President Obama delivered a wonderful address last night and in a just world, the rhetoric would tone down and a very real attempt to work together to solve the very real problems that face us would be undertaken.
Unfortunately, my hopes that that could ever happen were quashed before the invocation was done.
I was actually stunned early in the service to see a tweet from the normally mostly-harmless Kathleen Parker. As the Native American physician delivered a traditional (read non-Abrahamic) prayer to the Creator, she started mocking not just the man but the faith itself.
Now, there are a few conservatives I follow, but Kathleen Parker isn't one of them. She is a syndicated columnist with a cable show that has such lousy ratings it won't see the end of the year and less than fifteen hundred Twitter followers. She simply isn't prominent enough -- or profound enough -- for me to bother with. I wouldn't even have known about her spasms of ethnocentrism in her Twitter stream if not for a political science professor I follow retweeted the comment seen above. (I immediately did a screen-grab in case she came to her senses and deleted the tweet.) She not only didn't, she had a follow-up.
@kathleenparker kathleenparker Our two-legged brothers? What the . . . ? 12 hours ago via web
I was so stunned by her impertinence, obvious lack of tact -- and proper raising -- that I had to respond.
@BGinKC Blue Girl @andreastonez @kathleenparker Yeah. Seriously. Ethnocentrism much, Kathy? Tucson's existed for hundreds of years. Most of em w/out white ppl
I took it a wee bit personal for a couple of reasons. First of all, one of my dearest friends in the entire world is a White Mountain Apache who grew up on a reservation in the mountains that ring the valley. Not only that, we were stationed at Davis Monthan AFB in the 80s and two of our three children were born there. My midwife's office was two blocks from that Safeway, and I popped in for that night's missing dinner ingredient many, many of times after an appointment. I love that whole town. I love the desert, I love the people, I love the history and I love the diversity of culture.
I would live in Tucson if it wasn't in Arizona.
She wasn't just offended by the invocation, though. She was also bored early on and joking about CNN preempting her little show to air the memorial service to the nation.
@kathleenparker kathleenparker So W turns to Laura: "Never thought I'd say this, but I miss Parker Spitzer." 12 hours ago via web
She was also offended by the crowd for celebrating the lives of those lost and the fact that their vibrant young Congresswoman with the astronaut husband had survived a point-blank shot to the head -- and they had just learned that she had opened her eyes for the first time.
If that doesn't bear celebrating, what, pray tell, does?
I will have to wait for Kathleen to answer that, because she was bothered by it -
@kathleenparker kathleenparker Celebrating life, an applause too far. 12 hours ago via web
@kathleenparker kathleenparker So grateful for Obama's dignity. Too bad the crowd doesn't get it.
12 hours ago via web
Then after it was all over and she realized she had offended a whole bunch of people she tweeted a standard republican non-apology.
@kathleenparker kathleenparker Some offended by memorial service tweets. Meant no disrespect. Was frustrated by programming that seemed to distract from purpose./10 hours ago via web/
I saw that last one this morning when I checked her feed to see if she had removed the offending tweets. So I had to respond one more time:
@BGinKC Blue Girl @kathleenparker You publicly mocked the religion of those who inhabited that valley long before whites arrived. "No offense" doesn't cut it.
The more I think about it, the more I see the banality and the casual jingoism of someone as seemingly innocuous as Kathleen Parker as the greatest obstacle we have to overcome.
They have bought into thirty years of being the victims of (take your pick) the "liberal media" or environmental regulations or labor unions or "illegals" or -- the list is practically endless -- they are aggrieved over it. Christ, Michelle Malkin was indignant over the University of Arizona placing t-shirts on the seats. The shirts featured a message of unity on a background of Wildcat Blue. But since blue is the color that represents Democrats, and there was a unity message, that damned Obama message machine had to be behind it.
The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach is that there are no honest brokers on the other side who will make an honest effort to tone it down.
Not when Kathleen Parker, one of the less-crazy in their camp and someone I have actually found common ground with and defended in the past, can't even get through an invocation without mocking the belief system of another, and one that predates the arrival of Christianity in the Tucson Valley by hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
How do we have a dialogue with people who truly believe they are superior to others, who are so self-involved and pathologically smug? I really want to know.
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This morning, Mike Signorile tweeted:
Yesterday: Sarah Palin reminded us of who she is and why she & McCain lost. Barack Obama reminded us of who he is & why he won.Mike is so right. Yesterday, Palin finally responded to the Arizona massacre. She chose to insert herself on the day of the Tucson memorial service, where the President would be speaking. She set herself up for the inevitable comparisons between the speeches from leading GOPer, as she sees herself, and the leading Democrat, Obama. As the Washington Post noted today:
And after four days of near silence, the timing guaranteed that Palin would be written into the story line of President Obama's visit to comfort grief-stricken Tucson after a massacre there.Well, she got what she wanted. She's part of the story. But, the results aren't good for her -- not at all, as you can see from the following two articles.
Wednesday was bookended by two remarkable ? and remarkably different ? political performances that demonstrated the vast expanse of America?s political landscape.Jonathan Martin from Politico:
The day opened at 5 a.m. with Sarah Palin, whose seven-and-a-half minute video statement captured with precision the bubbling anger and resentment that is an undercurrent of the national conversation about our public discourse.
Sarah Palin issued a forceful denunciation of her critics in a video statement posted to her Facebook page. Sarah Palin issued a forceful denunciation of her critics in a video statement posted to her Facebook page.
It ended with President Obama, whose plea for civility, love and compassion ? for us to all be not just better citizens but better people ? exposed for the first time the emotions of a leader who has spent two years staying cool and controlled for a nation beset by difficult times.
The tone of the two speeches could not have been more different. The venues were a world apart ? the smallness of a rectangular video on a computer screen and the vastness of an echo-filled basketball arena.
In the span of a single news cycle, Republicans got a jarring reminder of two forces that could prevent them from retaking the presidency next year.
At sunrise in the east on Wednesday, Sarah Palin demonstrated that she has little interest?or capacity?in moving beyond her brand of grievance-based politics. And at sundown in the west, Barack Obama reminded even his critics of his ability to rally disparate Americans around a message of reconciliation.
Palin was defiant, making the case in a taped speech she posted online why the nation?s heated political debate should continue unabated even after Saturday?s tragedy in Tucson. And, seeming to follow her own advice, she swung back at her opponents, deeming the inflammatory notion that she was in any way responsible for the shootings a ?blood libel.?
Obama, speaking at a memorial service at the University of Arizona, summoned the country to honor the victims, and especially nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, by treating one another with more respect. ?I want America to be as good as Christina imaged it,? he said.
It?s difficult to imagine a starker contrast.
"How are we going to retain respect for human life? This is the contradiction, this is the paradox with the whole business. What we've got to avoid is cheapening life and becoming conquerors. We mustn't become expansionists at the expense of other people, we mustn't become Arab haters."
More testimony from soldiers affiliated with Breaking the Silence--you know, the alleged radicals delegitimizing the Jewish state? Actually, this passage is quoted from an extended conversation of elite Israeli soldiers immediately after the 1967 war, famously edited and published by Amos Oz and Muki Tzur; a book called Siach Lochamim ("A Conversation of Fighters") in Hebrew, and published in English as The Seventh Day. It sold something like 100,000 copies in a state of less than three million people in the year after it appeared.
Siach Lochamim also had soldiers rhapsodizing about retaking the Wailing Wall and Temple Mount, speaking of their determination never to surrender the Golan Heights, and so forth. But my point is that no sooner had Israeli fighters conquered the Palestinian territories in 1967 that some significant part of them began to wonder where this would all lead, and especially about the corrupting influences of conquest.
Yes, the concern may all have been a little hypothetical, the kind of worry you express because you have read modern colonial history and want to prove you have learned its lessons. Perhaps some were being moral show-offs, the way those of us who wrote about the settlers back in 1975, and wondered out loud if settlements of 20,000 or 30,000 people "would make negotiations impossible," were also showing off a little, not really believing that things like that could ever happen to us. Anyway, there is nothing hypothetical about the concern of "becoming conquerors" anymore.
BREAKING THE SILENCE has just published (still in Hebrew, but an English version is forthcoming) a compendium of testimonies that, for anyone who had read Siach Lochamim, will evoke a shock of recognition, what the children of Israel should feel when a prophesy is fulfilled. Breaking the Silence's book contains many testimonies about extreme actions by the army during the Al-Aqsa Intifdah, which leave one wondering what is cause and what is effect. Let's leave those aside.
The most revealing testimonies are more recent and address the question of army control per se, the actions of an IDF and Secret Service insinuated in a system where showing the defeated population who rules has become an end in itself; the fear of letting go of the levers of power--routine efforts at intimidation, networks of collaborators--which seem even more important, in a way, than promised land:
Unit: Paratroopers [Reserves] - Location: Tul Karem district - Year: 2007
[T]he army, since the time of the [Lebanon] war, concluded that it needs to take advantage of every day of reserve duty that a soldier does in order to bring him to complete competence for the next war that will come...I started my reserve duty on the 11th of March . It was my second reserve duty deployed in Ariel. We knew that the reserve duty would begin with three or four days of training.
The Friday before the 11th was a Sunday...I'm listening to the news and they are talking about an exercise done by the central paratroopers brigade, towards pre-operations training in the Bet Lid village. Now, that's me. Meaning, it's clear to me that if that's what the battalion before me did, then I'm going to do it on Sunday...the terrain of Lebanon, in the area of Samaria, which will simulate movement towards targets, with lookouts and ambushes and all kinds of things like that during the process. And in the end it concluded with the occupation of a village.
...[Y]ou go into a village in the middle of the night...with blanks and stun grenades and explosives at the end. A village in which the people living there didn't present a threat beforehand, they won't present a threat afterwards...maybe afterwards they will...and you basically disrupt their night. Children pee in their beds, mothers scream, things that happen when you get into...they put on [the radio] an attorney who spoke, they put on my deputy brigade commander, the deputy brigade commander of that same brigade. And the guy is talking - how important it is after Lebanon to train and whatever and everything is OK.
And he concludes with a sentence that I was in shock when I heard it that...he said: "I was the last to leave the village in the morning and the locals, with smiles and understanding, blessed me to go in peace." Which is, beyond the ignorance and the arrogance with which he allows himself to speak, you know - apologize, say that the military attorney general is checking it, give a military response maybe, but I wish for this deputy brigade commander for an exercise like that to happen in the kibbutz where he lives. That at four in the morning they go in with stun grenades, and I want to see the rice he'll throw in the morning at the soldiers who are leaving. Because it's really chutzpah, unlike any other...
Now, I imagined, in my innocence, that for us it would be different. Meaning we would come, and since it already made it to the media, and there is a military attorney general in the world and there are other legal authorities, there is someone who will take care of it. So I got to reserve duty..., they were at the height of preparation for the exercise. The story of everything that I heard is still running through my head, and I wanted to see if there would be some kind of difference. I arrived at the second to last briefing..., the deputy company commander...opened with, "guys I don't care. From my standpoint, you can go to the media, tell them whatever you want, but what's important to me is that you do this, this, and this..."
And in reality, what happened was exactly what the description of the battalion exercise had said--it also happened with us. We walked all night and made ambushes and invasions here and there and everything, what you do during an exercise like that. And in the early hours of the morning we found ourselves in Al Hayad, in the direction of incursion into the village itself....
...We finished the exercise in the middle of the village. We started on the march that is called "logistical" towards the buses waiting at a distance of a few kilometers from there. Look, you see the residents like standing, looking, smiling and whatever. The words of that deputy brigade commander reverberate for me again, yes, but it's not smiles and understanding. It's smiles and understanding of the fifth or fourth time that this exercise is happening in their village without anyone coordinating it with them...
VILLAGES HAVE NOT only become periodic props for training. They are more often at odds with settlers encroaching on their land. They army is called in to "keep the peace," supposedly neutral, but actually enforcing a status quo in which the settlers gain:
Unit: Kfir Battalion · Location: Susiya · Year: 2004-2005
There is a difference, after all, between diagnosis and treachery. If a doctor tells you you have AIDS, it is true that she is also telling you something that will, should the word get around, make you, shall we say, less desirable at the bar. But you have to be pretty thick to suppose that, in making the diagnosis, she is actually trying to give comfort to your rivals or generally wreck your life. Breaking the Silence may be wrong in its diagnosis (it is not), but then the only way to get things right is to investigate the facts and explore how they came to be what they are.
Being "democratic" is not just a product feature to be celebrated by Israel's brand managers in America. The issues Israeli democracy, or what's left of it, enables Israelis to debate are a matter of life and death. True enough, a Knesset majority, swayed by Avigdor Lieberman, is now trying to shut up Breaking the Silence through hearings and investigations. Which only goes to prove that a majority, especially in a state locked in a colonial project, is often a democracy's greatest enemy.
In a moving speech before an audience of more than 26,000, President Obama offered the nation?s condolences last night to the victims of the shooting in Tucson. Calling for a “more civil and honest public discourse,” Obama urged Americans to “live up” to the expectations of slain nine-year-old Christina Green, who had recently been elected to her student council. “I want America to be as good as she imagined it.”
Three colleagues and friends who were in the room when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) opened her eyes for the first time last night describe the moment as “like a miracle” and “spectacular.” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said “It was a girl power moment because we were striving — amusing and reminding of things that she was going to come back to when she came to the Congress.”
Helen Darling, President of the National Business Group on Health, a collection of nearly 300 big employers, said that business executives should think twice about advocating for a repeal of the new health care law. “If they really understood it, they wouldn’t,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll get a better solution in the U.S. in our lifetime. If it gets repealed, or gutted, we’ll have to start over and we’ll be worse off.”
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) said that if Sarah Palin continues to avoid unscripted exchanges with media and the public, “she’ll never be president.” ?People need to be judged by the way they conduct themselves in the public arena, in a way that is as minimally staged as possible,? he said. ?That?s where you really get to know people.?
Banks repossessed one million homes in 2010 and a record 2.9 million homes received foreclosure notices. “Lenders are poised to take back more homes this year than any other since the U.S. housing meltdown” started in 2006.
Delivering a “scalding critique” in Qatar today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Arab leaders they needed economic and resource reforms, or “risk having extremists take root in their societies.” At the end of her Persian Gulf trip, Clinton’s “litany of criticism” on corruption, repressive political systems, and abysmal human rights records were “notable for their vehemence.”
In a letter to both parties’ leadership Wednesday, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) urged Republicans and Democrats to “sit together in mixed company” during the Jan. 25 State of the Union address to end “an arrangement that has become a negative symbol of divisions in Congress.” While members customarily sit by party, Udall said “there is no rule or reason” to “emphasize divided government.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is drafting a bill that would allow members of Congress to carry weapons in the District of Columbia, including on the Senate and House floors. “I know friends that walk home from the Capitol. There’s no security for us.” he said. “There is some protection in having protection.”
Many gun control advocates are upset with the Obama administration for not pushing tougher gun control in the wake of the Tucson shooting. ?If he was serious about it, he would have done it,? said Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) of Obama’s campaign promises of reinstating the assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole.
And finally: Vice President Biden made a surprise visit to Afghanistan yesterday, and perhaps fearing they wouldn’t recognize him without a heads up, Biden greeted troops by introducing himself. “Hi, I’m Joe Biden,” the veep said, sticking out his hand to troops eating breakfast at Bagram Air Base. He “went on to take pictures with fans and talk to troops from Delaware about the Philadelphia Eagles’ disappointing loss in the NFL playoffs.”
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Earlier this month, a unanimous panel of 9th Circuit judges held that a 43-foot tall Latin cross cannot constitutionally be displayed on federal land in San Diego. Even though this decision flows naturally from the First Amendment and from Supreme Court decisions forbidding the government from endorsing Christianity — or any other faith — above others, the right’s reaction to this decision has been predictably apoplectic.
Perhaps the most unhinged reaction comes from Newt Gingrich’s Renewing American Leadership, which proclaims that the judges who decided this case must be punished by having their court abolished:
Upon ascending to the presidency, Jefferson then did something remarkable — he and his congressional allies passed the Judicial Act of 1803 that simply abolished the newly-created judgeships and the courts they presided over. He reminded the deposed judges that they had no cases to hear, no building in which to hear them, and no funding for their salaries. The former judges took their case to the Supreme Court, demanding that their positions be restored. Under the plain terms of the Constitution, however, they didn?t have a leg to stand on, and President Jefferson emerged victorious.
Today we face a similar issue: those whose policies are unable to win at the ballot box are seeking to build a stronghold of government power in the courts, without needing to garner a single vote. Just as it did in 1803, the Executive and Legislative branches could take action today and ?reorganize? the Ninth Circuit Court right out of existence!
Gingrich himself made a similar argument last year, when he told the now-floundering CPAC convention that Thomas Jefferson?s ?judicial reform act of 1802 abolished 18 out of 35 federal judges, over half?I am more cautious than Jefferson. I would only abolish the Ninth Circuit Court.? This proposal, however, has one big flaw: the United States Constitution.
The Constitution provides that “[t]he judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office,” a provision which exists entirely to prevent Congress from strong-arming judges by threatening their jobs. While there is some precedent for reducing the size of a judge’s area of jurisdiction for non-punitive reasons — the 5th Circuit was split into two circuits in 1981 after it became too large and unwieldy — an Act of Congress which effectively stripped a court’s judges of all their responsibilities would certainly run afoul of the Constitution.
Moreover, while Gingrich is correct that Jefferson did unconstitutionally abolish several federal judgeships, this precedent is best read as a sign that the framers, while brilliant, were no less capable of letting their passions overcome their ability to follow the Constitution than modern lawmakers occasionally prove to be. Indeed, Jefferson himself came to power in part because of a nationwide backlash against wildly unconstitutional laws passed by his predecessor.
Ultimately, however, the most frightening thing about Gingrich’s proposal isn’t its direct conflict with the Constitution, but the implications of such a violation of the Constitution for a fair and impartial judiciary. The framers protected judges from exactly this kind of intimidation because they knew that judges cannot be trusted to enforce unpopular laws or to extend the law’s protection over unpopular groups if they constantly have to watch their backs. At the end of the day, Gingrich’s proposal is nothing more than another sign of the right’s utter contempt for the Constitution and the law.
(HT: Right Wing Watch)
So an Arizona GOP leader, a former campaign worker for John McCain, steps down after his wife asks him if his precinct leaders will shoot at their house. It seems Anthony Miller just isn't conservative enough to please the local GOP's Tea Party fringe. Several of his allies also resigned.
Gee, I wonder if this is for the obvious reason?
Several GOP officials from the same area in Arizona have resigned following last week's shooting rampage in Tucson, including a district chairman who said threats from local tea party members caused him to be worried for the safety of himself and his family.
Anthony Miller, 43, stepped down earlier this week as chair of Republican District 20 after his wife expressed concerns about "constant verbal attacks" against him since helping Sen. John McCain win reelection in November, The Arizona Republic reported.
McCain was opposed by some parts of the conservative tea party movement in Arizona. Since the election victory, Miller said he has been the subject of intimidating and threatening rhetoric in person and on Internet message boards.
Still, Miller said, he had no plans to leave his post until the attempted assassination of Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during a massacre that left six dead and 14 wounded.
"I wasn't going to resign but decided to quit after what happened Saturday," Miller told The Huffington Post Wednesday. "I love the Republican Party but I don't want to take a bullet for anyone."
Miller, who is black, said a number of the attacks were racially based. At an event in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., Miller told The Huffington Post that someone called out, "There's Anthony, get a rope."
The president along with many others, like Daniel Hernandez, gave a beautiful, graceful[...]
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Small government activist Grover Norquist is calling for Republicans to begin a serious debate on the Afghanistan war. Not surprisingly, Norquist was focusing on the cost of financing our seemingly endless military commitment to the country.[...]
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