Local Sheriff’s Department Knew Loughner Clan
“There are no words that can possibly express how we feel. We wish that there were, so we could make you feel better.”
-- Statement from the parents of Jared Loughner to the families of the victims of their son’s alleged shooting rampage.
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik got plenty of attention when he quickly pinned the blame for the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., on conservatives, Rush Limbaugh and even Republican opposition to the “progress” being sought by his fellow Democrats.
But it has now been revealed that Dupnik’s department had prior interaction with suspect Jared Loughner. The department is still holding back details of the calls, but has now confirmed that deputies made multiple visits to the Lougner home in recent years.
Tucson bloggers have reported that Loughner’s past outbursts and anti-social behavior had prompted multiple calls to Dupnik’s department, but those reports are still unconfirmed.
It is becoming clearer that Loughner was evidently spiraling downward over the past two years and frightening friends, neighbors and classmates with his behavior and views. A shooting buddy tells the New York Times that Loughner had become a Nietzsche-reading nihilist who openly expressed his belief that his own subconscious was the only reality and that the world was “hollow” and “fake.”
There is lots of blame to go around for those who knew Loughner but did not alert authorities to his bizarre behavior and violent urges. His parents, neighbors and friends will no doubt spend lifetimes examining why they did not act before Saturday’s tragedy.
But, if Dupnik’s department had reason to believe that Loughner was a troubled soul and did not initiate mental health proceedings against him, it would go beyond ethical obligation and into legal culpability.
Reporters are now waiting for the reports on the calls to Loughners’ home to be released.
Obama Unlikely to Talk Politics
“This is an occasion for us to reaffirm that our political differences shouldn't degenerate into demonization, in the sense that if you don't agree with me you're not a good American."
Many in his party are still calling the shooting a “wake-up call” about the dangers of political rhetoric on the right. Former President Bill Clinton and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., both took the opportunity Tuesday to say that the rampage that killed six and injured 14 was in some way a product of the political climate. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a socialist independent who caucuses with Democrats, even used the killings in a fundraising email calling on supporters to help change the political climate.
But, as the profile of alleged killer Jared Lougnner hoves into view, it is proving increasingly difficult for Democrats to blame their political opponents for the attack, or even the “political climate.”
While Loughner has not shown any awareness of mainstream politics, he has claimed the influence of Nietzsche, Hitler and Marx. Loughner’s rambling Web videos favor ultra-heavy metal music and he had a history of drug use.
If Obama were to get into motives and psychological triggers tonight, the list would be too long to consider. Obama may opt to come back to the subject of political rhetoric later, when the emotional pain of the moment is less fresh and Loughner’s hodgepodge influences have faded from public view.
Bill Clinton spoke eloquently about grief and loss at the 1995 memorial for Oklahoma City bombing victims, but the next day, went on the attack in a speech about the political climate.
If Obama opts for such a pivot, it will not likely be so fast. Perhaps he will devote some lines of his Jan. 25 State of the Union address to discuss the need to watch what we say politically for fear of inciting the insane.
Obama would not then be obliged to direct remarks at heavy metal musicians, community college philosophy teachers and pot dealers. If he waits two weeks and keeps it simple with remarks about “the tone” of our arguments, it will pass with little objection.
Plus, Obama will have little need tonight to discuss such things.
Loughner’s alleged target, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., is making remarkable progress. She is breathing on her own, responding to doctors and sitting up. Doctors now believe that instead of being shot from behind, as originally believed, the Congresswoman was shot from the front. The entry wound of a bullet is smaller than its exit wound, in this case helping avoid more damage to the vital areas at the front of the brain.
Tonight, the president will be able to offer consolation to the grief-stricken families of the six dead and hope to the nation because of Giffords’ progress. That will be enough for one speech.
Gun Control Proposals Multiply
"It's essential if we're going to continue to have contact and to have conversation between the public and the elected official that the public who is at these meetings can be assured of their own safety."
- Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., at a news conference.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., wants to make it a crime to carry a gun within 1,00 feet of the president, vice president, any of the 535 members of Congress or the more than 3,000 members of the federal judiciary.
That would close off a lot of real estate.
While the King proposal, backed by gun control enthusiast New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, may not advance, it’s yet another sign that there is momentum in both parties for some action on firearms in the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.
The largest issue on the table is how to deal with denying insane people access to firearms. But that is a big, complicated undertaking that ultimately deals with the entire mental health system in the country, which is perhaps the greatest mess in all of health care.
A less ambitious proposal to ban the sale of large capacity clips for handguns may be a more manageable proposal.
But even that is in some question since the NRA has remained silent in the wake of the tragedy. It will be a test for the already strained relationship between the GOP and the NRA if the gun group tries to block a compromise palliative proposal in response to the shootings.
New Gitmo Closure Plan: Yemeni Rehab
"President Obama is absolutely committed to closing Guantanamo and in the two years since he's been president the number of people in Guantanamo has dropped significantly. He is determined to do that and said that in the last few days."
On a trip to the al Qaeda hotbed of Yemen, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged that President Obama would fulfill his promise of closing the POW camp at Guantanamo Bay and said the U.S. would support a terrorist rehabilitation program in Yemen to help reintegrate Gitmo inmates.
Clinton lauded a Saudi terrorist rehab program for Gitmo inmates. But reports have shown that many – perhaps a third – of all those released return to their jihadi ways, despite the Saudis best efforts.
And Saudi Arabia looks like Grover’s Corners compared to Yemen, an impoverished nation rent by civil war, infested with radicals and ruled by a president for life (however long). It is not a place that would inspire confidence when it comes to psychological deprogramming.
Lame-duck Democrats in December again blocked President Obama from transferring Gitmo inmates to the United States under his plan to try and imprison the baddies as civilians rather than enemy combatants, but the administration seems determined to close the facility, which the president calls the “number one” al Qaeda recruiting tool.
Power Play, though, isn’t sure why terrorists would be more able to recruit because of a POW camp at a Marine base in Cuba than they would the current detainee facilities in Afghanistan and elsewhere at which new enemy combatants are being warehoused. Gitmo is famous because of the Western debate over the Bush-era camp, but presumably, the Afghan detention facilities are no secret in that region.
We see again and again that while Obama is patient, he is also stubborn. As with his national health-care law, Obama seems determined to follow through on his Gitmo closure, regardless of the cost.
Illinois Dems End Lame Duck with Massive Tax Hike
“Here’s an investment tip: Put a lot of money into moving vans.”
-- Illinois Republican state Sen. Kyle McCarter in the debate over a massive tax increase passed by the lame-duck legislature there.
At 1:30 a.m. today, Illinois Democrats used the waning moments of a lame-duck session to pass a 67-percent increase in the state’s income tax rate and a 46-percent increase in the state’s business tax.
New Republican lawmakers are set to be sworn in this afternoon, which would have pushed the tax increase out of reach. But Democrats had struggled to approve the massive tax hike backed by Gov. Pat Quinn to cover the state’s worst-in-the-nation budget gap.
Illinois was looking at a $17 billion budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year, fully half of the state’s total budget. But Quinn had been unable to rally support for the tax plan mostly because of concerns that it would not provide enough new spending on schools.
Quinn, who carried only three of 102 counties in his 1-point, 20,000-vote victory in November, promised that the plan would be accompanied by $250 million a year in new school spending in an effort to gain support from the body’s black caucus. He also promised fiscal restraint in a plan to increase state spending by no more than 2 percent a year during his upcoming term.
The measure passed by one vote in the Senate, where Democrats are poised to give up two seats. Six Senate Democrats defected on the vote. It was a similar story in the House. The tax increase passed the lower chamber by three votes one day before Democrats will lose six seats.
In another vote at the end of the lame duck session, the Senate voted to borrow $4 billion to meet this year’s public employee pension obligations.
Illinois’ situation is worse than most states’, but you can expect to see similar situations elsewhere.
But Quinn’s fellow big-state Democrats, Andrew Cuomo in New York and Jerry Brown in California, are seeking to build confidence among voters by proposing cuts before new taxes. Brown is even stripping nearly 100,000 state workers of their government cell phones.
Quinn’s move, though, will not likely enhance Democrats' reputation for fiscal responsibility in President Obama’s home state.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“I think he will act as head of state, rather than head of a party or a head of government. And I think he understands – both because he feels it and because it's in his political interest – that if he speaks as a president without any hint of this blame of one side or the other, it will help him politically as well as speak well for the nation.”