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“When A Bombshell Is A Dud”: Republicans Don’t Seem To Realize The Extent To Which They Are Embarrassing Themselves

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), struggling to shake his well-deserved reputation as a “laughably inept” clown, did his level best this week to revive the discredited IRS “scandal.” Relying on a partial transcript — one of his favorite tactics — Issa fed the media what he said was a scoop.

When IRS officials in Cincinnati needed guidance on how to deal with questionable tax-exempt applications, they solicited feedback from the agency’s Washington office. Among those who weighed in was the IRS’s lawyer, which obviously makes sense given the circumstances.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan, whose uncontrollable contempt for President Obama has become difficult to watch, found this revelation fascinating.

The IRS scandal was connected this week not just to the Washington office — that had been established — but to the office of the chief counsel.

That is a bombshell — such a big one that it managed to emerge in spite of an unfocused, frequently off-point congressional hearing…. Still, what landed was a bombshell. And Democrats know it.


It troubles me that the right doesn’t realize the extent to which it’s embarrassing itself. The revelation isn’t a “bombshell”; it’s trivia we learned in mid-May. Indeed, Peggy Noonan herself knows this. I don’t mean she should know this; I mean there’s evidence she literally knows it — she wrote a column in May that referenced the same boring tidbit she now considers a “bombshell.”

Here’s what probably happened. Noonan learned a fairly mundane detail in May and wrote about it in a column. Then she forgot it. Two months later, Darrell Issa said he wants the media to take the mundane detail seriously for no particular reason, and Noonan, unwilling to reference her own work, rediscovers her fascination with the unimportant point.

Ben Smith recently characterized Noonan as the “last interesting columnist standing.” If by “interesting” he meant “lazy and blindly partisan,” I’m inclined to agree.

Of course, Noonan isn’t the only Republican who’s failing miserably to revive the ridiculous IRS “scandal.”

Issa’s hearing was itself an attempt to convince the political world the story still deserves to be taken seriously. It arguably had the opposite of the intended effect.

The inspector general behind the critical report about the IRS’ targeting of tea party groups acknowledged Thursday that the information in his report was not complete.

J. Russell George, the IRS inspector general, told the House Oversight Committee that only in the past few weeks has he become aware of documents showing that the IRS screened progressive groups in addition to conservative ones. George said he was “disturbed” by the fact that these documents were not provided to his team of investigators prior to the audit’s release and that he was continuing to investigate the issue.

“I am concerned that there may be additional pieces of information that we don’t have,” he said. “I’m very concerned about that sir.”

Oh, you mean “additional pieces of information” such as the fact that liberal groups were subjected to the same scrutiny as conservative groups? And there was no targeting of conservative organizations? And that politics had nothing to do with the added scrutiny?

And that this entire controversy is based on a report that by its author’s own admission, presents an inaccurate picture of reality?

Perhaps my favorite moment of yesterday’s hearing came when George was asked why his report failed to mention that he found literally zero evidence of political motivations on the part of the IRS, even after he reviewed 5,500 emails on the matter. George responded that he couldn’t have known “if there was an email that was destroyed.”

Oh my.

Making matters much worse, the hearing devolved into farce when Issa accused Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who is African American, of reminding him of a “little boy.” Issa later clarified he didn’t mean for the comment to sound so racist.

I’m not going to say the IRS scandal is officially over now, because for anyone who gives a darn about reality, this point came and went weeks ago. I will say that to continue to believe this story has merit and deserves to be taken seriously is deeply, painfully foolish.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 19, 2013

July 21, 2013 Posted by | Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fear Now A License To Kill”: To Those On The Right, People Are Not Racists If They Harm Someone Based On Fear Instead Of Hate

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, or so say conservatives who use the absolute sovereignty of outlook to justify a belief in such perverse ideas as global warming is a hoax, that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction and that President Obama is a foreign born secret Muslim.

It now appears everyone is also entitled to their own fears, which they are at liberty to act upon after George Zimmerman was cleared of all charges for acting on his when he singled out a Skittles and soda-packing Trayvon Martin as a threat to public safety and then tragically shot him dead in the confrontation that followed.

After all, as Geraldo Rivera told the audience of Fox and Friends after the verdict was announced: “You dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug.”

As a matter of fact, Rivera is quite sure that if any of the six women on the Florida jury that cleared Zimmerman of all charges were in the shooter’s shoes that dark and stormy night they, too, would have done exactly at Zimmerman did.

“I submit that if they were armed, they would have shot and killed Trayvon Martin a lot sooner than George Zimmerman did,” said Rivera referring to the jurors. “This is self-defense.”

I guess I’d better tell my son to get rid of all those hooded sweatshirts he has or else he, too, might fall victim to some gun-toting vigilante like George Zimmerman.

It’s not so much the verdict itself that is so shocking and so sad.  Intellectually, I can understand the decision those six women on the jury came to when faced with the sketchy evidence presented and the constraints imposed on them by the limitations of Florida law.

I also wonder if prosecutors made a strategic mistake not going for a lesser charge (such as aggravated assault or reckless endangerment) given the lack of a credible eyewitness and the burden of proof over motive, which may then have left the jury no choice but to set Zimmerman free.

Still, I can’t help agreeing with Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson when he said the fact Zimmerman “recklessly initiated the tragic encounter was enough to establish, at a minimum, guilt of manslaughter.”

Zimmerman’s actions were what started the tragic train of events that resulted in the death of a human being in the first place, and he ought to pay some price for that. Such culpability is the theory that causes the driver of the getaway car to be charged with first degree murder alongside the shooter even though he didn’t pull the trigger that killed the bank guard.

But what I cannot abide, however, is the cynical gloating by the right wing that’s followed once the final verdict was read.

After Zimmerman was set free, the right wing media played its usual role, which was to denounce liberals for waging what they claimed was a racially-motivated “witch hunt” of Zimmerman while at the same time cynically exploiting and inciting the very same racial fears and resentments in their mostly white audience that almost certainly played a key role in Martin’s tragic death.

This is evident in the way efforts by the Department of Justice to ensure protests about the Zimmerman verdict remained peaceful have been portrayed in the right wing media as the government unfairly siding with the black Martin against the white Zimmerman throughout the trial, perpetuating the all too familiar Fox News narrative that the Obama administration is out to persecute white people for the benefit of minorities.

Racists, of course, are convinced there isn’t a racist bone in their body and they bitterly resent whenever anyone says different. But that is mostly because racists habitually define racism too narrowly, limiting bigotry to the rage or physical violence that emerges out of sheer malevolence.

But what about the fear that might reside in someone like a George Zimmerman, who would single out Martin and instinctively see him as a potential threat based on nothing more sinister than a racial stereotype – a prejudice.

To those on the right, people are not racists if they harm someone like Trayvon Martin based on fear instead of hate, even if that fear has racial origins.  All of us have a right to defend ourselves from danger, says the right, even against the imaginary dangers of a young black boy walking home with nothing more lethal than candy and soda.

But according to Daily Beast, this fear of black people had been brewing inside George Zimmerman for some time. Over eight years, Zimmerman made at least 46 calls to the police department in Sanford before those two fateful calls on February 26, 2012, shortly before he confronted and then fatally shot Martin, said the Daily Beast.

All told, the police log of Zimmerman’s calls “paint a picture of an extremely vigilant neighbor,” the Daily Beast reports, whose calls “make him sound more like a curmudgeon than a vigilante” protecting the gated community where he lived and where he shot Martin.

But starting in 2011, the Daily Beast says Zimmerman’s calls began to focus on what he considered to be “suspicious” characters in the neighborhood – “almost all of whom were young black males.”

According to the log in the Daily Beast:

On April 22, 2011, Zimmerman called to report a black male about “7-9” years old, four feet tall, with a “skinny build” and short black hair. There is no indication in the police report of the reason for Zimmerman’s suspicion of the boy.

On Aug. 3 of last year, Zimmerman reported a black male who he believed was “involved in recent” burglaries in the neighborhood.

And on Oct. 1 he reported two black male suspects “20-30” years old, in a white Chevrolet Impala. He told police he did “not recognize” the men or their vehicle and that he was concerned because of the recent burglaries.

The conservative National Review is willing to concede Zimmerman showed “poor judgment” in tailing Martin despite urgent pleas from the 911 dispatcher to leave Martin alone.

But the magazine strongly denies Zimmerman displays any of the behavior of “a bullying white racist circa 1955” when it overlooks the obvious racial profiling that started the tragic sequence of events to begin with. In fact, the magazine’s editors doubt Zimmerman harbored any racial ill-will at all as they pontificate about how glad they are “that people in America are still tried in the courts rather than by left-wing protesters or by the media” who they say waged a “long campaign of defamation against him outside the courtroom.”

To the National Review and to most of Zimmerman’s defenders on the right the only fact that matters is that Martin hit Zimmerman during the altercation that occurred once Martin noticed Zimmerman was following him, and probably lashed out at what he perceived to be a threat.

This fact is all that is required to make this case “a simple matter of self-defense,” says the National Review, despite what it criticized as the “enormous firestorm and campaign of race-hustling political intimidation” waged against Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was innocent in the eyes of his defenders on the right because he honestly believed the Skittles-wielding Martin to be dangerous. And what made Martin dangerous to Zimmerman was the fact he was black and, in the racist view of Geraldo Rivera, because Martin wore the uniform of a “thug.”

If the verdict is not more shocking to more people perhaps it’s because, as the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson put it: “Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent.”

That is the way many right wing conservatives like Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly do in fact see young black men as they feed on the racial fears of their audience that America “is a changing country; the demographics are changing; it’s not a traditional America anymore;” and the “white establishment” is the minority.

And they vent their familiar white racist outrage at liberals who would dare to punish someone like George Zimmerman for acting on those fears when he killed a 17 year-old boy who did nothing wrong but look “suspicious” to the man who shot him.


By: Ted Frier, Open Salon Blog, July 16, 2013

July 21, 2013 Posted by | Racism, Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Great Detroit Betrayal”: The Residents, Employees And Retirees Are Not The Tragic Heroes Who Brought The City Down

Detroit has filed for bankruptcy. Most of the spot-news coverage has focused on the immediate fiscal crisis of the city, but the immediate fiscal crisis really isn’t what got the city into such deep trouble. Certainly, Detroit’s contracts with its employees and its debts to its retirees don’t explain anything about how and why this once-great city has come to such grief. Those contracts and retirement benefits are par for the course for major American cities—certainly, no more generous than those in cities of comparable size.

Any remotely accurate autopsy of the city will find the cancer that killed Detroit was the decline of the American auto industry. The failure of U.S. automakers in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s to make better cars at a time when foreign-made autos were beginning to enter the U.S. market was surely one factor. Another was the trade deals that made it easy for Detroit automakers to relocate to cheaper climes—most particularly, NAFTA, which boosted maquiladoras while shuttering auto plants in the United States, disproportionately, in Greater Detroit. Taken in aggregate, the U.S. trade deals of the past half-century have benefited finance while crippling manufacturing, and Detroit—along with swaths of Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and other industrial cities—paid the price.

A second factor is the racial polarization that Detroit has never managed to overcome. As far back as the 1920s, the Detroit factories attracted workers who didn’t always get along. In particular, it drew hundreds of thousands of workers from the African American South and white Appalachia. Since its formation in the 1930s, the United Auto Workers has spent much time and energy trying to combat white racism, and to keep tensions between these two groups from erupting in violence. The union didn’t always succeed. While it generally managed to get both its white and black members voting for liberal Democrats for state and national office, it seldom managed, even during the height of its strength in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, to get its white members to vote for its endorsed candidates for Detroit city office. Why the difference? Because city officials, unlike state and national ones, set Detroit’s policing and housing policies, and many white Detroiters, including auto workers, wanted to preserve racially segregated housing and a brutal, racist police force.

As mass suburban development came to Detroit in the decades following World War II, the city became prey to epochal white flight. By the late ’80s, when pollster Stan Greenberg conducted his now famous study of Macomb County—a white, working-class suburb adjoining Detroit, which had voted overwhelmingly for John Kennedy in 1960 and just as overwhelmingly for Ronald Reagan in 1984—he discovered a white electorate convinced that Democrats had created a government that benefited only blacks. Any notion of regional cooperation between increasingly black Detroit and its white suburbs was a non-starter.

As the auto plants closed and the whites fled, Detroit hollowed out. In time, as jobs and services vanished, blacks fled as well. In 1950, the city was home to 2 million people. Today, it is home to 700,000. Its unemployment rate, at 18.6 percent, is the highest of the 50 largest American cities. Its tax revenues, not surprisingly, can’t support adequate city services. And today’s bankruptcy filing is likely to reduce those services still further, while likely reducing the monthly pension checks of its retirees, though they and their unions have a strong moral claim to most favored creditor status. Moral claims often don’t amount to much, however, in bankruptcy proceedings.

Is it right to call what has happened to Detroit a tragedy? Not, surely, in a strictly Greek sense. There was hubris aplenty, but it was the hubris of auto executives who certainly don’t live within the city limits and won’t suffer the bankruptcy’s consequences. As for those who will suffer them—the residents, employees and retirees of Detroit—they’re not the tragic heroes who brought the city down. They’re the tragic victims.


By: Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect, July 19, 2013

July 21, 2013 Posted by | Auto Industry | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Anger, Frustration, Bewilderment”: From Rolling Stone To Salon, Where Are The Parent’s?

This is not a defense. This is, I hope, the beginning of a conversation.

I read Rich Benjamin’s latest piece for Salon where he suggests that Eric Holder is President Obama’s “Inner N-Word,” with the same anger, frustration and bewilderment as many others. In addition to salaciously dropping the N-word, Benjamin didn’t actually take up Obama’s speech or the many statements the president made in a meaningful way. Instead, he focused on the idea that Attorney General Eric Holder is the black man who says the things Obama can’t, Obama’s “repressed Black Id.” He forwarded the idea that Holder was “more black” (and more correctly black) than Obama because Holder always speaks his mind, most recently denouncing, vehemently, “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Worse yet, Benjamin suggested that the more correct or realer mode of blackness comes by way of aggression and anger, perpetuating the pervasive and damaging myth of the angry black man. His piece suggested that nuance is an ineffective strategy when discussing race. He went for the attention-getting gambit. I suspect he dashed off his piece only a short while after Obama spoke (as we often have to; I’ve been there and will be there again and am probably there now. I get it). There was a missed opportunity to more fully address the issue of the complexity of blackness or Obama’s burden of expectations when he addresses race.

As I followed various reactions on Twitter, I wrote my Salon editor, Anna North, because I wanted to know more about the editorial process. Later, I spoke on the phone with Salon’s interim editor-in-chief, David Daley, and we had a frank and lengthy conversation with about diversity and editorial/creative freedom.

But. Is Benjamin’s piece a writing problem or an editorial problem? In looking at the editorial staff of Salon, one thing is clear—there is little ethnic diversity. Let’s not pretend, however, that this is only a Salon problem. Most magazines, online and print, are utterly lacking in editorial diversity and demonstrate little interest in addressing the problem. I don’t need to name names; just pick a magazine.

Salon, like many publications, is stuck in a cultural vacuum where an editor can read Benjamin’s piece and publish it without any indication that there has been some consideration of the consequences, and, more importantly, of the message being sent. I cannot even be sure the editors understand why Benjamin’s piece is problematic though I do know they are absolutely aware there is a problem.

How do the magazines solve their masthead diversity problem? How does anyone solve this problem? The solutions are quite simple but reminders are clearly needed. Diversify the editorial staff, particularly at senior levels. Hire a person of color as an editor at large — but don’t expect them or any contributor of color on the site to be the token person for matters of race. We can and do want to write on a range of subjects. Create consistent contributor diversity that goes well beyond black writers. Create strong and consistently maintained content partnerships with publications that cater, specifically, to diverse populations. Make sure diversity is an ongoing priority among the current editorial staff in quantifiable ways.

Be more intersectional, creating an environment that produces a range of perspectives on race, gender, class, sexuality, and political thought. There can be no genuine intellectual diversity without intersectional thought and action. Fostering diversity requires both big and small efforts. Fostering a truly diverse environment takes time. Often, it also takes money. Either you will walk the walk or you’ll simply talk about how diversity is a good idea.

Would a black editor have prevented Benjamin’s piece from being published without rigorous questions? We cannot possibly know.

Blackness is not monolithic. The reaction to Benjamin’s piece certainly speaks to that. But because blackness is not monolithic, black editorial insight cannot be predicted. It is problematic to suggest that a black editor is all it would take to prevent a piece like Benjamin’s from being published, that a black editor would save the day with his or her cape and magic black editorial pen. We have to think about what we’re actually saying to suggest this. Rich Benjamin needs to check himself, but he may not be the only one who needs to do so.


By: Roxanne Gay, Salon, July 20, 2013

July 21, 2013 Posted by | Journalism, Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Touching On White Privilege”: President Obama’s Moment Of Introspection Evokes A Conservative Tsunami Of Bile

Today, Barack Obama did something he has only done a few times in the years he has been on the national stage: He talked about race. In an extemporaneous statement to White House reporters, Obama discussed the reaction to the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin. He spent the first third of his remarks talking about where African Americans were coming from, in an implicit plea for empathy from white Americans. He didn’t accuse anyone of ill will, but he did in effect say, “Here’s how black people are feeling and why,” in an attempt to explain the sources of people’s disappointment and pain. After that, he talked about what government might do to make these kinds of tragedies less likely—training for police officers, and perhaps a rethinking of “stand your ground” laws if they make conflicts more likely. He ended on a hopeful note, saying, “as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race.”

We’d challenge conservatives to pick out a single sentence in Obama’s statement that they could say was unfair to white people, or encouraged anything other than greater mutual understanding. But all too predictably, some conservatives showed once again that empathy is something they are either utterly incapable of or simply find politically inconvenient. There is no anti-Obama rage like the rage he provokes on the right when he brings up race. It doesn’t matter what he says. No matter how humane, how encompassing, how careful—should Obama ever so gently suggest that race is something with which we as a country still struggle, a tsunami of bile is inevitably directed his way. If you weren’t on Facebook or Twitter to see it today, count yourself lucky that your faith in your fellow Americans wasn’t brought down a notch or two by all the ugliness. If you had read that reaction without actually seeing what Obama said, you would have thought he marched into the press room in fatigues and a beret, shouting “Black power! Black power!” and talking about hunting down whitey.

We suspect that the part of his talk that irked conservatives the most was this: “There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often. And you know, I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.”

The reason that this particular plea for empathy and understanding can generate such an angry reaction is that it touches on white privilege. It’s easy to say, “Well I’m no racist,” but it’s harder to acknowledge that if you don’t get followed when you walk into a store, if you don’t have people lock their doors when you walk by, if you don’t see women clutch their purses when you enter an elevator, if you aren’t subjected to frequent “stop and frisks” by the police because they say you made a “furtive movement,” and if you don’t worry every time your son goes out at night that the wrong person will consider him a criminal and initiate a series of events that leads to his death, then you’re the beneficiary of a society still infused with racism. To be told, even by implication, that you benefit from an unequal system? That’s just intolerable.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 19, 2013

July 21, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, Racism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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