Friday, January 28, 2011

Intifada

The PNAC neocons are likely to suggest that the US invasion of Iraq served as a catalyst for the uprisings and protests now sweeping the Middle East. Glenn Beck will refer to an organized Islamic conspiracy to unite all Moslem nations under one banner and take over the world. Rush Limbaugh will say that Democrats are behind the unrest as part of a plan to insure Obama’s re-election. Sarah Palin will tweet that the fuss has to do with Michelle Obama’s efforts to curb childhood obesity.

The reality of course has nothing to do with any of the above. The demonstrations and riots are about brutal economic oppression and the growing inequality between rich and poor, fueled by increasing outrage over unemployment, food inflation, corruption, freedom of speech, and poor living conditions.

Egypt is currently capturing the limelight, but this is bigger than Egypt, where what is happening would probably not be taking place without the recent development in Tunisia, which overthrew President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali on January 14. Granted, Egypt is no Tunisia, but the events are connected and extend across the region. At least ten self-immolation attempts occurred in Algeria just in the week from January 12 to January 19, most associated with the lack of housing. In Jordon, protesters enraged over widespread hunger called for Prime Minister Samir Rifai to step down with cries, “Beware of our starvation and fury!”

Though small, protests in Jordon occurred today as well. In Yemen, protests occurred in multiple cities including Sanaa University where a slogan read, “Leave before you are forced to leave.”

Protesters have also set themselves on fire in Mauritania and Saudi Arabia. Sudan is facing a secessionist referendum, and across the Mediterranean, Albania is facing increasing pressure from its opposition parties.

Boston.com has a terrific sequence of photographs of the developments in Tunisia, Lebanon, and Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak’s grasp is slipping. Facebook pages called for January 25 to be a "day of revolution against torture, poverty, corruption, and unemployment." Egypt has virtually shut down all Internet, all cell phones, all messaging, and it has brought in the army to clamp down on the crowds. Curiously, many of the protesters think the army is on their side.

From a Daily Beast article on Egypt:

Dalia Ziada, a popular 29-year-old Egyptian blogger, noted, "Men and women are standing side-by-side in calling for their rights."

You don’t see political flags [in the crowds],” said Ahmed Samih, an activist who directs an Internet radio station in Cairo. “You don’t see the Muslim Brotherhood. You see Egyptians. You see the flags of Egyptians all over the place."

Or as Ziada put it: "All you have is an idea."


Marco Vicenzino, director of the Global Strategy Project, is suggesting that Mubarak, 82, step down peacefully in a way the prevents additional bloodshed, including his own.

Of course, countries like Iran don't have to worry about anything like this.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Unintended

(Unintended Consequences, Lee Roy Beach) Everyone knows various versions of the tale where one obtains what one has long desired, but instead of the anticipated fulfillment, the results are unforeseen and sometimes disastrous. Remember Terry Jones, the minister who announced plans to burn the Qur'an? He got the attention he wanted, with unintended consequences.

Many in the GOP have been screaming for the last two years about what they would like to burn. Their takeover of the House has already generated seismic shifts in national sentiments and the electricity in the network of the nation's political discourse. John Boehner is Speaker of the House, a house with a considerable number of tea party candidates.

Rand Paul and Michele Bachmann are making proposals. Paul's include eliminating the Affordable Housing Program, the Commission on Fine Arts, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State Justice Institute. He would also eliminate the Consumer Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Education, and slash others as follows:

Legislative branch -- 23%
Federal courts -- 32%
Agriculture Department -- 30%
Commerce Department -- 54%
Health and Human Services -- 26%
Homeland Security -- 43%
Interior Department -- 78%

Oh, and eliminate food stamps.

Bachmann's ideas add: cap Veterans Affairs health care spending, privatize the Transportation Safety Administration, Federal Aviation Administration and Amtrak, repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to leasing.

The ideas of these new representatives don't feel the same as they did when spoken at tea party rallies.

Obama's numbers are climbing (1/13-17/2011 NBC-WSJ poll), but this occurred before the State of the Union, which has only fortified his numbers. What initiated the jump? The tragedy in Tucson? Without question the horrific violence shed the hateful rhetoric in a different light, but his eulogy at the University of Arizona, even with the country's tendency to come together after a tragedy, seems insufficient to shift his approval numbers so dramatically.

The GOP's victory in the House replaced its bash Pelosi privileges with a job. It also installs President Obama as the most visible and reliable line of defense against people who apparently want to return this country to the Stone Age. Unlike Jones, Speaker Boehner doesn't have the option to proclaim, "Never mind!" and tell his folks to take the signs down and go home.

Now seen as a voice of reason and intellect protecting a center against extremism, Obama becomes the face of progress so hard won over two centuries. This will continue to fuel approval of his presidency and dramatically enhances his re-election bid in 2012.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Empty Chair

Ever since Gabrielle Giffords was elected to Congress, when I watched various events where Congress was assembled, in particular the President's State of the Union address, I would look into the audience just to see if I might catch a glimpse of her in her seat.

I never found her place.

Until tonight.

I never imagined that when I would find her place at the President's State of the Union address, it would be empty.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Shutting Up Sarah

Sarah Palin is boasting that liberals cannot get her to shut up.

Her assertion is misleading, implying that somehow this particular distinction applies only to liberals.

Truth be told, conservatives have precisely the same inability to shut her up.

Moderates have also demonstrated that they have no capacity whatsoever to get Sarah Palin to shut up.

In fact, God, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, and the Dalai Lama have all acknowledged that they have been and remain unable to get Sarah Palin to shut up.


In an exclusive interview with Enlightenment Magazine, God noted, "We've pretty much reached the conclusion that even Sarah Palin can't get Sarah Palin to shut up."

Gautama Siddhattha Buddha added, "For Sarah Palin to shut up would be a contradiction of form and essence."

Jesus Christ wept, "Every time I hear that bitch I'm reminded of what it was like to feel forsaken."

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Blood of Patriots

Last week a white male Catholic Republican Federal Judge saw his friend, a Jewish Democratic Congresswoman, shot in the head just before he was murdered. A 20-year-old Mexican-American gay college student saved the Congresswoman's life, allowing for emergency surgery by a Korean American combat surgeon. Days later, the world watched an African American President eulogize the fallen.
Circulating online, multiplying sources/variations.

On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?" And Vanity comes along and asks the question, "Is it popular?" But Conscience asks the question "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.
Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated 4/4/1968.

When we are mowed down by you, we multiply.
Tertullian

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Snake Bite

If you dance with a snake, you're going to get bit.
Anonymous

Naval air veteran Eric Fuller, 63, was shot in the knee and the back at the January 8 supermarket shooting. Fuller attended a gathering at St. Odilia's Catholic Church in northwest Tucson for Christiane Amanpour's "This Week" program on ABC.

Tucson tea party leader Trent Humphries also attended the event, and apparently Fuller took exception to his presence, taking his picture and shouting, "You're dead!"

I don't know what Framer said or did that set Fuller off, but in his recent Guardian interview, Humphries suggested his tea party efforts were also a victim of the shooting, as if the nature of the rhetoric associated with his efforts had no role. He also questioned Giffords lack of security at the event (?!) which not surprisingly inflamed Blog for Arizona.

Authorities removed Fuller from the premises, who faces charges of disorderly conduct, threats and intimidation. Humphries must press the charges or they will be dropped.

According to the latest CNN article, Humphries will not press charges, saying that he doesn't want to do anything to heighten tensions after the shooting. Regarding Fuller, The New York Times coverage of today's incident suggests the shooting may be a tragic blow to an already fragile mental health situation.

Many speak of the political rhetoric going ballistic after the election of Barack Obama, but hindsight reveals that the escalation (not that it hasn't been escalating for years) began in earnest with Sarah Palin's speech at the GOP convention, where her dismissive contempt for a "community organizer" peppered with other inflammatory soundbites launched us on the hate fest we've enjoyed for the last two years. Naturally, facts and reality were the first casualty in this orgy of shrill vilification.

Framer and I go a ways back, and what's happening is breaking my heart on many levels. The fact is that neither Framer nor his group had anything to do with the shooting.

But in a world where Obama is a Nazi communist witch doctor born on the planet Vega, so effing what?

Sunday: Frank Rich has a New York Times piece, No One Listened to Gabrielle Giffords, that just nails this sorry state of affairs - spot on.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Catch-22

Conversations kill.
The Big Empty - Stone Temple Pilots

Everyone gets that talk of 2nd amendment solutions and cross hairs didn’t cause a Tucson lunatic to go postal. The guy who pulled the trigger would probably associate the name "Sarah" with a cheesecake.

Instead of tying a specific instance of violence to political rhetoric, a more accurate interpretation of the national response is that a giant alarm blasted a signal many could hear, awakening them to what has been around since Obama's election, “Holy shit! We’ve got national leaders pasting gun sights over elected officials! We’ve got people talking about bullets replacing ballots! Republicans think Obama’s an extra-terrestrial!”

Caught with their claws elbow deep in the vitriol jar, the hate mongers are pleading for everyone to stop pointing fingers, “We didn’t do it! We hate violence! Not our fault!”

The crime is the act of the criminal and the criminal alone. Sarah said so on Wednesday so it must be true. No one else is responsible. We’re not connected. Our words and images don't influence each other. Doctored photos showing our president as a witch doctor, a Nazi, a butcher, a demon, a clown, a monster are harmless. No worries about those Palin rallies where crowds were whipped into shouts of "Kill him!" regarding the black monster who "pals around with terrorists seeking to kill Americans."

It's all good fun in politics.

Say this blog had an audience as large as Beck's or Limbaugh's or Palin's. Is it fine if I publish provocative images with moving paragraphs about the victims and strong assertions about who has blood on her keyboard? Would it be responsible for me to note that it’s less than $500 to fly into Anchorage? Take the Glenn Highway north out of Anchorage about 40 miles into Wasilla. Make a left at Lucas Road and another left onto Nevada. 1140 W. Parks Hwy is right there.

A motivated criminal can locate this information in seconds, and crimes are committed by criminals alone. There's no issue with my conveniently packaging it for an audience of millions and any particular kook who might be among those millions. It isn't dangerous at all.

Now Sarah's getting death threats, and I guess it's not fun anymore. Palin staffer Rebecca Mansour asserts, "When you start to accuse people of having the blood of innocent people on their hands, it incites violence."

Huh? What about that criminal acting alone stuff? You mean I shouldn't have posted the above? Which is it? What about the accusation that someone pals around with terrorists seeking to kill Americans? What does that incite? Weenie roasts at parks?

So Sarah can dish out buckets of venom at will, and the death threats and / or violence her targets experience are the result of criminals having nothing to do with her rhetoric. That's free speech. If someone flings as much as a teaspoon of sentiment that her activities may be culpable in people getting hurt, that's blood libel.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

March 21-26, 2010

Congress passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act on Sunday, March 21, 2010. That night, the Pima/Swan office of Congresswoman Giffords was vandalized. On Thursday, 3/25, Sarah Palin posted her now infamous "Take Back the 20" map featuring cross hairs targeting 20 members of Congress who supported the bill. The map made me sick, and convinced that this was the sort of thing that would get people killed, I posted Retreating, Reloading, and Aiming. That Friday, 3/26, conservative and former Palin supporter Elizabeth Hasselbeck addressed Palin's map on The View.


Later that same day, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords spoke to MSNBC about the vandalism, the increasingly violent rhetoric, and Palin's cross hairs. The video below offers the full five minute interview, not the one cut to the brief remark about the map. The video says A LOT.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Three Targeted Reps

Shushannah Walshe has a good piece discussing the three Arizona representatives targeted on Sarah Palin's cross-hairs map, Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell, and Gabrielle Giffords.

Remember that this map was published during the spring of 2010 during the height of the health care debate when the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox Inc., were whipping the information challenged into a complete frenzy with notions of Gestapo squads coming to haul granny off to death camps. Remember when Giffords office was vandalized? Remember the gunshot at Grijalva's office? Remember the racial slurs and the spitting? Remember the Swastikas? Remember the talk about "Second Amendment solutions" and the images of guns at rallies? Remember radio host Joyce Kauffman, "If ballots don't work, bullets will."

All three AZ reps received threatening letters and phone calls. The following two messages were left at Harry Mitchell's office (phone) shortly after the publication of the cross hair map:

I cannot tell you how much I wish a panty bomber would come in and just fucking blow your place up.

I’m gonna tie you up and disembowel you with a rusty pitchfork.

All three had to suspend and/or cancel town hall style meetings because they descended into unproductive shout-fests. Mitchell said, "They don’t want to have a discussion of any kind. They just want to yell at you."

Mitchell staffer Rob Sherwood observed, "You are not just wrong on the issue, you are a scumbag, you are evil. When someone believes that about you, it dehumanizes you to a certain extent. A thought like that in the hands of someone who is maybe unstable could lead straight to violent action."

Remember the memo distributed to right wing groups?

Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”

Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.


The process is neither new nor complicated. Whip the kooks into a seething blather of unbridled rage. Somewhere in the sea of hatred a nut job will come unglued. Then, when the nut job goes postal, dismiss his actions as those of an isolated mental case. See? There's no connection, no connection at all. He's just a kook. He got the idea to shoot her from the back of a Wheaties box.

"Don’t retreat. RELOAD!!"
Sarah Palin Facebook and Website, March 2010

"Get on target for victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M-16 with Jesse Kelly"
Sarah Palin Website, June 2010

Well, after years of speeches, countless tweets and other web content, now all of a sudden we get:

“I hate violence.”
Sarah Palin email to Glenn Beck, January 10, 2011

It gets better. About the cross-hair map, Palin staffer Rebecca Mansour has declared, "We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights."

Not gun sights? After all of this, those little symbols represent what? Pizzas?

I kid the reader not, Mansour has answered the question. Know what those cross-hairs were supposed to represent while you're shooting that "fully automatic M-16" with Giffords opponent Jesse Kelly?

They were surveyor's symbols.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Killa from Wasilla

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Bloody Knees


Barring the complications of swelling, infection, or other issues, the odds continue to climb that Congresswoman Giffords will survive her gunshot wound to the head. Naturally, her supporters and loved ones are praying that the Gabrielle that survives is the same Gabby they know and love. In churches across the country, including mine, congregations will be speaking and praying for her speedy and complete recovery.

Three staff members were also shot. Ron Barber and Pam Simon are expected to survive. Director of Community Outreach, Gabe Zimmerman, 30, was killed.

The others killed include 9 year old Christina-Taylor Green, 63 year old U.S. District Judge John Roll, and three retirees.

The southern Arizona political blogosphere has seen its traffic explode as the entire planet conducts searches on the Congresswoman and the shooting. The analytics I am seeing suggest that internet traffic is also inquiring on the violent rhetoric and the increasingly hysterical language being used at political events. In his press conference yesterday, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik didn't hold back regarding his outrage at the irresponsibly violent and hate stroking speech of talk radio and media figures. We know exactly who he means.

Some of us have been discussing this for some time. I posted Dancing with a Snake in January of 2009 and the T-shirt post in April 2009. I'm not clear why the search engines are grabbing it, but searches (and links put on Facebook pages I cannot access) are sending a lot of traffic to a 3/25/2010 blog entry Retreating, Reloading, and Aiming. It discusses Sarah Palin's reprehensible map of the country featuring the cross hairs of a rifle scope targeting members of Congress. The three cross hairs were targeting Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell, and yes, Congresswoman Giffords. From that piece:

Using the intentionally inflammatory rhetoric of gun violence, Palin advises followers, "Don't retreat. Reload!"

She uses cross hair imagery on political opponents. This is actually happening. I think we've passed the point of no return to where real bullets are going to enter the picture.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Congresswoman Giffords Shot

Anyone paying the slightest attention to the news now knows that a gunman opened fire at a northwest Tucson Safeway this morning where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was holding a public event. The latest word is that the gunman fired many shots rapidly and has wounded at least five and perhaps as many as twelve people. Most disturbingly, I heard via phone call that Giffords was shot in the head. I don't have any confirmation of this.

The news is still saying nothing about her condition or the nature of her injuries, but it is confirming that Giffords has been flown to University Medical Center via medivac, which is not a good sign.

Okay - the news has just confirmed that she was shot in the head.

May folks say a prayer in support of this well meaning and dedicated public servant.

Update: NPR is now reporting that Gabrielle Giffords has died, but Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is saying that she is still alive. Pray hard.

Update (2:25 PM Tucson time): Gabrielle is clearly alive, now out of surgery but in critical condition. The surgeon expressed "optimism" that she will live. Word is that a federal judge and five others are dead, including someone on her staff.

Update (2:35 PM): The shooter has been identified as Jared Loughner, a 22 year old Caucasian, and that Giffords is responding to doctors and expected to live.

Friday, January 07, 2011

GOP Congress Lists Goals/Objectives

Now that the Tea Party and the GOP are running the House, it's time to get the country back to its glory days when the right men were men and the rest did what they were told. Here are components of their 38 Point "Blueprint for a Better America." The first item occurred today.

1. Read the US Constitution on the House Floor.
2. Investigate Obama’s mama.

3. Eliminate health care for those making under $250,000 per year.
4. Re-read the Constitution on the House Floor.
5. Eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.
6. Investigate Obama’s papa.
7. Ban Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, Mother Jones, Wikipedia, and Oprah.
8. Require all legislation to cite the Constitution.
9. Ban the monitoring of global temperatures.

10. Eliminate the Department of Education and outsource education to the Sarah Palin Channel.
11. Implement daily reading of the Constitution on the Sarah Palin channel.
12. Investigate Obama’s eighth grade social studies teacher.
13. Invade North Korea.
14. Paste copies of the Constitution in all Capital hallways and restroom stalls.
15. Outlaw yoga, meditation, tofu, birth control, flip flops, thong underwear, and the Oxygen channel.
16. Invade South Africa.
17. Outlaw ethnic studies and ban, confiscate, and destroy all copies of films produced outside the United States.

18. Ban all languages but English. Implement mandatory 5 year federal prison terms for persons caught writing or speaking a "foreign" language.
19. Outsource the federal prison system to Liz Cheney owned and operated CLC ("Confined Labor Center") Enterprises. While taxpayers fund inmate incarceration, CLC keeps the proceeds from the sales of inmate produced goods.
20. Make homosexuality a crime subject to a life sentence at a CLC prison.

21. Raze all mosques and synagogues and replace them with good Christian churches.
22. Invade East Libya.
23. Erect a "Constitution Altar" next to the Lincoln Memorial. Place golden tablets featuring the Constitution in platinum letters at the center of the altar.
24. Invade West El Salvador.
25. Eliminate the federal income tax and enact a national sales tax of 25%. Provide sales tax waivers for homes over $5M, room and restaurant charges at resorts, SUV’s, yachts, aircraft, firearms and ammo, Bibles, and copies of the US Constitution. Tax food at 35% and medicine at 50%.
26. Conduct swearing in ceremonies for federal office at the Constitution Altar.
27. Rewrite history books to exclude 1) the presence of Native Americans in North America, and 2) slavery. The books are to teach that North America was uninhabited prior to its discovery by Columbus and that the Civil War was about state’s rights. The wrong side won.

28. Implement worship services at the Constitution Altar every Sunday at 11 AM EST. Require all television programming to cover said service every week.
29. Repeal Amendments 11–27 of the Constitution. Have the Supreme Court declare that the First Amendment does not apply to the desecration of the US Flag, the US Constitution, or any copy of the Bible written in English.
30. Re-establish the gold standard for US currency and eliminate the Federal Reserve. Change US currency to read, "In our sacred Constitution we trust."
31. Repeal child labor laws and the minimum wage.
32. Establish September 17 as a national holy day honoring the Constitutional Convention. All businesses and government are to be closed. All members of Congress and their families are to attend a Noon-7PM worship service at the Constitution Altar.
33. Implement the "Guaranteed Employment Program" which orders all individuals aged 18–65 who draw unemployment for six months to report for mandatory duty in full time positions. For modest wages, they must work for designated contractors supporting the US military, law enforcement, corrections, CLC camps, or public works such as sanitation, sewage treatment plants, the postal service, and others.
34. Dismantle the Food and Drug Administration and allow corporations to manage the safety of their products.
35. Privatize the National Parks and sell off the national forests to the highest bidders in 600 acre parcels.

36. Implement the "Help for Hardship" Medical exchange program which authorizes cash payments for organ donations. Living individuals who fall on hard times can donate a kidney, an eye, a single lung, and other body parts in exchange for cash. Families can choose to donate any and all useful organs of a dying family member for cash settlements. The program also allows the use of a promised organ donation to serve as collateral for loans.
37. Pass the "Caveat Emptor Act" making it impossible to sue manufacturers or producers for damages caused by issues with the products purchased.
38. Eliminate all campaign finance regulation and allow individuals seeking public office unlimited financing of their campaigns with freedom and privacy.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Carol Somers

Former AZ Representative Carol Somers (R: LD-13) died peacefully December 30, 2010 after a battle with brain cancer. I've been told she was ready and prepared to leave this world. May her wonderful husband Mike, who has heroically provided loving support at her side from start to finish, find solace and support from friends and loved ones.

Among other causes she supported as an elected official, Carol was a workforce development champion committed to helping local Tucsonans improve their skills and wages. I met Carol in 2002 shortly after she became the Chair of the Board of The Southern Arizona Institute of Advanced Technology (SAIAT). Under her leadership, the board implemented critically needed changes and transformed the agency from a marginally effective (and heavily subsidized) training institute into an extraordinary organization that served over 100 employers and trained over 10,000 employees per year, requiring only a fraction of the public subsidy needed by the earlier version. Without Carol, the place would have closed in 2003.

Instead, it became something truly valuable and prospered until 2007. When TREO stole its funding and shot it out of the sky, I resigned. Carol, not yours truly, remained with the crippled plane and guided it to the ground.

Carol was one of the increasingly rare Republicans committed to improving the government instead of dismantling it. She contributed to those efforts seeking a world that works for everyone and not just the fortunate few. May she now reside in a better place.


SOMETHING ELSE