Archive for January 9th, 2011

09
Jan
11

“it’s just very sad that anyone would shoot anyone”

The Guardian (UK): Paul Wellman laid his handwritten sign among the collection of candles, flowers and messages keeping vigil outside congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s office. Then he stepped back and surveyed the scene.

To the right, another sign said: “Hate speech = murder”. But Wellman went further with his angry declaration in large black letters on white cardboard: “Blame Palin. Blame the Tea Party”.

The 60-something former miner did not wait to explain why. “They’re trying to say that a lone nut was responsible for this, but Sarah Palin and the Tea Party might as well have put the gun in his hand. They are the ones who painted Giffords as some kind of traitor,” he said.

Wellman did not take much notice of the small woman with the camera watching him from the edge of the car park. After he moved off, she stepped forward.

“There have been a number of these,” she said grabbing his sign and declining to give her name. “It’s wrong. Why make it about politics?” Then she carried off Wellman’s sign to dump it….

…Some see the accused killer, Jared Loughner, as a deranged individual acting on his own. Giffords’s father was among the first to point a finger elsewhere. As he rushed to his daughter’s hospital bed, 75-year-old Spencer Giffords was asked if she had any enemies. He wept and replied: “Yeah, the whole Tea Party.”

….Republicans rushed to denounce the attack. Tea Partiers, recognising that their movement might be badly tainted, quickly portrayed the shooting as the work of a lone, unhinged misfit.

But the local sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, said he suspected that the growing vitriol, hate and anger against the government, and the widening rhetoric of armed resistance in the political discourse, played a role in the shootings. The National Jewish Democratic Council said: “Many have contributed to the building levels of vitriol in our political discourse.”

The congresswoman, the first Jewish woman elected from Arizona, was a target for Tea Party rage after she voted in favour of what Palin denounced as the president’s “socialist” healthcare reforms and opposed what many described as racist new anti-immigration laws in Arizona.

The windows of her office were stoned or shot out, and Tea Party protests were regularly held at which Giffords was denounced as a traitor to the constitution and the country.

Like other members of Congress who supported healthcare reform, Giffords faced vitriolic attacks at town hall meetings by what she would call the “crazies”. Across the country, Tea Partiers accused their elected representatives of betraying America, of being Nazis or communists for supporting Obama’s attempt to ensure that everyone has access to healthcare. With the rhetoric came the regular allusions to armed resistance.

…During last year’s elections, Giffords was among Democrats targeted on Palin’s Facebook page through the crosshairs of a rifle … she was also the target of a campaign advert by her Tea Party-backed Republican opponent, Jesse Kelly … “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly,” it said. Kelly appeared on his own website in camouflage gear, holding a gun to promote the event.

Probably unintentionally, Loughner also killed another hate figure when he opened fire at the shopping centre. John Roll was a federal judge who drew scorn and vitriol for ruling in favour of illegal immigrants in a lawsuit against an Arizona rancher in 2009. The police at the time said extremists made serious threats to kill Roll and his family, in part spurred by local talk radio hosts. US marshals put the judge and his wife under round-the-clock protection for a time.

…Dupnik said he saw a link between vicious anti-government rhetoric and the shootings ..…Not all of Giffords’s supporters agreed. As Natalie Kujawa – a Democrat who voted for Giffords – laid flowers outside the congresswoman’s office, she said that only one man was to blame for the tragedy.

“It was a mentally unstable person. It’s terrible but I think if everyone can take the higher road and conduct themselves with a little bit of grace. There’s a lot of people who are angry and I don’t think that’s going to do any of us any good.”

Kujawa laid her flowers near a sign that read: “Don’t make this about politics. Republicans and Democrats deplore this kind of hatred and violence.”

None of that mattered to a young nine-year-old boy called Sammy who arrived at the memorial carrying flowers with his father. He was there, he said, because the young girl who died, Christina-Taylor Green, had been the same age as him. Sammy said he didn’t know what to call the circumstances of her death. “It’s just very sad that anyone would shoot anyone,” he said.

Read the full article here

09
Jan
11

true

09
Jan
11

‘gabrielle giffords is the victim of a debased political culture’

Jonathan Raban (UK Independent): One could be shocked, but hardly surprised, by the news on Saturday … it was an event that seemed to grow out of America’s present disturbed and angry climate, like a killer-tornado or hurricane: awful, yes, but part of the weather, and, in some sense, only to be expected.

….an ad published last March by Sarah Palin’s political action committee … showed a map of the United States, dotted with 20 vulnerable Democratic seats in Congress, each identified by cross-hairs in a gunsight. Giffords’ seat was one of these. The legend above the map read: “We’ve diagnosed the problem… Help us prescribe the solution.”

….it would be absurd now to claim that the proposed “solution” was death by assassination … but Gabrielle Giffords made great sense when, in March 2010, she discussed the Palin map with a TV interviewer, saying: “Sarah Palin has the cross-hairs of a gunsight over our district – and when people do that, they’ve got to realise there are consequences to that action.”

In the martial atmosphere of an election year (and in a country where four sitting presidents have been assassinated, and many more have survived serious attempts on their lives), extravagant figures of speech can all too easily become literal, and rhetorical guns turn into real ones.

In November last year, Giffords was narrowly re-elected against a Tea Party Republican named Jesse Kelly who… conducted his political campaign in the language of warfare. …. “Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automated M-16 with Jesse Kelly.”

Kelly’s campaign website closed down some time after noon on Saturday, and was replaced with a message of sympathy for Gabrielle Giffords … before the site closed, I caught his November thanks to the “thousands of warriors who fought with me in this campaign”.

….voters became “warriors” … but the word also exactly reflects the Tea Party mindset: this is war. Or, as Sarah Palin put it in a Tweet last year: “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: ‘Don’t retreat – instead RELOAD!’…..

….The Tucson shootings can’t be blamed on Palin, Kelly, or the Tea Party: all three are more or less typical inhabitants of the debased, exaggerated and vitriolic language that now dominates American public discourse. Keith Olbermann, on the liberal left, speaks it as fluently as do Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck on the right….

….There is a chance, if rather a slim one, that the Tucson massacre will make both politicians and commentators draw back and reconsider their terms. Politics is not warfare. The Democratic party is not a colonialist tyranny. Obama is not George III. To live in a slew of overheated metaphors, in language vastly disproportionate to the occasion, is to invite and license the kind of atrocity that happened the day before yesterday.

Read the full article here

(Is it fair for the writer to lump Olbermann in with Limbaugh and Beck? Yes, he is of course hugely partisan, but does he use hate speech??)

09
Jan
11

palin loves freedom of speech (except when it’s used to challenge her)

From the Obama London blog:

Sarah Palin has a reputation for being an agressive editor of comments on her Facebook page – a reputation that has always seemed likely accurate to me, given the tedious consistency with which all comments on the page are along the lines of “I love you SARAH!”

But in the wake of the terrible events in Arizona, with many commentators pointing out the obvious fact that Gabrielle Giffords had been targeted by Palin in the November election on a map that used a chilling gun site graphic, I thought it would be worth watching her page for a little while to see if her team were indeed deleting negative comments routinely. But I had no idea how incredibly, almost comically, efficient her people would turn out to be in deleting comments that were even slightly critical of the former Governor. And then I came across… well, what I guess you’d have to politely call an appalling example of editorial misjudgment at best.

Read the blog post here

09
Jan
11

‘surveyor’s symbols’

The Atlantic: Sarah Palin new media aide Rebecca Mansour sought to deflect attention from an electoral map Palin posted on her Facebook page last March in an appearance on Tammy Bruce’s radio show Saturday. The images long described as crosshairs or rifle sights were actually just surveyor’s symbols, Mansour said.

MANSOUR: I just want to clarify again, and maybe it wasn’t done on the record enough by us when this came out, the graphic, is just, it’s basically – we never, ever, ever intended it to be gunsights. It was simply crosshairs like you see on maps.

BRUCE: Well, it’s a surveyor’s symbol. It’s a surveyor’s symbol.

MANSOUR: It’s a surveyor’s symbol. I just want to say this, Tammy, if I can. This graphic was done, not even done in house – we had a political graphics professional who did this for us.

While there is no evidence the alleged Tuscon shooter ever saw the electoral target list – let alone took it to heart as an instruction – what is clear is that Palin’s history with weaponized rhetoric and imagery will be – and already has been – cast in a new light by the shooting in Arizona….

….the same day Palin posted the image with the scopes over congressional districts on her Facebook page, she tweeted, “Don’t retreat, Instead – RELOAD” and asked her followers to check out her Facebook page for details.

As well, there has been no national political figure in American life more eager to correct media misconceptions in real time that Palin, raising questions about why she did not object in the spring of 2010 when controversy erupted over her imagery, which even Giffords described on national television as representing gun “crosshairs.”

Thank you Ladyhawke for this link:

Washington Monthly: A ‘SURVEYOR’S SYMBOL’? …. the two did not discuss the fact that the image was immediately followed by Palin urging like-minded folks to “reload.” Of course, everyone knows surveyors’ equipment needs to be reloaded, too, right? Oh wait….

It’s worth emphasizing that the website for Palin’s political action committee was scrubbed yesterday, and offending materials related to Giffords and crosshairs were removed.

So, I have three related questions. The first is, if Palin’s materials were entirely defensible, why scrub the website? Isn’t this an implicit acknowledgement of an offense?

The second is, if the crosshairs were unrelated to guns – “Surveyor’s symbols”? Seriously? – why did Palin’s team wait to come up with this alternative interpretation until yesterday?

And the third question is, I wonder just how difficult it would be for Palin to simply acknowledge, “In retrospect, those crosshairs were inappropriate. I regret it.”

Read the full post here

09
Jan
11

‘where hate rules at the ballot box….’

The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords may lead to the temporary hibernation of rightwing rage, but it is encoded in conservative DNA

Michael Tomasky (The UK Guardian): It was instructive to read elected Republicans’ official statements in response to the Gabrielle Giffords shooting for what they did not say … you’ll note that they are silent on the question of the violent rhetoric that emanates from the rightwing of American society. You don’t have to believe that alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is a card-carrying Tea Party member (he evidently is not) to see some kind of connection between that violent rhetoric and what happened in Arizona on Saturday.

…. he had political ideas … many of them (not all, but most) were right wing. He went to considerable expense and trouble to shoot a high-profile Democrat, at point-blank range right through the brain. What else does one need to know? For anyone to attempt to insist that the violent rhetoric so regularly heard in this country had no likely effect on this young man is to enshroud oneself in dishonesty and denial.

….some things will change, at least for a while. Sarah Palin will be deeply diminished by this. Speaking about the now well-known cross-hairs imagery over the map of Giffords’ congressional district on Palin’s website, Giffords herself last year expressed concern about “consequences”. Palin pooh-poohed this at the time.

Palin’s unctuous and hypocritical “prayer” for Giffords and the other victims will mollify only those who think she can do no wrong. But in general, this hastens that blessed day when we no longer have to pay attention to her self-serving lies and idiocies.

….This kind of rhetoric will go into hibernation now, but only for a bit. Because not only is it too central to rightwing mythology; it is central to Republican electoral strategy … Get people to hate liberals. Get them to think not only that liberals have ideas for the country that are wrong – get them to believe that liberals despise the country and are actively attempting to hasten its demise. Say progressivism isn’t just invalid or even dangerous, but “evil” and a “cancer,” as Glenn Beck says. Fear gets people to the ballot box.

….Today’s Republicans and conservative commentators surely understand the fire they’re playing with. But they do it, and a tragedy like Saturday’s won’t stop them, as long as they can maintain a phoney plausible deniability and as long as hate continues to pay dividends at the ballot box.

Read the full article here

09
Jan
11

‘i hope you see rainbows’

Philadelphia Inquirer: Her smiling infant photo in a 2002 book about 9-11 babies is now, like the terrible irony of her short life’s span, almost too painful to contemplate.

Christina-Taylor Green, the energetic granddaughter of former Phillies manager Dallas Green, existed in the brief interlude between two great American tragedies.

Born just hours after the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the 9-year-old was killed Saturday in an Arizona massacre in which a Congresswoman was critically injured and five others, including a federal judge, slain.

…In “Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9-11”, a book by Pennsylvanian Christine Pisana Naman that spotlighted one child from each state, a wishful quote accompanied the black-and-white photo of the then-tiny girl. “I hope,” it read, “you see rainbows.”

The youngest of two children of Green’s son, John, she was among 20 people shot by a lone gunman during a Tucson shopping-center meeting sponsored by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The third-grader at Mesa Verde Elementary School had gone to the event with a neighbor because she had recently been elected to the student council and already had an interest in politics. The neighbor, Tucson authorities said, was shot four times but survived.

“She was a good speaker,” her father told the Arizona Star Saturday. “I could have easily seen her as a politician.”

…The death of the 9-year-old who was born in Maryland also resonated in the baseball community. Her grandfather, still a senior adviser for the Phillies, guided the Phillies to their first world championship in 1980. Her father, meanwhile, is a Los Angeles Dodgers scout.

09
Jan
11

a moment of silence

President Obama has released a statement calling on a national moment of silence tomorrow at 11 a.m., and signed a proclamation ordering flags be flown at half-staff as a mark of respect for the victims of the “senseless act of violence” committed yesterday morning.

The President’s statement:

“Tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. eastern standard time, I call on Americans to observe a moment of silence to honor the innocent victims of the senseless tragedy in Tucson, Arizona, including those still fighting for their lives. It will be a time for us to come together as a nation in prayer or reflection, keeping the victims and their families closely at heart.”

The President will observe the moment of silence with White House staff on the South Lawn.

The signed proclamation ordering flags be flown at half-staff reads:

“As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on Saturday, January 8, 2011, in Tucson, Arizona, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, January 14, 2011. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.

BARACK OBAMA

A portrait of Gabrielle Giffords is placed at a memorial outside the hospital where she and other victims of Saturday’s shootings are recovering in Tucson, Arizona January 9

A portrait of slain federal judge John Roll sits at a makeshift memorial on January 9, in Tucson, Arizona

09
Jan
11

‘in sudan, an election and a beginning’

President Obama (in the New York Times): NOT every generation is given the chance to turn the page on the past and write a new chapter in history. Yet today — after 50 years of civil wars that have killed two million people and turned millions more into refugees — this is the opportunity before the people of southern Sudan.

Over the next week, millions of southern Sudanese will vote on whether to remain part of Sudan or to form their own independent nation. This process — and the actions of Sudanese leaders — will help determine whether people who have known so much suffering will move toward peace and prosperity, or slide backward into bloodshed. It will have consequences not only for Sudan, but also for sub-Saharan Africa and the world.

Full article here

09
Jan
11

‘a climate of hate’

Paul Krugman: …..We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. She’s been the target of violence before. And for those wondering why a Blue Dog Democrat, the kind Republicans might be able to work with, might be a target, the answer is that she’s a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist. (Her father says that “the whole Tea Party” was her enemy.) And yes, she was on Sarah Palin’s infamous “crosshairs” list.

Just yesterday, Ezra Klein remarked that opposition to health reform was getting scary. Actually, it’s been scary for quite a while, in a way that already reminded many of us of the climate that preceded the Oklahoma City bombing.

You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.

Update: I see that Sarah Palin has called the shooting “tragic”. OK, a bit of history: right-wingers went wild over anyone who called 9/11 a tragedy, insisting that it wasn’t a tragedy, it was an atrocity.

****

It was only on Friday that Palin, in an interview with her buddy Laura Ingraham, said that President Obama was “hell-bent on weakening America”. Only an enemy of America would be hell-bent on weakening it, so is that what the President is, an enemy of the country that elected him? The hate speech just keeps on coming…..




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