Nearly everyone in the Bay Area agrees that a major Oakland riot is brewing if the verdict in the trial of policeman Johannes Mehserle, accused of murdering BART passenger Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day, 2009, comes back anything other than “GUILTY!” The problem for Oakland’s sense of security is that Mehserle is almost certainly notguilty of murder, and the jury is likely to give him a comparatively light sentence or even let him go completely.
The case has received wall-to-wall coverage in California for the last 18 months, but here’s a quick primer for those of you elsewhere in the country who may be unfamiliar with it:
In the early hours of January 1, 2009, a large group of young men got into a brawl on BART, the Bay Area’s subway system. Police were summoned and stopped the train at Oakland’s Fruitvale station, where a chaotic mass-arrest scene spilled onto the platform. As hundreds of passengers watched — many of whom were filming the proceedings with their cell-phone video cameras — several harassed BART police officers tried to subdue and then arrest dozens of brawlers. In the midst of the melee, one of the cops (Johannes Mehserle) pulled out a pistol and shot one of the men being arrested (Oscar Grant), killing him.
Sounds bad, right? Not so fast. As revealed in some of the videos taken of the incident, Mehserle was absolutely flabbergasted to see a gun when he looked down at his hand, because he had been instead reaching for his taser, which is also gun-shaped and kept in a belt-level holster. As several witnesses, including a weeping Mehserle himself, testified at the trial, the shooting was entirely accidental, and Mehserle was instead trying to tase Grant, whom he felt was out of control and resisting arrest.
Jerry Brown defended his ownership of a $1.8 million, five-story home with sweeping views of San Francisco Bay, saying Tuesday it does not undermine his gubernatorial campaign's message of frugality.
Instead, he says the house is consistent with his philosophy.
"Were we getting a no-down payment loan and buying a house that you can't afford, that would be a reflection on how the candidate spends money," he said Tuesday in response to a reporter's question.
"But when a couple buy their dream house with their life savings, I think that's the American dream and I'm very proud that I can do that," Brown said.
Last week, The Associated Press reported the Democratic candidate rarely mentions the home in the Oakland Hills while he is on the campaign trail touting a message of thriftiness.
Sgt. Tamara Sullivan pulled out her cellphone charger and braced for a night of tears. She called her children in North Carolina, ages 3 and 1, and told them she would soon be going to work in a place called Afghanistan. For a year. She reminded her husband to send her their artwork. She cried, hung up, called him back and cried some more.
“I asked for him to mail me those pictures, those little sloppy ones,” she said. “I want to see what my children’s hands touched, because I won’t be able to touch them.”
Dwight Armstrong, one of four young men who in 1970 bombed a building on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison, killing one person and injuring several others — a political protest that, gone violently wrong, endures in the national memory as an act of domestic terrorism — died on June 20 in Madison. He was 58.
The cause was lung cancer, said Susan Lampert Smith, a spokeswoman for the University of Wisconsin Hospital, where he died.
The bombing took place on Aug. 24, 1970, during a time of intense agitation against the Vietnam War. At 3:42 a.m., an explosion tore through Sterling Hall, a building that housed both the university physics department and the ArmyMathematics Research Center. The center, which operated under a contract with the United States Army, had been the target of many nonviolent protests since it opened in the 1950s.
Though the bombers said afterward that they had not intended to hurt anyone, the explosion killed Robert Fassnacht, a physics researcher who was working late. Mr. Fassnacht, 33, a father of three, was, his family said afterward, against the war.
On Sept. 2, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began a nationwide hunt for four men charged with the bombing: Dwight Armstrong, who had turned 19 five days after the explosion; his brother, Karleton, 22; David S. Fine, 18; and Leo F. Burt, 22.
Placed on the bureau’s most-wanted list, the four lived separate, fugitive lives, in some cases for years. Of the three who were eventually apprehended, Dwight Armstrong remained underground the longest, for nearly seven years. Mr. Armstrong, who had driven the getaway car after the bombing, was arrested in Toronto in April 1977.
That May, he pleaded no contest to a state charge of second-degree murder and guilty to federal charges including conspiracy. In June, in a plea agreement, he was sentenced to seven years on the state charges and seven on the federal, to be served concurrently. He was paroled in 1980.
In 1987, he was arrested in Indiana on charges of helping operate a methamphetamine lab there. Sentenced to 10 years, he was released in 1991. Afterward, he returned to Madison, where he drove a cab and helped take care of his mother.
“My life,” Dwight Armstrong told The Capital Times, a Madison newspaper, in 1992, “has not been something to write home about.”
Post blogger Dave Weigel, who wrote about the conservative movement, resigned amid controversy today following disclosure of disparaging e-mails he’d written about some of the very people he was hired to cover.
Weigel bears responsibility for sarcastic and scornful comments he made in e-mails leaked from a supposedly private listserv called “Journolist,” started in 2007 by fellow Post blogger and friend Ezra Klein. Weigel’s e-mails showed strikingly poor judgment and revealed a bias that only underscored existing complaints from conservatives that he couldn’t impartially cover them. (emph. added-P)
Indiana governor and presidential prospect Mitch Daniels caused a stir - complete with broken crockery and multiple spit takes - when he suggested that the GOP should declare a truce in the culture war until we have resolved the survival issues confronting the US (those being the Little Depression and the War on Terror). The guys at Powerline took a look at the prospects of such a "truce:" Truce or Consequences
PAUL:Daniels is pitching the notion that we may need a truce in divisive culture war controversies in order to deal with "survival issues" such as terrorism and debt. But Michael Gerson argues that Daniels is being naïve here. He asks: "Just how would avoiding fights on unrelated social issues make Democratic legislators more likely to vote for broad budget cuts and drastic entitlement reforms?"I think Scott's last point - that the GOP has always had a strong moral component - is a good one, as John's point that the only people really pushing for a lowered emphasis on social issues are liberals who hate being on the wrong end of cultural questions. And, it's hard to imagine the GOP going into an election without strong support from social conservatives. Would Democrats try to win an election without unions or the urban poor or illegal immigrants? Of course not.
Clearly, avoiding such fights would not produce that result. But it might well enable Republicans to become and remain more popular with moderate voters. And this, in turn, might give Republicans the majorities necessary to implement budget cuts and entitlement reforms.
JOHN: his is an interesting political question, I think. Over the last couple of decades, countless media/political voices have urged Republicans to abandon social conservatism on political grounds, i.e., the need to appeal to upscale suburbanites. This has always struck me as odd, since the social issues have consistently represented a net gain for Republicans--which is why, I assume, liberal commentators are so anxious for Republicans to abandon them. So in the past, my view has always been that Republican and conservative politicians should keep the social issues as one leg of the proverbial three-legged stool.
The present moment, however, represents a departure. It may well be that a consensus exists in favor of reduced federal spending and economic power that dwarfs any plurality on the social issues. So should conservative candidates forget about abortion, gay marriage and so on? The answer depends, obviously, on the particular district in question.
SCOTT: The Republican Party was founded in opposition to "those twin relics of barbarism -- Polygamy, and Slavery." Emmer's response may or may not be good politics, but serious concern with what John refers to as "the social issues" is deeply embedded in the principles and the history of the Republican Party.
The problem for fiscal conservatives like Daniels is that they are not comfortable discussing social issues. Does anyone really care what Mitch Daniels thinks of gay marriage? I don't. Most people simply don't want to have to worry about that stuff, and would just as soon not have the government involved in social issues at all (or, at least, as little as possible). But, too many prominent social conservatives are too happy to give ready ammunition to those who would say the GOP wants to pass meddling legislation rather than grant them their freedom to live as they choose.
Here's a quick look at a set of the most prominent political social cons from the last 10 years (talk radio guys and cultural conservatives are not really part of this group). Is there a word that comes to mind when you look at these guys?
Dr. James Dobson
Can I hear a "Yuck!" from the congregation?
Now, this is not a call to denigrate these gentlemen. They've all done good work in support of their various causes. Dobson and Robertson, especially, have real fund-raising clout, have built impressive organizations and are (well, in Robertson's case "were") media-savvy operators. They paid for their microphones and, by gar they've used 'em.
But, you know what? Sometimes these fellows, and some of their cohort, have gone out of their way to court controvery, to point fingers, to declare that this or that group is the laltest cause of the decline and fall of civilization. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, except it can be a real turn off for the millions of people out there who, in addition to not wanting the government in their pocketbooks, would also like the government to stay out of their bedrooms. And, too many political social conservatives have given every indication of being a little too interested in what is going on behind closed doors.
Now, I know what people are going to say. The MSM unfairly portrays social cons as grim visaged Puritains. Yes, that's true and yes that's damn unfair, but...is it a surprise? I hope not. So why play into the worst stereotypes available by cosntatntly pushing forward the same grumpy old men as your spokesmen? Why resort to frankly embarrassing statements such as parsing out which Telle-tubbie is gay?
I also know that the Left's endless reliance upon the courts to put across social change that would never be accepted without a court order is deeply unfair and a betrayal of constitutional government. But, why must we reduce every Supreme Court nomination and GOP presidential campaign to Roe v Wade? We've had decades of GOP politicians dutifully learning the ins and outs of Roe, Casey, and Cathcart. To what end? Republicans have put so much intellectual and political energy into its social conservatism that everything else has been at least partially crowded out. And many GOP politicos have been needlessly hurt by the strict emphasis on social issues. Did a tortured soul like Larry Craig really have to go on the record with those gay marriage votes, which he had to have known would come back to bite him someday? Did the Northeastern fiscal conservatives who were blown out of office in 2006 really have to take so many hard votes just to satisfy social con voters who denigrated them as RINOs anyway?
Moreover, social conservatives have not exactly acted as helpful members of the GOP coalition. Look at what happened to George W Bush. Social conservatives never had a president who gave them so much of what they demanded. W was a real pro-lifer who always spoke out in favor of pro-life causes. He took the hard road and declined to allow federal funding for new stem cell lines, earning him the unfair sobriquet of being "anti-science." He used his faith-based initiatives to bring religious non-profits into the government grant sphere. There was no stronger friend to Israel. There was no Republican president who appointed better judges and justices to all levels of the federal courts. No one took the role of comforter-in-chief more seriously. No president ever spoke more sincerely about his faith and the continued strength he drew from the Bible. And, I truly believe he was doing God's work when he led the doomed political effort to save Terry Schiaivo from the legal system that abetted her death.
And what happened?
Everyone threw a fit when he nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, something Obama's allies would never do against the mediocre Sotomayor or Kagen. Worse, when W tried to move forward on agenda items important to fiscal conservatives - I'm thinking of FreddieMac/FannieMae reform, Social Security reform, vetoing S-Chip - W took a lot of heat and received absolutely no help from the social conservatives to whom he had offered so much. If you are a Bushie like Daniels, is it any wonder if you look at social conservatives and see an interest group that demands total obeisance without offering support to their allies when their policies are up for a vote?
The Anchoress has often asked her readers "how do you receive a good?" The question is a good one, and more difficult to answer than many would like to think. Bush gave social conservatives a lot, and they repaid him with an increased stridency that - along with the out-of-control spending by many in the GOP caucus - helped end the majorities in the House and Senate. Remember, it was the fiscal conservatives who were hurt most in 2006 and 2008, but it is fiscal conservatism that has brought people out to Tea Parties and reinvigorated the GOP, which was flailing in the early months of Hope&Change.
The GOP is ultimately a party of limited government. That means not just limited in financial scope, but also limited in social scope as well. Too many social conservative leaders have gotten too used to the idea of approaching each election with a to-do list and then bemoaning any failure to check off all of their little boxes. How the hell does it help the party or the country when we are facing, once again, the question of whether or not Mitt Romney's Mormonism will prevent him from getting out of the primaries? Why do we need to know what Mitch Daniels - a guy who has succeeded in governance by doing the exact opposite of what the Democrats have done, maybe there's a lesson there? - thinks of abortion? Why don't we simply commit to reaffirming the Establishment Clause and promise to get government out of the social issue business? I don't know, seems a lot simpler than what we have now.
Maybe we don't need a truce, but we certainly need a break from Big Social Conservatism as much as we need a break from Big Government.