Monday, January 31, 2011

garmonbozia is on indefinite hiatus

I unfortunately have too much on my plate right to continue with posts for the time being.  This will hopefully change soon, but for the time being... farewell!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

California man arrested in Michigan for threatening to attack mosque

Via digby at Hullabaloo, police in Dearborn, Michigan have arrested a man for threatening to attack a mosque.
Roger Stockham, a 63-year-old Army veteran from California who was reportedly angry at the U.S. government, was arrested by police in Michigan and charged with allegedly threatening to blow up a Mosque in Dearborn.
Dearborn police allegedly found Stockham inside his vehicle outside the Islamic Center of America with a load of M-80s in his trunk and other explosives, the Detroit News reported.
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Counsel on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), told the newspaper that police told him the suspect was drinking in a Detroit bar on Monday and threatened to do harm to a mosque in Dearborn. An employee at the bar followed the man outside and wrote down his license plate, which he reported to police, Walid told the newspaper.
One thing I wonder is why exactly this guy threatening to attack a mosque if he was angry with the US government?  Is he mad that the government hasn't expelled all Muslims from the US by now?  Does he think that President Obama is a secret Muslim?  What does the one have to do with the other?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Maggie Gallagher links abortion with anal sex

Via Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon, columnist (and co-founder of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage) Maggie Gallagher attempts to draw a link between legalized abortion and anal sex.
Overall 16 percent of young adult women say they’ve been diagnosed with depression. Among those who have 10 or more lifetime partners, 32 percent say they’ve been diagnosed with depression. Among those who’ve had 10 or more partners in the past year, almost half say they’ve been diagnosed with depression. 

If less-committed sex makes women feel bad, why do they do it?
Because even according to the statistics she cites, most of them don't feel bad about it.  She assumes that the casual sex is what causes the depression, but the reverse seems at least as likely.  People often seek external validation through sex.
Well, Regnerus and Uecker provocatively ask, why do a growing number of young women engage in anal sex? By age 23, 33 percent of never-married young women in the Add Health survey say they’ve had anal sex (white women are the most likely). When asked if they enjoy it “very much,” just 15 percent of women who’ve tried it say yes. So why do women do it?
Because 15 percent of them enjoy it "very much" and I imagine that the percentage of women who enjoy it "somewhat" is probably pretty high considering the fact that the number isn't provided.   Is there any evidence that a high percentage of the women who tried it and didn't like it continue to engage in it?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ayn Rand, parasite?

Via E.D. Kain at Balloon Juice, far-right heroine Ayn Rand is claimed to have collected Social Security and Medicare payments.
An interview with Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand's law firm of Ernst, Cane, Gitlin and Winick verified that on Miss Rand's behalf she secured Rand's Social Security and Medicare payments which Ayn received under the name of Ann O'Connor (husband Frank O'Connor).
As Pryor said, "Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out" without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn "despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently... She didn't feel that an individual should take help."
But alas she did and said it was wrong for everyone else to do so.
The only Ayn Rand I ever read was Anthem in the ninth grade, and even back then, I thought it was heavy-handed, reactionary crap.  If this is story is true, I don't begrudge Rand from collecting these payments, but I do begrudge her ranting against everybody else who collected them as well.  I wonder how Rand felt to be numbered among the "parasites" she built her career denouncing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Seventh circuit upholds prison ban on Dungeons & Dragons

Via Thoreau at Unqualified Offerings, the United States Seventh Circuit court of appeals has upheld a prison ban on Dungeons & Dragons.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit weighed in Wednesday on a matter of grievous import to the nation's prisons: Dungeons & Dragons. And the Court's ruling was bad news for naughty nerds nationwide, concluding that the innocent-seeming board game was inviting trouble.

The case brought before the Appeals Court argued that D&D inhibited prison security, because "cooperative games can mimic the organization of gangs and lead to the actual development thereof." And therefore Kevin T. Singer, a long-time dungeon-explorer sentenced to life in prison in 2002 for bludgeoning and stabbing his sister’s boyfriend, was denied access to his magical staffs and pieces of gold.

According to the published ruling, Captain Bruce Muraski, who serves as disruptive group coordinator for the Waupun Correctional Institute in Wisconsin, elaborated that "during D&D games, one player is denoted the 'Dungeon Master.' The Dungeon Master is tasked with giving directions to other players, which Muraski testified mimics the organization of a gang."
I wonder what form the next ridiculous D&D scare will take.  I'm not sure which idea is more stupid: that D&D leads to devil worship or that it leads to gangs.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Florida Attorney General Bondi outlaws drug through emergency order

Via Atrios at Eschaton, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has issued an emergency order.
Hoping to fend off a rash of overdoses in Florida during the upcoming spring break, Attorney General Pam Bondi has outlawed a synthetic drug cocktail masquerading as "bath salts" that has apparently give users super-human strength and has similar effects to LSD, heroin and cocaine.
Bondi issued an emergency order Wednesday banning the drug -- Methylenedioxypyrovalerone or MDPV -- after Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen brought the dangerous concoction to her attention Friday.
Effects similar to LSD, heroin, cocaine, and super-human strength?  Gee, why shouldn't I believe that?  That doesn't sound like bullshit at all!  What penalty will be faced by those who violate this decree?
Bondi's new ban, which took effect immediately, makes possession or distribution of the MPDV bath salts a schedule 1 felony, punishable by one to three years in prison.
"To put it in perspective, that's right up there with cocaine and heroin," Bondi said.
So an attorney general can just make laws by fiat?  What about the state legislature?
Bondi's emergency order will last 90 days, giving lawmakers time to criminalize the bath salts during the legislative session that begins March 8.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, standing beside Bondi at the press conference late Wednesday afternoon, said that lawmakers would "act quickly" to permanently ban the substance.
I'm sure they will act quickly, but what if they didn't?  If the state legislature failed to enact a ban, what would become of those who are charged in the interim?  Are they still guilty of a felony?

An attorney general can do this?  Seriously?  Without the consent of the governor?  (I'm sure the governor could override it, but the idea that the attorney general can single-handedly start it off seems wrong.)

What constitutes an "emergency" for these purposes in the first place?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Filibuster reform looks unlikely

Via mistermix at Balloon Juice, it looks like filibuster reform is not going to happen any time soon.
Amid a long-running dispute over decades-old filibuster rules, Senate leaders have used a parliamentary trick to leave the chamber in a state of suspended animation - in reality adjourned since Jan. 5 but officially considered in a long recess that's part of the same individual legislative day.
This nearly three-week break has taken place in large part so leadership could hold private negotiations to consider how to deal with a group of Democrats agitating to shake up the foundation of the world's most deliberative body, right down to challenging the filibuster.
To the dismay of a younger crop of Democrats and some outside liberal activists, there is no chance that rules surrounding the filibuster will be challenged, senior aides on both sides of the aisle say, because party leaders want to protect the right of the Senate's minority party to sometimes force a supermajority of 60 votes to approve legislation.
I'm pretty sure that nobody was proposing to get rid of the filibuster altogether, so that last sentence is a bit misleading.  The idea of reform was to make the minority actually have to put up some effort to block legislation as opposed to abusing it to block any and every bill without even having to hold the floor.

Some other rule changes look like they might happen (most notably changing how secret holds are done if not getting rid of them altogether), but the lack of filibuster reform is disappointing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

No evidence connecting Manning to WikiLeaks

Investigators are unable to directly connect PFC Bradley Manning to WikiLeaks or Julian Assange.
U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between a jailed army private suspected with leaking secret documents and Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.
This is welcome news.  Anything that stymies the prosecution of WikiLeaks in these matters is a good thing in my book.  It's just a shame that Manning is still screwed.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Public officials apparently enjoy greater privacy rights than private citizens

Via Radley Balko at The Agitator, more cases of people being charged for recording their interactions with police.  Here's the thing that stuck out for me:
Although law-enforcement officials can legally record civilians in private or public, audio-recording a law-enforcement officer, state’s attorney, assistant state’s attorney, attorney general, assistant attorney general or judge in the performance of his or her duties is a Class 1 felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The A.C.L.U. filed its lawsuit after several people throughout Illinois were charged in recent years with eavesdropping for making audio recordings of public conversations with the police. The A.C.L.U. argued that the act violates the First Amendment and hinders citizens from monitoring the public behavior of police officers and other officials.
So public officials conducting public business have a greater expectation of privacy than private citizens?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Police officers suing Taser International

Via digby at Hullabaloo (who has written many great posts on Tasers), police officers have been suing Taser International for injuries sustained during police training.
A Dallas police officer has filed the latest in a string of lawsuits around the country that claim jolts of electricity received during Taser training caused fractured backs and other severe injuries.
The makers of the popular stun gun, however, say that their products are safe and credit them with saving lives by providing officers with a nonlethal option to guns when confronting unruly criminals.
Dallas police Officer Andrew Butler’s lawsuit, filed Jan. 6 against Taser International, is thought to be the first of its kind in Texas. He alleges Taser did not fully disclose the risks associated with being shot with the device in the academy to his police trainers. The city of Dallas is not a defendant.
“I love my department. I love being a cop. But I dodged a bullet,” said Butler, who was able to return to patrol after he had surgery to replace a fractured vertebra. “I can’t live with having knowledge that this can harm an officer and not do something.”
The dangers of Tasers have been known for years. In Dallas, the deaths of at least two drug-addled suspects who were stunned during arrests have been connected in part to shocks from the devices.
But in recent years, police officers around the country have begun filing lawsuits claiming they were hurt when taking a Taser shot. The stun guns are regularly used on recruits in training at many police academies.
“That has been the secret injury that Taser doesn’t like to talk about,” said Robert Haslam, a Fort Worth attorney who is chairman of the American Association for Justice’s Taser Litigation Group.
Several dozen lawsuits by police officers have been filed, but only one has gone to trial. Taser prevailed in that 2005 Arizona case because the officer had a pre-existing back condition, said John Dillingham, the Phoenix attorney who represented the injured former Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy.
Dillingham said the half-dozen other cases of injured officers which he’s handled have been dismissed, but he declined to talk about settlement agreements.
While tasers and similar weapons do have a legitimate use, I'm glad to see cops give some pushback on them.  The fact that tasers won't necessarily kill you, doesn't excuse the overuse of them.  If the courts recognize claims such as these, that may be precedent (if not legally, then perhaps socially) for civilians to recognize the wrongful use of these weapons in non-defensive situations.

Just because these weapons (and they are weapons) won't necessarily kill you should not give the police the right to use them for purposes outside of the reasons for which they would have previously used guns or batons.  Simple noncompliance should not be considered reason to apply this type of weaponry on people.  The fact that it doesn't necessarily look as ugly as a beating doesn't mean that it isn't still wrong (and sometimes still as deadly).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Florida bill would prohibit doctors from asking about guns in the home

Via Attaturk at Rising Hegemon, an upcoming bill in Florida would make it a felony for doctors or their staff to ask patients if they own or store guns at home.
Doctors and other medical providers would be barred from asking patients — or the parents of child patients — if they have guns in their home under a measure that promises a major showdown between powerful lobbying groups.
The National Rifle Association's top Florida lobbyist and a Florida Medical Association member both say the issue is among the top priorities for the session, with the groups holding diametrically opposed positions on what doctors and their patients and families should be allowed to discuss during a medical visit.
Sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, the bill (HB 155) would make it a felony for a physician or staff member to ask patients or family members of patients if they own guns or store guns at home. If found guilty, the medical provider could be fined up to $5 million or face up to five years in jail.
Read that again: "...fined up to $5 million or face up to five years in jail."  For asking a question.  Aside from the fact that this law would be a blatant violation of the First Amendment, what the hell is wrong with these assholes?  What problem do they have with a doctor who may be concerned for a suicidal patient or with child safety asking this question?  Is this just simple paranoia?  Do they think that these doctors are going to report their legal gun ownership to the feds?

Here a suggestion: if you don't like the questions your doctor asks you, see a different fucking doctor.  Free market and shit.  Assholes.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Obama administration to lift ban on new charges for trial in military commissions

Via John Cole at Balloon Juice, the Obama Administration is getting ready to start trying Guantanamo detainees in military commissions.

This is a mark of weakness, not just for liberalism or the Democrats, but for the nation as a whole.  We apparently don't believe in our own professed values.  More and more, it seems that the only American value left these days is "America #1!!!".

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bomb planted along MLK Day parade route

Via digby at Hullabaloo, some jackass planted a bomb along the route of a parade for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Spokane.
An incendiary device found along the route of a Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, Wash., was "likely capable of inflicting multiple casualties," the FBI said today.
A city employee found a backpack Monday morning, just before the parade was to start, in a parking lot that was both on the parade route and across the street from a performing arts center that hosted a pre-parade rally.
More than 1,000 people attended the parade, according to the Spokesman-Review.
Police responded, followed by the FBI. Several blocks around the parking lot were shut down, and the parade was re-routed. The area was shut down all day, as agents first dismantled the device, using a robot, and then called in hazmat teams.
The FBI said today that the device posed a credible threat.
"Subsequent preliminary analysis revealed the backpack contained a potentially deadly destructive device, likely capable of inflicting multiple casualties," the agency said in a statement.
Apparently, we will once again refrain from referring to this as "terrorism" until it has been demonstrated that this bomb was planted by a racial and/or religious minority.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gov. Robert Bentley regards only fellow Christians as "brothers"

Via Justin Elliott at Salon, Alabama's Governor(-Elect?) Robert Bentley said some stuff at a Baptist church.
Bentley told a big crowd at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where the late civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once was pastor, that he believed it was important for Alabamians ''that we love and care for each other." 
''I was elected as a Republican candidate. But once I became governor ... I became the governor of all the people. I intend to live up to that. I am color blind," Bentley said in a short speech given about an hour after he took the oath of office as governor. 
Then Bentley, who for years has been a deacon at First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, gave what sounded like an altar call. 
"There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit," Bentley said. ''But if you have been adopted in God's family like I have, and like you have if you're a Christian and if you're saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister." 
Bentley added, ''Now I will have to say that, if we don't have the same daddy, we're not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother." 
Asked later if he meant to be insulting to people of other faiths, Bentley replied, ''We're not trying to insult anybody."
I'm pretty ambivalent about this.  It sounds bad at first, but the "I want to be your brother" line is somewhat sympathetic.  It's simultaneously inclusive and exclusive (but neither in a terribly good way).

He's addressing his long-time church where he serves as a deacon, so this isn't something that he said in his capacity as a government official.  However, this happened either just before or just after he assumed office as both occurred on the same day, and I don't like that timing.

It's not that I have a problem with religious politicians, per se.  Religious or philosophical beliefs obviously inform our political leanings for good or bad.  What I do have a problem with is politicians who are swayed by religious clannishness.  Gov. Bentley is walking a thin line clumsily.

Monday, January 17, 2011

WikiLeaks to release information on Swiss banks and their clients

Via digby at Hullabaloo, it looks like WikiLeaks will soon release information regarding Swiss banks and their clients.

Elmer says he is releasing the information "in order to educate society". The list includes "high net worth individuals", multinational conglomerates and financial institutions – hedge funds". They are said to be "using secrecy as a screen to hide behind in order to avoid paying tax". They come from the US, Britain, Germany, Austria and Asia – "from all over".
Clients include "business people, politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates – from both sides of the Atlantic". Elmer says: "Well-known pillars of society will hold investment portfolios and may include houses, trading companies, artwork, yachts, jewellery, horses, and so on."
"What I am objecting to is not one particular bank, but a system of structures," he told the Observer. "I have worked for major banks other than Julius Baer, and the one thing on which I am absolutely clear is that the banks know, and the big boys know, that money is being secreted away for tax-evasion purposes, and other things such as money-laundering – although these cases involve tax evasion."
I'm looking forward to this release.  You might think that the US government would be happy about this kind of leaking as it would help enable them to recoup some tax dollars they should be getting, but I wouldn't count on it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sen. Chuck Schumer wants to restrict the gun rights of drug users

Via Atrios at Eschaton, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants to restrict gun ownership in an incredibly sloppy way.
Sen. Chuck Schumer says if someone admits illegal drug use to a federal official, he should not be allowed to buy a gun.
The New York Democrat suggests that military recruiters and other officials report admissions of drug use to a national database.
Schumer says Jared Loughner's alleged drug use could have prevented his purchase of a gun. Loughner is accused of killing six people in Tucson, Ariz., and shooting congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
So basically anybody who tries to join the military who admits to having tried some pot in high school or college would be restricted from buying a gun?  That's too broad, and the requirement of admission to a federal official would likely become relaxed to include anyone convicted of a simple possession charge on the state level if it were to become law (which it won't).  I'd be fine with some tighter gun control, but this is a terrible way to go about it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tucson shooting victim arrested for threats and intimidation

Via John Cole at Balloon Juice, during a discussion hosted by Christiane Amanpour with people involved in the Tucson shootings, one of the shooting victims was arrested for threats and intimidation against the founder of the Tucson Tea Party.
The theme of the event was "An American Conversation Continued" --  the idea being to continue the conversation that a madman's brutal rampage had interrupted.  So it was inevitable that the conversation would eventually turn to politics.   It did, toward the end, with Amanpour leading a discussion on a very touchy but obvious topic:  gun control.
That's where the atmosphere turned tense.   When Tucson Tea Party founder Trent Humphries rose to suggest that any conversation about gun control should be put off until after the funerals for all the victims, witnesses say Fuller became agitated.  Two told KGUN9 News that finally, Fuller took a picture of Humphries, and said, "You're dead."
When State Rep. Terri Proud (R-Tucson) rose to explain and clarify current and proposed gun legislation in the state, several people groaned or booed her.  One of those booing, according to several witnesses, was Fuller.   Witnesses sitting near Fuller told KGUN9 News that Fuller was making them feel very uncomfortable.
The event wrapped up a short time later.  Deputies then escorted Fuller from the room.  As he was being led off, Fuller shouted loudly to the room at large.  Several witnesses said that what they thought they heard him shout was, "You're all whores!"
I'd probably be a bit of a loose cannon if I'd recently been shot, but this kind of thing obviously doesn't help anybody.  I hope Fuller is able to get some high-quality counselling to help him get through his very understandable rage.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sen. Mike Lee thinks that federal child labor laws are unconstitutional

Via digby at Hullabaloo, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) thinks that federal child labor laws are unconstitutional.
Congress decided it wanted to prohibit [child labor], so it passed a law—no more child labor. The Supreme Court heard a challenge to that and the Supreme Court decided a case in 1918 called Hammer v. Dagenhardt. In that case, the Supreme Court acknowledged something very interesting — that, as reprehensible as child labor is, and as much as it ought to be abandoned — that’s something that has to be done by state legislators, not by Members of Congress.
This decision was later unanimously overturned by the US Supreme Court in the 1941 case United States v. Darby Lumber Co.

Even assuming that Lee is correct in that production is an inherently local activity beyond the reach of the federal regulatory powers provided by the Commerce Clause (and he is not), the federal government would still be able to pass and enforce heavy regulations on the sale of goods manufactured by child labor to the state in which those goods are produced, effectively removing most of the benefits of employing that exploitative labor in the first place.

I live in Utah and have lived here for almost my entire life.  I really disliked Bob Bennett, but then I started hearing about Lee's positions when he was competing for the Republican nomination against Bennett last year.  I would've never thought I'd feel this way up to that point, but these days, I miss Bob Bennett.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

71% of Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling

Via Attaturk at Rising Hegemon, a whopping 71% of the American public opposes raising the debt ceiling.
Some 71 percent of those surveyed oppose increasing the borrowing authority, the focus of a brewing political battle over federal spending. Only 18 percent support an increase.
The poll underscores the tough task ahead for U.S. lawmakers as the debt nears its current ceiling of $14.3 trillion. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last week warned that a failure to raise the borrowing limit in the coming months could lead to "catastrophic economic consequences."
Some friends just came to town tonight, so I've got to half-ass it again.  I just wonder how the question was worded for this poll.  I understand that most people are going to hear "debt" and think "Debt bad!", but was any information given as to what the horrible results of this policy would be?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Arizona Republicans quit their political jobs in the wake of Tucson shooting

Via mistermix at Balloon Juice, Republican District Chairman Anthony Miller and others of Arizona Legislative District 20 have quit in the wake of the Tucson shooting.
Miller, a 43-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills resident and former campaign worker for U.S. Sen. John McCain, was re-elected to a second one-year term last month. He said constant verbal attacks after that election and Internet blog posts by some local members with Tea Party ties made him worry about his family's safety.
In an e-mail sent a few hours after Saturday's massacre in Tucson that killed six and injured 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Miller told state Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen he was quitting: "Today my wife of 20 yrs ask (sic) me do I think that my PCs (Precinct Committee members) will shoot at our home? So with this being said I am stepping down from LD20GOP Chairman...I will make a full statement on Monday."
Pullen was in Washington, D.C. and not available for comment, an employee in his office said. State party spokesman Matt Roberts said he could not discuss details of the district's disputes but, "Anthony has been a good Republican and was really involved in LD20."
The newly-elected Dist. 20 Republican secretary, Sophia Johnson of Ahwatukee, first vice chairman Roger Dickinson of Tempe and Jeff Kolb, the former district spokesman from Ahwatukee, also quit. "This singular focus on 'getting' Anthony (Miller) was one of the main reasons I chose to resign," Kolb said in an e-mail to another party activist. Kolb confirmed the contents of the e-mail to the Republic.
I'm not quite sure how to react to this.  These are positions within the Republican Party rather than within the government, and the intimidation is coming from within the party.  While I don't necessarily mind seeing the party eat itself, we definitely have a problem when people are quitting their political jobs because they are afraid.  That's not how democracy is supposed to work.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mental illness does not preclude the effect of the political environment

Dahlia Lithwick has an interesting take on the armchair diagnoses of Jared Loughner at Slate.
One of the great ironies of the Tucson shootings is that the initial call for everyone in America to simply talk more civilly to one another has mainly resulted in everyone in America becoming angrier and crazier. Every attempt to turn the conversation in a more "constructive" direction—be it to criticize Arizona's gun laws or to question the state of political discourse—has been condemned by those who scoff at the sin of politicizing a personal tragedy that is merely the result of one man's obvious insanity. There is some truth to this criticism. In the absence of a coherent explanation, many of us have used this tragedy as we use every national tragedy: as an excuse to talk more about ourselves or our favorite cause.
But if it's true that we can draw no more political meaning from Saturday's tragedy than we can from a Jackson Pollock painting—if David Brooks is correct in his assertion today that absolutely everything you need to know about Jared Loughner's lethal shooting spree is attributable to "the possibility that Loughner may be suffering from a mental illness like schizophrenia"—then this is also true: This apolitical explanation of Loughner's actions should also serve as a legal defense of them.
She goes on to detail the history of the insanity plea, but her point is mostly rhetorical.  The fact that a person may suffer from a mental illness does not necessarily render every aspect of his mental state immune to environmental effects.  Loughner's lack of a coherent political ideology does not mean that he could not be affected by the political environment.

I think that there is a strong chance that the violent, pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric combined with the paranoia about government and our elected officials that has been systematically spread by the politicians and demagogues of the right contributed to the inspiration of Loughner's crimes.  We know that because, as Dave Neiwart at Crooks and Liars reminds us, it's happened quite a few times just in the past two years.  (Hat-tip to digby at Hullabaloo.)
-- July 2008A gunman named Jim David Adkisson, agitated at how "liberals" are "destroying America," walks into a Unitarian Church and opens fire, killing two churchgoers and wounding four others.
-- October 2008Two neo-Nazis are arrested in Tennessee in a plot to murder dozens of African-Americans, culminating in the assassination of President Obama. 
-- December 2008: A pair of "Patriot" movement radicals -- the father-son team of Bruce and Joshua Turnidge, who wanted "to attack the political infrastructure" -- threaten a bank in Woodburn, Oregon, with a bomb in the hopes of extorting money that would end their financial difficulties, for which they blamed the government. Instead, the bomb goes off and kills two police officers. The men eventually are convicted and sentenced to death for the crime. 
-- December 2008In Belfast, Maine, police discover the makings of a nuclear "dirty bomb" in the basement of a white supremacist shot dead by his wife. The man, who was independently wealthy, reportedly was agitated about the election of President Obama and was crafting a plan to set off the bomb. 
-- January 2009A white supremacist named Keith Luke embarks on a killing rampage in Brockton, Mass., raping and wounding a black woman and killing her sister, then killing a homeless man before being captured by police as he is en route to a Jewish community center. 
-- February 2009: A Marine named Kody Brittingham is arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate President Obama. Brittingham also collected white-supremacist material. 
-- April 2009A white supremacist named Richard Poplawski opens fire on three Pittsburgh police officers who come to his house on a domestic-violence call and kills all three, because he believed President Obama intended to take away the guns of white citizens like himself. Poplawski is currently awaiting trial. 
-- April 2009Another gunman in Okaloosa County, Florida, similarly fearful of Obama's purported gun-grabbing plans, kills two deputies when they come to arrest him in a domestic-violence matter, then is killed himself in a shootout with police. 
-- May 2009A "sovereign citizen" named Scott Roeder walks into a church in Wichita, Kansas, and assassinates abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. 
-- June 2009: A Holocaust denier and right-wing tax protester named James Von Brunn opens fire at the Holocaust Museum, killing a security guard. 
-- February 2010An angry tax protester named Joseph Ray Stack flies an airplane into the building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas. (Media are reluctant to label this one "domestic terrorism" too.) 
-- March 2010Seven militiamen from the Hutaree Militia in Michigan and Ohio are arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate local police officers with the intent of sparking a new civil war. 
-- March 2010An anti-government extremist named John Patrick Bedell walks into the Pentagon and opens fire, wounding two officers before he is himself shot dead. 
-- May 2010A "sovereign citizen" from Georgia is arrested in Tennessee and charged with plotting the violent takeover of a local county courthouse. 
-- May 2010Two "sovereign citizens" named Jerry and Joe Kane gun down two police officers who pull them over for a traffic violation, and then wound two more officers in a shootout in which both of them are eventually killed. 
-- July 2010An agitated right-winger and convict named Byron Williams loads up on weapons and drives to the Bay Area intent on attacking the offices of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, but is intercepted by state patrolmen and engages them in a shootout and armed standoff in which two officers and Williams are wounded. 
-- September 2010: A Concord, N.C., man is arrested and charged with plotting to blow up a North Carolina abortion clinic. The man, 26-year--old Justin Carl Moose, referred to himself as the "Christian counterpart to (Osama) bin Laden” in a taped undercover meeting with a federal informant.
As far as the idea that "both sides do it" is concerned, I'd be very interested in seeing a list of crimes and/or any rhetoric voiced by any prominent leftist that might have inspired them that is in any way equivalent to that.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dumb reactions to the Tucson shooting

The mainstream news and the blogs are both still largely focused on the shooting in Tucson, and a whole lot of stupid has been said and done in reaction to it.  Here are three of the dumbest responses so far:

Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA) is outraged by Sarah Palin's "crosshairs ad" and has decided to introduce legislation to make it a federal crime “for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or federal official.”

Glenn Beck urges Sarah Palin to hire more security because an “attempt on you could bring the Republic down.”

Enjoy the idiocy!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

When does violent political rhetoric become socially unacceptable?

There has been a great deal of talk after yesterday's mass shooting about violent rhetoric in politics.  I was planning to write a post about where the line should be drawn (not legally, but socially) when I saw this post by Scott Aikin at The NonSequitur which illustrates the difference between acceptability and unacceptability far beyond my ability.
In light of these events, it's right to ask: is the language of violence appropriate for reasonable political exchange?  Here's my initial try at an answer: People should be free to express their frustration and antagonism with those they oppose.  And the manner they express that opposition, I think, can appropriately use the language of violent conflict.  However, it is appropriate under the conditions that we are clear that the use of violent language is strictly metaphorical.  War metaphors for argument can emphasize the offensive tactical elements of argumentative exchange.  Some arguments are full frontal assaults, others are ambushes or surprise attacks, wherein one overwhelms an opponent.  One may lay to waste a position, skewer a point, or blow up a case.  Arguments may have a thrust, like that of a sword.  And consequently, every thrust can be parried.  One shores up defensive positions, and when defeated, one may be engage in rear-guard maneuvers.  One’s best arguments are heavy artillery, and one brings them out in long-standing debates to lay siege to well-defended viewpoints.
 He wraps it up with this:
That is, there seems to be a difference between using metaphors of violence to endorse continued vigorous debate and exchange and using the language of violent confrontation as an endorsement of violent confrontation. Only the latter is morally unacceptable.  The former may have other dangers (perhaps in seeing argumentative exchanges through the lens of war), but it is not the overt commitment to physical hurt.
Aikin has this basically right.  It's perfectly natural to use violent metaphor when referring to any type of competition be it sports, politics, or whatever.  While there are times when this type of speech can cross over unacceptably into a sort of *wink, wink* delivery, by and large, I don't begrudge people expressing themselves in this way.

This is why I have a hard time getting worked up about Sarah Palin's ad featuring crosshairs targeting political districts.  If the crosshairs had been placed over pictures of the people representing those districts, that would be an entirely different story.

What I do think should be completely out of bounds are statements such as this one from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN):
"I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back," said Bachmann. "Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing. And the people - we the people - are going to have to fight back hard if we're not going to lose our country."

“You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years.”
“I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, ‘my goodness what can we do to turn this country around?’ I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.”
It's amazing to me how the far right ran around the country for seven years labeling any liberal who wasn't bloodthirsty enough to support their ill-conceived wars as a "traitor" and then turned around the moment a Democrat is elected to the Presidency with statements like these.  They can drape themselves in the only words Thomas Jefferson ever uttered or wrote with which they agree (no "wall of separation between Church & State" for this crowd), but when they portray their political opposition as illegitimate, traitorous usurpers, talk about armed revolution, and encourage their supporters to bring their guns to townhall meetings, they can't be too shocked when some disaffected loon takes them seriously.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Giffords and thirteen others wounded, federal judge and six others killed in attack in Tucson

Democratic Representative of Arizona Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head today outside a supermarket in Tucson where she was meeting with constituents for a "Congress on Your Corner" event.  The attack killed six people including US District Judge John Roll and a young child and injured thirteen including Rep. Giffords.  The alleged shooter has been identified as Jared Loughner, and police are looking for a possible accomplice in the attack.  Rep. Giffords has come out of surgery, and the surgeon is "optimistic about recovery".

Friday, January 7, 2011

Massachusetts Supreme Court rules against US Bank and Wells Fargo in foreclosure case

Via John Cole at Balloon Juice and Atrios at Eschaton, David Dayen reports at Firedoglake that the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled today that US Bank and Wells Fargo do not have standing to foreclose on Antonio Ibanez due to improper mortgage assignment.
The notice requirements are a bit of a sideshow. The point here is that the mortgage assignment and the securitization process was improper. US Bank and Wells Fargo did not have possession of the mortgage note, and thus did not have the standing to foreclose. In addition, they put the endorsement in blank, without naming the entity to which they were assigning the mortgage. This violated Massachusetts law, according to the original judge in the case, and now the MA Supreme Court agreed.
And as we know, this is more the norm than otherwise. But this is one of the first major cases, decided by a state Supreme Court, that affirms that a lack of securitization standards means that the bank who thinks they have the power to foreclose on a delinquent borrower actually does not.
If this ruling gets applied far and wide, you’re basically going to have a situation where most securitized mortgages in the country cannot be foreclosed upon. It depends on state law and the associated rulings, but you can see the Ibanez case being used as precedent.
I hope it is used as precedent.  There will definitely be those who think that Ibanez deserves to be foreclosed upon anyway for failing to keep up with his payments.  While that may be the case, I don't think that these banks, which were bailed out by taxpayers to the tune of billions of dollars each, deserve to foreclose on him.

These subprime Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities were a major factor of the housing bubble which was a major factor in the economic collapse.  So we bailed out the banks only to have them foreclose on people without proper documentation when that lack of proper documentation is the result of practices which made it necessary to bail them out in the first place?  Why should the rules apply only to individual homeowners and not on huge corporations?

We need courts to issue rulings like this just to show these banks that they can't get away with anything, and that they need to change their practices.  I don't know that the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which Republicans would like to repeal along with health care reform, is going to cut it.

I'm with Atrios when he says that a better way to handle the bank bailouts would have been to lend the money to homeowners contingent on them using it to pay their mortgages.  That way the banks still would have received their payments, and then perhaps they wouldn't be currently foreclosing on so many people using these shady tactics.

As it stands, I have far more sympathy for the homeowners who are being foreclosed upon than the banks doing the foreclosing seeing as how so many of them are having trouble staying current on their payments due to the shitty economy, the collapse of which was precipitated by these banks.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

California Supreme Court rules that police may search arrestees' cell phone contents without a warrant

Glenn Greenwald at Salon has a post about a young Somalian-born US citizen named Gulet Mohamed.
Approximately two weeks ago (on December 20), Mohamed went to the airport in Kuwait to have his visa renewed, as he had done every three months without incident for the last year.  This time, however, he was told by the visa officer that his name had been marked in the computer, and after waiting five hours, he was taken into a room and interrogated by officials who refused to identify themselves.  They then handcuffed and blindfolded him and drove him to some other locale.  That was the start of a two-week-long, still ongoing nightmare during which he was imprisoned for a week in an unknown location by unknown captors, relentlessly interrogated, and severely beaten and threatened with even worse forms of torture.
American officials have now put Mohamed on a no-fly list and barred him from returning to the US, effectively exiling him in spite of his US citizenship.  The entire post is worth reading.  There is also a recording of an interview between Greenwald and Mohamed to which I've not yet listened.

Where I want to draw attention in this post is to an article to which Greenwald links by Bob Sullivan at's The Red Tape Chronicles about an alarming recent decision by the California Supreme Court.
The ruling handed down by California's top court involves the 2007 arrest of Gregory Diaz, who purchased drugs from a police informant. Investigators later looked through Diaz's phone and found text messages that implicated him in a drug deal.  Diaz appealed his conviction, saying the evidence was gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The court disagreed, comparing Diaz cell phone to personal effects like clothing, which can be searched by arresting officers.
"The cell phone was an item (of personal property) on (Diaz's) person at the time of his arrest and during the administrative processing at the police station," the justices wrote. "Because the cell phone was immediately associated with defendant’s person, (police were) entitled to inspect its contents without a warrant."  
In fact, the ruling goes further, saying essentially that the Diaz case didn't involve an exception -- such as a need to search the phone to stop a "crime in progress." In other words, this case was not an exception, but rather the rule.
The court could not be more wrong on this.  The text of the Fourth Amendment reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
There are legitimate reasons why an arrestee may be searched without a warrant, specifically for weapons.  However, there is no reason that an officer should be able to go through your text messages, e-mails, etc. without a warrant on any old arrest.  Why would they need the contact list of someone arrested for public intoxication, shoplifting, or simple possession?

The article mentions that established law protects an arrestee's briefcase from being searched without a warrant except for a quick check for weapons.  The contents of the documents inside may not be searched.  How the justices fail to see an equivalence here is beyond me.  Nothing on most people's phones is likely to be evidence of the crime for which they are being arrested, let a alone a weapon.  How can this type of search be considered reasonable?

Let's take a hypothetical case where a kidnapper has been communicating over a cell phone with his victim's family for the purposes of securing a ransom.  The family leaves the ransom at the selected location, and someone is arrested retrieving the ransom.  The police discover a cell phone on the arrestee.  Yes, that cell phone's call record may very well have evidence proving that ransom calls to the family were made on that phone.  However, the guy is already under arrest.  The police already have his cell phone.  He will not be able to delete or otherwise destroy that evidence before a warrant is sought to search the phone's contents.  Why can't they get the damn warrant?

The whole point of warrants is to have an impartial judge examine the evidence and determine whether or not the officer has probable cause to make a search.  Officers are not supposed to be able to make this call for themselves except under exigent circumstances.  I don't see how a search of the contents of any electronic device can be constitutionally undertaken sans warrant.

As the article points out, if this ruling stands, it could very easily extend to laptops and tablets or any other electronic device that you might carry.  They apparently don't qualify as "papers" for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lithwick examines our newly rekindled love for our ideas of what we think the Constitution might mean maybe

Dahlia Lithwick has a great article at Slate about the Constitution and the Republicans' plans to read it aloud on the chamber floor tomorrow.  It's not so much about bashing the Republicans or the Tea Party as calling out the contradictory but common tendencies to venerate the Constitution to the point of idolatry while ignoring the parts with which one doesn't agree.
The problem with the Tea Party's new Constitution fetish is that it's hopelessly selective. As Robert Parry notes, the folks who will be reading the Constitution aloud this week can't read the parts permitting slavery or prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment using only their inside voices, while shouting their support for the 10th Amendment. They don't get to support Madison and renounce Jefferson, then claim to be restoring the vision of "the Framers." Either the Founders got it right the first time they calibrated the balance of power between the federal government and the states, or they got it so wrong that we need to pass a "Repeal Amendment" to fix it. And unless Tea Party Republicans are willing to stand proud and announce that they adore and revere the whole Constitution as written, except for the First, 14, 16th, and 17th amendments, which totally blow, they should admit right now that they are in the same conundrum as everyone else: This document no more commands the specific policies they espouse than it commands the specific policies their opponents support.
This line is probably my favorite, though:
The fact that the Constitution is sufficiently open-ended to infuriate all Americans almost equally is part of its enduring genius.
Read the whole thing.  Lithwick's work is consistently good and easily the best fare available on Slate.

UPDATE:  You should also read the piece by Michael Lind at Salon that Lithwick cites as well.