Since Cain went nuts and whacked Abel, there have always been those humans who, for one reason or another, go temporarily or permanently insane and commit unspeakable acts of violence. There was the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who during the first century A.D. enjoyed throwing victims off a cliff on the Mediterranean island of Capri. Gilles de Rais, a French knight and ally of Joan of Arc during the middle ages, went cuckoo-for-Cocoa Puffs one day and ended up murdering hundreds of children. Just a few decades later Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula, was killing people in Transylvania in numberless horrifying ways.
In modern times, nearly every nation has had a psychopath or two commit a mass murder, regardless of how strict their gun laws are ? the crazed white supremacist in Norway one year ago Sunday, the schoolyard butcher in Dunblane, Scotland, the École Polytechnique killer in Montreal, the mass murderer in Erfurt, Germany ? the list seems endless.
And now the Aurora shooter last Friday. There have always been insane people, and there always will be.
But here's the difference between the rest of the world and us: We have TWO Auroras that take place every single day of every single year! At least 24 Americans every day (8-9,000 a year) are killed by people with guns ? and that doesn't count the ones accidentally killed by guns or who commit suicide with a gun. Count them and you can triple that number to over 25,000.
That means the United States is responsible for over 80% of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined. Considering that the people of those countries, as human beings, are no better or worse than any of us, well, then, why us?
Both conservatives and liberals in America operate with firmly held beliefs as to "the why" of this problem. And the reason neither can find their way out of the box toward a real solution is because, in fact, they're both half right.
The right believes that the Founding Fathers, through some sort of divine decree, have guaranteed them the absolute right to own as many guns as they desire. And they will ceaselessly remind you that a gun cannot fire itself ? that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."
Of course, they know they're being intellectually dishonest (if I can use that word) when they say that about the Second Amendment because they know the men who wrote the constitution just wanted to make sure a militia could be quickly called up from amongst the farmers and merchants should the Brits decide to return and wreak some havoc.
But they are half right when they say "Guns don't kill people." I would just alter that slogan slightly to speak the real truth: "Guns don't kill people, Americans kill people."
Because we're the only ones in the first world who do this en masse. And you'll hear all stripes of Americans come up with a host of reasons so that they don't have to deal with what's really behind all this murder and mayhem.
They'll say it's the violent movies and video games that are responsible. Last time I checked, the movies and video games in Japan are more violent than ours ? and yet usually fewer than 20 people a year are killed there with guns ? and in 2006 the number was two!
Others will say it's the number of broken homes that lead to all this killing. I hate to break this to you, but there are almost as many single-parent homes in the U.K. as there are here ? and yet, in Great Britain, there are usually fewer than 40 gun murders a year.
People like me will say this is all the result of the U.S. having a history and a culture of men with guns, "cowboys and Indians," "shoot first and ask questions later." And while it is true that the mass genocide of the Native Americans set a pretty ugly model to found a country on, I think it's safe to say we're not the only ones with a violent past or a penchant for genocide. Hello, Germany! That's right I'm talking about you and your history, from the Huns to the Nazis, just loving a good slaughter (as did the Japanese, and the British who ruled the world for hundreds of years ? and they didn't achieve that through planting daisies). And yet in Germany, a nation of 80 million people, there are only around 200 gun murders a year.
So those countries (and many others) are just like us ? except for the fact that more people here believe in God and go to church than any other Western nation.
My liberal compatriots will tell you if we just had less guns, there would be less gun deaths. And, mathematically, that would be true. If you have less arsenic in the water supply, it will kill less people. Less of anything bad ? calories, smoking, reality TV ? will kill far fewer people. And if we had strong gun laws that prohibited automatic and semi-automatic weapons and banned the sale of large magazines that can hold a gazillion bullets, well, then shooters like the man in Aurora would not be able to shoot so many people in just a few minutes.
But this, too, has a problem. There are plenty of guns in Canada (mostly hunting rifles) ? and yet the annual gun murder count in Canada is around 200 deaths. In fact, because of its proximity, Canada's culture is very similar to ours ? the kids play the same violent video games, watch the same movies and TV shows, and yet they don't grow up wanting to kill each other. Switzerland has the third-highest number of guns per capita on earth, but still a low murder rate.
So ? why us?
I posed this question a decade ago in my film 'Bowling for Columbine,' and this week, I have had little to say because I feel I said what I had to say ten years ago ? and it doesn't seem to have done a whole lot of good other than to now look like it was actually a crystal ball posing as a movie.
This is what I said then, and it is what I will say again today:
1. We Americans are incredibly good killers. We believe in killing as a way of accomplishing our goals. Three-quarters of our states execute criminals, even though the states with the lower murder rates are generally the states with no death penalty.
Our killing is not just historical (the slaughter of Indians and slaves and each other in a "civil" war). It is our current way of resolving whatever it is we're afraid of. It's invasion as foreign policy. Sure there's Iraq and Afghanistan ? but we've been invaders since we "conquered the wild west" and now we're hooked so bad we don't even know where to invade (bin Laden wasn't hiding in Afghanistan, he was in Pakistan) or what to invade for (Saddam had zero weapons of mass destruction and nothing to do with 9/11). We send our lower classes off to do the killing, and the rest of us who don't have a loved one over there don't spend a single minute of any given day thinking about the carnage. And now we send in remote pilotless planes to kill, planes that are being controlled by faceless men in a lush, air conditioned studio in suburban Las Vegas. It is madness.
2. We are an easily frightened people and it is easy to manipulate us with fear. What are we so afraid of that we need to have 300 million guns in our homes? Who do we think is going to hurt us? Why are most of these guns in white suburban and rural homes? Maybe we should fix our race problem and our poverty problem (again, #1 in the industrialized world) and then maybe there would be fewer frustrated, frightened, angry people reaching for the gun in the drawer. Maybe we would take better care of each other (here's a good example of what I mean).
Those are my thoughts about Aurora and the violent country I am a citizen of. Like I said, I spelled it all out here if you'd like to watch it or share it for free with others. All we're lacking here, my friends, is the courage and the resolve. I'm in if you are.
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The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke to Elizabeth Warren about her opponent for the United States Senate in Massachusetts, Scott Brown and his latest dishonest attack ad where he decided to take a page out of Mitten's book and take her and President Obama out of context.
Here's more on that from Greg Sargent: Scott Brown gets in on the Big Lie:
Obama?s now infamous ?didn?t build that? speech is similar to Elizabeth Warren?s viral remarks about how the rich didn?t get rich on their own. So it?s not surprising that Senator Scott Brown has just released a new Web video (embedded below) tying Obama?s remarks to Warren?s and painting them as vaguely anti-American. Brown says: ?I will never demonize you as business leaders and business owners.? Brown, apparently taken with the plaudits Romney has earned from the right for lying relentlessly about Obama?s quote, has now done the same. [...]
Just as Romney?s Web video does, the audio is edited to remove the chunk of the speech in which Obama talks about our ?great American system? and ?roads and bridges,? misleading listeners into believing that the ?didn?t build that? line was an insult to business owners. Any listener would reasonably conclude that the language quoted above is exactly as Obama delivered it. [...]
This gives me an occasion to make another point. The whole ?didn?t build that? dust-up is important, because the larger falsehood on display here ? that Obama demeans success ? is absolutely central to the Republican case against Obama. The Republican argument ? Romney?s argument ? is partly that Obama?s active ill will towards business owners and entrepreneurs is helping stall the recovery, so you should replace him with a president who wants people to succeed.
There is a separate policy dispute under way, too ? Republicans insist that deregulation and tax reform that will cut taxes for the rich further are the way to speed the recovery, while Obama says more government intervention is necessary. But Republicans have decided the policy difference isn?t enough. They also need to sow doubts about Obama?s alleged intentions and hostility towards private enterprise and individual initiative, to give voters a narrative about the Obama presidency and an explanation for the sluggish recovery that will make them more receptive to GOP tax and deregulatory policies they might otherwise greet with skepticism. The claim that Obama demeans success is central to that narrative. Without lies like this one about the ?didn?t build that? quote, that claim and that narrative collapse. And that?s why this matters.
Don't forget you can donate to Elizabeth Warren's campaign at our Act Blue page if you'd like to help her replace Wall Street's favorite Senator, Scott Brown.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (Gage Skidmore)Poor Michele Bachmann. While she continues to hold fast to her belief that there are agents of the Muslim Brotherhood in government, providing a fine opportunity for even Republicans to come to the conclusion that she is freaking nuts, another wrinkle in the conspiracy is getting a bit of attention. Frank Gaffney, the anti-Muslim conservative conspiracy theorist whose "research" is what Bachmann is using, has been engaged in a long running feud with anti-tax conservative Grover Norquist, whom Gaffney believes is also a secret agent of radical Islam. In fact, the very "report" or "course" or whatever you want to call the Gaffney brainburp that Bachmann explicitly referred to in her letter accusing Clinton aide Huma Abedin of being a secret agent of scary Muslims calls out Norquist by name:
7. The Muslim Brotherhood was helped in its efforts to achieve information dominance over the George W. Bush administration, thanks to collaboration between a top Muslim Brotherhood operative, Abdurahman Alamoudi, and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.I think in technical terms Gaffney's evidence can be summarized as "booga booga booga," which is quite possibly the best evidence any conspiracy theorist can rely on. Statistically speaking, we're at a three-booga level of certainty here, people.
8. In addition to al Qaeda financier Alamoudi, Norquist helped mainstream in the Bush campaign and/or administration five other Muslims with extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. [...]
Jonathan Kay notes the past history between the two:
In short order, [Gaffney] developed an elaborate theory that Norquist was involved in a "trifecta" power play involving a conservative group called the Islamic Free Market Institute, Karl Rove's desire to open up a new GOP constituency, and Norquist's own fund-raising imperatives. At first, Gaffney suspects, Norquist's motives were cynical. But then, over time, he began to drink the Islamist kool-aid.Now that's a conspiracy theory! Do you think Michele Bachmann will get right on that? Will she demand we call Norquist in to explore his super-secret Muslim ties? Will Michele Bachman write stern letters demanding we investigate people in government who are associated with Norquist?
When I asked Gaffney whether he thought Norquist (who, in real life, is a Methodist) was a "closet Muslim," he thought for a moment, and replied: "I don't know ... But I have had Muslim people tell me that when they see [Norquist] in a Muslim-only setting, he acts like a Muslim. He is married to a Muslim woman."
That would be especially fun. As Kay notes:
[T]here is an amusing irony at play here. Norquist is not just any conservative activist: his Taxpayer Protection Pledge has been signed by 95 percent of Republican congressmen (as well as Mitt Romney)?including every one of the five members of Congress who put their name on the Abedin letter.Yeah, oops.
An adviser to Mitt Romney told a London paper that Obama has not been an effective partner for Britain because he doesn’t “fully appreciate” America’s “Anglo-Saxon hertiage.” The racially tinged comments come hours before Romney lands in London for a series of high level meetings and the opening of the Olympic Games.
Jon Swaine of the Daily Telegraph has the story:
In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.
?We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,? the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: ?The White House didn?t fully appreciate the shared history we have.?
The comments were the lastest attack by the Romney campaign on Obama’s multi-cultural heritage. Last week, Romney campaign co-chair John Sununu said Obama didn’t understand the “American system” because he “spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia.” Sununu also said Obama needed to “learn how to be an American.” (Sununu later apologizeD for that remark.) Later that day Romney called Obama’s policies “extraordinarily foreign.”
A lot of people who are hoping that once Obama gets re-elected that he will prosecute the criminals on Wall Street who currently blatantly flaunt the law. I hate to shatter naive illusions, but if Obama was ever going to be serious about[...]
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With his pedigree and language skills, the adorable, yet poorly disciplined tot would be the perfect replacement for the Muppets who have stepped away from their gig as Chick-fil-A spokespmodels in light of the corporate fowl fryer's 'tude.[...]
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A new drug has been released which is supposed to be helpful in the prophylaxis against HIV infections. This one drug, in my opinion, sums up everything that is both good and bad in the pharmaceutical industry. Unless you were alive and sexually active in the mid-to-late 1980s, it's hard to imagine how devastating HIV
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[Above: Sebastien Wielemans' superb documentary on Shawna Forde, A Cycle of Fences.]
As many of you know, I've spent the past couple of years immersing myself in the saga of Brisenia Flores, Shawna Forde, and the Minutemen, largely with the help of the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute. The end result will be my sixth book, The Last Minutemen, which is due out from NationBooks in April 2013.
I also put together an investigative piece on the demise of the Minutemen and Forde's role in that, which will be included in the book. AlterNet has it, and as you can see, it really is just a preview:
I expect the most interesting revelations will involve the conversations that various Minutemen leaders -- who all ran as fast and far away from Shawna Forde as they could, after she was arrested -- had with Forde over the years:
Not only did both Simcox and Gilchrist have extensive dealings with Forde over the years, both repeatedly courted her work and her organization. Simcox didn?t chase Forde out of the MCDC: he begged Forde not to leave his fold. In the case of Gilchrist, one witness to the conversation says that, in 2008, he and Forde discussed her plan to finance the movement by ripping off drug dealers ? and that he was enthusiastic about it. Forde not only was fully empowered by Minuteman movement leadership, she was enacting a violent scheme with what she believed was their tacit approval.
And while you're at it, go read Mark Potok's powerful piece on the demise of the National Alliance over at The Intelligence Report:
Ten years after founder's death, key neo-Nazi movement 'a joke'
Ten years ago, the Alliance had 1,400 carefully selected and clean-cut members, a paid national staff of 17, and great respect in radical-right circles in America and abroad. Its publications, including a newsletter and a journal, set the standard on the extreme right, and its leaders regularly met with their counterparts in Europe. In Florida, it bought radio time and billboard ads. Between dues and income from its white-power music label, it was bringing in almost $1 million a year.
Today, the National Alliance is widely viewed as a joke.
Go read it all.
And yes: The good news is that both of these extremist organizations have completely fallen apart. The bad news is that, like zombies and vampires, they just keep coming back from the dead, usually in mutated forms like the Tea Party.
Before I start this post I would like to say rest in peace Sherman Hemsley.(There is a pretty decent and on point tribute to him in the link I provided) Dude almost made it cool to be a House Negro. I just hope that he "moved on up" today.
So anyway, one of the pitfalls of being an opinionated black man in America--- who isn't afraid to speak his mind--- is all the negative feedback you get from ignorant small minded folks. People who can't really debate you on the facts and issues at hand, so they resort to juvenile, petty, and sectarian attacks.
The e-mails are numerous, and the comments...well, you see a lot of them on this blog.
Jonathan Capehart is a sometimes television commentator and a writer for the Washington Post. He is a pretty intelligent dude who has strong opinions on certain issues. One of them is the Trayvon Martin case. It is a case that he has written extensively about over the past few months. I am sure that the poor guy gets his share of nasty e-mails, comments and letters, and one particular
stalker person drove him to write an entire column in response.
I have vowed not to give anymore of my own personal opinions about the Martin case until after the trial, but the following is a cut and paste job from some of Capehart's column that I thought I should share with you:
"Some fellow named Rick, who has emailed me from two different addresses since last week, really didn?t like what I had to say about Sean Hannity?s interview with George Zimmerman. His first email came Thursday morning, the day after the killer of Trayvon Martin said he had ?no regrets.? The second one came later that day. And ever since he has emailed asking for a response. ?I will send this to you ?ad-infinitum' until I get a reasonable and rationale [sic] response from you,? Rick wrote me via email Saturday night.
Well, Rick here comes your answer.
?One of the burdens of being a black male is carrying the heavy weight of other people?s suspicions,? I wrote at the outset of the national furor over Zimmerman not being in jail for killing Trayvon. We already know that Trayvon brings out the worst in people. But Rick?s racist rant ? complete with misspellings and poor grammar ? gives my statement renewed relevance as he joins far too many others in denigrating the life of a person he didn?t know by using stereotypes to justify his hate.
Much in the way Sanford Police Detectives dissected Zimmerman?s call to the department that rainy night on Feb. 26, I dissect Rick?s missive. Would that folks like Rick gave Trayvon the same benefit of the doubt they are demanding be given to Zimmerman.
I read your response in regards to the Hannity/Zimmerman interview. It is so full of holes a semi truck can drive thru the huge gaps you leave.This requires us to believe Zimmerman?s version of events. Understandable simply because we only have his side of the story. Trayvon is dead. Clearly, there was some kind of physical fight as Zimmerman?s injuries attest. Yet, few if any Zimmerman supporters seem to ask themselves this question: What would you do if you were a 17-year-old staying as a guest in a neighborhood not your own and were accosted by a stranger who you noticed had been following you in a car?
Martin broke this guys [sic] nose and was pounding his head into the concrete... he probably was in the process of killing him before he got (justifiably) shot.
Martin is just another typical example of an "angry, black, and totally uneducated" product of black culture which believes in Jerry Springer tactics for problem resolution.What this portion of Rick?s racist rant ignores is a report from Trayvon?s teacher at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in Miami where he was a junior. He was ?an A and B student who majored in cheerfulness,? she said. Nothing that I have seen since that February report disputes that.
Has "Batso" Bachmann really said anything battier than she's said in the past? Still, she has clearly crossed some line. I just wish I knew what it was.
"It remains to be seen whether Bachmann has done enough to cause herself any problems in the November election. What she has done is torpedoed any political capital she might have had left over from her brief moment in the spotlight during the GOP presidential nominating contest last year."
-- Aaron Blake, in "How Michele Bachmann finally jumped the shark," on washingtonpost.com's "The Fix" blog
Howie just dealt with some of the practical ins and outs of the surprisingly stern reaction to Michele "Batso" Bachmann's latest public wig-out. I say "surprisingly" stern because I've been coming to believe that there really isn't anything that right-wingers can't say, now that they have what appears to be official and unlimited license to spew any damned delusion or lie that pops into their heads.
I'm sure I've tried the patience of readers by coming back repeatedly to this point: that in the 21st century, it is apparently officially okay that every word that comes out of the mouth of every right-winger can be presumed to be untrue. I apologize, but I can't get my mind unblown over this. I haven't even recovered from the 2008 presidential campaign in which candidate Young Johnny McCranky got through the entire carnival without ever saying a word that wasn't a lie. Which was an even greater challenge than might be apparent, since McCranky had a minimum of two positions on every issue, and frequently more -- and even so he managed to cast them all in the form of lies. You'd think there would be some sort of prize for this. (And I'm not suggesting the White House.)
So from my standpoint what's interesting about the current pushback Batso is getting isn't whether she can survive it but the fact that she's getting it at all. Of course what she said had to say about the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran and Rep. Keith Ellison and Hilary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is batshit crazy and an unmitigated disgrace, for which she ought to be reviled by every person of minimal sense and decency. But what the heck is new about that? For how many years now has this been true of everything that comes out of her maw? And, for that matter, out of the mouths of most every cog in the Right-Wing Noise Machine. On Fox Noise, for example, it's known in technical terms as "our programming." I mean, if all such content were banished from its cable waves, it would be reduced to a test pattern. Or maybe Yule Log, without the Yule log. (They could probably afford to buy a Yule log, though.)
Fortunately, I think, someone has actually attempted to show us how Batso's current round of blithering is different from, well, her usual kind. Interestingly, it's not washingtonpost.com Fixmaster Chris Cillizza attempting this feat of analysis but Aaron Blake, who sets the stage thusly (minus links, which you can find onsite):
Rep. Michele Bachmann is no stranger to controversy or -- as we found during the GOP presidential primary -- stretching the truth.And by golly, our Aaron, brave soul, sets out "a few reasons that we can surmise."
In fact, the fact-checking Web site Politifact has rated 31 of Bachmann?s public statements to be either ?false? or even worse ? ?pants on fire? ? one of the worst records of any politician. And The Washington Post?s great Fact-Checker blog gave her four Pinocchios on six different occasions during the GOP presidential primary.
Today, though, for arguably the first time in her congressional career, the Minnesota GOP congresswoman is finding herself publicly on the outs with some in her own party. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), among others, have publicly criticized Bachmann for her suggestion that State Department officials, including longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, might be part of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to infiltrate the U.S. government. (Though notably, Newt Gingrich defended her this morning.)
So what gives? Why did Bachmann, whose history of bending the truth and saying controversial things has already been well-documented, finally go too far for her colleagues?
With that heft comes more attention, and suddenly the things she says are not just the musings of some back-bench member of Congress but a Republican who actually got some real traction with the GOP base against the likes of Romney. That makes the things she says potentially more harmful to her party.
Bachmann?s letter, which was co-signed by four other House members, wasn?t big news until McCain took to the Senate floor and eviscerated her.And after McCranky ("one of the biggest voices in the GOP today") came "Sunny John" Boehner and "the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee" (who would be the egregious Mike Rogers, who goes unnamed). Well, pardon my astonishment, but I don't believe that any human being has ever told more lies than the Crankyman, whose relationship to the truth is . . . wait, does he have a relationship to the truth? (Perhaps "against"?) And Boehner? Boehner?
?These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop now,? McCain said, according to prepared remarks.
Suddenly, members of her own party were no longer standing idly by . . . .
Democrats can attack Bachmann all day; the moment that Republicans with such stature enter the fray against their GOP colleague, it becomes big news.The boldface emphasis is added, and I hope I don't have to explain why. I can't help feeling that this is in fact the most important sentence in Aaron's piece, not least because it appears to be true. It really and truly doesn't matter what's said by Democrats, or perhaps more usefully by anyone whom the Bush regimistas famously disparaged as denizens of "the reality-based community." The reality-basers can talk till they turn blue, they can do handstands and cartwheels, they can provide mountains of documentation, and none of it matters. Nope, it only matters when people of the stature of McCranky and Sunny John and "Anonymous" Rogers step up to the microphones.
All of the above aside, what Bachmann is alleging is on a whole new level from her previous allegations. While she alleged in 2007 that Iran had plans to turn parts of Iraq into a terrorist haven, accusing U.S. government officials of being involved in a terrorist conspiracy is different.
The former charge may not pass the smell test or be based on any public evidence, but it?s not too far afield that many would disbelieve it. After all, Iran is the bad guy.
The latter would be a scandal the likes of which this country has rarely -- if ever -- seen. And Bachmann is making the allegation against American citizens.
Democrats can attack Bachmann all day; the moment that Republicans with such stature enter the fray against their GOP colleague, it becomes big news.#