Mojo - January 2011

Jared Lee Loughner: Meet Rep. Giffords' Alleged Shooter

| Sat Jan. 8, 2011 5:51 PM EST

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot in the head Saturday morning at a "Congress on Your Corner" event outside a supermarket in Tucson. After initial reports that Giffords had died, the hospital has confirmed she remains in critical condition though she is "expected to pull through," according to MSNBC. Six people were killed in the shooting—including federal judge Bill Roll, Giffords' district director, and a nine-year-old child—and at least 12 people were injured.

The alleged assailant has been identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, an Arizona resident described by one eyewitness as a white, clean-cut man who reportedly called out the names of some of his victims as he began shooting. (The Associated Press identified the suspect, who's now in police custody, as Jared Laughner, but the Arizona Daily Star, Politico, and other outlets have ID'd him as "Loughner.") The suspect appears to have posted YouTube videos under the handle "Classitup10" that rail against the government and talk of revolution and terrorism. The user, identified as "Jared Lee Loughner," says in a rage-filled, rambling, and incoherent post accompanying one video:

We need a drum roll for those front runners in the election; those illegal teachers, pigs, and politicians of yours are under illegal authority of their constitution. Those dirty pigs think they know the damn year. Thirdly, tell them mother fuckers to count from 0 to whenever they feel a threat to stop their count…Those illegal military personal are able to sign into a country that they can't find with an impossible date! How did you trust your child with them fraud teachers and front runners, listener? Did you now know that the teachers, pigs, and front runners are treasonous!

In another video, the same user accuses the government of imposing "mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar." Loughner continues: "You don't have to accept hte [SIC] federalist laws…A terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon. If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem."

Giffords, a moderate Democrat, had been threatened in the recent past. Shortly after the health care vote, Giffords' district office was vandalized, and extremists subsequently encouraged the public to throw bricks through the windows of lawmakers, as my colleague James Ridgeway has reported. (Other Democratic supporters were also subject to violent threats and attacks on their offices.) In the summer of 2009, Giffords' aides called the police after an attendee at a public event dropped a gun. The 40-year-old Arizona Democrat barely squeaked by her opponent in 2010, winning by less than one percentage point against the tea party-backed Jesse Kelly. The Tucson event was her first public appearance since her re-election.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, another Arizona Democrat, was also recently threatened with violence: in July, a bullet was fired through the window of his district office in Yuma, and an envelope with a toxic powder was sent to his Tucson office.

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.

Corn on "Hardball": Who Gets Credit For Drop in Jobless Rate?

Fri Jan. 7, 2011 7:13 PM EST

David Corn and CNBC's Maria Bartiromo joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss the new labor statistics showing a small drop in the unemployment rate and what it will take from Obama to get big business hiring again.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook. Get David Corn's RSS feed.

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.

Few Anti-Reform Dems Riding the Repeal Wave

| Fri Jan. 7, 2011 1:33 PM EST

Conservative Democrats who voted down health reform aren’t jumping aboard the GOP’s push to repeal the law. On Friday morning, the House voted 236 to 181 to move forward with its health care repeal bill, clearing the path for a Wednesday vote on the measure. Only four Democrats voted with Republicans on the procedural vote: Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.), Larry Kissell (D-NC), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), and Mike Ross (D-Ark.). Boren and Ross had already vowed to vote for repeal, and it now looks like they’ll be joined by at least two other Blue Dogs.

But other anti-reform Democrats have already suggested that they’ll vote against repealing the law. As I reported on Wednesday, Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) said that taking away the benefits of reform from Americans who’ve already received them would be "immoral." Politico reports that other anti-reform Blue Dogs like Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) are also leaning against reform, while a few others remain uncommitted. The bulk of the Blue Dogs who voted against health reform were voted out of office in November, with just 13 anti-reform Democrats left in the House. And the Blue Dogs who vote against repeal could give the Democrats more ammunition against the GOP and help persuade moderate voters of the benefits of reform.*

*Update: This post has been abridged from the original.

Outside Spending Wars Reignite in Great Plains

| Fri Jan. 7, 2011 1:12 PM EST

Never mind that the 2012 elections, in which a resurgent GOP will try to topple Barack Obama and reclaim a Senate majority, are nearly two years away. Never mind that the 112th Congress is just days old. Already the spending wars for the next election season have begun in an unlikely place: the political backwater that is North Dakota.

A left-leaning independent advocacy group, Commonsense Ten, is doling out $30,000 for radio ads in North Dakota in defense of Sen. Kent Conrad, the Washington Post reports. The ads describe Conrad as a "deficit hawk" and "lifelong North Dakotan, champion for our ranches, and family farms and fiscal conservative." Why now, and why Conrad? As it turns out, C10's new ad buy is a response to recent attacks on Conrad by the conservative American Future Fund. Based in Iowa, AFF recently bought $60,000 worth of air time for commercials that criticize Conrad for backing "wasteful stimulus, massive Wall Street bailouts, and the budget-busting health care bill that Americans didn't want."

Here's more from the Post:

"We saw last cycle what the Republican dominance in outside spending meant," said [C10 co-founder Jim] Jordan. "We're going to do everything we can to play that to a draw, at least, in 2011 and 2012."

In the last election, North Dakota Democrats took a major hit, with Republicans winning an open Senate seat and defeating former Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D). Given those gains, Republicans believe 2012 is the cycle where they finally can beat Conrad and have ramped up public pressure on him in the early stages of the race.

Conrad has been mentioned as a possible retiree but has said little publicly about his future political plans. Unlike in 2010, when popular Gov. John Hoeven (R) ran and won a Senate race, Republicans have no obvious candidate to take on Conrad at the moment.

Democrats should be encouraged that C10 is already wading into the 2012 fray. With 23 senators up for re-election (that includes independents Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont) and only 10 GOP seats up for grabs, 2012 could very well be the year the Senate flips back to the Republicans. Which is to say, Senate Democrats are going to need all the help they can get.

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Bloggingheads: Corn and Pinkerton on Bill Daley, John Boehner, and Michele Bachmann

Fri Jan. 7, 2011 12:25 PM EST

Mother Jones' David Corn and Fox News' James Pinkerton were on bloggingheads.tv again this week to talk Obama's new chief of staff Bill Daley, new GOP House Speaker John Boehner, and potential presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). Watch:

A Terrorism Trial in the US Neglected by the Media

| Fri Jan. 7, 2011 11:49 AM EST

On Monday, one of the world's most notorious alleged terrorists will go on trial in Texas. Not for anything related to 9/11 or Al Qaeda. But this man stands accused of masterminding terrorist actions that killed scores of innocent civilians. Yet this event is hardly generating a media blitz. Peter Kornbluh previews the trial in The Nation. Here are his opening paragraphs:

On January 10 one of the most dangerous terrorists in recent history will go on trial in a small courtroom in El Paso, Texas. This is not the venue the Obama administration has finally selected to prosecute the perpetrators of 9/11; it is where the reputed godfather of Cuban exile violence, Luis Posada Carriles, may finally face a modicum of accountability for his many crimes.

In the annals of modern justice, the Posada trial stands out as one of the most bizarre and disreputable of legal proceedings. The man identified by US intelligence reports as a mastermind of the midair destruction of a Cuban airliner—all seventy-three people on board were killed when the plane plunged into the sea off the coast of Barbados on October 6, 1976—and who publicly bragged about being behind a series of hotel bombings in Havana that killed an Italian businessman, Fabio Di Celmo, is being prosecuted for perjury and fraud, not murder and mayhem. The handling of his case during the Bush years became an international embarrassment and reflected poorly on the willingness and/or abilities of the Justice Department to prosecute crimes of terror when that terrorist was once an agent and ally of America. For the Obama administration, the verdict will carry significant implications for US credibility in the fight against terrorism, as well as for the future of US-Cuban relations.

With all the tough talk in recent years (and decades) about the US getting tough on terrorism—before and after 9/11—various administrations' wishy-washy handling of the Posada case has offered case studies in hypocrisy. For the sad history, read the rest of Kornbluh's piece here.

 

 

When Will America's Jobs Engine Restart?

| Fri Jan. 7, 2011 10:41 AM EST

On the jobs front, the month of December was hardly cause for celebration.

According to the Labor Department's monthly labor snapshot, released Friday morning, the US added only 103,000 jobs in December, all of them in the private sector. While an increase from November's gains of 39,000, that total is lower than many economists' projections, which were around 150,000. It's also nowhere near the amount of jobs needed to put the country on track for a full economic recovery; to do so, the economy needs to add closer to 300,000 jobs each month, economists say. "The jobs deficit remains large, and we will need much faster job growth than we saw in 2010 to simultaneously bring people back into the labor force and reduce the unemployment rate to acceptable levels over the next few years," said Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The news wasn't all disappointing. The Labor Department revised its job figures for October and November, bumping up the number of jobs added in October to 210,000 from 172,000 and in November to 71,000 from 39,000.

And at first glance, the Labor Department's various jobless rates make December look like a good month for job seekers. The headline unemployment rate dropped to 9.4 percent from 9.8 percent in November, and the real jobless rate—the one accounting for part-time workers, "marginally attached" workers, and more—dipped slightly to 16.7 percent from 17 percent. December marks the 20th straight month with unemployment over 9 percent, the worst jobs crisis since World War II. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed workers decreased by 556,000 to 14.5 million people, and the long-term unemployed (those out of work for more than six months) held steady at 6.4 million, or 44 percent of all jobless workers.

But jobless rates can be deceiving. One crucial statistic to look at is the percentage of working-age people who are actually in the labor force. In December, that figure edged downward yet again, to 64.3 percent. That's the lowest it's been since the early 1980s, and as Calculated Risk notes, down from the normal 66 to 67 percent over the past two decades. In other words, about the same percentage of working-age people collected a steady paycheck in December as did during the Reagan presidency.

And that's why you shouldn't get too excited about that lower, 9.4 percent unemployment rate. It's not that the job market is necessarily improving, but that people are still dropping out of the labor market and making the pool of officially unemployed workers look smaller than it really is. These are people who're tired of sending out cover letters and resumes, attending job fairs, scouring online job boards. To wit: the number of workers who've dropped out of the labor force increased by 1.5 million between December 2009 and December 2010.

The December job figures are especially deflating after a private employment report from earlier this week suggested big gains in the labor market. The December employment report from ADP, a business data analysis outfit, reported that private employers added 297,000 jobs in December. But Friday's government report seems to validate ADP's skeptics, who say the firm isn't all that accurate, especially during the holiday season when jobs numbers fluctuate more than usual.

So how distant is a full jobs recovery? Think of it this way: If the economy adds 150,000 jobs per month going forward, then it will take around 20 years to get back to the pre-recession employment level of 5 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute's Heidi Schierholz. Really, the question isn't when we'll get back to normal but if we ever get there at all.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 7, 2011

Fri Jan. 7, 2011 6:30 AM EST

A U.S. Army noncommissioned officer prepares to lower the American flag during a transfer-of-authority ceremony at Observation Post Mace, as U.S. and Afghan National Army troops look on Kunar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 21, 2010. The soldiers are assigned to the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team. OP Mace is the northernmost observation post in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, which borders Pakistan. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Peter Shinn