Crime

The Terrorist You Won’t Hear About

A terrorist armed with guns and a thousand round of ammunition failed in his attempt to go on a shooting spree in America, killing and wounding unknown numbers.

You don’t about this story, because he failed in his attempt.

And also, because the terrorist is a right wing white guy:

The FBI arrested an alleged right-wing extremist who had amassed 1,000 rounds of ammunition and was said to be plotting a mass shooting.

A complaint filed in federal court and obtained by the Statesman on Monday stated that a search warrant was executed on the home of 50-year-old Steven Thomas Boehle after a confidential informant said that he was planning a shooting spree.

According to the complaint, Boehle “exhibits sovereign citizen extremism ideology.”

Although Boehle is prohibited from owning firearms due to a 1993 assault on a intimate partner, three guns were found in his home.

He was charged with making false statements about his criminal history while trying to buy additional firearms from gun dealers in the Austin area.

When people factor their sense of national security and views on firearms, they don’t factor in stories like this because these stories don’t get widespread coverage. The FBI doesn’t take a bow. Maybe they should.

Another Doc Dump – Indictment Against Dude Threatening JCCs

The rash of threats against Jewish Community Centers appears to be partly solved [UPDATE: Very partly. We’re only talking about 10% of the threats and vandalism seen nationwide lately]. Federal G-men arrested Juan Michael for making threats against many JCCs in an attempt to stalk/frame his ex-girlfriend. He appears to be a copycat though. Still, scary dude.

Who’s Sorry Now?

On July 25, 2015, Joe Torres and Kayla Norton, joined about a dozen other people in a convoy of pickup trucks waving large Confederate flags as they drove around Douglas County, a suburban Atlanta community. Most of them belonged to a group called “Respect the Flag.”

This was only a few weeks after Dylann Roof attended a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, then shot and killed nine people, all African Americans.

The convoy of trucks passed by the victim’s residence where the victims were grilling hot dogs and hamburgers while hosting a child’s birthday party featuring a bouncy castle, snow-cone machines, and a DJ.  They yelled racial slurs.

The drivers parked the trucks near the house and the slurs continued. Torres retrieved a shotgun from his vehicle, pointed his shotgun at the group of African American party-goers and stated he was going to kill them while his friends stated that “the little ones can get one too,” referring to the young children at the party.

Norton was accused of making similar threats. The victims said some member of Torres’ group was armed with a knife and a tire tool.

Most of the group was arrested and made some sort of plea deal.  But Torres and Norton were sentenced yesterday. Torres was sentenced to 20 years, with 13 years in prison, after a jury convicted him on three counts of aggravated assault, one count of making terroristic threats and one count of violating of Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act.  Kayla Norton was sentenced to 15 years, with six years in prison. She was convicted on one count of making terroristic threats and one count of violation of the Street Gang Act.

Look how sad they are.

I suspect they weren’t sad until they actually got caught.

At the sentencing hearing, Kayla Norton apologized for her role in the incident saying, “I want you all to know that is not me. That is not me, that is not him. I would never walk up to you and say those words to you. I’m so sorry that happened to you. I am so sorry.”

The problem is that she did walk up and say those words.

Oh well. No sympathy here. Actions have consequences.  I’m sure they will make many friends among the mixed-race populations in prison.

More Fake News Believers Getting Violent

This is getting out of hand:

A Tampa woman is accused of making death threats to the parent of a first grader who died in the Sandy Hook massacre.

Investigators say 57-year-old Lucy Richards is among those who believe the 2012 shooting, that killed 20 children and 6 adults, was all a hoax. Her disbelief is so strong, investigators say she targeted a father who lost his child in the shooting. That man now lives on the east coast of Florida.

According to the indictment ,Richards contacted the father four times on January 10, saying things like, “You gonna die, death is coming to you real soon,” “there’s nothing you can do about it,” and “look behind you, death is coming to you real soon.”

Richards was arrested Monday. She is charged with four counts of transmitting threats in interstate commerce. With each count carrying a maximum of five years in prison, she could spend 20 years behind bars, if convicted.

Richards is not alone in her beliefs. There’s a whole online community of people certain the Sandy Hook shooting was staged.

She is the second person this week facing criminal charges due to conspiracy theories. Sunday, Edgar Welch was arrested for bringing a gun  inside a Washington, D.C. pizzeria. He told police he was there to self-investigate a child trafficking ring he read about on a website, which has since been discredited and labeled “fake news.”

Psychologist Dr. Mark Prange says it’s often a long-term emotional habit of not using reasoning makes people cling so tightly to conspiracy theories.

“The story is going to always be more powerful than the logic,” Prange said. “Not using a process that says, what are the checks and balances of the beliefs I am holding to and not being open that allows the belief system to get locked into almost a delusional way of looking at the world.”

He says trying to help someone locked into an extreme belief system can be challenging, “because that belief may be more important or may be so threatening for them to face why they’re holding it.”

Prange said, “It can snowball if one has not had educational experiences or family experiences or even social experiences where their beliefs are challenged.”

Lucy Richards’ next hearing is December 19.

And speaking of Edgar Welch, here is the federal complaint released today.  Edgar Welch is the man who fired an assault rifle in a D.C. pizzeria earlier this month.  From the complaint, we learn that he allegedly recruited two other individuals to join in his investigation of patently false claims that the restaurant was the center of a child sex slave ring connected to the Clintons.  Welch texted several friends attempting to convince them to drive up to Washington, D.C., with him to check out Comet Ping Pong. He texted one friend, identified in the document as “B,” a link to a YouTube video about “Pizzagate” and included the note “Watch PIZZAGATE: The Bigger Picture on YouTube.” Another friend, identified as “C,” initially thought his pal intended to drive to North Dakota to “save the Indians from the pipeline,” but Welch clarified with the texts: “Way more important, much higher stakes” and “Pizzagate.” C wrote back: “Sounds like we r freeing some oppressed pizza from the hands of an evil pizza joint.” Welch replied by encouraging his friend to watch a YouTube video about “Pizzagate.” Ultimately, the two friends did not join Welch on his quest. The document also shows that Welch was prepared to kill, telling C that the mission would involve “sacraficing [sic] the lives of a few for the lives of many.”

UPDATE: Alex Jones seems to be cleaning up after himself by scrubbing his website of Pizzagate references:

“Pizzagate: The Bigger Picture” is the headline Infowars used for a December 1 article promoting a video from Infowars producer Jon Bowne that pushes the pizzagate conspiracy theory. Jones tweeted the headline on December 1. The headline was also used on YouTube by a non-Infowars accounts to promote the Infowars video.

Welch also told The New York Times that he listens to Jones, and he reportedly liked Infowars on Facebook.

Jones and Infowars appear to be scrubbing commentary about pizzagate. Jones’ YouTube channel posted a November 23 video headlined “Pizzagate Is Real: Something Is Going On, But What?” The video has since“been removed by the user,” though it’s not clear when.

Walter Scott Follow-Up

It has been a year and a half since Walter Scott’s death.  I wrote about it here… but basically, he was running from a cop and was shot IN THE BACK As HE WAS RUNNING AWAY.  The video makes this crystal clear:

There’s even indication that the cop planted evidence on/near the body.  Yes,. look at the video.

So what happened at trial?

But despite an unarmed victim, forensics proving he was shot multiple times in the back, a police officer who made a false report, and clear video showing the entire debacle, Slager was not convicted of murder or manslaughter in his trial this week. A lone juror spared him that fate with a refusal to convict. That triggered a mistrial.

Something is horribly wrong with the system.

Fortunately, the prosecutor will retry the case.  Again.  For the THIRD time.

Even operating under a standard in which police officers get the benefit of every reasonable doubt, it seems hard to understand why the cops involved wouldn’t have been convicted of manslaughter. The fact that neither was convicted is the latest evidence that the system as it now exists does not reliably punish cops for even egregious killings.

The policy debate around policing has lately focused on the tactics and rhetoric of Black Lives Matter (while mostly ignoring its excellent Campaign Zero roadmap for policy reform). Whatever conservatives think of Black Lives Matter, it is long past time that more of them join with libertarians and liberals in an effort to address this problem: Armed agents of the state are killing American citizens at rates far higher than other developed countries, and even when videos show them killing unarmed individuals, some are somehow getting away with it.

Winston-Salem Clown Mystery Solved

Hoaxer:

Claims of “Killer Clown” sightings in Winston-Salem have made national headlines and made Winston-Salem one of the locations for a rash of recent claims from Greenville, South Carolina to one outrageous claim of a man who claims to have pursued one of the these clowns with a machete. These sightings are similar to other incidents that seem to run in streaks resembling the “Killer Clown” sightings in Boston in 1981. Those sightings were never verified and, at least in Winston-Salem, the current sightings appear to be fabrications.

Since the two incidents that were reported on September 4th and September 5th the WSPD has continued to work diligently to locate the alleged suspect(s) in these cases or to even find proof that they existed in the first place. These investigative steps included intensive neighborhood canvasses as well as high visibility patrols in the areas where the sightings were reported as well as nearby areas where children are likely to be present. All of which cost tax-payer money and divert resources from real crimes. In addition, an emphasis was placed on conducting in-depth interviews with all witnesses and attempting to develop any other potential witnesses and/or leads to follow.

In the course of this investigation, WSPD investigators obtained video surveillance footage of the specific area of the September 4th sighting. Officers reviewed the portion of the footage covering the time frame of the reported sighting and also a period of time immediately before and after. The video surveillance did not reveal any individual dressed as a clown or anyone trying to lure children into the woods at this location.
To date, each report of the clown sightings provided to the Winston-Salem Police Department has been thoroughly investigated and according to the WSPD they have not been able to substantiate any sightings.

On Friday at 2:48am the WSPD received another call related to suspicious activity by an individual dressed in a clown costume in the area of the 1800 block of Salem Crest Lane. The caller, 24 year-old David Armstrong, reported that an individual dressed as a clown knocked on his window. Armstrong told police that he chased the clown until the subject ran into some nearby woods.

Officers conducted a thorough investigation into this incident. At the conclusion of this investigation, Armstrong admitted to fabricating the story. Armstrong was arrested and charged with Filing a False Police Report. Armstrong was placed into the Forsyth County Detention Center under $500.00 secured bond. His court date is set for September 12th. He is the first person arrested for filing a false report in any of the current “Killer Clown” sightings- none of which have produced even the most basic photo evidence that any of the events ever occurred. In an environment where almost everyone, including many children, have cell phones capable of shooting video and stills the lack of evidence thus far is damning.

I suppose I should have foreseen this outcome.  Still, the notion of clowns in the woods was too cool/scary to think otherwise.

More and More, It Looks Like The Dallas Cop Killer Was A Nut

Dallas police now believe that Micah Johnson, who shot and killed 5 Dallas police following a Black Lives Matter march, was actually planning some sort of mass attack, but advanced his plans to take advantage of the BLM march. His house was full of bomb making equipment, far too much to have put together in recent days.  He had received “defensive” combat training in Dallas two years earlier.

And most troubling, writing on his wall in blood.

This man was a time bomb. It’s almost like he didn’t need a reason to go off.

Breaking: Officers Shot In Dallas Protest

CNN affiliate KTVT in Dallas is reporting that two police officers have been shot after a peaceful protest deaths of two black men. Chaotic live footage from the scene shows police and SWAT teams in a tense combat

Police in tactical gear carrying riots shields descended after about 20 shots in boomed loudly in quick succession, audio that was captured by eyewitness video and posted to Twitter.

MSNBC reporting that the suspect is cornered, three officers have been shot.

http://youtu.be/GHCte_oenFs

UPDATE: 4 officers shot, 1 had died. Negotiators are talking to shooter who is holed up somewhere.  

All this happened about a block from another famous shooting in Dallas.

UPDATE #2: Holy shit. Two snipers, ten officers shot, three of them dead

UPDATE #3: Four dead now. One suspect is in custody after a shootout. The news outlets have been showing a photo of a “person of interest” – a black man with a long rifle before the shooting (totally legal in Dallas).  Social media was able to find that guy in a video AS the shooting was happened, so he’s been cleared by social media even though CNN.and MSNBC are behind on that. Anyway, that person of interest has turned himself in and hopefully he will be let go soon.

Big manhunt for the second suspect.

UPDATE – NEXT MORNING: 12 officers shot, 2 civilians shot, 5 of those officers are dead.

Sniper killed when SWAT team detonated explosive device near him.  He has been identified as Micah X. Johnson, an Army veteran. During standoff, Johnson told police he was “upset by.Black Lives Matter” and “wanted to kill as many white people as possible, especially white cops”.  He also claimed to be acting alone.

Others have been taken into custody, but police are not saying anything about their involvement. They are not acting like other gunmen are at large.

Ironically, Dallas PD had been reactive to BLM movement with increased training, racially diverse policing, etc.  This seems more directed at cops on in general, not Dallas PD in particular.

Two Deadly Police Shootings In Two Days

Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was standing in the parking lot selling CDs as he had for years when two white cops arrived on Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning he was dead and protesters were in the city’s streets. Calls erupted from Congress and the NAACP for an independent investigation into the shooting, which the Justice Department announced within hours.

Abdullah Muflahi owned the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge where all this happened.  He was a friend of Sterling and allowed him to sell CDs in front of the story.  Muflahi walked out the front door when he saw the officers talking to Sterling and said there was no “altercation,” as police claimed, until the cops tasered and tackled Sterling. That’s when Muflahi took out his phone and started recording. (Warning: Graphic video)

I was on Twitter last night reading about this, and the protests, when something came across the transom.

Another shooting of a black man by cops.  A traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, near Minneapolis.  The victim’s name is Philando Castile.

The video begins after the shooting occurred and shows the man, slumped and bloodied, against the woman who was recording. Her young daughter sat in the back seat.  The video streamed live on a private Facebook account belonging to Lavish Reynolds, and the clip was passed rapidly among Twitter, Facebook and YouTube users, becoming significant news online before traditional outlets — even those in the Minneapolis area — caught up.

The woman, presumably Lavisjh Reynolds, began by calmly narrating what was happening as she trained the camera on Mr. Castile, whom she described as her boyfriend, and on at least one officer who was pointing a gun through the driver’s side window.

“Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him,” she said. “You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”

Reynold’s daughter, who was in the back seat, appears several times in the video. Near the end of the 10-minute clip, as the two are sitting in the back of a police car, she comforts her mother, saying, “It’s O.K., Mommy. It’s O.K. I’m right here with you.”

The terror in the voice of the cop is palpable, while Lavish Reynolds (at least in the beginning) is calm and reasoned.  Castile dies in the video.

Reynolds can be heard throughout the video repeating that they were stopped for a broken tail light, that the officer requested Castile’s driver license, and that Castile was shot when he went to retrieve his license for the officer. She also states on the video that he worked for St. Paul public schools and did not have a criminal record. According to Castile’s mother, he was the cafeteria supervisor at a St. Paul Montessori school.

The Minnesota governor has asked for a federal investigation into the fatal shooting of Castile.

The Washington Post is tracking the number of people killed by police in the America. There were 990 in 2015. There were 506 showing for 2016 now.  There is something terribly wrong.

And because it is a presidential campaign year, expect this: Hillary will talk about it, and Trump will use it as an excuse to pat policemen on the back.

But I suspect nothing much will happen.

Why I Don’t Have Much To Say About The Hillary Email Scandal

FBI Director James Comey gave a press conference yesterday morning that sent shock waves through the political establishment.

The bottom line:

nyt_clinton_email

Shock waves indeed, but when I looked around at the political landscape when it was over, I noticed that the pieces hadn’t moved.

Hillary wasn’t indicted.  That wasn’t news.

She acted stupidly, carelessly.  That wasn’t news either.

That the right wing would go apoplectic — not terrible surprising.

I guess I would be more moved if the right wing hadn’t tried to get Hillary in jail since 1991.  Kevin Drum is right on the money when he writes:

Consider two “scandals.” The first is Benghazi. Hillary Clinton did nothing wrong. It was, essentially, a complete nothingburger. The second was Emailgate. In that one, Hillary unquestionably did things that were foolish at best and possibly criminal at worst. It was a genuine story.

But Republicans treated them both exactly the same. It didn’t matter whether Hillary actually did something wrong or not. They went after her with their usual Whitewater/Travelgate/Vince Foster level of fury, convinced that if only they yelled loudly enough the country would finally see her unmasked as the villain she really is. And they’re still doing it. James Comey has spoken, and no one reasonable thinks he’s on the take for the Clintons. But conservatives are almost unanimous in their shrieking that she is too guilty and ought to be put behind bars. Paul Ryan is now promising a probe of the probe, and idiotically calling for the director of National Intelligence to “block” Hillary’s access to classified information while she’s running for president. The only surprise here is that he isn’t demanding that Hillary’s access to classified information be blocked even if she wins.

After eight years of Bill Clinton’s presidency and now four years of Hillary Clinton’s post-cabinet career, Republicans have been crying wolf about Hillary for more than a decade. It’s pretty obvious that they’re going to continue, and that they really don’t care whether she’s actually done anything wrong. I have a feeling the public may finally be getting tired of their games.

I think this is true.

And watching Trump last night, you could see a prime example of a wingnut overplaying the hand.  Trump insisted that Comey — Republicans James Comey — was crooked and that Loretta Lynch was bribed.

And that’s when he took a gift and blew it.

How badly will this hurt Hillary?  It should hurt her badly politically.  Not fatally, but badly, if only in the short term.  I think, however, it won’t.

UPDATE: Another predictable thing — Sarah Palin word salad on Facebook:

Ironic, tragic, but not unexpected – amidst America’s Independence Day celebrations the Ruling Class put another boot on our neck to snuff liberty’s life out of We the People.  It’s a farce that “no one is above the law” and my heart goes out to all who’ve been unjustly accused and destroyed over much lesser crimes than Hillary’s…

***

Today’s FBI forgiveness of tyrants’ illegal acts illustrate purpose in why I insist Americans rise up and tear down this tyrannical system that is destroying America from within. Truly, you’re either with us or you’re against us…

***

Message to all the “Republican” elites throwing in for Hillary, boasting they’ll stay home instead of vote because their particular weakened good ol’ boy is not the GOP nominee (the R.A.T.s suffering chapped ass because their power and purse are threatened by the grassroots movement to destroy their failed politics-as-usual), Hillary thanks you. She knows she can’t win without you.

Dems In The House: “Screw Moment Of Silence, Where Is The Bill?”

After pausing to observe a moment of silence to honor the victims in the Orlando mass shooting, Democrats in the House on Monday erupted in protest repeating the question “Where’s the bill?” Their emotional demand was directed at Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans to bring forth gun control legislation in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in American history in which 49 people were killed and 53 wounded.

As more Democrats joined in on the chanting, Ryan refused acknowledge the calls and instead attempted to bring order to the floor.

Watch:

The thing about the Orlando shooting is that it has so many elements – terrorism, homophobia, and even mental illness — that it allows the discussion to become diluted, and once again, our political leaders (well, the Republicans) can get away from having to do anything about the obvious problem…. guns.

Gun problem in US

It is a rather undeniable problem.

And Obama recently pointed out the insanity:

I just came from a meeting today in the Situation Room  in which I have people who know we have been on ISIL websites, living here in the United States, US citizens, and we’re allowed to put them on the no fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association I cannot prohibit these people from buying a gun. This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer and if he wants to walk into a gun store or a gun show and buy as much, as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing is prohibiting him from doing that even though the FBI knows who that person is. So sir, I just have to say respectfully that there is a way to have common sense gun laws, there is a way to make sure that lawful, responsible gun owners, like yourself, are able to use it for sporting, hunting, protecting yourself. But the only way we’re going to be able to do that is if we don’t have a situation where anything that is proposed is viewed as some tyrannical destruction of the second amendment. And that is how the issue too often gets framed

— President Obama, June 2, 2016

Trump’s National Security Speech: Based on Lies

In the wake of the Orlando gay nightclub massacre, Trump seized the opportunity to Muslim-bash in a national security speech, even though (as I will write soon) it looks less and less like the shooting was a bonafide Islamic terrorist attack.

Vox summarizes the lies:

1) Trump: There’s no screening for refugees coming to the US

We’re not screening people. So why don’t we have an effective screening system? We don’t. We’re being laughed at all over the world. The burden is on Hillary Clinton to tell us why we should admit anyone into our country who supports violence of any kind against gay and lesbian Americans.

The truth: Trump is wrong: There is an extensive, onerous screening process for refugees who come to America. You can see so yourself here.

2) Trump criticizes Libya intervention, supported it himself

For instance, the last major NATO mission was Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. That mission helped unleash ISIS on a new continent.

The truth: Trump has repeatedly characterized Libya as a unique failure of President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy. But he actively supported that intervention, even though he’s spent much of his candidacy pretending he didn’t.

3) Trump: Clinton wants to admit “hundreds of thousands” of refugees to the US

Altogether under the Clinton plan, you’d be admitting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East with no system to prevent radicalization of the children and their children.

The truth: Trump is wrong here as well: Clinton has only called for increasing the number of Syrian refugees by 65,000, according to CNN.

4) Trump: The Orlando shooter was “born this Afghan”

The killer, whose name I will not use or ever say was born this Afghan, of Afghan parents, who emigrated to the United States.

The truth: Trump is wrong: Omar Saddiqui Mateen, the killer, was born in New York and raised in Florida.

5) Trump: “Large numbers” of Somali refugees joining ISIS

Large numbers of Somali refugees have tried to join ISIS. The male shooter in San Bernardino, again whose name I will not mention, was the child of immigrants from Pakistan and he brought his wife.

The truth: This dramatically misrepresents the number of Somali refugees from the US who have joined ISIS, which a New York Times story pegs at no more than 15. Perhaps Trump is speaking about Somali refugees globally, but given when he made this point — during a part of his speech about domestic terrorism — that’s almost certainly giving him too much credit.

6) Trump: Obama’s “famous apology tour” created ISIS

We’ve tried it President Obama’s way. Doesn’t work. He gave the world his apology tour. We got ISIS. And many other problems in return. That’s what we got. Remember the famous apology tour

The truth: There is a coherent conservative critique of President Obama’s speeches abroad, in which he has at times acknowledged America’s faults in foreign wars. And there is a coherent conservative critique of President Obama’s approach to defeating ISIS.

But Trump isn’t engaging with either narrative. He’s instead just drawing a direct link from Obama “apology tour” to the birth of ISIS, and I’m not aware of any serious attempt to connect the two. Trump certainly doesn’t give any reason to believe they’re related.

Even if you look at the supposed apologies that have to do with Islamic terrorism or the Muslim world, it’s not clear how they could have possibly created ISIS.

7) Trump: Hillary Clinton wants to ban guns

[Hillary Clinton] says the solution is to ban guns. … She wants to take away Americans’ guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us. Let them come into the country. We don’t have guns. …

She wants to take away Americans’ guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us. Let them come into the country. We don’t have guns. Let them come in, let them have all the fun they want.

The truth: Clinton has not called for anything remotely resembling a ban on guns — she wants to ban assault weapons but has otherwise not called for a gun ban. Someone listening to Trump’s speech would have come away with an entirely wrong idea of her policy.

8) Trump’s criticism on pushing for regime change in Syria

The decision to overthrow the regime in Libya, then pushing for the overthrow of the regime in Syria, among other things, without plans for the day after, have created space for ISIS to expand and grow.

The truth: As with his initial approval of the Libya invasion, Trump has grossly distorted his record on Syria. (As Vox’s Matt Yglesias points out, he once called for a “big, beautiful safe zone” in the country.)

The weirder, specific problem here is the knock on Clinton and Obama for creating ISIS by “pushing for the overthrow of the regime in Syria” — when Trump has himself calledfor ground troops in Syria.

9) Trump suggests Muslims need to do more to help fight terrorism

They have to work with us. They know what is going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know, what they didn’t turn them in and we had death.

The truth: This line revives a long-running Trump suggestion that Muslims are largely to blame for not really joining us in the fight against terrorism.

AND…

Trump’s “solutions” were simply ludicrous. For example, he called for military action in Muslim nations. Citing unnamed military leaders, Trump gave his strategy to kill them there before they kill us here.

“We have generals who think we can win this thing so fast and so strong but we have to be furious for a short period of time and we’re not doing it,” he said.

Why did Trump not mention the names of the generals who think this?  Because they don’t exist, I expect.  However, real, live military experts don’t feel that lobbing bombsin  Syria would stop incidents like the one in Orlando.

“I fundamentally disagree,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, who served as the chief U.S. military adviser in Iraq from 2013 to 2015. “The bottom line is [more bombing] has absolutely no bearing on individuals like Omar Mateen in Orlando, who obviously had some mental issues — like his absolute hatred of gays, lesbians and transgender community. Just wantonly increasing bombing against extremist radical groups in Iraq, Syria, etc. is not going to have a bearing on individuals in the United States and change their behavior.”

20 [Update: 50] Dead In Orlando Gay Club Shooting; Possible Terrorism

USA TODAY:

A heavily armed assailant opened fire in a packed Orlando nightclub early Sunday in a bloody massacre that left about 20 people dead and prompted a terrorism investigation, authorities said.

Police Chief John Mina said the tragedy began at 2:02 a.m., when three police officers engaged in a gun battle with a suspect outside Pulse Orlando, a gay club just south of downtown. A hostage situation then took place inside, and a SWAT team was called in, Mina said. Police received updates from patrons trapped in the club, and decided to storm the club at about 5 a.m.

Phelan M. Ebenhack, AP
Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

“Our biggest concern was further loss of life,” Mina said. “We exchanged gunfire with the suspect, and he was dead at the scene.”

Mina said 42 people were transferred to local hospitals, and one officer was wounded. He estimated the death toll at 20, and said at least 30 people were rescued.

“Tonight our community witnessed a horrific crime… that will have a lasting effect on our community,” a solemn Mayor Buddy Dyer said.

FBI Special Agent Ronald Hopper said the case was being investigated as a possible act of terrorism, either domestic or international. It was not clear if the shooter acted alone, he said. He said authorities were trying to determine if there was a connection with radical Islam.
“We do have suggestions that the individual may have leanings toward that particular ideology,” Hopper said.

A federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY the suspect has been identified as Omar Mateen and said investigators were reviewing the attacker’s possible utterances that may provide more specific information about a terror ideology or affiliation. The official, who was not authorized to comment, characterized the attack as “certainly’’ terrorism. It was not immediately clear whether investigators were aware of the attacker prior to the assault.

Mina said the gunman was armed with an assault rifle, a handgun and some sort of unidentified device. Officers from multiple agencies and dozens of emergency vehicles responded to the scene. Orange County Fire and Rescue called for gurneys to move victims from the club.

Many of the casualties were rushed to Orlando Regional Medical Center, which was placed on lockdown.
“We can confirm this is a mass casualty situation. Support from local/state/federal agencies,” Orlando police tweeted about four hours after events began to unfold. Then, a short time later: “Pulse Shooting: The shooter inside the club is dead.”

The White House said President Obama  was briefed by Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
Mina said there was no indication that there was more than one shooter. A bomb squad was at the scene, and police reported conducting a “controlled explosion.”
Hours after the shooting, police were still trying to piece together what happened.
“Anyone who was at Pulse nightclub and was a witness Please come to the Orlando Police HQ,” the department tweeted. “Any information you have could aid investigators in this case”

FBI Director James Comey has said in recent months that authorities had about 1,000 open investigations into home grown violent extremists. The overwhelming number of those cases, authorities said, were suspects with alleged ties to the Islamic State.

Orlando recently wrapped up its annual weeklong Gay Days festival on June 6 in which up to 150,000 in the LGBT community attend area theme parks, gay nightclubs and special events. It was the 25th anniversary of Gay Days. It remains one of the largest gay pride events in the world.

Saturday night and into Sunday, the club was celebrating Latin Night. Club patron Christopher Hansen told CNN he heard what could have been 20 or 30 shots, setting off a panic as people scrambled for cover or raced for the exits. He said he helped a couple people who were wounded.

“It’s just shocking,” said Hansen, who crawled to safety. “I just saw bodies going down.”
As the tragedy was unfolding, Pulse Orlando posted to its Facebook page: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”
Rosie Feba, a witness, told the Orlando Sentinel she and her girlfriend were in the club near closing time when, “she told me someone was shooting. Everyone was getting on the floor. I told her I didn’t think it was real, I thought it was just part of the music, until I saw fire coming out of his gun.”

Feba told the Sentinel she her girlfriend ran out of the club and helped a man who had been shot get outside.

The Orlando Fire Department called for its bomb squad and hazardous material team to the scene after 3 a.m. ET. Police K-9 dogs searched the area around nearby Orlando Regional Medical Center with an armed deputy in head-to-toe military gear.

A loud bang was heard before 5 a.m., but Orlando Police tweeted that it was the  controlled explosion by law enforcement.

Ali Kurnaz, 25, told USA TODAY he was working in his living room about a block from the nightclub when he heard gunfire.

“I could hear multiple rounds of gunfire to the point where it scared my cats,” Kurnaz said. “They came running from a different room.”

Kurnaz said he heard sirens as multiple police cars headed to the crime scene and helicopters flying over his neighborhood.
In some tweets appearing to come from inside Pulse nightclub short after the assault, people said they were hiding. Twitter users also said they heard multiple gunshots.
The shooting spree came just
one day after The Voice star Christina Grimmie was shot and killed after a concert Friday night at the Plaza Live Theater in Orlando. That gunman, identified as Kevin James Loibl, 27, of St. Petersburg, Fla., fatally shot himself after the attack.

UPDATE ON SHOOTER:

Both of Mateen’s parents are originally from Afghanistan, according to CBS News.

Mateen was born in New York, NBC News reports.

He was married in 2009, public records show. It is not clear if he was still married at the time of the attack.

Mateen is a registered Democrat who has also lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, according to online records.

He was also a notary public in Florida, but his license, issued in 2008, expired in 2012, records show.

UPDATE: Orlando mayor now says 50 dead, 53 injured

UPDATE: Shooter’s father tells NBC that religion not a factor, but did hear his son speak out against gays as recently as two weeks ago.

Florida AG Gets $ From Trump And Drops Case Against Trump U

This story has been around for a day or two, and needs more scrutiny:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Florida’s attorney general personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates

The new disclosure from Attorney General Pam Bondi’s spokesman to The Associated Press on Monday provides additional details around the unusual circumstances of Trump’s $25,000 donation to Bondi.

The money came from a Trump family foundation in apparent violation of rules surrounding political activities by charities. A political group backing Bondi’s re-election, called And Justice for All, reported receiving the check Sept. 17, 2013 — four days after Bondi’s office publicly announced she was considering joining a New York state probe of Trump University’s activities, according to a 2013 report in the Orlando Sentinel.

After the check came in, Bondi’s office nixed suing Trump, citing insufficient grounds to proceed.

Bondi declined repeated requests for an interview on Monday, referring all questions to Marc Reichelderfer, a political consultant who worked for her re-election effort.

Reichelderfer told AP that Bondi spoke with Trump “several weeks” before her office publicly announced it was deliberating whether to join a lawsuit proposed by New York’s Democratic attorney general. Reichelfelder said that Bondi was unaware of the many consumer complaints received by her office about Trump’s real-estate seminars at the time she requested the donation.

“The process took at least several weeks, from the time they spoke to the time they received the contribution,” Reichelderfer told AP.

The timing of the donation by Trump is notable because the now presumptive Republican presidential nominee has said he expects and receives favors from politicians to whom he gives money.

“When I want something I get it,” Trump said at an Iowa rally in January. “When I call, they kiss my ass. It’s true.”

In addition to the money given by his foundation, Trump himself has donated $253,500 in Florida since 1999, most of it going to Republican candidates, the state party or political committees affiliated with GOP officials. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, also gave a $500 check to Bondi a week before her father’s money came in, as well as another $25,000 to the Republican Party of Florida the following year.

The AP reviewed thousands of pages of records related to consumer complaints about Trump University and its affiliates filed with Bondi’s office. The documents — previously obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, which first reported Trump’s donation to Bondi — reveal a new reservoir of unhappy Trump University customers, despite recent claims from the presumptive GOP presidential nominee that the students of his real estate seminar company were overwhelmingly satisfied.

***

The Associated Press first reported last week that then-Texas Attorney Greg Abbott received $35,000 from Trump, three years after his office in 2010 dropped a proposed lawsuit over Trump U. Following AP’s report, former Texas Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens said the case had been dropped for political reasons. He also made public a detailed internal summary of what he called his staff’s strong case against Trump.

A spokesman for Abbott, now the Texas governor, said the case was dropped after Trump’s organization agreed to stop offering his namesake real-estate seminars in the state. Within months, Trump University was out of business nationwide.

Read the whole thing.

The Letter To Her Attacker

On January 18, 2015, at about 1 a.m., two male Stanford graduate students were riding their bikes through campus when they spotted a man on top of a woman near a dumpster. The woman did not appear to be moving. The students approached the man, who fled, leaving the woman, unconscious and partially naked, on the ground. One of the students chased him and held him down while the police was called. The man was identified as Brock Turner.

Outrage remains understandably high over the sentence of “the Stanford rapist”.  My recent tweets have pointed out some of the most offensive things about this case (besides, obviously, the rape itself).  The light six-month sentence given to the Stanford student.  His father’s plea for mercy, saying that his son shouldn’t be jailed for the rape in light of the fact that he only got “20 minutes of action” (yes, that’s a direct quote).  There’s nothing about the Stanford rape case that isn’t stomach-turning.

But there is a lighthouse on the island — the letter of the victim.  Long, but with preserving.  Great opening line, and it gets better.  I’ve placed it below the fold.

Imprisoned Bundy Brothers Are Upset Their Second Amendment Rights Have Been Taken Away

Ryan Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy, was one of several participants in the month-long standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge back in January, which ended up with one dead.  Ryan and his co-horts, which include his brother Ammon, all surrendered to federal authorities and are now in prison awaiting trial.

And apparently, they are not happy in prison.  According to a report (PDF), Bundy writes:

My rights are being violated. My right to life is being violated. All of my First Amendment rights are being violated. My right to freedom of religion is being violated. I cannot participate in religious activities and temple covenants, and wear religious garments. I could wear them at Henderson, but MCDC is depriving me of the right to wear them. My right to freedom of speech is being hampered by monitoring and recording. My right to freedom of assembly is being violated; I am not allowed to see my brother and move about.

Yesterday, I attempted to discuss these issues with the U.S. Marshals, and they said that these were simply the jail rules. I asked them specifically about if there was any reason for the ‘keep separate’ orders. In Henderson, my brothers and father were housed together. Up here, they make efforts to keep us separate. This violates my right to freedom of assembly. My Second Amendment rights are being violated. I never waived that right.

Yyyyeah.  They don’t let you keep guns in prison, Ryan.  You probably should have thought of that before you decided to seize federal property and claim it as your own.

Breaking: Today’s Mass Murder

Peeples OH:

Several fatalities have been reported in shootings at multiple locations on Union Hill Road in Pike County just northeast of Peebles, according to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Two adults and five children have been shot to death, according to Pastor Phil Fulton of the nearby Union Hill Church.

The number of fatalities is unconfirmed.  Also unconfirmed is whether there is someone in custody.

pikecounty

UPDATE:  Seven confirmed dead.  Apparently all in a family.  Bodies found in multiple locations throughout county.

Not two adults and five children, but five adults and two children.  Found shot “execution-style”.  No news on the suspect, but he must be either caught or dead since there is no news of a manhunt or lockdowns.

UPDATE #2:  Make that right dead.  Another adult found at a fourth location.

The Yahoos Get Their Day In Court

Remember that 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that finally ended with one dude getting killed?

Yeah, it’s still a rallying cry for the lunatic right, who love to carry around the Constitution but haven’t bothered to have it read and explained to them (except by other lunatics).

Seven men are facing federal charges of conspiracy, weapon, theft and damaging government property charges in Portland, Oregon.  Five of them appeared in court Friday and not surprisingly, it was a circus.  I guess they don’t recognize the authority of the court over them.

Two sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and three other men refused to enter pleas in federal court in Las Vegas to charges in an armed confrontation with government agents two years ago.

Magistrate Judge George Foley Jr. entered not guilty pleas on behalf of each man during a sometimes contentious arraignment that featured cat-calls and cheers from about 30 Bundy backers and defendants’ family members, under watchful eyes of about a dozen U.S. marshals.

“We don’t need any outbursts,” Foley warned from the U.S. District Court bench Friday. Twice he told the restive audience, “This is not a show.”

Oh, it will be.  Here’s how I know (emphasis mine)

His brother and co-defendant, Ryan Bundy, professed to understand his rights but not the charges against him. He also said he wants to serve as his own lawyer.

Yup.  Bundy is going to put The United States Government (a federal corporation) on trial!!

“You’re out of order!  You’re out of order!  This whole country’s out of order!”

Payne told the judge it was “preposterous, sir,” to have to defend himself against federal charges in two jurisdictions at the same time.

“I don’t understand the pretense of this level of government to bring forth such charges,” he added.

Brian Cavalier finished his arraignment — “I will not be entering a plea today,” he said — by offering federal prosecutors a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution.

Jesus wept.  Madison too.

 

Distracted Driving

Put it down:

BERLIN — A railway dispatcher apparently caused the deadly collision of two trains in the German state of Bavaria on Feb. 9 because he was playing a game on his cellphone until just before the accident, according to state prosecutors.

What’s The Panama Papers All About?

The leak amounts to 2.6 terabytes of information — perhaps the largest whistleblower leak in history.  Also, it might topple a country or too.

So it might be interesting to learn what the Panama Papers leak is all about.

It starts with a company called Mossack Fonesca.  That’s a Panamanian law firm that has long been well-known to the global financial and political elite.  The firm’s operations are diverse and international in scope, but they originate in a single specialty — helping foreigners set up Panamanian shell companies to hold financial assets while obscuring the identities of their real owners. Since its founding in 1977, it’s expanded its interests outside of Panama to include more than 40 offices worldwide, helping a global client base work with shell companies not just in Panama but also the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, and other notorious tax havens around the world.  The Panama Papers are leaks from that law firm.

What’s a shell company?  Well, sometimes a person or a well-known company or institution wants to buy things or own assets in a way that obscures who the real buyer is. For example, companies don’t like to tip their hand to what they are doing, and the use of shell companies to undertake not-ready-for-public-announcement projects can be a useful tool.  Shell companies are often used for simple privacy reasons. Real estate transactions, for example, are generally a matter of public record. So an athlete, actor, or other celebrity who wants to buy a house without his name and address ending up in the papers might want to pay a lawyer to set up a shell company to do the purchasing.

Here’s another way to put it, thanks to a Reddit user:

When you get a quarter you put it in the piggy bank. The piggy bank is on a shelf in your closet. Your mom knows this and she checks on it every once in a while, so she knows when you put more money in or spend it.

Now one day, you might decide “I don’t want mom to look at my money.” So you go over to Johnny’s house with an extra piggy bank that you’re going to keep in his room. You write your name on it and put it in his closet. Johnny’s mom is always very busy, so she never has time to check on his piggy bank. So you can keep yours there and it will stay a secret.

Now all the kids in the neighborhood think this is a good idea, and everyone goes to Johnny’s house with extra piggy banks. Now Johnny’s closet is full of piggy banks from everyone in the neighborhood.

One day, Johnny’s mom comes home and sees all the piggy banks. She gets very mad and calls everyone’s parents to let them know.

Now not everyone did this for a bad reason. Eric’s older brother always steals from his piggy bank, so he just wanted a better hiding spot. Timmy wanted to save up to buy his mom a birthday present without her knowing. Sammy just did it because he thought it was fun. But many kids did do it for a bad reason. Jacob was stealing people’s lunch money and didn’t want his parents to figure it out. Michael was stealing money from his mom’s purse. Fat Bobby’s parents put him on a diet, and didn’t want them to figure out when he was buying candy.

Now in real life, many very important people were just caught hiding their piggy banks at Johnny’s house in Panama. Today their moms all found out. Pretty soon, we’ll know more about which of these important people were doing it for bad reasons and which were doing it for good reasons. But almost everyone is in trouble regardless, because it’s against the rules to keep secrets no matter what.

The leaked documents provide details on some of these piggy banks — uh, shell companies. They reveal shocking acts of corruption in Russia, hint at scandalous goings-on in a range of developing nations, and may prompt a political crisis in Iceland.

Here are a few of the highlights, with links to the full stories where you can read the details:

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In a way, the fact that people use shell companies is not new, and it’s always been somewhat understood that there’s some underlying shenanigans behind these accounts.  Some of the shenanigans revealed by the Panama Papers involves nothing more than legal avarice.The name of Ian Cameron, the late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron, shows up in the Panama Papers, for example. Mossack Fonseca helped him set up his investment company Blairmore Holdings (named after his family’s ancestral country estate) in the British Virgin Islands, where, marketing material assured investors, the company “will not be subject to United Kingdom corporation tax or income tax on its profits.”

This particular kind of move is perfectly legal and doesn’t even involve any secrecy. It is entirely typical for investment companies whose employees all work or reside in New York, London, or Connecticut to be domiciled for tax purposes in someplace like the Cayman Islands.  Although when Bernie Sanders talks about this stuff, this is what he means.

On the other hand, there is shadier stuff.  One wealthy client, US millionaire and life coach Marianna Olszewski, was offered fake ownership records to hide money from the authorities. This is in direct breach of international regulations designed to stop money-laundering and tax evasion.

An email from a Mossack executive to Ms Olszewski in January 2009 explains how she could deceive the bank: “We may use a natural person who will act as the beneficial owner… and therefore his name will be disclosed to the bank. Since this is a very sensitive matter, fees are quite high.”  (It’s not clear with Ms. Olszewski has broken the law).

Meanwhile, as I write this, Iceland is going ballistic.  Protests throughout (below is a live YouTube stream) as the Prime Minister there refuses to resign:

Anyway, to be continued.

Not Mentioned In The Debate — Another Mass Shooting

Guess it isn’t newsworthy to the right:

A gunman killed three people in shootings that ended at a lawn care company in Kansas on Thursday, authorities said.

An additional 14 people were injured — 10 of whom are in critical condition at local hospitals.

The shooter was also killed by police, bringing the total number of fatalities to four.

Authorities first got calls about a man shooting from a vehicle in Newton about 5 p.m., the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office said.

Minutes later, there were reports of a shooting at Excel Industries, which makes lawn care equipment in Hesston, Kansas.

“Everybody says it can’t happen here,” Walton said. “And here we are. It happened here.”

The shooter, Cedric Ford, was served with a protection order 90 minutes before his shooting spree, and we can presume that was the “trigger” (no pun intended).  He drove through two towns randomly shooting people before returning to his workplace.

Oregon Standoff Has Arrests, A Shootout, and A Death

… but it continues.

There had been no visible law enforcement presence around the refuge as the situation stretched on for days and weeks, and occupiers came and went as they pleased, though they said they remained on guard. The group’s leaders had felt comfortable enough to move freely, leaving the refuge’s headquarters to attend meetings with residents and law enforcement officials.

On Tuesday afternoon, with the group’s leaders away from the refuge and traveling on a highway, FBI agents and the Oregon State Police moved to arrest them on federal charges. Five occupiers were arrested on the highway, including Ammon Bundy, the group’s leader. Three other people tied to the situation were later arrested in Oregon and Arizona.

All of the people arrested on the Oregon highway surrendered to authorities except for one man, later identified as LaVoy Finicum, a spokesman for the group who had previously said he would rather die than go to jail. Another official familiar with the encounter said Finicum refused to surrender and was fatally shot; authorities said Wednesday they were investigating the shooting.

The FBI and state police staked out a spot along the route to John Day to stop the caravan. At first, both vehicles complied with an order to pull over, but then the lead vehicle took off, the law enforcement official said.

It didn’t get very far, hitting a snow bank. Finicum, the official said, jumped out of that vehicle “brandishing a firearm.”

There are a couple of firsthand accounts of what happened yesterday out in Oregon and how Robert ‘LaVoy’ Finicum wound up getting shot and killed. The accounts differ substantially.

Finicum was a Mormon rancher with 11 children, 19 grandchildren and a wife of 23 years. He told NBC News three weeks ago that he would rather die than be taken into custody as part of the occupation.

It is unfortunate that that Mr. Finicum lost his life regardless of whether he’s wholly responsible for his death or not. I think the guy was disturbed and needed help. And I don’t think anyone was in a real position to give it to him except the other folks who were occupying the refuge with him, and they all seem to be nearly as far gone as he was.

Today, federal agents sealed off the Oregon wildlife refuge occupied by the remaining armed protesters. They up checkpoints and roadblocks around the refuge, saying that people who tried to travel inside would be arrested and calling for the armed people remaining there to leave. But also suggested that the situation at the refuge would not continue indefinitely and placed blame for the fatal encounter a day earlier on those occupying the refuge.

The bios of those arrested are here.

Lurking in the background since the beginning of the Oregon standoff was the possibility of violence and bloodshed, but the feds’ hands-off approach combined with the occupiers’ sometimes goofball circus antics helped keep that mostly below the surface. Last’s night violent confrontation has now changed the equation considerably, and the remaining occupiers are ramping up their rhetoric and are taking a more confrontational and aggressive pose, as is law enforcement.

The FBI has warned journalists this morning that it cannot guarantee their protection at the refuge, so many of them have gotten out of Dodge. Occupiers are issuing calls for supporters to rally to the refuge in their defense.

I don’t think this is over.  And already, it will be invoked by the rightwing extremists as another “Waco”.

The Sad Story Of Christine Mumma

mummaThe North Carolina Bar just ruled that Christine Mumma violated professional conduct rules in her quest to free an innocent man from prison.

Mumma is an attorney for the North Carolina Innocence Project (actually, The NC Center on Actual Innocence)  She was trying to free Joseph Sledge, 71, who had spent more than three decades in prison for a double homicide he did not commit.  Mumma and Sledge are pictured at the right.

The prosecutor was reluctant to release Sledge unless Mumma could find DNA matching the suspect in the double murder.  So Mumma visited the home of Marie Andrus, the woman from whom she was trying to get DNA.  Ms. Andrus’ sons (one or both of them) were suspects in the crime.

Ms. Andrus refused to give any DNA, but Mumma left the house with a water bottle, thereby obtaining the DNA.  (The full complaint is below the fold).

Yeah, it was the wrong thing to do (and Ms. Andrus has forgiven Mumma and understands), and so the disciplinary panel ruled against Ms. Mumma.

As an aside,  I should mention that Sledge was later found innocent and released early last year.

I write this with sadness.  People like Mumma deserve medals.  I can’t help but wonder if a little of this was payback from the state of NC.  I hope the consequences of this ruling today are not too harsh.  There needs to be more like Mumma.

Thursday Morning Schadenfreude

Awwwwww:

CWcTBL2WIAEGqPhMartin Shkreli, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur and former hedge fund manager who has been widely criticized for drug price gouging, was arrested Thursday morning by the federal authorities.

The investigation, in which Mr. Shkreli has been charged with securities fraud, is related to his time as a hedge fund manager and running the biopharmaceutical company Retrophin — not the price-gouging controversy that has swirled around him.

Mr. Shkreli, 32, is now chief executive and founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals, which has drawn scrutiny for acquiring a decades-old drug and raising the price of it overnight to $750 a pill, from $13.50.

He was arrested in his Midtown Manhattan apartment, according to a law enforcement source, who declined to be identified because the indictment had not been unsealed. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn were expected to hold a news conference on the charges later Thursday.

UPDATE:  Wish this was true….

Planned Parenthood Shooting Is Domestic Terrorism

I’ve been vacationing and the holidays and yada yada, so there’s been light blogging lately.

Colorado Springs shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina is seen in undated photos provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. A gunman burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 and opened fire, launching several gunbattles and an hourslong standoff with police as patients and staff took cover. By the time the shooter surrendered, at least three people were killed, including a police officer and at least nine others were wounded, authorities said. (El Paso County Sheriff's Office via AP)

The big news that I missed was a terrorist attack here on the United States, although whether to call it a “terrorist attack” seems to be arguable.  I’m talking of course about the shooter at Planned Parenthood.  On Saturday, November 27, a shooting and five-hour standoff with police occurred at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A police officer and two civilians were killed; five police officers and four civilians were injured. Police convinced the suspected shooter, identified as Robert Lewis Dear, to surrender. He was taken into custody after a standoff that lasted five hours. Yesterday, Dear was charged with murder in the first-degree, and was ordered to be held without bond.

It wasn’t hard to surmise his motive or political leanings, especially when he told the police “no more baby parts” and was known to have passed out anti-Obama literature.  Obviously, when you are trying to affect political or social change through the use of violence, that is the definition of terrorism — yet Republican candidates seem to have a hard time calling it this.  When a reporter told Ted Cruz that the suspect in the Colorado Springs killings is alleged to have mentioned “baby parts” after his arrest, the Texas senator responded, “Well, it’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and transgendered leftist activist, if that’s what he is.”  Cruz was likely citing a report from The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing blog, that uncovered a Colorado state voter registration form which lists Dear’s gender as female.  (Occam’s Razor suggests it was likely a clerical error — and it was).

On Fox News Sunday, Carly Fiorina called alleged killer Robert Lewis Dear “deranged’ and lamented that the shooting took place on a “holiday weekend,” before zeroing in on the real tragedy: the unfair treatment of Carly Fiorina by pro-choice activists and the left. Host Chris Wallace asked Fiorina if she saw a link between overheated anti-choice rhetoric and violence by abortion opponents. Fiorina, who at the second GOP debate regaled viewers with a grisly and entirely false story about Planned Parenthood workers yanking the brain out of a “living, kicking” fetus, failed to see how her words might inspire someone to take drastic action, adding:

“This is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing the messenger because they don’t agree with the message…. Anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is … this is typical left-wing tactics.”

The link was made, however, not by the leftwing, but by the gunman himself. Fiorina advanced the inflammatory lie that Planned Parenthood makes a profit from trafficking in fetal body parts. In fact, the fetal tissue is turned over for medical research, with the attendant fees used to cover expenses.

Ben Carson responded to the attack by wishing everyone would be a little more polite. He then politely blamed Planned Parenthood for the shooting.  Asked if extremist rhetoric emboldens domestic terrorists, Carson argued that “both sides” are to blame for vilifying each other. A fair point, perhaps, although nobody is shooting up Focus On The Family.  Personally, I think it is okay to villify terrorists.

Donald Trump briefly approximated humanness on Chuck Todd’s Meet the Press Sunday, calling the shooting “a terrible thing.” Seconds later the GOP candidate returned to form, denouncing Planned Parenthood and essentially blaming the organization for making Trump supporters angry.

Mike Huckabee had the guts to call the shooting an act of domestic terrorism and mass murder. “There’s no legitimizing, there’s no rationalizing. It was mass murder. It was absolutely unfathomable,” he said. But then he went on to equate what happened with abortion, which is legal.  He accused Planned Parenthood, which provides health services to low-income women, of mass murder, engaging in exactly the kind of extreme rhetoric that might convince an unhinged person the group is deserving of violent attack. “And there’s no excuse for killing other people, whether it’s happening inside the Planned Parenthood headquarters, inside their clinics where many millions of babies die, or whether it’s people attacking Planned Parenthood,” he said.

The point is that what happened in Colorado Springs is just an extreme example of a long line of terrorist actions against Planned Parenthood, which include threats, murders, and bombings.  Back in September, CBS reported that the FBI had noticed an uptick in attacks on reproductive health care facilities since the first video was released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP). There were nine criminal or suspicious incidents (including cyber attacks, threats, and arsons) from July, when the videos first came out, through mid-September.

An FBI Intelligence Assessment at the time found these attacks were “consistent with the actions of lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement.” Moreover, the report said it was “likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities.”

Less than two weeks after CBS reported that, another abortion clinic was firebombed in California. It was the fourth arson at a Planned Parenthood location in as many months.

Since 1977, there have been eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, and 186 arsons against abortion clinics and providers.  Even today, a hospital in Colorado Springs was put on lockdown because of a “suspicious person” making threats to shoot one of the victims from Friday’s deadly Planned Parenthood attack.

So the Richard Dear shootings are not an isolated incident, just an extreme one.  Stay tuned.

Mass Shooting Obama Response Montage

AFTERTHOUGHT:  What I liked about Obama’s response speech this time was this:

And I would particularly ask America’s gun owners — who are using those guns properly, safely, to hunt, for sport, for protecting their families — to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.

What Obama seems to want to do is drive a wedge between America’s gun owners and the NRA. Is that possible? I think so.  I think there are a lot of responsible gun owners who don’t like being lumped up with that group, but don’t feel welcome with the gun control crowd (who are often painted as “trying to ban all guns”).

It’s worth a shot.

Oregon Mass Shooting

As my tweets suggested yesterday, there was yet another mass shooting yesterday — this one at Umpqua Community College (“UCC”) in Oregon.  Nine killed, not including the shooter, and seven injured.

I will not name the killer.  In these circumstances, I often do name the killer, but one of the things that has come out is he wrote on his blog, a few days ago, that mass-killers go from unknown to famous in one day (his name is easily found on the Internets).  That suggests he was seeking notoriety, and I don’t want to contribute to that.

He walked into a classroom at UCC with four guns [UPDATE: six guns on campus, plus another seven at his home], and shot and killed the teacher point blank. As he was reloading his handgun, he ordered the students to stand up if they were Christians.  And they stood up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second”.  And then he shot and killed them.  Students who didn’t stand were shot in the leg.

Police on the scene eventually shot and killed the assailant.

These are the reports right now, but they are still not confirmed.  Some reports say he asked each student individually if they were Christian.  As usual, early reports are often not accurate.

But we know more about the shooter.  He was mixed race (white/black), age 26, and, according to an online dating profile, a “conservative Republican”.  The same profile said he did not believe in organized religion.

His motive is not known.  Although he was opposed to organized religion, and he reportedly made the “see God” comment, nothing else about him made it seem like he was radical in his anti-religion views [UPDATE:  And possibly a white supremacist, despite being half-black].  Nothing in his background made it seem like it was politically motivated.

He was reportedly shy and a loner.  Never had a girlfriend.

The email address used on the dating site was also associated with the profile of user Lithium-Love on torrent sharing website KickAssTorrents.  Lithium is the drug used by those with bipolar disorder, suggesting he had emotional problems.

The user wrote a blog post on the KickAssTorrents site about Vester Flanagan, the man who shot dead two reporters during a live broadcast in August before killing himself, calling the footage of the shooting “good”.  The post went on to say:

On an interesting note, I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.

The user’s last torrent upload was on Tuesday and was entitled “This World Surviving Sandy Hook BBC Documentary 2015,” according to the website.

UPDATE:  He left a note…

The heavily armed gunman who slaughtered nine people at an Oregon college left a hate-filled note at the scene of his rampage and “felt the world was against him,” law enforcement officials confirmed Friday.

Two officials familiar with the contents of the note say 26-year-old Christopher Harper Mercer, who was killed in a firefight Thursday with police at Umpqua Community College, wrote that he would be “welcomed in Hell and embraced by the devil.”

He wrote that he was “in a bad way,” one official said. “He was depressed, sullen.”

The officials said Mercer lamented the fact that he did not have a girlfriend. “He said he had no life,” another official said.

Sexual Violence On Campus — Worse Than We Thought

One of the largest-ever surveys on campus sexual violence was conducted recently by the Association of American Universities.  More than 150,000 students across 27 colleges were surveyed,  The results, released Monday, are terrible.

The survey asked students whether they had experienced events ranging from sexual touching to forcible penetration. If they answered affirmatively, they were asked follow-up questions about the circumstances and the event’s aftermath, including whether they reported the incident to law enforcement or a campus authority. Some scenarios that appeared in the survey fit the legal definitions for rape and sexual battery, while others involved incidents that universities typically consider to be sexual misconduct. Other questions measured attitudes toward campus sexual assault and how often students intervened when they observed potentially risky situations.

The participation rate of respondents was low, which might call into question the validity of some of these results.

Here are a few takeaways:

  • More than 1 in 5 undergraduate women are victims of sexual assault.The AAU’s findings suggest sexual-assault rates are slightly higher than the widely cited yet disputed statistic that 1 in 5 college women are victims of sexual assault. According to the survey, 23 percent of female respondents said they experienced nonconsensual sexual contact due to physical force, under the threat of physical force, or while they were incapacitated by drugs or alcohol. Among seniors nearing graduation, that number rises to 1 in 3.
  • In the last academic year alone, 11 percent of respondents said they experienced nonconsensual sexual contact. That’s around 16,500 students across the 27 institutions.
  • First-year students are are the most vulnerable to sexual assault. Sixteen percent of freshman women said they experienced sexual contact under physical force or incapacitation.
  • The vast majority of students don’t report sexual assault or misconduct. While most victims said they confided in a friend, family member or someone else, only 26 percent of students who experienced forcible penetration filed an official report. More than half of those victims said they didn’t consider the event serious enough to go to the authorities, while one-third of said they were “embarrassed, ashamed, or that it would be too emotionally difficult.” Others said they “did not think anything would be done about it.” Students were much more likely to report certain kinds of events than others, with reports filed by 28 percent of stalking victims but only 5 percent of those who experienced unwanted sexual touching while they were incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.​
  • Transgender and gender-nonconforming students experience sexual assault and misconduct at higher rates than their peers. These students comprised 1.5 percent of survey respondents, but nearly 40 percent of seniors identifying with this group said they had experienced nonconsensual sexual contact in college, compared to a third of senior women. They’re also less likely to believe the university will conduct a fair investigation or take their reports seriously.
  • Response rates were low. About 19 percent of students across the 27 universities chose to respond to the online survey, which was conducted during a three-week period in April. The survey notes that nonvictims may be less likely to participate, skewing incidence rates slightly upward. Still, final participation rates were well below the the rates of similar studies.

Here is the survey if you want to go deep-diving into methodology and results:

For The Black Lives Matter Files

I suspect stories like this fly under the radar an awful lot, and nobody even knows about it:

A young black man arrested by police in Portsmouth, Virginia, on the same day that one of the city’s officers fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old, has been found dead in jail after spending almost four months behind bars without bail for stealing groceries worth $5.

Jamycheal Mitchell, who had mental health problems, was discovered lying on the floor of his cell by guards early last Wednesday, according to authorities. While his body is still awaiting an autopsy, senior prison officials said his death was not being treated as suspicious.

“As of right now it is deemed ‘natural causes’,” Natasha Perry, the master jail officer at the Hampton Roads regional jail in Portsmouth, said of his death in an interview. Perry said there were no obvious outward signs of injury to the 24-year-old’s body.

Mitchell’s family said they believed he starved to death after refusing meals and medication at the jail, where he was being held on misdemeanour charges of petty larceny and trespassing. A clerk at Portsmouth district court said Mitchell was accused of stealing a bottle of Mountain Dew, a Snickers bar and a Zebra Cake worth a total of $5 from a 7-Eleven.

Mitchell was a chain-smoker, had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  None of those things, however, should have caused his death of “natural causes” at the age of 24.

Setting aside, if possible, his death (which, I am sorry, IS suspicious) why the hell is a black man in jail, without bail, for four months, for stealing $5 worth of groceries?

Terrible Live Shooting On TV This Morning

Troubling video (not bloody, but shocking)

Both the reporter and the cameraman are dead.

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During an interview on CNN, General Manager Jeffrey Marks confirmed that today was Parker’s last day with the station. Marks also said that Ward’s fiancee Melissa Ott was in the control room during the broadcast, and saw the shooting happen live. From the video shot by the cameraman (as he died), a frame may have caught the shooter. 11935115_10156061166125093_4992410002731105501_n 

This all happened at 7:45 a.m. today during a live interview in the town of Moneta, Virginia. A manhunt for the shooter is on. Let me state the obvious before everyone else does:

(1)  Yes, the only reason this is “news” is because it happened on TV.  But double murders happen all the time.
(2)  Yes, the victims are white, although honestly, when black people are shot and it is recorded, we pay attention then as well.
(3)  This would be a good time for the candidates to speak up about gun control.  Watch the GOP candidates say instead that this is a time for “prayers” so that they never have to address gun control.

UPDATE 10:25 a.m. — Shooter is apparently a disgruntled employee of the TV station.

UPDATE 10:40 a.m. — Suspect identified as Vester Lee Flanigan (or Lester Lee Flanigan?), a light-skinned black man, who is about 6’3″, 250lbs and driving a gray 2009 Ford Mustang with Virginia license plates WZE-8846.  Police are in pursuit on Interstate 81 In a related story, of local interest, the second guy in the local (Rockingham County NC) manhunt was caught last night.  So that happened.

UPDATE 11:25 a.m.  Ugh. This story gets worse and worse. The shooter (Flanigan) goes by the name of Bryce Williams. He was a reporter at the station. And he started sharing video of the shooting (from his vantage point) on his Twitter account (which has been shut down) and Facebook page (also shut down). The video is very graphic and people are very good about not posting (or viewing it).  I’ve seen it, but I won’t post or link to it.  You can see him walk up to her and draw his gun and aim it at her (image below).  Nobody notices.  He puts the gun down and steps back a step or two.  Another 3 or 4 seconds pass.  Suddenly he lifts the gun and fires.  Alison Parker is seen running off.  The screen goes black and you hear more shots.   You don’t actually see anyone get hit, but it is startling.

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And more about the shooter now….  

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UPDATE 11:55 a.m. – Not dead, but in critical condition.

UPDATE 2:00 p.m. – Okay.  Now confirmed dead.

And now a motive — or rather several of them — emerge:

In the 23-page document faxed to ABC News, the writer says “MY NAME IS BRYCE WILLIAMS” and his legal name is Vester Lee Flanagan II.” He writes what triggered today’s carnage was his reaction to the racism of the Charleston church shooting:

“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…”

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

It is unclear whose initials he is referring to. He continues, “As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!” He said Jehovah spoke to him, telling him to act.

Later in the manifesto, the writer quotes the Virginia Tech mass killer, Seung Hui Cho, calls him “his boy,” and expresses admiration for the Columbine High School killers. “Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there. He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harrisand Dylann Klebold got…just sayin.'”

In an often rambling letter to the authorities, and family and friends, he writes of a long list of grievances. In one part of the document, Williams calls it a “Suicide Note for Friends and Family.”

–He says has suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work

–He says he has been attacked by black men and white females

–He talks about how he was attacked for being a gay, black man

“Yes, it will sound like I am angry…I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace….”

“The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily…I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

Trumps Reaction To Hate Crime — He Hits A New Low

This turns my stomach:

The homeless man was lying on the ground, shaking, when police arrived early Wednesday. His face was soaked, apparently with urine, his nose broken, his chest and arms battered.

Police said two brothers from South Boston ambushed the 58-year-old as he slept outside of a Dorchester MBTA stop, and targeted him because he is Hispanic. One of the brothers said he was inspired in part by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

***

Trump, told of the alleged assault, said “it would be a shame . . . I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”

Those ellipses might mean anything, but one thing is clear — Trump’s pivot from discussion of a hate crime to the passion of those who follow him, is nothing short of sick.  No, Donald Trump isn’t explicitly saying it’s okay to beat people up because of how they look (but at least two men have interpreted it that way).  The correct thing to do is to tell them, and the rest of his followers, that that interpretation is unequivocally wrong.  Instead he frames the abhorrent crim as a moderately regrettable downside of his movement’s “passion.”

UPDATE — Over 24 hours later since he was first asked….

Ashley Madison Hackers Release Names

The Impact Team, the name of the group that hacked the Ashley Madison website (a site owned by Avid Life Media), has released the names, addresses and phone numbers — as well as a four-digit code that could be either partial credit card numbers or just user numbers — of the 37 million users of the cheat-on-your-spouse website.

But don’t rush to a website and start looking for cheaters in your social circles.  The data is available on the Dark Web, which is part of the Internet not readily available to just anybody. Basically, it requires software and technical knowledge that I don’t have, but the information is available, and some genius tech nerdos are probably poring through the leaked names at this very moment.

Who knows?  Maybe sometime soon you’ll be able to download all 9.7 gigs of information.  But before you get giddy — yeah, it does have the makings of some sort of modern fable in which wannabe cheaters get their comeuppance — just a standard reminder that if you download it and look through it for people you might know, there’s no turning back from that. And somewhere out there, there’s a database of stuff you do that you would prefer not get out there.

Here’s the announcement of the leak, which sets forth the particular objections of the hackers:

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This sounds like someone who was caught using Ashley Madison, and was pissed that they did not do enough to keep his account secret.

I don’t know the site, although when I read that it has 37 million users, I was astounded.  Then again, if the hackers are correct, that 37 million may be “fake”.  Who knows?

But it makes little difference what the site is for.  Revealing names and phone numbers and private information is a pretty serious felony.  And it should be.  This would be true whether the hacked site is Catfancy.com or Ashley Madison.

I wonder how many marriages are going to be damaged as a result of this.  Probably not very many, as long as it stays on the Dark Web.  I wonder if that will happen.

It seems there is some truth to the assertion that Avid Life Media was lax about cyber security:

Senior staff at Ashley Madison, the hacked extramarital dating site, were raising concerns over its security procedures as recently as June, just a month before the site was attacked.

Internal documents leaked as part of the attack show concerns over “a lack of security awareness across the organisation” being raised by one vice president.

This news story is messed up in about ten different ways.

Today’s Movie Theater Shooting

And the winner is…. Anitoch, Tennessee’s Carmike Hickory 8 Theaters

The movie was:  Mad Max
The shooter is: Dead (shot by police)
Shooter characteristics:  White male, age 51
Shooter weapons: pepper spray, gun, hatchet, surgical mask and 2 backpacks (possible bombs?)
# of victims:  0 dead, 3 treated for pepper spray, 1 with bruises from hatchet
Motive: TBD
Is he crazy?:  TBD
Expected right-wing reaction: “If only more people in the theater had guns….”

Set the clock back to zero.  Start another count to the next shooting….

Adventures In Police Framing

Then:

A police officer in Alabama proposed murdering a black resident and creating bogus evidence to suggest the killing was in self-defence, the Guardian has learned.

Officer Troy Middlebrooks kept his job and continues to patrol Alexander City after authorities there paid the man $35,000 to avoid being publicly sued over the incident. Middlebrooks, a veteran of the US marines, said the man “needs a god damn bullet” and allegedly referred to him as “that nigger”, after becoming frustrated that the man was not punished more harshly over a prior run-in.

***

Middlebrooks allegedly said “the police were going to pull [Bias] aside on a routine traffic stop and [Bias] would get killed”. According to the lawsuit, which has since been filed to court in a separate ongoing case against the city, this prompted the brother-in-law to retrieve a voice recorder that Bias had been carrying around with him in an attempt to monitor alleged harassment by police, and then return to the conversation with the officer.

On the recording, Middlebrooks is heard suggesting Bias had been behaving threateningly towards his relatives. The officer said if he were in the same position, he would “fucking kill that motherfucker with whatever I had in that fucking house”.

Now:

Some of the contents of Sam DuBose’s car at the time of his death have been identified.

WLWT has confirmed through CPD’s search warrant inventory document that four bags and a jar of marijuana were in Dubose’s car at the time of the July 19 traffic stop that ended in former UC Officer Ray Tensing fatally shooting DuBose.

However, multiple sources have told WLWT officers found a little less than 2 pounds of marijuana.

No officials were immediately able to confirm the amount of marijuana found.

According to reports, the marijuana was found in the car’s center console, under the front passenger seat and on the floor behind the driver’s seat.

Police sources said the street value for the amount of marijuana found in DuBose’s car is  anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000 depending on the quality and the demand.

Police said any marijuana weighing more than two pounds is considered a felony.

Officers said the search warrant was obtained two days after the deadly shooting.

The Hubbub About Cecil

Seems like the Internet went absolutely bonkers yesterday about how a policeman killed a completely innocent black man dentist killed a completely innocent lion.  It’s important to understand exactly what he did.  He didn’t merely shoot and kill a lion who was iconic to the region and the center of a research study; he poached it:

ciceldentistWalter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the Lion, closed his practice and went into hiding after a worldwide firestorm erupted over him killing Cecil. Palmer claims he misunderstood the rules. The circumstances around Cecil’s death, Palmer’s barbaric past, and the fact that he has gone into hiding tells the story.

Palmer’s hunting guides, Theo Bronkhorst and Honest Ndlovu, appeared before a court in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and were charged with receiving a $50,000 bribe to help Palmer stalk and kill the animal. The operative word is “bribe.” Just the basic definition of the word alludes that Palmer had prior knowledge that he was committing an illegal act. Although Bronkhorst and Ndlovu have been charged, Palmer hasn’t even received a court summons for this atrocity.

Palmer used illegal hunting tactics to track and kill Cecil. During night hours, Palmer and his guides used a dead animal tethered to their vehicle to lure Cecil out of the park because they thought doing that would make the kill legal. Not so much. Baiting animals while hunting in the region is illegal, as is night hunting. Nothing about this “hunt” was legal. Hell, it’s unethical even from a sporting perspective.

Once they lured Cecil out of the park, they flashed a spotlight so Palmer could shoot the lion full of arrows. Palmer tracked Cecil for 40 hours, and then found the lion weakened from his injuries. Palmer finished off this slaughter with a gunshot.

“This is much closer to assassination than hunting,” said hunter and journalist Jonny Miles. “The trophy aspect is subordinate to the experience, to the knowledge required and the knowledge gained, to the very ancient relationship that you are experiencing with an animal that you are hunting for food.”

Miles added that, even by hunting standards, Palmer falls short of being ethical. Palmer has a past of unethical and illegal hunting practices. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to a license violation regarding the illegal killing of a black bear in Wisconsin. He killed the bear in an illegal location, similar to Cecil’s killing. He was charged with a felony but was only given a $3,000 fine and one year of probation.

Since being identified, Palmer has gone into deep hiding. He closed his dental practice, deleted any social media account associated with him, and is avoiding the press. He may be hiding from the public, but his silence is as telling as an admission of guilt.

His dental office:

The dentist is being condemned and rightly so, although perhaps the more healthy response is to donate to the researchers that had been tracking Cecil. These guys.

Louisiana Movie Theater Shooting Update

Again.

The gunman who opened fire inside a packed movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, Thursday night, was John Russel Houser, police said at a news conference this morning.

Houser, 59, who killed himself, is among three people who died, police said. The other two were Mayci Breaux, 21, of Franklin, Louisiana, who died at the theater, and Jillian Johnson, 33, of Lafayette, who died at the hospital.

Nine others were injured, including one who was in critical condition, police said.

Gov. Bobby Jindal praised two New Iberia teachers as heroes. One leaped over the other to shield her and pull a fire alarm:

“Her friend literally jumped over her, and in her account actually saved her life,” Jindal said during a press conference. “If she hadn’t done that … that bullet, she believed it would have hit her in the head.

“Even though she was shot in the leg, she had the presence of mind to pull the fire alarm to help save other lives.”

The gunman had a history of criminal/mental problems.  How he managed to get a semi-automatic handgun is not known yet.

Nothing will happen to change gun laws.

UPDATE:  Raw Story did some Internet digging on the shooter.  Confederate flag-waving right-wing nut?  You bet kids:

John Russell Houser, of Phenix City, Alabama, posted frequently across a variety of online forums — from political discussions to message boards for Oldsmobile enthusiasts — where he complained about “moral decay” and media brainwashing.

“America is so sick that I now believe it to be the enemy of the world,” he wrote under the name Rusty Houser in a December 2013 comment on Fellowship of the Minds. “I know next to nothing about Iran, but the little I do know tells me they are far higher morally than this financially failing filth farm.”

The 59-year-old Houser was less active on Facebook and Twitter, although he left behind some clues about his beliefs on those social media networks.

“If you don’t think the internet is censored, try reading a newspaper from a country that hates liberals the way I do,” reads his second — and last — Twitter post, from June 2013. The first argues that “Westboro Baptist Church may be the last real church in America [members not brainwashed].”

His Facebook account shows just two likes — the “I hate liberals!” political organization, which uses an avatar that reads “Stand with Rand,” and the Crossroads Irish-American Festival.

Posts on his Facebook page reveals an interest in limiting women’s influence over the church, a hatred for American culture, and complaints about liberals “brainwashing” Americans into hating their own country.

“The bible doesn’t ask me to like what it says, only to obey it,” Houser wrote. “Death comes soon to the financially failing filth farm called the US.”

Houser signed up for an account with Tea Party Nation in June 2013, but he was not an active commenter.

Posts on other forums reveal Houser’s belief that the U.S. was racist against white people, sterilization should be mandatory for welfare recipients and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was a more historically significant figure than the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Hitler accomplished far more than any other through ‘pragmatically forming,’” Houser posted in January 2015.

He wrote something of a manifesto in March 2013, when he asked for help channeling his anger and frustration as a white Christian man living under President Barack Obama.

1 Recognize a lost cause.It is too late.The US is oozing the puss of foolishness and perversion.

2 Find a positive way to exert your energies.I recommend laughing as often as possible.Here is something that is truly funny: since I accepted this it came to me that the president is doing exactly what Tim McVeigh did,only the president is much more effective.The way I see it,the faster he wrecks this nation, which in no way resembles what it’s founders envisioned,the faster working people with morals may re-assume command.ie I was for his re-election. I like his spending habits.etc……Truth and death always go hand in hand, and in our brave moments we can laugh. Whatever truth requires, I will accept.

3 Encourage whatever takes us forward. Right now, down is forward.

4 For the few who will understand this, it is my hope that you will see to one preparation for the coming downfall, which will be worse than a Mad Max scenario. That preparation is not storing up canned goods, munitions,etc, but to gather what will be necessary to put in your families food to insure a painless and certain death should the need arise.,if there are no cell phones,no TV,no power,gas,no stores,no police,etc.

5 If you are male, fight until the end, and enjoy it.People are good at what they enjoy, and your Maker would want it that way.

Houser argued in a January 2014 forum post that the United States needed a right-wing party like Greece’s neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” faction to restore its greatness.

Jesus. ANOTHER Mass Shooting

Happened within the past few hours. A shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette Louisiana. 2 are confirmed dead. The shooter is dead. 8 appear to be wounded. It happened 20 minutes into the movie “Trainwreck”.

Ironically, President Obama had taped an interview for the BBC which was going to air in a few hours. In the interview, President Obama stated that his biggest frustration during his presidency was being unable to get any effective gun laws passed. Yep.

UPDATE: Eyewitness says the shooter was a middle age white man, and he was chasing a barefoot woman. Others say shooter stood up as movie was starting and began shooting indiscriminately.

UPDATE:3 confirmed dead, which includes the shooter, a 58 year old man.

On The Ashley Madison Hack

So, a few days ago, the website Ashley Madison was hacked and its 37 million customers could soon have their data leaked online by a crew calling themselves The Impact Team.  Ashley Madison, for the uninitiated, is a site that lets spouses cheat on their partners — kind of like a match.com for adulterers. The Impact Team has threatened to release a huge trove of data beyond the snippets of information they already leaked from Avid Life Media, the owner of Ashley Madison and related properties Established Men and Cougar Life, if the cheating site was not shut down.

Why is Impact Team doing this?  Well, it seems they were particularly aggrieved at a service launched by Ashley Madison last year, promising it could delete users’ information so it was irrecoverable for $19. The hackers claimed that service didn’t do as advertised, and customers’ names and addresses were still stored on ALM’s servers.

“Full Delete netted ALM $1.7mm in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie,” The Impact Team said in a notice alongside the leak, in which they also claimed to have taken complete control of ALM’s “office and production domains”, as well as “all customer information databases”.

If that is true, I think they have a point.

Now, I suppose the news of the leak is ho-hum news to a lot of people, but to 37 million — wait…. let’s just contemplate that number.

Wow.

Ok.  Well to them this is potentially… bad.  REAL bad.

What disgusts me are people like Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, who posted a message on his Facebook page about the matter Wednesday afternoon, stating:

The Bible says, “be sure your sin will find you out.” Ashley Madison, the website for people who want to cheat on their spouses was hacked this weekend. Their slogan is: “Life is short. Have an affair.” Hackers threatened to reveal personal data related to 37 million users. I have news for all those worried cheaters out there wringing their hands—God already knew! His holy Word says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). Times may have changed, but God’s laws and standards never change—all sin has a price. The New York Daily News calls this an “‪#‎adultery‬ website.” Isn’t it a shame that immorality is such big business?

You know what?  F you, Franklin Graham.

Not being married nor inclined to cheat, I’m not personally affected by this hack, but it does establish a terrible precedent.  We don’t want to snicker at the cheaters who got caught because you never know what could be out in the dark hidden recesses of the web that reflects badly on you or. . .  and this is important . . . someone with the same name as you.  So I think we need to pay attention to this type of thing a little more closely.

Chattanooga Shootings

Well, someone went ballistic (so to speak) in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  It is all unfolding now, but he apparently shot up a Navy Recruitment Center.  This pic was posted on Twitter

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The suspect has been killed.  That is confirmed   Not much known about him other than he was white and drove a Mustang.

A police officer has been shot but is in stable condition.  Four military officers were also shot — condition unknown but reports are there is “a lot of blood”.  Despite the fact that the shooter is dead, many places in Chattanooga remain on lockdown.

On the local Chattnooga news, they are taking strains not to speculate, but you can tell what they are thinking.

So I’ll say it: shooting at the military?  It sure sounds like someone might be buying into this Jade Helm 15 thing.

UPDATE – 3:00 PM EST:

News conference held.  Some more info….

Investigators confirm Chattanooga, Tenn., shootings occurred at 2 different military buildings.  Three people, including police officer, being treated for injuries.  Four Marines killed.  Gunman killed as well.  He had multiple weapons. Authorities say no reason to believe anybody else was involved.  Motive unknown.

The shooting began about 10:45 a.m. at one recruiting center on Lee Highway in and ended about 30 minutes later at the facility on Amnicola Highway, where all of the deaths occurred.The United States attorney Bill Killian said that federal investigators would take the lead on the case, which he initially called an “act of domestic terrorism” before backing away, saying that the investigation would determine how the crime should be labeled.

UPDATE – 3:44 PM EST:

I know they said we shouldn’t attach labels, but….  Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez?  Yeah, we shouldn’t come to a conclusion based just on the name, but it’s a pretty safe speculation that we can call it “terrorism”.  Domestic or foreign?  TBD.  Guess I was wrong about the Jade Helm thing.

Also, the police are manning the military recruitment stations in NYC.  And other places, I suspect.

Roof’s Sister Asks For Donations

From a Charlotte TV station:

The sister of the suspected Charleston church shooter, Dylann Roof, is asking the public for donations — but not for her brother.

In a “Go Fund Me” post, Amber Roof is asking for $5,000 to pay for her and her fiance’s wedding, which was originally scheduled for June 21.

They canceled the wedding after her brother was accused of the shooting at Emanuel AME church just three days earlier.

In a post on the Go Fund Me page, Amber said canceling the ceremony cost them thousands of dollars and brought sorrow, pain and shame to her wedding day.

“Our wedding day was suppose to be the most important and special day of our lives. It was suppose to start our lives together with our new family. Our day was the exact opposite. Our wedding day was full of sorrow, pain, and shame, tainted by the actions of one man,” Amber said in the post.

Amber said she will donate 10 percent of the money raised to Emanuel AME.

So far, the couple has not rescheduled their wedding.

Must suck to be the sister of a racist mass murderer.  She seems to disavow her brother, referring to him as “one man”.

And it is nice the she intends to donate some of the money to the church.

Anyway, if you click on the link, the GoFundMe page is gone.  But here is a screenshot someone obtained before it was taken down.

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I just hope she wasn’t bombarded with hateful messages.  On the other hand, maybe the whole thing was a scam.  Or maybe some nice person came alone and offered to pay for the wedding.  In any event, if the comments on this Facebook page are any indication, people are coming down pretty hard on her.

Down The Street From Me…. Murder Most Foul!

Oh my:

As a result of a joint investigation between the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and the WSPD, along with the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office, investigators have charged two Pfafftown residents after finding human remains in their back yard.

During the course of a WSPD Missing Person investigation, information was obtained that led Investigators to a home located at 3555 Brookbank Drive. On June 26 authorities executed a search warrant on the house and investigators discovered human remains. The North Carolina State University Forensic Anthropology Unit and the Medical Examiner’s Office from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center assisted in the examination of remains before they were removed from the scene.

The human remains are currently being evaluated and Investigators are awaiting a positive identification as of this writing. Authorities have indicated that they have an idea of who the remains are, but will not be releasing that information pending a positive identification.

Upon presentation and review of the evidence collected thus far to the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office issued Warrants for Arrest for felonious Destruction of Body/Remains Concealment of Death, NCGS 14-401.22(E), were issued for 34 year-old Jason Michael Mitchell and 48 year-old Mary Utleye Mitchell.

I actually know a Jason Mitchell (but not a Mary Mitchell), but I don’t think he is 34 and he doesn’t live in Pfafftown.

Oh, yeah.  Not him.  There’s pictures accompanying the article.

Who Is Burning Black Churches?

If you could give out an award for under-reported stories these past few weeks, this is it.  Granted, it has been a very busy series of news cycles, with gay marriage and confederate flags and mass murder and a million GOP candidates, but this is more important than, say, shark attacks.  And to be sure, if ISIS so much as set a trash can on fire, the news would be all over it.  But so far, there’s been very little on what is clearly a pattern of racist arson.

Fortunately, the media is starting to take notice, like the New York Times today:

02zionGREELEYVILLE, S.C. — Another predominantly African-American church has burned in the South, the latest in a string of fires that has put congregations on edge.

Investigators on Wednesday morning were in Greeleyville, S.C., north of Charleston, where an African-American church caught fire overnight 20 years after the Ku Klux Klan burned it down.

It took over two hours to extinguish the fire that burned through the roof and gutted the predominantly black Mount Zion A.M.E. Church. Lightning storms were reported in the area overnight, and Mark Keel, the chief of the South Carolina Enforcement Division, said that it was too early to determine the cause of the fire.

Tuesday night’s fire came as the authorities in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee investigated blazes at other churches, most of them predominantly black. Although the authorities have concluded that some of those fires were arson, officials have not yet described any of the episodes as hate crimes. Investigators also said there was no evidence that the fires at the churches were linked.

But here in Greeleyville, a town of about 400 people, speculation was already circulating, particularly along the two-lane road where Mount Zion sits and where federal and state investigators were working early Wednesday. The latest blaze drew investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

“Do I think God is now burning down only black churches, and only wiring in black churches is going awry? I take issue with that,” said Dimas Salaberrios, a pastor from New York who was in South Carolina in the wake of the June 17 shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, a drive of less than 90 minutes from Greeleyville.

James Montgomery, an occasional attendee at Mount Zion whose grandparents are buried in the cemetery behind the charred church building, urged caution. “It’s just a shame,” he said as he gazed at the building, where access was restricted by yellow crime scene tape. “I hope it’s an accident. I hope it’s nothing else.”

[UPDATE: CNN reports that “federal investigators suspect lightning may have caused the fire at Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina, senior officials in the FBI said Wednesday morning. The FBI has been working with the National Weather Service to determine whether the heavy storms in the area contributed to the fire. A forensics report of lightning strikes by CNN meteorologists shows four strikes occurred in the immediate vicinity of the church, all at 7:18 p.m. ET Tuesday night.  Okay, maybe.  It’s still suspicious though.]

Unfortunately, this is what the New York Times wrote only two days ago, before the Wednesday fire:

After a deadly racist attack in South Carolina and heated debates about Confederate symbols, a string of fires at black churches in the South has put congregations on edge. But officials say they have found no evidence that the blazes were hate crimes.

Fires struck five predominantly black churches last week, and investigators say that at least two were arson. So far, investigators say, there are no indications that any of the fires were connected, or that racism was behind them.

“The idea that this could be about hate, by someone who had no hope, no outlet but to do something so tragic — we were devastated, I mean heartbroken, terrified,” the Rev. Rhonda Kinsey, a pastor of Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., said Monday.

Investigators have concluded that while the fire in Charlotte, and one two days earlier in Knoxville, Tenn., were certainly arson, they were probably acts of vandalism. Of the four structures at Briar Creek Baptist, only a youth activities building in the back of the complex burned, while the sanctuary was untouched.

I’m not sure how vandalism which ends up with a burnt church is different from arson.  And even if it is technically (or legally) different, I think that misses the point.  Clearly, black churches are being targeted.

Below the fold is a complete chronology of what we know about the burnings, all of which occurred after the shootings in Charleston.

SCOTUS Round-up: Three More Five-To-Four Decisions Today

Today is the last day of the SCOTUS term, and so they issued the last of their opinions.  The two biggest cases — on Obamacare and sames-sex marriage — came out at the end of last week, so a lot fewer people were paying attention this morning.  Here’s what happened:

(1)  DEATH PENALTY – The 5-4 decision in Glossip v. Gross was a win for conservatives who support the death penalty and viewed the case’s technical dispute over one state’s lethal injection methods.  The Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma’s “drug cocktail” is not cruel and unusual punishment, despite the fact that it has resulted in some botched execution.  Scalia was especially snarky in his concurrence, starting with “Welcome to Groundhog Day” as he noted repeated attempts to abolish the death penalty for good.  He also said that those who seek abolition of the death penalty “reject the Enlightenment”.  (Odd!)

(2)  ENVIRONMENT – The Supreme Court in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency ruled 5-4 against EPA regulations to limit mercury emissions and other pollutants at power plants.  Substituting its judgment for the EPA’s the Supreme Court said the EPA’s decision to impose the regulations was not reasonable or necessary since it did not take into account the costs to utilities to make these changes.  Happy breathing, everybody!

CIrTeTxWEAEYP2U(3)  GERRYMANDERING – In a win for liberals (Kennedy siding with the liberal four), The Supreme Court in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission upheld Arizona congressional districts drawn by an independent commission and rejected a constitutional challenge from Republican lawmakers. The outcome preserves efforts in 13 states to limit partisan influence in redistricting. Most notably, California uses an independent commission to draw electoral boundaries for its largest-in-the-nation congressional delegation.

The Arizona case stemmed from voter approval of an independent commission in 2000. The legislature’s Republican leaders filed their lawsuit after the commission’s U.S. House map in 2012 produced four safe districts for Republicans, two for Democrats and made the other three seats competitive. Democrats won them all in 2012, but the Republicans recaptured one last year.

CIrN-hRWcAE46YlJustice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court that there is “no constitutional barrier to a state’s empowerment of its people by embracing that form of lawmaking.” In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts accused the majority of approving a “deliberate constitutional evasion.”  The justices have been unwilling to limit excessive partisanship in redistricting, known as gerrymandering. A gerrymander is a district that is intentionally drawn, and sometimes oddly shaped, to favor one political party.

Republicans employed an enormously successful strategy to take advantage of the 2010 census, first by winning state legislatures and then using that control to draw House districts to maximize their power. One measure of their success: In 2012, Republicans achieved a 33-seat majority in the House, even though GOP candidates as a group got 1.4 million fewer votes than their Democratic opponents.

Chief Justice got a little snippy by inserting “what chumps” into the opinion (see right).

UPDATE – LATE IN THE DAY 5-4 RULING is good for pro-choice advocates:

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday afternoon to put a hold on court rulings that have reduced the number of abortion clinics in Texas.

Four of the court’s conservatives — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — dissented.

A state law passed in 2013 required clinics providing abortion services to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and it required doctors providing the services to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Women’s groups asked the Supreme Court to put an emergency hold on the effect of the law while they prepare an appeal to challenge its constitutionality. They say the law, which takes effect Wednesday, would force all but nine abortion clinics in the state to close.

“Overall, there would be a net reduction in abortion facilities of more than 75% in a two-year period,” they argue in their court filings. And the clinics that remain open would find it hard to expand their services.

So for now, enforcement of the Texas law is on hold and will remain so until the court decides whether to hear the full appeal.

UPDATE – EVEN LATER IN THE DAY 5-4 RULING is good for pro-choice advocates in North Carolina:

RALEIGH — A federal appeals court must reconsider whether North Carolina can issue “Choose Life” license plates.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ordered the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling last year that the state could not issue a license plate with an anti-abortion slogan unless it also issued a plate with the opposite point of view.

The order to rehear the case came after the justices ruled 5-4 last week that Texas could refuse to issue Confederate battle flag plates. In that ruling, the Supreme Court said plates are government property and don’t have to offer both sides of the debate.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued when lawmakers voted to offer the “Choose Life” plates in 2011. The appeals court said governments must offer both sides of the debate.

The ACLU said it was disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling and again asked the North Carolina General Assembly to offer a plate with a message supporting abortion rights.

“This case has always been about more than specialty license plates; it asks whether the government should be allowed to provide a platform to one side of a controversial issue while silencing the other,” ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director Chris Brook said in a statement.

End of Prison Break

CInoccpWIAAAJSgBack stories:  Prison Break and Richard Matt Shot

Well, it looks like they got the other guy.  The 22-day manhunt for David Sweat and Richard Matt ended Sunday when the fugitive was spotted just 2 miles from the Canadian border. He made it closer to Canada than Matt, who was found and killed Friday near Malone, New York.  Both men had signs of roughing it in the woods: Matt had bug bites on his legs and Sweat had a backpack stuffed with maps and Pop-Tarts.

New York State Police Sgt. Jay Cook spotted Sweat near a barn in the sleepy New York town of Constable. Sweat bolted, and the lone officer gave chase.

“At some point, running across a field, he realized that Sweat was going to make it to a tree line, and possibly could have disappeared, and he fired two shots,” New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico told reporters.  Sweat, who was unarmed, was struck twice in the torso. No one else was hurt.

Sweat is in critical but stable condition this morning.  Obviously, they’re going to interview him to find out how he got out, what the two of them did, etc.  But it is a pretty cool story.  Thousands of police involved in this manhunt, and in the end it was a lone police officer making his rounds that ended this thing.  Sweat was less than two miles from the Canadian border.

This will be a movie someday.

 

Unconfirmed [Now Confirmed] Reports Say Richard Matt, One Of Two Upstate NY Prison Escapees Has Been Shot

Breaking:

MALONE – Richard Matt has been shot and may be dead near Malone, a source has told The Buffalo News.

Tweets from the Plattsburgh Press Republican said that several trooper cars with lights flashing were headed west in Malone of Fayette Road about 4 p.m..

New York Times confirms:

Richard W. Matt, one of the convicted murderers who staged an elaborate escape from New York’s largest prison nearly three weeks ago, was shot on Friday in a burst of gunfire by law enforcement officers, two people with knowledge of the situation said.

The shots rang out as law enforcement officers zeroed in on Friday on an area of remote terrain in Franklin County, near where investigators discovered evidence in two hunting cabins that indicated the missing inmates had been there.

It marked another turn in a sprawling manhunt that began in Dannemora, N.Y., a small village near the Canadian border, and soon spread to large swaths of the state after David Sweat and Richard W. Matt engineered a daring breakout from Clinton Correctional Facility.

UPDATE:  New York Times now saying he’s dead.

UPDATE #2:  Police are “engaged” with second shooter.  (Is this a gay marriage thing?)

Despite Charleston Mass Murders, GOP Doesn’t Want To Address Guns… Or Even Gun Murder Research

A GOP-led panel just blocked a proposal that would have reversed a nearly 20-year-old ban on funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to research on gun violence.  The House Appropriations Committee voted 32-19 against ranking member Rep. Nita Lowey’s (D-N.Y.) amendment to a bill that would fund health, education and labor programs in the next fiscal year.

“When it comes to gun violence, my friends, this committee won’t give one dime for the CDC to conduct research on something that is killing Americans by the thousands,” Lowey said.

Lowey attempted to undo the 1996 congressional ban that was first proposed by then-Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.). She noted that Dickey later supported lifting the prohibition on the CDC.

So.. the problem continues

 

Mass Murder Hate Crime Leaves 9 Dead In Charleston Church

I may have been one of the first 1000 people to know what happened in Charleston last night.  I was at rehearsal for a play I am in (barely), and backstage, I checked my phone.  Nothing on the Breaking News app, nothing big on Twitter.  I opened Periscope, and there was a guy working in some Charlotte newsroom who was periscoping (sorry, but that’s the verb) about a shooting and killing of 8 people in Charleston, SC.  I tuned in — there were already about 200 watchers.  He was getting reports off of a Charleston police/fire scanner.  The watchers were typing in that there was nothing on MSNBC, CNN or FOX.  Even the local Charleston TV channel had nothing.  That was around 10:15.

I had to pay attention to rehearsal, so I wasn’t able to periscope for very long, but by the time rehearsal was over (at 11:30 — ugh!) and I was in my car, with MSNBC, CNN, and FOX all on my Sirius radio, I thought I would find out more.  By that time, they had reported the story, but had returned to regular earlier-recorded programming (Chris Hayes on MSNBC, O’Reilly on FOX, etc.).  I was stunned.  When the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, that was the only story.

To be fair, there wasn’t a lot to report.  There had been no official statement, no confirmation of anything.  The only “official” thing was the Twitter feed of the Charleston PD, which mentioned the shooting and the fact that the shooter was on the loose.  But it did not say anything about fatalities or injuries.

Even when I woke up today, the Charleston news was the “top story”, but the big three cable network news were focusing on other things.  I suspect there will be some third-day stories about the lack of media interest.  Maybe.

Anyway, here’s the skinny:

The shooting took place last night at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston during a bible study group.  The killer attended the group and was with them for an hour.  The EAM Episcopal Church is an historic church:

  • The church sits in an area of Charleston densely packed with houses of worship and well-preserved old buildings
  • Congregation was established in 1816
  • African-American members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church formed their own congregation after a dispute over a burial ground
  • Also known as “Mother Emanuel”
  • It’s the oldest AME church in the South
  • It’s also one of the oldest African-American churches in the United States
  • It was involved in the Underground Railroad, according to The Washington Post, which calls it a “symbol of black freedom” (http://wapo.st/1J5Pj7G)
  • The newspaper also reports that the church’s prominent speakers include Booker T. Washington (1909), the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1962) and Coretta Scott King (1969)
  • It has the most seats of any African-American church in Charleston
  • It was burned to the ground at one point, but rebuilt; it was also destroyed by an earthquake
  • The church hosts a Bible study in its basement every Wednesday evening

Three males and six females were killed at the church, Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen said this morning. Eight died at the scene, the ninth died at a hospital.  Among those killed is the church’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator.

There were a total of 13 people inside the church at the time of the shooting: the shooter, nine victims that were killed, and three survivors. Of the three survivors, two were unharmed.

The gunman was there for about an hour attending the meeting with the eventual victims, before he began shooting, the police chief said.

A woman who survived the shooting says the gunman told her he was letting her live so that she could tell people what happened, according to Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott. Scott said she heard this from the victims’ family members, and stressed she did not speak to the survivor directly.

There are also reports that a little girl also survived by “playing dead”

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina are opening a hate crime investigation into the Charleston shooting. The investigation is parallel to the state’s investigation, although it should be noted that South Carolina is one of only five states that does not have a hate crimes law.

According to a relative of a survivor, church members tried talking to gunman. The gunman said “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

Surveillance photos from the church:

droof

Charleston, we should remember, is that place of the Walter Scott shooting.back in April.

10:30am EST:  The shooter has been identified as Dylann Storm Roof (a memorable name), age 21.  I found his Facebook page.  Not much there.  He’s just Dylann Roof (did he give himself “Storm”?)  This picture and 89 friends (some black).  No likes or posts or anything.  He’s from Columbia, SC.  Police say he may be driving a black Hyundai with the license plate LGF330, police say. If you know him or have information about him, call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

dylan roof

One of those patches is a a Rhodesian flag patch when it was white-ruled (Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe).  The other is an apartheid-era South African flag.  This is no casual racist, this one. Wearing those flag patches is the stuff of hardcore, Stormfront-reading white nationalists.

Here’s a concept: in a state that still flies the Confederacy’s battle flag over public buildings, pointing out that there was an organized effort to teach a young white kid about those two lovely countries when he’s the prime suspect in the murder of nine would kind of be a tacit admission that we still have a gigantic problem with race and racism in America.

10:50am EST: The Daily Mail is reporting:

Roof’s uncle told Reuters that his nephew had received a .45 caliber pistol as a birthday present in April. He called the 21-year-old ‘quiet, soft spoken’ and said he recognized him in the photo released by police.

Also….

While other flags are at half mast, the confederate flag is still at full mast at the South Carolina capital.

11:15am EST:  On Fox, a pro-gun pastor thinks that the “hate crime” designation means it was a “hate crime” against religion not black people.  This despite the report that the shooter said “”You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”  He was referring to Christians?  I don’t think so.  (More at Raw Story)

11:20am EST:

11:55am EST:

Christian conservative radio host Bryan Fischer, a former director of issues analysis for the right-wing American Family Association, knows what the real problem is: a lack of guns in churches.

1:00pm EST:  I didn’t think he would, but he did.  Obama spoke out against easy access to guns.  I don’t expect any legislation to come of this (if Newtown couldn’t stop the gun lobby, then this won’t), but it was good of Obama to keep promoting gun control.

3:00pm EST:  Ugh. This…

Prison Break

Seems like everybody is interested in that prison break from the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in New York, with two prisoners on the loose.

Lots of reporting on where they might be, but the bottom line is…. they could be anywhere by now.  Here’s what we know so far:

  • Richard Matt, 48, was serving a sentence of 25 years to life for killing and dismembering his former boss in 1997. David Sweat, 34, was serving a life sentence for killing a sheriff’s deputy.
  • The men are thought to be highly dangerous. Detective Gabriel DiBernardo told The New York Times that “you can never have enough security with” Matt or “turn your back on him” because of his great efforts to elude police. Matt escaped from a jail in Erie County in 1986.
  • The escape was elaborate, as acting state corrections commissioner Anthony Annuci said Saturday at a news conference: “They went onto a catwalk which is about six stories high. We estimate they climbed down and had power tools and were able to get out to this facility through tunnels, cutting away at several spots.” They then reportedly came out of a manhole outside prison walls.
  • Matt and Sweat used hacksaws to cut through steel walls around air vents near their cots to create the hole they would escape through, according to the Daily News. They’d put the vents back in place as they were doing this work, which might have taken place over a period of days or weeks, to avoid detection.
  • To power the tools they used to cut through the steam pipes they crawled through to escape, Matt and Sweat used extension cords and hot-wired electrical junction boxes, according to the Daily News.
  • To keep prison guards from figuring out they were gone, the duo reportedly stuffed their beds with clothes to make it look like they were there. Corrections officers are supposed to do bed checks every two hours, according to The New York Times. The inmates were reportedly discovered missing at a 5:30 a.m. bed check on Saturday.
  • They left a note on one of the pipes. The yellow note had a smiley face and “have a nice day” written on it.
  • Matt and Sweat were being held in an “honor block” of the prison, according to the Daily News. They were reportedly allowed to spend most of their time outside of their cells and working in a shop where they might have been able to gather the tools they used for their escape.
  • jmtillieThe escaped convicts first met Joyce Mitchell aka “Tillie”, 51, in the prison workshop, where she supervised them sewing uniforms for Metro North employees. CNN reports she knew the men “very well.”  At some point, Matt reportedly charmed Tillie, despite being the type of a man whose rap sheet suggests he might kill you at any moment, for whatever reason, just ‘cause, probably.  Tilliem who is married (her husband also works at the prison) has admitted that she was supposed to be behind the wheel of the getaway vehicle—but she chickened out. Instead, she checked herself into a local hospital claiming she was suffering a panic attack or “a case of the nerves,” depending on which outlet you’re getting your news from.

  • Here’s what else we know about Tillie:

    • She’s an elected official
    • She’s a registered Republican
    • She lives in “a two-story gray home with a ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ Gadsden Flag”
    • She will be charged with, well, something
    • She may have thrown her life away for the chance to have sex with a charming murderer

Billy Flynn Out Of Prison

Billy Flynn is out of jail.

billy_flynn

Nope.  Not that one.  This one:

william-flynn-800

Or… as he looks today….

William Flynn (serving a 28 years-to-life prison term ,for killing Pamela Smart's husband).  (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter, File Pool)

Billy Flynn is the convicted shooter in the Pamela Smart (pronounced “Smaht”) case. As a teenager, Billy shot and killed Gregg Smart in 1990. Gregg was the husband of Pamela Smart, with whom Billy was having an affair. Pamela was an audio-visual school instructor/aide at Billy’s high school at the time. Flynn pleaded guilty to shooting and killing Gregg Smart, and his testimony was key in convicting Pamela for orchestrating the crime. Also released today was Patrick Randall, who held Smart down while Flynn shot him in the head.

The murder was made into a TV movie with Helen Hunt, and the feature film “To Die For”, starring Nicole Kidman, was loosely based on those events.

Pam Smart maintains her innocence to this day.  As late as 2014, in the HBO documentary Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart, she blamed the media coverage for her conviction (I’ve seen the documentary — Smart’s argument is entirely unconvincing and full of holes).

Dr. Eleanor Pam, spokeswoman for Pamela Smart, has issued a statement about the releases:

“Bill Flynn and Patrick Randall are leaving prison today, years in advance of their scheduled release date. Over and over they have been rewarded for their expressions of contrition for killing Gregory Smart. But it is one thing to say you are remorseful and another to be remorseful.

Pamela Smart, on the other hand, has been condemned and punished for her failure to admit any role in the murder of her husband. This is widely interpreted as a failure to take responsibility for her actions. And so she is dismissed and reviled, deemed ineligible for forgiveness or mercy. But how can anyone take responsibility for an crime they did not commit? This is the cruel dilemma of all innocent people.

Does anyone believe that Pamela Smart would rather spend the rest of her life in prison simply because she is prideful and stubborn? Nonsense! The truth matters even more than does her freedom as she has demonstrated for 25 years. Pamela Smart will continue to assert her innocence until she is finally heard and believed.”

Pam Smart’s press statement shows the duplicity of Pam Smart.  It suggests that she, too, could be out on the streets, if only she had shown remorse.  But no, she argues, she is interested in the truth.  Except for one thing…. Pam was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  So her only way out isn’t by remorse, but by a finding of innocence.

Which isn’t going to happen.

Anyway, I like this story.  Always have.

The GJ Charges Against The Baltimore 6

A Baltimore grand jury has charged all six police officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray.  State Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced the revised charges yesterday, but the most serious charges – including second-degree murder – remained.

In case you forgot already, Gray suffered a severe spinal cord injury in police custody in April and died a week later.  His death sparked weeks of protests and later riots and looting in Baltimore.

There was a lot of criticism of Mosby when she brought her initial charges a few weeks ago — even calls for an independent prosecutor.  But now that the grand jury has returned an indictment which is pretty close to what she called for, the criticism will probably go away.

What is gone from the previous charges are the charges of false imprisonment.  And now we have a string of “reckless endangerment” charges.  All in all, these are probably better charges.  The breakdown:

  • Officer Caesar Goodson: 2nd-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, 2nd degree negligent assault, manslaughter by vehicle by means of gross negligence, manslaughter by vehicle by means of criminal negligence, misconduct in office for failure to secure prisoner and failure to render aid, reckless endangerment
  • Officer William Porter: Involuntary manslaughter, assault in the 2nd degree, misconduct in office, reckless endangerment
  • Lieutenant Brian Rice: Involuntary manslaughter, assault in the 2nd degree, assault in the 2nd degree [second of two similar charges], misconduct in office, reckless endangerment
  • Officer Edward Nero: Assault in the 2nd degree (intentional), assault in the 2nd degree (negligent), misconduct in office, reckless endangerment
  • Sergeant Alicia White: Involuntary manslaughter, 2nd degree assault, misconduct in office, reckless endangerment
  • Officer Garrett Miller: Intentional Assault in the 2nd degree, assault in the 2nd degree, negligent misconduct in office, reckless endangerment

New Study Shows One-In-Five Women Sexually Assaulted On Campus

A new study published online by the Journal of Adolescent Health finds that almost one-in-five women experience sexual assault ion college.  The study, titled “Incapacitated and Forcible Rape of College Women: Prevalence Across the First Year,” which focused on first-year female students at one New York college, attempted to measure how frequently rape or attempted rape occurred by having female students fill out surveys throughout their freshman year.  I have attached the study below.

Of the 483 women who completed the questionnaires, 18.6 percent reported instances of attempted rape. Incidences of rape were significantly higher when alcohol or drugs were involved.

This isn’t the first study to give the 20% figure (or thereabouts)…. it is just another data point in the long debate.  The well-known “one in five” studies were not intended to be national data; neither does this study.

And yes, as with all studies like this, there comes a caveat.  Jesse Singal of the Science of Us blog writes:

It turns out it’s really, really hard to measure the frequency of sexual assault in any given setting. All the usual problems familiar to survey researchers and pollsters — among them the ease with which different people can interpret the same question differently, and people’s natural inclination to hide things they feel ashamed of or traumatized by — are compounded when the subject is rape.

This explains why some studies find a “one-in-five” result, while others place it closer to 0.6% (Read here for more on the subject of dueling data rates).  The study below is one attempt to pluck out some bias.

First of all, to help reduce the potential for bias in the respondent pool, the study was “buried” in a survey about general health.

Secondly, the researchers broke out their results into multiple categories of rape and were careful to separate out victims who were “only” groped from those who were actually raped, or who escaped an attempted actual rape.  They also broke into categories of incapacitated rape, or IR, which involves instances in which “alcohol or other drugs [were] used,” while forcible rape, or FR, deals with rapes in which the victim was physically overpowered.  As expected, IR was more common than FR.

But with all that in mind, the fact remains that sexual violence on college campuses is a persistent problem. For decades, conservatives have resisted calls for campuses to better protect women by dismissing the issue as overblown. Certainly, the fallout over Rolling Stone‘s botched campus rape investigation only fuels detractors willing to dismiss this problem.  But studies like the one published by the Journal of Adolescent Health to provide solid data should help legitimize the problem so that potential assaults might be avoided.

Another finding: the study found that women who had a precollege history of sexual assault were more likely to experience revictimization in college, particularly IR (incapacitated rape, both attempted and complete).  The study suggest that programs for women may be needed to address repeated victimization (as well as, of course, general sexual assault awareness programs for both men and women).

Shooting The Mentally Ill

I’ve written about this before — the propensity of the police to open fire on people they know to be mentally ill.  Like their current problem with minorities, members of law enforcement seem to have a problem with showing restraint when it comes to the mentally ill.

Earlier this week, the US Supreme Court had occasion to address this issue, and sadly, the results were not what mental health advocates were hoping for.

Teresa Sheehan suffered from a mental illness and lived in a San Francisco group home. After Sheehan threatened her social worker when he attempted to perform a welfare check, he became concerned that she was a danger to herself or others and summoned the police for help transporting her to a mental health facility for a 72-hour involuntary commitment. When the police officers arrived, they entered Sheehan’s room without a warrant to take her into custody. Sheehan grabbed a knife and threatened to kill the officers. They were forced to withdraw outside her room and call for backup, but instead of waiting for the backup to arrive, they drew their weapons and forced their way back into her room. When Sheehan again threatened the officers with a knife, they shot her several times.

Sheehan sued the officers and the city for violations of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from warrantless searches and seizures as well as violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and Sheehan appealed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that there were triable issues of material fact regarding whether the officers’ second entry into Sheehan’s room was reasonable under the circumstances and whether the officers failed to reasonably accommodate Sheehan’s disability as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The US Supreme Court was asked to determine two things:

(1) Did the officers violate a clearly established right under the Fourth Amendment when they forced entry into Sheehan’s room the second time?

(2) Does the Americans with Disabilities Act require law enforcement officers to provide accommodations to an armed, violent and mentally ill suspect when attempting to take that suspect into custody?

The Supreme Court ruled “no” to the first question and didn’t reach the second one.  The ruling was 6-2, with Scalia and Kagen dissenting on procedural grounds (that is, even though they dissented, they still didn’t agree with the Sheehan’s claim).

My opinion: when you read the facts of the case, you see that the police were in a precarious position.  Obviously, they had to do something, and the longer they waited, the more this woman was a risk to herself and others.  I just have an issue with shooting her.

And the problem isn’t a legal one or a political — the solution lies with proper police training.

As I have written before, police need to adopt what is known as the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) model of dealing with the mentally ill.  It is a 40-hour curriculum — one of the most comprehensive police officer mental health training program in the country. According to Laura Usher, CIT program manager at NAMI headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, there are crisis intervention training programs in 45 states as well as the District of Columbia. (States without programs are Delaware, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, and Rhode Island.)

While there are multiple CIT programs within some counties, many states are barely on the map in terms of the number of counties within each state that have programs. Most states only have CIT programs in only one or two counties.

Most law enforcement agencies can’t afford to train everyone.  They’d have to pay someone else overtime, and that can be a big expense.  As a result, many police departments prefer to train only a few specialized officers to deal with crisis issues, rather than making mental health training mandatory.

You can read more about it here.  The Supreme Court opinion is below the fold….

Guy Who Filmed Cops When They Arrested Gray Is Detained By Police For No Reason It Seems

The pushback is starting:

Kevin Moore, the man who filmed police arresting Freddie Gray and dragging him on the ground was arrested on Thursday night, along with two other cop watchers from Ferguson.

“The man who recorded one of two videos showing Baltimore cops dragging a screaming Freddie Gray into the back of a police van was arrested Thursday night, two days after voicing concerns that police were trying to intimidate him by plastering his photo all over the news, saying they wanted to interview him,” reads a We CopWatch Facebook post. After the incident occurred, We CopWatch tweeted that a gun was pointed at Moore.

Shortly after his release, Moore detailed the events leading up to his arrest, in a webcast discussion with Photography Is Not a Crime’s Carlos Miller. Moore says he was protesting with Ferguson cop watchers on North Avenue, shouting obscenities and wearing an Anonymous mask. Once the group left, officers arrested them without issuing a citation or explaining what the charges were. He was released later that night.

During the webcast, Moore also said that he’s faced police intimidation since filming Gray’s arrest. Although the cop watcher handed over the video footage to the Police Department’s Office of Internal Oversight, officers allegedly told the public that he was wanted for questioning. Moore told the Baltimore Sun that officers were trying to intimidate him by circulating his photo and asking people who he was. “For the police to post that picture and say you don’t know who I am, that’s B.S. You know who I am,” he said.

Charges Brought Against Baltimore Police Officers In Death Of Freddie Gray

Breaking now:

The death of Freddie Gray was a homicide, and there is “probable cause” for criminal charges, State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby says, citing her office’s “thorough and independent” investigation and the medical examiner’s report on Gray’s death.

Mosby announced a range of charges against several Baltimore police officers, ranging from second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter to assault and misconduct in office. A warrant has been issued for their arrest, she said.

After announcing those charges, Mosby noted her own ties to the police community — including her mother and father. She thanked officers who are committed to serving the community.

She also said there was no probable cause for the police to have arrested Gray in the first place.

This is, of course, welcome news, especially after several days of rumors from the Baltimore police investigation which muddied the issue of how Gray died:

Gray098Gray died on April 19, one week after being taken into custody. Police have said that during his transport, Gray wasn’t buckled in properly and did not receive timely medical care. Six police officers remain suspended over the case.

As the Two-Way has reported, when police turned over the documents to State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in Baltimore, they announced that “the van transporting Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who suffered a serious spine injury while in police custody and later died, made one more stop than previously thought.”

The roughly 40 minutes that Gray spent in the van have emerged as the focal point in the inquiry over how he sustained the injury.

That extra stop was discovered through a review of recordings made by security and private cameras, Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said. He added that another detainee who was riding in the van told police that Gray was “still moving around … kicking and making noises” until the van reached the police station.

That second detainee rode in the police van on the other side of a metal partition that divides its cargo space. When he was picked up, Gray was already in the van.

Local news WJZ-TV reports that Donta Allen, 22, was that second man — and that he came forward Thursday out of concern over how his comments were being portrayed by both the police and the media.

“When I was in the back of that van it did not stop or nothing. All it did was go straight to the station, but I heard a little banging, like he was banging his head,” Allen said. ” I didn’t even know he was in the van until we got to the station.”

Saying his words have been distorted by recent reports and that he doesn’t think Gray hurt himself intentionally, Allen also told a WJZ reporter, “The only reason I’m doing this is because they put my name in a bad state.”

Allen, who was reportedly taken into custody for a minor offense and was not charged with a crime, also spoke to WBAL TV. He told the station that when he got into the van, he didn’t know Gray was already there. He said he heard “a little banging for like four seconds.”

WBAL aired surveillance camera footage that shows officers looking into Gray’s side of the van during the stop that also picked up Allen.

When the van arrived at the police station, Allen said he heard the officers say that Gray didn’t have a pulse and was unresponsive — and that another officer later said, “He’s got vitals now, he must’ve come back.”

The sequence of events has led to wide-ranging questions over what happened: Was the van driven in a way that caused Gray’s injury? When did Gray become unresponsive? Were the sounds Allen heard caused by a seizure experienced by a gravely wounded man?

The Baltimore Sun reports: “Maryland’s chief medical examiner, Dr. David R. Fowler, said his office has not completed an autopsy or turned any documents over to police or prosecutors. He said homicide detectives had observed the examination, a routine practice.”

When it’s complete, Fowler’s report will go straight to the state’s attorney’s office, the newspaper says.

NPR and other news organizations have asked Baltimore’s police department to release its report on the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, as well as for related documents and materials such as tapes of 9-1-1 calls made when Gray was taken into custody.

Protesters have been calling on police to reveal more information about the case.

Other news reports said that the police investigation had determined that a wound in Gray’s head matched up with a bolt on the inside of the van, which, when coupled with the statements of the other person in the van, suggested (to some) that Gray intentionally tried to injure himself.

But then the other person in the can denied telling police anything.

And then there is the problem of the injury itself.  The trauma was so severe, say doctors, that it could not be self-inflicted:

“Freddie Gray didn’t stand up in the back of that van and twist his back,” [internal medicine professional] Belk said. “What it would take to break a person’s spine is heavy trauma. The spine is so guarded, so an injury like his would take a lot of force like jumping from a second floor building or getting hit by a motor vehicle. It doesn’t just happen out of nowhere.”

Other medical professionals agree. Dr. David Samadi, an expert in robotic prostrate surgery and a medical correspondent for several news outlets, wrote an op-ed for the New York Daily News that also challenged the Baltimore Police Department’s version of events, saying that even if Freddie Gray tried to injure himself in the police van, he couldn’t have done so in a way that would cause serious spinal cord injuries.

“There must be a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses one or more of the vertebrae, or when a gun shot or knife penetrates the spinal cord,” Samadi wrote.

“You have to apply a significant amount of force in order to break somebody’s neck,” Dr. Ali Bydon, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, agreed in an interview with the Baltimore Sun.

And then there’s the issue of Gray’s crushed trachea.  How does that happen?

One can try to be optimistic that these cops will be convicted for even obvious illegal wrongdoing, but you never know (See, Rodney King).  On the other hand, at least there will be prosecutions.

UPDATE:  The specifics

Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., 45, who was the driver of a police van that carried Gray through the streets of Baltimore, was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, two vehicular manslaughter charges and misconduct in office.

Officer William Porter, 25, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

Lt. Brian Rice, 41, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

Sgt. Alicia White, 30, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

Officer Edward Nero, 29, was charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

Officer Garrett Miller, 26, was charged with second-degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.

It looks like the theory of the case is going to be that the officers did no intentionally murder Freddie Gray, but they negligently failed to secure him in the van.  He was handcuffed and chained, but there was no seat belt.  In fact, he was placed in the van stomach down (on purpose?), which caused him to bounce around.  And that was must have severed his spine.

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The second-degree murder charge of Officer Goodson is known as “depraved heart” murder.  Depraved Heart murder is an legal term for action that shows “callous disregard for human life” and results in death.

Bullet Points On The Baltimore Riots

The catalyst, ostensibly, was the death of Freddie Gray — who died of a spinal cord injury sustained while in police custody.  His funeral service was yesterday morning.  There were peaceful protests throughout the day, but as high school kids left school, the protests became violent.  15 officers were injured — six seriously — from thrown bottles, rocks and bricks, as well as dozens of businesses, homes and cars damaged or destroyed by looting or arson. It is not known how many protesters were injured.  The police also reported that two people had been shot, each in the leg, in separate incidents overnight. One victim, a woman, was shot on Fulton Avenue near where some of the worst rioting and looting had occurred hours earlier. The other victim, a man, was shot about two miles west of the Mondawmin Mall.  144 vehicles were set on fire; 15 buildings were set on fire; almost 200 people arrested.

The National Guard was called up began to deploy in the city just after daybreak today.

Anyway. some thoughts:

* The media coverage was horrible and remains so this morning.  Breathless and sensationalist words like “violence erupts” and a “city in chaos“.  Parts of the city — in fact, well over 95% of it, were just fine.  But you put the camera on the worst part and use incendiary language like that, and of course it seems bigger.  I’m not sure the media hype actually helped the situation

* Clean up today:
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* The media also struggled as to what to call the “rioters”.  Clearly, they weren’t protesters.  I think one of the most telling pieces of information came when a reporter asked a looter why he was doing what he was doing.  “Because nobody was stopping us” was the answer.  I really don’t think what happened in Baltimore had much to do with Freddie Gray, but rather, pent up anger at the general treatment of that area — not only by police but society in general.

*Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake: “I understand anger, but what we’re seeing isn’t anger. It’s disruption of a community. The same community they say they care about, they’re destroying. You can’t have it both ways.”  I like the mayor, but no, I don’t think she understands anger.  Anger isn’t rational and doesn’t always manifest itself in constructive ways.  Usually, it manifests itself in counterproductive ways.  Not to excuse the rioting, but to explain the anger underlying it, I turn to the COO of the Baltimore Orioles, John Angelos:

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importance of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

* Many times last night, I heard the news say that the riots were the worst in Baltimore since 1968 and in fact, “many areas burnt down in 1968 were in this very neighborhood and have yet to be rebuilt”.  I think that also explains a lot of the anger.

* Black officers make up 54% of the Baltimore police dept. This has not noticeably changed police behavior. Diversity is not enough.  Actually, I think the crux of this problem isn’t race, but class.  See, e.g., income inequality.

* If you’re a gangbanging rioter, it has to be embarrassing for your mom to scold you on national television:

* There is already criticism directed at Baltimore’s mayor for not having police (and even National Guard) there yesterday in the areas were looting occurred and fires were set.  Yes, it was disturbing to see a line of policemen in riot gear standing in a line one block away from a street where a CVS was being looted, and not moving there for nearly two hours and only when the CVS was on fire.  But I don’t fault the mayor on this.  For one thing, the police were outnumbered.  They also might have incited even more violence. You hate to say it, but sometimes you just have to let the looting play out.  Also, we know this morning that the high school kids who planned this yesterday through social media encouraged rioters to spread out all over the city, thus weakening the number of police who could be present at any single place or neighborhood.  My Baltimore correspondent writes:

Baltimore is approximately 80 square miles; that’s a lot of turf for law enforcement to cover.   TV coverage may have given the appearance of chaos but more accurately, what you saw was fluid law enforcement on the move to the areas where damage was occurring.

True dat.  These are all tough considerations when you are mayor and I don’t fault her or the police chief for making the choices they did.  Hindsight, by the way, is 20/20.

* In fact, many Baltimore police officers deserve to be lauded for the courage they showed yesterday: They met hostile crowds and I think they stopped them from destroying more businesses, burning more churches, and harming more people.

* Kudos to the clergy, particularly the Nation of Islam:

* Other groups keeping the peace: the Crips, the Bloods.  Thumbs down to CNN for reporting all afternoon that the Crips and the Bloods had formed a pact to create trouble.  In fact, the pact was to keep the peace.

Rapists And Parental Rights

For the life of me, I can’t imagine why this is even controversial.  Not only do many conservatives believe that women should be forced to bear their rapists’s children against their will…. now some conservatives apparently think women must also share parental rights with their rapist after they give birth:

Iowa Republican has held up legislation that would prevent convicted rapists from claiming parental rights to children conceived during the assault, dismissing the bill as “feel-good” legislation.

As reported by the Globe Gazette, State Rep. Chip Baltimore has bottled up the proposed bill in committee, infuriating women’s advocates who want to protect rape survivors from having to endure future court battles with their assailants.

According to Jennifer Carlson, executive director of the University of Iowa’s Rape Victim Advocacy Program, “We see this as a huge struggle for those victims as they are worried for the safety of their child as well as seeing their offender on a regular basis.”

Baltimore, who is chairman of the Iowa House’s Judiciary Committee, feels the law is unnecessary and lacks nuance.

“It’s a feel-good piece of legislation that quite honestly is dissociated with reality in the real world with the way the criminal justice system and the judicial system work,” Baltimore said. “It’s a far more complicated situation, honestly, than most people acknowledge. I get the general concept. I understand the general concept. But it’s a concept that needs a lot more work.”

Beth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, disagrees.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I do not have trust in the system. There are many, many ways it fails,” she explained.

According to the University of Iowa’s Carlson, too many victims are maliciously dragged through the legal system as they try to rebuild their lives.

“Often, we see this desire for custody or involvement in the child’s life as nothing more than an extension of the power and control and an element in which (the attacker) can continue to have an impression and a domination of their victim,” Carlson said.

What the hell?

Free Range Parents: What Is Neglect And What Isn’t?

There’s a good chance you’ve heard about the Meitiv kids (especially if you have children of your own or friends with children). The kids, ages 10 and 6, were walking home from a park a mile from their house in Maryland when they were spotted by a zealous citizen-protector, reported to the police, picked up 3 blocks from home, and detained for over five hours. In the end, they were handed over to their parents, but only after plenty of panic on both the kids’ and parents’ parts. And, as it turns out, that wasn’t really the end. The parents found themselves under investigation for neglect.

Insane? I think so. Unusual? Nope.

In an article run this weekend by the Washington Post, there are more examples of clashes between parents who believe their kids deserve some autonomy and child protective services workers who are charged with taking every potential threat to a child’s safety seriously:

In Austin, Kari Anne Roy, 38, a children’s author, was investigated for neglect after her children walked the dog one day in August and her 6-year-old lagged behind, playing on an outdoor bench a few houses down the street.

In Port St. Lucie, Fla., Nicole Gainey, 35, a mother of two, was arrested for letting her 7-year-old son walk alone to a park and play there, about half a mile away from their home in the town where she grew up.

One of most the most publicized recent cases involved Debra Harrell in North Augusta, S.C., who allegedly allowed her 9-year-old daughter to play at a park while she worked at a McDonald’s as a shift manager.

The “Free-Range Kids” website has still more examples — and statistics to suggest that allowing a child to walk to and from a playground may actually be less of a threat to that child’s safety than the everyday act of buckling her into a car.

But even though hundreds of thousands of parents find themselves embroiled in the child welfare courts each year (many deservedly so, some not), child welfare law itself is not all that well developed. It can be very difficult to know what’s legal and what’s not.

For the sake of randomness, let’s use Iowa to focus a bit. Iowa criminalizes both neglect and child endangerment. Neglect is a felony that’s committed when a parent “knowingly or recklessly exposes” a child “to a hazard or danger against which such person cannot reasonably be expected to protect such person’s self.” Child endangerment is committed when a parent “knowingly acts in a manner that creates a substantial risk to a child or minor’s physical, mental or emotional health or safety”; if the child is not harmed by the offending conduct, the crime is only a misdemeanor. That language is broad enough to apply to practically anything: teach your ten-year-old to cook and he might start a grease fire that he doesn’t know how to put out.

Anyway, that’s Iowa’s criminal code. Even more conduct is included in the broad definition of “child abuse” in the context of Iowa’s civil child welfare system. Abuse includes “the failure on the part of a person responsible for the care of a child to provide for the adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical or mental health treatment, supervision, or other care necessary for the child’s health and welfare when financially able to do so or when offered financial or other reasonable means to do so.” The statute goes on to explain that “failure to provide for the adequate supervision of a child means the person failed to provide proper supervision of a child that a reasonable and prudent person would exercise under similar facts and circumstances and the failure resulted in direct harm or created a risk of harm to the child.”

Would a reasonably prudent person allow a child to walk a mile to a park? Does such a walk create a risk of harm to the child? These are fuzzy questions that give the state leeway to act as the state (for “the state” here, read “a social worker”) sees fit.

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, law professor Ilya Somin notes that the application of child welfare laws is subject to some (seemingly) robust constitutional constraints: there’s case law providing that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit and that it also, in the words of Justice O’Connor’s plurality opinion in Troxel v. Granville, creates a “presumption that fit parents act in the best interests of their children.”

But the reality facing most parents in court is that that “presumption” isn’t actually a thing. Take the experience documented in a well-publicized essay on Salon last year: the author left her four-year-old unattended in a car for a few minutes on a mild day, the police were called, she found herself charged with a crime along the lines of the ones excerpted from the Iowa criminal code above. She told her lawyer: “It doesn’t sound to me like I committed the crime I’m being charged with. I didn’t render him in need of services. He was fine. Maybe I should plead ‘not guilty,’ go to trial.” He warned her that “juvenile courts are notorious for erring on the side of protecting the child” and suggested that fighting the case might lead her to lose her child. Faced with that possibility she, of course, folded. Anyone would.

And there is a class and race component to this.  Low-income neighborhoods have a higher presence of police and social workers, raising the odds that parents there get reported. These parents are also far less likely to benefit from the presumption that they are making good decisions for their kids.

The answer is not a brighter legal line on the right age to range freely—kids really are too different for that—but a more collaborative child-welfare model. We should not be taking kids away from situations where reasonable minds honestly disagree about parenting decisions.  Rather, we should reserve punishment for those extreme situations where it’s below the standard that any parent should be treating this child.

Bad Evidence

Say WHAT?!?:

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

It doesn’t mean that everyone convicted on the basis of hair evidence was actually innocent, although several of them have been exonerated.  Others have already been put to death.  But man…. that’s really embarrassing.