failure to discriminate

In case anyone has forgotten, there are still people out of work

Tucson.  I hope this is the last day we beat this dead horse.

In the past week, I have stayed away from TV and radio and most blog sites.  At first it was because I was tied up with something else that needed my full attention.  But as a the week wore on, I deliberately stayed away and only read an occasional piece in the NYTimes regarding the progress of Giffords’ recovery.  And here is the result of my deliberate isolation from the media frenzy:

  • We will probably never know the true extent of the poisonous atmosphere of Arizona politics on the shooter’s state of mind.
  • Regardless of what anyone says to the contrary, the poisonous atmosphere of Arizona politics and general right wing media craziness can not be ruled out as a contributing factor.  The little I know about the shooter’s word salad indicates that *something* had seeped in.
  • Gabrielle Giffords is a politician and she is a Democrat.  To suggest that politics had NOTHING to do with it is absurd.
  • Regardless of whether or not the infamous Palin map had anything at all to do with the shooting, vandalism, red faced furious constituents getting in Giffords’ face during meetups or the general fear of being labeled a liberal or a Democrat in Arizona, the fact that the map was connected with her website as part of a campaign to “target” supporters of the healthcare reform bill is unbecoming and irresponsible for any politician on either side of the aisle.  There is no excuse for that map.  Oh, I can see a lot of people twisting themselves into pretzels trying to come up with one but give it up already.  Have some standards.
  • I don’t care if the left is going nuts on TV.  I don’t watch TV news specifically because there’s too much histrionics.  I don’t want my emotions to be manipulated.  I advise readers here to turn the gasbags off.
  • I’ve been critical of the way Obama’s campaign organization treated half his party during the 2008 campaign.  I hated the way the media and DNC went along with it.  It wasn’t enough that I was a liberal.  No, I had to be called old, uneducated, a racist and then treated as if my vote didn’t count because I was a woman and I’d get with the program in the end anyway.  His campaign tactics were an indication of the way he was to govern.  He doesn’t care what voters really think and he feels comfortable ignoring us.  That’s why I will NEVER vote for Barack Obama.  I advise others to reject him as well.  If you feel you have no other option, you don’t have a very high opinion of yourself.
  • Sarah Palin doesn’t need our protection or support.  She made that perfectly clear in her video.  She has thrown her lot in with Glenn Beck.  GLENN BECK, people.  That’s who she gets her spiritual and  political advice from these days.  In case some of you have forgotten, it was Glenn and Rush and the whole Fox News establishment who has been pounding on liberals for the past 20 years to make sure we are afraid to say what we believe.  The right is going to continue to pound on us because that is what they do.  They hate us and want to make sure we don’t ever have a voice.  I’m not going to hand Sarah a mallet.  She is not our friend.  She is what she is.  That doesn’t make her a monster.

If the left wants to make it worse for itself, there’s not a whole lot I can do to stop it.  I can’t control other people’s behavior, I can only control my own.  I’m not joining on either bandwagon.  I’ve had enough.  I’m sick of being treated like an outcast by both parties.

If the right is so determined to exonerate Palin or the right wing media from the vitriol, they owe it to the rest of us to present evidence and a detailed study proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that their over the top, angry, irrational demonization of liberalism is not now or ever has been responsible for the intimidation of a group they have been trained to hate.  Otherwise, I’m going to look at the fact that the right has cornered the media market in many states, including Arizona, and conclude that the hatred of liberals is correlated to that market share.

I’ve never seen so much denial in my life.  The right was happy as all get out to stomp all over us before this shooting.  If it really had nothing to do with it, and I’m not saying it did, why not just admit that it was fun while it lasted?  Sarah and Glenn aren’t apologizing.  Take credit for the poison.  You deserve it!

But if you’re tired of it, like I am, turn off the TV and the radio.  Step away from the fight.  If you are an FDR type Democrat in Exile like me, this doesn’t have anything to do with you anyway.  It’s just two anachronistic, legacy parties going at each other.  It has very little to do with how people are living today.  It won’t get more people employed, fix our crumbling infrastructure, punish the bankers or end a war.  It is a major distraction.

Enough.

Tuesday: Guns for everyone (and bullets for every gun) edition

As realists we know that here in the United States we aren’t ever going to outlaw private ownership of guns. But, you might (realistically) think that this Tuesday morning — nearly 3 days after the terrible shooting in Tucson — there would be a steady stream of articles calling for more serious regulation of the guns in this country.

There isn’t. Apparently Gun Control is off the table.


With my background in programming and maintaining databases I should have known better … but I didn’t. Even with all my knowledge, I thought there was something almost automatic about that database of people who shouldn’t be able to buy guns.

I was totally wrong:

After Tucson: Why Are the Mentally Ill Still Bearing Arms?

As far back as the Gun Control Act of 1968, there have been federal laws against selling weapons to mentally ill individuals. But the Virginia Tech tragedy in 2007, in which the shooter Cho Seung-Hui was able to pass two federal gun background checks even after a state court ruled that he was dangerously mentally ill, highlighted the need for better record-keeping and interagency communication to enforce those laws. (More than 30 people died in the incident.) Saying that unstable individuals are disqualified from buying firearms is meaningless if the national background-check system, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), has no record of their illness. That’s why the Brady organization was proud to announce on Friday, just a day before the Tucson shootings, that the number of records of mental illness in the NICS database had more than doubled since Virginia Tech, to more than 1 million records.
. . .
But there’s a problem with that: there should be more than 2 million records in that database, if all the states cooperated fully. According to the Brady organization’s records, Arizona was not even the worst offender — at least the state ramped up its reporting somewhat in the wake of Virginia Tech. But still, Arizona’s own estimate is that the state has 121,700 records of disqualifying mental illness that should go into the NICS database. From the beginning of 2008 to October 2010, however, it submitted only 4,465 records. Worse than Arizona were states like Louisiana, which submitted only one record during that time frame, and Nebraska and Pennsylvania, which didn’t submit any.


I just don’t get this.  We’re willing – sometimes eager – to regulate all sorts of things (drugs, speech, activities) but, don’t even think about controlling guns:

Support for Gun Control Has Dropped in Recent Years

In the wake of Saturday’s shooting in Arizona, there are likely to be new polls out this week measuring the public’s support for stricter gun control laws. Until they surface, it is worth noting that support for stricter gun control has significantly dropped over the last couple of decades, and there is little evidence to suggest that major gun crimes change opinions on the issue.
. . .
The number supporting stricter laws has been gradually declining over the last 20 years. When Gallup first asked the question in 1990, 78 percent favored stricter laws. That was down to 60 percent in 1999, 54 percent in 2004 and 44 percent in 2009 and 2010.

The 1999 Columbine shootings and 2007 Virginia Tech shootings appear to have had little, if any, effect on these views.

The scary thing?  Almost half of us don’t support the national ban on assault weapons!!

There is, however, substantially more support for a ban on assault weapons and semiautomatic firearms, like the one used in Saturday’s shootings. In a 2009 Times/CBS News poll, 54 percent of Americans, including about half of respondents who have a gun in their home, said they favored a nationwide assault weapons ban.


A Right to Bear Glocks?

If Loughner had gone to the Safeway carrying a regular pistol, the kind most Americans think of when they think of the right to bear arms, Giffords would probably still have been shot and we would still be having that conversation about whether it was a sane idea to put her Congressional district in the cross hairs of a rifle on the Internet.

But we might not have lost a federal judge, a 76-year-old church volunteer, two elderly women, Giffords’s 30-year-old constituent services director and a 9-year-old girl who had recently been elected to the student council at her school and went to the event because she wanted to see how democracy worked.

Loughner’s gun, a 9-millimeter Glock, is extremely easy to fire over and over, and it can carry a 30-bullet clip. It is “not suited for hunting or personal protection,” said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign. “What it’s good for is killing and injuring a lot of people quickly.”


Do you ever read news stories and see a little movie as you read it?  Since reading this, I keep imagining the scene where Arizona Legislators debated and passed the legislation allowing guns in bars:

In Tucson, Guns Have a Broad Constituency

Arizona’s gun laws stand out as among the most permissive in the country. Last year, Arizona became only the third state that does not require a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The state also enacted another measure that allowed workers to take their guns to work, even if their workplaces banned firearms, as long as they kept them in their locked vehicles.

In 2009, a law went into effect allowing people with concealed-weapons permits to take their guns into restaurants and bars.


And I’ll close today’s list with these thoughts from Bob Herbert:

A Flood Tide of Murder

Excluding the people killed in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 150,000 Americans have been murdered since the beginning of the 21st century. This endlessly proliferating parade of death, which does not spare women or children, ought to make our knees go weak. But we never even notice most of the killings. Homicide is white noise in this society.

The overwhelming majority of the people who claim to be so outraged by last weekend’s shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others — six of them fatally — will take absolutely no steps, none whatsoever, to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. And similar tragedies are coming as surely as the sun makes its daily appearance over the eastern horizon because this is an American ritual: the mowing down of the innocents.

WWHD?

I should have written a post about this earlier because I really don’t like the meme “politicizing a tragedy” and you won’t hear me using it. The reason you won’t hear me using it is because words like “politicizing” are cooked up by operatives at the speed of light and are used to short circuit the thought process. They provide a sort of cheap grace as a substitute for thinking the problem out. Same for words like corporatist and triangulate. But that subject deserves it’s own post and is not the subject of this one

I’m going to try to summarize some of the thoughts I had in myiq’s thread from yesterday. My wifi connection in this hotel isn’t the best, I’m typing on an ipad in a WordPress app and I’ve already lost one post on the subject.

There seem to be tow major camps regarding this tragedy: Sarah Palin is a monster and the Tea Partiers must be blamed. Or, Sarah Palin is the scapegoat and her picture had nothing to do with this tragic incident.

I prefer the third way. In this respect, I must dissent from myiq. On this site, we allow dissent and that is significant because dissent is something that neither party holds as a cherished right.

In the past 18 years, starting with the advent of Rush Limbaugh, we saw a ratcheting up of right wing extremism. Notably in Rush’s case, he started to push the envelope as to what was considered socially acceptable norms of behavior. By this, I don’t mean to say that he shouldn’t have the right to believe what he believes or proclaim any dumb ass right wing policy he wants. That’s his choice. And if he wants to throw in a few expletive deleteds for emphasis, go for it. I do the same all the time. No, what I’m referring to is the subtle and not so subtle breakdown of the barriers we out up between our darkest inner thoughts and our tongues. Take for instance the word “feminazi” for example. There are other examples, some of which are documented in Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot written by none other than my personal favorite, Al Franken.

We put up barriers to these inner thoughts in the 60s and 70s because society thought it was wrong to treat African Americans unfairly and it was wrong to treat women like second class citizens and it was wrong to deprive hippies of the right to grow up to be liberals if that’s what they wanted. The right called it political correctness and while it’s true that some people take the concept too far, it is NOT true that these new societal norms were unnecessary. Seriously, does anyone want to go back to the days of segregation or sexual harassment or, more relevantly now, the days of laissez faire capitalism where the average American was vulnerable to the dips and swings of the market without any stability or insurance against risk? No. Most people don’t.

But there are some segments of society that do want to go back or don’t see what the big deal is if they step on some heads to get to the top. The right wing tapped into that sentiment. They did it by breaking down the barriers and by making it acceptable to unleash that hatred of groups we had decided to protect and assist so they could fully participate in the American dream. They did it by making Rush popular, by buying up radio stations and by giving him a pass when he said indiscreet, intemperate and socially unacceptable things. It became ok to hate these groups again.

I wouldn’t say that violates any constitutional amendments. It just violates our sense of who we are as a nation and it undermines the cohesiveness that so many civil rights activists and union workers fought for over many decades. What distresses me most is that so many people, including some people in my own family, bought into it. It distresses me because we weren’t raised that way.

So, Rush may not have been the first but he was certainly the most effective at spreading the right wing vitriol. By the way, vitriol is an anachronistic word for a certain form of sulfuric acid that is particularly corrosive and dangerous. So, yeah, vitriol is an appropriate word. Vitriol corrodes. It’s not the same thing as violating civility, although it is connected. Incivility is necessary at times to express dissent. Vitriol corrodes the barriers we set up between expressing our darkest thoughts and acting on those thoughts. For example, if you were brought up to hate homosexuals, well, I feel sorry for you but I’m not going to tell you to stop believing it. What I will tell you to do is behave in a manner of good citizenship and do no violate the mental or physical integrity of a gay person and to respect the laws we set up that guarantee everyone’s civil rights. Keep your hatred to yourself.

Rush did away with all that. Now, suddenly, those throwbacks to a different era had a group to belong to. Those angry white men who failed to evolve were able to form a cohesive unit to turn back all the wrongs they think were done to them when they were forced to share the pie that they once had all to themselves. You can almost hear the far right wing Republicans cackling with joy, “Exxxxcellent!”

And so it went. The 90s were a nightmare as the right wingers continued to solidify their hold on the media, permeating virtually every media outlet and the virtual world itself. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that we saw the liberals, late to the party, take to the internet and try to push back. Some of them, particularly in 2008, attempted to use Limbaugh-esque tactics to suppress their own base. That’s because they discovered that ditching your principles to energize your base works and drives up ad revenue. It also leads to electing the least prepared and least liberal president the country has ever known during a period of time when preparation and liberal economic policies were desperately needed. But I digress.

So, the right wing has been perfecting their method for nearly two decades. What used to be outrageous and offensive, is now merely background noise. Women are uppity, they don’t spend enough time with their kids, they want abortions so they can go to the prom. Gays are recruiting young boys and they threaten the institution of marriage and if they allow gay marriage, married men will abandon their wives to dress in drag and march with their boyfriend(s) in gay pride parades. Muslims are evil. Christians, but only fundamentalist Christians, are good. Liberals want to steal your money. They will make out country vulnerable to attack. Health care reform is socialized medicine.

Finally, we have come to this point in time where if you are a liberal, you’re barely fit to live. You’re not really human. You’re no better than a parasite, a cockroach, a backstabber. Most liberals can’t even refer to themselves as liberals.

And it is into this environment that Sarah Palin steps as the champion of a new set of people. A group that even the right wing Republicans are afraid of. They resemble the John Burch Society and the old style, inside the beltway, refined Republicans don’t really approve. Funny, when Palin ran for VP in 2008, she gave little indication that she would take so well to the Glenn Beck style right wingery. I was surprised and dismayed, but the money must be good and why shouldn’t a conservative feminist cash in as well as the boys?

She got a little enthusiastic. She joined in with gusto. She turned her love of firearms and hunting into an asset. She put up a very thoughtless picture that, IMHO, demonstrated a cavalier and careless disregard for the personal safety of those people who she happened to disagree with politically and some of those people had liberal tendencies. Her audience doesn’t think it’s such a big deal. Heck, they HATE liberals with a white hot passion.

But what has happened to Gabrielle Giffords, while probably having nothing to do with Palin’s picture and more likely caused by the actions of a psychotic individual, was preceeded by death threats, vandalism and on more than one occasion people showing up to her rallies with guns and shouting in red faced fury into her face.

Did Sarah cause all the vitriol? No, she is just the last in a long line of opportunists. She shouldn’t bear the whole blame for what has happened in our country where it has become dangerous to openly confess to being a liberal.

But if she ever wants my respect, she will express genuine humility and contrition for helping to spread the vitriol. And that goes for Beck and Rush and Fox and all of their retainers. If Palin aspires to public office, where she represents and vows to protect and serve all Americans, she must set a higher standard for herself. She must adopt a set of principles of A good public servant, one who never elevates one set of citizens above others. She must continually strive to accentuate the positive and never stoop to cheap opportunism and easy politics of our baser instincts. She must become more like Hillary Clinton.

So, when it comes to Sarah and Beck and in the future Pawlenty or Mitt or Huckabee, or even Obama and his golden horde of asshole bloggers, we have to guard ourselves from being swayed by the crowd and ask, what would Hillary do?

Politicizing a tragedy


This is wrong:

One veteran Democratic operative, who blames overheated rhetoric for the shooting, said President Barack Obama should carefully but forcefully do what his predecessor did.

“They need to deftly pin this on the tea partiers,” said the Democrat. “Just like the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people.”


Notice that there is no concern about the facts, just the political calculation of how to take advantage of an atrocity.

So what if Sarah and the Tea Partiers had nothing to do with it, let’s blame them anyway.”

Sick.

BTW – Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols WERE associated with the militia movement and anti-government people. Bill Clinton didn’t try to pin the bombing on Bob Dole and the Republicans.


UPDATE:

Just so we’re clear, I’m not feeling sorry for the Tea Party or Sarah Palin. I think this is bad strategery and will backfire.

If the evidence showed that Loughner was a Tea Partying Palinista who was motivated by her target list then I would say go ahead and rub her nose in it.

But that is not what the evidence shows.


2007 letter from Giffords found in Loughner’s safe

Jared Lee Loughner


From NBC affiliate KPNX-12 in Arizona:

Letter from Giffords found in safe of murder suspect

A letter from Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords found in the safe of the home of accused gunman Jared Loughner thanks him for attending a 2007 “Congress on your Corner” event.

Handwriting on an envelope said, “I planned ahead” and “My assassination.”

It contained Giffords’ name, along with what appeared to be Loughner’s signature.

Those facts were contained as part of a federal complaint filed in U.S. District Court that charges Loughner with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder at Giffords’ “Congress on your Corner” event on Saturday.

This matches up with information we heard yesterday:

Caitie Parker, a former classmate, said Loughner had met Gabrielle Giffords at an event in 2007. He “asked her a question and he told me she was ‘stupid and unintelligent’,” she said. Clarence Dupnik, the Pima County Sheriff, said that Loughner had been in contact with Miss Giffords’s office about the event.

From what I have read about paranoid schizophrenia it is not uncommon for them to fixate on someone. It sounds like Loughner may have been fixated on Giffords a year before Sarah Palin ever came on the national scene.

Here is a copy of the criminal complaint filed against Loughner. From the complaint:

Some of the evidence seized from that located included a letter in a safe, addressed to “Mr. Jared Loughney” at 7741 N. Soledad Avenue, from Congresswoman Giffords, on Congressional stationary, dated August 30, 2007, thanking him for attending a “Congress on your Corner” event at the Foothills Mall in Tuscon. Also recovered in the safe was an envelope with handwriting on the envelope stating “I planned ahead,” and “My assassination,” and the name “Giffords,” along with what appears to be Loughner’s signature.

Sadly, I expect that this information will make no difference to the people determined to “prove” that yesterday’s tragedy was Sarah Palin’s fault.

(h/t 1539days)


Crazy don’t make sense


A few years back here in Merced this guy took off all his clothes and broke into the house of some people he didn’t know. Then he started stabbing the children that lived there with a pitchfork. He killed two children and injured a third before the cops showed up and shot him dead.

We have no idea why he did it. He had no history of mental illness and the autopsy revealed no drugs in his system or any brain abnormalities. Some things just don’t have a reason.

Yesterday a guy named Jared Lee Loughner took a gun to a political event and started shooting. He killed six people and wounded thirteen others. His victims included a federal judge, a congresswoman and a nine year-old girl.

I don’t know why Jared Loughner committed that horrible crime. I doubt we’ll ever really know for sure. It’s one thing to wonder if his motives were connected to political events and rhetoric. It’s another to try to politicize the atrocity even if it means jamming a square peg in a round hole.



Absent more evidence I don’t think it’s fair to blame Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, the Tea Party movement or anyone else except Jared Loughner for what happened. On the other hand, I agree that it would be a good thing if EVERYONE toned down the violent rhetoric and imagery.





When Timothy McVeigh was arrested he was wearing a shirt that said “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” I don’t recall anyone blaming Thomas Jefferson.


Representative Gabrielle Giffords Shot

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords D- Arizona, 8th district

Update 4: Federal judge among victims in Arizona shooting

A federal law enforcement official says that a federal judge was fatally shot in the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

UPDATE 3: CNN is showing a Hospital News Conference. Speaker says Congresswoman Giffords is out of surgery – in critical condition – and he is as optimistic as you can get about her chances for recovery.

10 patients were brought into the hospital. 1 dead (a child), 5 in critical condition, 5 in surgery [I don't know how those numbers work out]

This report did not mention the judge or any other adult deaths.

Update 2: CNN has confirmed that Gabrielle Giffords has died. NYTimes still not confirming. Regardless, the casualty rate appears to be high, as many as 6 others dead.

Fox reporting that Giffords is in critical condition. Hope it’s true that she’s still alive (but consider the source)

CNN now retracting previous report of Giffords’ death. They now say her condition is unclear.

Updates:

The Huffington Post is reporting that 4 people were killed at Giffords’ event and she was among the dead.

Note: There are conflicting reports about whether Giffords is dead or in critical condition.

On a more ominous note, but possibly unrelated note, Giffords was on Sarah Palin’s list of Representatives to turnover in the 2010 midterms due to her vote for the health care reform bill. There are 19 other representatives on that list.

Of course, Palin isn’t the only person who opposes the health care reform act and has called for voters to oust representatives. Let’s not forget that Glenn Beck has a habit of provoking his listeners as well. If Giffords was shot because of something Beck or others have said, we need to immediately call attention to how dangerous it is to be popping off at the mouth without considering the consequences to other people’s physical well being.

**************

This just in from the NYTimes:

A congresswoman from Arizona was shot on Saturday along with several others during at public event at a grocery store in Tuscon, according to her spokesman, C.J. Karamargin. The Tucson Citizen reported that Ms. Giffords had been shot at close range in the head.

Representative Giffords is a pro-choice, pro-gun control Democrat from the Tucson area of Arizona.  She also voted for the stimulus package. It seems clear that she was the target of the shooting even though others were also injured.  I would hate to think that a constituent did this.

Good thoughts to Giffords and her family.  It sounds like she will need all the help she can get.

About Gabrielle Giffords’ life, here is the story of her wedding to Commander Mark Kelly from the NYTimes Vows column.  Very touching.

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