(1) I'm about as sympathetic as any non-crazy person to the idea of executing politicians, and even I think this was entirely wrong. I can not emphasize that enough.
(2) If one does decide to murder an agent of the state it is imperative that innocent bystanders be spared. Killing innocent people in the process makes the assassin/terrorist/revolutionary/"freedom fighter"/whatever as bad as the people he is trying to eliminate.
(3) A lot of people have been saying that it is never, ever acceptable to kill a politician. I wonder if they would actually stick to that rule, or if, like most others, they would become consequentialists when the consequences are high enough. Would you have killed members of the Politburo in order to prevent the Ukrainian famines of the 1920's? Is there no one in North Korea or Iran that you might imagine assassinating?
If assassination is never justified, is revolution? If not — for my American readers — what do you do on July 4th every year? Not celebrate, I presume. Why would revolution be okay but a much smaller-scale act be verboten? Or is revolution like religious experience — it's holy when it takes place far enough in the past, but if you claim to be talking to god/overthrowing governments now you're a nut?
(4) Jared Lee Loughner is pretty clearly mentally ill. I would not be so quick to put the blame on politics for his actions. The insane do not act the way they do because of some campaign posters.
(The campaign poster thing really tickles me, since target imagery has been used on congressional district maps for years by the left and right.)
(5) Responsibility does not float around in the ether. Do not blame this on "the political climate" or "the discourse" or "the rhetoric of _______." People have responsibility for their own actions. Even crazy ones.
(6) What is with assassins/terrorists and having three names? If that was not already a trend would the media be reporting Loughner's name as Jared Loughner?
(7) Thanks a lot asshole. You have now made it even more difficult to take a stand against statism without being branded as a nutjob.
(Yes, I know this effects pales to insignificance in relation to the lives lost. I am aware of that. And yet it is still a consequence we will have to live with.)
(8) I wish as many people cared when agents of the state take a citizen's life as they do when a crazy citizen attempts to take an agent of the state's. Reactions to stories like innocent O'Ryan Johnson being killed in a SWAT raid tend towrads "Oh well, mistakes happen." That is sad.
(On a lesser scale reactions to stories like this, in which a DC Metro cop beat on a woman who was mouthing off to him, tend towards "she was asking for it.")
It is as morally indefensible for the Framingham SWAT team to have killed Johnson while attempting to arrest a drug dealer as it is for Loughner to have killed a nine year old girl while gunning for a congressman. Loughner will spend his life in prison; whoever killed Johnson will probably get paid leave.
(9) As usualy, politicians and pundits' reactions to this story sicken me. They range from the general "this tragedy proves all my enemies are evil and we must do everything I already advocated doing" to the inexplicably specific, like Rep James Clyburn's (D-S.C.) assertion that this means congressmen shouldn't have to wait in line at TSA checkpoints. (Seriously, WTF?) Just once can we all please let a tragedy go to waste?
(10) Even people like me who don't tend to like congressmen want them to be holding community meetings outside grocery stores. It's too bad public meetings have just been dis-incentivized.
(11) Further evidence that terrorists doesn't need bombs. The two mail bombs sent to Maryland offices last week and did essentially no damage, other than loss of production from the disruptions. One guy with a gun has done a tragic amount of damage.
(12) Maybe this is cognitive bias, but it seems like more people have tried to assassinate the POTUS than all other federal politicians combined. (At least in recent decades.) This despite the POTUS being probably the most protected man in the Western World. Perhaps this is too logical for the sorts of wackos that assassinate people, but it seems like one would want to attack the lower hanging fruit.
I'm not saying this to be callous. I think it may tell us something about weaknesses in our security. We allocate security out of proportion to the damage that would result from a successful assassination to various figures. How well protected is the Chief Justice or the Speaker of the House in relation to the President? Is that ratio lower than the ratio of damage losing a president to losing a Speaker? I suspect yes.
(13) Four short years ago it was mostly people on the Right who were complaining about "poisonous rhetoric" and "violent discourse" and such. The more things change...
Alex Massie put it well:
But the sordid temptations of politics are such that people who argue there's little sensible connection between Hollywood "violence" and real-world violence now suddenly insist that it just takes a silly poster and plenty of over-heated rhetoric to inspire America's Top Kooks to come out of the closet, all guns blazing. And of course the reverse is also true: people happy to blame Grand Theft Auto for just about anything now insist there's no connection at all between the tone of political discourse ("Second Amendment Solutions!") and some nut taking these notions just a little bit too seriously.