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“It’s Not The Motive, It’s The Gun”: Those With Political Axes To Grind Want To Shoehorn The Killer’s Motive Into Their Own Political Agenda

Every time there’s another mass or campus shooting people always want to know why the killer did it. What was the motive? What could lead to such evil? More often than not, those with political axes to grind want to shoehorn the killer’s motive into their own political agenda.

After an Islamist extremist went on a murderous rampage at Fort Hood, the Right used it for weeks as a club against Islam itself–just as they did with the DC sniper years earlier. After a angry misogynist opened fire in Santa Barbara, the shooting immediately became a touchstone for women’s groups to discuss sexual entitlement. When a conspiracy theorist couple killed a police officer recently in Nevada, the left had a field day over their recent stay at the Bundy Ranch, while many on the right attempted to call the shooters leftists.

Yesterday brought news of yet another new motive–this time in a school shooting in Oregon earlier this week:

The 15-year-old freshman who opened fire on his Oregon high school Tuesday wanted to kill “sinners,” the teen wrote in his diary.

Jared Padgett, an active member of an Gresham, Ore., Mormon church, shot and killed a student and injured a teacher during the attack on Reynolds High School before turning the gun on himself, police said.

It would be easy to turn this into an attack on conservative values. Certainly, it makes a mockery of claims by some on the far right that mass shooters aren’t conservatives–this kid certainly was.

But as I have noted before, the common denominator is always the gun. The Oregon shooter was even more obsessed with firearms than with religion. There will always be crazy, unbalanced people in this world with strange obsessions. The difference between the ones in other countries and the ones in America is simply the gun. We all play the same video games, we watch the same movies, we have the same neurology, we suffer from the same pathologies, and we worship (or don’t) similar gods.

Without a mass killing device, a pathetic misogynist is just a pathetic misogynist. Without a mass killing device, an angry theocrat is just an angry theocrat, be it Christian or Muslim. Without a mass killing device, paranoid conspiracy theorists and trenchcoat-wearning kids are just disaffected outsiders.

It’s not the motive. It’s never about the motive. It’s always about the gun.


By: David Atkins, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 15, 2014

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns, Mass Shootings | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Brutal Neoconservative Legacy In Iraq”: Empowering And Strengthening The Worst Elements In The Entire Middle East

When we take stock of American policy in Iraq and its effects over the last decade, reasonable and humane people tend to focus on the devastating toll in blood, treasure and reputation. Hundreds of thousands dead, even more injured, families torn apart, trillions of dollars burned and bombed away, priceless artifacts destroyed, and America’s moral standing in the world severely diminished.

The less sophisticated neoconservative responses are to simply deny the truth or the importance of these losses, or to somehow blame them on political opponents who either actively opposed the invasion or were dragged into tepid support of it under threat of jingoistic political attacks in a country rabid for revenge against “the perpetrators.”

The more intellectual neoconservative answer has been to minimize the immediate losses while focusing on the ultimate legacy of the invasion from a bird’s eye view. They argue that removing Saddam Hussein from power will have been the right decision in the long run, that a free and democratic Iraq will ultimately be an ally of the West and an invaluable geopolitical prize, serving as a bulwark against extremism. It’s a dispassionate dodge, but one that has always been hard to fully discredit because of the very “we’ll have to wait and see” nature of the argument.

But over a decade after the invasion and with Iraq seemingly entering a disastrous sectarian civil war, it seems abundantly clear that whatever the long-term effects of the invasion may be, the near to mid-term result has been to empower Shi’ite theocrats in Iran, and to radicalize Sunni factions in Iraq. As of this writing, Sunni extremist groups expressly intent on establishing a global caliphate are threatening to overrun Baghdad. The corrupt Shi’ite government of Nouri Al-Maliki is counting on and receiving support from the Ayatollahs in Iran.

Neither of these developments have even a silver lining behind them. The hold of the theocratic regime in Iran has been weakening under popular protest over the last many years; its best hope of holding onto power over time has been to direct the anger of its citizens outward against the West. The efficacy of that appeal has been waning–but a newly engaged threat from Sunnis right across the border will almost certainly strengthen hardline rule in Tehran.

The radical Sunni threat from ISIS and its allies is even more dangerous, and was precipitated directly by the invasion. Whatever Saddam Hussein’s crimes may have been (and they were many), his regime was not ardently theocratic. Indeed, under Hussein Sunnis in Iraq avoided much of the radicalization that befell fellow sectarians in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and elsewhere. With Saddam gone and a corrupt and unresponsive Shi’ite regime in his place, Iraq has suddenly become a ground zero for Sunni extremism.

That’s a very ugly legacy for neoconservatives to face. Not only were they directly responsible for the horrific loss of life and treasure during and after the invasion, they are also responsible for empowering and strengthening some of the worst elements in the entire Middle East. It’s not pretty from any perspective.


By: David Atkins, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 15, 2014

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iraq, Middle East, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Beware Extremists In The U.S.”: The Continued Danger We Face From Individuals Within Our Own Borders

Janet Napolitano was right.

Five years ago, the office of the then-secretary of the Department of Homeland Security released an assessment on right-wing extremism titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” Under key findings, the report said DHS “has no specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but right-wing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues.” The election of the nation’s first African American president and the economic downturn were cited as “unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment.”

Critics pounced on a footnote that defined right-wing extremism as “those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial, or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

Unfortunately, much of the value of the advisory was lost in a political debate over that definition and the propriety of a warning that troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were at risk of terror recruitment. Timothy McVeigh, the Gulf War veteran convicted of killing 168 people in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was cited as an example. Veterans’ groups and members of Congress were angry, and Napolitano said she meant no disrespect to the military and wished the footnote had been written differently.

Sadly, the assessment was prescient.

In 2012, a white supremacist who had served in the military killed six at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. In April, a white supremacist was accused of killing three people outside two Jewish facilities in Kansas. Now we have the married couple who assassinated two cops and a Walmart customer last weekend in Las Vegas. The two shot the officers while they were seated in a pizza parlor and then left behind a Gadsden (“Don’t Tread on Me”) flag and a Nazi swastika. A police spokesman said last week: “We believe that they equate government and law enforcement . . . with Nazis. . . . In other words, they believe that law enforcement is the oppressor.”

Further evidence that they are the sort envisioned by the DHS report can be found in their support of Cliven Bundy. The pair traveled to Bundy’s ranch during the April standoff with the Bureau of Land Management. Bundy’s son has been quoted as saying they were asked to leave because they were “very radical.”

The triple murder in Las Vegas was reminiscent of the execution of three police officers in Pittsburgh in 2009. The DHS report said of that attack: “The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled ‘one world government.’ ”

Through a representative, Napolitano, now president of the University of California system, declined my request for a victory lap. But one week after the release of the DHS assessment, she said something that rings true today:

“Let me be very clear: We monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States. We don’t have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence.”

In the 1960s, when the threat of domestic terrorism came from the left, groups such as the Weather Underground were subject to federal investigation. Today, with similar risks coming from the far right, law enforcement would be derelict in not monitoring the activities of those who talk of revolution.

Partisans torpedoed consideration of the DHS assessment on right-wing extremism, notwithstanding that just three months prior, a similar warning was published by the same authors pertaining to left-wing extremists and cyberattacks.

Two weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he was reassembling a task force on domestic terrorism that had been defunct since 9/11, when attention was necessitated elsewhere. Holder noted the need to “concern ourselves with the continued danger we face from individuals within our own borders who may be motivated by a variety of other causes, from antigovernment animus to racial prejudice.”

Holder is properly following in Napolitano’s footsteps. Anything less would be a victory for political correctness. While the PC label is usually hurled from the right, it fits any time otherwise appropriate behavior is curtailed out of fear of contemporary reaction. With regard to political extremism, when we fail to investigate risk because of unfounded public response, we are yielding to PC forces and jeopardizing lives.


By: Michael Smerconish, Columnist, The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 15, 2014

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Domestic Terrorism, Homeland Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Punish Them At The Polls: President Barack Obama Is Right, We Should Be Ashamed Of Gun Violence

We should be ashamed of the shooting after shooting on our streets and in our schools. We should be ashamed that Congress sits on its hands and does nothing to curb the slaughter.

That was how President Barack Obama characterized the issue of gun violence in a discussion with Tumblr founder David Karp the other day, and the president got it exactly right.

Eighteen months ago, 20 children were murdered in a grade school in Connecticut — and nothing was done to expand background checks or limit weapons clips. Since then, there have been 74 shootings at schools — the latest this week in Oregon left two dead and one wounded — and still nothing is done. And that’s just schools; that doesn’t count the shootings in theaters, temples, churches and incidents such as the recent Las Vegas spree that left two police officers, a Walmart customer and the two shooters dead.

And now, with the defeat of the No. 2 Republican in the House, Eric Cantor, the chances of anything getting done are even slimmer. Cantor, a Virginia Republican, who some critics said was too soft on defending gun rights as well as immigration reform, lost in a stunning upset to a tea party candidate in a GOP primary Tuesday. His defeat likely will both embolden the tea party wing of the Republican Party and make any remaining establishment Republicans more cautious. That means little action on issues such as gun control and immigration reform.

“The country has to do some soul-searching on this. This is becoming the norm,” Obama said Tuesday. “Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There’s no advanced developed country on Earth that would put up with this.”

Yes, mental health is an issue related to violence, and we have to find better ways of dealing with it. But other countries have people with mental illnesses and don’t have shootings on this scale. As Obama said, “The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.” Yet “we’re the only developed country” that repeatedly has such terrible acts. “There’s no place else like this,” the president said.

This does not mean the end of the Second Amendment. We can respect gun and hunter rights and still curb gun violence. Australia has done it. Other countries have done it.

It’s fear of the political clout of the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers that is the biggest factor in Congress’ failure to act. Obama also noted that although polls show that a majority of Americans support steps to control guns, they don’t feel passionately enough about it to punish lawmakers who disagree. “Until that happens, sadly, not that much is going to change.”

Obama called the failure to achieve reasonable gun restrictions the biggest frustration of his presidency. It should be the biggest frustration for all Americans. Voters need to not only support tighter gun control; they need to get angry with politicians who refuse to act. And then punish them at the polls.


By: Milwaukee Sun Journal, Opinion, June 12, 2014

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Incongruous Spectacle”: Dave Brat’s Win Over Eric Cantor Exposed The Unholy Tea Party-Wall Street Alliance

The Tea Party wave that built around the country in 2009 and 2010 was fueled by many thingsresentment over foolhardy homeowners getting mortgage relief, backlash against the Affordable Care Act, and anxiety over federal spending. But if its rhetoric was to be believed, the movement was also driven by a healthy dose of old-fashioned anti-Wall Street populismanger over the TARP bailouts, the AIG bonuses, the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute any of the bankers who’d brought us close to ruin.

Something funny happened, though, as the pitchforks made their way to confront the money changers at the temple: Wall Street and big business co-opted them. It turned out that some elements of the Tea Party movement were much more opposed to Obama than they were to self-dealing CEOs and bankers, and perfectly willing to join with the latter to fight the former. This quickly produced the confounding spectacle of a purportedly populist uprising that was working hand in hand, and in many cases funded by, the business elite. And the nexus for this alliance was the Republican leadership in Congress. When Republicans were trying to block the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, they took Frank Luntz’s devious advice to label the bill a “bailout” for the banksdeploying Tea Party rhetoric to attack a bill that was in fact bitterly opposed by the bailed-out banks. In recognition of this effort, Wall Street in 2010 swung its campaign spending sharply toward GOP candidates, including many running under the Tea Party banner.

And when the Tea Party wave reached Washington, after the Republican rout in the midterm elections, who put himself forward as the new arrivals’ standard bearer within the House leadership? None other than Eric Cantorthe top recipient of financial industry money in Congress, the longtime protector of one of the most notorious Wall Street favors of all, the tax loophole for the carried-interest income of private-equity and hedge-fund managers. It was an incongruous spectacle, but so muddled had the right’s populism become by that point that the opportunistic Cantor was able to brazen his way through it. It was he who goaded the insurgent congressmen to make the raising of the debt-ceiling limit in June of 2011 their big stand against Obama: “I’m asking you to look at a potential increase in the debt limit as a leverage moment when the White House and President Obama will have to deal with us,” Cantor told the rank-and-file in a closed-door meeting in Baltimore in January 2011. It was he who undermined Speaker John Boehner’s effort to reach a grand bargain with Obama to pull the nation back from the brink, by riling up rank-and-file conservatives against the deal. It was a brilliant display: in one fell swoop, Cantor was able to protect the financiers’ carried-interest loophole (which Obama sought to close as part of the deal) at the same very time as he was serving as the champion of the Tea Party insurgents.

Now, Cantor’s game is up. Many, such as my colleague John Judis and the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, have already noted the right-wing populism in the rhetoric of Dave Brat, the economics professor who upset Cantor in Tuesday’s primary. But what is particularly significant about Brat’s victory is that he deployed this populism against the very man who had perfected the art of faking it. “All the investment banks in New York and D.C.those guys should have gone to jail,” Brat said at one Tea Party rally last month. “Instead of going to jail, they went on Eric’s Rolodex, and they are sending him big checks.” Liberals have for some time now been decrying Cantor’s hypocrisy in posing as the tribune of the common man, but here was a fellow Republican calling it out (without, it should be noted, the assistance of any of the self-appointed Tea Party organizations that have been so willing to make common cause with their anti-Obama allies on Wall Street). Yes, some conservatives have for the past few years been making noise about “crony capitalism,” but somehow their examples of this scourge most often tended to be Democratic-inflected rackets, such as the failed solar energy company Solyndra, rather than Republican-tinted ones such as, say, the private lenders who were making a killing acting as taxpayer-subsidized middle-men in the student loan market.

This is why we should be grateful for Dave Brat, beyond the schadenfreude of seeing a widely disliked congressional leader brought low. Yes, Brat’s win will add new kindling to the Tea Party cause just as some were declaring it burned out, thus further reducing the odds of legislative progress in areas such as immigration reform. But his win has, at least momentarily, also brought some clarity and integrity to the insurgency. Here was anti-Wall Street populism in its pure form: aimed, for once, at the right target.


By: Alec MacGinnis, The New Republic, June 12, 2014

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Eric Cantor, Tea Party, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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