Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lip Service To Civility Is Hypocrisy In A Nation Where Violence Of Word And Action Are An American Tradition.

Lip Service To Civility Is Hypocrisy In A Nation Where Violence Of Word And Action Are An American Tradition.

As the debate over civility in politics continues in the wake of the shootings in Tucson, groups founded to push bipartisanship see an opening: Could this be a moment for the political middle? 

It’s not likely…

The conversation in recent days hardly guarantees a groundswell to the middle, said John Hill, a law professor at Indiana University and author of "The Political Centrist." Tough political exchanges are endemic to the American political system, he said.

"When you go back to the type of rhetoric we saw in the late 18th century, people would draw John Adams with the face of a pig," Hill said. "Our rhetoric - as heated as people think it is - is actually less heated than Thomas Jefferson would have welcomed."

Moments of bipartisanship have weighed on the nation's political leaders before. Most were short lived.

"We are hopeful but not starry-eyed about it," said Matt Bennett, Third Way's vice president of public affairs. "After 9/11 there was a lot of hope that would be the end to this nastiness in politics but that lasted about three weeks."

(Ed. Note: Of course every decent citizen of this nation empathizes with the Tucson families and Gabby.

The class of decent citizens does not include most of the political criminal class, the “managed propaganda mainstream media”, pontificating pundits dedicated to being an American voice above legitimate government supplanting reason, the rule of law and yes, even common sense, with demagoguery that rivals Nazi Germany, all of whom have taken measure of the moment to maximize their sound bites for future campaigns.

It does not include the political far right who have been fast draw quick to make the point that the social fabric of America does in no way impact upon individual actions of the citizens of this nation, be they fierce partisans, men and woman of perspective and sincere conscience longing for rational and lucid, tolerant and compassionate, pluralistic acceptance of differences and diversities, preferring to continue their constant indulgence in hypocrisy and the pretense of political theater.

Let us be candid. No one believes that this tragedy will fundamentally alter the political landscape or climate. We will pay our respects in ritual ceremony and then we will back at one another’s throats. We are at heart a violent people! 


-Stuart Hutchison-

But it's all so obvious too the kid is mentally sick, and it is the sickness that drove him to terrorism. So amidst all the screaming about hate speech and civility and the absurd mainstream media tendency to go for moral equivalency between extremes of left and right, let’s go for just a little balance on “the scales of perception and reality.”

One concludes from most media that any concepts and analyses outside their definitions of “what’s normal” or “in the center of the spectrum” is the land of homicidal maniacs hell-bent on destroying America. Some people believe this is common wisdom. In my neighborhood, we call it social coercion and political intimidation and mind-polluting indoctrination. For it’s as foolish to propose that anyone who believes our political system is irreparably corrupt must be a fascist or a commie, as it is to deny the fascist scope of the Cheney-Bush gang and their Project for a New American Century guidance counselor justifiers.

Through the practice of militant civil disobedience and other nonviolent tactics, as well as some destruction of property, many progressive people, who are America’s greatest patriots in my orbit, struggle to hold off and eventually to defeat the forces of fascism in today’s USA. These are the people working to save our United States — and our whole earth. They are the true defenders of the Bill of Rights and all that’s good in our Constitution.

But there are people who do not have the best interests of America at heart, whose only delight is in destroying everyone and everything in their way, casually prepared to sacrifice America’s children, our Bill of Rights, and our Constitution itself on their altar of greed. Their single selfishness and compulsive greed have no boundary, and its depth is as a bottomless pit.
You can read the intent in this system which lays its traps of dead-end ignorance most poor people can’t escape. Ignorance is no kindness bestowed by wise men above who see in the poor’s unconsciousness the bliss that is their just dessert. No, it’s part and parcel of a vicious and concerted self-protection, because where things ain’t right, the more educated you are, the more you are aware of your slavery, and the more you want to do something about it.

So, I daresay there are different levels of citizenship in the States. There are those who sincerely, passionately believe their patriotism is… well, real Americanism. There are millions of us who consider their comparisons of political candidate and “advocacy” ads is plenty enough homework, added to hours on the world wide web, to make the right decisions. This results in such notorious oxymorons as “Take your dirty government hands off my Medicare and Social Security.” It’s also not any form of citizenship whatsoever. It is the plight of confused lost souls being played for chumps by really vicious, exploiting cynics who consider themselves “ordained by god” to enslave all people and rule our planet itself.

One wants to believe, “If only I can just sit down with these people and talk with them, I can bring them around.” I’m sure it happens once in a while. But in the main, we must recognize the pull of Really Big Money, as from the brothers Koch, and its purchase of wholesale ideological crap on television, radio, the net and yes, even in movies.

It’s in everyone’s interest to understand the difference between mistaken intent and real terrorism. Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld and their gangs are terrorists. Obama’s regime’s not very far from that itself, and in some respects — domestic surveillance, violations of international laws in the war adventures and detention/torture policies — is even worse that the Bush disaster. The “conservatives” aim to dissolve the Bill of Rights and further “revise” our constitution, and replace our republic with a fundamentalist, Christianist corporate fascist state. Over ten years ago, Bob Dylan wrote, “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.” Life looks pretty dark now in January 2011.

And understand while David Koch can give money to Lincoln Center ‘til the cows come home, at bottom he’s another two-bit terrorist — with an 13-figure bank account. The men who want their brand of radical change all wear expensive three-piece suits, but know despite the wealth and the trappings, these are criminals hell-bent on imprisoning 95% of us and destroying the USA.]

Saturday's horrific shooting in Tucson has predictably prompted criticism of the lax gun laws that allowed a guy with documented mental problems to buy a semiautomatic weapon. So, naturally the state's gun lovers are frantically arming themselves to the teeth, in case stricter gun control (like not letting the mentally ill own assault weapons) is imposed.

Bloomberg reporter Michael Riley talked to an Arizona gun store owner who reported that gun sales surged after Saturday's shooting. The most popular item? The model of Glock that allowed Jared Loughner to spray 31 bullets into the crowd before being disarmed. FBI data shows gun sales in Arizona jumped 60 percent on January 10 compared to that day last year, and 5 percent nationally.

The store owner foresaw the uptick in business, telling his employees to expect a stampede of customers following the massacre. Apparently the same thing happened after Virginia Tech.

In a review of mass shootings over the past 20 years, the Violence Policy Center found that many of the most notorious large-scale killings involved weapons with ammunition magazines that hold up to 100 rounds. In a press release VPC legislative director Kristen Rand pointed out, "The Arizona attack joins a long list of mass shootings made possible by the easy availability of ammunition magazines that can hold up to 100 rounds: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Luby’s, Wedgewood Baptist Church, Stockton, and all too many others.”

Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy are currently working on legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition clips. "The only reason to have 33 bullets loaded in a handgun is to kill a lot of people very quickly. These high-capacity clips simply should not be on the market," Lautenberg said.
A federal law banning assault weapons expired in 2004, leaving it up to states to impose restrictions on the manufacture and sale of the weapons.
Arizona, obviously, opted not to. The state currently has some of the most lenient gun laws in the country, according to University of Arizona law professor and gun law expert Gabriel Chin, interviewed on NPR. Chin said Arizona is "a state where the idea is that everyone who is an adult and a citizen or a lawful permanent resident is entitled to carry guns and own firearms." The state has no restrictions on assault weapons and a state permit is not required to purchase a gun.

Thanks to legislation signed by the state's notoriously right-wing Governor Jan Brewer, it's also legal to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Brewer also pushed a law allowing loaded weapons into bars. And in an interesting interpretation of property rights, the governor made it illegal for property owners to ban weapons from parking areas (as long as they're locked in vehicles).

Since the massacre, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has earned national praise (as well as the enmity of the country's shock jocks) for pointing out how right-wing rhetoric has created a climate of hate that encourages violent impulses. In an interview with Amy Goodman Sunday, Dupnik also denounced Arizona's extreme gun culture, calling the state the "Tombstone" of America.

"I think [Arizona] is victimized by the gun lobby. Our legislators don’t seem capable of doing anything reasonable when it comes to weapons in this state," he told Goodman.

Sarah Palin has a special responsibility and opportunity in the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. For it was Sarah Palin and Sarah Palin alone who earlier put the crosshairs of a gun on Rep. Giffords. And so far, Palin's response has been Facebook prayers for the victims and an official denial that her widely distributed map involved gun sights at all. This is obscene duplicity at best.

Let us be clear. We do not know why the shooter targeted Rep. Giffords. Sarah Palin did not arm him or pull the trigger. We do not know if the shooter admired, loathed or ignored Sarah Palin. We will eventually know, and that will be a different accounting.

But only Sarah Palin put 20 Democratic members of Congress in her crosshairs, and only Sarah Palin bragged that 18 are now gone, leaving Rep. Giffords and Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia.

Newsweek: DHS Tried To Warn Us About Attacks From Right-Wing Extremists, Didn’t They?

…Two years before the Tucson massacre, the Department of Homeland Security warned in a report that right-wing extremism was on the rise and could prompt “lone wolves” to launch attacks. But the agency backed away from the report amid intense criticism from Republicans, including future House Speaker John Boehner.

The report, which warned that the crippled economy and the election of the first black president were “unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment,” described the rise of “lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent right-wing extremist ideology [as] the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States,” according to a copy reviewed by The Center for Public Integrity.

In the wake of last weekend’s attempted assassination of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, which left six dead and 14 wounded, the report’s warning of a lone wolf attack from someone with extremist tendencies seems prescient….

Last week, on January 3, The Guardian published a scathing Op-Ed by James Richardson blaming WikiLeaks for endangering the life of Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the democratic opposition in Zimbabwe.  

Richardson -- a GOP operative, contributor to, and a for-hire corporate spokesman -- pointed to a cable published by WikiLeaks in which American diplomats revealed that Tsvangirai, while publicly opposing American sanctions on his country, had privately urged their continuation as a means of weakening the Mugabe regime:  an act likely to be deemed to be treasonous in that country, for obvious reasons.  

By publishing this cable, "WikiLeaks may have committed its own collateral murder," Richardson wrote.  He added:  "WikiLeaks ought to leave international relations to those who understand it – at least to those who understand the value of a life."

This accusation against WikiLeaks was repeated far and wide.  In The Wall Street Journal, Jamie Kirchick -- the long-time assistant of The New Republic's Marty Peretz -- wrote under this headline:  "Julian Assange's reckless behavior could cost Zimbabwe's leading democrat his life."  Kirchick explained that "the crusading 'anti-secrecy' website released a diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Harare" which exposed Tsvangirai's support for sanctions.  As "a result of the WikiLeaks revelations," Kirchick wrote, the reform leader would likely be charged with treason, and "Mr. Tsvangirai will have someone additional to blame: Julian Assange of WikiLeaks."  The Atlantic's Chris Albon, in his piece entitled "How WikiLeaks Just Set Back Democracy in Zimbabwe," echoed the same accusation, claiming "WikiLeaks released [this cable] to the world" and that Assange has thus "provided a tyrant with the ammunition to wound, and perhaps kill, any chance for multiparty democracy."  Numerous other outlets predictably mimicked these claims.

There was just one small problem with all of this:  it was totally false.  It wasn't WikiLeaks which chose that cable to be placed into the public domain, nor was it WikiLeaks which first published it.  It was The Guardian that did that.  In early December, that newspaper -- not WikiLeaks -- selected and then published the cable in question.  This fact led The Guardian -- more than a full week after they published Richardson's accusatory column -- to sheepishly add this obscured though extremely embarrassing "clarification" at the end of his column:

• This article was amended on 11 January 2011 to clarify the fact that the 2009 cable referred to in this article was placed in the public domain by the Guardian, and not as originally implied by WikiLeaks. The photo caption was also amended to reflect this fact.

The way this "clarification" was done was bizarre.  The misleading headline still remains ("If Morgan Tsvangirai is charged with treason, WikiLeaks will have earned the ignominy of Robert Mugabe's gratitude").  So do numerous sentences attributing publication to WikiLeaks ("WikiLeaks may have committed its own collateral murder . . . . in the wake of  WikiLeaks' release . . . where Mugabe's strong-arming, torture and assassination attempts have failed to eliminate the leading figure of Zimbabwe's democratic opposition, WikiLeaks may yet succeed").  Meanwhile, other sentences originally in the piece were changed without notice:  for instance, the claim that "WikiLeaks released last week a classified US state department cable relating to a 2009 meeting between Tsvangirai and American and European ambassadors" was changed to read:  "The Guardian released . . . ."  And the photo caption was changed from "Zimbabwe's PM Morgan Tsvangirai faces a treason inquiry after WikiLeaks's publication of a US embassy cable" to "after the Guardian's publication."

[There are other strange aspects to The Guardian's behavior here.  If a newspaper publishes an accusation this serious and gets it this wrong, isn't more required than the quiet addition of two short sentences at the end of the column, eight days later without any announcement?  Moreover, Guardian's Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger objected last night to my attributing Richardson's piece to "The Guardian," insisting that the section where it appeared was comparable to an open forum such as Salon's Open Salon; but that comparison is quite inaccurate, since columns published in The Guardian's "Comment is Free" section are reserved for pieces solicited or accepted by Guardian Editors and published only with their prior approval, whereas "Open Salon" is open to anyone without editorial approval, i.e., like a blog's comment section.  

Beyond that, while The Guardian disclosed that Richardson is a GOP operative and works for "Hynes Communications," it doesn't reveal that this organization is the self-proclaimed "nation’s leading social media public affairs agency" representing the online communications strategies of "leading companies and trade associations in the health care; telecommunications; pharmaceutical; finance; defense; energy; aerospace; manufacturing; travel; and retail industries."  In other words, Richardson, like so many people posing as pundits, is a paid communications hack, not some independent commentator.

But far worse, The Guardian published a news article on December 27 -- headlined:  "Morgan Tsvangirai faces possible Zimbabwe treason charge" -- which also attributed publication of this cable to WikiLeaks, and never once mentioned that it was actually The Guardian which did so.  The article's headline states:  "Lawyers to examine PM's comments on sanctions after WikiLeaks reveals talks with US diplomats," while the body of the article reports:  "Zimbabwe is to investigate bringing treason charges . . . over confidential talks with US diplomats revealed by WikiLeaks."  That news story remains uncorrected by The Guardian.]

But at least The Guardian -- for which I have high journalistic regard -- published some sort of correction, woefully inadequate though it may be.  Why hasn't The Wall Street Journal, or The Atlantic, or Politico?   While The Guardian appended this correction yesterday, WikiLeaks on Twitter -- a full week ago -- made clear the falsehood driving all these stories:  "It is not acceptable [for] the Guardian to blame us for a cable the Guardian selected and published on Dec 8."  WikiLeaks then immediately pointed to this post thoroughly documenting that it was The Guardian that first published this cable as part of a December 8 news article it published regarding revelations about Zimbabwe.  So this glaring, serious error has been publicly known and amplified for a full week (through WikiLeaks' Twitter account, followed by 650,000 people, which presumably is followed by anyone writing about WikiLeaks, at least I'd hope so).  Yet these Beacons of Journalistic Responsibility have still failed to acknowledge that the very serious accusation they published about WikiLeaks was based in a wholesale fabrication.

* * * * *

This is not an isolated instance.  The reason I've been so repetitively vigilant about pointing out the falsehood that WikiLeaks indiscriminately published 250,000 diplomatic cables is because there is a full-scale government/media campaign to demonize the group through outright fiction of the type that sold the nation on Iraq's WMD stockpiles and Al Qaeda alliance.  

The undeniable truth from the start is that, with very few exceptions, WikiLeaks has only been publishing those cables which its newspaper partners first publish (and WikiLeaks thereafter publishes the cables with the redactions applied by those papers).  This judicious editorial process -- in which WikiLeaks largely relies on the editorial judgment of these newspapers for what to release -- was detailed more than a month ago by the Associated Press.  That's the process that explains why The Guardian -- not WikiLeaks -- was who first published the Zimbabwe cable.  Yet the false accusations that WikiLeaks indiscriminately dumped 250,000 cables went on for weeks before it finally (mostly) stopped (once it was lodged forever in the minds of most Americans) -- and now we have the false claim that WikiLeaks injected this harmful Zimbabwe cable into the public domain, even though it simply didn't.

This is the propaganda campaign -- created by the U.S. Government and (as always) bolstered by the American media -- which is being used to justify WikiLeaks' destruction (and, with it, the repression of some of the most promising avenues for transparency and investigative journalism we've seen in many years).  Just consider this self-satire of a speech given yesterday by U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley, in which he sets out to rebut the notion that the U.S. is acting hypocritically by touting Internet freedom for the world while simultaneously attempting to obliterate WikiLeaks.  He says:

A free and vibrant press plays an important role around the world in the development of civil society and accountable governments. As a general rule, the freer the press, the more transparent and more democratic the government is likely to be. . . .

No one is a greater advocate for a vibrant independent and responsible press, committed to the promotion of freedom of expression and development of a true global civil society, than the United States. 

Every day, we express concern about the plight of journalists (or bloggers) around the world who are intimidated, jailed or even killed by governments that are afraid of their people, and afraid of the empowerment that comes with the free flow of information within a civil society. . . .We remain arguably the most transparent society in the world.

Let's leave to the side all the Bush-era assaults on press freedom (including imprisoning numerous foreign journalists for years without charges).  Leave aside that Freedom House ranked the U.S. 24th in the world in press freedoms for 2009 (tied with Lithuania and the Czech Republic) and that Reporters Without Borders ranked it 20th.  Leave to the side that those rankings were issued before the Obama administration -- by all accounts -- became vastly more aggressive about prosecuting whistleblowers than any prior administration (even subpoeaning reporters to do it). 

Leave to the side the administration's demand that it have "backdoors" to all Internet encryption and its impeding of the whistleblower protections promised by candidate Obama.  Leave to the side how the Obama administration shields virtually every controversial executive branch action in the national security realm -- including plainly illegal ones -- from judicial review by invoking radically broad versions of secrecy privileges pioneered by the Bush DOJ.  And leave to the side the fact that many of the documents released by WikiLeaks are rather banal and uninformative, yet have been marked "SECRET":  showing how reflexively the U.S. Government hides most of what it does from its citizenry behind a wall of secrecy.

Instead, just look at what the U.S. Government is doing to WikiLeaks.  It just caused an international incident by demanding the Twitter data of numerous individuals including a sitting member of Iceland's Parliament.  American officials bullied private corporations and banks to cut off all ties with WikiLeaks.  And it's openly boasting of its intent to criminally prosecute the group for doing nothing more than what newspapers do all the time.  Crowley justified all that by saying this:

We can debate whether there are too many secrets, but no one should doubt that there has been substantial damage in the unauthorized release of a database containing, among other things, 251,000 State Department cables, many of them classified. . . .

We are a nation of laws, and the laws of our country have been violated. Since we function under the rule of law, it is appropriate and necessary that we investigate and prosecute those who have violated U.S law. 

Some have suggested that the ongoing investigation marks a retreat from our commitment to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and Internet freedom. Nonsense.

Anyone passingly familiar with the Obama administration's justifications for refusing to investigate Bush-era crimes will be sickened by that bolded part, but leave to the side, too.  The key point here is that WikiLeaks didn't steal anything.  They didn't break any laws.  They did what newspapers do every day, what investigative journalism does at its core:  expose secret, corrupt actions of those in power.  And the attempt to criminalize WikiLeaks is thus nothing less than a full frontal assault on press and Internet freedoms.

That's where this propaganda comes in to play.  To justify this assault, the U.S. Government needs to claim that WikiLeaks is somehow distinct from what other press outlets do.  So it invents outright falsehoods to do so:  unlike newspapers, WikiLeaks indiscriminately dumps diplomatic cables without editorial judgment; unlike newspapers, they refuse to be transparent about their methods (nobody is less transparent about what they do than large newspapers); and now, WikiLeaks endangers people's lives by recklessly publishing a cable which leaves democratic leaders in Zimbabwe vulnerable to attack, even though it wasn't published by them at all, but by The Guardian.   

People devoted to a corrupt cause necessarily rely on falsehoods to advance it.  And what we're seeing here is not only the government doing that, but The Watchdog Media -- as usual -- serving as its most valuable ally.  At the very least, the outlets that published this serious -- and seriously false -- accusation owe their readers a prominent, clear retraction.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for “a credible military option against Iran” to force Tehran to end its nuclear energy program.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu said that military action should be taken by the international community and headed by the United States.

"You have to ratchet up the pressure and… I don't think that this pressure will be sufficient to have this regime change course without a credible military option that is put before them by the international community led by the United States," he stated.

He went on to say that sanctions are not enough to stop Iran's nuclear energy program, and they should be backed by some military action.

He has made similar bellicose remarks in the past, but they were always rejected by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Netanyahu made the comments a week after Tehran announced Iran's nuclear sites were being opened to envoys representing "geographical and political groups" in the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The invitation came ahead of the multifaceted talks between Iran and the P5+1 group — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany — that are scheduled to be held in Turkey from January 21 to 22.

Iran and the P5+1 group wrapped up two days of comprehensive talks in Geneva on December 7, during which the two sides agreed to hold the next round of negotiations in Turkey.

Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili represented Iran at the talks and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton represented the P5+1 group.

The UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran last year.

But Tehran says sanctions have failed to hamper its efforts to master peaceful nuclear technology.

And the IAEA continues to conduct regular inspections and camera surveillance of Iran's nuclear facilities.

Iranian officials say the talks provide an opportunity to display Iran's policy of nuclear transparency to the international community.

Twitter Fights US Court Demands For WikiLeaks Details

by Brian Prince
Twitter is fighting a US court’s demand, made in December, for details of WikiLeaks supporters

Julian Assange's lawyer in Britain has accused Swedish authorities of secretly planning to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the United States, in an interview with a German newspaper to appear Thursday.

Attorney Mark Stephens told the weekly Die Zeit that he believed Swedish officials were cooperating with US authorities with an eye to extraditing Assange as soon as the Americans have built a criminal case against him.
"We are hearing that the Swedish are prepared to drop the rape charges against Julian as soon as the Americans demand his extradition," he said, citing sources in Washington and Stockholm.

Stephens called the Swedish charges against his client a "holding case" to buy time until the United States can prosecute him themselves over WikiLeaks' mass release of classified US documents.

He said Assange did not believe he would receive a fair trial in Sweden which was why he was fighting his extradition from Britain.

The Australian has been living at a supporter's country estate in England since being released on bail on December 16 after his arrest by British police on a Swedish warrant.

Stephens said that he believed the "last station" of an extradition to Sweden would be "a high-security prison in the United States".

Assange's lawyers released documents Tuesday saying that if the Australian is extradited to Sweden there is a "real risk" he will face extradition or illegal rendition to the United States where he could be detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere and subject to the death penalty.

A British judge ruled Tuesday that Sweden's bid to have him extradited would be heard in full on February 7-8.

Swedish authorities want to question Assange about charges brought by two women that he sexually assaulted them, but the 39-year-old says the extradition attempt is politically motivated and linked to WikiLeaks' activities.

The whistleblowing website has released classified documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and from US diplomats stationed around the world.
A US court has reportedly subpoenaed the Twitter accounts of four WikiLeaks supporters as part of a widening criminal investigation into the leaks.

Debunking The Myth That Wikileaks Cable Leaks Haven't Been Important

From The Revealing-Serious-Problems Dept

Whatever you might think of Wikileaks -- and it's difficult to deny that it is a severely flawed operation in many ways -- one of the sillier critiques of the recent release of secure State Department cables is the claim that these cables didn't really reveal anything important. Thankfully, the EFF has put together a nice list of key areas where the release of the cables has helped shine light on important things, while benefiting the public discourse around those topics. Included in the list are things like US contractor DynCorp pimping young boys to Afghani police, as well as the US's involvement in trying to get Spain to pass Hollywood-friendly copyright laws. It's been argued that revealing that info publicly helped kill that Spanish copyright reform.

The more you read about what's been released, the harder and harder it is to claim that these leaks haven't added to the public discussion on some key, important topics. In many cases, the argument that these things had to be kept secret is not supported by the facts. It's true that some of this information was embarrassing, but the State Department's job is not to prevent embarrassing info from being discussed.

"My tears are flowing and I am stunned and angered that Gabby Giffords was savagely gunned down while performing her congressional duties." So said Minnesota Republican Representative Michele Bachmann in response to Saturday's mass killing in Tucson. But less than a year ago, Bachmann called for resistance to cap and trade legislation, "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue," adding, "Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing."

Sadly, when it comes to the casual incitement to violence, Michele Bachmann has plenty of company among the leading lights of the Republican Party and the conservative movement. While the motivation (and mental health) of the alleged Tucson mass killer Jared Lee Loughner remains unclear, his bloodbath served to once again highlight the most dangerous development in American politics:

Whether concerning guns, abortion, gay Americans, immigration or judicial appointments, the line connecting the now commonplace rhetoric of the Republican Party to right-wing terror is a very short one.
Increasingly, the conservative movement finds its strongest support at the dark nexus inhabited by gun rights advocates, religious zealots, white supremacists, anti-immigrant xenophobes, pro-life activists and anti-government crusaders.

The Growing Right-Wing Body Count

In October, Fox and Friends host Brian Kilmeade declared, "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims." Of course, Timothy McVeigh, the killer of 168 Americans in the worst act of domestic terrorism prior to 9/11 was no jihadist, but an anti-government extremist and militia member. And his heirs have a growing body count of their own.

That includes men and McVeigh worshippers like Bruce and Joshua Turnidge. The father and son team of right-wing terrorists killed two policemen and wounded two others in their botched December 2008 bombing of a Woodburn, Oregon bank. Convicted and sentenced to death last month, their trial revealed that the Wells Fargo explosion in the days just after the election of Barack Obama allegedly had a much more sinister motivation than mere cash:

Bruce and Joshua Turnidge had long harbored anti-government feelings, but the November 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama served as a "catalyst" for the father and son to plant a bomb at the West Coast Bank and plan a bank robbery, prosecutors said today.

The two men feared that the Obama administration would impose a slate of new restrictions on gun ownership, Marion County deputy district attorney Katie Suver said in opening statements in the aggravated murder trials for the two men. Bruce Turnidge, years ago during the Clinton administration, had similarly anticipated a crackdown on Second Amendment rights and sought funding to start his own militia, she said.

In July, Byron Williams planned an attack on the offices of the Tides Foundation, a group which Glenn Beck described as "bullies" and "thugs." Williams' hoped-for bloodbath was averted only by a shoot-out with police in which two officers were wounded. Williams claimed he wanted to "start a revolution" and explained, "I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn't for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind."

And in just the months since Barack Obama's inauguration, the Turnidges have been accompanied by fellow travelers, though not while making the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Another father and son act, Jerry and Joe Kane, featured supposed sovereign citizens who killed two cops in West Memphis in May. Holocaust Museum killer James Von Bruun declared, "Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do." Richard Poplawski, who murdered three Pittsburgh policemen in April 2009 was said to have feared "the Obama gun ban that's on the way" and "didn't like our rights being infringed upon." And aspiring Maine dirty bomber James Trafton "had filled out an application to join the National Socialist Movement and declared an ambition to kill the President-elect."

And these decidedly non-Muslim terrorists fly planes into buildings, too. Take the case of Joseph Stack, who piloted his small craft into an Austin IRS office, killing himself and an agency employee. Stack's radical anti-tax rhetoric may have been shocking ("Well Mr. Big Brother IRS Man, let's try something different, take my pound of flesh and sleep well"), but little different from Republican leaders in the 1990's who charged "The IRS is out of control!" and decried its " Gestapo-like tactics."

Then there's Scott Roeder. The assassin of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller made no secret of his political aims, which did not include the establishment of a global Islamic caliphate. Roeder was inspired by Shelley Shannon, who in the 1990's torched abortion clinics across Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and California. (In 1993, she shot Dr. George Tiller in both arms in a failed assassination attempt.) And as the New York Times recounted in 1995, Shannon was quite clear as to whether she considered her crimes terrorism:

Handcuffed and nondescript in jailhouse blues, Shelley Shannon, a housewife from rural Oregon, stood before a Federal judge here on June 7 and admitted waging a terrorism campaign against abortion clinics and doctors.

Judicial Intimidation

In December, right-wing radio shock jock and past Sean Hannity regular Hal Turner was sentenced to 33 months in jail for his on-air threats against federal judges in Chicago. But when Turner posted information about the judges online and declared, "Let me be the first to say this plainly: these Judges deserve to be killed," he differed only in degree and not kind from some of the biggest names in the Republican Party.

The not-too-thinly veiled threats to American judges offer a particularly telling example. In June 2007, Judge Reggie Walton was only the latest to receive threatening calls and letters, just days after he handed down his sentence in the Scooter Libby case.

Sadly, many of the leading lights in the Republican Party have it made clear that judicial intimidation is now an acceptable part of conservative discourse and political strategy. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), himself a former Texas Supreme Court Justice, has been at the forefront of GOP advocacy of violence towards members of the bench whose rulings part ways with conservative orthodoxy.

Back in 2005, Cornyn was one of the GOP standard bearers in the conservative fight against so-called "judicial activism" in the wake of the Republicans' disastrous intervention in the Terri Schiavo affair. On April 4th, Cornyn took to the Senate floor to issue a not-too-thinly veiled threat to judges opposing his reactionary agenda. Just days after the murders of a judge in Atlanta and the spouse of another in Chicago, Cornyn offered his endorsement of judicial intimidation:

"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country...And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence."

As it turns out, Cornyn was merely echoing the words of the soon-to-be indicted House Majority Leader Tom Delay. On March 31st, Delay issued a statement regarding the consistent rulings in favor of Michael Schiavo by all federal and state court judges involved:

"The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today."

The impact of tacit conservative endorsement of violence against judges cannot be dismissed. After all, it extends to members of the Supreme Court of the United States. In March 2006, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed that she and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor were the targets of death threats. On February 28th, 2005, the marshal of the Court informed O'Connor and Ginsburg of an Internet posting citing their references to international law in Court decisions (a frequent whipping boy of the right) as requiring their assassination:

"This is a huge threat to our Republic and Constitutional freedom...If you are what you say you are, and NOT armchair patriots, then those two justices will not live another week."

Neither O'Connor nor Ginsburg are shy about making the connection between Republican rhetoric of judicial intimidation and the upswing in threats and actual violence against judges. Ginsburg noted that they "fuel the irrational fringe" O'Connor blamed Cornyn and his fellow travelers for "creating a culture" in which violence towards judges is merely another political tactic:

"It gets worse. It doesn't help when a high-profile senator suggests a 'cause-and-effect connection' [between controversial rulings and subsequent acts of violence.]"

When anthrax spores were mailed to the Supreme Court in 2001, it did not require a leap of imagination to speculate on the ideological persuasion of the culprit. Aided by best-selling conservative author and media personality Ann Coulter, who joked in January 2006, "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee," the right-wing endorsement of retribution against judges increasingly permeates the culture.

Pro-Gun and Anti-Government

A year after Michele Bachmann made her now infamous "armed and dangerous" call to action, Nevada Senate candidate and Tea Party darling Sharron Angle suggested her supporters would turn to bullets if ballots failed them.

If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.

As Barton Gellman detailed in a Time feature titled, "The Secret World of Extreme Militias," that process is already well underway.

And in Tennessee, a follower of conservative hate merchant Bernard Goldberg cited the author's writings as justification for his July shooting at a Unitarian church. In his suicide note, the shooter James Adkisson informed Americans his was a "hate crime" against "damn left-wing liberals":

"This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn't get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It's the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence."

While Poplawski, Trafton, Adkisson and perhaps Loughner may have existed on the fringes of the conservative movement, some of their rhetoric parrots the words of mainstream Republican politicians and right-wing pundits.

Anti-Abortion Terrorists

On perhaps no issue is the seamless continuum from Republican incitement to right-wing violence more pervasive - and dangerous - than abortion.
Long before the assassination of Dr. Tiller, the man Bill O'Reilly repeatedly called "the Baby Killer," anti-abortion extremists were producing a mounting death toll across the United States even as GOP leader provided them with rhetorical aid and comfort.

In December 2004, for example, anti-choice forces cheered as Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) were placed on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Brownback has been among the prime architects of so-called "fetal pain" legislation would have required a woman seeking an abortion to be told that the fetus might feel pain. Coburn, the freshman Senator and and obstetrician, has advocated the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions.

The logical leap from Coburn's office to the legions of anti-abortion extremists is a short one. No doubt, Atlanta Olympics and family planning clinic bomber Eric Rudolph or James Kopp, killer of doctor Bernard Slepien, would applaud these Republican leaders. To paraphrase Tony Perkins, "It is hard not to draw a line between the hostility" the conservative movement foments towards reproductive rights advocates and the violence of 2007 would-be Austin, Texas clinic terrorist Paul Ross Evans.

Of course, to former Republican vice presidential candidate and conservative heartthrob Sarah Palin, the likes of Rudolph, Kopp or Evans don't qualify as terrorists. While even Attorney General Ashcroft used the "T" word to describe Rudolph upon his arrest in 2003, during an October 2008 interview with NBC's Brian Williams Palin refused to similarly brand violent right-wing radicals as the terrorists:

WILLIAMS: Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist, under this definition, governor?

PALIN: (Sigh). There's no question that Bill Ayers via his own admittance was one who sought to destroy our U.S. Capitol and our Pentagon. That is a domestic terrorist. There's no question there. Now, others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or facilities that uh, it would be unacceptable. I don't know if you're going to use the word terrorist there.

But we should. As Charles Blow suggested in a New York Times op-ed which coincidentally appeared the same day as the carnage in Pittsburgh, the "hotheaded expostulation" of Chuck Norris, Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann and their ilk isn't "all just harmless talk."

Sadly, what David Neiwert branded the conservative movement's "hate talk" hardly ends there. Immigrants, gay Americans and Muslims have all been on the receiving end of right-wing venom and violence.

And Republicans leaders and their frothing-at-the-mouth Tea Party faithful apparently find the whole thing funny. At an August 2009 tow hall meeting, California Republican Wally Herger warned, "Our democracy has never been threatened as much as it is today." And as the Mt. Shasta News reported:

One speaker said he could trace his ancestors back to the Mayflower and said "they did not arrive holding their hands out for help."

"I am a proud right wing terrorist," he declared to cheers.
Herger praised the man's attitude. "Amen, God bless you," Herger said with a broad smile. "There is a great American."

Those supposedly great Americans who fumed when the Department of Homeland Security released a report on the threat of right-wing terror that April (and just weeks after Rep. Giffords received death threats and had her office vandalized over her health care vote) were laughing at it just months later. By the time the midterm election was heating up, ,Sarah Palin mimicked the online target lists of anti-abortion extremists by showing Democratic districts in her crosshairs.

After the carnage in Bloody Arizona, no one should be laughing anymore.

(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)

Beck Stokes Fears Of "A Ban On Guns" Following AZ Shooting

On his Fox News show, Glenn Beck claimed that lawmakers are considering "a ban on guns" in light of the recent shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Beck has previously stoked fears that the government or President Obama "will slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun."

Beck Claims Politicians Are "Pushing" To Ban Guns Following AZ Shooting

Beck: Lawmakers Are Pushing "A Ban On Guns." On his Fox News show, Beck claimed that lawmakers are pushing "a ban on guns" in response to the Arizona shooting. Beck stated:

BECK: It didn't take long for Washington to come out with their solution to the problem of the alleged violent rhetoric. The solution, however, comes despite not having a shred of evidence that this crazed gunman was motivated by anything other than his craziness. Politicians, however, are there to protect you, and they're pushing a ban on certain symbols and words, a ban on guns, a ban on talk radio. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 1/11/11]

Beck Has Previously Fearmongered About The Government "Tak[ing] Away Your Gun"

Beck: Obama "Will Slowly But Surely Take Away Your Gun Or Take Away Your Ability To Shoot A Gun, Carry A Gun." 

Discussing Richard Poplawski, the man accused of fatally shooting three Pittsburgh police officers in April 2009, Beck said on his radio show that Obama "will slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun. He will make them more expensive; he'll tax them out of existence. He will because he has said he would. 

He will tax your gun or take your gun away one way or another." [Premiere Radio Network, The Glenn Beck Program, 4/6/09]

Beck Suggested Government Would "Pull Guns Out Of Everybody's Home" If Fort Hood Shooter Was From Tea Party.

Following the Fort Hood shooting, Beck criticized Sen. Chuck Schumer's call to close loopholes that would "keep guns out of the hands of potential terrorists," claiming that lawmakers were "blam[ing] the massacre on America's love of guns." He further stated that anytime there's a tragedy of this type, "they start to come after the guns," adding that if accused shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan had been a tea party member, "they would have pulled guns out of everybody's home that was trying to stand up and say, 'We need reduced-sized government.' " From the show:

BECK: It was terrorism at Ft. Hood that killed 13 people, wounded 29 others. Not even two weeks have gone by since the tragedy, now lawmakers are scrambling to blame the massacre on America's love of guns.

Yes. Maybe too loose federal gun laws, huh? Last week, it was Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Chicago -- who would have seen that coming? And yesterday it was Chuck Schumer.
BECK: I think this is where Americans are fed up. They're fed up of hearing about how dangerous -- I mean, you just heard Richard Daley say this, "America loves guns." What are you talking about? We have a right to guns.
Just like I'm saying, "America loves cars." Yes, some own them, some don't. Every time they start to come after the guns -- but even without any violence, any violence whatsoever, tea party members are already accused of inciting violence and everything else.

Can you imagine what the media response would be and how it would be wall-to-wall coverage if this guy, god forbid, would have been, you know, a tea-partygoer? They would have condemned everything about the tea party movement, everybody in it. And they would have pulled guns out of everybody's home that was trying to stand up and say, "We need reduced-sized government." [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 11/16/09, via Nexis]

  • Schumer Calls On Closing Loopholes That Allowed Hasan To Purchase Gun. Talking to reporters in November 2009, Schumer lambasted the "bureaucratic fire walls" that allowed Hasan to get a gun, saying, "A giant red flag should have been waved when Maj. Hasan tried to buy a gun." He further stated: "The Fort Hood shooter didn't just slip through the cracks. ... He walked right through a gaping hole in the federal system to keep guns out of the hands of potential terrorists." [New York Daily News, 11/16/09]

Beck: "The Government Might Just Nudge You Into A Position To Where You Might Get Rid Of" Your Gun. 

Discussing studies by the National Institutes of Health related to firearms and gun violence, Beck claimed in October 2009 that if the studies found that "guns are very dangerous and bad for your health," the "government might just nudge you into a position to where you might get rid of that gun." From the show:

BECK: The CDC used to conduct studies on the health effects of owning a gun. Thirteen years ago, the House voted to stop that funding. Now, under Barack Obama, over a decade later, another federal agency, the NIH, is conducting similar studies. The CDC once did on the health effects -- the health effects of owning a gun.

A spokesman said, "Gun-related violence is a public health problem." Uh-oh, public health problem? That made my radar go up. It diverts considerable health care resources away from other problems, and therefore is in the interests to the NIH.

Hmm, I'm wondering, we should ask Cass Sunstein, who promised he wouldn't ban any guns or hunting. I wonder if owning a gun will suddenly make your health care premium jump and skyrocket, you know, nudge.

It's almost like if times were tight, and the studies come back to show guns are very dangerous and bad for your health, the government might just nudge you into a position to where you might get rid of that gun. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 10/19/09, via Nexis]

Beck Suggested Regulations "Have been Put In Place" To Ban Guns. 

Citing a litany of cases as examples of how "choice architects have changed your life" through supposedly excessive regulation, Beck claimed in September 2010 that the lawmakers' solution for violence would be to ban guns. He stated:

BECK: If you think I'm exaggerating, let's take a look at how the choice architects have changed your life all because you're Homer Simpson and you haven't noticed. These are just the things that they have done in the last 18 months on food. 

Now, this is all going to be up on Fox, Fox Nation, and I want you to see all of these things because it's too much to even show you. But let me just start with food.

Left to your own devices, you're going to eat too much, you're going to be a big fat fatty, and you'll eat the wrong food. You'll become unhealthy. Well, enter Cass Sunstein and the choice architects.
BECK: OK, so we're telling you about all the regulations that have been put in place in just the past 18 months. The solution for violence? Ban guns. Toy safety? Regulate yard sales. Can't have yard sales anymore. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 9/22/10

Democratic Lawmakers Targeting High-Capacity Ammunition Magazines, Not Guns

McCarthy To Introduce Legislation Focusing On High-Capacity Ammunition Magazines, Not Weapons Themselves. During an interview that aired on NPR's Morning Edition, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy explained that her legislation, which Beck discussed during his show, would not target weapons themselves, but would seek to outlaw the kind of magazine the alleged Arizona shooter used. From the interview with host Steve Inskeep:

INSKEEP: In Saturday's shooting, the gunman fired a Glock semiautomatic pistol. The Democratic representative is focusing not on the weapon here but on the magazine, which held at least 30 bullets.

Let's review some history so that we have this clear. In the 1990s, an assault weapons ban was passed in the United States. After a decade, it expired in 2004. The magazine that was used over the weekend would've been illegal during that decade, but, of course, it is quite legal now. Is that correct?

Representative CAROLYN MCCARTHY (Democrat, New York): That's correct. A clip can carry anywhere from 10 bullets, all the way up to 33, depending on the manufacturer.

INSKEEP: And so you want legislation that specifically targets that kind of magazine, not actually the weapons themselves?

Rep. MCCARTHY: No. The weapons in themselves -- number one, I have to look at, you know, what can actually pass in Congress and have it signed by the president. The House and the Senate are pro-gun houses. 

So with that being said, I have to find something that will be reasonable to the majority of the members so that we can cut down.

You have to understand, with the large amounts of bullets that were held in the magazine he was able to spray and shoot, unfortunately, an awful lot of very innocent victims.
Rep. MCCARTHY: We're not dealing about guns here. We're dealing about a piece of equipment that goes to the gun. I think when you think about just common sense here, large capacity clips that can basically, in my opinion, be weapons of mass destruction, should not be available to the average citizen. They will be available to our military. They will be available to our police officers. [National Public Radio, Morning Edition, 1/11/11]

Sen. Lautenberg Considering Companion Legislation to McCarthy's. According to his office, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) reportedly plans to introduce legislation in the Senate similar to McCarthy's, "prohibiting the manufacture and sale of high-capacity ammunition feeding devices." In a statement to Talking Points Memo, Lautenberg stated: "The only reason to have 33 bullets loaded in a handgun is to kill a lot of people very quickly. ... These high-capacity clips simply should not be on the market. 

Before 2004, these ammunition clips were banned, and they must be banned again. When the Senate returns to Washington, I will introduce legislation to prohibit this type of high-capacity clip." TPM further reported that Lautenberg's bill "would ban ammunition clips 'that have a capacity of, or that could be readily converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition,' according to a press release." [Talking Points Memo, 1/10/11]

GOP Rep. King Plans Stricter Gun Laws To Protect Government Officials. The Washington Post reported that Republican congressman Peter King (NY) is planning to introduce a law "that would make it illegal to knowingly carry a gun within a 1,000 feet of certain high-profile government officials." Beck did not mention King's proposal during his broadcast. [The Washington Post, 1/11/11]
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Today In Washington

THE WHITE HOUSE: After a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Obama will leave for Tucson. His speech, his most important yet in his presidential role of empathizer-in-chief, will be sometime after the 8 o’clock start (Eastern time) of the memorial service at the University of Arizona. Others attending will include the first lady, Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, Attorney General Holder and Homeland Secretary Napolitano (a former Arizona governor).

THE HOUSE: Convened at 10 to debate a resolution that pays tribute to the six killed and 14 injured in Saturday’s shootings and “reaffirms the bedrock principle of American democracy and representative government” — memorialized in the First Amendment’s protection of “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The measure also declares that the House “stands firm in its belief in a democracy in which all can participate and in which intimidation and threats of violence cannot silence the voices of any American.”

A bipartisan prayer service will be held between 12:30 and 2 in the Capitol Visitor Center, and the House will be in recess for that.

Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood and FBI agents briefed Republicans on security at their weekly caucus this morning, but a similar session for Democrats has not been arranged.

THE SENATE: In recess until Jan. 25. Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer will hold a closed-door bipartisan security briefing for aides and senators at 1.

BOEHNER’S BALANCING ACT: The Speaker gave the opening speech about the tribute resolution, his voice breaking most noticeably when he described the late Gabe Zimmerman — who was Giffords’ community outreach director — as “a public servant of the highest caliber.” Boehner said to the thousands of congressional aides watching on TV: “To all the dedicated professionals that we rely on to make this institution work, to each of you, thank you for what you do.”

The speech was the latest event in Boehner’s personally and politically complicated week of see-sawing between his new role as the nonpartisan principal voice of the House as an institution, and his continuing role as the leader of the chamber’s Republicans.

That latter role is also forcing him today into the uncomfortable position of coming out squarely against the first high-profile legislative proposal from one of his new committee chairman. Boehner has served notice he won’t support a measure, unveiled yesterday by Homeland Security Chairman Pete King and Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York, that would make it a crime to carry a weapon within 1,000 feet of a member of Congress.

SECURITY WORRIES: With prospects evaporating for any gun control legislation that might make community meetings a bit safer, congressional aides, lawmakers and their families — the freshmen, in particular — continue to grapple with how to improve their security without compromising easy interaction with their constituents. A push to formalize relations between the Capitol Police and state and local law enforcement agencies — which have no obligation to give lawmakers any more security than they give others — is looming as the most important outcome.

Republicans seem solidly opposed to any quick move that would require new spending, but they're open to the idea of writing some additional line-items into an appropriations bill later in the year — after the public’s memory has faded about how the new GOP majority, with much fiscally prudent fanfare, imposed a 5 percent cut on the House’s budget just days before the shootings.

THE PROGNOSIS: University Medical Center’s daily briefing on Rep. Gabby Giffords begins at noon. While one of her doctors said yesterday that she has a “101 percent chance of surviving,” her medical team continues to emphasize that her recovery will be long and complicated and that it’s way too early to say how much of her old physical life the congresswoman will be able to reclaim eventually.

WHAT PALIN SAYS: Sarah Palin is expressing sadness over the shootings, but in an 8-minute video posted on her Facebook page this morning she offered no apology for her “don’t retreat, instead reload” 2010 campaign rhetoric or the map her political organization drew last fall with marksmans’ marks over 20 congressional districts — Arizona’s 8th, most infamously.

“There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal,” the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate  said about Giffords’ alleged would-be assassin, Jared Loughner. “And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those ‘calm days’ when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols?”

“Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle,” she declared. “Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”

Bulls’-eye, gun sight or “surveyor’s mark” — as a Palin aide described the symbol earlier  in the week — SarahPAC proved remarkably adept at identifying ripe targets. Giffords and Nick Jo Rahall of West Virginia were the only two Democrats on the hit list who won re-election. Fourteen of the incumbents on whom she’d set her sights were defeated, and all four departing Democrats on the list saw their open seats flip to the GOP. (The lawmakers were chosen mainly because they were in tight races and had voted for the health care overhaul.)

Sharon Angle, who during her Senate campaign in Nevada last year advocated "Second Amendment remedies" to rein in Congress, struck a similar tone in her own Facebook posting today. “Expanding the context of the attack to blame and to infringe upon the people’s constitutional liberties is both dangerous and ignorant," she said. "The irresponsible assignment of blame to me, Sarah Palin or the tea party movement by commentators and elected officials puts all who gather to redress grievances in danger.”

WHAT THE PEOPLE SAY: In a CBS poll taken in the two days after the shooting and released today, 57 percent said they believed the coarse tone of political discourse had nothing to do with the incident  and 32 percent felt it did. For Republicans, the numbers were much more skewed: 69 percent said rhetoric was not to blame and 19 percent said it played a part. The margin was closer for Democrats: 49 percent see no connection but 42 percent do.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: In another poll, out this morning from the Associated Press, 48 percent declared some degree of optimism (and 52 percent some level of pessimism) when asked if Obama and congressional Republicans will be able to work together this year. That’s better than when the AP last asked the question, right after the election, when the numbers were 41 percent optimistic, 58 percent not.

The overall impression of Congress is 69 percent unfavorable. But Democrats are viewed 53 percent favorably, 45 percent unfavorably, while the views of the GOP were evenly split at 48 percent.

Still, 56 percent say they are confident that Republicans will help improve the economy, although only 51 percent believe the party will be able to make good on its campaign promises. Public opinion of Boehner was divided three ways, almost evenly: 34 percent view him positively, 31 percent negatively and the other 35 percent without an opinion yet.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas (61).
— David Hawkings, editor
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