Saturday, January 08, 2011

In the Land of Guns

The story is still evolving, but this much is being reported at this moment: nineteen people were shot at a supermarket constituent event in Tucson for Member of Congress Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat. Giffords was the target, and she sustained severe head wounds. If she recovers, it hardly seems possible it will be a full recovery. Six people were killed, including federal judge John M. Rolls. Both Gifford and Rolls were targets of anti-immigrant fervor. Giffords was also attacked politically for her support of the Obama health care bill. Police have the suspected shooter in custody, and are looking for another "person of interest."

As quotes that follow will indicate, the intensity of Rabid Right hate and the mainstream Republican rhetoric of violence are involved. But Democrats who have given up on gun control share the responsibility. That guns can openly be taken to political events has always been outrageous, and that one would be used was inevitable.

Mecca for Prejudice and Bigotry

pictured: Federal judge John M. Roll, murdered today at a political event in Tucson.

"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 in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the Capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."---
Comment by Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, moments ago, updating the press on the shooting in Tucson.

"Ms. Giffords was also among a group of embattled Democratic House candidates who were featured on the Web site of Sarah Palin’s political action committee with cross hairs over their districts, a fact that disturbed Ms. Giffords at the time.

“We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list,” Ms. Giffords said last March. “But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that.”
--from a New York Times report

"What we're going to be saturated with for the next week or so are the inevitable false equivalencies. We'll hear, for instance, how there are "nuts on both sides." Undeniably true. But there is no ubiquitous liberal - much less, left-wing - network of talk-radio stations spouting Two Minutes' Hate 24/7. The collective voice of the right wing on radio and the Internet with its coded and uncoded calls to violence, of "2nd Amendment remedies," of cross hairs superimposed on states and on individuals simply has no visible counterpart on the left. When the right discusses the violent left, it must seek overseas examples or something from decades ago in America's past.

Michael Savage bleating on Savage Nation radio, says: "Only vigilance and resistance to this baby dictator, Barack Hussein Obama, can prevent the Khmer Rouge from appearing in this country." Erick Ericksson at Red State says: "At what point do the people ... march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp?" No matter how it tries, the right cannot divorce itself from the pustulence of its violent rhetoric no matter how many times its practitioners say "not me, not me" after people are murdered for taking these vile imprecations to heart. A few crocodile tears from Glenn Beck won't cut it."

Meteor Blades, one of the remaining adults at Daily Kos

Gabrielle Giffords

"We know that silence equals consent when atrocities are committed against innocent men, women and children. We know that indifference equals complicity when bigotry, hatred and intolerance are allowed to take root. And we know that education and hope are the most effective ways to combat ignorance and despair."
Gabrielle Giffords

On Changing the World One Website at a Time

It was just about four years ago that Bill McKibben was praising "the cheerful proprietors of the WorldChanging Web site" for "one of the most professional and interesting Web sites that you could possibly bookmark on your browser; almost every day they describe a new technology or technique for environmentalists." At that point, WorldChanging was about three years old, and publishing a book. But at the end of this past November, the site was announcing its own demise.

The post explains the ins and outs of what happened. They published almost 12,000 essays, blog entries and such, in furtherance of their objective to provide "access to the tools, models and ideas for building a better future. They wanted to push the concept that solutions-based thinking could transform the debates about sustainability and social innovation." They did so over seven years, a pretty full life on the Internet. They called their positive approach "bright green," focusing recently on transforming cities as the most efficient way to tackle Climate Crisis challenges. Ironically, just as they ended the site, the Cancun climate meetings reinforced their message--individual cities of the world, already acting while states dither, were able to come to more agreement on bolder initiatives than their countries could.

McKibben wrote about one weakness in their approach: "If there’s one flaw in the WorldChanging method, I think it might be a general distrust of the idea that government could help make things happen. There’s a Silicon Valley air to the WorldChanging enterprise—over the years it’s been closely connected with Wired magazine, the bible of the digerati and a publication almost as paranoid about government interference and regulation as The Wall Street Journal. Like Internet entrepreneurs, they distrust both government intentions and abilities—bureaucrats tend, after all, to come from the ranks of those neither bold nor smart enough to innovate. A libertarian streak shines through: 'When we redesign our personal lives in such a way that we’re doing the right thing and having a hell of a good time,” Steffen writes, “we act as one-person beacons to the idea that green can be bright, that worldchanging can be lifechanging.' I’m sympathetic to this strain of thinking; I believe we’re going to need more local and more nimble decision-making in the future to build strong, survivable communities. But it also makes it a little harder to be as optimistic as you’d like to be when reading these pages, which are filled with good ideas that, chances are, won’t come to all that much without the support of government and a system of incentives for investment."

This approach metaphorically as well as practically points to what it seems to me contributes to the decades of ineffectiveness on gaining what McKibben once called an "emotional consensus" on the Climate Crisis, a clear and present danger to human civilization and life as we know it on planet Earth. After some emotional consensus was reached in the 1970s on cleaning up the environment and placing ecological matters on the legitimate governing agenda, enviro organizations proliferated, and those that survived got bigger and more institutional, playing inside Washington games alongside other lobbyists. But as the Climate Crisis became defined as a threat that cut across all environmental concerns, these organizations were unable or unwilling to cooperate to produce one strong, sustained and effective voice.

Perhaps in reaction to bureaucratic environmentalism, next generation groups like WorldChanging arose, with a strong presence and power on the Internet. They were younger, smaller and used more direct tools. But they tend to be dominated by one person, one voice, one "one-person beacon." At WorldChanging it was Alex Steffans. At Climate Progress it is Joseph Romm.

There are many problems associated with this, such as the danger of the site looking like a vanity site advertising one person's book and availability as a paid speaker, or the danger of a personal point of view making unnecessary enemies (Steffans promoting a generational war, Romm insisting that Obama is a failed President because he missed what Romm believes was a golden opportunity to get transformative climate legislation.) But the effect is paradoxically the same as with the large enviro groups: a lot of individuals and individual organizations doing their own thing, following their own agenda, and no single, strong, coherent effort powered by their combined commitment.

Al Gore has his organization, McKibben has his, and they sponsor events and raise money, which may or may not be supported by other organizations, and most often are ignored by them, as well as other climate, enviro and progressive political sites--themselves each going their own way, building their own social network.

Now it may well be that even the combined power of enviro groups of all sizes and progressives on and off the Internet cannot match the disinformation powerhouse of FOX and friends, fueled by fossil fuel billions. But I don't see much evidence that Facebook is a model for effectively creating the consensus that forces politics to debate the best ways to address the causes and effects of global heating rather this suicidal parody of debate over its existence. Facebook and social networking websites (which the big ones are pretty much all becoming) is a model for raising money and (on progressive political sites especially) for attracting invasive advertising, based on social networking that provides the donations and attracts the advertisers. I'm sure the power to communicate widely and very quickly is important. But so far it isn't getting the job done. We seem to be farther from any kind of consensus than we've ever been.

Of course all this just makes it more likely that very local approaches will be how the effects of global heating are the survivors.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote: Voldemort Edition

Photo: New Spectre of the House John Banal tears up as he takes the gavel on Wednesday.

“After people have destroyed all people everywhere, I see heaping mounds of money strewn over the earth, floating on and sinking into the sea...Money and stink, the stink of dung, the stink of money, so foul that in order for the flowers to get a breath of fresh air, the winds will come together and whip the sea into a rage, and blow across the land. Then the green leaves of trees, and grass, will give up their chlorophyll, so that the sea, the wind, the beasts, and the birds will play and sing Nature’s old, sweet melody and rhythm. But since you are people, you will not, unfortunately, be here to hear it.”

Duke Ellington
Music is My Mistress (1973)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"To divide men into the successful and the unsuccessful is to look at human nature from a narrow, preconceived point of view. Are you a success or not? Am I? Was Napoleon? Is your servant Vassily? What is the criterion? One must be a god to be able to tell successes from failures without making a mistake."

Anton Chekhov
in a letter