Bloodshed in Arizona turns spotlight on political landscape of anger and hate

From the Restore Fairness blog-

As Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona battles for her life after an assassination attempt, the nation is trying to grapple with the violent tragedy that took the lives of 6 and wounded 14 people on Saturday morning, casting a dark shadow on the start of this year. On the morning of January 8th, while U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was meeting with constituents at a ‘Congress on Your Corner’ event at a local shopping center in Tuscon, a gunman opened fire on the gathering. Within seconds, Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the head at point blank range, along with 19 others including Christina Green, a 9-year old girl, Phyllis Schneck, a grandmother from New Jersey and 76-year old Dorwan Stoddard, who lived a mile from the grocery store.

A suspect was apprehended at the scene after two men pinned him to the ground and waited for the police to arrive. The suspect, 22-year old Jared Lee Loughner, has been charged with five federal counts on Sunday, including the attempted assassination of a Member of Congress, and the killing and attempted killings of four other government employees including John M. Roll, the chief federal judge in Arizona, who was killed, Gabriel Zimmerman, a Congressional aide, who was also killed, and Pamela Simon and Ron Barber, Congressional aides who were wounded. Mr. Loughner could face the death penalty if convicted.

Investigators found evidence at Jared Loughner’s residence in Southern Arizona to show that he had planned the attack on Gabrielle Giffords, including an envelope on which the words “I planned ahead,” “My assassination” and “Giffords” were written. In addition to a website linked to his name which contains anti-government writings, Mr. Loughner’s motives for committing the crime remain unclear. In spite of indications that Mr. Loughner is mentally ill, the tragic incident has quickly focused attention on the degree to which a political climate increasingly characterized by hate, fear and vitriolic rhetoric might be complicit in leading to a tragedy of this nature.

In a New York Times editorial written after the Arizona shootings, Paul Krugman refers to an internal report brought out by the Department of Homeland Security in April 2009 that warned of the violence that could accompany the growth of extremist rhetoric that was apparent in the political landscape. The last few years have also seen a growth in the numbers of threats against government officials. In 2010, following the health-care overhaul, Capitol Security officials had said that threats of violence against Congress officials, including death threats, harassment and vandalism, had tripled from the previous year. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a strong and vocal supporter of heath-care reform had her district office door smashed with a bullet following the health-care vote. Judge John Roll, who was killed on Saturday, had received thousands of threatening messages and phone calls after he had allowed undocumented immigrants to proceed with a case in which a rancher had assaulted 16 Mexicans who had crossed through his land.

While it would be misguided to directly attribute the Loughner’s violent actions to the surge of inflammatory language characterizing politics and media, it is important to understand that there are real consequences to framing political discourse through violent rhetoric. The extent to which hateful and angry rhetoric has made its way into mainstream politics was evident in 2010, during the debate around Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant law, SB1070, and during the 2010 mid-term elections, where campaign ads openly promoted hate and divisive sentiments. In March 2010, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin announced a target list of Congressional candidates to be defeated in the 2010 midterm election. Launched through her personal profile on Facebook, Palin’s “Don’t get Demoralized. Get Organized. Take Back the 20” campaign was symbolized by a map of the country which had crosshairs over the districts represented by candidates that she wanted defeated. Ms. Giffords, who was among the candidates marked on this map, had expressed her concern about it at the time-

We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list. But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that.

At a press conference about the shootings on Saturday, Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik spoke about the “vitriol” that characterized political discourse. Saying that it was time for the country to do a little “soul-searching” he said-

The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.

There is never an explanation for senseless acts of violence such as this that take the lives of innocent people. While Saturday’s shooting can be seen as an isolated action of a mentally ill individual, it can also be seen as emblematic of a political landscape that is angry, divisive, intolerant and eliminationist. Can this tragic incident become the pivotal turning point towards a more humane and peaceful political discourse?

Photo courtesy of examiner.com

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

 

 

The Fight That Never Was

Weakened by the election, Obama would be likely to bear most of the blame as opponents accused him of intransigence and arrogance. Republicans are always happy to run campaigns based on tax cuts, and this impasse might set up 2012 nicely for them. - Larry J. Sabato

Now that the President has caved on the tax-cuts the question progressives must ask is this, “If not this issue, then what issue is this President willing to fight for?” This was supposed to be his signature issue. The one issue that he claimed was a “principle”. If this was a principled fight then I would hate to see an issue he didn’t care about. This issue was a no-brainer for the Dems. If you can’t win a fight against tax-cuts for people who have already made out like bandits for the last 10 years by borrowing from China to finance them, then what fight can you win?

I think this White House has underestimated the wrath of a scorned base. I think what this White House and President failed to realize is that while he is the President of those who didn’t vote for him, he owed it to those who did vote for him to stand up for the issues they elected him to stand up for. Those who did not vote for him will never vote for him. Does he think that if he passed all of the Republican agenda that they would not run a challenger against him in 2012? The progressives have for the last two years been waiting for this White House to fight for something. It began with the stimulus package that was too small and loaded with concessions to the wing-nuts and still did not get a single wing-nut vote. Then we had health-care reform where everything was bargained away before the negotiations even begun and progressives thought at least they would fight for the public option which didn’t happen. And of course we had financial reform and again no fight.

We haven’t even gotten to cap & trade, DADT, Dream Act, or Afghanistan and the White House continued to tell the base either this was not an important issue or that they got the best they could get. Here is where I get lost. The wing-nuts used intransigence and arrogance to not only block the Democratic agenda, but also rode it to victory at the polls but we are now expected to believe that on a Democrat it wouldn’t work? There is something sinister going on here folks. If this President won’t fight for the middle-class or progressive issues then what President will? If after this any progressive believes that the Democratic Party will fight for them I don’t know what it will take to wake them up. This game is rigged and if progressives can’t read the writing on the wall then God help them. These folks are lying, whether it is the blue dogs, talking heads, or Ivy-League economists there would have been no Armageddon by letting these tax-cuts expire. This nonsense about a second recession, the largest tax increase will hit the lower tax rates, or a massive stock market sell-off is a smokescreen designed to cover the massive give-away to the wealthy.

After listening to the President make his concession speech I was struck by how he looked like a defeated man. This White House cannot see that now the wing-nuts smell blood in the water and any chance for future compromise on any issue is finished. If you know that this is the only shot at compromise for your complete agenda then I would recommend that you get more than 13 months of unemployment benefits and the small tax-cuts from the stimulus package. What the President has done is kick the can down the road again which he said he would not do. In two years we will have this same fight again and if you can’t win a fight with 2/3 of the American people behind you then when can you win a fight? I thought we had this fight in 2008 with the election and we won or did we? From where I sit the wing-nuts must have won the election because they have been setting the agenda as if they had.

This President doesn’t seem to have the spirit for conflict and would rather be seen as more conciliatory than as a fighter. Maybe it is his fear of being seen or referred to as an “angry black man”, but whatever it is he is in danger of becoming a lame-duck President. This President cannot win without his base and right now he doesn’t have his base and I don’t know if he can get them back. This isn’t about the “professional left” this is about real voters feeling betrayed by this President. Sometimes you have to fight even if the odds are that you may lose. This is what is known as principles, you fight for them. If this White House was not willing to go the distance they probably shouldn’t have left Chicago. It’s like Martin Sheen said in Apocalypse Now, “If you are not going to get off the boat you shouldn’t go up the river.”

What this compromise has demonstrated is that these tax-cuts will now become permanent and it is just a matter of time. At a time when these tax-cuts should have been allowed to expire and replaced by more targeted ones we get this. The reason these awful tax-cuts will become permanent is that there will never be a better time to let them expire. If now was not the time to let them expire, then there will never be a time to let them expire. We are borrowing money from a foreign country to pay for tax-cuts for the wealthiest people in this country. What about this makes any sense? Does anyone really believe that if the economy turns around these greedy people are going to just voluntarily give up their tax-cuts? How is giving the wing-nuts two years of tax-cuts and prolonging the estate tax instead of making them permanent a victory?

Bear in mind that Republicans want to make those tax cuts permanent. They might agree to a two- or three-year extension — but only because they believe that this would set up the conditions for a permanent extension later. And they may well be right: if tax-cut blackmail works now, why shouldn’t it work again later? - Paul Krugman

The Disputed Truth

David Brooks Wouldn't Mind a Single-Payer System

Maybe he has said this in the past but if so, I've missed it. His comments come around the two minute mark right after Paul Krugman notes all the flaws in the bill.

It's somewhat exasperating for me because I think I've made the argument that spending 17 percent of our GDP on healthcare is unsustainable and that most other advanced industrial nations that make up the OECD are spending on average around 10 percent of their GDP achieving universal coverage and obtaining better results in terms of socio-economic metrics such as life expectancy, infant mortality etc. So while it is refreshing to hear David Brooks admit that our current system is untenable, why didn't he write on the merits of a single payer system considering he has a national podium at the New York Times? And he's right, a single payer system would control costs and I am not convinced that this bill will accomplish that.

Paul Krugman has some thoughts on polling at the end that are also illuminating.

Update [2009-12-28 3:40:1 by Charles Lemos]: After a little research, I found this exchange between Gail Collins and David Brooks in the New York Times back on July 29, 2009 discussing the question "What's Wrong with the Single-Payer?"

I’m not crazy about the public plan. I dislike the idea of the government competing in a marketplace it regulates. I think the temptation to subsidize the public entity will be overwhelming. But I’m not vociferously against it either. That’s because:

A.) I’m not that thrilled with the insurance companies.

B.) I think it will save money, but not that much (the C.B.O. agrees).

C.) (!) I think it will produce small administrative efficiencies.

Democratic politicians throw around statistics claiming that Medicare has much, much lower administrative costs than private insurers. I’ve been told by various economists that this claim is three-quarters trickery. It’s a lot cheaper to administer a targeted population that uses a lot of care than it is to administer a large population that uses little care per capita. Plus you can save a lot of administrative costs if you don’t actually regulate treatments that much.

There's more...

Copenhagen Begins

The long-awaited Copenhagen climate conference began today. The conference doesn't matter quite as much as was initially anticipated, given the fact that it is now dedicated to producing a politically-binding rather than legally-binding agreement. Nevertheless, it's still an important first step in the long process towards a global reduction in unhealthy greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama's personal attendance next week is one sign of the conference's importance. This post will give a brief recap of the first day's speeches and ceremony, quote columns and speeches from the Pope, James Hansen, and Paul Krugman, and provide some links responding to the CRU e-mail "scandal" that many conservatives are using to try and discredit the conference.

To help readers follow the conference, 11 major news organizations, including the AP, have banded together to form the "Climate Pool" on Facebook. The Columbia Journalism Review, generally a fierce media critic, is fairly enthusiastic about the project. As for the conference itself, from the New York Times's article on day one, things are off to an "impassioned" start:

While the critical action will unfold much later in the process, when higher-level ministers and, ultimately, heads of state arrive, the opening day of the conference was an opportunity for the United Nations to nurture a sense of mission and for delegates to begin staking out their positions.

Among the most difficult hurdles, many participants acknowledged throughout the day, are achieving adequate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions -- particularly from big polluters like the United States and China... Several countries announced new emissions goals in the days leading up to the meeting, including China, Brazil, the United States, India and South Africa -- although many participants have noted that the targets are far too low to keep rising temperatures in check in coming decades...

Still, speakers at the conference's opening plenary session -- which began with a video appeal from children across the world to save them from what looked like an apocalyptic future of deserts and rising seas -- were clearly aiming to spur negotiators forward...

Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, spoke before delegates of the urgent need for action. And, alluding to a recent controversy over e-mail messages between scientists hacked from a university computer server, he had pointed remarks for those who "find it difficult to accept" climate change science.

In preparation for the conference, virtually everyone who matters released some sort of statement over the past few days. The AP says that developments over the past week show that "the possibility of an agreement may be improving". Nobel laureate Paul Krugman seems to agree in today's column, arguing that signs from China and India are encouraging and that the record on acid rain is proof that cap-and-trade will work. He also adds that "an agreement in Copenhagen would probably help the economy recover." James Hansen, a leading climate scientist and head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, isn't so bullish about cap-and-trade, also writing in today's New York Times that Washington and Copenhagen should abandon cap-and-trade in favor of "fee-and-dividend."

Because cap and trade is enforced through the selling and trading of permits, it actually perpetuates the pollution it is supposed to eliminate. If every polluter's emissions fell below the incrementally lowered cap, then the price of pollution credits would collapse and the economic rationale to keep reducing pollution would disappear....

There is a better alternative, one that would be more efficient and less costly than cap and trade: "fee and dividend." Under this approach, a gradually rising carbon fee would be collected at the mine or port of entry for each fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas). The fee would be uniform, a certain number of dollars per ton of carbon dioxide in the fuel. The public would not directly pay any fee, but the price of goods would rise in proportion to how much carbon-emitting fuel is used in their production.

Below the fold, a statement from the Pope and some links responding to the vapid criticism of the East Anglia CRU e-mails and the lie that they discredit climate science.

There's more...

Getting Out of the Gutter.

(cross-posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

Amidst a climate of war, global warming, skyrocketing deficits, whopping trade imbalances, gas gouging, corporate corruption, a burst housing market bubble, illegal government spying, rampant corruption, torture, war atrocities, racism, marriage inequality a crumbling infrastructure, Bin Laden, failing schools, loss of competitiveness, war profiteering, a shrinking middle class, health care crisis and more... some Republicans have more than lost their way. They have gone so far astray that it may too late to turn back.

There's more...

Diaries

Advertise Blogads