Sunday, October 4, 2015

Some Victims Are More Equal Than Others

A Tale of Two Presidential Condolences.

In the coming days, we’ll learn about the victims -- young men and women who were studying and learning and working hard, their eyes set on the future, their dreams on what they could make of their lives.  And America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love. But as I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough.  It’s not enough.  It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel.  And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America -- next week, or a couple of months from now.  -- Barack Obama, on the mass shooting that killed nine people in Oregon.

The Department of Defense has launched a full investigation, and we will await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgment as to the circumstances of this tragedy. ...Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to all of the civilians affected by this incident, their families, and loved ones. We will continue to work closely with President Ghani, the Afghan government, and our international partners to support the Afghan National Defense and Security forces as they work to secure their country." -- Barack Obama, on the American bombing of a hospital that has killed at least 23 people in Afghanistan.

One condolence is eloquently maudlin and extended, the other is every bit as brief and clinical and detached as the series of "surgical strikes" that literally ripped apart an operating room, and incinerated critically ill people trapped in their beds.

If Obama is even dimly aware of his own cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy, he is doing his utmost to hide it. But as ever, when a mass shooting occurs on his turf, the sycophantic press makes him the center of the story. This time, as the New York Times mawkishly commiserated, he was "as visibly angry and frustrated as he has ever appeared in public during a brief televised statement from the White House."

And as George Orwell similarly commiserated in Animal Farm:
 “I trust that every animal here appreciates the sacrifice that Comrade Napoleon has made in taking this extra labour upon himself. Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure! On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”
 I suppose that the people killed and injured in the Doctors Without Borders hospital made the wrong decision to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the deservedly despised Jeb Bush said about the Oregon shootings: "Stuff happens."

It must be hard out there for a Commander in Chief being expected to ask that Congress enact gun control laws, when he is simultaneously demanding that they allocate billions of dollars for guns, bombs and Predator Drones for his global adventures!  How hard it must be for him to castigate others for offering bland thoughts and prayers when he himself offers nothing but bland thoughts and prayers.

It seems that the only lives that count are American lives. Only American murder victims are looked upon as human beings who have been denied the chance to hope, dream, grow up, or grow old. When foreign people are killed, they are coldly downgraded to "the civilians affected by this incident." 

It could have been worse. Obama has at least bestowed upon them a bare minimum of humanity. His generals are still sticking to their own sanguine Collateral Damage depersonalization: Stuff happened.

Obama has long had a built-in auto-response to both types of murders. Domestic shooters are troubled young men who get hold of guns despite their mental health issues. Military shooters are patriots who often get accepted into the armed forces despite their mental health issues. And if they didn't have any mental health issues before they joined up, their chances of developing them skyrocket once the government issues them lethal weaponry and orders them to use it.

 A year before the Sandy Hook massacre that had Obama weeping on TV, an American soldier named Bobby Bales went on a shooting rampage in Afghanistan, young children among his 16 victims. Obama's response was boilerplate-similar to his reaction to the hospital bombing: “This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan."

 Many of the young male perpetrators of mass mayhem, both military and domestic, can't even remember a day when this country has not been at war. Obama himself has grotesquely dubbed them the "9/11 Generation."

He said last year,
America endures in the courage of the men and women who serve under our flag. Over more than a decade of war, this 9/11 Generation has answered our country’s call, and three months from now, our combat mission in Afghanistan will come to an end. Today, we honor all who have made the ultimate sacrifice these 13 years, more than 6,800 American patriots.  And we give thanks to those who serve in harm’s way to keep our country safe and meet the threats of our time.
I guess an American bomber killing children in a hospital yesterday was not part of any combat mission, seeing as how Obama announced that the war would be over by the end of 2014.

Safely Enduring
When a mass shooting occurs in America, Obama calls it carnage. When a mass shooting or bombing at the hands of Americans occurs elsewhere in the world, Obama calls it "an incident." Or, if the circumstances are especially egregious, as the attack on Doctors Without Borders surely was, he magnanimously upgrades it to a Tragedy. 

If Barack Obama worked as strenuously to arm-twist and bribe and threaten members of Congress over gun control as he arm-twisted, bribed and threatened them into giving him fast-track authority to negotiate the corporate coups known as free trade deals, then the domestic weapons reform he purports to crave might have a smidgen of a chance.

The truth is that Obama didn't make a peep about gun control until after the Sandy Hook shootings. And even those noises were tepid and belated. Instead of immediately sending a bill to Congress, he named a blue ribbon panel to leisurely discuss and debate gun violence. By the time lawmakers got around to voting on an actual bill, the NRA had attacked with its own threats and bribes, and the national grief and shock and outrage had been safely diluted.

The time to act is in the immediate aftermath of an atrocity.

But on the December 2012 day of the Sandy Hook shootings that killed 27 people, mostly children,  Press Secretary Jay Carney stopped the impetus right in its tracks. "This is not the day," he sanctimoniously told the nation, "to discuss gun laws."

And it's never a good day for them to discuss stopping their wars. International carnage is the only thing still inflating their puffed-up economy. Domestic carnage by way of more than 200 mass shootings this year alone is only a symptom of the larger American disease.

The real epidemic is suicide. One hundred Americans kill themselves every single day. But universal mental health care is not in our future, because the wealthy don't want to pay the taxes necessary to fund such preventive programs.

Economist John Komlos writes:
 This must be the moment to come to our senses and set entirely new priorities for our society in vigorously confronting the mass murder epidemic head on. We will never be able to lead decent lives unless we are capable of reigning in the terror at home, because we will continue to live with constant anxiety.
Instead of vacuous slogans of growing the economy and ineffective lamentations about the vicious murders, which will do absolutely nothing to lower the murder rate, we should set ourselves the explicit goal of reducing mass murders in the same way President John F. Kennedy declared the goal of reaching the moon within a decade. Ask the parents of the Sandy Hook Elementary School disaster if they’d agree with such a national mobilization at any price. We cannot do that on borrowed money. The only way to accomplish such a goal is by paying for it through additional taxes and a reduction in the conspicuous consumption of the super-rich. There is no getting around that.
Wealth inequality and the replacement of democracy with an oligarchy is hazardous to our health. The super-rich are a clear and present danger to all of us. 

 The lives of American citizens, Afghan citizens, all citizens, depend upon stopping the pathological rich. Eighty multi-billionaires now own half the wealth of the entire planet.

We can't afford them. It's time for a global wealth tax. It's the only way to cure them and their political operatives of their violent addiction to money and power and death.


Meredith NYC said...

Obama is a victim of the gop dominance, setting the parameters of the political discussion due to big money driving elections. He’s hamstrung, and frustrated. I think he’s sincere and hard hitting in his last speech, but our political norms have been reset, and this president can only fight it so far.

This is not excusing Obama’s faults. But this is the type of president our current system can nominate and then elect. Especially the 1st black president. How ironic if that actually set us back instead of moving us forward! Obama is not abnormal in our present system.


For a good overview of the liberal thought, see Cspan In Depth program, Sunday, Oct 4. Thom Hartmann, radio/tv host/author–3 hour interview with call in. Repeated at 12am. Glad cspan gave him a platform.

Says, US only developed country that doesn’t protect it’s workers.

The gop is the only party in the world that denies climate change...see times editorial also.

Conservatives abroad are mostly anti immigrant...but they support universal h/c, low tuition subsidies, and are pro green energy.

And of course, all parties abroad support strict gun laws. This is easier since their elections are paid for with public funds, with strict limits on private donors. No NRAs pushing politicians around in those exotic foreign lands.

In the US even liberals are reluctant to strongly propose what EU takes for granted, lest they lose influence as too left wing. Thus our liberals are hampered in performing their function of defending the working middle class against economic predators transferring the national wealth upward. Now they can hardly advocate protecting our safety against guns for all, since that means challenging our big money system as well. Don’t go too far out. Just stick within guidelines and proclaim outrage.

The goal of the gop is to manipulate voters to vote against their own interests. To some extent, even when they lose elections, they win in many ways, since candidates of both parties are dependent on big money. This pulls even dems rightward compared to position of previous generations.

Now gun control that’s normal in most modern nations, is hopelessly left wing radical interference by big govt in America, land of the Free.

Pearl said...

What will they do next? :Obama and his cohorts are running out of explanations which make less and less sense to everyone.

I almost feel sorry for him since his anger is the result of frustration knowing the roof is falling on him, but can't figure out why.

How is his library coming? What will they fill it with? Copies of his speeches?

voice-in-wilderness said...

By the end of President Obama's first term, it was evident that he has no more moral sense or empathy than his predecessor. Obama has a much flashier smile, which helps distract those who don't want to see the truth.

Once again I'm reminded of George Carlin's routine in which he repeats for the audience, "They just don't care about you." The "you' in the case of Obama is everyone who is not a zillionaire or basketball buddy, domestic or foreign.

Kate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pearl said...

From Los Angeles Times:

Doctors Without Borders closes Afghan hospital, says U.S. may have committed war crime

Will said...

I like this recent tweet from comedian @jennyjaffe. Kinda sums it up nicely for me:


"OK, then federally funded, easily accessible mental healthcare, please!"


Meredith NYC said...

Here's something new to me.
Cspan schedule Today:October 4, 2015
Red Mass Departures

“Footage of Supreme Court justices departing from the annual Red Mass was shown. The annual Red Mass is held to mark the start of the U.S. Supreme Court term. The event brings together some of the court’s members and other public officials involved with the law for blessings and guidance in the administration of justice.”

What? Has anybody ever heard of the Supreme Court attending a Mass every year to ask for blessings...etc? I never did. I just saw it listed on cspan. It comes from medieval times---as so much of our culture does, it seems.
I don’t get this church state separation thing then. This is way over my head. It isn’t possible the court might be biased then in favor of the church in any cases, is it? Surely not.

Wiki says:
.... attended by some Supreme Court justices, members of Congress, the diplomatic corps, the Cabinet and other government departments and sometimes the President of the United States.
(they wear red robes)

Let them pray to the almighty for a bit of respite from repeated shooting massacres. It’s all in god’s hands.

Ol' Dirty Bama said...

Obama has gotten everything he has actually fought for. What is interesting and telling are the things he actually fights for.

Pearl said...

Meredith: Please see an answer I left at the end of the Bernie Rising column in reply to your question about his reaction to the gun control question.

Pearl said...

Text of Obama’s Statement on Trans-Pacific Partnership via @WSJPolitics

Karen: Am awaiting your clarification on this latest news regarding the TPP agreement.

annenigma said...

Looks like the U.S. military is reading from the Israeli playbook:

"We haven’t heard reports of deaths, will check into it."

"The people were killed, but by a faulty Palestinian rocket/bomb."

"Ok we killed them, but they were terrorists."

"Ok they were civilians, but they were being used as human shields."

"Ok there were no fighters in the area, so it was our mistake. But we kill civilians by accident, they do it on purpose."

"Ok we kill far more civilians than they do, but look at how terrible other countries are."

"Why are you still talking about Israel? Are you some kind of anti-Semite?"

When Syrian military forces commit war crimes, Bashir al Assad is called a war criminal, but when the U.S. Military or IDF commits war crimes, President Peace Prize and Bibi the Butcher are golden. We're un-American to even question it.

Is a deliberate attack on a hospital 'giving aid and comfort to the enemy' any more unthinkable than killing children every couple years in Gaza using the term "mowing the lawn" to keep future terrorists from growing up? (The Mafia also kills cherished family members first when they don't get their way.) Give 'Em Hell Harry ordered hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians incinerated by a couple of atomic bombs 'to save American lives'. Those civilians were considered to be future soldiers and givers of aid and comfort to the enemy. When it comes to our side, any excuse will do. That pesky MSF hospital and their treasonous staff are now completely gone.

So when is the USA going to become a member of the International Criminal Court? When Hell freezes over, no doubt.

Pearl said...

This may be off topic but it is a top topic in the news. Here in Canada with the national election two weeks away and early voting sooner, the TPP issue is a hot issue in the election: Harper for the Conservatives is an Obama clone, Trudeau for the Liberals is waiting to get details and the NDP has been totally against this agreement. Voters will have more to ponder with the closest vote in Canadian history. Shades of the future in the U.S.

Meredith NYC said...

re Sanders, Clinton and guns:

Sadly, the last thing Bernie Sanders needed was a huge bloodbath gun massacre in the 2016 campaign. But since they occur here with such regularity, there was bound to be more than one during this endless campaign, so tragically. Now the crazies out there that may be fantasizing about public massacres may be even more motivated—this is one of the hottest political issues. His heinous act may be cited by candidate for president!

See NPR....The Last Thing Bernie Sanders Needs Right Now Is A Conversation About Guns.
Sanders may be to the left of Clinton on most things, but is to her right on guns.

He says “ I think that urban America has got to respect what rural America is about, where 99 percent of the people in my state who hunt are law-abiding people.”

So like the NRA says in effect, why should millions of law abiding gun owners sacrifice their rights just b/c of these evil mentally ill nuts running around? Thus...why should lawful rural people sacrifice for urban gun nuts? Same thing.

Somehow citizens in dozens of countries don’t regard gun bans as sacrifice. What IS the matter with these foreigners? Follow the money paying for our elections and molding public opinion, for years. But it may be changing.

NPR says, after the SC church massacre Sanders tone was more muted than the other Dems.

Now, I'm thinking that this one issue just may be what catapults Hillary to the presidency. The repub nut line up all oppose gun control. The Oct Dem debates will sharpen this issue to a razor’s edge.

Otoh, Sanders on guns may play well in the general election.
Otoh, polls show most gun owners do want more gun control, including many NRA members.
Otoh, Sanders did vote for background checks and assault gun ban, BUT against a waiting period in Vermont. Complicated? Yes.

Er, btw, how many of the poor city kids wounded by gunshots have health insurance for their hospitalization? Truly universal h/c would be so apt for a gun crazy country, yet it is the 1 modern country still is without it. Is that too complicated for America?

Patricia M. said...

Thank you, Karen, for your usual well thought out and beautifully expressed description of Barack Obama's personality and manner of governing. I haven't seen any one comment on another comment he made about guns and gun control. In his press conference last week, he said that he was going to "politicize" this - the matter of gun control. He encouraged voters to become "single-issue voters."

From Politico: "Here's what you need to do: You have to make sure that anybody that you are voting for is on the right side of this issue . . . . even if they're great on other stuff, you've got to vote against them."

A call for a vote against Bernie Sanders? Get our minds off the Doctors Without Borders hospital? Forget about the TPP? The drones? His continual petty picking at Putin? Just forget about everything and vote for whomever is in favor of gun control. I heard him say this on NPR the next morning. If it had been any one other than President Obama, I would have had difficulty believing what I was hearing.

The issue of mass shootings goes way beyond gun control. It is a reflection of how our government addresses its "problems:" With force, violence, guns, and bombs. This is a "trickle-down" process that actually works and has a profound, unspeakable effect on our country's citizens.

Thank you, too, Karen for bringing the suicide epidemic to our attention.