Monday, January 31, 2011

The Fighting Side

In response to this recent story, a conservative commenter repeated the standard Republican canard that the deficit had skyrocketed under Barack Obama, it presumably having been under control before then. I responded by explaining that while, yes, the deficit had risen dramatically in 2009, the federal government fiscal year had begun on October 1, 2008. Which essentially lays the 2009 deficit at the feet of the final Bush budget. I then enumerated the main contributors to the deficit: two unfunded wars, unfunded Medicare Part D, TARP, etc.

The commenter responded by calling me a liar.

Upon which it occurred to me that this exchange was emblematic of the two-year rhetorical food fight that passes for public discourse in this country. The bones of it are this:
  1. A conservative repeats an unfounded right-wing talking point about Barack Obama
  2. A liberal refutes the assertion with facts that require some effort to put across
  3. Challenged by facts, the conservative denies reality by making an ad hominem attack on the liberal.
This dynamic plays out over and over. Here's another one:
Ireland's fiscal calamity is due to its socialist economy and welfare state. 
That might be the case were Ireland socialist, but it isn't: This is a crisis of capitalism, not a cautionary tale about socialism.
You are a socialist elitist libtard.
Obama is a socialist because he socialized the auto industry.
No, he didn't. Two of the three auto companies were temporarily and partially nationalized. That's a different thing altogether. Plus, the auto companies asked the federal government to step in.
How does it feel to be a tool of union bosses?
One side assumes an error of fact and responds appropriately. The other assumes duplicity and responds as if personally attacked.

Read the conservative comments on MSNBC some time: They are basically one unfounded assertion after another, without the slightest effort at providing supporting evidence. One of the latest is to ascribe every piece of negative economic news about health care to the Affordable Care Act, without bothering to account for medical inflation. (The ACA has barely begun to take effect, so any attribution of negative impact is bound to be an overstatement.) Then there are the obvious attempts to spread rumors. Take this one: The health care law has caused private physician practices and long-term care facilities all over the country to close. No evidence is cited of this because there is no evidence of it.

Which is no surprise, as conservatives, like Pavlov's, dog, have been trained by their masters at Fox News and on talk radio to respond to reality with a snarl. (Although surely their mouths water first.) There's no such thing as debate in conworld: Only attacks on their wallets and way of life. Well, their wallets are being attacked, just not by who they think. As for their precious way of life -- the one in which shooting and God are equal moral values -- they've somehow drawn the contorted conclusion that anyone who doesn't want to share it is attacking it.

Seriously, does Mark Holwager actually believe that gay marriage is going to bring Sodom and Gomorrah to Monroe City, Indiana (pop. 548). Or that regulating firearms in Washington, D.C., will keep him from shooting? Do the Cosgrays fret that $33,000,000.00 in federal grants will end Life As They Know It in White County? Or that a blogger in Redmond, WA hates them with every fiber of his being? Apparently, they do.

It's old news, I suppose, but conservatives have gone from hiding behind a distortion of facts to showing blatant contempt for them. That's a fact.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Indiana Home

Heartland America doesn’t feel the same way as people in the cities. We do believe in religion, we go to church all the time, we shoot and fish, and love our families. Some of the time you wish folks in the cities would come live with us and see how we live.
Indiana teabagger Mark Holwager
You can't make this stuff up! It's here. As I understand Mr Holwager, because I live in the city,
  • I don't believe in religion. (O.K., he got me there. But there are a lot of churches in Seattle despite my best efforts.)
  • I never go to church. (Guilty. But I'll bet Mr. H has plenty of neighbors who sleep in on Sunday.)
  • I don't shoot and fish. (Guilty, but of what? Shooting and fishing are values?)
  • I hate my family. (You'd have to ask my kids, but I think I'm okay on this score.)
As for Mr Holwager's invitation to come on in an set a spell, a visit to rural Indiana any time soon isn't in the offing. Then it hit me: If I can't take Citizen K. to French Lick, I can bring French Lick to Citizen K. And I have to admit it: Who wouldn't want to live where you can mount a scope while you get a haircut?

The thrill of it all.

Indiana has had a massive influx of Chinese immigrant.

Where else but Heartland America can you get a Rice Krispy Flurry?

Scope and a haircut.

Fine dining in the Heartland. Reservations only after 6 pm.

There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight.

"Come see how we live."

Indiana values diversity and does not tolerate racism.

One of many thriving business districts in rural Indiana.

Homes in rural Indiana have many modern conveniences.
Community swimming pools are a common sight.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wyoming Will Be Your New Home

No law shall restrict a person’s natural right and power of contract to secure the blessings of liberty to choose private health care systems or private plans.
So says a law under consideration by the Wyoming state legislature. The law would impose a fine and a five-year jail term on any federal government official or employee or an employee of any corporation doing business with the federal government (read: hospitals) who attempts to "enforce" the Affordable Care Act in Wyoming.

I have it on good authority that the Constitutional originalists in Wyoming have access to James Madison's most closely guarded papers. Among them, they found this partial draft of the preamble to the Constitution:
...promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to choose private health care systems or private plans to ourselves and our Posterity...
Below the draft, the originalists read the following:
While I must to define the Blessings as meaning the Inalienable Right to private Health plans, I cannot. For yester even a mysterious man cloaked in Black waylaid me and told me that should I not remove These nine words from the Preamble, he and other Liberals would go to Dolly. And he described in great detail the Things the Liberals would do to my Wife while the Negroes came in from the fields to watch. As I could not bear this, I removed the Nine. I fear I have doomed the Nation to Government run Health care. Although it is the Liberals who have done This. It is always Them. 
So It is done. Now I must decide whether a Slave is 3/5's or 3/4's of a Person...
Upon reading this, the originalists looked at each other grimly. Wyoming would be the Constitution's new home. It would be safe there...

It was impossible to resist including the photo of a woman who depends on Medicare holding a sign objecting to government-run health care. Shooting fish in a barrel, I know, but sometimes the flesh is just too weak...

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Wish I Was a Headlight on a Northbound Train

I wish I was headlight on a northbound train
I'd shine my light through the cool Colorado rain
I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone
Some time around 1934, the musicologists and folklorists John and Alan Lomax heard a young African-American woman, in prison for murder, sing a verse from a song they came to call "Woman Blue." The Lomaxes found other verses of "Woman Blue," which may be over a hundred years old, and published the lyrics in their book American Ballads and Folk Songs. The "rider" of the lyrics is either a man or a woman; the term possibly finds its origins in images of mounted prison guards.

Consigned to obscurity for nearly thirty years, "Woman Blue" was resurrected by the white folk singers of the early Sixties and recorded for the first time, as "I Know You Rider." From the coffee houses of Greenwich Village, the song migrated to rock acts interested in folk music; it eventually became a concert staple for the Grateful Dead. (They performed it more than 500 times.) A few years ago, the Allman Brothers began playing it, and the song with roots in Texas prisons and work farms became a transcendent communal anthem complete with virtuoso guitar solos.

The enigma of "I Know You Rider" is why it lay dormant for so long. It's a great song of dogged hope, the yearning for freedom, and a devoutly wished-for flight to a better world -- feelings and desires that resonate throughout human history. If young people experience that as celebratory, perhaps they are dancing for humanity's unique connection to itself from one generation to the next. Or maybe they're dancing for the sake of dancing. That's okay, too.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

There They Go Again

John Boner and Eric Cantor have been talking big about cutting the defense budget, but plenty of members of their own caucus don't like the idea. At. All. Sez Rep. Howard McKeon of California:
I cannot say it strongly enough: I will not support any measures that stress our forces and jeopardize the lives of our men and women in uniform...
Brave words indeed.

But guess what Howard didn't say strongly enough? In fact, he didn't say it at all -- strongly, weakly, or mediumly -- that in the last election cycle he received $300,000.00 in campaign contributions from defense contractors. Last cycle was especially kind to Howard, since it brought with it nearly 40% of the $778,000.00 he's received from the masters of war since 1992. Always one to know on which side his howitzer shells are oiled, Howard certainly won't be complaining about unrestricted corporate campaign contributions any time soon. Yep: Those defense contractors is just real good folks...

You know who else is real good folks? Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker, the New York Times reporters who wrote this story. In a 17-paragraph story, they buried the fact that Howard was the single biggest recipient last election of defense contractor largesse in the 12th 'graph. The Times has editorialized against the influence of unrestricted corporate donations. Is it too much too ask their reporters that they elevate the single most relevant fact in the story to place where people might actually read it?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union

President Obama was not at the top of his game last night, but he gave an effective speech. The most telling part of the aftermath was the near-uniform Republican dismissal of the idea of federal investment in the development of future job sectors. It wasn't a radical proposal: The president didn't call for an industrial policy (although we need one, and badly) and he didn't call for anything beyond the American government's traditional role as an incubator. Yet, Republicans made the curious and undocumentable claim that that has never worked. Just who do they think came up with the internets, anyway?

Of the response during the speech, what struck me the most was the tepid applause when Obama called for a five-year freeze in federal spending. I don't regard that as anything more than a rhetorical gambit, but both sides responded to it with disapproval: Republicans, because he didn't demand cuts; Democrats, because he didn't demand expansion.

This showed not only the impossibility of compromise in this climate, but that actual consensus on anything is about as likely as Woody Allen dunking over Shaquille O'Neal. But maybe there was something to Obama's proposal: Perhaps he came across like a responsible man making a reasonable request of the children in the room, all of whom chose to sit on their hands and pout...

The New York Times thinks he done good...

So do the American people...

Stanley Fish on Obama's rhetoric (he liked it)...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rush to Judgment

It was smart, it was articulate, it was oratorical. It was, it was all the things the educated, ruling class wants their members to be and sound like.
Rush Limbaugh on President Obama's Tucson speech
Limbaugh spoke these words while accusing conservative Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer of "slobbering" over the president's call for unity in the face of tragedy. Krauthammer's acid response ("I find it interesting that only the ruling class wants a president who is smart, articulate, or oratorical in delivering a funeral oration") was correct enough, but missed the larger point and ironically played into Limbaugh's hands: His arch, sarcastic words put himself in the role of a disdainful elite who sneers at the dittoheads who represent the real America.

I have no doubt that Limbaugh's remarks were thought out and planned in advance. He knew that he was speaking to and for a responsive audience that resents President Obama's education and intellect and, by extension, the supposed condescension and snobbishness inherent to liberalism. So, if Limbaugh was on safe ground by accusing the president of intelligence, fluency, and eloquence, he speaks for people who self-identify as being none of those things, people who see themselves as uneducated, tongue-tied, and coarse.

People who are self-loathing.

People who may wrap their ugly self-image in the ribbons and bows old-fashioned 1950s values, but whose rage belies the plain-spokeness they think they're conveying.

People who deep down -- or maybe not so deep down -- find it awfully tough to swallow the reality that the black son of a single mother has run laps around them in the game of life. This is even tougher to ingest than a similar reality about a small-town boy from Arkansas raised by a single mother, and that went down about as smoothly as a dreadnought.

People who believe that their guns actually serve as a bulwark against government tyranny, a pathetic delusion if there ever was one. A real tyrant -- a Hitler or a Stalin -- would chew these guys up, spit them out, wipe his mouth with the 2nd Amendment, and take about three seconds to forget what had happened. I've seen the people who frequent gun dealers: They could stand up to the Gestapo or the NKVD about as well as I could protect Drew Brees's blind side.

And the country has let itself be held hostage to this.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

If This Is Socialism, Give Me A Double Dose

When the right wing claims that the Affordable Care Act is a government takeover of health care, they're wrong. When they argue that it will add to the deficit, they're wrong again. And when they pontificate that it represents "European-style socialism," they're wrong again.

But is European-style socialism necessarily a bad thing? Every country in Western Europe operates on the basis of some form of democratic capitalism. Seven of those nations -- Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the four Scandinavian countries -- have socialized medicine: Their health care systems are government-owned and -operated. If the health care systems of these seven countries represent what the paranoid right calls "creeping socialism," then socialism is moving at a very slow creep indeed: Britain socialized medicine just after World War II and it doesn't appear to have infected the rest of its economy.

Rather than signifying anything ideological, it's more likely that those nations drew a pragmatic conclusion regarding health care: That the profit motive underlying capitalism could not deliver quality, economically efficient health care on an equal basis to the population at large.

Regarding efficiency, they appear to have been right: Not only can each country boast economically efficient delivery of care, they can claim it to  the same degree. Insurance-based models range from very efficient to less efficient, but the single-payer systems rate roughly in the upper center of the group of 25 wealthy economies.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Think Again...Or Even For A First Time

Writing to his usual standards of incomprehensible Latinate, George Will yesterday laid this egg:
The public sector's involuntary tendency to become, regarding productivity, a concentration of stagnation...
George, have you read your own column lately? You've been intellectually and stylistically stagnant for years. Moreover, you work for a newspaper still coasting on the Woodward-Bernstein Watergate investigatory reporting of the early '70s.

I hate to disillusion you (o.k., not really), but the private sector is as subject to stagnation as the public sector. Why do you think Toyota and Nissan kicked Detroit's ass? Why do you think the BP/Halliburton catastrophe happened? Why do you think that Apple ambushed every recording label in the world and took over the music distribution business? Should I go on?

What a minute...think...I guess I'm not being fair: I shouldn't expect thinking from someone who hasn't had a new thought in thirty years.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Low Country Blues

The pipes may not quite be what they were, but look at it this way: When Usain Bolt is 62, he'll still run faster than just about anyone else. On Low Country Blues, Gregg Allman covers mostly obscure blues songs, material he mastered back in the Truman Administration. Plus, it's good to hear him singing something besides the standard Allman Brothers repertoire, as great as it is. 

Allman reflects on Low Country Blues, his long-time love of the form, working with T-Bone Burnett and Dr John, and past drug use:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More Responses to My Request for Conservative Input on Health Care Reform

This morning, I made a comment similar to this one on a story about House Republican plans to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. By 10:00 last night, I had received these proposals:

On another topic, what can I fairly say about Holy Joe Lieberman without copying every page of the Inernational Dictionary of Obsenities?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

David Corn on the 'Baggers

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I had the pleasure of meeting David some years back. In person, he is as he comes across here: Thoughtful, considerate, and articulate.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Healthy Debate

Last night, in a comment on a story about attitudes softening toward the Affordable Care Act, I invited conservative commenters to propose an alternative. Read on...

There's no shortage of nay-saying here. So, those of you who favor repeal, what do you replace it with? Repeal, and we'll return to this situation:
* 45,000,000 uninsured. Number increasing as businesses withdraw health insurance because of medical inflation and because of high unemployment. As many as 60,000,000 at any one time lack insurance.
* 15,000,000 underinsured. Number increasing as businesses reduce benefits because of medical inflation.
* Future Medicare financing in question because of increased number of retirees and because real wages have not kept pace with medical inflation since 1980
* People with pre-existing conditions cannot buy health insurance
* Insurance companies can withdraw individual or family coverage when claims get too high for their liking
* Benefit caps, impeding the care available to anyone with co-morbidities
* Shortage of primary care physicians (somewhat alleviated by the ACA)
Question #1: Is this a problem?
Question #2: How do you address it?
Since Republicans spent over a year complaining that the ACA had been crammed down their throats, your solution must be credibly bipartisan.
Hint: The CBO estimates that selling insurance across state lines will allow 3,000,000 more people to have access to insurance.
Have at it.
  • Vote for this comment.
  • !
Reply#512 - Sun Jan 16, 2011 9:08 PM PST
Easy enough to fix. Rid us of all the ileagle Mexicans,then drop all of the wellfare leaches. If you want to give to the mexicans and leaches then do it at state level. The lib states can have them all.
  • Vote for this comment.
  • !
#512.1 - Sun Jan 16, 2011 9:12 PM PST
Seems much better than ObamaCare. It's been working great so far.
  • Vote for this comment.
  • !
#512.2 - Sun Jan 16, 2011 9:20 PM PST

Friday, January 14, 2011

The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

As always, click to enlarge...

IN this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary "Pike County" dialect; and four modified varieties of this last. The shadings have not been done in a hap- hazard fashion, or by guesswork; but painstakingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech.

Now the way that the book winds up is this: Tom and me found the money that the robbers hid in the cave, and it made us rich. We got six thousand dollars apiece -- all gold. It was an awful sight of money when it was piled up. Well, Judge Thatcher he took it and put it out at interest, and it fetched us a dollar a day apiece all the year round -- more than a body could tell what to do with. The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back.
WELL, three or four months run along, and it was well into the winter now. I had been to school most all the time and could spell and read and write just a little, and could say the multiplication table up to six times seven is thirty-five, and I don't reckon I could ever get any further than that if I was to live forever. I don't take no stock in mathematics, anyway. 
"Who dah?"
"Oh, yes, this is a wonderful govment, wonderful. Why, looky here. There was a free nigger there from Ohio -- a mulatter, most as white as a white man. He had the whitest shirt on you ever see, too, and the shiniest hat; and there ain't a man in that town that's got as fine clothes as what he had; and he had a gold watch and chain, and a silver-headed cane -- the awfulest old gray-headed nabob in the State. And what do you think? They said he was a p'fessor in a college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knowed everything. And that ain't the wust. They said he could VOTE when he was at home. Well, that let me out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It was 'lection day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if I warn't too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they'd let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I'll never vote agin. Them's the very words I said; they all heard me; and the country may rot for all me -- I'll never vote agin as long as I live."

"Oh, well, that's all interpreted well enough as far as it goes, Jim," I says; "but what does THESE things stand for?"
It was the leaves and rubbish on the raft and the smashed oar. You could see them first-rate now.
Jim looked at the trash, and then looked at me, and back at the trash again. He had got the dream fixed so strong in his head that he couldn't seem to shake it loose and get the facts back into its place again right away. But when he did get the thing straightened around he looked at me steady without ever smiling, and says:
"What do dey stan' for? I'se gwyne to tell you. When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de callin' for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos' broke bekase you wuz los', en I didn' k'yer no' mo' what become er me en de raf'. En when I wake up en fine you back agin, all safe en soun', de tears come, en I could a got down on my knees en kiss yo' foot, I's so thankful. En all you wuz thinkin' 'bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie. Dat truck dah is TRASH; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em ashamed."
Then he got up slow and walked to the wigwam, and went in there without saying anything but that. But that was enough. It made me feel so mean I could almost kissed HIS foot to get him to take it back.
It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither. I didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't done that one if I'd a knowed it would make him feel that way.

It's lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened. Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to MAKE so many. Jim said the moon could a LAID them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn't say nothing against it, because I've seen a frog lay most as many, so of course it could be done. We used to watch the stars that fell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed they'd got spoiled and was hove out of the nest.
I went to the raft, and set down in the wigwam to think. But I couldn't come to nothing. I thought till I wore my head sore, but I couldn't see no way out of the trouble. After all this long journey, and after all we'd done for them scoundrels, here it was all come to nothing, everything all busted up and ruined, because they could have the heart to serve Jim such a trick as that, and make him a slave again all his life, and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirty dollars.
It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn't try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn't come. Why wouldn't they? It warn't no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from ME, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn't come. It was because my heart warn't right; it was because I warn't square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting ON to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth SAY I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger's owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can't pray a lie -- I found that out.

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn't do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking -- thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the ONLY one he's got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.
It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:
"All right, then, I'll GO to hell" -- and tore it up.
"Cuss the doctor! What do we k'yer for HIM? Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain't that a big enough majority in any town?"
Tom's most well now, and got his bullet around his neck on a watch-guard for a watch, and is always seeing what time it is, and so there ain't nothing more to write about, and I am rotten glad of it, because if I'd a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn't a tackled it, and ain't a-going to no more. But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Words Have Consequences

“You’ve got to think about it, our democracy is a light, a beacon, really, around the world because we effect change at the ballot box, and not because of these outbursts, of violence in many cases. Change is important, it’s a part of our process, but it’s really important that we focus on the fact that we have a democratic process.”
-U. S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)
“I think it’s time as a country to do a little soul-searching. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.”
-Clarence Dupnik, Pima County Arizona

Today, Gabrielle Giffords fights for her life, one of 19 victims of a political assassination that include a federal judge and 9-year old girl. The shooter is undoubtedly an insane man who acted on the murky motives of psychosis. Another time, another day, that may have been explanation enough. In 2011, it is not.

Over the next few days, conservatives will condemn these political assassinations in stentorian tones, repeating over and over that they do not condone violence. John "Hell No" Boehner, who must no doubt be pleased with the media stock photos of him and Giffords sharing a laugh, tells us that "Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society." (Apparently, those of us who are not public officials are out of luck.)

But that isn't the issue.

The question isn't whether conservatives condone murder. Few people do. But they have fomented it with their unveiled threats to water the the tree of liberty with blood of supposed tyrants; with their dark talk of a second civil war; with their wild accusations that anyone not like them is a dangerous socialist; with their portrayal of President Obama as a psychotic villain; with their threats and calls to arms; with their advocating the lynching of US senators; and with their use of rage and lies as a substitute for the honest debate that they cannot win. And for some, though the Susan Collinses and Olympia Snowes will deny it, it has come with their silent acquiescence to behavior that one hopes troubles them deeply.

Sarah Palin has reportedly removed the above graphic (the emphasis on Rep. Giffords is mine) from her web site while at the same time denying that it in any way signifies the culture of violence adopted by the extreme right and encouraged and exploited by establishment Republicans. Giffords' opponent last fall, one Jesse Kelly, disputes that campaign commercials depicting him with a gun and wearing hunting fatigues were in any way relevant to the actions of a madman. Others urge us not to jump to conclusions about causality and gather their guns around them as if the Second Amendment had been assaulted and not nineteen innocents at a Tucson shopping mall.

There is a place in our political culture for anger and outrage: Both have fueled movements for justice. But that's just the point: They were means -- and not the only ones -- to humane ends of extending the blessings of liberty. They weren't expressed through intimidation and terror with the intent of silencing and disenfranchising the Not Like Us.

These people are nothing but thugs. They should be treated as such. Palin's graphic has one thing right: It's time to take a stand.