The Washington Post, lamenting that personal threats against judges have doubled in six years, describes two basic kinds of culprit: defendants with anger management issues, and conservatives.
Worried federal officials blame disgruntled defendants whose anger is fueled by the Internet; terrorism and gang cases that bring more violent offenders into federal court; frustration at the economic crisis; and the rise of the “sovereign citizen” movement — a loose collection of tax protesters, white supremacists and others who don’t respect federal authority.
In their classic language guide Elements of Style, William Strunk and E.B. White encourage writers to avoid abstract language when a simpler, familiar, word will do. In that vein I would remind the Washington Post that most readers have never heard of ‘sovereign citizens’. The crazy band of teabaggers, racists, militiamen, abortion clinic bombers and secessionists could equivalently be known as ‘the Republican Party’.
Yeah, they will never go that far. Euphemisms for everyone!
yes but it says “worried federal officials.” that means members of the obama administration!
this is all part of the obama chicago ayers so c i a list repressive plot to target honest conservatives and intimidate them! with chicago gangland criminal thuggery!
oh god. i try for parody, honest i do. but all it get is straight quotation.
damn. used the “soc-i-alist” word, and wound up in moderation. couldn’t even edit myself out of the queue.
yeah, these “sovereign citizens” were pretty quiescent as long as they identified federal government with “white republican authoritarians.” Weren’t they most active under democratic and now non white presidents?
You cannot clarify who those “sovereign citizen” psychos are without at least a mention of Ron Paul. Sarah Palin may be their Mrs. Secession crown holder, but the closest thing to an intellectual figurehead they have is the white supremacist doc who wants us to revert to a pre-modern economy.
Strunk & White has long been my Bible: fewer, blunter words are better.
And I agree: the GOP is becoming an increasingly pure, condensation of crazy people. One day, Limbaugh will be regarded as the rational fringe.
Since it is in the headline, it might be good to spell David Neiwert’s name correctly.
Also, let’s not forget when Judge Jones came down with the Kitzmiller decision torpedoing intelligent design in late ’05, he got so many death threats that he and his family had to be put under federal protection. He said it was the most violent reaction he’d ever gotten to any of his rulings. To this day, creationists can’t mention the guy with foaming at the mouth.
It’s always been that way–the nuts get more rowdy when Democcrats are in charge because they don’t feel welcomed by that particular party.
Aw, you left out “gay haters”. It’s really tomatoes, tomahtoes — you say sovereign citizen, I say extremist who is virtually identical to the fuckers we’re fighting in Afghanistan.
Mike in NC
Isn’t Sovereign Citizens just a fancier term for Real Americans? They know who they are.
I admit to have been unfamiliar with this term “sovereign citizen” per se, even though you can instantly grok where it’s going.
Uh huh. “I ain’t got ta obey yer damn laws on account a what I heard about ‘English common law’!”
I say it often and I say it again: Nobody but nobody hates America and everything it has represented more than the secession- and treason-addicted right wingers.
They’re okay with the fedrul gubmit having magic unstoppable powers whenever it’s controlled by crazy white right wingers, but the moment anyone insists on using Executive and Congressional authority for anything other than crazy right wing purposes, suddenly they’re back to demanding their ‘right’ to revert the nation to the Articles of Confederation.
However, note that the Magna Charta is by now (since 1215 AD/CE) certainly established English common law, and the righties certainly don’t give a sh*t about habeas corpus.
I’ve spent quite a lot of time in a federal courthouse in the last couple of years. Of all the various levels of courthouses I’ve had to go to for research, it was the only one where there were about seven armed guards on duty at all times before I could even get inside. I would think someone would take a look at that kind of security and say “ummm, no, I’d better not”.
They care very much about rights, habeas corpus and otherwise, as applied to “real citizens”, i.e. other white people who agree with them.
Remember that the 3/5ths rule was a compromise, as far as the ancestors of these guys went, it should have been a much lower fraction.
Something tells me they’ve gained a lot more in their ranks since Obama became president.
I’d hate to be a part of a group that bases itself on how often and actively I’m involved in litigation. I kind of like not being involved in any. ;)
It regularly blows my mind that few (any?) states or the Feds have written new laws protecting judges. At the very least, there should be a procedural rule that allows judges to bring anyone publishing the home address of any party to a case on the Internet (judges and defendants, usually) into court and find them in contempt and levy a fine. I don’t see how it’s remotely legal for Operation Rescue and others to routinely post addresses and photos of judges in controversial cases, photos of women supposedly receiving abortions, license plates of people at abortion clinics, etc.
If it’s legal to oversee elections in counties with histories of racist ballot policies, it seems like it’d be entirely defensible to police this sort of thing coming from organizations linked to violence, bombings, etc.
One obvious example in abortion is George Tiller in KS. The guy’s been shot, had his clinic bombed and burnt to the ground… and he’s still got to put his family in harm’s way if he doesn’t want to quit his practice.
Also, it’s likely the reason laws like what I’m thinking about don’t get passed is because the folks who would advocate for them – “activist” judges – are the ones most opposed to any restriction on speech. It still seems crazy that folks with enough political pull to get appointed to the Federal bench haven’t successfully lobbied for a Federal law protecting judges… especially in the wake of OKC. I guess there’s a history of open access to the courts (the Supreme Court just closed it’s front door for the first time for security reasons which caused a stir apparently) that people are protective of.
I guess the people who have this sort of privacy violated don’t sue very often because they’re afraid of ramifications by the kind of crazy lunatics you mentioned?
I’m sorry, all I know is that Rush told me that this administration is treating all veterans like terrorists.
@ El Cid/12
The Zone Improvement Plan??? They’re threatened by damn ZIP Codes??? LOLWTFLOLWTFLOLWTFLOLWTFLOLWTF :||
What’s especially sad/funny is that recently, a bunch of black criminals are espousing this white-supremist-founded philosophy as their defense.
That’s backwards, actually. The slave-holding states wanted slaves to be counted as full people *for the purpose of allocating electoral votes and House seats*. Since only the white men could vote, that meant that the votes of the slaveholders would have national weight in excess to their actual population.
See e.g. Wikipedia.
BP in MN
Right, but they also wanted the slaves to count for nothing for purposes of taxation, if the US had ever levied taxes that way.
Shorter Tim F.
If you see injustices in the family courts(making men who pay child support for children that can proven with genetic testing are not theirs) or judges allowing police to abuse no knock search warrants in the name of the drug war.
However if the Judge does not embrace progressive politics.
It’s time to Impeach Judge Jay Bybee
@Paul L.: It’s impressive that someone would take the position in support of personal threats against judges. Brava, Paul.
@Tim F.: Edited because arguing with Paul “Anger Management Issues” L. is a waste of time and energy.
I didn’t know the teabaggers were threatening judges. That had previously been the domain of bigtime loonies like the sovereign citizen and Church of the Creator people – potent but small groups. Hearing this has gone ‘mainstream’ Republican is really disturbing. Maybe it’s time to arm up.
Not to rain on your parade, but I recently read an authoritative piece savaging Strunk and White. Here it’s a cool, breezy, sunny, Memorial Day holiday and I’m eager to get the dogs out for a romp in the park, but I’ll bet that there’s someone out there who can use the google to back me up on this.
I also find it a bit hyperbolic to suggest that all Republicans subscribe to these extremist doctrines. I live in a very Republican area and I can honestly say some of my best friends are Republicans. What I think so many of them failed to understand (and continue to fail to understand) is the manner which Republican policies, and the politics the recent incarnation of the party has used to pursue them, would feed the craziness.
Yeesh, that last sentence could probably use some Strunking and Whiteing!
@SiubhanDuinne: Maybe it turns out that when the ZIP code is combined with your Social Security Number, the Mark of the Beast is activated and the gates of Hell stand open, which I’m assuming is to suggest that things would be worse, and Satan would do awful things like raising the income taxes on the highest income groups, or, worse, sanctioning gay marriage.
My Google-fu is weak today, but I seem to remember that sometime in the past two administrations (probably during Clinton’s) a sitting Republican Senator or member of Congress made some highly inflammatory remarks about getting rid of judges who ruled in ways he and like-minded folks didn’t agree with, and he wasn’t talking about impeachment.
Well, Pat Robertson prayed for liberal judges to die sooner rather than later, so Bush could replace them with more Strip-Search Sammies.
I am amazed at how people think this is true but in reality you have it exactly backward. Non-slave state delegates to the constitutional convention wanted to count the slaves as zero or some number less then 3/5s on the basic theory of “f— the slaveholders, if they don’t want to give these people basic rights, let alone the right to vote, they should not be able to count them for apportionment purposes”. Of course the southern politicians argued that the slaves were people just like the whites and ought to count on a one for one basis when taken into account for apportionment purpose even though they could not vote.
BTW the whole electoral collage system is directly related to the slavery issue for the very same reason. Its the only way the south could leverage the slaves in a national vote without actually letting them vote.
The southerners have never been honest about anything and have been a plague on this country since day one and this is just another example of it.
“The Elements of Style” ruined writing in this country, as surely as I love Lucy ruined TV. Neither is actually all that bad taken in a bubble, but they irrevocably altered the future of their medium and homogenized a genre:
50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice
By GEOFFREY K. PULLUM
April 16 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of a little book that is loved and admired throughout American academe. Celebrations, readings, and toasts are being held, and a commemorative edition has been released.
I won’t be celebrating.
The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students’ grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.
The authors won’t be hurt by these critical remarks. They are long dead. William Strunk was a professor of English at Cornell about a hundred years ago, and E.B. White, later the much-admired author of Charlotte’s Web, took English with him in 1919, purchasing as a required text the first edition, which Strunk had published privately. After Strunk’s death, White published a New Yorker article reminiscing about him and was asked by Macmillan to revise and expand Elements for commercial publication. It took off like a rocket (in 1959) and has sold millions.
This was most unfortunate for the field of English grammar, because both authors were grammatical incompetents. Strunk had very little analytical understanding of syntax, White even less. Certainly White was a fine writer, but he was not qualified as a grammarian. Despite the post-1957 explosion of theoretical linguistics, Elements settled in as the primary vehicle through which grammar was taught to college students and presented to the general public, and the subject was stuck in the doldrums for the rest of the 20th century.
Notice what I am objecting to is not the style advice in Elements, which might best be described the way The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy describes Earth: mostly harmless. Some of the recommendations are vapid, like “Be clear” (how could one disagree?). Some are tautologous, like “Do not explain too much.” (Explaining too much means explaining more than you should, so of course you shouldn’t.) Many are useless, like “Omit needless words.” (The students who know which words are needless don’t need the instruction.) Even so, it doesn’t hurt to lay such well-meant maxims before novice writers.
Even the truly silly advice, like “Do not inject opinion,” doesn’t really do harm. (No force on earth can prevent undergraduates from injecting opinion. And anyway, sometimes that is just what we want from them.) But despite the “Style” in the title, much in the book relates to grammar, and the advice on that topic does real damage. It is atrocious. Since today it provides just about all of the grammar instruction most Americans ever get, that is something of a tragedy. Following the platitudinous style recommendations of Elements would make your writing better if you knew how to follow them, but that is not true of the grammar stipulations.
“Use the active voice” is a typical section head. And the section in question opens with an attempt to discredit passive clauses that is either grammatically misguided or disingenuous.
We are told that the active clause “I will always remember my first trip to Boston” sounds much better than the corresponding passive “My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me.” It sure does. But that’s because a passive is always a stylistic train wreck when the subject refers to something newer and less established in the discourse than the agent (the noun phrase that follows “by”).
For me to report that I paid my bill by saying “The bill was paid by me,” with no stress on “me,” would sound inane. (I’m the utterer, and the utterer always counts as familiar and well established in the discourse.) But that is no argument against passives generally. “The bill was paid by an anonymous benefactor” sounds perfectly natural. Strunk and White are denigrating the passive by presenting an invented example of it deliberately designed to sound inept.
After this unpromising start, there is some fairly sensible style advice: The authors explicitly say they do not mean “that the writer should entirely discard the passive voice,” which is “frequently convenient and sometimes necessary.” They give good examples to show that the choice between active and passive may depend on the topic under discussion.
Sadly, writing tutors tend to ignore this moderation, and simply red-circle everything that looks like a passive, just as Microsoft Word’s grammar checker underlines every passive in wavy green to signal that you should try to get rid of it. That overinterpretation is part of the damage that Strunk and White have unintentionally done. But it is not what I am most concerned about here.
What concerns me is that the bias against the passive is being retailed by a pair of authors so grammatically clueless that they don’t know what is a passive construction and what isn’t. Of the four pairs of examples offered to show readers what to avoid and how to correct it, a staggering three out of the four are mistaken diagnoses. “At dawn the crowing of a rooster could be heard” is correctly identified as a passive clause, but the other three are all errors:
@Common Sense: I’m not sure Pullum believes what he’s writing. He only uses one passive clause (outside of an example) in the entire section you just quoted.
Didn’t want to quote the entire article (it’s long), but here’s where I cut off:
“At dawn the crowing of a rooster could be heard” is correctly identified as a passive clause, but the other three are all errors:
“There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground” has no sign of the passive in it anywhere.
“It was not long before she was very sorry that she had said what she had” also contains nothing that is even reminiscent of the passive construction.
“The reason that he left college was that his health became impaired” is presumably fingered as passive because of “impaired,” but that’s a mistake. It’s an adjective here. “Become” doesn’t allow a following passive clause. (Notice, for example, that “A new edition became issued by the publishers” is not grammatical.)
These examples can be found all over the Web in study guides for freshman composition classes. (Try a Google search on “great number of dead leaves lying.”) I have been told several times, by both students and linguistics-faculty members, about writing instructors who think every occurrence of “be” is to be condemned for being “passive.” No wonder, if Elements is their grammar bible. It is typical for college graduates today to be unable to distinguish active from passive clauses. They often equate the grammatical notion of being passive with the semantic one of not specifying the agent of an action. (They think “a bus exploded” is passive because it doesn’t say whether terrorists did it.)
The treatment of the passive is not an isolated slip. It is typical of Elements. The book’s toxic mix of purism, atavism, and personal eccentricity is not underpinned by a proper grounding in English grammar. It is often so misguided that the authors appear not to notice their own egregious flouting of its own rules. They can’t help it, because they don’t know how to identify what they condemn.
“Put statements in positive form,” they stipulate, in a section that seeks to prevent “not” from being used as “a means of evasion.”
“Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs,” they insist. (The motivation of this mysterious decree remains unclear to me.)
And then, in the very next sentence, comes a negative passive clause containing three adjectives: “The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.”
That’s actually not just three strikes, it’s four, because in addition to contravening “positive form” and “active voice” and “nouns and verbs,” it has a relative clause (“that can pull”) removed from what it belongs with (the adjective), which violates another edict: “Keep related words together.”
Yeah, Republicans, hunh? You forgot a few things: They’re traitors and they hate our troops, especially when they come home all banged up and in need of medical care.
So, Happy Memorial Day to all the Repukelickin’s out there today. May your burgers contain bacteria.
Odd that the Post article mentions the internet but not talk radio.
“The judge in the CIA leak case got threatening letters when he ordered Vice President Richard B. Cheney’s former chief of staff to prison.”
Where do they think the crazies heard about that?
Actually several sovereign citizens advocates in court recently have been black gang members according to a Washington Monthly story I read. So they are probably not republicans.