Monday, January 10, 2011

We Are A Dysfunctional Nation Obeying The Commands Of The Powerful And The Hate Mongers.

We Are A Dysfunctional Nation Obeying The Commands Of The Powerful And The Hate Mongers.

In the simplest of terms; the “mainstream media”, blogosphere and tabloid radio are all congested with commentary regarding the “Shooting In Tucson”.   Not much of the avalanche of words is providing either clarity or lucid explanation of the cause(s) of the event.

Finger pointing and blame fixing come to Americans these days as, seldom rational, knee jerk responses. We do know one or two things for sure: (1) Jared Loughner shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) and seventeen others and (2) Loughner is not really of  sound mind and in all likelihood the only defense that can/will be mounted on his behalf is that he was not playing with full 52 cards.

Personal opinion; that is obviously true but he has enough of the deck to have made a calculated decision to assassinate Rep. Giffords and took great pain to assemble the arsenal he brought to the task, enough fore-thought to be held to full legal account as far as I am concerned.

But that is not the issue emerging in the dialogue that has been unfolding. Some would like to cast/frame this matter as an isolated event, the product of  a demented sociopathic killer.  They do so in an effort to step the issue of the role that the current hideous public discourse may have played in flipping over his last card of containment.

The facts that: our public discourse is as hate-filled, polarized, divisive at every turn on every issue that matters as ever in our history; the national media cranks out lies, half-truths, spin dried scripted news casts with more slant than the Leaning Tower of Pisa…passed along as daily Gospel Truth, political campaigns have become nothing more than mutual character assassinations and political rhetoric on both the left and right is  inviting violence, the old myths of American altruism and decency of values have all but been burned to the ground in recent revelations, an economy that will never come again in our lifetimes squandered by “The ruling Criminal Class” of America, stolen our homes, destroyed our retirements, shattered our lives and pissed on our dreams and you have a climate of hate, culture wars, race hate, anti-gay bellicosity, permitted excess of all manner of “free speech”, churches where pulpits have become rallying posts for hate rather than compassion and toleration, a nation where rationality has been replace with open belligerence, a nation where people want to dictate to one another, a nation where the government is attempting desperately to spy on everyone and destroy the word “privacy”, a government that has lost the faith and trust of its people, a government we have come to expect to ignore us, the law, our Constitution, a government that is a criminal class unto itself practicing political theater for our votes and their right to abuse us at every turn; and we are expected to believe that such a climate will not turn decent men and women into rage filled citizens or revolutionaries, let alone push the mentally unstable over the edge.

Who in the hell do those folks, who would dismiss the ills of our society as having no role in someone acting out violently, think they are kidding?

In the simplest of terms: The answer is; they are preaching to their choir of future assassins.

Giffords, Arizona’s first Jewish congresswoman, was first elected as a representative of Arizona’s 8th District in 2006 and was reelected to her third term in November.

During her time in Congress, Giffords focused on immigration reform, military issues, stem cell research and alternative energy. Just days before she was shot, Giffords, who was voted one of the "Top Ten Rebels in the House" last year, introduced a bill for a 5 percent reduction in congressional salaries, and said she had real hope for bipartisan cooperation in the next Congress.

Giffords had been the target of death threats, vandalism and harassment in recent months – Dupnik noted a political event at which an audience member dropped a weapon. During another incident, windows in her office were broken shortly after her vote for health care reform in March, and authorities are currently investigating a suspicious package found Saturday at Giffords’ Tucson office.

The shooting has been connected to the heated political rhetoric around issues such as health care legislation and immigration recently, and according to Dupnik the atmosphere in Arizona was particularly tense.

“The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capita,” Dupnik said. “We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

Giffords was one of 20 Congress members placed in the crosshairs on Sarah Palin’s "target list," meant to highlight Democrats in vulnerable congressional districts, which stirred controversy for the use of gun sights.

By John Lloyd

In the past year journalism, which in the west sees itself as beset by decline, has vastly increased its power.  Three large developments have made the implicit, yet huge, claim that journalism, our way of knowing what is happening in our complex world, is essentially a matter of competing high-decibel political dispute and total transparency.

Taken together, these developments – the takeover of US politics by the broadcast media; the revelations about governments around the world from the WikiLeaks website, and The Daily Telegraph exposé of business secretary Vince Cable’s true feelings about the UK coalition government – ensured that the media ended the year with large victories over politics and politicians. What’s more, all three were claimed in the public interest. Yet it could as easily be said that they were morally indefensible. At the very least, each demonstrated that the line between public interest and moral indefensibility is thin and getting thinner.

These journalistic innovations are seen by their champions as greatly expanding the scope and power of journalism. This is correct. But they can also be seen as three great reducers; each reducing the worlds it describes to simple formulas and ignoring a complexity that journalism, by its nature, already struggles to capture. What are the effects of these new sources of power? And can such power, used in such a way, really be said to be in the public interest?  (more…)

nonlinear: Warning: All 640000+ @WikiLeaks Followers Now Subject to U.S. Government Subpoena Of Twitter
Warning: All 640,000+ @WikiLeaks Followers Now Subject to U.S ... -

ANALYSIS — Twitter introduced a new feature last month without telling anyone about it, and the rest of the tech world should take note and come up with their own version of it.

Twitter beta-tested a spine.

On Friday it emerged that the U.S. government recently got a court order demanding that Twitter turn over information about a number of people connected to WikiLeaks, including founder Julian Assange, accused leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning, former WikiLeaks spokeswoman Birgitta Jonsdottir, and WikiLeaks activist Jacob Appelbaum.

The request was approved by a magistrate judge in Alexandria, Virginia where a federal grand jury is looking into charges against WikiLeaks related to its acquisition and publishing of U.S. government classified information.

The court order came with a gag order that prevented Twitter from telling anyone, especially the target of the order, about the order’s existence.
To Twitter’s credit, the company didn’t just open up its database, find the information the feds were seeking (such as the IP and e-mail addresses used by the targets) and quietly continue on with building new features. Instead the company successfully challenged the gag order in court, and then told the targets that their data was being requested, giving them time to try and quash the order themselves.

Twitter and other companies, notably Google, have a policy of notifying a user before responding to a subpoena, or a similar request for records. That gives the user a fair chance to go to court and try and quash the subpoena. That’s a great policy. But it has one fatal flaw. If the records request comes with a gag order, the company can’t notify anyone. And it’s quite routine for law enforcement to staple a gag order to a records request.

That’s what makes Twitter’s move so important. It briefly carried the torch for its users during that crucial period when, because of the gag order, its users couldn’t carry it themselves. The company’s action in asking for the gag order to be overturned sets a new precedent that we can only hope that other companies begin to follow.

The decision would be laudatory in almost any situation, and may even be unprecendented by a massive tech firm. The only other gag orders that I can think of that were challenged in court was one served on the Internet Archive, one on a small library, and another served on Nicholas Merrill, the president of the small NYC-based ISP Calyx Internet Access, who spent years resisting a National Security Letter order seeking information about one of his clients.
Even more remarkable, Twitter’s move comes as a litany of companies, including PayPal, Mastercard, VISA, and Bank of America, follow the political winds away from the First Amendment, banning donations to WikiLeaks. And voluntarily threw the site off its hosting platform, even though there’s nothing illegal in publishing classified documents.

By standing up for its users, Twitter showed guts and principles. Much of it is likely attributable to Twitter’s general counsel Alexander Macgillivray. As security and privacy blogger Christopher Soghoian notes, Macgillivray was one of the first law students at Harvards’ Berkman internet law center and at in his previous job at Google “played a major role in getting the company to contribute takedown requests to”

Macgillivray declined to comment to through Twitter’s spokeswoman.

Of course, it’s not the first time tech companies have stood up to requests for user data. Google beat back a government order to turn over search logs in 2006, after AOL and Microsoft quietly acquiesced. We’ve seen ISPs stand up for their users when movie studios try to force ISPs turn over user information in mass peer-to-peer lawsuits. And just last year, Yahoo successfully resisted the Justice Department’s argument that it didn’t need a warrant to read a user’s e-mails once the user had read them once.

But there’s not yet a culture of companies standing up for users when governments and companies come knocking with subpoenas looking for user data or to unmask an anonymous commenter who says mean things about a company or the local sheriff.

In the WikiLeaks probe, it’s not yet clear whether the feds dropped the same order on other companies.

Regardless, Twitter deserves recognition for its principled upholding of the spirit of the First Amendment. It’s a shame that PayPal, Amazon, Visa, Mastercard, Bank of America and the U.S. government all failed — and continue to to fail — at their own versions of that test.

Wikileaks founder due in UK court over Swedish extradition | Raw ... -

January 11, 2011

GOVERNMENTS hate information leaks, as their over-the-top outrage at WikiLeaks shows. Or, rather, they hate leaks except when they do it. 

Politicians are among the most prolific leakers of all in their efforts to shape the political agenda. In opposition, Labor criticized the Howard government, as all oppositions do, for its lack of openness and pursuit of anyone who leaked against it. Today, Kevin Rudd's government stands exposed as having been even more zealous in pursuing the sources of leaks.

The government referred twice as many leaks to federal police from 2007 to 2010 as its predecessor had in the preceding three years. The striking revelation about 48 referrals - 32 by the Rudd government and 16 by the Howard government - is how many of the probes proved useless. While refusing to comment on referral rates, a spokesman for Prime Minister Julia Gillard said it was the job of police to establish whether leaks had broken the law. ''Any suggestion of any other motive is wrong.''

Tell that to the federal police. A former senior AFP member told The Age it was generally accepted that leak investigations were politically motivated and of little criminal importance. ''If the government want us to do it, they're our masters, so we do it.'' The resources tied up as a result are no trifling matter. 

A section called special references oversees the investigations, which occupy most of the time of the 17-member head office investigations unit, at a cost of more than $1 million a year. Under freedom-of-information laws, The Age obtained the final reports of all 48 leak cases since July 2005. Only two led to successful prosecutions and each resulted in good behaviour bonds and modest fines or sureties, which indicates the court's view of the offences.

Police normally prioritize inquiries according to the gravity of offences and prospects of success relative to the likely costs, duration and demands on resources. Those commonsense rules do not apply to leaks. In April, an inquiry into how three journalists received information about the home insulation program and the carbon emissions scheme involved an AFP team interviewing 42 people over three months before it closed in July without a result. Another case, months before the 2007 election, was triggered by a Walkley award-winning report of a speech by Treasury Department secretary Ken Henry in which he was scathing of Howard government policies. 

He referred the matter to federal police in June, even though the speech had by then been posted on the Treasury website. A five-week inquiry yielded nothing.

In these cases, the public had an unarguably legitimate interest in knowing the information disclosed. Case reports show the referrals overwhelmingly involved political embarrassment. Two-thirds involved journalists, not security breaches involving criminals, spies or industry. The pursuit of the sources is contrary to the whole spirit of whistleblower protection, an ideal that governments claim to share until it comes to saving themselves embarrassment, which politicians shamelessly confuse with protecting the national interest.

The Age would take a different view of a threat to national security, but most of these leaks were nothing of the sort. The AFP itself has a history of leaks. One, on the eve of counterterrorism raids in 2009, even caused Victoria Police to voice alarm that officers had been put at risk. Similarly, the Howard government freely leaked prejudicial information about falsely accused terrorism suspect Mohamed Haneef, who recently won substantial compensation.

Australians might not be surprised by the hypocrisy of government investigations into leaks; they have come to expect that of politicians. The more serious issue is the pointless and wasteful diversion of police resources. Given the AFP's many grave responsibilities, the agency's ability to maximize its effectiveness should not be compromised by fruitless and politically inspired witch-hunts. The Age will continue to expose politicians who scorn the public's right to know.

(Here We Go Again: It’s The Gun's Fault)

Like many people who have come forward to speak or write about the Tucson massacre, I know and adore Gabby Giffords. It is virtually impossible not to adore her. She has a presence and graciousness that light up a room.

That she survived a shot from a semi-automatic at close range is remarkable. Yet the trauma she has endured -- psychologically and neurologically -- is not one that ever leaves a person untouched. The only question at this point is how much of that radiant light anyone who knows her has seen in her eyes and her smile will return. And for that, we can only hope, pray, and wait for her brain to heal itself.

We know little about the events that led to her shooting, to the death of at least six people, and to the massacre that left 14 others on the ground. But we do know three things.

The first is that the man witnesses say was the shooter, who did everything he could to destroy the brains of his victims, was likely himself the victim of a damaged brain. Even before reporters started to interview his professors and college classmates who were frightened by his erratic behavior in class last fall, the three YouTube videos he left as testimony to his mental state left no doubt that he is delusional and probably in the midst of a psychotic episode (a fancy way of saying that his brain is no longer functioning so that he can tell reality from unreality -- even by Tea Party standards).

We know a great deal more about illnesses such as schizophrenia than we knew when our laws on "insanity" evolved. Perhaps most importantly, we now know that the kind of conceptual and linguistic incoherence in Jared Loughner's YouTube videos is the result of a broken brain -- more "madness" than "badness," although we do not yet know enough about him to know how clear the line between them is in this case.

Allowing someone who is clearly paranoid, delusional, and incoherent -- in the midst of a psychotic episode -- to have a semi-automatic weapon in his hands is like putting a car in the hands of someone in the midst of an epileptic seizure during rush-hour traffic. Should Loughner turn out to be psychotic and brain-diseased, as appears to be the case, he will be no more genuinely culpable for the acts he has committed -- regardless of what the law says -- than a person who had his first seizure while driving through a crowded Tucson intersection. Less can be said for our political leaders -- a point to which we shall shortly return.

Second, the fact that the shooter is mentally ill does not mean that his mind and brain exist in a vacuum. When Bill O'Reilly and his ilk on Fox began their attacks on "Tiller the Killer" -- the physician who provided legal abortions until he was gunned down in his church in the name of Jesus -- they fired the first shots in the uncivil war that has just claimed six more lives. To make the claim that the constant propagandizing against Tiller by a television network -- including the publicizing of his whereabouts -- played no role in the events that led an assassin to choose him as his target would be as psychotic as Loughner's incoherent YouTube diatribes. Surely a deranged killer could have found someone else to target among the over 300 million people who call this country home.

But the fact that the causal link between Fox's jihad against an American citizen and his ultimate assassination at the hands of a religiously motivated terrorist never became a topic of widespread discussion except on a couple of evening shows on MSNBC, that it prompted no change in the way the rightwing propaganda machine has villified American citizens, and that it prompted little more than one or two brief written statements from our top elected officials -- perhaps a congressional hearing or two might have been in order? -- is a profound indictment of both our media and our political system.

And now we have seen the same thing play out again.

The quasi-delusional rantings of media personalities such as Glenn Beck and the cognitively and psychiatrically impaired candidates and elected officials we have come to accept as part of the American political landscape in the 21st century, like the hate-mongering of Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, are part of the political and psychological air a psychotic shooter like Jared Loughner breathes.

Did prominent personalities like Brewer (or Sarah Palin, who literally put Gabby Giffords in her "crosshairs") cause this attack? No, any more than Bill O'Reilly and Rupert Murdoch caused the jihadist attack on a physician who had violated a terrorist's religious sensibilities -- or, for that matter, any more than jihadist websites that publicize the "blasphemies" perpetrated by the United States cause alienated young men to become suicide bombers against us or our allies.

Did Beck, Brewer, and crew contribute to the conditions that created the latest assassinations, irrespective of the prayers and pieties they and Republican politicians like John Boehner are now lavishing on the people they have encouraged their fellow citizens to hate (those with their "job-killing" and "baby-killing" agendas -- which they apparently pursue when they aren't setting up "death panels")? Try reading alleged shooter Loughner's rants about government, the terrorists who have seized control over it, and what they are doing to our Constitution and argue that he was not breathing in Foxified fumes and Brewer's bigotry.

Third, although the political context was different, we have seen this movie before in yet another sense. Columbine, Virginia Tech, countless shootings in schools and churches in between and since -- what do they share in common? Deafening silence from those who call themselves our leaders.

Since the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy in that terrible summer of 1968, over a million Americans have died at the wrong end of a firearm. In most countries, we would call that genocide.

This was not the first time Gabby Giffords -- or countless other lawmakers, candidates, and elected officials, including President Obama -- was confronted at a campaign rally or town hall meeting by gun-toting bullies, whose primary goal -- at least until this time -- was intimidation. That bringing a weapon (in Arizona, concealed) within that proximity to an elected official could be legal in the world's longest-lasting democracy is both surreal and shameful -- and now it threatens that democracy.

Whether they are owned and operated by the NRA, too cowardly to take on the NRA for fear of being defeated in the next election, or misled into believing that the average American is as psychotic as the man who opened fire in Tucson (i.e., that most Americans can't tell the difference between hunting deer and hunting people, or between a hunting rifle and a semi-automatic), our leaders have either faithfully served the interest of Smith and Wesson and the gun lobby or failed to oppose them. The result is that the country has shifted to the right on gun safety, which is what naturally happens when the right is vocal and the left is frightened and silent.

But even today, if you simply speak to ordinary Americans in plain English, they do not believe in the NRA's interpretation of the Second Amendment. Americans are, if nothing else, strong believers in common sense, and the same people who willingly walk through metal detectors at airports and other settings understand the importance of metal detectors for protecting their elected officials -- just as they support them for protecting their kids if there's any chance they could be harmed at school.

Consider a message colleagues and I tested with two large national samples of registered voters, which beat a tough conservative anti-regulation message on guns by 20 points with both the general electorate and swing voters:
Every law-abiding citizen has the right to bear arms to hunt and protect his family. But that right doesn't extend to criminals, terrorists, and the dangerously mentally ill... We need to use some common sense in deciding what kind of weapons we want on the streets. I don't know any hunters who keep stockpiles of munitions in their basements, and I don't think the Founding Fathers had AK-47s in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment.

Another message beat the conservative message by forty points with Independent voters, by beginning with a simple statement of principle with which voters across the political spectrum agree if they simply hear it enunciated:

My view on guns reflects one simple principle: that our gun laws should guarantee the rights and freedoms of all law-abiding Americans. That's why I stand with the majority who believe in the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns to hunt and protect their families. And that's why I also stand with the majority who believe they have the right to send their kids to school in the morning and have them come home safely.

Or consider yet another message, which began as follows:

"Every law-abiding American has the right to own a gun to hunt and protect his family... But you don't need an assault weapon to hunt deer, and if you do, you shouldn't be anywhere near a gun."

Americans get it, if you just speak to them like adults.

None of these messages is a "hard left" message on guns -- a message that might better fit the sensibilities of (and be more appropriate for) New York City, Connecticut, Massachusetts, or much of the West Coast. But these are messages that win all over the heartland -- and even win in some unlikely places, like the Deep South and the West -- because they aren't about taking away the rights of law-abiding gun owners. They are about protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens, whether they own a gun or not.

We used to be the arsenal of democracy. With the events of this weekend, our arsenal has been turned against our democracy.

If our elected officials are in the pocket of those who would allow the shooting of their colleagues with semi-automatic weapons with no legitimate civilian uses -- while mouthing platitudes about their concern for their colleagues -- it's time to call their bluff.

Guns don't kill people. Cowards and lobbyists do.

Drew Westen, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University, founder of Westen Strategies, and author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.

Each of us is at least 75 percent responsible for how others treat us. If they are disdainful and we do not respond in a way that causes them to change their tone and attitude, then we essentially encourage them to continue to berate us.

This is what Americans do when they listen to shock jocks and others whose larger purpose in life is to draw attention and wealth to themselves by spewing hatred and lies.

When we don't expect support for assertions, anyone can convince us of anything. They foul our environment with vitriol seeping downward to our children where bullying is becoming more and more prevalent.
We can choose to extricate ourselves from the URPs (unwanted repetitive episodes) of vile talk. And expect the same from our leaders. First, we must notice that we're in such destructive patterns -- that we're part of the problem. Only then is it possible to take the actions necessary to end them. 

 Does this mean doing away with criticism? It does not. Democracy depends on constructive criticism to avoid dangerous excesses. It does mean honestly distinguishing between passionate disagreements and personal attacks. It means calling on those who by distortions of fact endeavor to turn political opponents into enemies.

On Meet The Press Sunday, the focus was on ways to make politics more civil. Yet, those interviewed did not directly blame shock jocks who are spreading hatred for a living. These congressmen and senators were mistaking such omission as a form of civility -- keeping the dialogue pure. In so doing, however, they abdicated their 75 percent responsibility for bringing about change. They were essentially saying, "Let's be more polite to each other" rather than "Let's bring to task those people whose bombastic, odious, contemptuous words lower us all and elicit hatred and revenge for fabricated offense."

A simple agreement to be more civil will not work for long in the House or Senate. Members need to confront their contributions to the incivility and pathological politics that has become the norm -- even if that contribution has only been one of tolerance.

Our country's politicians are caught up in URPs that are not about to go away merely by agreeing to disagree. Family members in therapy do not suddenly turn around their dysfunctional patterns because they want things to improve. It's a step-by-step process. In Washington, this will require reminding each other that spewing hatred as well as praising and catering to those who do -- especially to get votes -- is a despicable practice.
Learning to call people on their hateful rhetoric is a required first step. 

Otherwise it's all simply a temporary papering over of ugliness that will surely show through again in short order.

For the rest of us, breaking the URP requires refusing to listen to shock jocks whose hateful rants lack any semblance of credible support. Our own URPs, being entertained by hatred, contribute to continued vile discourse. Each of us has a role to play in bringing about greater civility -- at least 75 percent responsibility. Doing so has little to do with politeness and far more to do with refusing to engage in gratuitous, hateful hyperbole and rejecting overtly those who do.

Kathleen also blogs at bardscove ( and comebacksatwork and is on Twitter. @comebackskid

"Clarabelle Dopenik." That's what one wit on the popular conservative Web site called Clarence Dupnik, the Pima County, Arizona sheriff who turns 75 this week. Elected continuously since 1980, he is the public face of the investigation into the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 19 others. He is also, according to bloggers on that site, "an incompetent unhinged sonofabitch" and "a jerk" "using this tragedy for baseless, cheap political shots."

Sheriff Dupnik's crime was decrying "the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.... When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government -- the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately Arizona has become sort of the capital.... People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it's not without consequences."

The problem with Sheriff Dupnik's calling out vitriol, blogged one conservative, was that it was actually "calling out Rush, Glen[n], Sean and Fox!!!!!" Dupnik was, wrote another, "inciting violence accusing Rush, tea parties, Palin, and Republicans of bigotry and murder."

[Protesting Too Much? Right-Wing Attacks on Sheriff Dupnik Are Tacit Confession on Their Part]

What threatened the right the most was losing control of the national political narrative. Until the slayings in the Safeway parking lot, the master story had been the triumphant G.O.P. sweeping into Congress to repeal "the job-killing health care bill." But as of Saturday, the new story connected the dots between the inflammatory rhetoric of McCain/Palin events in 2008, the ugly confrontations at congressional town halls in the summer of 2009, the "lock and load" cackling of the 2010 campaign - and the cultural climate of the Tucson murders. Within the space of a few hours, the story had been transformed from a revenge narrative (Obama brought low) to a soul-searching meta-narrative: How has our society come to this season in hell, and what must be done to heal us?

The right's panic about this shift was palpable. Wrote one Free Republic commenter on the day of the shooting, "Right now, I would be interested to see the smart response from Republicans. If I was John Boehner, I would be in Arizona. As a speaker of the house, he needs to be there and meet the family before Obama goes to Arizona and gives a big speech to change the topic of the nations [sic]. Next 24 hrs is crucial till Glenn Beck and Rush come to air on Monday."

But there was no need to wait for Glenn and Rush to come to their narrative's rescue., a site widely read by journalists and politicians, soon reported that Sheriff Dupnik had "established himself as one of the leading liberal voices in a state that boasts only a handful... Local conservatives are quickly spinning his comments as those of a partisan." The headline of the Politico piece -- "Liberal Ariz. sheriff Clarence Dupnik sees cause of violence" -- eliminated any daylight between those local Republican spinners and the Beltway media channeling them. With Dupnik branded a liberal, the troubling thought that American public discourse had taken a wrong turn had been reduced to garden-variety lefty partisanship.

A New York Times columnist found another way to denature Sheriff Dupnik's condemnation of vitriol. He wrote that political leaders who cry "tyranny" and "socialism" aren't trying to incite hysteria; rather, they're "so amused with their own verbal flourishes and the ensuing applause, that -- like the bloggers and TV hosts to which they cater -- they seem to lose their hold on the power of words." Vitriol is theater, a reality show with a studio audience. Rush is just an entertainer, Glenn is just a rodeo clown and the pols are just playing to the peanut gallery. Cut these guys some slack. Hyperbole's great for everyone's ratings. Who can blame them for getting carried away?

If this tragedy is going to be a teachable moment, the lesson won't be found by determining whose vitriol is warranted. It will be found instead in what the vitriol is actually about. And that, as Sheriff Dupnik nailed it, is "tearing down the government."

In the 1970s, the "sovereign citizen movement" was still a paranoid fringe. 

"Its adherents," explains the Anti-Defamation League, believed that "virtually all existing government in the United States is illegitimate and they seek to 'restore' an idealized, minimalist government that never actually existed." In the decades since, this right-wing anarchism was domesticated and became mainstream. 

Today it demonizes the federal government, federal programs, public employees, taxes and regulation. It accords scriptural authority to the Constitution, but it is in denial about the powers that charter assigns to the central government. It is blind to the "common welfare" that "we the people" task the government to promote, maintaining instead that the patriots who won our revolution wrote a document whose sole purpose was to protect freedom from the encroachments of the loathed central state.

In truth, American government is a miraculous equilibrium between individual freedom and mutual responsibility, the one and the many, the local and the national, the personal and the public. The Constitution isn't holy writ; it's a living document whose text and meaning have evolved through the centuries. "Government is the problem," said Ronald Reagan. He was wrong. The problem is bad government, and the job of every generation is to make it work better, not to drive a stake through its heart.

Killing government is the mission of an assassin. The vitriol in our national bloodstream is the crackpot notion that killing government is the mission of the rest of us.

This is my column from The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. You can read more of my columns here, and e-mail me there if you'd like.
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By Michael Bryan Behold the only honest rightwing hatemonger in America. Phelps is an evil, old, crazy, hateful bastard - but at least he takes responbility for his vitriolic and eliminationist rhetoric. He makes no bones about the fact ...
Blog For Arizona -

Phelps is an evil, old, crazy, hateful bastard - but at least he takes reasonability for his vitriolic and eliminationist rhetoric.

He makes no bones about the fact that he wants his enemies dead and celebrates when they do die. He doesn't hide behind a polite face when he's talking to you and then draw out the long knives only when your back is turned.

The same cannot be said of many on the far right who regularly employ eliminationist and violent rhetoric to demonize their political opponents. They will profess respect and affection for the targets of their attacks and smile in their faces as they shake their hands.

When their hateful, eliminationist rhetoric and propaganda actually results in someone being hurt or killed, they will express sympathy and claim that only the crazy person who took them at their hate-filled word can be blamed.
They will castigate anyone honest enough to publicly proclaim that they share responsibility for the actions of the those unhinged enough to follow through on the wicked propaganda. They will claim that the honest ones are 'politicizing' a tragedy, even though the tragedy is essentially political: this was a political assassination attempt.

We see this hypocrisy already emerging as the rightwing, who for so long demonized Gabby and other Democrats, now line up to condemn and attack Sheriff Dupnick for his comments about how the environment of political hatred may have contributed to this travesty. 

Already, Dave Fitzsimmons, political cartoonist for the Arizona Daily Star, was forced(?) to apologize for expressing his view on a CNN interview that this tragedy was inevitable in a state with such a loose gun culture and vitriolic political environment.

Fitz and Dupnik were right to point out that hate-mongering politics have consequences; Occasionally, deadly consequences. 

So, as the right-wingers get up on their hind legs over the coming days, their hands still carmine from the red meat they've been throwing to the their acolytes, and denounce the 'politicization' of this travesty by anyone brave enough to speak their truth, remember Phelps. At least his reaction is an honest one. The same reaction is secretly buried in many a rightwing hate-monger's heart, though they'll never admit it, and will deflect any criticism back onto their critics by any means possible.

Of course, I do not intend to paint every person on the political right as one who secretly rejoices in this tragedy. Only those who regularly employ hateful, racist, and eliminationist rhetoric to further their political agenda. 

Not every conservative does that, and many deplore this development in our political culture. 

Those folks need to stand with Fitz and Dupnik and others in deploring and condemning this dark current in our political dialogue.

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