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“More Than A Mere Label”: A Victory Against The Language Of Bigotry

As one of the world’s largest news outlets, the Associated Press’s linguistic mandates significantly shape the broader vernacular. So when the organization this week decided to stop using the term “illegal immigrant,” it was a big victory for objectivity and against the propagandistic language of bigotry.

Cautious AP executives did not frame it exactly that way. Instead, editor Kathleen Carroll portrayed the decision as one in defense of grammar, saying that the term “illegal” properly “describe(s) only an action” and that it is not an appropriate label to describe a human being.

“Illegal,” of course, has been used as more than a mere label — it has for years been used as an outright epithet by xenophobes. They abhor the notion of America becoming more diverse — and specifically, more non-white — and so they have tried to convert “illegal” into a word that specifically dehumanizes Latinos. Thus, as any honest person can admit, when Republican politicians and media blowhards decry “illegals,” they are pretending to be for a race-blind enforcement of immigration laws, but they are really signaling their hatred of Latino culture.

How can we be so sure that dog-whistle bigotry is the intent? It’s simple, really. Just listen to who is — and who is not — being called an “illegal.”

Almost nobody is uses the term to attack white immigrants from Europe or Canada who overstay their visas. Nobody uses the term to describe white people who break all sorts of criminal laws. Indeed, nobody called Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter an “illegal” upon revelations about his connection to a prostitution service, nor did anyone call Bernie Madoff an “illegal” for his Ponzi schemes.

Instead, the word is exclusively used to denigrate Latinos who entered the country without authorization. Coincidence? Hardly — especially because the term “illegal” is used to describe Latinos whose immigration status is not even a criminal matter.

Yes, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie noted back in 2008, though “the whole phrase of ‘illegal immigrant’ connotes that the person, by just being here, is committing a crime,” in fact “being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime.”

If Christie runs for president in 2016, he will likely get flak for that comment from anti-immigrant Republicans. But he was 100 percent correct.

“‘Illegal presence’ as the offense is called, is not a violation of the U.S. criminal code,” notes the Newark Star-Ledger, adding that while it is “a violation of civil immigration laws (and) the federal government can impose civil penalties” a person “cannot be sent to prison for being here without authorization from immigration authorities.”

Recognizing these facts is not to condone unauthorized entry into the United States. But it is to note a telling discrepancy: Latinos with non-criminal immigration status are called “illegals” but white people committing decidedly criminal acts are not called the same. Worse, the term is used so often and in such blanket fashion against Latinos that it ends up implying a description of all people of Hispanic heritage, regardless of their immigration status.

What’s amazing is that Republican media voices, which so often invoke such incendiary language, simultaneously wonder why the Republican Party is failing to win the votes of people of color and consequently losing so many elections. Somehow, the GOP doesn’t understand what the Associated Press realized: Organizations — whether political parties, media outlets or businesses – can no longer expect to insult and slander people of color and still have a viable audience.

Those that do not realize that truth will inevitably find themselves as lonely and as marginalized as today’s GOP.


By: David Sirota,, April 5, 2013

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Bigotry, Immigrants | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Surrendering To Moneyed Interests”: Who Snuck In The Monsanto Protection Act?

Anger at the so-called Monsanto Protection Act — a biotech rider that protects genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks — has been directed at numerous parties in Congress and the White House for allowing the provision to be voted and signed into law. But the party responsible for anonymously introducing the rider into the broad, unrelated spending bill had not been identified until now.

As Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott notes, the senator responsible is Missouri Republican Roy Blunt — famed friend of Big Agrigulture on Capitol Hill. Blunt even told Politico’s David Rogers that he “worked with” Monsanto to craft the rider (rendering the moniker “Monsanto Protection Act” all the more appropriate). Philpott notes:

The admission shines a light on Blunt’s ties to Monsanto, whose office is located in the senator’s home state. According to OpenSecrets, Monsanto first started contributing to Blunt back in 2008, when it handed him $10,000. At that point, Blunt was serving in the House of Representatives. In 2010, when Blunt successfully ran for the Senate, Monsanto upped its contribution to $44,250. And in 2012, the GMO seed/pesticide giant enriched Blunt’s campaign war chest by $64,250.

… The senator’s blunt, so to speak, admission that he stuck a rider into an unrelated bill at the behest of a major campaign donor is consistent with the tenor of his political career. While serving as House whip under the famously lobbyist-friendly former House Majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) during the Bush II administration, Blunt built a formidable political machine by transforming lobbying cash into industry-accomodating legislation. In a blistering 2006 report, Public Citizen declared Blunt “a legislative leader who not only has surrendered his office to the imperative of moneyed interests, but who has also done so with disturbing zeal and efficiency.”


By: Natasha Lennard, Salon, April 5, 2013

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Agriculture, Lobbyists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP Trickle Down Effect”: Sequestration Takes A Toll On Cancer And Medicare Patients

A funny thing happened on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show yesterday. The Republican host was complaining about a Washington Post report on sequestration cuts hurting cancer patients in the Medicare program, and told his listeners to ignore the news. “All of this is manufactured and made up,” Limbaugh said. How does he know? Because the sequester didn’t include “any cuts in Medicare,” he added.

And then Limbaugh got a call from a conservative oncologist — in this case, a physician who apparently shares the host’s worldview and has no use for the Washington Post — who conceded that the report is, in fact, accurate, forcing Limbaugh to change the subject.

Sequestration cuts are affecting Medicare — though not as much as some other programs — and as Sarah Kliff explained, cancer clinics really are turning away thousands of patients as a result of the Republican spending cuts.

Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially.

Patients at these clinics would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might not have the capacity to accommodate them.

Kliff talked to one Long Island oncologist who said he and his staff held an emergency meeting earlier this week and decided they would no longer see one-third of their 16,000 Medicare patients. “It’s a choice between seeing these patients and staying in business,” Jeff Vacirca, chief executive of North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates said.

But if Medicare was supposed to be shielded from the sequestration policy, how is this happening? It has to do with how medical offices are reimbursed for medications that need to be administered by a physician — such as those given to cancer patients.

The New York Daily News reported today:

The so-called sequester cuts will force three-quarters of the thousands of cancer clinics nationwide to start referring Medicare patients to hospitals, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology and other cancer treatment groups, which have appealed to the White House and Congress for help.

Elderly cancer patients are being hit hard because their drugs are among the handful of pharmaceuticals that were affected by the sequester cuts.

Medicare reimbursed oncologists for the cost of chemo drugs, plus 6%. But under the sequester, the federal government is now providing only 4% on top of the drugs’ cost, which can run $900 to $15,000 for a full course, depending on the cancer.

That 2% difference may not sound like much, but given the costs involved, it’s an enormous pay cut for the cancer clinics, which some are now saying is a prohibitive new expense they can’t afford.

Ted Okon, director of the Community Oncology Alliance, told Kliff, “If you get cut on the service side, you can either absorb it or make do with fewer nurses. This is a drug that we’re purchasing. The costs don’t change and you can’t do without it. There isn’t really wiggle room.”

Note, this doesn’t mean the sequester is necessarily cutting off cancer patients, but rather, it means these patients are being told by their local oncology clinics that they’ll have to seek care at hospitals — where the care will be less efficient and more expensive.

In case anyone’s forgotten, it’s within Congress’ power to simply turn the sequester off. The whole thing could take five minutes. But for now, congressional Republicans have ruled out the possibility of turning it off, and have also ruled out the possibility of a compromise to replace these brutal spending cuts.

With each passing day, we learn of increasingly drastic consequences associated with the policy.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 5, 2013

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Sequestration | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Entirely Symbolic”: The President’s Budget, Less Than Meets The Eye

On Twitter this morning I observed the irony that after an anemic jobs report the chattering classes would spend the rest of the day talking about whether the president’s budget (a summary of which was leaked today; the actual document is due to be released next Wednesday) offered enough spending cuts to be taken seriously.

The big news, if you want to call it that, is that the budget will formally propose what Obama has offered hypothetically as part of a “grand bargain” in exchange for significant new revenues: a shift to a “chained CPI” for Social Security COLAs (and other federal pensions and benefit programs, it seems), and some additional means-testing of Medicare benefits.

Whether or not chained CPI (which assumes consumers will switch to lower-price alternatives in purchases as overall prices rise) is a more accurate estimate of inflation, there’s no doubt utilizing it would operate as an across-the-board benefit cut–albeit one that occurs very slowly over time–something Obama and virtually all Democrats have opposed as a matter of principle in the past. There will be howls of outrage from Democratic members of Congress and progressive advocacy groups about this fresh Obama endorsement of the idea, some based on categorical rejection of Social Security benefit cuts, some based on the argument that Obama is offering a crown jewel and getting very little if anything in exchange from Republicans.

What may temper this reaction is the knowledge that this budget is entirely symbolic, and that it is certain to be rejected and denounced by House Republicans immediately for its inclusion of new revenues and its failure to project an actual balanced budget. It appears the White House is again trying to show a willingness to compromise for purposes of strengthening his hand in future fiscal battles, though some think it’s related to Obama’s effort to kick-start “grand bargain” negotiations with those Senate Republicans who are willing to consider some new revenues in exchange for “entitlement reform.”

For the record, there is actually some new spending in Obama’s budget: a pre-K initiative and this week’s “brain research” proposal, both paid for by a tobacco tax increase and a cap on the size of Individual Retirement Accounts. But there’s little in the way of “stimulus.” While the budget would cancel the appropriations sequester, it would in other ways achieve even lower defense and non-defense discretionary spending. Aside from the “offsets” just mentioned, new revenues in the budget–the usual reductions in “loopholes” theoretically supported by some Republicans–come in at $580 billion, a pretty low figure.

How you view this budget depends almost entirely on how you view Obama’s overall fiscal strategy. Is he maintaining the “high ground” on the budget, or making unilateral concessions to an opposition that is just going to pocket them without making any of their own? And is this budget connected to the forced fiscal negotiations that might occur in May or June if House Republicans decide to make a play on a new debt limit increase, despite warnings from the business community not to do so?

In any event, there’s zero that is self-executing about this budget, so it will mostly just represent another maneuver in a budgetary chess game that now seems increasingly disconnected from the economy.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 5, 2013

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Budget | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The World Today”: Martin Luther King And Today’s Gun Advocates

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated 45 years ago yesterday, and one of the interesting little sidelights to the debate over guns that you might not be aware of is that gun advocates claim King as one of their own. You see, King had armed guards protect his family, and at one point applied for a permit in Alabama to carry a concealed weapon himself. He was turned down, since in the Jim Crow days the state of Alabama wasn’t about to let black men carry guns.

You can find references to these facts on all kinds of pro-gun web sites, as nonsensical as it may seem. Gun advocates want to claim King as part of their cause, but also want to completely repudiate everything he believed about the power of nonviolence, which is kind of like Exxon saying John Muir would have favored drilling for oil in Yosemite because he sometimes rode in cars. The reason Martin Luther King sought armed protection was there were significant numbers of people who wanted to kill him, and eventually one of them succeeded. If you’re a target for assassination, you should go ahead and buy a gun. But most of us aren’t.

This gets back to the threatening world so many gun advocates believe they live in. As they tell it, every one of us needs an arsenal of handguns and shotguns and AR-15s, despite the risk they might pose to ourselves and our families, because the risk from outside is so much greater. The imagine themselves as vulnerable as a civil rights activist in the Deep South in 1968. And they also believe that the authorities that are charged with our protection are indifferent or even hostile to our safety. That was certainly the case with King and other civil rights activists in the South in the 1960s; they knew that the government and the police wouldn’t be there to protect them, and some might even participate in trying to harm them.

But guess what: that’s not the world we live in today. The idea that the government is going to come knocking down your door, and you need to be ready to engage in a firefight with the police when that happens, is as ludicrous as the idea that MLK would be an advocate for further proliferation of guns if he were alive today.

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 5, 2013

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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