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

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Ann Coulter vs. Sarah Palin

I recently interviewed Chris Barron of GOProud, a gay conservative organization that believes that the Republican Party is welcoming of gay Americans. The issue was that some prominent conservative organizations were boycotting the largest conservative conference in the country because they allowed GOProud to attend. Seems very welcoming.

The interview was heated (you can see it here). I think it is absurd to vote Republican if you're gay. The party ran their whole campaign against gay Americans in 2004 and 2006 -- and bragged about it. The GOP just overwhelmingly voted against repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And there are only a million other examples of how Republicans are against every gay rights issue. Of course a gay person can be conservative on economic issues or on foreign policy, but to say you're going to vote for a party that hates you is beyond irrational.

Well, apparently Ann Coulter doesn't agree. She watched the interview, then tweeted:

Though I'm flattered that Ann thought it was a great video, there seems to be another issue here. Coulter called me a "retarded person." Now, I am not the least bit bothered by that. In fact, I am greatly amused at Coulter challenging anyone else's intelligence or cognitive abilities. But I do know someone who should be steaming mad about this -- Sarah Palin.

I thought Sarah Palin had banned the R-word. Palin called for Rahm Emaunel to be fired when he used that word and added:

Just as we'd be appalled if any public figure of Rahm's stature ever used the "N-word" or other such inappropriate language, Rahm's slur on all God's children with cognitive and developmental disabilities -- and the people who love them -- is unacceptable, and it's heartbreaking.

Does that mean Sarah Palin also thinks Ann Coulter should be fired? Does Ann Coulter have a job she can be fired from? What does Ann Coulter do with her life? Come to think of it, what does Sarah Palin do? More importantly, how will these ladies settle this?

Does Sarah Palin think that the word is less "unacceptable" or "heartbreaking" when a Republican uses it? Or is she just as outraged by Coulter as she was by Emanuel? I mean, Sarah Palin wouldn't be enough of hypocrite to attack a Democrat over the word but not a Republican, right? I look forward to her response.

Click Here To Watch My Response to Ann Coulter's Tweet.

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Ann Coulter vs. Sarah Palin

I recently interviewed Chris Barron of GOProud, a gay conservative organization that believes that the Republican Party is welcoming of gay Americans. The issue was that some prominent conservative organizations were boycotting the largest conservative conference in the country because they allowed GOProud to attend. Seems very welcoming.

The interview was heated (you can see it here). I think it is absurd to vote Republican if you're gay. The party ran their whole campaign against gay Americans in 2004 and 2006 -- and bragged about it. The GOP just overwhelmingly voted against repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And there are only a million other examples of how Republicans are against every gay rights issue. Of course a gay person can be conservative on economic issues or on foreign policy, but to say you're going to vote for a party that hates you is beyond irrational.

Well, apparently Ann Coulter doesn't agree. She watched the interview, then tweeted:

Though I'm flattered that Ann thought it was a great video, there seems to be another issue here. Coulter called me a "retarded person." Now, I am not the least bit bothered by that. In fact, I am greatly amused at Coulter challenging anyone else's intelligence or cognitive abilities. But I do know someone who should be steaming mad about this -- Sarah Palin.

I thought Sarah Palin had banned the R-word. Palin called for Rahm Emaunel to be fired when he used that word and added:

Just as we'd be appalled if any public figure of Rahm's stature ever used the "N-word" or other such inappropriate language, Rahm's slur on all God's children with cognitive and developmental disabilities -- and the people who love them -- is unacceptable, and it's heartbreaking.

Does that mean Sarah Palin also thinks Ann Coulter should be fired? Does Ann Coulter have a job she can be fired from? What does Ann Coulter do with her life? Come to think of it, what does Sarah Palin do? More importantly, how will these ladies settle this?

Does Sarah Palin think that the word is less "unacceptable" or "heartbreaking" when a Republican uses it? Or is she just as outraged by Coulter as she was by Emanuel? I mean, Sarah Palin wouldn't be enough of hypocrite to attack a Democrat over the word but not a Republican, right? I look forward to her response.

Click Here To Watch My Response to Ann Coulter's Tweet.

Watch The Young Turks Here

Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheYoungTurks
"Like" The Young Turks on Facebook: www.facebook.com/tytnation

 

Weekly Pulse: End-of-Life Counseling Returns, But Death Panels Still Nonsense

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

A proposed program to cover counseling sessions for seniors on end-of-life care has risen from the ashes of health care reform and found a new life in Medicare regulations, Jason Hancock of the American Independent reports.

In August, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin started a rumor via her Facebook page that the the Obama administration was backing “death panels” that would vote on whether the elderly and infirm had a right to live. In reality, the goal was to have Medicare reimburse doctors for teaching patients how to set up their own advance directives that reflect their wishes on end-of-life care.

Patients can use their advance directives to stipulate their wishes for treatment in the event that they are too sick to make decisions for themselves. They can also use those directives to demand the most aggressive lifesaving interventions.

Waste not, want not

Though end-of-life counseling was ultimately gutted from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the legislation will eventually ensure health coverage for 32 million more Americans. However, Joanne Kenen in The American Prospect argues it will do comparatively less to curb the high costs of health care. The architects of the ACA had an opportunity to include serious cost-containment measures like a robust public health insurance option to compete with private insurers, but they declined to do so.

Kenen argues that the government should more aggressively target waste within the health care delivery system, especially Medicare and Medicaid. Unchecked and rising health care costs through Medicare and Medicaid are a significantly greater driver of the deficit than Social Security or discretionary spending:

“The waste is enormous,” says Harvard health care economist David Cutler. “You can easily convince yourself that there is 40 to 50 percent to be saved.” Squeezing out every single bit of that inefficient or unnecessary care may not be realistic. But it also isn’t necessary; eliminating even a small fraction of the current waste each year over the next decade would make a huge difference, he added. Health care would finally start acting like “a normal industry.” Productivity would grow, in the one area of the economy where it has not, and with productivity gains, prices could be expected to fall.

The new end-of-life counseling program will help reduce waste in the system, not by pressuring people to forgo treatments they want, but by giving them the tools to refuse treatments they don’t want.

Teen births down, but why?

The teen birth rate has dropped again, according to the latest CDC statistics. Births to women under the age of 20 declined by 6% in 2009 compared to 2008. One hypothesis is that the reduction is an unexpected consequence of the recession, an argument we pointed to in last week’s edition of the Pulse. John Tomasic of the Colorado Independent is skeptical of the recession hypothesis. He writes:

Emily Bridges, director of public information services at Advocates for Youth, agrees with other observers in pointing out that teens aren’t likely to include national economics as a significant factor in pondering whether or not to have unprotected sex. Peer pressure, badly mixed booze, general awkwardness, for example, are much more likely than the jobless recovery to play on the minds of horny high schoolers.

Some states with weak economies actually saw a rise in teen birth rates, Tomasic notes. However, this year’s sharp downturn in teen births parallels a drop in fertility for U.S. women of all ages, which seems best explained by economic uncertainty.

It’s true that prospective teen moms are less likely to have jobs in the first place, and so a bad job market might be less likely to sway their decisions. However, young women who aren’t working are unlikely to have significant resources of their own to draw on, which means that they are heavily dependent upon others for support. If their families and partners are already struggling to make ends meet, then the prospect of another mouth to feed may seem even less appealing than usual.

Abortion is the elephant in the room in this discussion. The CDC numbers only count live births. Logically, fewer live births must be the result of fewer conceptions and/or more terminations. Some skeptics doubt that economic factors have much to do with teens’ decisions about contraception. However, it seems plausible that decisions about abortion would be heavily influenced by the economic health of the whole extended family.

Last year’s decrease was notably sharp, but teen birth rates have been declining steadily for the last 20 years. The Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based non-profit that specializes in research on reproductive choice and health, suggests that successive generations of teens are simply getting savvier about contraception. Births to mothers between the ages of 15 and 17 are down 48% from 1991 levels, and births to mothers ages 18 to 19 are down 30%.

Stupid drug dealer tricks

Martha Rosenberg of AlterNet describes 15 classic dirty tricks deployed by Big Pharma to push drugs. These include phony grassroots patient groups organized by the drug companies to lobby for approval of dubious remedies. Another favorite money-making strategy is to overcharge Medicare and Medicaid. Pharmaceutical companies have paid nearly $15 billion in wrongdoing settlements related to Medicare and Medicaid chicanery over the last five years.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Thanks for Giving it The Old College Try PolitiFacts

If there’s one year-end task that’s most difficult, it must be compiling the many Most of the Year, Best of the Year, Stupidest of the Year lists. Let’s face it, the modern world is a target-rich environment of cheese. Americans – especially those whom Fox News makes stupid – are addicted to these things. It gives everyone the chance to voice the opinion that whoever picked the list is a dead-wrong ass cake and there’s nothing Americans like more than eating their ass cake and having it too.

BTW, Mark Zuckerman as Time’s Man of the Year? Puhleeze! Either of the LoJoHos – LiLo or ScarJo -  would be better choices. Then again, Zuckerman would easily win a contest against Kim Kardashian as Biggest Ass of the Year so everything evens out.

But the hardest of the hard, (Actually, that could be a spectacular list too…may I nominate Ron Jeremy?) is bipartisan PolitiFact’s choice of Lie of the Year. Damn! These guys are brave. The balls of a Wall Street bull, or at least the balls of a Wall Street CEO! As outrageous as Tony Hayward equipped with a microphone.

So without further ado – drum roll please – PolitiFact’s 2010′s Lie of the Year is… A government takeover of health care!

(Sound of crickets…)

A government takeover of health care? Of all the stupid, idiotic, patently false utterances of 2000-fricking-10, that was the best you could come up with? For Chrissakes, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a lie this year. There was an election dammit! There wasn’t an election ad during the entire race that didn’t kill a hard-on with its lies.

Still, the PolitiFact’s survey did speak a truth. It recognized that in a lying-ass bumper crop of a lying year there were clear winners and those clear winners where The Party Couldn’t Talk Straight™.

It’s not that Democrats didn’t spout their own share of truthiness and bald face lies, they just used a little more finesse – sort of putting a little English on the 8-ball to grab defeat from the jaws of victory. When Republicans smacked Dems in the face with the Putrid Mackerel of Lying Bay™, the Democrats most often just genuflected and said, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

Ten minutes later Fox News would cut in with breaking news. “Hey Brian. Republican Minority God, Mitch McConnell, has just announced that Democrats tried to coerce him into a sexually deviant behavior called, um, I’m not sure how to pronounce the word…bipartisanship – I’ll just use gay for short so as not to confuse our viewers. He said he only escaped by fighting off the gang of socialist zombies by beating him with his new $1500 wingtip shoes. After the break, we’ll go to Fox and Friends to report more details and you’ll decide they are the God’s honest truth. Back to you Gretchen!”

PolitiFacts, thanks for giving it the old college try.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

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