Archive for October 24th, 2013

by lizard

There are a few ways of going at the proliferation of Castle doctrine law, laws which create substantial barriers for prosecutors to actually bring charges when self-defense is invoked. Slate frames it like this:

One amazing thing about the recent spate of laws that make it easier to shoot people and get away with it is how much prosecutors hate them. “It’s an abomination,” one Florida prosecutor told the Sun Sentinel, referring to the state’s “stand your ground” law at the center of the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin. And now we’re hearing from Montana’s county attorneys, sheriffs, and police chiefs, all of whom oppose the 2009 law that expanded the “castle doctrine” to give homeowners more leeway to kill potential intruders.

The law is “a solution that had no problem,” the president of the Montana County Attorneys’ Association said. And earlier this month, the prosecutor for the town of Kalispell cited the newly strengthened castle doctrine in refusing to indict Brice Harper, a man who shot and killed Dan Fredenberg, the husband of the woman Harper was having an affair with. Harper didn’t kill Fredenberg at the end of a violent encounter. He killed an unarmed Fredenberg when he walked into Harper’s garage.

This is clearly bad policy, and in Montana, there are lots of fingerprints on this mess. That means making this a partisan thing instead of a policy thing is a bad idea; it’s automatically divisive and, for Democrats, disingenuous. Cue Don Pogreba’s discontent:

For a party that claims to represent law and order, the Montana Republican Party has certainly done some real damage to the ability of law enforcement officers to arrest and prosecutors to convict those who kill other people using firearms. As a result of 2009 Legislature’s passage of HB 228, it’s very difficult for prosecutors to convict anyone who asserts “self-defense” as a justification for killing someone else.

Here’s the problem with the partisan approach. From Pogo Possum in the comment thread:

Let’s begin by voting out the “macho middle-aged” Democrats still serving in the Legislature today that voted for the Castle Doctrine back in 2009. Here is a list to help you get started.
Bradley Hamlett
Larry Jent
Jim Keane
Carolyn Squires
Mitch Tropila
Dave Wanzenried
Shannon Augare
Anders Blewett
Carlie Boland
Frosty Boss Ribs
Chuck Hunter
Bill McChesney
Edie McClafferty
Bert Mehlhoff
Pat Noonan
JP Pomnichowski
Jon Sesso
Kendal VanDyk

HB 228, the Castle Doctrine, was hardly a partisan Bill. In 2009, the Montana House was evenly divided with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. 35 of those Democrats (70% of all House Dems) voted for HB228 on the final reading. The Montana Senate was split 23 Democrats and 27 Republicans. 13 of Senate Democrats (57% of all Senate Dems) voted for HB228 on final reading. In total, 58% of the combined Democratic Senate and House members voted for the Castle Doctrine. Don’t forget that then Governor Brian Schweitzer stuffed his Veto into the bottom drawer of his desk and signed the bill.

I look forward to your ridicule and denunciation of these still sitting Montana Democratic Legislators and wannabe presidential candidate Brian Schweitzer who, as you put it, did “some real damage to the ability of law enforcement officers to arrest and prosecutors to convict those who kill other people using firearms”, with the same passion and theatrics as you are directing at Republicans.

If the problem is policy, let’s stick with policy, because the problem of partisanship ensures nothing will happen to change anything.

Along that same vein, Trevor Hultner has a piece titled Liberals and the Libertarian “Contagion” describing the childish antics of “progressives” regarding libertarian participation at some Stop Watching Us rally going on in Washington DC.

by lizard

Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani girl nearly killed by the Taliban, has shown more courage than any Democrat ever has when it comes to Obama’s drone program. Malala transformed a photo-op into an opportunity to point out the reality of what Obama’s killing in Pakistan and Yemen produces: more terrorism.

In a statement released after the meeting, Yousafzai said that she told Obama that she is concerned about the effect of U.S. drone strikes in her country—a portion of the conversation that was omitted from White House statements so far.

“I [expressed] my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism,” Yousafzai said in a statement released by the Associated Press. “Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”

On Tuesday, Amnesty International and Humans Rights Watch tepidly declared that some (not all) of Obama’s “surgical” strikes maybe warrant war crime designation:

The US stands accused of unlawful killing in several documented incidents, on the basis of first-hand witness evidence and official statements. The number of such incidents, in both countries, suggests they are are not “one-offs” but part of a systematic policy that appears inherently illegal.

If the US were to state that it is a party to an armed conflict in Yemen or Pakistan between the governments of those countries and terrorists, principally al-Qaida or al-Qaida-affiliated groups, its actions would be subject to international humanitarian law – the laws of war. But as Human Rights Watch points out, the US, denying the obvious, has not said it is a party to a war in either place, but is instead carrying out ad hoc operations to protect US interests.

Even if it did make such a declaration, the laws of war permit attacks only on enemy combatants and other military objectives, but not those who play a purely non-military role. Civilians are protected from attack.

Reporting on six unacknowledged US strikes in Yemen, Human Rights Watch states: “Two of these attacks were in clear violation of international humanitarian law – the laws of war – because they struck only civilians or used indiscriminate weapons. The other four cases may have violated the laws of war because the individual attacked was not a lawful military target or the attack caused disproportionate civilian harm, determinations that require further investigation. In several of these cases, the US also did not take all feasible precautions to minimise harm to civilians, as the laws of war require.”

Amnesty reaches similar conclusions in Pakistan. If the US is not in a war-fighting situation in either country, then international human rights law applies, meaning that lethal force may only be used if there is an “imminent risk” to human life. This law was also disregarded in several US attacks, Amnesty said.

The US is accused of acting in contravention of Obama’s own guidelines, set out in May, which emulated (but did not officially endorse) international human rights law. Obama said that to be legitimate, a target must pose an imminent risk to the US, cannot reasonably be captured, and can be attacked without putting civilians at risk. As the various cases investigated clearly indicate, these “rules” have been repeatedly and deliberately broken.

So, Democrats, what do you have to say about your war criminal president?

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