If Montana voters approve Gary Marbut's referendum in November 2014, any FBI agent who tries to arrest a Montanan for a federal crime could be arrested—and charged with kidnapping.
Marbut's "Sheriffs First" bill, which cleared a Montana state Senate committee last week, makes it a crime for a federal agent to take any law-enforcement steps without first getting permission from the county sheriff. The proposal already passed both houses of the Legislature once, in 2011, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat. This time Marbut, the Montana gun lobbyist and aspiring firearms manufacturer who wrote the bill, is hoping Montana voters will determine the fate of his legislation. If passed, the latest version of the Sheriffs First measure would become a ballot question in November 2014.
On Wednesday, after reporters at mainstream publications could find no evidence of any such organization even existing, Shapiro* Breitbart News doubled down: "The mainstream media have ignored the fact that at least one prominent supporter of Hamas has donated money to an organization associated with former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)—namely, the Atlantic Council, which receives support from the Hariri family of Lebanon, whose most prominent member, former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri, publicly backs Hamas."
The Atlantic Council is, like many such vaguely named D.C. institutions, a repository for pretty much anyone who has ever held a high-ranking foreign policy position in the federal government. If Shapiro is correct, Hagel should be the least of our worries; every administration since the 1960s has been corrupted by Hamas:
Condoleezza Rice: Bush's second secretary of state—and Atlantic Council honorary director—hid her connections to Hamas by refusing to negotiate with it.
William Webster: The only man to ever helm the CIA and the FBI, Webster served under Presidents Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush and is an honorary director at the Atlantic Council.
Robert Gates: Gates, an honorary director, was George W. Bush's last Secretary of Defense (and President Obama's first).
James A. Baker, III: An honorary director of the Atlantic Council, Baker served as a chief of staff for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Michael Hayden: Another honorary director, Hayden was a CIA director under George W. Bush.
James Woolsey: President Bill Clinton's CIA director is a member of the Atlantic Council's board of directors. You may have seen him at Big Journalism's sister Breitbart publication, Big Peace.
William H. Taft, IV: "Get on the raft with Taft" was the campaign slogan of this Council director's great-grandfather. You know who else used rafts?
George P. Shultz: Reagan's secretary of state for seven years is an Atlantic Council honorary director.
Henry A. Kissinger: President Richard Nixon's Secretary of State sits on the Atlantic Council board of directors, when he's not busy mentoring Sarah Palin on foreign policy and blaming Hamas for obstructing the peace process.
Fortunately, opponents of Hagel have settled on an alternative who could presumably be confirmed without much of a fight: former undersecretary of defense Michèle Flournoy. Even former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who sees the threat of terrorism around every corner, supports Flournoy.
The catch: Flournoy sits on the Atlantic Council's board of directors, too.
*This post originally attributed the article to Shapiro.
On Wednesday, by a 38 to 11 vote*, the Montana state Senate passed SB 107, a bill to "generally revise deviate sexual conduct laws." Put another way: They voted to decriminalize homosexuality.
Although the 2002 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas ruled that state laws prohibiting sodomy are unconstitutional, the effect has been slow to sink in. Montana is one of four states, along with Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, that still have laws on the books specifically outlawing gay sex. Ten more states—Idaho, Utah, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and (obviously) Florida—maintain a blanket prohibition on sodomy for persons of all sexual orientations.
The laws have stayed on the books partly because of institutional inertia; culling unenforceable laws isn't exactly the most urgent issue facing cash-strapped states. But when advocates have generated legislative momentum to repeal the sodomy statutes, they've invariably been thwarted. As I reported in 2011, lawmakers in Texas have repeatedly sought to purge the state's anti-sodomy law from the books without success. (It likely doesn't help matters that GOP Gov. Rick Perry believes Lawrencewas wrongly decided.) In 2012, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, also a Republican, formed an Office of the Repealer to delete unnecessary laws from the state books, but pointedly left out his state's invalidated ban on sodomy.
This isn't the only notable LGBT legislation up for consideration. Another bill before the legislature would extend the state's anti-discrimination protections to gays and lesbians for the first time—a more substantive reform that advocates hope would serve as a bulwark against bullying.
But neither proposal stands much chance of becoming law in 2013. As the Billings Gazettenotes, a bill to eliminate the sodomy statute passed the Senate in 2011 only to fail in the house. "We are expecting this bill to go to House judiciary, which is a very ideologically driven committee, and we expect it to die in that committee," says Jamee Greer, a lobbyist for the Montana Human Rights Network, an LGBT equality group. "They're not showing a lot of respect to the LGBT community and I don't expect them to pass 107."
*Among the 10 Republicans voting against it: This guy.
Update, 4:18 p.m.: The Georgia supreme court has denied Warren Hill's motion for a stay of execution.
Update, 6:44 p.m.: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Warren Hill a stay of execution, according to his lawyers.
Update, 2/20/2012: Here's the order from the 11th Circuit. The Georgia court of appeals also issued a stay, due to complications surrounding the state's recent switch from a lethal-injection "cocktail" to a single drug.
Warren Hill has an IQ of 70 and placed in the third percentile on his middle-school standardized test. Doctors have found him to be "mildly mentally retarded." But even though the US Supreme Court in 2002 ruled that executing the mentally handicapped is unconstitutional, Hill will be put to death today, barring a late intervention by the courts.
In 1989, while serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend, Hill was given the death penalty for murdering his cellmate with a wooden board. Georgia had outlawed the death penalty for the mentally handicapped by then, but the state mandated that defendants prove their handicap "beyond a reasonable doubt"—putting the burden of proof, in other words, on the disabled defendant.
Hill's appeal rests mostly on a single compelling point: The team of state doctors who originally concluded he qualified for capital punishment has completely reversed itself, citing their own inexperience (one of them had never evaluated a patient for mental retardation before) and advances in the field. As one member of the team, Dr. Thomas Sachy, put it in Hill's application for a sentence commutation:
The totality of evidence shows that far from "malingering a cognitive disorder," Mr. Hill has had a cognitive disorder with adaptive skill deficits since early childhood. He consistently tested in the 2-3 percentile in childhood achievement and intelligence testing, consistent with mild mental retardation. There was no dispute in 2000 among the clinicians who had evaluated Mr. Hill that he has an IQ of approximately 70. There is also evidence of significant deficits in such areas of his functioning as self-care, functional academics, interpersonal skills, and home living since prior to age 18.
Among the arguments in favor of qualifying Hill for the death penalty were a set of letters he had written from prison to his lawyer and family members, which seemed to demonstrate a higher level of mental competence than he'd shown in his examination. But doctors now believe those letters were written by someone else.
Georgia isn't the only state that has found its way around Atkins v. Virginia, the 2002 decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that executing the mentally handicapped violates the Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. In August, Texas executed Marvin Wilson, who sucked his thumb into adulthood and couldn't tell the difference between left and right, on the basis of mental competence guidelines that were inspired by the John Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men.
Hill's execution had originally been scheduled for last August but was stayed by the state Supreme Court—not because of his mental capacity, but because of questions about the lethal injection drug the state was using. It is now set for 7 p.m. tonight.
If you believe the folks at NASA—and really, why shouldn't you?—it's only a matter of when, not if, we need someone like Dr. Bong Wie to save the human race from a civilization-destroying catastrophe.
Wie is the director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center at Iowa State University, the only institution in the United States dedicated to the deflection of what NASA calls Near-Earth Objects (NEOs)—"asteroids" to the rest of us. He's been busy lately. On Friday, Americans woke up to reports and videos of the largest meteorite in more than a century crashing into Siberia. In the late afternoon, 600,000 people watched online as the DA14 asteroid passed just 17,000 miles from Earth. In response to all of this, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, announced he would hold a hearing "to develop contingencies" in the event of an imminent threat from outer space.
Scientists have been calling on the government to wake up to the NEO threat for decades, "but nothing happened," Wie says. "We are very lucky to have today's events."