2011 - %3, January

Why He Did It

| Mon Jan. 10, 2011 11:21 AM EST

Why did Jared Lee Loughner target Gabrielle Giffords for assassination? Nick Bauman talked today to a friend of Loughner's, Bryce Tierney, who says that Loughner held a bizarre grudge against her:

He [] describes Loughner as being obsessed with "lucid dreaming"—that is, the idea that conscious dreams are an alternative reality that a person can inhabit and control—and says Loughner became "more interested in this world than our reality."

....Tierney, who's also 22, recalls Loughner complaining about a Giffords event he attended during that period...."He told me that she opened up the floor for questions and he asked a question. The question was, 'What is government if words have no meaning?'" Giffords' answer, whatever it was, didn't satisfy Loughner. "He said, 'Can you believe it, they wouldn't answer my question,' and I told him, 'Dude, no one's going to answer that,'" Tierney recalls. "Ever since that, he thought she was fake, he had something against her."

Read the whole thing for more.

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Who's Afraid of Glenn Beck?

| Mon Jan. 10, 2011 11:08 AM EST

I was busy this weekend writing the third draft of a piece for the next issue of the magazine, so thankfully I had a pretty good excuse for not joining the blogging/twittering/cable frenzy over the meaning of the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords. For the record, though, I think the attacks on Sarah Palin have been completely ridiculous — and I can't tell you how much it pisses me off that I feel forced to say that. But come on, folks. "Targeting" political candidates for defeat is so common a metaphor that we could barely even hold elections anymore if we didn't use it. Give it a rest.

That aside, though, I'd say Andrew Sullivan had the sharpest observation of the day. Have we really gotten to the point where a "senior Republican senator" has to ask for anonymity in order to say this?

“There is a need for some reflection here — what is too far now?” said the senator. “What was too far when Oklahoma City happened is accepted now. There’s been a desensitizing. These town halls and cable TV and talk radio, everybody’s trying to outdo each other.”

Good God. Is he really that afraid of the wrath of Glenn Beck?1

1And having listened to Beck now and again, I'd say that if you're really looking for someone to censure on the rhetoric front, he's a way better target than Sarah Palin. A campaign poster like Palin's that uses a bunch of bullseyes to represent "targeted" candidates is pretty unlikely to send some mentally unbalanced nutcase over the edge, but frankly, I'm surprised Beck hasn't already inspired a couple of Jonestown-like mass homicide waves.

Kristol Cries "McCarthyism" Over Palin Criticism

| Mon Jan. 10, 2011 11:01 AM EST

In the aftermath of this weekend's shooting spree in Tucson, Arizona, leaving six dead and Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition, a heap of criticism is being leveled at the right's queen of controversy: Sarah Palin. The former Alaska governor has been blasted for a map on her political action committee's website (since taken down) depicting gunsights over the districts of twenty lawmakers who voted for the health care reform bill. One such gunsight targeted Giffords' district in southern Arizona. The former Alaska governor is also taking heat for past rhetoric like "you didn't retreat, you reloaded," a line she deployed at a Tea Party rally last fall.

On Monday morning, neocon Bill Kristol rushed to Palin's defense and ripped her critics. Kristol, who edits the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, said on C-SPAN that Palin's critics were guilty of "McCarthyism," adding, "The attempt to exploit this tragedy is distasteful." Kristol's full-throated defense of Palin joins that of her aides, who have vehemently denied any link between the Tucson shooting, carried out by a disgruntled, if not mentally unstable, 22-year-old Arizona resident named Jared Lee Loughner. Palin aide Rebecca Mansour told a radio host that attempts to tie Palin to shootings were "obscene" and "appalling." Mansour went on, "I never went out and blamed Al Gore or any environmentalist for the crazy insane person who went to shoot up the Discovery Channel."

But it's the kind of incendiary rhetoric that Palin has used in the past that's being partly blamed for Loughner's attack. In an interview with MoJo's Suzy Khimm, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) blamed the fiery rhetoric and polarization that defines American politics today. "[When] you stoke these flames, and you go to public meetings and you scream at the elected officials, you threaten them—you make us expendable, you make us part of the cannon fodder," he said. "For a while, you've been feeding this hatred, this division...you feed it, you encourage it."

On Sunday, the Justice Department filed charges against Loughner for murder and attempted murder of federal employees. Loughner is scheduled to appear in court today, but is reportedly not cooperating with law enforcement officials.

Read our exclusive interview with a friend who describes Loughner's family, bizarre dream journal, and his obsession with Rep. Giffords. Full coverage of the shooting and its aftermath is here.

With Red Baraat, Always a Dhol Moment

| Mon Jan. 10, 2011 6:34 AM EST

Enter tribal dhol beats on amphetamine followed by a race of trumpets, all percolating with the wanton energy of a two-year-old after a tray of Diwali sweets. That's Red Baraat (baraat is the Hindi word for wedding procession). The nine-piece New York City-based dhol-n-brass band claims it's the first of its kind in the United States, melding bhangra (see our recent interview with Panjabi MC) with brass-infused funk and jazz. Front and center is the dhol, a huge barrel drum that's slung over the shoulder, using sticks to strike both heads, and the wooden sides, too.

Red Baraat's 2010 debut CD, Chaal Baby, earned praise from music critics, and the band is headed back into the studio next month to record a second album, pretitled Shruggy Ji. The musicians also won bragging rights when one of their songs was selected as theme song for the closing credits to the recent movie The Yes Men Fix The World. I asked front man Sunny Jain for the lowdown on Red Baraat's cultural and musical influences, and his social-justice side project, entitled Taboo.

In Search of Progress in Haiti

| Mon Jan. 10, 2011 6:00 AM EST

This week (or Wednesday, to be specific) is the one-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake. As it turns out, there's less media in Port-au-Prince than everyone had been expecting. There were indeed CNN cameramen on our flight, and there's more press than on maybe any given Sunday, but it's not exactly a circus. Our popular hotel seems half-deserted. As in, my photographer (MoJo photo editor Mark Murrmann) and I met with our new driver today, and he said many of the fixers are looking for work, calling each other, saying, Where are the reporters? Where's the work at? Does anyone know any reporters who need drivers?

And there's all sorts of events for us, like a soccer match played between two teams of amputees tomorrow, and the launching, finally, of some government housing projects, and junkets coordinated by what the long-embedded press agrees is a veritable army of PR consultants hired for the anniversary. 

So what am I doing in Haiti? We'll see, but possibly some follow-up on whatever happened to the aid dollars Americans pledged last year. (A lot of those dollars went to organizations spearheaded by Bill Clinton, who is also the cochair of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. But he was appointed under outgoing President René Preval, and there's a new election soon, and Clinton isn't a Haitian, so Haitians could see to his forced uninvolvement if they see fit. "We could fuck him so good..." says a wealthy Haitian drinking at the hotel bar.) Possibly some check-in with the underresourced rape survivors mightily battling the stupendous prevalence of sexual violence, which has actually gotten worse since the quake, but has long been a staple of Haitian society. (We had not even left the airport when I ran into a shady guy who threatened me last time I was here. And had only just been delivered our dinner at the hotel restaurant when a patron sat down with us to explain to my photographer that if you lost your erection while trying to rape a woman, you'd have to resort to violating her with a bottle, or a piece of wood, or maybe even a penwhich he helpfully pulled out of his pocket for demonstrative purposesat which point Mark promptly slid his tumbler full of white rum under my face, which had surely gone tight with horror.) Probably we'll spend a little time with some construction crews picking up the pieces of the destruction that are still everywhere. And definitely we'll be on top of the results of the election commission, which is supposed to announce its investigation into fraud during November's race, which may result in widespread riots

Bottom line is, we'll be looking into some of the aspects of progress over the last year. Though as we found out today, the usage of that noun is, incidentally, completely hilarious in post-quake Haiti. As in:

Photographer [to Haitian-born driver who wants to know why we're here]: You know, we're looking at various kinds of progress since the earthquake

Driver: Progress! Ha ha ha ha ha ha...

Photographer and I: Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Sorry. Well, you know...

Yeah. 

Do Space Heaters Save Money and Energy?

| Mon Jan. 10, 2011 5:30 AM EST

Brrr! It's been unusually cold in the Bay Area: I had to scrape actual ice off my car last week. (Isn't that why I left the East Coast in the first place?) We've been cranking the space heaters all night at my house, lest we turn into icicles in our sleep. Since our central heat isn't very efficient (it is itself kind of a giant space heater), I've assumed that the room-by-room approach is best. But our power bill soared last month, so I decided to do a little more research.

The short answer is that it depends on how much of your house you're heating. In general, if you only need one or two rooms to be warm, space heaters will use less energy than central heat. (Unless your central heating happens to be wildly efficient: Geothermal users, I'm looking at you). "But in terms of energy per heat output, small space heaters will rarely ever be as efficient as a central heating system," says Tom Simchak, a senior policy-research associate at the Alliance to Save Energy. "There would be few situations where putting space heaters in every room and turning them all on would be more efficient than a properly-operating and relatively modern central system."

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 10, 2011

Mon Jan. 10, 2011 5:30 AM EST

Spc. Christopher Keefe pulls security on a hilltop while mechanics look over a mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP, after the brakes ignited during a return mission from Shinkay, Afghanistan, Jan. 6. Specialist Keefe is assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, Qalat, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)
 

Jared Lee Loughner's Close Friend Speaks

| Mon Jan. 10, 2011 3:01 AM EST

I landed an exclusive interview with Bryce Tierney, a close friend of Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged gunman in the massacre in Tucson Saturday that killed six people, wounded 14, and left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the reported target, fighting for her life. In the interview, Tierney talks about his relationship with Loughner, why he thinks his friend might have targeted Giffords, and what Loughner said in a previously unreported 2:00 a.m. voicemail he left for Tierney. Read: Bryce Tierney on Jared Lee Loughner.

After Giffords Shooting, Rep. Grijalva Blames Rage-Fueled Political Climate

| Sat Jan. 8, 2011 6:36 PM EST

In the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and the shooting of more than 20 others in Tucson today, fellow Arizona Democrat Rep. Raul Grijalva denounced a political environment poisoned by "anger, hatred, and division." In a phone interview with Mother Jones, Grijalva called the assault "horrible and unbelievable and shocking….It's hard to explain and really difficult to comprehend." Grijalva—who was also the recent target of violent threats—went on to blame the polarized political climate for creating an atmosphere that fueled violence:

We never entered [politics] believing that we were taking our lives in our hands...we're feeding anger, hatred, and division for quite a while. Maybe it is time for elected officials and leaders in this country that have been feeding that disease to realize that there are consequences to it. I hope people stop and think that we can be opponents, but we don't have to be deadly enemies…to demonize another person because of a disagreement and to make them expendible is not a democracy, it's not the America I know.

Asked whether the tea party right deserved to be singled out for particular blame, Grijalva assented:

[When] you stoke these flames, and you go to public meetings and you scream at the elected officials, you threaten them—you make us expendable you make us part of the cannon fodder. For a while, you've been feeding this hatred, this division…you feed it, you encourage it….Something's going to happen. People are feeding this monster….Some of the extreme right wing has made demonization of elected officials their priority.

A number of prominent left-wing blogs, including Daily Kos and FireDogLake, also blamed Sarah Palin for fanning the flames by placing Giffords—along with other vulnerable Democratic members of Congress—literally in the crosshairs on a map during the midterm elections. Grijalva said that the Palin "apparatus" shares responsibility for creating a climate of extremism. "Both Gabby and I were targeted in the apparatus in that cycle [saying] these people are 'enemies.'" He concluded: "The Palin express better look at their tone and their tenor."

Jared Lee Loughner's Currency Obsession

| Sat Jan. 8, 2011 4:58 PM EST

Jared Lee Loughner, arrested in connection with the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and more than 20 others in Tucson, posted a series of often inscrutable YouTube videos outlining his philosophy. One video, posted in December, discusses, in a rather incoherent manner, the "new currency." Currency has been a staple issue of the Nativist right; its members fear that the shift from the gold standard to the Federal Reserve system (and the printing of paper money) has imperiled the country. The issue has lately been taken up by some within the tea party who have warned of the supposed dangers of printing money; some have even suggested using an alternative currency of silver and gold.

Concerns about currency stretch from extreme conspiracy theorists to traditional libertarians. For example, libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has often warned against paper money, advocating a return to the gold standard. (Some Paul supporters have worried that Loughner's currency ramblings would unfairly tarnish them. "That [Loughner] was for gold and silver backed currency can only mean bad things for us," a commenter on RonPaulForums.com wrote today.)

In an online posting accompanying one of his videos, Loughner refers repeatedly to Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution, which states that "No State shall...make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts."

Loughner writes: "What is section 10 you ask? If you make a purchase then it's illegal under section 10 and amendment 1 of the United States constitution. You make a purchase. Therefore, it's illegal under section 10 and amendment 1 of the United States constitution." He also states: "Top secret: Why don't people control the money system? Their Current Currency(1/1) / Your new infinite currency (1/~infinte) This is a selcte information of revoluntary thoughts!"

The fears of paper currency and the Fed also are shared by anti-Semites who maintain that Jews control the Federal Reserve system and are working behind the scenes to destroy the true American Republic. So at this early stage of the shooting investigation, it's worth noting that Giffords is the first Jewish member of Congress in Arizona's history. Loughner, in an online posting, described Mein Kampf as one of his favorite books. Still, there's no telling yet precisely where Loughner resides on the extremist landscape.

You can watch Loughner's video here:

Read our exclusive interview with a friend who describes Loughner's family, bizarre dream journal, and his obsession with Rep. Giffords. Full coverage of the shooting and its aftermath is here.