Friday, April 13, 2012

Camo-Clad Gunmen Shoot At Pickup Full Of Immigrants, Leaving Two Dead

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Here's a disturbing story, one with even more horrifying potential, out of the Arizona borderlands:
Authorities in southern Arizona say two men in a pickup truck carrying illegal immigrants have been fatally shot near Eloy.

Pima County Sheriff's officials say it appears the truck was ambushed by an unknown number of people dressed in camouflage and armed with rifles late Sunday night.
Border Patrol agents and police officers from Eloy and Coolidge responded to a report of shots fired about 10:30 p.m. in a wash known for human smuggling activity.

Authorities say one man was found dead inside the bed of the truck and another victim was located in a wash near the vehicle. Their identities haven't been released.
Detectives say it appears shot were fired at the truck by the ambush group.
At this point, the motive isn't clear, according to the Arizona Republic:
Five immigrants among the group later told investigators that as they were driving Sunday night, two or more camouflage-clad gunmen appeared and yelled "Alto!" Spanish for "Stop," fired at them and ran away, Barkman said.

She declined to say whether the truck stopped or its driver tried to flee, or how long the gunmen fired on the immigrants.

Of the 20 to 30 immigrants in the truck at the time of the shooting, most fled into the desert and got away from authorities.

The five immigrants who were found hiding in nearby brush, who are all from Mexico, described the ambush but couldn't say exactly how many shooters there were.
Barkman said it was too dark for them to see the race of their attackers. They were turned over to the Border Patrol.
There have been similar shootings, as the story notes, that were related to drug-cartel rip-offs:
The shooting is similar to a handful of fatal shootings in 2007, including one in March of that year in which a woman and her brother-in-law were found dead by Pima County sheriff's deputies after men with high-powered weapons opened fire on a truck loaded with 21 other immigrants about 25 miles south of Tucson. The men were part of a so-called "rip" crew looking to rob other smugglers of drug loads.

In a similar attack in February 2007, gunmen believed to be rival smugglers opened fire on a truck carrying around 20 immigrants, killing two men and a suspected smuggler who was driving a vehicle was killed and a 12-year-old boy was wounded when four men wearing camouflage uniforms and berets and armed with at least one assault weapon stopped the vehicle in a farm field.
On the other hand, there have been other shootings near the border where it's not at all clear that cartels were involved at all, including one near Rio Rico in which other skeletal remains were found nearby. These happened more recently, too -- in 2010.

And indeed, the Pima County investigators are not ruling out the possibility that these were border vigilantes, as Mike Ludwig at TruthOut reports:
When asked if investigators suspect the attack was orchestrated by a militia, sheriff's department spokesperson Deputy Dawn Barkman said investigators are "looking into every possibility but nothing is conclusive."
We'll be watching this investigation closely.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Arpaio Ally Andrew Thomas Makes Himself Out To Be An MLK-like Martyr, While The Sheriff Quietly Sweats

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

It was pretty comical yesterday watching Andrew Thomas, the former DA in Arizona's Maricopa County and Joe Arpaio's right-hand man in their corrupt attempts to intimidate county officials, hold his press conference denouncing the fact that he had just been disbarred for his behavior.

You see, it's all the fault of his enemies, and he's a martyr:
"I did my job. A lot of powerful people didn't like that," he said.

An Arizona ethics board disbarred Thomas Tuesday for failed corruption investigations that he and America's self-proclaimed toughest sheriff launched against officials with whom they were having political and legal disputes.

"We now have a constitutional crisis in which prosecutors and members of the executive branch are being targeted by the judiciary for blowing the whistle on misconduct in the judiciary," he said.

He compared the figures behind his disbarring to corrupt Mexican officials.

"Arizona, after what happened yesterday, has become Mexico," Thomas said.
The best part, as Stephen Lemons observes:
"Other men, far greater than I, have gone to jail in defense of principles they believed in and so they would not kowtow to a corrupt ruler," Thomas said at one point. "People like Gandhi, people like Dr. King, people like Solzhenitsyn, people like Thomas More, people who stood for something....and I'm going to stand firm."

"Gandhi?" wondered one onlooker in amazement.

Yep, I could hardly believe my ears, too, as Thomas blamed his current situation on others -- a corrupt judiciary, powerful politicians, insiders who knew "how to work the system," Presiding Disciplinary Judge William O'Neil, his fellow lawyers, you name it.

Anyone but himself.
Meanwhile, Joe Arpaio was whistling past Thomas' political graveyard in his noncommital remarks. Mainly because his head is next on the block:
And despite Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s efforts to distance himself from cases at the center of a legal ethics panel inquiry that cost a pair of former county prosecutors their careers — the fallout has moved closer.

“Sheriff Arpaio is the next big step,’’ said Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County official who has been at odds with the sheriff and his allies. “He will fall.’’

Arpaio has denied wrongdoing, but the three-member disciplinary panel of the Arizona courts said Tuesday that evidence suggests the sheriff conspired with Maricopa County’s former top prosecutor to intimidate a judge with unfounded criminal charges.

The ethics board’s sweeping ruling against former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and one of his assistant prosecutors says they wrongfully brought criminal charges against a pair of county officials, including Wilcox, in December 2009.

The panel said the charges were brought to embarrass the county officials and the judge who had been at odds with Arpaio and Thomas.

Arpaio and Thomas have defended their actions, saying they were working to root out corruption in county government.
As Lemons observes, the panel recommending Thomas' disbarment perfectly described the pathology of these people -- not just Thomas and his minions, but their whole nutty nativist contingent in Arizona:
"Behind the flimsy fabric of their rationalizations raged apparent unfettered passions that were fueled by a darkness of purpose, blessed by a self-righteous self-centeredness and draped in a disguise of hypocritical indignation. They used a deadly combination of trusting in their ability to sell the vividness of their own imaginations combined with a resolute refusal to look a fact in the face."
That about covers it.

Coulter Claims Only 'Liberal' Media Are Promoting The Trump 'Birther' Story. Then Van Susteren Lets Trump Do His Thing

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Ann Coulter had an interesting theory about Donald Trump's Birtherism, which she explained last night to Sean Hannity. It seems that it's all a plot by the liberal media to discredit conservatives:
COULTER: Well, I think maybe I've been watching too much Charlie Sheen, because Donald Trump seems perfectly sane to me. Um, I don't know where he gets this two million dollars Obama has spent to keep his birth certificate quiet -- he posted his birth certificate on his Web page.

I am glad that Donald Trump is bringing it up, so that people who haven't really been paying attention and don't know that the American Spectator, Human Events, Fox News, ummm -- you know, every conservative outlet has already shot down this rumor -- which, by the way, was started by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Now they will have a chance to find out this is Donald Trump's Pierre Salinger moment -- you can't believe everything you read on the Internet, Obama has produced his birth certificate, there were announcements that ran in two contemporaneous Hawaiian newspapers at the time, the head of the Hawaiian medical records has announced, 'I have seen the long form you all want,' um -- I don't know why the long form is considered more credible than the short form, they're both from the same office.

The State Department accepts the short form -- or as we call it, the birth certificate. Hawaii accepts the birth certificate, short form -- so it is a conspiracy theory that won't die on the Internet, but every responsible conservative organization to look at it has shot it down. Which is why you normally hear it being talked about exclusively on the liberal cable stations.

HANNITY: Well, it's an interesting point, and one of the main people demanding it be released is, interestingly, thrill-up-our leg Chris Matthews ... why don't they just release it? It does raise a question. But you bring up good points, not the least of which -- we're going to talk to Donald Trump on this show later this week, we'll ask him -- I think a broader, bigger issue here is that, all of a sudden an issue that was on the periphery a little bit, he hits it, hits it hard, and people take note. So what is it about him that, you know, when he speaks, people listen -- and you know, those issues resonate.

COULTER: Well, two things. I think the main thing is, no conservative who talks on TV or has a column or has a magazine has mentioned the birth certificate, because we've looked at it and have discounted it. You have people who want to get hits to their Website or want to get listeners to their radio show will keep ginning people up about this. But it is one of the rare conservative con -- well, I suppose it's more conservative than liberal, only because it's anti-Obama, but I don't even know that these are conservatives promoting it. As I say, this came out of the Hillary Clinton campaign.

So Donald Trump is the only person who would be invited on a TV show who is pushing the Birther thing. That's why it's getting attention and of course, liberals are delighted. I know Obama is delighted.


No, you'll notice who's asking him about it -- it's the liberal media. They want to keep talking about it because it helps discredit all opposition to Obama. There are a lot of reasons to think Obama is a very bad president who is doing very bad things to this country. The idea that he was born in Kenya is not one of them. But it allows liberals, the mainstream media, the White House itself to go, well, the opposition is these crazy birthers.

Well, no it isn't. You haven't heard that on Fox News. You haven't heard it in Human Events and National Review or American Spectator -- all of which have shot it down.
Too bad that the right-wing media themselves kinda shoot down Coulter's theory.

You'll notice, for instance, that Coulter conspicuously omits from her list of "responsible" right-wing news organs WorldNutDaily, the center of the Birther Universe and -- last we checked -- a self-proclaimed "conservative" outlet. Indeed, its writers regularly appear on, you guessed it, Sean Hannity's show.

Oh, and they also publish Coulter's syndicated column.

Indeed, all this rant really proves is that Coulter doesn't watch Fox. Because if she did, she would know that Trump has been given free rein to spout his theories on Fox.

And as if to drive that point home, who should appear on Fox the very next hour? Donald Trump, phoning in to Greta Van Susteren's show and trumpeting his Birther theories yet again -- with only murmurs of contradiction from Van Susteren.

Of course, this isn't the only time Trump has been on Fox News promoting these theories with only the slightest hint of pushback, and certainly no tough questions. He had another phone-in with Van Susteren that produced more of the same nonsense. When he went on Bill O'Reilly's show, the pushback was almost unnoticeable, especially by O'Reilly standards.

And it isn't relegated to just Trump appearances. When Sarah Palin went on Jeanine Pirro's show this weekend, both she and the host thought Trump's Birtherism was just peachy -- giving it a Fox News endorsement, not the debunking that Coulter claims is the standard at Fox.

For that matter, the most avid defender of Trump's Birtherism at Fox has been -- you guessed it -- Sean Hannity himself. For three nights running one week, Trump's Birther theories got big boosts from Hannity and his guests:

Guess he must have forgotten about that when Coulter tried to claim you "never hear that" on Fox News. And obviously, Coulter herself hasn't been watching Fox.