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Four stories
A grim day in the news

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
July 23, 2011

Scanning the top four stories of the day, I found that one left me utterly mystified, another was so inevitable that it hardly even seemed to qualify as news, and one that manged to seem inevitable and utterly unexpected all at the same time. The last one sort of provides a framework for the social milieu in which the first three reside.

I keep trying, and failing, to make sense of the shooting in Norway. There have been so many mass shootings here in America, if not on that scale, that it scarcely seems worth asking “why?” The main question to me is “how?” How did one, or possibly two men build a bomb on that scale, and how did they get it next to the Prime Minister's office building. How was one man able to get a police uniform, and what was he carrying that enabled him to kill 60 teenagers who crowded around him trustingly in just the first few minutes of his rampage? How did he manage that?

American right wing response was predictable, if in the usual demented fashion. As the story broke, of just the bombing, a loud howl arose about how important it was to do something about the Moslems, and that the bombing was doubtlessly Islamic revenge for those cartoons of the prophet Mohammad. Fox harpy Laura Ingraham tried to link it in some way to Park 51, the “ground-zero mosque.”

Equally predictable was the sudden silence that enveloped the right when it came to light that the real damage was done by one neo-nazi with a bunch of guns. And that he hated Moslems—and, apparently, kids.

One right winger wrote early on, “Norway got a very rude wake-up call today. NO ONE is safe from extremists. I suppose they can : a) Pretend it didn't happen and continue on exactly like always; b) Surrender; c) Dust off the greatswords and longships and go kick some ass.” To which I replied, “None of those work, though. And the more repressive the government becomes, the more of them breed. ” Having extolled the virtues of terrorism control, the right winger didn't come back to extol the virtues of gun control. Or psychopathic-nazis-getting-guns-control. Not even in Norway, despite an apparently ample supply of greatswords and longships.

Another one chortled, “Perhaps Norway should pass stricter bomb control laws. ” Well, I'm sure they'll take that under consideration, but it turns out they have the same problem America does: too many neo Nazis with guns. At least one too many. One blamed the victims. If they had been armed, they could have returned fire. Youth camps are a great place to pass out assault weapons, of course, and all teenagers should be encouraged to shoot anyone dressed as a policeman.

This is the sort of idiocy that informs the American right these days. I don't know what Norway could have done to avoid the situation, or what it—and we—can do to avoid similar situations. The question of “how” is paramount. How he did it is more important than why. Knowing why is good for soothing our souls—at least we can tell ourselves that we're better than your average mass murderer. But knowing how is key to avoiding the inevitable next one.

If the guy was very clever, then it may be one of those fucked things that happen and nothing short of an absolute suffocating police state can hope to prevent it, even as it encourages others to act the same way.

Technology has given all of us the power to be mass murderers. We need to rethink our society, and the demands it brings to bear on the individual. Somehow, I doubt hiring more cops or increasing the military budget is an answer.

Amy Winehouse died, and it had to be one of the least shocking headlines I've read in quite a while. And that's sad, because it should have been shocking. She was 27. But we've been here before, many times. Janis. Jim. Jimi. Kurt. Most of them about 27, as one of the Weasels noted.

Not to denigrate her life and death, but it's a bit sad that 25 years from now, some people will be able to tell you exactly where they were when they heard that she had died, but have only a vague memory of a bombing and shooting in Norway, or Sweden, or Thailand—one of those Scandinavian countries, anyway. Didn't some kids die in that?

Who's to say they are wrong? By the standards of the media, Amy Winehouse is far more important than a bunch of kids in some country nobody's ever heard of. And most people these days base the significance of news stories on how much airplay they get. And Amy Winehouse was more telegenic than Norway, which is wet and cool, even in July.

The story that left me simultaneously gob-smacked and shaking my head in weary disgust was the debt-limit crisis. That the crisis exists at ALL is testimony to the wild, hate-filled extremism that has taken over the GOP. These are the people who love Ann Coulter and Michael Savage and firmly believe that any behavior is excusable so long as it annoys a liberal, and that the only way to save the country is by ridding it of all liberal values and replacing them with...

...well, something like India or Pakistan, I suppose. They usually aren't very clear on that. Oh, and no Democratic president can ever be treated as being legitimate. Voters exist only to elect teabaggers, and if they don't do so, then it's up to the right to correct their mistake, any way they can.

If that means driving the country into the ditch in hopes it will make a Democratic President look bad, well, so be it.

The state of the talks yesterday when they collapsed after Bad-Faith Boner walked out was that Obama agreed to four trillion in cuts, destroying Medicare and Social Security in the process, even though they play no role in the deficit. In return, Obama insisted on one trillion in closed tax loopholes.

It was, as I mentioned last week, the equivalent of rejecting a free Lamborghini because it didn't have cup holders.

I hope that Obama was just playing these nut cases, and wasn't really preparing to give away that much. I've been saying for several days now that we're at the point where if the Republicans actually accepted Obama's offer, we might be worse off than if we defaulted.

Mind you, defaulting is a horrible choice. If the US does default on August 2nd, you can expect to see the Dow drop 2,000 points, and a repeat of the 2008 economic meltdown world wide. And a year from now, unemployment will be over 40%, double what it is now, and you'll be hearing rumors of riots and starvation in American cities.

But the only real difference between that, and what the Republicans are trying to extort from us, is that it might take a few more months for triumphant Republicans to drive the economy into the ditch, and it protects the corporations and billionaires who are pulling the teabagger strings.

So at this point, my attitude is that Obama should walk away, and tell the Republicans they can damned well raise the debt-limit unconditionally, and put their other demands up for votes in the House and Senate independently, and stop trying to blackmail the goddam country. He probably should have done that from the start. He knows what kind of people these are.

If they are stupid enough to refuse, and the country defaults, well at least we can take those assholes with us. It's better than surrendering to their blackmail. Looking around the web, I see that I'm far from alone in this sentiment. People are fed up with the criminal traitors of the GOP.

I'm not sure if the Democrats are generally willing to do that or not. The fourth story was an interesting bit in the Observer today concerning the exploding News Corp scandals, headlined, “News International 'bullied Liberal Democrats over BSkyB bid'” and which began, “Rupert Murdoch's News International launched a campaign of bullying against senior Liberal Democrats in an attempt to force through the company's bid for BSkyB, high-level sources have told the Observer. Lib Dem insiders say NI officials took their lobbying campaign well beyond acceptable limits and even threatened, last autumn, to persecute the party if Vince Cable, the business secretary, did not advance its case.

According to one account from a senior party figure, a cabinet minister was told that, if the government did not do as NI wanted, the Lib Dems would be 'done over' by the Murdoch papers, which included the now defunct News of the World as well as the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times.”

“Done over.” By a politically aggressive and domineering outfit that almost certainly employs the same sleazy tactics here, and is very visibly behind the Teabaggers who are presently threatening to destroy the country if they don't get their way. This is in a country where money is free speech, and the ability of a well-heeled corporation to subsume political power is much easier than it is in Britain.

“Done over.” Suppose something similar is going on here? Might explain why the Democrats in the House and Senate seem to have a conspicuous lack of backbone, doesn't it? And why the remaining sane Republicans are unable to even convince their wild-eyed radicals to settle for 90% of the pie.

“Done over.” Much the way America has been done over from the time of the rise of the vast right wing conspiracy in the early Clinton years. Driven to the far right and beyond.

No matter what happens, no matter if the country defaults or not, or under what circumstances the debt-limit is raised, Murdoch and his evil empire need to be investigated for racketeering and extortion.

If America is to have any future at all, it must turn back toward sanity, and away from Murdoch, and it must do so now.

Posted: July 28, 2011

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