues, wedge issues like school choice, and patronizing framing of economic issues that accused Democrats of putting blacks on a "plantation." The straight-up libertarian rhetoric of the tea parties is generally giving black conservatives more to work with, more of a level playing field. But that rhetoric has always been tied in a backlash against federal spending on non-whites and federal intervention to integrate schools and industries. Some of the people that it attracts will be anathemas to black conservatives. And it's a little silly to pretend, as CNN pretended, there's no tension here.
On one hand, as I've been talking about over the last couple of days, there are many black conservatives who feel that government assistance enslaves African-Americans and all Americans for that matter who come to depend on it.  The counter-argument is that government has the duty to help the least fortunate among us and act as a safety net, and that net is needed even more in tough economic times like these.

The reality is that you will see those people who do not have the best interests of minorities in mind attracted to the notion of having the government rid itself of social programs that mostly benefit minorities.  Pretending otherwise is disingenuous at best.

There is a principled opposition to social programs, but it's not one I personally support.  I'm of the mind that government can and should help people who need it.  We provide Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security for people, as well as a host of other services, paid for by tax dollars.  Saying that taxes are unfair and that these services should end will not magically solve the social issues we have as a country, it's simply neglecting them and making a bad problem worse.  It's irresponsibility bordering on outright villainy.

It doesn't, however, mean all conservatives are racists any more than all liberals are for championing these services.  It does mean that there are racists in the movement.  Identifying them and getting rid of them, conservatives, is the answer if you want your principled argument to be heard over the noise.  In fact, if there's anyone that should be the most keen on getting rid of the racists that are in the movement, it would be black conservatives.

Pretending that racism doesn't exist in America in 2010 is pointless.

Another Day, Another Arrest

You had to have known this was coming.
The AP is reporting that the FBI has arrested a California man for making threatening phone calls to Nancy Pelosi over the health care bill.

In an interview with TPM, FBI spokeswoman Patty Hanson confirmed that a man, Gregory Guisti, 48, would be charged in federal court in San Francisco Thursday at 9:30 PT. Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman will preside over the hearing, during which Guisti will be formally charged.

The AP has more details:
Several federal officials say the man made dozens of calls to Pelosi's homes in California and Washington, as well as to her husband's business office, reciting her home address and saying if she wanted to see it again, she would not support the health care overhaul bill that was recently enacted.
"The FBI takes threats against elected officials very seriously," Hanson said.

The charges against Guisti, who was arrested today, will be unsealed Thursday.
As much as Nancy Pelosi was demonized by certain folks on the right, as much as pictures of Pelosi carrying that ceremonial gavel enraged them,this was going to be the natural, expected result.  This is why the preemptive effort was made earlier this week to justify this by saying Pelosi antagonized these nutjobs.  Beck and  Limbaugh especially declared that Pelosi was simply egging on "America" to react.

Well, one American citizen certainly reacted.  If I were prosecuting Guisti, I'd ask if he listened to Beck or Limbaugh.  Hell, if I were Guisti's defense lawyer I'd call Beck and Limbaugh to the stand and blame themSen. Patty Murray, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who's next?

If It's Thursday...

New jobless claims up 18k to 460k, continuing claims down 131k to 4.55 million.  That of course doesn't account for the 200,000 or so people who lost their benefits because the Senate went on recess for Easter.  We seem to have hit a new equilibrium that isn't as disastrous as the last equilibrium level was, but it's not doing anything for the 8 million plus jobs we have to regain to get back to late 2007 levels either.

It took us two years just to stop the bleeding, frankly.  Getting those jobs back?  Going to take a lot longer.

The Dumbest Game Ever Played

With a hattip to mistermix at Balloon Juice, I have to agree that Tom Boswell's WaPo column this morning proclaiming that even if Tiger actually wins the Masters this weekend, he just doesn't deserve to win the Masters this weekend, is so far out into Stupidville it hurts.
If Tiger Woods wins the Masters on Sunday after all the damage he's done to golf, I plan to rob a bank on Monday; maybe then I'll win a Pulitzer Prize.

Sin big and win big. Why don't most of us ever think of that strategy? This week, within a minute, Woods talked about the "horrible" things he's done and how he thinks he can win the Masters. Has the thought crossed his mind that he doesn't deserve to win? 
I dunno Tommy, has the thought crossed YOUR mind that since golf is an individual sport of skill where the score is the judge, that if Tiger plays the best at this tournament and posts the lowest score, winning the tournament, that it has nothing to do with his personal life?  "After all the damage Woods has done to golf"?  Really?

What about all the damage this idiocy is doing to journalism with this insipid crap?  Tiger doesn't deserve to win the Masters because he cheated on his wife?  I'm certainly not condoning his cheating, but it has nothing to do with his golf game.  He's a professional golfer.  He goes to golf tournaments to play and win.  He probably won't win this weekend.  Odds are pretty good the rusty Woods will not win, in fact.  But if he does, and he wins fairly as an athlete in competition with other athletes, then he wins.
We know that bad things happen to good people. We cope with it. But when great things happen to people who have acted badly, especially if the bonanza comes fast and arrives ringed with robes of glory, don't we have to draw the line? I'm forgiving, but my brain hasn't turned into pimento cheese. If Woods has a tap-in to win the Masters, I hope his conscience helps him yip it and lip it. Win any other week. But not here. Not now. 
Bullshit.  If Tiger's playing to lose, he should quit the game and not come back until he's ready to win.  He's ready to win.  Let him play, and play to win.

Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding

Things you shouldn't do as a diplomat from Qatar while on a commercial international flight into Denver:  sneak into the bathroom to light a cig and then give the air marshal who asks you to sit down a sarcastic comment about lighting your shoe bomb.  Josh Marshall:
It was initially reported as an attempted shoe bombing. Next the idea was that it was what can only be called a very ill-considered joke on the part of the man taken into custody. Now it seems the guy in question was smoking in the airplane restroom and when the plane crew asked what he was doing he said something that sounded like he was saying he was lighting his shoe on fire. As you might expect, at that point all hell broke loose.

The reports remain contradictory -- whether he making a joke or simply misunderstood. But no one seems to believe he was trying to detonate anything. And they've apparently determined that there were no explosives involved. 
I vaguely recall this was basically the plot for Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay...

But I'm not really laughing right now.   At all.  This guy's a diplomat?  I'm thinking "not for much longer."


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