James Ridgeway

James Ridgeway

In 1965, James Ridgeway helped launch the modern muckraking era by revealing that General Motors had hired private eyes to spy on an obscure consumer advocate named Ralph Nader. He worked for many years at the Village Voice, has written 16 books, and has codirected Blood in the Face, a film about the far right. In 2012, he was named a Soros Justice Media Fellow.

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Jared Lee Loughner's Currency Obsession

| Sat Jan. 8, 2011 5:58 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.

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Giffords's Office Was Vandalized by Followers of Former Militia Leader

| Sat Jan. 8, 2011 4:30 PM EST

Mike Vanderboegh, a former 1990s militia leader from Alabama, enouraged readers of his blog to throw bricks through the windows of Democratic offices during the debate over President Obama's health care bill last spring. One of the offices attacked was that of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot at a rally in a Tucson supermarket today.

Police have said the unidentified gunman, who shot Giffords at in the head at close range, along with several other people at the event, is in custody. (My colleague Suzy Khimm reports on his history of antigovernment rantings here.) He has not been identified or linked to any movement or group. According to the Tucson Citizen, police have arrested a second suspect and are seeking a third.

The Washington Post reported on the vandalism at Giffords's office on March 25, 2010:

"In the days that followed [Vanderboegh's post], glass windows and doors were shattered at local Democratic Party offices and the district offices of House Democrats from Arizona to Kansas to New York. At least 10 Democratic lawmakers reported death threats, incidents of harassment or vandalism at their offices over the past week, and the FBI and Capitol Police are offering lawmakers increased protection.

Local Democratic Party officials in New York have called for Vanderboegh's arrest, believing he is implicated in the vandalism in Rochester, but Vanderboegh said he has not yet been questioned by any law enforcement authorities.

Vanderboegh was unapologetic in a 45-minute telephone interview with The Washington Post early Thursday. He said he believes throwing bricks through windows sends a warning to Democratic lawmakers that the health-care reform legislation they passed Sunday has caused so much unrest that it could result in a civil war.

"The federal government should not have the ability to command us to buy something that it decides we should buy," Vanderboegh said. The government, he added, has "absolutely no idea the number of alienated who feel that their backs are to the wall are out here . . . who are not only willing to resist this law to the very end of their lives, but are armed and are capable of making such resistance possible and perhaps even initiating a civil war."... He said his call for people to throw bricks is "both good manners and it's also a moral duty to try to warn people."


ADDENDUM, 11:55 p.m.:  In an email to me this evening, Vanderboegh wrote the following:

Kindly go over my call to break the windows of LOCAL DEMOCRAT PARTY HEADQUARTERS and find just once where I called for anybody to break the windows of Congresscritters. 

(I had originally written that he called for followers to break the windows of Democratic members of Congress who supported the healthcare bill.) Readers can make up their own minds about Vanderboegh's call to action by reading his original blog post here:

So, if you wish to send a message that Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows.

Break them NOW.

Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night. Break them in broad daylight. Break them and await arrest in willful, principled civil disobedience. Break them with rocks. Break them with slingshots. Break them with baseball bats. But BREAK THEM.

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.

The Scott Sisters' "Debt to Society" and the New Jim Crow

| Fri Jan. 7, 2011 5:49 PM EST

Jamie and Gladys Scott walked out of prison today into the free world. As reported here in March of last year, the sisters were convicted, on dubious grounds, of an $11 armed robbery, and sentenced to life in prison. Both sisters lost 17 years of their lives behind bars before Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour suspended the remainder of their draconian sentences; Jamie also forfeited her health, and is now suffering from end-stage renal disease. Yet the sisters’ “debt to society” is still far from paid.

First and foremost, the conditions of their release stipulate that Gladys Scott must give Jamie Scott a kidney. From the very beginning of this medical scandal, in which Jamie’s health was further compromised by inadequate prison health care, Gladys offered her kidney for transplant to her sister. For the governor to mandate this donation is both unprecedented and unconscionable. As others have pointed out, releasing Jamie Scott before she has this costly life-saving surgery could also stand to save the state a considerable amount of money; a donation from her sister could save even more, and is apparently part of the price of their freedom.

At the same time, the Scott sisters will have to pay out money to maintain their freedom. Rather than pardoning Jamie and Gladys, Barbour suspended their sentences. According to Nancy Lockhart, a legal advocate who played an instrumental role in the sisters’ release, each will have to pay $52 a month for the administration of their parole in Florida, where their mother lives and where they plan to reside. Since they were serving life sentences, that means $624 a year for the rest of their lives. Both women are now in their thirties; if they live 40 more years, each will have paid the state $24,960. Of course, Jamie, in particular, will be lucky to live so long.

After 16 Years Behind Bars for an $11 Robbery, the Scott Sisters Will Be Free at Last

| Wed Dec. 29, 2010 11:32 PM EST

The following announcement was issued today by Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi, regarding Jamie and Gladys Scott. Mother Jones was among the first non-local media sources to report on the Scott sisters case, back in March. (The story was later covered by the AP, New York Times, and others.) The full story of their arrest and incarceration, and Jamie Scott's struggle to stay alive in prison, can be found here, with follow-ups here and here.

Dec. 29, 2010

GOV. BARBOUR’S STATEMENT REGARDING RELEASE OF SCOTT SISTERS

"Today, I have issued two orders indefinitely suspending the sentences of Jamie and Gladys Scott.  In 1994, a Scott County jury convicted the sisters of armed robbery and imposed two life sentences for the crime.  Their convictions and their sentences were affirmed by the Mississippi Court of Appeals in 1996. 

"To date, the sisters have served 16 years of their sentences and are eligible for parole in 2014.  Jamie Scott requires regular dialysis, and her sister has offered to donate one of her kidneys to her.  The Mississippi Department of Corrections believes the sisters no longer pose a threat to society.  Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott's medical condition creates a substantial cost to the State of Mississippi.     

"The Mississippi Parole Board reviewed the sisters' request for a pardon and recommended that I neither pardon them, nor commute their sentence.  At my request, the Parole Board subsequently reviewed whether the sisters should be granted an indefinite suspension of sentence, which is tantamount to parole, and have concurred with my decision to suspend their sentences indefinitely.   

"Gladys Scott's release is conditioned on her donating one of her kidneys to her sister, a procedure which should be scheduled with urgency. The release date for Jamie and Gladys Scott is a matter for the Department of Corrections.

"I would like to thank Representative George Flaggs, Senator John Horne, Senator Willie Simmons, and Representative Credell Calhoun for their leadership on this issue.  These legislators, along with former Mayor Charles Evers, have been in regular contact with me and my staff while the sisters' petition has been under review."

Santa Was in Prison and Jesus Got the Death Penalty

| Sat Dec. 25, 2010 2:34 PM EST

As Christmas is celebrated in Incarceration Nation, it’s worth remembering certain things about the two figures who dominate this holiday.

As more than 3,000 Americans sit on death row, we revere the birth of a godly man who was arrested, “tried,” sentenced, and put to death by the state. The Passion is the story of an execution, and the Stations of the Cross trace the path of a Dead Man Walking.

Less well known is the fact that Saint Nicholas, the early Christian saint who inspired Santa Claus, was once a prisoner, like one in every 100 Americans today. Though he was beloved for his kindness and generosity, Nicholas acquired sainthood not by giving alms, but in part by performing a miracle that more or less amounted to a prison break.

As we described in one of our earliest posts on Solitary Watch, Nicholas was the 4th-century Greek Bishop of Myra (in present-day Turkey). Under the Roman emperor Diocletian, who persecuted Christians, Nicholas spent some five years in prison–and according to some accounts, in solitary confinement.

Under Constantine, the first Christian emperor, Nicholas fared better until the Council of Nicaea, in 325 A.D. There, after having a serious theological argument with another powerful bishop, Nicholas became so enraged that he walked across the room and slapped the man.  

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