Friday, May 25, 2007

Hate crimes, not thought crimes

-- by Dave

Dover Bitch noticed that during Wednesday's testimony on Capitol Hill by former Justice Department aide Monica Goodling, Democratic Rep. Stephen Cohen of Tennessee trod upon some delicate soil by asking some penetrating questions about Goodling's background as a Regent University graduate.

That in turn sparked the following bizarre response from Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who seemed to be charging that any such line of questioning amounted to anti-Christian hate speech:
And I would also submit to my colleagues that the hate crime bill passed out of this committee and taken to the floor and passed recently leaves an opening. If someone here seems to indicate there's something wrong about being a Christian and someone is induced to commit violence against that Christian, then the person on this committee could possibly be charged under the hate crime bill as the principle for having committed the act of violence.

And I would just encourage my colleagues to consider well your comments and your votes in this committee. I yield back.

This is, of course, utter blithering nonsense. It is only when speech is specifically criminal -- that is, when it urges people to commit a specific criminal act that is then committed by those addressed -- that any hate-crimes bill could come into play. There is no provision in the House's hate-crimes bill that would penalize anyone for voicing ordinary, non-criminal, constitutionally protected speech, which Rep. Cohen's speech clearly would constitute. Indeed, even most outright hate speech is protected speech and would not come into play under this law. The last clause of the bill specifically states:
Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.

What Gohmert and his fellow conservatives want the public to think, of course, is that the hate-crimes bill in fact would criminalize speech -- specifically, the right of pastors and devout religionists to spout off about homosexuality.

This is, in fact, a bald falsehood, one that should be publicly countered and repudiated. As it is, it has now been entered into the congressional record and will doubtlessly be trotted out later as evidence of hypocrisy on the part of supporters of the hate-crimes legislation, which is currently en route to approval by the Senate after its long-overdue passage in the House.

The chief goal of the opponents of the bill -- chiefly the denizens of the religious right, who have enjoyed considerable success blocking passage of any federal bias-crime law for the past decade, particularly during congressional rule by Republicans -- lies in selling the idea that laws against hate crimes create "thought crimes." It's all part of a larger project of muddying the waters so that the public is confused about what actually is at stake with these laws.

Now, just to be clear -- "thought crimes" are typically defined as crimes in which the mere thought itself is criminalized (taken from Orwell's 1984, in which the protagonist is arrested for "thoughtcrimes"). But as I've explained previously:
Bias-crime laws no more create "thought crimes" than do any other laws consigning greater punishments for crimes committed under certain species of mens rea (or the mental state of the perpetrator), including anti-terrorism laws. Differences in intent and motive can make the difference between first-degree murder and manslaughter. Enhanced punishments are especially warranted when crimes are believed to cause greater harm -- and hate crimes quantifiably do so. These are standard features of criminal law, and no more create "thought crimes" than do laws providing the death penalty for first-degree murder.

Mens rea, it must be remembered, under the norms of jurisprudence, cannot be evidence of guilt in itself; rather, since it speaks to the issue of culpability, it is taken into consideration in sentencing. And so it is with hate-crime laws, which under most state statutes are in fact penalty-enhancement laws or sentencing expansions within existing criminal statutes.

Unfortunately, the basic falsity of the "hate crimes=thought crimes" meme has not prevented its broad success. You can hear it being offered as justification for opposing bias-crime laws by sources ranging from such religious-right entities as the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family (not to mention the predictable opposition raised by various white supremacists) to such civil libertarians as Andrew Sullivan.

It even can be heard from reliably liberal sources such as TalkLeft's Jeralyn Merritt and Booman of the Booman Tribune.

The latter was particularly noteworthy, since it came in defense of Democratic Rep. Chris Carney's vote against the legislation. Carney's vote was indicative, I think, of the soft underbelly of progressives on the hate-crime issue, because too many of them have bought into the notion that these laws create thought crimes. It's also a reason why Bush's expected veto of the bill is likely to be sustained -- namely, because of the failure of Democrats to seize at as both the ethical and strategic opportunity that it in fact is; that weakness shows up in the final votes in Congress.

The most thorough response to this came also at Booman, from the
estimable Steven D, whose long post is worth reading in its entirety, but who also notes:
A frequent argument that conservatives and other opponents of hate crimes laws make is that these laws punish someone for their thoughts. This is simply not true. They punish someone who has intentionally committed a crime with the motive to harm an individual or individuals who the defendant believes have or share a common characteristic such as race, ethnicity, gender, religious preference or sexual orientation. I've underlined the word "motive" above, because it is crucial to understand that under the law we often make distinctions on what crime to charge a defendant based upon his or her motive in committing that crime.

In other words, we consider a defendant's "perceived motivations" ( to use your phrase) all the time in determining the type of the crime with which to charge a defendant. For example, a man who shoots at a dog in his yard but kills a child in the house across the street because he is a poor shot may be tried for involuntary manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide, rather than 1st degree murder because his intention was not to kill another human being, but to kill the dog. On the other hand, the same man who plans for weeks to murder his wife, and hires another person to commit the murder on his behalf, is generally charged with pre-medititated murder (i.e., "Murder in the 1st Degree"), even if he did not wield the gun or knife that killed her himself. Someone who commits murder in the first degree is generally subject to a more severe punishment than someone who committed involuntary manslaughter, even though in both cases someone has been killed, and we hold the killer liable for that death.

A defendant's intent matters a great deal in most criminal prosecutions. Indeed, to prove a hate crime, the prosecutor must not only prove intent to commit the crime, but also that the defendant's intent to commit that crime was specifically based upon a motive to harm people with a specific distinguishing characteristic. That's a much higher standard to meet than simply showing they intended to commit a violent crime.

In any event, motive is important in most crimes because we have made it a public policy that people who unintentionally act in ways which harm or injure others, or who do not understand that their actions could lead to such harm, generally should not be punished by the law to the same extent (if at all) as those who do intend to cause harm, should be.

Steven goes on to enumerate the various sound reasons for passing bias-crimes laws, including the point that, finally, they are a way for society to make clear its condemnation of such acts, recognizing them as more heinous than simple crimes because they cause greater harm. Indeed, pretending as opponents do that a cross burned on the lawn is the same as being egged and toilet-papered, or that a gay-bashing rampage by young thugs is the same thing as a bar fight, simply tries to pretend away the truly hateful and terroristic element of the former of these, as though it doesn't exist. But it does exist, and its effects poison our society and make a joke out of our self-belief in ourselves as an "equal opportunity" society.

This, in the end, is the single clearest reason why progressives should avidly support a federal hate-crimes law: These are crimes whose primary purpose is to disenfranchise, to expel, to deny the most basic rights of association and opportunity to millions of Americans of all stripes. Civil libertarians need to come to grips with the fact that these crimes are real, their effects are real, and they represent, in the words of Yale sociologist Donald Green, a real "massive dead-weight loss of freedom" for those millions of Americans.

Americans lose their freedoms not just through government oppression; an honest appraisal of our history forces us to recognize that there is a substantial track record of Americans losing their freedoms (up to and including their lives) through the actions of their fellow citizens: the genocide of Native Americans; the long reign of terror of the "lynching era" and associated "sundown towns" that infected the entire nation; the expulsion and incarceration of Asian Americans; the long-running campaign of vicious hatred directed against gays and lesbians.

Hate crimes are an integral part of that history, and laws intended to punish their perpetrators with stiffer sentences are an important blow for the cause of very real and substantial freedoms for millions of Americans. Trying to argue that, in some esoteric sense, they constitute "thought crimes" that somehow deprive us of our freedoms (to what? commit crimes?) turns this reality on its head.

Yet progressives haven't yet figured out that framing hate-crime laws as a defense of people's civil liberties is precisely the argument that will instantly deflate the long-running "thought crime" argument. In all the debate over the legislation, I haven't seen the point raised once.

Nor, for that matter, do they seem to have grasped that Bush's looming veto of the legislation -- which still awaits Senate passage -- provides an ample strategic opportunity. One of the principal causes of the public's fatigue with the conservative movement (beyond, of course, the Iraq debacle) is that it is being increasingly turned off by the right's rhetorical viciousness and seeming celebration of eliminationist violence.

Bush's veto of a bill intended to reduce violence against minorities should be seen as a prime example of this underlying ugliness -- as should some of the demonizing and factually false attacks on the laws themselves.

But ultimately, the chief reason for progressives to embrace and encourage a federal bias-crimes statute is a morally and ethically simple one: It's the right thing to do, not just for minority Americans but for all of us. That should be really be reason enough.


Note: Once again, I'm adding links to previous posts for deeper background on hate crimes, the laws against them, and the rationale for those laws.

Hate crimes: Muddying the waters

Hate crimes: Progress at last

Who would Jesus bash?

Letter to the L.A. Times

When hate hits home

Bigotry and freedom

Hate crimes: The big picture

Failing in the present

Should we repeal hate-crimes laws?

The GOP, gays, and hate crimes

Hate crimes, democracy, and freedom

Hate crimes: A response

Who needs hate-crime laws?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

They hate us

-- by Dave

OK, so here's a little mental exercise: Imagine, if you will, a fringe, radical Islamist radio talk-show host who operates on shortwave and thus reaches a modest audience somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard. And this talk-show host is known for making incendiary anti-American remarks on the air.

Not only is he inflammatory, he actually begins calling for violence, preferably assassination, to be inflicted on sitting judges and other authorities -- and then posts their home addresses on his Web site. The threats are serious enough for the State Patrol to begin providing protection for the members of the state Supreme Court.

Now, sit back and contemplate for a moment, if you can, the sea of foam that would come washing over the rest of us from the right blogosphere. It's the homegrown Jihadist threat!

One can also readily imagine the resulting harebrained coverage from the network talking heads: "Well, Brit, you could say that Mr. Jihadi is only a fringe nutcase with a tiny following, but some people say he actually is only the tip of the iceberg, as it were, of a much, much bigger homegrown Islamist threat!"

OK. Enough with the fantasizing. Here's the real-life case:
The justices of the state Supreme Court have been under increased police protection for the last seven months after a self-proclaimed "pro-white" radio host from North Bergen made public their home addresses on his weekly Internet broadcast.

The personal information was released by Hal Turner, a onetime congressional candidate who claims an audience of skinheads, neo-Nazis and Klansmen, during a broadcast hours after the justices ruled in October that gay couples are entitled to form marriage-like civil unions.

Turner encouraged his listeners to call, write and visit the homes of four of the justices, including the then-chief justice, to show that "they can be gotten to."

The show led to a State Police probe that has yielded no charges. But police departments in the communities where the justices live were told to keep a close watch on their homes because some of their addresses had been released.

In Haddonfield, the hometown of Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto, police checked the area around his home 200 times between November and March, according to records obtained by The Star-Ledger. Rivera-Soto declined to comment.

John Wallace, the only African-American justice, whose address also was released, recalled that the Turner broadcast was followed by a threatening letter. "You think about it and you sort of move on," Wallace said. "It's something that's happened months ago, so it's behind us and nothing that we're focusing on."

The addresses of Wallace and Rivera-Soto were announced in addition to those of then-Chief Justice Deborah Poritz and Justice Barry Albin, who authored the gay unions decision.

The 4-3 ruling in Lewis vs. Harris said same-sex couples have the right to enter unions that are essentially marriages by a different name, and ordered the Legislature to amend marriage laws to make way for gay relationships.

Albin declined to comment yesterday.

Poritz, who disagreed with the majority opinion and said gay couples have the right to marry outright, said "I remember a couple of the justices talking about (the Turner broadcast) and expressing some concern, particularly those with children at home. If you're a judge, you worry but you do your job and go on with life."

State Police Capt. Al Della Fave said investigators probed "threats made against several justices, which never resulted in any charge." He said the decision not to file charges was made by the Attorney General's Office, but as a matter of official policy the State Police "make sure we communicate with local authorities" about threats against the justices and other high-ranking officials.

David Wald, a spokesman for Attorney General Stuart Rabner, declined to comment on the case, except to say "law enforcement is always evaluating threats to public officials."

Turner, in an interview this week, said "there certainly wasn't anything criminal suggested on the show, nothing suggesting they should be attacked or anything or harmed in any way. I haven't violated any laws."

But he also said he "wouldn't shed a tear" if the Supreme Court members were physically harmed.

In a recording provided by Turner of his Oct. 25 broadcast, he told his audience: "I fully expect now that I gave out the home addresses and phone numbers of the New Jersey Supreme Court that I will have the New Jersey State Police here tomorrow again. Well, I'm not going to shut up. I am not going to stop putting these ideas in people's heads because violence solves everything. And if some very angry people were to go down to some of those judges' houses and tune them up, oh sure, they might get thrown in jail, but that would send a shockwave to the rest of those (expletive) in black robes that they can be gotten to."

If all this sounds familiar, it should: Turner made a similar splash a couple of years ago when he issued similar threats against a different group of judges, one of whose families was attacked in an apparently unrelated incident. Nonetheless, Turner tried to claim some credit for the attack.

It's hard, as I've explained, to take someone like Turner seriously -- just as our fictional Jihadi would be relegated, rightly, to the fringes of our concerns. However, there is always the possibility that some listener out there will be inspired to act; the New Jersey State Patrol, in this case, is doing the wise and prudent thing.

And that, really, is the reason ordinary taxpayers should be outraged by cretins like Hal Turner: his free speech, such as it is, is not just costing them money, it is casting a violent shadow over the ordinary operations of their judiciary. Moreover, making threats has never been protected speech, and it is difficult to construe these actions as anything other than as a series of threats. Both the citizenry and the government should be well within their rights not only to stand up to this kind of hatefulness, but to take civil action against it.

In any event, Turner is at least always around to remind us that not every violence-mongering radical is a brown Islamist. The right-wing promoters of the homegrown Jihadi threat are fond, of course, of explaining the motivations of the Islamists simply: "They hate us! They hate America, and everything it stands for!"

Well, that's all probably true. But they're not alone.

Hate crimes: Muddying the waters

-- by Dave

Right-wing pundits, especially Michelle Malkin, are all worked up over a particularly brutal case of black-on-white murder as evidence of the media's supposed hypocrisy over "hate crimes" -- that is, they're eager to show that similar crimes against whites are never played up in the media.

Indeed, Malkin so far has devoted four posts and a Hot Air video to the story. John Leo has penned a piece for the New York Sun, while a number of lesser right-wing lights has similarly weighed in.

If you bother to click through to any of those pieces, though, what you'll notice is that none of them mention hate crimes. Mind you, all of the big media cases that they like to compare crimes like this (and the similarly specious Jesse Dirkhising case) to -- Matthew Shepard, James Byrd, and the like -- actually are hate crimes. That is, they all involve bias-motivated violence.

But hate crimes are not about race per se. There are many, many more interracial crimes -- including both white-on-black and black-on-white crimes -- that are never prosecuted as bias crimes for a simple reason: there is no evidence that they were motivated by any kind of bias, racial or otherwise.

As I explained in Death on the Fourth of July regarding the Dirkhising case:
There was just one problem: the killing of Jesse Dirkhising was not a hate crime.

The boy's parents were friends with one of the gay men, Davis Carpenter, who wound up killing him. The boy spent weekends with Carpenter and his partner, Joshua Brown, at their home with his parents' consent; they reportedly believed he was working for them at their hair salon. It was during one of those visits to his home that Brown -- who told police he and Jesse had frequently tied each other up, though not for sexual purposes -- decided to "play a game" by sneaking up on Dirkhising from behind, binding his hands, and shoving underwear in his mouth, then wrapping it all with duct tape and then placing a T-shirt over his head. (Carpenter was present and had apparently encouraged the acts.) Brown then proceeded to rape Dirkhising multiple times with various objects, and then left him lying on the bed while he went to eat lunch. When he returned, the boy had stopped breathing, and attempts to resuscitate him failed.

There was, however, no evidence anywhere that the two gay men had acted out of a bias motivation against straight children, nor that Dirkhising had been intentionally selected because of his sexual preference. Neither Brown nor Carpenter had ever evidenced any animus toward straight people, and there was no indication of any desire to terrorize the straight community or "put them in their place."

In reality, Dirkhising's death was a relatively simple if appalling case of child murder -- and indeed, Brown was eventually convicted of, and Carpenter pleaded guilty to murder charges, and both were sentenced to life in prison without parole. There were 1,449 such murders committed in 1999 -- and though the media report such cases locally, they rarely make national headlines, largely because even though every child murder is by nature horrifying, there is no national debate over the wrongness of pedophilia or assaults on children, nor the propriety of stiffer penalties for them. These murders in fact are perpetrated by all kinds of people, though predominantly by heterosexuals who attack young girls. And while some are horrendous enough to catch national attention, there are too many of them to all receive splash coverage. Indeed, in the same month following Dirkhising’s killing, there were noteworthy murder/rape stories in Kansas and Wisconsin involving young girls that received about the same amount of media coverage.

The only conceivable reasons a national editor might have for calling out the case would be either a taste for salacious details or to deliberately portray gays in a grim light (as, indeed, did [WorldNetDaily's Joseph] Farah and the religious right). Focusing on a case like Dirkhising's while comparatively ignoring a thousand other heterosexual child murders reflects a genuine bias, not an imagined one. Farah, [Andrew] Sullivan, and their cohorts essentially chastised their colleagues in the media for their failure to participate in their own rather spectacular display of gay-bashing (which, in the case of Sullivan, is also bizarre).

By seizing on the Dirkhising case, the opponents of gay hate-crime laws rather starkly demonstrated either their own failure to grasp the requisite components of bias-crime laws, or their willingness to trade in outright misinformation about them, or perhaps both. By suggesting that the killers had perpetrated a "gay hate crime," they confused the basic concept of the crimes themselves.

The highly charged racial and religious context in which hate crimes have been portrayed generally to the public has given birth to one of the most basic misconceptions about them: that is, the notion that any kind of crime involving intergroup conflict, especially different identity groups -- interracial crime, for instance, or the Dirkhising case -- constitutes a "hate crime." Thus when a black-on-white crime -- or a gay-on-straight crime -- occurs, observers will sometimes wonder why it is not treated as a hate crime, even though there is no evidence the crime was motivated by bias.

And, of course, it is precisely the presence of a bias motivation, and nothing else, that makes a crime a "hate" crime. This certainly is reflected in the fact that the word "hate" at best appears only in the title of any hate-crime law; the laws themselves uniformly refer to them as "bias-motivated."

What Malkin et. al. are accomplishing, of course, is muddying the public's understanding of hate crimes at a time when we're about to have a significant national debate over them. Their chief narrative, of course, is that hate-crime laws are all about creating special privileges for certain classes of people; getting people worked up over interracial crime is a way of obscuring the reality, which is that bias-crime laws cover everyone equally.

As I'm fond of noting, all you have to do is look at the annual FBI statistics to realize that black-on-white (as well as anti-Christian) hate crimes are prosecuted with considerable avidity in America today. In 2005, for instance, black-on-white hate crimes constituted about 20 percent of all racial bias crimes reported.

But it's especially worth noting that this kind of obfuscation has been the stock argument against bias-crime laws trotted out by white supremacists for the past thirty years or more. Whenever these kinds of crimes have been discussed in the national press, the uniform response of the Stormfront set has been: Yeah, but blacks commit much more crime against whites than we do against them. They often trot out Jared Taylor's specious text, "The Color of Crime" -- which details the statistics supposedly showing how much more blacks victimize whites than the other way around -- as supporting evidence.

Indeed, as Crime Library reports, the Channon/Christian case is being picked up as a significant cause celebre of the far-right neo-Nazi set:
Yesterday, the Knox County Commission committee voted 6-2, with one abstention, to ask that the Against Black Crimes (ABC) Group, cancel a rally they had planned for June 16 in front of the former Knox County Courthouse. Ken Gregg, who has a history with the White Patriot Party, filed the group's permit application. According to a website allegedly affiliated with Gregg, the purpose of the rally was to protest black-on-white crime.

"While recognizing the First Amendment rights of all, the Knox County Commission strongly needs to request that the rally not be held," Commissioner Greg Lambert said during the meeting. "This community has seen a hate crime the likes of which we've never seen. I don't want these racist hate mongers to come here."

Moreover, there is no evidence at all that this was in fact a hate crime -- rather, it was a brutal crime of opportunity. Even the father of one of the victims says as much:
Despite the suspect's race, Gary said he did not believe the murders should be considered a hate crime.

"I don't think they went out — black people looking for white people," Gary said. "What it turned into, I don't know. But I know this. I believe in my heart that wild animals come in lots of different colors. The end result is that they are still wild animals."

Nonetheless, if you go to Stormfront or other white-supremacist sites -- including Taylor's American Renaissance or any number of skinhead sites -- you can find prominent mention of the case. Some of them link to Malkin's work.

What we're seeing in this case is the symbiotic relationship between ostensibly mainstream "transmitters" like Malkin and the far-right extremists from whom they draw their ideas and memes. The extremists give the transmitters material for "pushing the envelope," and in return the extremists find their ideas gaining broader circulation and given the imprimatur of mainstream media.

That's how extremist effluent, the kind that muddies the waters and poisons the well, works its way into the mainstream, thanks to folks like Michelle Malkin and John Leo. And as it does so, the center of the pendulum keeps getting washed farther to the right.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Creeping bigotry

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog points out yet another example of far-right fabrications making their way into the mainstream media:
Ilene Lelchuk, a reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle, quoted the leader of a known hate group (without identifying him as such) as a scientific expert on gay issues in a story just published Monday. The "expert" in question is none of than Paul Cameron. You may recall that I've been writing a lot about Cameron in the past few weeks (as has Pam Spaulding, as the lead religious right groups keep pushing his hate "science."

What's the problem with Cameron? He's a man who has suggested that the extermination of gays might be necessary. Per the Southern Poverty Law Center:

He told the 1985 Conservative Political Action Committee conference that "extermination of homosexuals" might be needed in the next three to four years. He has advocated tattooing AIDS patients in the face, and banishment to a former leper colony for any patient who resisted. He has called for gay bars to be closed and gays to be registered with the government.

He was kicked out of the American Psychological Association, and was publicly rebuked by the Nebraska Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association. And he has been called the leader of a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, America's number one civil rights organization for tracking the klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The Southern Poverty Law Center went so far as to say that "Cameron's 'science' echoes Nazi Germany."

The Chronicle subsequently ran a "clarification" that gave more information about Cameron's background, but failed to correct its characterization of Cameron as a "scientific expert" when he is no such thing.

Mind you, it isn't quite as egregious as Lou Dobbs channeling Madeleine Cosman or broadcasting white-supremacist propaganda about "Aztlan", but it is disturbing how often we're starting to see this lack of appropriate vetting of their source material by mainstream journalists -- and more importantly, their lack of skepticism when it comes to material from the far right.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The other kinds of terrorists

Speaking of the Aryan Nations, it turns out that the shooter who went on a rampage this past weekend, killing four people and wounding two before killing himself in Moscow, Idaho (where my alma mater is) was a longtime member:
Jason Kenneth Hamilton, the man responsible for the deadly shooting spree in Moscow, Idaho, was a card-carrying Aryan Nations member licensed by the federal government to possess fully automatic weapons, including a military-style machine gun, sources confirmed Tuesday.

"How he got one, I have no idea," Latah County Sheriff Wayne Rausch said Tuesday of Hamilton’s license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Rausch confirmed that Hamilton also had a concealed weapons permit in Latah County, despite a domestic violence conviction that should have barred him from owning guns.

The 36-year-old janitor moved to North Idaho from the Boise area in 1998 or 1999, and shortly thereafter became a member of the Aryan Nations, which was based in Hayden.

About that same time, Hamilton was arrested in Latah County for shooting at a building or a car, but the charge was reduced through a plea bargain, incomplete court records show.

Hamilton committed suicide in a Presbyterian church after killing his wife, a police officer and a church sexton and wounding three other men Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

The report is by my old friend and colleague Bill Morlin, and is worth reading in full, just to get a complete picture of what a piece of work Hamilton was.

What's clear is that Hamilton fully intended to take as many people with him as possible; that's why he began by targeting the dispatcher's office, where he knew he would get police response. And considering his extremist background, it is certain this was intended as some kind of political statement. It was, by most definitions, an act of domestic terrorism.

As it happens, this news emerges on the same day that, across the country, we read (via Atrios) of the arrest of a group of young white men who apparently intended to set off bombs outside Jerry Falwell's funeral targeting protesters:
Campbell County authorities arrested a Liberty University student for having several homemade bombs in his car.

The student, 19-year-old Mark D. Uhl of Amissville, Va., reportedly told authorities that he was making the bombs to stop protesters from disrupting the funeral service. The devices were made of a combination of gasoline and detergent, a law enforcement official told ABC News' Pierre Thomas. They were "slow burn," according to the official, and would not have been very destructive.

"There were indications that there were others involved in the manufacturing of these devices and we are still investigating these individuals with the assistance of ATF [Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms], Virginia State Police and FBI. At this time it is not believed that these devices were going to be used to interrupt the funeral services at Liberty University," the Campbell County Sheriff's Office said in a release.

Three other suspects are being sought, one of whom is a soldier from Fort Benning, Ga., and another is a high school student. No information was available on the third suspect.

Authorities were alerted to the potential bomb plot after relative of Uhl called to say that he had homemade bombs in his possession. Officials searched Uhl's car where they found five incendiary devices in the trunk.

Here's a reality check: Terrorism comes in all shapes, ideologies, and colors. In this country, in fact, as we've remarked often, you're far more likely to be harmed in an attack by a right-wing domestic terrorist than anyone from Al Qaeda.

This has not, of course, prevented the Michelle Malkins of the right-wing pundit corps from bloviating endlessly about any incident involving Muslims suspected of plotting against America, as with the recent case in North Carolina. Of course, most of the time these little Muslim panics turn out to be so much nothing (remember the Oklahoma student who blew himself up and how Malkin worked the "Jihadi!" line for a couple of weeks until it turned out to be nothing like that?). Indeed, Malkin has a fondness for posting galleries of Muslim shooters, though of course we never see the other side of that particular coin from her.

So with all these domestic terrorists making headlines, you might think that Malkin would be posting as feverishly as when the North Carolina Jihadis were arrested, wouldn't you? I mean, just because they're white guys, that doesn't mean ... er, right? Oh, that's right: I almost forgot about Chad Castagana.?

Well, let's go check her blog.

Hm. Mostly the sound of ... er, nothing. Oh yes, there is a longish post about an interracial murder that does not appear to be a hate crime, but she's nattering on endlessly about "media hypocrisy" anyway ... Well, more on that later. In the meantime, is that crickets chirping, or are those cicadas?

Thugs in law enforcement

This story came over the transom today:
Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Justin Dwyer, 39, a former leader in the neo-Nazi organization Aryan Nations, on drug charges stemming from an undercover investigation. Dwyer himself was employed as a deputy in the sheriff’s office at the time of his arrest.

Dwyer was arrested on May 20, 2007, and charged with involving a minor in a drug offense, possession of dangerous drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving under the influence of drugs, use of cocaine, possession of a firearm during a drug offense, and use of electronic communication in a drug-related transaction.

At the time of the arrest, Dwyer was allegedly attempting to purchase cocaine. According to authorities, the charge of involving a minor stems from an alleged incident in April, in which Dwyer purportedly sent his minor son to meet with a drug dealer and purchase cocaine.

It's kind of amazing to see names like Justin Dwyer's popping up in these circumstances -- not the drug bust, which is unsurprising, but the fact that he was employed as a deputy for an Arizona sheriff.

Dwyer, as the story notes, is well known in the Pacific Northwest:
Dwyer currently resides in Arizona, but spent most of the 1990s in the Pacific Northwest. It was during this time that he became one of the more prominent white supremacist leaders in the region. In the early 1990s, Dwyer acted as the Washington State Leader for Aryan Nations. Aryan Nations, led by Richard Butler of Hayden Lake, Idaho, was at the time one of the largest and most notorious neo-Nazi groups in the United States, with a propensity for criminal activity.

In October 1991, Dwyer and his group distributed racist fliers in Washington. Dwyer said that the group was putting its greatest efforts into recruiting because "members of the Aryan Nations share the belief that the 'white race' is more highly evolved than other races and that people who are not white were created as a work force for the planet."

In 1992, Dwyer was a featured speaker at the annual Aryan Youth Action Conference, a regular event founded by Butler to recruit young racists and skinheads into the neo-Nazi movement. By 1994 he was helping to secure white power bands to play for the event.

Dwyer resigned from Aryan Nations in the late 1990s, citing disagreements over recruiting tactics and its treatment of youth and women.

As far as anyone knows, Dwyer never renounced his racist beliefs -- only his ties to the Aryan Nations, for reasons related more to strategy than to ideology.

Yet here's the kicker:
The Sheriff’s Office was aware at the time of Dwyer’s hiring of his former status with Aryan Nations.

Can anyone explain to me what the hell a sheriff -- particularly one with a jurisdiction, such as any in Arizona, where deputies will be in frequent contact with racial minorities -- is doing hiring a neo-Nazi goon (which is precisely what Justin Dwyer is)?

I mean, at a bare minimum, it displays incredibly poor judgment hiring a person of Dwyer's known character -- which has played out in fairly predictable fashion -- for a sensitive position of authority like sheriff's deputy.

But what kind of message is this sheriff sending to the minority communities in his jurisdiction, hiring known racist thugs?

Perhaps some of our Arizona readers (especially those conversant with the intricacies of Yavapai County politics) can chime in.

We've known for some time that white supremacists have been successfully infiltrating the American military. The prospect of a similar trend in law enforcement is downright chilling.