January 2011, Week 2


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Mon, 10 Jan 2011 01:40:34 -0500
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Arizona's Long Dark Night Continues
by Randall Amster
January 9, 2011 

Perhaps not since the full-on throes of the Civil Rights
era has a single state been so beset by crisis,
conflict, and now catastrophe. Chronicling Arizona
politics has been a trying and tiresome experience on
many levels, with few points of optimism at hand to
buffet the constant blows of injustice and brutality.
The open persecution of people of color at the level of
both bodies and minds; the outright hijacking of the
state's politics by far-right figures with white
supremacist ties; the bankrupting of the economy while
private interests gain tax breaks and write favorable
laws for themselves; the decimation of the public
infrastructure including the education and healthcare
systems -- all of this and more has been front and
center for beleaguered Arizonans in recent years.

Today, with the tragic shooting of Democratic
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a Federal Judge who
had previously been the target of anti-immigrant
protesters, among perhaps a dozen other victims, we have
before us a sobering reminder of the political "climate
of fear" that has been fostered by certain demagogic
elements here in Arizona. While I remain committed to
the challenge of finding the positive news in the daily
cycle, reality nonetheless intrudes and at times demands
our attention. This is one of those instances, and if
there is any justice to be found in this madness,
perhaps it will finally provide the impetus for us all
to move beyond the politics of fear and rage. As Matt
Bai has opined in the New York Times, "the question is
whether Saturday's shooting marks the logical end point
of such a moment [of rhetorical recklessness] -- or
rather the beginning of a terrifying new one."

Time will tell, but if recent events are any indication,
it will be an uphill struggle that is not merely
confined to Arizona. "Even before the shooting of a U.S.
congresswoman on Saturday, the state of Arizona was in
the throes of a convulsive political year that had come
to symbolize a bitter partisan divide across much of
America," writes David Schwartz for Reuters. "I feel
huge sorrow, that's just been building in southern
Arizona for some time, this hate, hate, fear, somewhat
around SB 1070, somewhat around healthcare reform. It
definitely heated up when President Obama was elected,"
said Molly McKasson Morgan, 63, who participated in
Tucson politics and knew Giffords. "It's never been this
angry, it's never been this divisive," said Alfredo
Gutierrez, a former state lawmaker.

These trends of divisiveness and open hostility have
been manifesting for some time here. Following the
passage of SB 1070 and approaching its date of
implementation last July, I observed the growing
tendency toward violence and its unabashed cultivation:

"One of the unspoken tragedies and implicit intentions
of Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, is the
promotion of a climate of fear among certain segments of
the population. This fear-mongering strategy has been
cooked up by the bill's leading proponents and most
likely beneficiaries: the governor, rightwing state
legislators, and an unscrupulous sheriff who shall
remain nameless.... Fostering an environment of
racialized violence is the harsh reality of Arizona's
drive toward legislated intolerance. For those who might
feel saturated by the incessant news about immigration,
or who wonder `what's the big deal?' about SB 1070 and
the like, this is a reminder of the stakes involved.
Will there be a climate of escalating fear, hatred, and
violence that takes over, or will this be a tipping
point toward social justice and human dignity instead?
Politics and legalities aside, this is the basic
question that the Arizona dilemma is posing to the

Whether or not it turns out that the gunman in the
Giffords shooting was politically motivated, the overall
climate in which it occurred cannot be dismissed, and a
recitation of some of the key background details is
essential for a fuller understanding. For one, John M.
Roll, the federal judge killed in the shooting, had been
at the center of the state's complicated political
battle over immigration. In February 2009, he received
hundreds of threats after he allowed a lawsuit filed by
illegal immigrants against a rancher to go forward.
"They cursed him out, threatened to kill his family,
said they'd come and take care of him. They really
wanted him dead," a law enforcement official told The
Washington Post in May 2009. While there is no
indication at this point that Roll was the gunman's main
target, it is telling that he was in proximity on the
fateful day and that he himself had previously been
harassed for a perceived pro-immigrant bent.

The suspect in the shootings has been identified as 22-
year-old Jared Lee Loughner of Tucson. He had an
apparent preoccupation with "literacy" rates (which
could be a veiled reference to ethnicity), and in online
profiles listed among his favorite books Mein Kampf and
The Communist Manifesto. In a recent YouTube video,
Loughner described himself as a U.S. military recruit
who had recently filled out an application to join the
Army. In a message posted on his MySpace account, titled
"Goodbye friends," he said: "Dear friends ... please
don't be mad at me. The literacy rate is below 5%. I
haven't talked to one person who is literate." In a
rambling YouTube message referring to a new currency,
Loughner stated: "I know who's listening: Government
Officials, and the People. Nearly all the people, who
don't know this accurate information of a new currency,
aren't aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I
have my civil rights, then this message wouldn't have
happened." There are conflicting reports about whether
he acted alone, although Pima County Sheriff Clarence
Dupnik has noted that investigators are "not convinced"
that he did, according to a report by the New York Post.
Dupnik says that Loughner may have come to the parking
lot with another person who was "in some way involved,"
and poignantly lamented that Arizona has "become the
Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

Giffords' Tucson office was vandalized last March after
she voted in favor of President Obama's controversial
healthcare bill. She had been named as a campaign target
for conservatives in last November's elections by Sarah
Palin for her strong support of Obama's initiatives.
Palin infamously published a "target map" on her website
using images of gun sights to identify 20 House
Democrats, including Giffords, for backing the
healthcare law. The map used actual target markers on
locations where these Democrats lived, and listed their
names. "We're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the
thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the
crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people
do that, they have to realize that there are
consequences to that action," Giffords said in an
interview with MSNBC last March. "We've had hundreds and
hundreds of protesters over the course of the last
couple of months," she said. "Our office corner has
really become an area where the Tea Party movement
congregates and the rhetoric is really heated. Not just
the calls but the e-mails, the slurs."

At an event in 2009, which was similar to the one
Giffords was holding at the time of the shooting, a
protester was removed by police when his pistol fell to
the supermarket floor. Giffords' Republican opponent in
the November 2010 congressional race, Tea Party
candidate Jesse Kelly, was criticized for a campaign
event he held at a shooting range, advertised with the
words "Get on Target for Victory in November," "Help
remove Gabriel Giffords from office," and "Shoot a fully
automatic M16." Giffords narrowly won reelection to her
third term in the House of Representatives -- and during
the course of the campaign it was revealed that she was
one of three Democrats in the nation to receive
contributions from MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, resulting
in the newscaster's temporary suspension from the

After the shooting, Giffords' father told the New York
Post, when asked if his daughter had enemies, "Yeah, the
whole Tea Party." He added that politicians constantly
face danger. "They always get threatened," he said,
sobbing. According to a report by The Hill, Tea Party
Nation founder Judson Phillips condemned the attacks,
but warned supporters that the Tea Party movement would
be blamed by political opponents. "While we need to take
a moment to extend our sympathies to the families of
those who died, we cannot allow the hard left to do what
it tried to do in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing,"
he said. The Tucson Citizen's "Three Sonorans" blog
further reports that the building housing the Mexican-
American Studies program at the University of Arizona
was vandalized at almost the same time as the shootings
occurred, and that Judge Roll had recently been assigned
to hear the lawsuit challenging Arizona's new law (HB
2281) banning Ethnic Studies. Authorities were also
called later that evening to Giffords' office as
vigilers assembled there, when a suspicious package was
removed and secured by the bomb squad, according to an
Associated Press report.

For her part, Giffords has been a strong proponent of
solar energy, and has generally been known as a moderate
to conservative Democrat among Arizona's Republican-
dominated congressional delegation. Giffords was first
sworn in as a Representative on January 3, 2007, and is
the first Jewish woman and third woman overall in
Arizona's history to be elected to serve in Congress. In
her first month in office, Giffords voted to support
increased federal funding for embryonic stem-cell
research, raise the minimum wage, endorse the
recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and adopt new
rules for the House of Representatives targeting ethical
issues. Giffords also voted to repeal subsidies to big
oil companies and invest the savings in renewable
energy. She is a member of the House LGBT Equality
Caucus and has been noted as "a strong supporter of gay
rights." She also advocated for the repeal of $14
billion in subsidies to oil companies in favor of
renewable energy subsidies and the establishment of a
Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve to increase research
in clean energy, develop greater efficiency, and improve
conservation. Giffords has supported stronger border
enforcement and comprehensive immigration reform as
well. She is the only member of Congress whose spouse,
astronaut Mark E. Kelly, is an active duty member of the

"I am a third generation southern Arizonan and I went
off to school, was working for Price Waterhouse in New
York City, and was asked to come home to run my family's
tire and automotive business," said Giffords in a 2007
C-SPAN interview. "I first got involved with politics
frankly because I was frustrated when I was opening up
my newspaper every single morning and seeing my great
state of Arizona continuing to be at the bottom, whether
it be poor-people funding, or mental health funding, or
making sure that we could preserve our beautiful open
spaces -- and in life you can either complain about
something or you can try to fix it so I decided to run
for political office...."

Details about this situation continue to unfold, but
some things are eminently clear. We can continue in this
downward spiral of vitriol, fear, and hatred, or we can
turn the corner and begin working toward values of
community, inclusivity, and equality. On the one hand
lies our imminent destruction; on the other our
potential salvation. If this tragedy is to have meaning
in this moment of utter senselessness, then we must opt
for the latter -- not just in Arizona, or even merely
America, but for all the peoples of the world. For
today, though, I simply want to express my deepest
condolences to all of the families affected by this
heartbreaking episode, and likewise to all Arizonans
struggling to find cause for hope in these times of
ongoing despair.

Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D., teaches Peace Studies at
Prescott College, and is the Executive Director of the
Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent
book is Lost In Space: The Criminalization,
Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness (LFB
Scholarly 2008).


Palin Put a Gun Target on Giffords's District; Now a 
Colleague Says: 'Palin Needs to Look at Her Own 
John Nichols
The Nation
January 9, 2011  

After Sarah Palin targeted her district with a gunsight
on a map identifying Democrats Palin was urging her
followers to "reload" and defeat, Arizona Congresswoman
Gabrielle Giffords said: "We are on Sarah Palin's
targeted list. The way that she has it depicted has the
crosshairs of the gunsight over our district. When
people do that, they have got to realize there are
consequences to that action."

On Saturday, Giffords, a moderate Democrat who stirred
the wrath of right-wingers with her vote for healthcare
reform, was shot by a gunman who had posted "I can't
trust the government" videos on the Internet. The
shooting spree killed six people, including a federal
judge and a nine-year-old girl, and left thirteen others

Now, Palin says she's praying for the dead and wounded,
including Giffords, who remains in critical condition
after hours of surgery.

Another targeted Arizona representative, Congressman
Raul Grijalva, says: "Ms. Palin needs to look at her own

And the sheriff of the county where the shooting took
place says: "It's time to do a little soul searching
about the rhetoric we hear..."

The incident has sparked a national dialogue about
violent political rhetoric and political violence. While
Palin is in the thick of it, as is so often the case,
the dialogue goes to a deeper place-and to deeper
questions about how a democracy maintains a robust
national debate while maintaining the measure of
civility that invites rather than repels public

Giffords is likely to survive the apparent assassination
attempt at a community event in Tucson. She was in
critical condition Sunday morning.

But six others, including Federal Judge John Roll was
killed in the rampage outside a Tucson supermarket.
Roll, who was appointed to the federal bench by George
H.W. Bush in 1991, has served as Chief Judge of the US
District Court in Arizona since 2006. Roll, who presided
in 2009 over a $32 million civil-rights lawsuit filed by
immigrants against an Arizona rancher, had faced death

So, too, had Congresswoman Giffords. And Arizona
authorities said there was little doubt that the gunman
came to the meeting looking to shoot Giffords, not Roll.

The target of a highly controversial campaign for her
defeat in 2010 by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin,
Giffords was one of twenty House members whose district
was marked with a gunsight target in a SarahPAC message
that had Palin telling her ardent backers: "It's Time to
Take a Stand."

After the health-care vote, Palin urged her minions to
"reload" and go after the targeted members of the House.

Palin was talking politics, but she used the language on
gun-play and hunting for prey.

Despite Palin's campaigning, Giffords was reelected.

On Saturday, however, she was felled by a gunshot wound
to the head. Initial reports said the congresswoman had
been killed; later, after a lengthy surgery, she was
listed in critical condition.

At least six others who had come to see Giffords at the
community event were killed. As many as eighteen people
were hit. The assailant, who is in custody, has been
identified as Jared Lee Loughner, a 22-year-old white
male who posted YouTube videos that included rants about
immigrants and the government. In one, he criticized the
voters of Giffords's Congressional district, complaining
that: "The majority of people who reside in District 8
are illiterate..."

While Loughner's political statements came in the
context of broader rants that seemed to suggest he was
unstable, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik observed
that "when you look at unbalanced people, how they
respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain
people's mouths about tearing down the government, the
anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this
country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately,
Arizona I believe has become sort of the capital. We
have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

"It's time to do a little soul searching about the
rhetoric we hear on the radio, how are children are
being raised," the sheriff added.

A shaken President Obama described the shooting spree as
"a tragedy for Arizona and a tragedy for our country,"
and dispatched the director of the FBI to Arizona to
help coordinate the investigation. The president huddled
throughout the day with top security officials and made
numerous calls to key Democratic and Republican
congressional leaders regarding the incident, which led
House leaders to suspend on health-care repeal and other
issues that had been scheduled for this week.

Federal officials and police moved over the weekend to
provide extra security for other nenbers of Congress who
might be targeted by assassins. Congressman Raul
Grijalva, D-Arizona, whose strong support of immigrant
rights inspired attacks on his offices and death

"The climate has gotten so toxic in our political
discourse, setting up for this kind of reaction for too
long. It's unfortunate to say that. I hate to say that,"
Grijalva said Saturday. "If you're an opponent, you're a
deadly enemy."

Referring to those who employ violent language to attack
those they disagree with, Grijalva said: "Anybody who
contributed to feeding this monster had better step back
and realize they're threatening our form of government."
In particular, he called out Palin, saying: "Ms. Palin
needs to look at her own behavior, and if she wants to
help the public discourse, the best thing she could do
is to keep quiet."

Giffords was one of several Arizona Democratic US House
members who were targeted with violence and death
threats last year-both in relation to their support for
healthcare reform and to their stances they have taken
on immigration reform issues.

Giffords's office was attacked after she voted for the
health-reform bill last March, and her friend, Sylvie
Lee, told reporters Saturday that "there have been
threats" against the Jewish congresswoman.

In the summer of 2009, when health-care reform debates
raged, police were called to a town-hall meeting at
which Giffords was confronted regarding the issue. One
of the attendees had dropped a gun.

But Giffords remained remarkably open and accessible,
continuing to hold public events as the immigration
issue heated up and she was targeted for defeat by a Tea
Party-backed Republican in one of the most intense races
of 2010.

Giffords won the contest by a 49-47 margin and began her
third term this week.

The congresswoman was conscious of the threats she
faced-discussing them broadly and specifically addressed
Palin's over-the-top targeting. Yet, she remained
remarkably accessible to her constituents and critics.

Giffords returned to Tucson this weekend for the public
event outside a local grocery store. An hour before the
event, the 40-year-old congresswoman wrote on Twitter:
"My 1st Congress on Your Corner starts now. Please stop
by to let me know what is on your mind or tweet me

Around 10 a.m. Arizona time, Giffords was holding one of
her regularly scheduled "Congress on Your Corner"
sessions-where the Blue Dog Democrat talks with
constituents about issues that are concerning them. The
gunman ran up and began shot her point-blank in the

A shocked Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin
Democrat who has worked closely with Giffords on a
number of issues, focused on the fact that the
congresswoman was meeting with constituents when the
shooting took place. And she worried about the threat to
our discourse.

"Rep. Giffords was meeting with her constituents,
holding public office hours to better serve them," said
Baldwin. "Communication between citizens and their
elected representatives is critical to the proper
functioning of our democracy. There is no place for
violence, under any circumstances."


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