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“No, Chris Lane Is Not Trayvon Martin”: Right Wing Media Prefers To Hide Behind A Veil Of Intentional Ignorance

The white conservative media believes it has its own Trayvon Martin in the case of Chris Lane, an Australian baseball player who was killed in Oklahoma, where he had been studying, by three black teenagers in an apparently random act of violence (note: there’s actually some question as to the race of one of the three teens, the driver, who faces lesser charges).

Rush Limbaugh called it “Trayvon Martin in reverse, only worse.” The Drudge Report, where black-on-white crime always gets top billing, has been prominently featuring news about the case for several days. Former Tea Party congressman Allen West weighed in, tweeting, “3 black teens shoot white jogger. Who will POTUS identify w/this time?”

Jesse Jackson tried to extend an olive branch, tweeting that he was “Praying for the family of Chris Lane.” But armed with that, Fox News is now demanding that President Obama weigh in, just as he did for Martin’s case. “I thought it was at least good of Jesse Jackson to step up,” Fox and Friends host Brian Kilmeade said today. “I haven’t heard anything from Al Sharpton [or the White House],” he added. His colleagues agreed.

(For what it’s worth, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest told reporters yesterday that he wasn’t familiar with the case.)

As the right sees it, the president’s silence confirms the narrative shared by everyone from Glenn Beck to Allen West to Maine Gov. Paul LePage to Sean Hannity — that Obama is racist against white people, and that the media is, too, or at least duped into doing the bidding of allegedly racist black leaders like Sharpton, or something.

It’s incredible that in 2013 we’re really arguing about this, but from Henry Louis Gates to Travyon Martin — when the conservative media made George Zimmerman the Real Victim of the supposed anti-white lynch mob — we should expect nothing else. And it’s equally striking, yet also not particularly surprising, that Fox and Limbaugh and the rest really don’t seem to comprehend why the Trayvon Martin case became a thing.

It’s not that difficult to understand so we’ll spell it out: It was not only that a light-skinned Zimmerman killed an unarmed black teenager — but also that police didn’t do anything about it. The killing was horribly tragic, as is Lane’s senseless murder, but if Zimmerman had actually been arrested for the shooting, the sad reality is that far fewer Americans would know his name. But that’s not what happened. Instead, police let Zimmerman go under Florida’s “stand your ground” law. It smacked of institutional, state-sponsored racial favoritism of the worst kind. It was only after public outcry that state prosecutors took over the case and pressed charges. Some could argue that Zimmerman didn’t need to be convicted for justice to be done, but he did need to stand trial.

Likewise with Henry Louis Gates, the famed black professor who was arrested while he was trying to get into his own home in Cambridge, Mass., after he misplaced his keys. That’s not how police are supposed to operate, and that’s why Obama weighed in.

Lane’s murder is an entirely different matter. It’s disgusting, but the police did their job. They arrested three suspects, and vowed to try to throw the book at them. That’s how it’s supposed to go. Murder is sadly quotidian in a gun-soaked America, and this is, sadly, another, if particularly senseless, one.

If you want to actually understand race relations in this country, you need to understand the difference between these cases. But the right prefers to live behind a veil of intentional ignorance where the only kind of racism that exists today is black people disliking white people.

Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, August 22, 2013

August 23, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Motivated By Discriminatory Intent”: Justice Department Tells Texas It’s Voter Suppression Will Not Stand

In one week last August, federal courts found that Texas’ voter ID law and redistricting maps were discriminatory and violated the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court’s recent decision invalidating Section 4 of the VRA, which previously covered Texas, tragically wiped away those rulings. Now the Department of Justice is once again stepping in to fight for voting rights in the Lone Star State.

The DOJ announced today that it is objecting to Texas’ voter ID law under Section 2 of the VRA and will also seek to join a similar lawsuit against the state’s redistricting maps. Last month, DOJ asked a court in Texas to force the state to approve its voting changes with the federal government for a period of time under another provision of the VRA, Section 3, based on a finding of intentional discrimination in the restricting case. The federal courts found last year that Texas’ new maps for Congress and the state house were “enacted with discriminatory purpose.”

A federal court blocked Texas’ voter ID law last year for very good reason. As I wrote last August, here are the facts of the case:

The state admitted that between 603,892 to 795,955 registered in voters in Texas lacked government-issued photo ID, with Hispanic voters between 46.5 percent to 120 percent more likely than whites to not have the new voter ID; to obtain one of the five government-issued IDs now needed to vote, voters must first pay for underlying documents to confirm their identity, the cheapest option being a birth certificate for $22 (otherwise known as a “poll tax”); Texas has DMV offices in only eighty-one of 254 counties in the state, with some voters needing to travel up to 250 miles to obtain a new voter ID. Counties with a significant Hispanic population are less likely to have a DMV office, while Hispanic residents in such counties are twice as likely as whites to not have the new voter ID (Hispanics in Texas are also twice as likely as whites to not have a car).

The court objected to the law specifically because “(1) a substantial subgroup of Texas voters, many of whom are African American or Hispanic, lack photo ID; (2) the burdens associated with obtaining ID will weigh most heavily on the poor; and (3) racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.” Along with North Carolina, Texas has the harshest and most absurd voter ID law in the nation. Case in point: you can use a gun permit to vote but not a student ID. The state is also doing nothing to encourage people to get the supposedly “free” ID; a month after the Supreme Court’s ruling, only six people in Texas had obtained one, even though 600,000 to 800,000 registered voters lack the government-issued ID.

In its new court filing, DOJ contends that the voter ID law “will disproportionately impact Hispanic and African-American voters in the State of Texas, resulting in their being disenfranchised at a greater rate than Anglo voters.” The department says the law, known as SB 14, was “motivated by discriminatory intent” and “will have a discriminatory result.”

From the brief:

While the stated purpose of SB 14 was to ensure the integrity of elections, voter ID proponents cited virtually no evidence during or after enactment of SB 14 that in-person voter impersonation—the only form of election fraud addressed by the identification requirements of SB 14—was a serious problem or that the State’s then-existing identification procedures had failed to prevent in-person voter impersonation.

The State knew or should have known that Hispanic and African-American Texans disproportionately lack the forms of photo ID required by SB 14, as compared to their Anglo counterparts.

Nevertheless, supporters of voter ID in the Texas legislature made little to no effort to analyze the potential effect of photo ID requirements on minority voters and rejected amendments requiring investigation of the effect of SB 14.

The long history of voting discrimination in Texas makes the new law all-the-more worrisome. DOJ writes: “The State of Texas’s history of official racial discrimination against its African-American and Hispanic citizens is longstanding and well-documented. Federal intervention has been necessary to eliminate numerous devices intentionally used to restrict minority voting in Texas.” Texas has lost more Section 5 enforcement suits than any other state.

It will be much harder for the Department of Justice to block Texas’ voting changes under Section 2 of the VRA than it would have been under Section 5, but they’re smart to try. (See my piece on why Section 2 is no replacement for Section 5.) “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights,” Attorney General Eric Holder said today. “This represents the Department’s latest action to protect voting rights, but it will not be our last.”

Since the Court’s decision, seven Southern states have rushed to pass or implement onerous new voting restrictions. North Carolina recently adopted the country’s worst voter suppression law (which voting rights groups are also challenging under Section 2), with local election boards escalating attacks on student voting hours after its passage by shutting down polling places at college campuses and preventing students from running for office. Since Holder has vowed more action to protect voting rights, there’s a very good chance that the Tarheel State will be next on his list.

By: Ari Berman, The Nation, August 22, 2013

August 23, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Story Bigots Hate”: A Clinic In Empathy, A Good Woman Without A Gun Stops A Bad Guy With A Gun

We rarely hear the tales of school-shooting heroism directly from the heroes, tragically, because the heroes rarely live to tell them. Dave Cullen’s haunting “Columbine” tells the poignant story of computer teacher Dave Saunders, who was shot while shepherding his students to safety and died after the students worked hard to save him. After the Sandy Hook shootings, the courage of principal Dawn Hochsprung and teachers like Victoria Soto broke our hearts – but we heard them from survivors and friends and family, because the women were among Adam Lanza’s victims.

That’s part of what makes the story of Antoinette Tuff so compelling – but only part of it. Tuff is, of course, the bookkeeper at Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Center in Decatur, Ga., whose work talking shooter Michael Brandon Hill into surrendering to police Tuesday was captured live on a stunning 911 tape that’s gone viral. The fascination at the heart of Tuff’s tale, the reason it’s riveting, is the way she used compassion and empathy to disarm a mentally ill man intent on killing. “Was the potential there to have another Sandy Hook? Absolutely,” the local police chief told reporters as he praised Tuff.

In this story, the only thing that stopped a bad guy with a gun was a good woman with a heart. Or to entirely rewrite Wayne LaPierre’s dumb Manichaean NRA propaganda: The only thing that stopped an emotionally damaged, despairing and unloved young man with 500 rounds of ammunition was a compassionate woman sharing her own story of damage and despair, and telling him she loved him.

Oh, and then there’s this: As we try to recover from the unnecessarily polarized aftermath of the Trayvon Martin killing and George Zimmerman’s acquittal, it’s worth noting that Tuff is a black woman who helped save a young white man from harm at the hands of police. Of course the race-baiters at Fox News, who were so agitated about the crimes of young black men a few weeks ago, have hardly rushed to emphasize that a young white man opened fire at a predominantly black school – let alone that he was helped to save his own life by an African-American woman (for example, check out how they approach these facts here).

Hill, a mentally ill 20-year-old, seemed convinced the police would kill him because he shot at them, and he might have been right. But Tuff tells him she’ll protect him by telling them he hasn’t hurt her, and he didn’t actually hit anyone he shot at.

“He thought it was over for him because he’d already been shooting at police officers,” she told a local Atlanta television reporter. “I told him, no, that I would allow them to know that he hadn’t hurt anyone.”

As the 911 tape begins, we hear Hill shooting outside, as the dispatcher tells a terrified Tuff to try to get somewhere safe. But when Hill comes back into the school, Tuff begins telling police outside, and the 911 dispatcher, that the cops should “back off” and not enter the building. At first she calls Hill “sir,” until she switches to calling him “baby,” which is when the momentum shifts and she seems to have a chance to save him from himself. Tuff tells the dispatcher that Hill told her “he should have just gone to the hospital instead of doing this, because he’s not on his medication.”

Gradually we hear her convince Hill to let her help him surrender safely to police.

“I can help you, you want me to talk to them? Let me talk to them and let’s see if we can work it out so you don’t have to go away with them for a long time … I can let them know you have not tried to harm me or do anything with me.” When he interrupts her to say he’s already shot at police, she reassures him, “That doesn’t make any difference, you didn’t hit anybody.”

Then she turns to the dispatcher and begins to negotiate with police. “He didn’t hit anybody, he just shot outside the door,” Tuff tells the woman. “If I walk outside with him, they won’t shoot him? … He just wants to go to the hospital … Can you talk to the police and let them know he wants to go outside with me?”

In the midst of all this she soothes Hill by telling him parts of her own story. “Don’t feel bad, baby, my husband just left me after 33 years … I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me. But look at me now, I’m still working and everything is OK.”

On the 911 tape we listen as Tuff calmly negotiates taking away Hill’s guns – “Put it all up there,” she tells him — and supervises him lying on the floor to surrender. “Tell me when you’re ready, then I’ll tell them to come on in,” she says. She directs the dispatcher, “Let him drink his bottle of water. Don’t come in shooting at anything, they can come on in, and I’ma buzz them in.” Then she’s back to soothing Hill.

“I’m gonna sit right here so they’ll see that you didn’t try to harm me … It’s gonna be alright sweetie, I want you to know that I love you, it’s a good thing that you did giving up. Don’t worry about it, we all go through something in life. You’re gonna be OK.”

Only after the police come in and arrest Hill without incident does she tell the dispatcher, “Let me tell you something, baby. I’ve never been so scared in all the days of my life. Oh, Jesus.”

“But you did great,” the dispatcher tells Tuff, speaking for all of us. “You did great.”

She did more than great. There won’t be an Antoinette Tuff to save us from every school shooting – we need tougher gun laws and better mental health care too, and even then, people will find guns and do bad things. But Tuff gave a clinic in empathy, and the way that trying to connect with the pain of another person, even someone scary and dangerous, can save lives. (She credits her pastor with teaching her to “pray on the inside” when she’s anxious.) Tuff protected her students, but she also protected Hill from himself, and from the police – and she did it with love.

I can only pray that a white woman faced with a heavily armed, mentally ill young black man would have done the same thing. There’s a reason it’s Antoinette Tuff Day all over social media. We need her right now.

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, August 22, 2013

August 23, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Pravda-ization Of The Party”: Crazier Than Ever, Republicans Will Not Move To The Center

If you’d asked me six months ago whether the Republican Party would manage to find a few ways to sidle back toward the center between now and 2016, I’d have said yes. But today, on the basis of evidence offered so far this year, I’d have to say a big fat no. With every passing month, the party contrives new ways to go crazier. There’s a lot of time between now and 2016, but it’s hard to watch recent events without concluding that the extreme part of the base is gaining more and more internal control.

Let’s start with this recent party meeting in Boston. As with the previous winter meeting, the Republican National Committee was trying to spin inclusiveness as the theme and goal. But what real news came out of the meeting? Go to the RNC website. Before you even make it to the home page, you’ll be presented with a petition imploring you to “Hold the Liberal Media Accountable!” and “Tell CNN and NBC to drop their planned programming promoting Hillary Clinton or no 2016 debates!” The photo is of She Who Is in Question, smiling all the way to the White House.

You know, I trust, that the petition augments a position adopted at the meeting in protest of the biopics of Clinton planned by those two networks. As an “issue,” this is totally absurd. How many voters are going to walk into the booth on Election Day 2016, if Clinton is the Democratic nominee, thinking, “Gee whiz, I never cared that much for Hillary until I saw that wonderful biopic about a year ago, which is what sealed it for me!” Ridiculous. Besides, has anyone stopped to wonder whether Clinton herself wants these movies aired? (Actually, Al Hunt has). A decent argument can be made that her interest in seeing Gennifer and Monica and Tammy Wynette and all those unflattering hairstyles dredged up again is slim indeed.

This is just more symbolic (and shambolic) politics of rage. The driver here is not anger about these Hillary shows. They’re the handy excuse. The driver is hatred of all news organizations that aren’t Fox News, which in turn reflects hatred of reality itself, hatred of the unhappy truth that there are facts in this world that can’t be neatly arranged behind a worldview of rage and racial resentment. Soon enough, the GOPers are going to get themselves to the point where the only debates are on Fox, moderated, as Reince Priebus suggested last week, by the likes of Sean Hannity. The Pravda-ization of the party, a process that’s been under way since Fox first took to the air back in 1996, will be complete. The kinds of questions candidates will likely be asked on Fox, and the kinds of answers they’ll know will be expected of them, will drive the party even further rightward.

So that’s where the heads of the party’s national committee members are. Now let’s turn to Congress. Six months ago, I might have thought the party could roll with immigration reform. In truth, I was a skeptic from day one, let the record show. But there were plenty of days when I doubted myself. Not much doubt today. And now we have the stampede to defund Obamacare (which is impossible) and the looming government shutdown and/or destruction of the country’s creditworthiness (both of which are all too possible). There is dissension inside the GOP on these questions now, but they will, in time—not much time, really, a few weeks—become the new Tea Party litmus tests. The GOP will do the bidding, to whatever it extent it can, of the extremists.

And now, we’re hearing new calls for impeachment. On what grounds, it doesn’t matter. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), asked about the chances of removing Obama from office by a constituent, agreed that “it’s a good question” and answered that the only reason not to was that “you need the votes in the U.S. Senate,” and the GOP doesn’t have them. Not that there are no grounds, which there aren’t. Just that they couldn’t succeed.

And then there’s the random crazy that still pops up around the country on pretty much a daily basis. One might have thought, six months ago, that the party would begin to carve out a little wiggle room for a few people who support same-sex marriage. The issue was a winner for Obama last year, and remember all that postelection yammering about needing young people? Surely the party can tolerate a few midlevel leaders, especially younger ones, meekly supporting the policy.

Well, Stephanie Petelos is one of those young people. She’s the president of the College Republicans at the University of Alabama. Certainly a loyalist, I would aver. Then she told a local news station: “The majority of students don’t derive the premise of their argument for or against gay marriage from religion, because we’re governed by the Constitution and not the Bible.” And now the state Republican Party is advancing a resolution that would boot her from the steering committee.

That’s what’s known in political history as a purge. I see more purges coming. Conservative Myra Adams wrote on the Beast over the weekend that she didn’t see how a Republican could get to 270 electoral votes in 2016. She’s correct about that, but she may be wrong in assuming that most of these people even care anymore if they win. I think many would prefer to win, sure, all things being equal, but only on their narrow terms. And if they don’t, there is great glory in losing because of principle, and then once again purifying the party of its sellouts and squishes like Petelos. How much worse can they get? A lot.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, August 21, 2013

August 23, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Undermining His Own Brand”: Chris Christie Is Afraid Of Competition, His Party’s Base And The Public

If we were making a list of the reasons New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will struggle to gain national support from his party’s right-wing base, we’d have plenty to work with: The Republican base is already suspicious of Christie — he praised and embraced (literally) President Obama during the response to Hurricane Sandy; he’s accepted expansion of the Affordable Care Act; and he’s referred to elements of the GOP base as “the crazies”; and he’s supported reforms on gun laws.

But on that last one, the governor is, shall we say, evolving.

After months of pressure from both sides of the gun control debate, Gov. Chris Christie today refused to sign three controversial gun control measures sitting on his desk — including a version of a weapon ban that he had called for. […]

[T]he governor completely axed a bill that would ban the Barrett .50 caliber rifle (A3659), which is the most powerful weapon commonly available to civilians. Christie had called for a ban on future sales of the weapon in his own package of violent prevention measures outlined in April.

As we discussed late on Friday, New Jersey’s legislature approved a ban on .50-caliber weapons, which fire ammunition the size of carrots, has the capacity to pierce steel plate armor from several hundred yards away, and can even shoot down airplanes. Christie, with his national ambitions likely in mind, vetoed the ban.

But the Star-Ledger‘s report adds a relevant detail — when Christie offered a series of gun reforms earlier this year, he endorsed a ban on .50-caliber weapons, saying there was no need for consumers to purchase these kinds of firearms. So why would the governor veto a measure he ostensibly supports? Because, Christie said, the proposal bans the weapons that have already been sold in the Garden State.

In other words, if you’re in New Jersey and you already have a .50-caliber weapon that can shoot down an airplane, Christie has no problem with you keeping it around indefinitely. The governor is, however, comfortable with banning the future sales of these guns. How courageous of him.

And this leads to a related point: whatever happened to Chris Christie’s “brand” as a tough, no-nonsense politician who’s not afraid of anything?

The Washington Post noted the interesting timing of the governor’s veto.

Christie’s veto — which his office waited until after 6 p.m. on Friday to announce — drew swift and sharp criticism from gun-control advocates.

As a rule, when politicians have to release important news, but they don’t want anyone to know about it, they wait until late on a Friday afternoon to dump the announcement. Christie and his aides could have let the public know about the veto anytime, but they chose the one part of the week best known for burying the news.

In other words, the governor was comfortable vetoing a measure awfully similar to what he’d already proposed, but he wasn’t exactly proud of himself.

What’s more, note that this comes the same summer in which Christie scheduled a U.S. Senate special election in New Jersey for a Wednesday in mid-October, even though there’s a statewide election a couple of weeks later. It’s a wasteful, expensive move, with no fair rationale. So why did Christie pick this date? Because he was afraid to be on the same ballot as Cory Booker (D), even though the governor has a big lead in the polls.

In other words, Christie is afraid of competition and he’s afraid his party’s base won’t like him and he’s afraid of the mainstream public hearing about his veto of .50-caliber firearms.

So much for the confident leader who doesn’t shy away from a fight.


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

August 23, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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