The idea that it’s even coherent to talk about “politicizing” the attempted assassination of a politician strikes me as questionable. But since typically people die without being assassinated, and there are still always allegations of nefarious “politicization” of their deaths, I’d like to go on record as saying that when I decided to write about politics and policy for a living that wasn’t just a weird coincidence. I actually really care about these things. They’re very important to me. And if I die tomorrow or next week or next month or next year or (hopefully!) decades from now and still-living allies want to take the occasion to try to advance progress on the issues I care about, I would applaud that.
I imagine in the wake of this Arizona shooting that there’ll be a move to deliver more security around members of congress as they travel in-state. I think that would be a real mistake. As horrible as what happened this weekend is, the fact of the matter is that political assassinations are extremely rare and it’s simply not the case that the country faces some kind of systematic assassination problem. What’s we do have in the United States is an unusually high level of violent crime across the board, but pulling police resources off their day-to-day work and onto personal security for politicians is going to make that worse.
The change that we ought to be making, however, is an institutional one relating to the question of what happens if someone shoots a United States Senator. I think it would sit poorly with all of us if assassinating a senator led to a change in partisan control of the senate via gubernatorial appointment, but many states’ laws leave the door open to that possibility. Senators ought to be replaced, in my view, either through a special election or else through an appointee pre-designated by the Senator as a legitimate proxy for his or her approach to politics.
This is the kind of thing that we tend not to think about until after it’s happened, but by that time it’s too late. The political system itself needs to be made as resilient as possible to attempted violent interventions.
I was at a party last night featuring some of the young stars of progressive writing (Dylan Matthews, Ned Resnikoff, etc.) when some folks in the next room fired up No Doubt’s “Spiderwebs” on Rock Band.
The young folks are familiar with the tune, but I wondered if they really understood what it meant to screen one’s phonecalls. The answer turned out to be: Not really. The consensus view was that it had something to do with checking caller ID. The truth, of course, is implicit right there in the chorus: “Sorry I’m not home right now / I’m walking in a spiderweb / So leave a message and I’ll call you back / A likely story but leave a message and I’ll call you back.” The speaker doesn’t have caller ID (which was bleeding edge technology at the time) so instead she was screening her phone calls by letting the answering machine pick up the phone and deliver her outbound message. Then the caller would start to talk, identifying himself, and the screener would either pick up the phone or else ignore the message. Hence the sarcasm of “a likely story.”
At any rate, consider that a lesson for the young people and a chilling reminder to the rest of us of how old we are.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, at least two Arizonans have died because they were denied funding for organ transplants that they were promised following Medicaid budget cuts championed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R). The governor called the transplants “optional.”
Horrified by the fact that 98 Arizonans were unable to get organ transplants they desperately needed, last month Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) joined with Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) to be the only two members of that state’s congressional delegation to write to Brewer and protest the lethal cuts to the state’s budget. Citing the case of Arizonan father David Hernandez, who will die if he doesn’t receive a lung transplant, the two reminded Brewer that she holds in her “hands the lives of these men and women“:
Various reports have quoted you and others in Arizona state government as describing transplants as “optional.” We strongly disagree with that characterization for medical procedures that determine the life or death of our fellow Arizonans.
We urge you — in the strongest possible way — not to solve the state’s budget problems on the backs of people such as David Hernandez. You hold in your hands the lives of these men and women of Arizona.
Following the letter, a spokesman for Brewer told local news station KGUN that he has yet to see a “Democrat come up a real, viable solution to help alleviate the budget and sustain the program.” Since that time, Steven Daglas — an Illinois State GOP Central Committeeman — has been writing to Brewer, presenting 26 possible funding solutions to the Medicaid problem that wouldn’t require any new revenues. He has yet to receive a response.
Excellent post from Greg Ip on the strange notion of giving Representative Paul Ryan an award for commitment to deficit reduction:
It’s a good thing for Mr Ryan the Fiscy relates only to the fiscal year that ended on September 30th, because ever since then he’s been acting less like a deficit hawk. Like Mr Conrad, Mr Ryan was a member of the Bowles-Simpson commission. Unlike Mr Conrad, he voted against its plan to stabilise the debt despite calling it “serious and credible”. He opposed it because it left Mr Obama’s health-care reform intact, and because it relied too much on tax increases, even though these were smaller than the plan’s spending cuts. The opposition by Mr Ryan and his two fellow House Republicans more or less guaranteed the plan would die.
A few days later Mr Ryan congratulated Mr Obama for acting “responsibly” in capitulating to Republicans and agreeing to an $800 billion-plus package that extends all of George Bush’s tax cuts and implements new temporary stimulus composed overwhelmingly of tax cuts. Whatever its merits as stimulus, its complete absence of any linkage to long-term deficit reduction is antithetical to the principals behind the Fiscy. [...]
[T]he most important reason to question Mr Ryan’s deficit-hawk credentials was his support for certain changes to the budget process to constrain spending. Specifically, “Paygo”, the current rule that requires any cut in taxes or increase in spending be offset by equivalent tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere in the budget, will be replaced with “Cutgo”, which imposes that requirement only on spending. The new rules could actually weaken rather than strengthen, deficit reduction; so says none other than the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
I’m a liberal. And I think, as does everyone who thinks about it for fifteen minutes, that the debt:GDP ratio needs to be stabilized over the long-term and that stabilizing it at a relatively low level would be better than stabilizing it at a high level. And I think the kind of people who give out “fiscy” awards don’t want liberals to immediately put their fingers in their ears when people start talking about deficit reduction. But it’s impossible for progressives to take the organized deficit reduction movement seriously under these circumstances.
He wants advice on what an individual can do to help humanity now
A 25-year-old reader of ClimateProgress is at a turning point in his life, and he is asking CP readers for advice.
He posted the comment below in the Open Thread here, inspiring a few good responses, but I wanted more people to see this, so I’m pulling it up into a separate post.
UPDATE: Ian provides more background — and a big thank you to readers — in the comments below here. He has a degree in film production.
Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, [Steve] Driehaus “may be a dead man” and “can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati” because “the Catholics will run him out of town,” Driehaus began receiving death threats, and a right-wing website published directions to his house. Driehaus says he approached Boehner on the floor and confronted him.
“I didn’t think it was funny at all,” Driehaus says. “I’ve got three little kids and a wife. I said to him, ‘John, this is bullshit, and way out of bounds. For you to say something like that is wildly irresponsible.’”
Driehaus is quick to point out that he doesn’t think Boehner meant to urge anyone to violence. “But it’s not about what he intended — it’s about how the least rational person in my district takes it. We run into some crazy people in this line of work.”
Driehaus says Boehner was “taken aback” when confronted on the floor, but never actually said he was sorry: “He said something along the lines of, ‘You know that’s not what I meant.’ But he didn’t apologize.”
I’ll also just note that the specific anti-abortion argument against the Affordable Care Act is a particularly deranged version of the “life begins at conception and ends at birth” version of the world.
In October, marine scientists said the Southeast Asia and Indian Ocean bleaching “may prove to be the worst such event known to science.” NOAA pointed out in November that
As the “rainforests of the sea,” coral reefs provide economic services “” jobs, food and tourism “” estimated to be worth as much as $375 billion each year.
The former chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science wrote in December, “The end is in sight for the world’s coral reefs.”
What follows is a WunderBlog repost in which Dr. Jeff Masters summarizes what happened to corals this year.
Yesterday, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot at a campaign event in Tucson by a deranged gunman who also fired at twenty other people, killing six, including a federal judge and a nine year-old girl. Police have a suspect in custody — 22 year-old Jared Lee Loughner — who in one of his internet posting “suggested that the government was trying to trick him, or take advantage of him.”
Last year, Sarah Palin’s political action committee posted a map with gun cross-hairs over the districts of several Democrats who voted for health care reform, including that of Giffords. Last year, Giffords herself warned that such a depiction may have consequences. “For example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, the way she has it depicted, we’re in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district,” Giffords said. “When people do that, they’ve got to realize that there are consequences to that action.” The image appears to have been taken down yesterday.
Today, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) was asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley about Palin’s ad, and responded that it was actually those referencing the ad that are being “irresponsible”:
CROWLEY: Was it over the line, sort of specifically, since it’s now being talked about everywhere, with Sarah Palin’s web ads about people that she would like to see targeted for political defeat.
ALEXANDER: Well, Candy, I think you’re responsible, by bringing this up, of doing the very thing you’re trying to condemn. You’re making and implying a direct connection between Sarah Palin and what happened. You’re picking out a particular incident. Well, I think the way to get away from it is for you not to be talking about it.
Palin yesterday offered her “sincere condolences” but her aides have bristled at the notion that Palin’s cross-hairs might have influenced violent actions. In fact, they now deny the image was meant to symbolize a gun-sight at all. “We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights,” said Palin aide Rebecca Mansour, adding that there was “nothing irresponsible about our graphic.”
Alexander is not the only senator dismissive of the notion that overheated political rhetoric may have played a role in the shooting. Also on CNN, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) blamed a “breakdown in the family structure.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) , meanwhile, said that “putting cross-hairs on congressional districts…invite the kinds of toxic rhetoric that lead unstable people to believe this is an acceptable response.” On Fox News Sunday, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) noted that Palin wasn’t the only one using gun-related rhetoric during the campaign, referencing Sharron Angle’s pronouncement that “Second Amendment remedies” may be needed to reverse the course of Congress. Last April, former President Bill Clinton recommended that both the media and politicians be responsible with their rhetoric since it falls on the “serious and the delirious alike.”
Here’s some interesting quantitative analysis from Alan Abramowitz, illustrating a point that seems qualitatively true. In the 1970s, voting for both the House and Senate was only very weakly correlated with presidential voting. In the 80s, the correlation got stronger. In the 1990s, the correlation got stronger. And in the 2000s, it’s got even stronger.
I’d say it’s largely a good thing that we now have more ideologically coherent parties and a more rigorously consistent political system. But political institutions need to adapt to that reality.