Monday, January 10, 2011

Arizona Sheriff Blasts Rush Limbaugh for Spewing 'Irresponsible' Vitriol

The Arizona sheriff investigating the Tucson shooting that left U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded had harsh words today for those engaging in political rhetoric, calling conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh "irresponsible" for continuing the vitriol.

"The kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh, in my judgment he is irresponsible, uses partial information, sometimes wrong information," Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said today. "[Limbaugh] attacks people, angers them against government, angers them against elected officials and that kind of behavior in my opinion is not without consequences."

Limbaugh today railed against the media and Dupnik for trying to draw a link between the heated political climate and the shooting rampage, calling the sheriff a "fool." But Dupnik stood by his assertions.

"The vitriol affects the [unstable] personality that we are talking about," he said. "You can say, 'Oh no, it doesn't,' but my opinion is that it does."

Investigators have yet to determine what motivated 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, described by some as appearing to be mentally unstable, to allegedly open fire on the crowd outside the Tucson Safeway. However, so far there is no evidence that he has any ties to any political group

Dupnik took ABC News' Diane Sawyer on a tour today of the Safeway where six people were killed and 14 others, including Giffords, were injured.

Dupnik said eyewitnesses reported that the gun was about a foot away from Giffords' head when she was shot. The gunman then fired wildly and seemingly indiscriminately at the crowd of people.

"It's a matter of seconds," he said. "I'm told he was firing as fast he was capable of firing."

"He's trying to re-load when one of the individuals hits him over the head with a chair," he said, "and then people grab him and a lady grabs the magazine and at that point he is subdued."

Dupnik said he had been advised not to discuss Loughner's mental condition or his home life, but said, "I can tell you this is a somewhat dysfunctional family."

Many have reported that Loughner behaved bizarrely in his community college classes, some even going to school officials in fear of their safety.

"All I can tell you is that teachers and fellow students were concerned about his bizarre behavior in class to the point where some of him were physically afraid of him," Dupnik said. "He was acting in very weird fashion to the point where they had several incidents with him to the point where law enforcement at Pima College got involved and they decided to expel him. And they did."

Dupnik maintains that it was Loughner's own demons, not his state's relatively lenient gun control laws, that caused the tragedy on Saturday.

"He could have purchased this gun in any state. It's not just Arizona," said Dupnik, who owns a gun. "There are too many people who have temper problems who have troubled personalities. This isn't an unusual individual. There are hundreds just like him in our community. And in every other community."

Dupnik said he'd like to see the federal government establish some kind of commission to deal with civility in the United States and make recommendations about how to get it back. "I don't have a problem with heated arguments," he said. "As a matter of fact you are kind of getting a little heat out of me now, and it is because I am very angry at what has transpired."

"Not because it's Tucson, Arizona, but because of two beautiful people -- one almost dead and one assassinated -- that were personal friends of mine," he said, speaking of Giffords and U.S. District Judge John Roll, "and outstanding individuals and public servants."

A moment of silence was led today on Capitol Hill by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to pay tribute to the victims.

Police took Loughner into custody shortly after and charged him in the shooting. According to the sheriff, he has invoked his right to remain silent.

Dupnik has called Loughner a "loner" and "a very troubled individual."

A criminal complaint filed in federal court Sunday charges Loughner with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the United States and two counts of intent to kill employees of the United States.

Doctors today said Giffords' condition remained unchanged, that her brain swelling had not increased and that she continued to be able to follow "basic commands."

Giffords is one of eight people still hospitalized following the shooting and one of two still in the intensive care unit.

Police say they have evidence found at Loughner's house to indicate the attack was planned, including a letter that included the words "Giffords," "I planned ahead" and "my assassination."

FOX Boss Roger Ailes Tells Staff To "Shut Up And Tone It Down" After Arizona Shootings

For reasons that remain unclear (maybe they were at a dinner party together?) Fox News head Roger Ailes spoke "exclusively" to Russell Simmons this morning following the shootings in Arizona.

Ailes has told his staff to "tone it down, make your argument intellectually" but makes it clear Fox sees no connection between themselves and the events in Arizona. Also? The left is just as bad if not worse.

You know, they’re using this thing...apparently there was a map from one of Palin’s things that had her (Congresswoman Giffords) targeted district.
So, we looked at the internet and the first thing we found in 2007, the Democrat Party had a targeted map with targets on it for the Palin district. These maps have been used for for years that I know of. I have two pictures of myself with a bull's-eye on my head. This is just bullshit. This goes on... both sides are wrong, but they both do it.

I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don’t have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that.

Ailes also feels Fox is being conveniently targeted.

The education system knew about this guy...they kicked him out of school and told him until he gets a letter saying he’s not going to kill anybody, he can’t come back to school.
The police department picked him up five times and let him go and nobody screened him for getting a weapon...So, by the time he decided to go to a mall and and wanting to kill somebody, he was attached to nobody. He was a flag burner. He just was not attached to the Tea Party.

It’s just a bullshit way to use the death of a little girl to get Fox News in an argument.

OH Happy Day The rat killer gets his! Tom will have fun dancing with Bubba!

Tom DeLay, former U.S. House leader, sentenced to 3 years in prison

AUSTIN - Former House majority leader Tom DeLay, the brash Texan who helped build and tightly control a Republican majority in his chamber until resigning in 2005, was sentenced by a state judge on Monday to three years in prison for illegally plotting to funnel corporate contributions to Texas legislative candidates.

State Senior Judge Pat Priest, citing the need for those who write the laws to "be bound by them," rejected DeLay's impassioned argument that he was the victim of political persecution and was improperly accused of breaking the law for doing what "everybody was doing."

Priest said he agreed with a jury's verdict in November that DeLay had committed a felony by conspiring to launder corporate money into the state election, and ordered bailiffs to take DeLay - wearing a navy blue suit and his trademark American-flag lapel pin - to jail immediately. But he was released when DeLay's attorneys quickly posted a $10,000 bond.

Priest also sentenced DeLay to five years in prison on a separate felony conviction of money laundering, but agreed to let him serve 10 years of community service instead of jail time for that charge. Priest acknowledged that DeLay - who said he had already raised and spent $10 million on his defense - would appeal the verdict to higher courts.

But he rejected DeLay's contention that the prosecution's novel use of a money-laundering statute - meant to target bank robbers, drug dealers and criminal fraud - was unjust.

Its use was justified, Priest said, because the crime for which DeLay was convicted was itself novel. DeLay was accused of approving the transfer of $190,000 in corporate funds to the Republican National Committee's coffers in Washington and a return of the same amount in checks to state candidates.

A prison term represents a substantial fall from grace for DeLay, who from 2002 to 2005 was effectively the third most powerful politician in Washington and the gatekeeper for all House legislation. As House majority leader, he became notorious for pursuing the interests of his party and its donors so aggressively and successfully that he earned a nickname as "The Hammer."

DeLay also probably made as many enemies as he did friends, causing some party colleagues - such as current House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) - to openly shun any mimicry of his rigid, demanding style. One of DeLay's most controversial efforts, known as his "K Street Project," involved pressuring trade associations to donate only to Republicans, despite their stated preference to give to both parties.

Some analysts have said the ethics cloud that surrounded DeLay contributed to the Democrats' capture of the House in 2006.

Priest delivered his sentence immediately after hearing from prosecutors and the defense Monday.

DeLay and his lead attorney, Richard DeGuerin, asked for a sentence of probation and community service, but they may have undercut their plea by declining to show any contrition, a factor that normally weighs in a judge's sentencing deliberations.

"I can't be remorseful for something I don't think I did," said DeLay, who had been silent in front of the jury even while he insisted on his innocence during numerous press conferences outside the courtroom.

Lead prosecutor Gary Cobb repeatedly called attention to DeLay's defiance, asking the judge at one point if refusing to accept responsibility could properly be called a "conservative value."

"Conservative values . . . are supposed to include obeying the laws of the state and taking personal responsibility," Cobb said. If DeLay received only probation, Cobb warned the judge, he would "wear that probation" like Jesus and call himself a martyr.

A colleague, prosecutor Steve Brand, separately claimed at the hearing that probation would not only send the wrong message to other members of Congress, but would signal to working-class citizens that DeLay was treated lightly just because he wore "a suit and a tie." He said that DeLay's repeated claims in a recent memoir that he did nothing improper were "the equivalent of a 'screw you' to the system."

Brand said DeLay "needs to go to prison . . . and he needs to go today," and Cobb suggested a 10-year prison term would be appropriate.

DeLay told Priest, as he has claimed since his indictment in 2005, that the case was brought by the Travis County prosecutor's office because it disliked his "politics."

He acknowledged being arrogant - "Texas cocky" is the description that DeLay said he preferred - but added, "I never intended to break the law; I have always played within the rules and even the spirit of the laws; and even if I didn't, I am not stupid. Everything I did was covered by accountants and lawyers telling me what I needed to do to stay within the law."

DeLay was indicted by Travis County's elected district attorney, a Democrat, after activists in Texas, including some affiliated with the Democratic Party, uncovered evidence of the money transfers to and from Washington.

Texas has long barred the use of corporate funds in its state elections, as do 21 other states.

DeLay's attorneys claimed during the trial that, because the funds were sent to one account in Washington and replenished from a different account, the transfers did not meet the criminal definition of money laundering. But higher state courts have sided with Priest's decision to allow the charges, and the jurors decided that DeLay had conspired with two associates - now awaiting a separate trial - to subvert the law.

At one point, the hearing - which was organized to hear evidence of other "bad acts" by DeLay, in addition to the sentencing recommendations - appeared headed for discussion of DeLay's extensive ties to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, with former DeLay and Abramoff aide Michael Scanlon appearing briefly in the hallway outside the courtroom.

Scanlon was subpoenaed to offer testimony about a golf trip DeLay had taken with Abramoff to Scotland and London in 2000, where some of his expenses were covered by lobbyists. But DeGuerin argued to Priest that the August dismissal of federal charges against DeLay made such issues moot.

Priest also cut short some testimony by a former plastics manufacturer, Peter Cloeren, about past election donation irregularities that Cloeren says involved DeLay. The judge accepted evidence offered by DeGuerin that the Federal Election Commission had declined to hold DeLay responsible.

Former House speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), the sole witness presented Monday on DeLay's behalf, spoke about his 20-year friendship with DeLay and called him "honorable in the things he was trying to do" for his constituency and the country. He also spoke about DeLay's work with orphans and foster children in Texas, and his acquisition of highway funds and tax breaks for Texans.

"Tom, whenever he did anything, he jumped into it full-bore," Hastert said.


Sarah Palin in E-Mail to Glenn Beck: "I Hate Violence"

On his radio program on Monday, Glenn Beck described an email exchange with Sarah Palin over Saturday's tragedy in Tuscon. Beck said Palin told him, "I hate violence."

Beck said he wrote to Palin urging her to look into security measures in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others because "there are nutjobs on all sides." He told listeners he gave the former Alaska governor the name of the security firm he uses.

"Sarah, as you know, peace is always the answer. I know you are felling the same heat, if not much more on this," Beck said he wrote.

"I hate violence," Beck quotes Palin as having responded. "I hate war. Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this."

During the program, Beck decried suggestions that certain conservative commentators - including himself, Palin and Rush Limbaugh - have increased the risk of violence against lawmakers through inflammatory rhetoric.

Critics pointed to a map featuring 20 House Democrats that used crosshairs images to show their districts that Palin released in March to suggest Palin bore responsibility for encouraging violence.
(A Palin aide responded in an interview that "we have nothing whatsoever to do with this.")

Beck said that there was no evidence that Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged shooter, was directed by right-wing political motivations. (Laughner appears to have had some far-right beliefs, but his ideology was muddled and far outside the mainstream.)

"The media continues to toss blame around but they didn't get right," Beck said during the program. He suggested the media were nonetheless assuming it knew Loughner's motivations, stating that the media have "no evidence, you don't have the full story, you don't know what's going on!"

Beck then listed what he said were instances of liberals using violent rhetoric, including, he said, Madonna threatening to "kick [Sarah Palin's] ass" during a concert.

"This is Shirley Sherrod again," Beck said, arguing that - as with a 2010 incident involving a staff member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture who was wrongly forced to resign from her post - blame was being misdirected due to a lack of accurate information in the media.

1986 Privacy Law Is Outrun by the Web WORTH A READ

SAN FRANCISCO — Concerned by the wave of requests for customer data from law enforcement agencies, Google last year set up an online tool showing the frequency of these requests in various countries. In the first half of 2010, it counted more than 4,200 in the United States.

Google is not alone among Internet and telecommunications companies in feeling inundated with requests for information. Verizon told Congress in 2007 that it received some 90,000 such requests each year. And Facebook told Newsweek in 2009 that subpoenas and other orders were arriving at the company at a rate of 10 to 20 a day.

As Internet services — allowing people to store e-mails, photographs, spreadsheets and an untold number of private documents — have surged in popularity, they have become tempting targets for law enforcement. That phenomenon became apparent over the weekend when it surfaced that the Justice Department had sought the Twitter account activity of several people linked to WikiLeaks, the antisecrecy group.

Many Internet companies and consumer advocates say the main law governing communication privacy — enacted in 1986, before cellphone and e-mail use was widespread, and before social networking was even conceived — is outdated, affording more protection to letters in a file cabinet than e-mail on a server.

They acknowledge that access to information is important for fighting crime and terrorism, but say they are dealing with a patchwork of confusing standards that have been interpreted inconsistently by the courts, creating uncertainty.

“Some people think Congress did a pretty good job in 1986 seeing the future, but that was before the World Wide Web,” said Susan Freiwald, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law and an expert in electronic surveillance law. “The law can’t be expected to keep up without amendments.”

Law enforcement agencies have reacted in the aftermath of 9/11 and argue the opposite side of the coin, fearing that changing communications technology will impede their access to crucial information.

Last year, for example, the Justice Department argued in court that cellphone users had given up the expectation of privacy about their location by voluntarily giving that information to carriers. In April, it argued in a federal court in Colorado that it ought to have access to some e-mails without a search warrant. And federal law enforcement officials, citing technology advances, plan to ask for new regulations that would smooth their ability to perform legal wiretaps of various Internet communications.

“When your job is to protect us by fighting and prosecuting crime, you want every tool available,” said Ryan Calo, director of the consumer privacy project at the Center for Internet & Society at Stanford Law School. “No one thinks D.O.J. and other investigative agencies are sitting there twisting their mustache trying to violate civil liberties. They’re trying to do their job.”

Even Google, when it posted its online tool, acknowledged that the majority of requests it received “are valid and the information needed is for legitimate criminal investigations.”

Still, Internet companies chafe at what they say is the weaker protection under the law afforded online data. They contend that an e-mail should have the same protection from law enforcement as the information stored in a home. They want law enforcement agencies to use a search warrant approved by a judge or a magistrate rather than rely on a simple subpoena from a prosecutor to obtain a person’s online data.

While requests for information have become routine, the way Internet companies respond is not. In the WikiLeaks case, Twitter took the unusual step of seeking to unseal the court order so it could follow its own internal policies and notify its customers, the WikiLeaks members, that the government wanted information about them. Privacy experts praised Twitter for this.

Most of the time, companies do no such thing; they are not required to do so under the patchwork of rules that govern law enforcement access to customer data.

But as the data requests mount, companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook find themselves on the front lines of the tug of war between security concerns and the need to protect privacy.

The rules established by the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act depend on what type of information is sought and how old it is. And courts in different jurisdictions have interpreted the rules differently.

But in many cases, the government does not notify people that they are searching their online information or prove probable cause, and if the government violates the law in obtaining information, defendants are generally unable to exclude that evidence from a trial, Ms. Freiwald said.

Generally law enforcement officials do not need a warrant to read e-mail messages that are more than 180 days old. This makes online surveillance different from surveillance of postal mail or phone calls. For example, when wiretapping phones, law enforcement must get a court order and when searching homes, they must obtain a warrant.

At the same time, since the attacks of 9/11, it has become increasingly common for law enforcement to demand that its requests for information be sealed from the people who are the target of the investigation, as the Justice Department initially did in the WikiLeaks case.

Facebook declined to comment on whether it had received requests for customer data linked to the WikiLeaks investigation. A company spokesman said Facebook had resisted “overly broad requests for user data.” Its privacy policy does not say whether the company will notify customers who are target of those requests.

Google did not respond to requests for comment. Google’s privacy policy, like Facebook’s, alerts customers that it will comply “with valid legal processes seeking account information” but is silent on whether it will try to notify targets of an investigation.

In contrast, Twitter’s policy “is to notify users of requests for their information prior to disclosure unless we are prohibited from doing so by statute or court order.”

In the WikiLeaks case, Twitter has told the targets of the government investigation that it would turn over the information after 10 days unless they went to court to seek to block the release of the data, according to online postings by Birgitta Jonsdottir and Robbert Gonggrijp, two of the people who said they had received notices from Twitter.

Electronic privacy and civil rights advocates say they worry that because the WikiLeaks court order gained such widespread attention, it could have a chilling effect on people’s speech on the Internet. But it could also teach unknowing Web users about the limits of the law, they said.

In the absence of updated regulations, meanwhile, the tension between Internet companies and law enforcement is causing diplomatic strain as well. The Iceland government, of which Ms. Jonsdottir is a member, has said it will ask the American ambassador to explain the request for information about her. And in a recent post to Twitter, Ms. Jonsdottir said she was talking with American lawyers about her legal options.

A Right to Bear Glocks (Guns to protect yourself against a government that has nukes!?)

In 2009, Gabrielle Giffords was holding a “Congress on Your Corner” meeting at a Safeway supermarket in her district when a protester, who was waving a sign that said “Don’t Tread on Me,” waved a little too strenuously. The pistol he was carrying under his armpit fell out of his holster.

“It bounced. That concerned me,” Rudy Ruiz, the father of one of Giffords’s college interns at the time, told me then. He had been at the event and had gotten a larger vision than he had anticipated of what a career in politics entailed. “I just thought, ‘What would happen if it had gone off? Could my daughter have gotten hurt?’ ”

Giffords brushed off the incident. “When you represent a district — the home of the O.K. Corral and Tombstone, the town too tough to die — nothing’s a surprise,” she said. At the time, it struck me as an interesting attempt to meld crisis control with a promotion of local tourist attractions.

Now, of course, the district has lost more people in a shooting in a shopping center parking lot than died at the gunfight of the O.K. Corral, and the story of the dropped pistol has a tragically different cast.

In soft-pedaling that 2009 encounter, Giffords was doing a balancing act that she’d perfected during her political career as a rather progressive Democrat in a increasingly conservative state. She was the spunky Western girl with a populist agenda mixed with down-home values, one of which was opposition to gun control. But those protesters had been following her around for a while. Her staff members were clearly scared for her, and they put me in touch with Ruiz, who told me the story.

Back then, the amazing thing about the incident in the supermarket parking lot was that the guy with a handgun in his armpit was not arrested. Since then, Arizona has completely eliminated the whole concept of requiring a concealed weapon permit. Last year, it got 2 points out of a possible 100 in the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence state score card, avoiding a zero only because its Legislature has not — so far — voted to force colleges to let people bring their guns on campuses.

Today, the amazing thing about the reaction to the Giffords shooting is that virtually all the discussion about how to prevent a recurrence has been focusing on improving the tone of our political discourse. That would certainly be great. But you do not hear much about the fact that Jared Loughner came to Giffords’s sweet gathering with a semiautomatic weapon that he was able to buy legally because the law restricting their sale expired in 2004 and Congress did not have the guts to face up to the National Rifle Association and extend it.

If Loughner had gone to the Safeway carrying a regular pistol, the kind most Americans think of when they think of the right to bear arms, Giffords would probably still have been shot and we would still be having that conversation about whether it was a sane idea to put her Congressional district in the cross hairs of a rifle on the Internet.

But we might not have lost a federal judge, a 76-year-old church volunteer, two elderly women, Giffords’s 30-year-old constituent services director and a 9-year-old girl who had recently been elected to the student council at her school and went to the event because she wanted to see how democracy worked.

Loughner’s gun, a 9-millimeter Glock, is extremely easy to fire over and over, and it can carry a 30-bullet clip. It is “not suited for hunting or personal protection,” said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign. “What it’s good for is killing and injuring a lot of people quickly.”

America has a long, terrible history of political assassinations and attempts at political assassination. What we did not have until now is a history of attempted political assassination that took the lives of a large number of innocent bystanders. The difference is not about the Second Amendment. It’s about a technology the founding fathers could never have imagined.

“If this was the modern equivalent of what Sirhan Sirhan used to shoot Robert Kennedy or Arthur Bremer used to shoot George Wallace, you’d be talking about one or two victims,” said Helmke.

Giffords represents a pragmatic, interest-balancing form of politics that’s out of fashion. But, in that spirit, we should be able to find a way to accommodate the strong desire in many parts of the country for easy access to firearms with sane regulation of the kinds of weapons that make it easiest for crazy people to create mass slaughter. Most politicians won’t talk about it because they’re afraid of the N.R.A., whose agenda is driven by the people who sell guns and want the right to sell as many as possible.

Doesn’t it seem like the least we can do?


Cure for homosexuality? WEIRD WORLD FOLKS!

Male model Renato Seabra charged with murder after confession in castration slay of Carlos Castro

Renato Seabra, 20, told cops he used a corkscrew to sever 65-year-old Carlos Castro's genitals as a way to cure the older man of his homosexuality, the police sources said.

Seabra was charged with second-degree murder, police said Monday.

Seabra and Castro came to New York from their native Portugal and by all accounts were a couple - but Seabra appears unable to admit that, police sources said.

"He said he did it to get rid of [Castro's] homosexual demons," one of the police sources said.

Police believe the two men had dated for several months, even though Seabra's family insisted the tanned hunk is straight.

"My son was not Carlos Castro's lover," Seabra's mother, Odília Pereirinha, told a Portuguese TV station. "From the beginning, he never hid his sexuality, which is heterosexual."

Castro was a high-profile gay activist and society columnist in his home country.

Seabra's claim to fame was as a pretty boy contestant on a top model reality show.

The duo were staying at the InterContinental Hotel since Dec. 29 and hit the town together often, dining and drinking at fancy restaurants, friends said.

Whatever the nature of their relationship, this much is certain, cops say: Seabra brutalized his victim and left him to die in a pool of blood.

Detectives briefly questioned Seabra on Sunday at the Bellevue Hospital psychiatric ward, where he is in police custody, the sources said.

Castro was found dead in his room at the hotel Friday. An autopsy showed Castro died of strangulation and blunt-force trauma to the head.

Seabra fled the hotel, but was nabbed at Roosevelt Hospital when he sought treatment for cuts to his face and wrists. Investigators believe he may have tried to kill himself.

Castro paid for the couple's trip to New York to celebrate the new year, but detectives believe Seabra killed his gray-haired lover when he refused to take him on an expensive shopping trip.

Seabra's mother said her son - whom she described as shy and religious - wasn't capable of such horror.

"My son, being a golden boy, who is so good, he didn't do this," she said.

Tombstone Politics TIMOTHY EGAN

American politics and life, as seen from the West.

If it turns out that a poisonous variant of free speech is partially to blame for the shootings in Tucson, we will most certainly be struck by the fact that Gabrielle Giffords was seen last week in Congress, reading part of the Constitution that allows an American citizen to say just about anything.

But as Rep. Giffords herself also pointed out, in March when she was a target because of her vote on health care reform, free speech does have a cost.

“We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list,” said Giffords. “Crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences.”

Giffords had already felt a blunt edge of opponents’ rage — a window in her Tucson office was shattered after she voted to expand health care for other Americans.

The court filings late Sunday offered few clues on why a deranged man would open fire on a public servant meeting the public, killing six, gravely wounding Ms. Giffords. Was it because she was a Jew? A woman? A Democrat? A member of Congress? An advocate of health care? A face of government in a state where anti-government sentiment is the early bird special? All we know is that the 22-year-old man charged with the shootings, Jared Lee Loughner, wrote notes about a planned “assassination.”

So, from there, deductions must begin. One discussion goes to the first two amendments of the Constitution — a clause that guarantees even crazy people the right to say horrible things, and another one that seems to give those same crazy people the right to own a lethal weapon.

Neither amendment, of course, killed a 9-year-old girl or put a bullet through the head of that bright soul, Gabrielle Giffords. But both amendments, when abused, can have lethal consequences, as the congresswoman herself said so hauntingly in March. The sheriff of Pima County, Clarence Dupnik, who is already under Tea Party attack for speaking his mind, had it mostly right when he said Arizona had become “the Tombstone of the United States.”

Tombstone, the town, is in Giffords’s southern Arizona district, an Old West burg where shootouts are staged, bodies fall into the street, and then everybody applauds and laughs it off. Tombstone politics is the place we’ve been living in for some time now, and our guns are loaded.

In my home state Washington, federal officials recently put away a 64-year-old man who threatened, in the most vile language, to kill Senator Patty Murray because she voted for health care reform. Imagine: kill her because she wanted to give fellow Americans a chance to get well. Why would a public policy change prompt a murder threat?

Prosecutors here in Washington State told me that the man convicted of making the threats was using language that, in some cases, came word-for-word from Glenn Beck, the Fox demagogue. Every afternoon Charles A. Wilson would sit in his living room and stuff his head with Beck, a man who spouts scary nonsense to millions. Of course, Beck didn’t make the threats or urge his followers to do so.

But it was Beck who said “the war is just beginning,” after the health care bill was passed. And it was Beck who re-introduced the paranoid and racist rants of a 1950s-era John Birch Society supporter, W. Cleon Skousen, who said a one-world government cabal was plotting a takeover.

It’s also worth one more mention of Sharron Angle, the Republican who was nearly elected Senator from Nevada. She agreed with a talk-radio host who suggested that “domestic enemies” — a code for treasonous agents, deserving of death — were working within the walls of Congress. And it was Angle who speculated on whether people frustrated with politicians would turn to “Second Amendment remedies,” which is not even code for assassination. It can only mean one thing.

The federal judge who was murdered on Saturday morning, John M. Roll, received numerous death threats to him and his family after an Arizona talk-radio station went after him because he dared to let a civil rights lawsuit against the state’s harsh immigration law proceed. He needed marshal protection from these rabid radio-inspired opponents of a free and functioning judiciary.

The good news is that already, in just a few days time, this kind of talk from Beck, Palin and Angle is now being seen for what it really is — something not to be touched by fair citizens or ambitious politicians. And the long-overdue revulsion is because such poisons — death threats in place of reasoned argument, fetishizing of guns, glib talk of “taking someone out” — were used so carelessly, as if they didn’t matter.

Well, they do matter. Even if the gunman’s motives are never truly known, the splattering of so much innocent blood on a Saturday morning gives a nation as fractious as ours a chance to think about what happens when words are used as weapons, and weapons are used in place of words.


Arrest Report: Las Vegas Dancer's Body Found in 2 Tubs of Cement

LAS VEGAS -- The man accused of killing a Las Vegas dancer told police the crime happened in the heat of the moment, according to the arrest report.

Jason "Blu"Griffith was arrested Friday night at the Mirage where he performs as a dancer in the Love show. He is accused of killing Deborah Flores-Narvaez who was reported missing in December after going to visit Griffith.

The arrest report details how police were tipped to a vacant home in downtown Las Vegas where the dancer's dismembered body was found in cement in two plastic tubs.

A friend of Griffith's, told police that initially Flores-Narvaez's body was in one plastic tub with cement but the two men broke it out of the tub because it was leaking. The friend, Louis Colombo described to police how Griffith used a handsaw to cut of Flores-Narvaez's legs so they could fit her body into two tubs.

In the arrest report, Colombo said he learned of the murder after he showed up at Griffith's home and Griffith told him this was a "Change your diaper moment." Colombo said the woman's body was lying on the floor and he got sick to his stomach.

Police say Griffith initially told one officer when he was being transported to the Clark County Detention Center that Flores-Narvaez attacked him. He also said he did all the "amateurish stuff" afterwards.