Pistorius: Whatever happened to “excessive force”?

I’m not outraged about the result of the Oscar Pistorius trial–yet. Like prosecutors deciding whether to appeal, I’m waiting for the sentencing.

I have no problem with the idea that he was foolish enough to think his girlfriend was an intruder. What bothers me is the idea that he and others seem to hold that he acted on that belief reasonably.

Many recent highly publicized shootings suggest that we have lost the concept of excessive force. Shooters defend themselves by saying and courts sometimes acquit them based on their saying that they felt threatened by their victims.  Trials seem to turn on whether they are telling the truth about perceiving the threats. Rarely–based on the media reports of the trials–does anyone ask whether the threat was enough to warrant the killing.

The verdict lets me continue to hope that the judge will say what I’ve been hoping the judge would say: “Mr. Pistorius, this court accepts your claim that you killed your girlfriend because she might have been an intruder who might have had a weapon with which she might have intended to threaten you. That’s why we’re throwing the book at you.”

Sunday Night Video – Game of Thrones, ’80s VHS style

Russell Brand on the Fox News Extremists

My first encounter with the comedian and force of nature that is Russell Brand was in the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, back in 2008. That’s how many American were first struck by the wit and energy of the British comedian, who played a parody of a sleazy womanizer. Even without knowing his own brand of womanizing, it was evident that this was an actor drawing from knowledge, and willing to take the piss out of himself. So to speak.

My first live encounter with Brand was in Los Angeles, at Largo, when he came on as a surprise guest in a Sarah Silverman-hosted show. He was still irascible, and that movie star energy radiates even when he’s not up on a screen. He was also thoughtful, political, and kind.

I’ve only recently come across the YouTube series in which, among other things, he watches Fox News with us, pausing and pointing out the contradictions, hypocrisies, and frequent lack of human decency that are the proud trademarks of the Rupert Murdoch brand.

Here’s a recent video in which Brand asks us to consider just how dangerous Fox News is, using their take on the rise of ISIS in Iraq.

Cheney Disrespects Americans and Iraqis His Policies Sacrificed

There isn’t much to add after Harry Reid, Jay Carney, James Fallows, Paul Waldman, and others have slammed Dick Cheney’s attempt to blame President Obama for the Iraqi disaster created by the policies he himself championed. But I feel compelled to add this:

Having shot another hunter in the face might make Cheney a great authority on hunting safety–if he acknowledged that he’d made a terrible mistake which he wanted to help others avoid. To pretend that he himself had a strong record of hunting safety would make him a buffoon and it would disrespect the man he shot.

How much worse is what Cheney is now doing! By presenting himself as an authority on Iraq without acknowledging his mistakes, the buffoon greatly disrespects the thousands of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians who needlessly died or were maimed through his short-sightedness.

More Evidence that Gun Rights Advocates Are Wrong

The murder of two police officers and a bystander in Las Vegas this weekend puts the lie, again, to two myths promoted by gun rights advocates.

Good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns

Guns are not defensive weapons; they’re offensive weapons.

When a good guy with a gun meets a bad guy with a gun, the one who shoots first wins. The media may not understand this, and the NRA may pretend not to, but the guys with the guns understand it well, and that makes guns dangerous even when only one guy is armed. That guy often kills because he’s fearful his victim might have a gun.

Like the killing of skilled sniper Chris Kyle, who was shot at a gun range, the killing of these police officers shows starkly that guns and gun training are no defense against guns.

An armed populace is a deterrent to mass shootings

People enjoying life don’t commit mass shootings. These people are desperately unhappy and most of them want to die. Many of them, like this weekend’s shooters, kill themselves after killing others. Such people cannot be deterred by the fear that someone with a gun might kill them.

Behaving Badly: CNN on Guns

CNN contributor Ruben Navarrette writes about a homeowner who set a trap, leaving a purse in plain view in an open garage and then shooting and killing a teen who entered the garage.

So far, we have at least two people behaving badly. Care to make it three?

Celal Dede is the dead teenager’s grieving father. He told a German news agency that the culprit in this tragedy was the gun culture in the United States. “America cannot continue to play cowboy,” Celal Dede said.

…The father is wrong to blame the American gun culture. … Not every American owns a gun. The issue isn’t guns or cowboys.

The man’s son has just been killed, Mr. Navarette, and you try to shame him for disagreeing with you about American culture? Criticizing our attitude about guns can be usefully lumped together with killing an unarmed teen as ways of “behaving badly”?

You’re right that at least three people have behaved badly about this, Mr. Navarrette. But the third one isn’t the grieving father.

Huckabee: Politics is Like Taking a Dump

Talking Points Memo brings us a bizarre excerpt from a speech Mike Huckabee gave Tuesday night in Iowa.

You see, I have a concern that one of the reasons we lose battles we should win is because we wait to see whether or not the crowd is going to be with us. … Because the fact is we don’t like to do things by ourselves. We really don’t. Guys like to go fishing with other men. They like to go hunting with other men. Women like to go to the restroom with other women. I don’t get that. I can tell you this much: if I ever say, ‘I have to go to the restroom’ and some guy says, ‘I’ll go with you,’ he ain’t goin’ with me. That much I know.

So real men should be willing to take political stands on their own, just like they go to the bathroom on their own? The two are similar? That explains a good number of recent Republican political stands.

Facebook Getting Greedier

Will Oremus at Slate defends Facebook’s apparently immanent decision to charge brands to have their posts seen by fans of their Facebook pages.

People don’t really like seeing a bunch of ads in their news feed. They like seeing updates from friends and family, funny YouTube videos, and maybe some news stories about topics they’re interested in. So Facebook has decided to show them fewer self-promotional posts from businesses and more of all the other stuff. Doesn’t sound quite so nefarious when you think of it that way, does it?

No. But is that the right way to think about it? Here’s Oremus describing the upcoming change. I’ve bolded a few words for him.

Facebook is in the process of slashing brands’ “organic page reach” to just 1 or 2 percent. That means only a tiny fraction of the people who have liked a business on Facebook will see each of its posts in their news feed, unless that company pays Facebook for wider promotion.

These people have liked the pages. If they’re annoyed at the advertising they see, they can unlike the pages. Facebook’s claim of serving users is transparently dishonest; they’re taking the control out of the users’ hands. They’ve convinced businesses to invest time, money, and energy into promoting their Facebook pages and now, after the fact, they’re changing the rules.

Republicans Think We’re Stupid: “What Are We Voting For, Again?” Edition

More evidence that Republicans think voters are stupid: Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus claims that Mitt Romney actually beat President Obama on the issues, and that

he won on the question of, “Who do you actually think would make a better president?”

How, then, could Romney have lost the election?

where he lost was on the question of, “Who cares about you?”

If Priebus really believes this, he apparently thinks Romney would have won if only voters had understood that rather than voting for Most Popular, they were supposed to be electing a president.

Fear: A Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card?

The Oscar Pistorius trial, about to get under way, confuses and alarms me. I had the same reaction to the Micheal Dunn case, in which Dunn’s defense for killing one teen and injuring others was that he thought he was being threatened by a non-existent gun.

Pistorius killed his girlfriend by shooting her through a bathroom door. She was unarmed and in no possible way a threat to his safety. He says he thought she was a burglar. If he’s telling the truth, the killing (I suppose) was not premeditated murder (though why the “burglar” had to be killed is a real question). But if it wasn’t murder, does that mean it wasn’t a crime? The fact that he’s not currently in custody suggests the possibility that he is, by law, completely innocent.

Is it legally acceptable to do anything at all–including killing someone who is in no way threatening us–as long as we’re frightened when we do it?

Cheap Hunting License?

[F]ormer Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli… and three partners have launched Virginia Self Defense Law, a firm focused on defending Second Amendment rights. … “A legal retainer with Virginia Self Defense Law costs as little as $8.33 a month — less than half the cost of a hunting license,” the firm’s Web site says. … For that price, the firm promises to defend clients facing firearms charges stemming from an act of self defense

Washington Post

I wonder whether Cuccinelli and company have thought this through. The firm argues that it will do well financially because gun owners tend to be law-abiding. That may be, but won’t the self-selecting subset of gun owners who retain this service be among the most trigger happy? And won’t it be hard to convince a jury that your client acted in self-defense if he hired you defend him before the confrontation occurred?

More importantly, will a jury be right to consider that this firm was hired in advance because the defendant was eager to use his weapon? Will this service make clients feel more free than ever to fire away?

Christie: Vindictive or Just Incompetent?

Coverage of David Wildstein’s claim that evidence shows Chris Christie knew about the closure of lanes of the George Washington Bridge while it was in effect has focused on the fact that, if true, it would show Christie lied. Lying to the people you were elected to serve is bad, but there’s something even more basic going on. If Christie knew about the closure, why didn’t he get those lanes open?

Somebody, for no good reason, closes lanes on your state’s most used bridge, hugely inconveniencing, according to some reports, millions of your constituents and, by impeding emergency services, endangering lives. Isn’t this exactly the sort of thing we elect governors to fix, if not prevent?

Not knowing about something as important as this shows Christie and his staff to be out of touch with what’s going on in their state, but the only other possibilities are that Christie approved of the closure, or that he didn’t think it was important enough to do anything about.

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