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“Out Damn Spot, Just Go Away”: George Zimmerman Is Enjoying His Celebrity Post Acquittal Victory Tour

As Trayvon Martin’s parents headed to Washington for a protest commemorating the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, their son’s killer was touring the factory that produced the gun he used to kill their son, and posing for celebrity photos while he was there. Fittingly, celebrity gossip site TMZ broke the news of George Zimmerman’s visit to the Kel-Tec factory last Thursday. Trayvon Martin’s killer is clearly enjoying his post-acquittal right-wing folk-hero status.

Meanwhile, his brother jumped on the bandwagon of white grievance-mongers playing up the alleged racial angle of the murder of Australian baseball player Chris Lane, who was killed by three young men, two black and one white. “Mainstream media is side stepping the fact that one of the alleged murderers openly professed on social media to ‘hate’ white people,” Robert Zimmerman told the Daily Caller. “Which one of these three teens looks most like Obama’s theoretical son?”

I’m sorry, America, we’re stuck with the Zimmermans. They won’t go away. Rather than recoil from his status as the man who shot an unarmed 17-year-old, George Zimmerman is enjoying his celebrity, while Robert Zimmerman continues to collaborate with the right-wing media-entertainment complex to make his brother out to be the real victim in Sanford, Fla., last year – the victim, first, of “thuggish” Trayvon Martin, and then of civil rights leaders like the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, as well as Martin’s parents.

Somewhat surprisingly, Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara released a statement criticizing his client for his gun factory visit in harsh and vivid terms. “We certainly would not have advised him to go to the factory that made the gun that he used to shoot Trayvon Martin through the heart,” Shawn Vincent, a spokesman for attorney Mark O’Mara, told Yahoo News. “That was not part of our public relations plan.”

I don’t recall O’Mara playing up the fact that the 17-year-old Martin was shot, at close range, “through the heart” during the trial, but maybe he thought the dramatic statement might help distance him from what could be his client’s post-acquittal victory tour. (I should note Vincent’s statement to Reuters didn’t include those words.) With Yahoo News, Vincent continued: “We are George’s legal representation, but I don’t think he takes our advice on how he lives his life or what factories he decides to tour. We represented him in court. We got the verdict that we believe is just, and the rest of George’s life is up to George.”

Translation: Don’t blame us for whatever Zimmerman does next.

Part of what made the Zimmerman acquittal hard to take was the shooter’s utter lack of remorse for killing Martin. Even if you believed every word of his self-defense claim, it had to be hard to imagine having no regrets about the death of a teenager. Even Sean Hannity, who normally appears conscience-free, asked Zimmerman if he had “regrets” about getting out of his car and following Martin, which led to their confrontation and the boy’s shooting. “It was all God’s plan, and for me to second guess it or judge it,” Zimmerman told Hannity, his voice trailing off.

That’s the kind of cluelessness that would lead a guy to tour the factory that made the gun he used to kill Martin, and to pose grinning with a star-struck factory worker like he’s Frank Sinatra visiting a local trattoria.

It’s particularly sad that Zimmerman’s visit came on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which was commemorated Saturday by a civil rights convening that included Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s parents. The issues of racial profiling, stop and frisk and “stand your ground” laws are animating a new movement for racial justice, and Martin has become a symbol of the way young black men are treated at the hands of police as well as vigilantes like Zimmerman. “Trayvon Martin was my son, but he’s not just my son, he’s all of our son, and we have to fight for our children,” Fulton told the crowd.

But to Zimmerman’s defenders, Martin is a symbol of predatory young black men, and Zimmerman is the hero enacting “God’s plan” to fight back. Not surprisingly, his brother defended his gun factory victory tour. “George is a free man and as such is entitled to visit, tour, frequent or patronize any business or locale he wishes,” Robert Zimmerman told Yahoo News. So don’t expect Zimmerman’s victory tour to end any time soon.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, August 26, 2013

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Trayvon Martin | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Unexpected Turn”: Missouri Develops Strategy To Prevent A Repeat Ghastly Rush Limbaugh Bronze Bust Statue Debacle

Last year, both Steve and I wrote posts discussing the induction of Rush Limbaugh into Missouri’s Hall of Fame. At the time, there seemed little of redeeming value to this tale but now, it has taken an unexpected, and even encouraging, turn.

Just to recap: inside the grand rotunda of the state capitol in Jefferson City sits the Hall of Famous Missourians, a stately array of bronze busts celebrating such notables as Mark Twain, Harry Truman, and as of May 14, 2012, a broadcaster from Cape Girardeau named Rush Hudson Limbaugh III. Tellingly, the Hall’s latest inductee failed to meet with universal acclaim.  According to Politico:

News of the impending ceremony broke shortly after he called Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke a “prostitute” and a “slut,” inspiring a “Flush Rush!” campaign against Republican House Speaker Steven Tilley, who selected Limbaugh for the honor. In the past couple of months, protesters reportedly have delivered hundreds of rolls of toilet paper to Tilley’s office and presented him with approximately 35,000 petition signatures.

Republican leaders of the Missouri House kept the induction event secret until 25 minutes beforehand, hoping to keep protesters away from the unveiling of Limbaugh’s bronze bust. The Kansas City Star reported that the doors were locked and guarded by armed members of the Missouri Highway Patrol while the ceremony took place.  Behind those locked doors, the honoree took this solemn occasion to say, “Our so-called ‘friends’ on the other side of the aisle are deranged.”

So that went well.

But now Missouri has a new House Speaker, Tim Jones, who devised this inspired online strategy to avoid any repeat of the ghastly Limbaugh debacle:

Selection into the hall traditionally has been at the discretion of the Speaker of the House. However, current House Speaker Tim Jones has empowered the people of Missouri to decide the next outstanding Missourians to be honored by induction into the hall. Please use the forms below to provide your suggestion for the next inductee into the Hall of Famous Missourians. Also include your reasoning for why your selection makes the ideal candidate to join the likes of Walt Disney, Ginger Rogers and Stan Musial. Speaker Jones will accept nominations until September 13, 2013 and will formulate a “Top 10” list of candidates based on the results and other important criteria as recommended by nonpartisan staff of the Missouri House. Visitors will then have the opportunity to cast their votes for the final 10 nominees with the two candidates who receive the highest number of votes selected for induction into the Hall of Famous Missourians. Voting will conclude October 13, 2013.

So they’re going to let Missourians decide who gets to be in the Hall of Famous Missourians? Sounds suspiciously like democracy to me.

By: Kent Jones, The Maddow Blog, August 26, 2013

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Democracy, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just Don’t Say It Out Loud”: Every Member Of Congress Who Gets Coverage Through An Exchange Will Be Participating In Obamacare

In the very near future, congressional Republicans have some important decisions to make when it comes to health care policy. Will they threaten a government shutdown over funding for the Affordable Care Act? Will they use the issue as the basis for a debt-ceiling crisis?

And perhaps more directly, will they personally sign up for subsidized insurance through an exchange created by the health care law?

As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, the right is heavily invested in the idea that members of Congress are “exempt” from “Obamacare.” The claim is plainly untrue — thanks to a scheme Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) stumbled into, lawmakers will give up their current health care coverage and get coverage through a marketplace where insurers compete for their business.

There are, however, some complications — these exchanges were designed for the uninsured and small-business owners looking to cover their employees, not wealthy federal lawmakers who already have perfectly good coverage. It’s why the Obama administration had to work out a fix for members of Congress and their aides a few weeks ago.

But for Republicans this creates yet another problem: if they sign up for coverage, doesn’t that mean they’re necessarily participating in the health care system they claim to hate? As far-right groups urge the uninsured to stay that way on purpose by staying out of the exchange, won’t those same lobbying efforts apply to lawmakers themselves?

If conservatives genuinely believe that Obamacare is a threat to the country they will extend their campaigns to convince people to skip Obamacare from nameless powerless young people to elected officials and their aides. And if those members and aides have the courage of their convictions they’ll follow suit.

To the extent that none of this happens — that conservative groups keep quiet, and conservative members and aides enroll in the exchanges — it’ll expose the right’s anti-Obamacare activism as a shallow enterprise undertaken by people who are happy to see millions go without insurance, so long as it’s not themselves or their families.

So, what are far-right lawmakers going to do? I’m glad you asked.

As Igor Volsky reported, so far, two current members are prepared to bypass the system on purpose.

[North Carolina Republican Robert Pittenger has] voluntarily withdrawn from health coverage altogether. [North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows] added that his staff has also voluntarily declined the subsidies. And while most members of Congress may be able to afford to forfeit the government contribution — Meadows has a net worth between $1,674,034 to $12,017,998 [and] Pittenger is worth between $18,615,005 to $48,551,997.

Two GOP members out of 233 in the House obviously isn’t a large number, but don’t be surprised if this number grows as right-wing lobbying becomes more intense.

Also note, a lot of these folks have convenient outs — if they have spouses with employer-based coverage of their own, members and staffers can get insurance anyway. For that matter, if you’re a multi-millionaire lawmaker, you can afford to get coverage without a subsidy anyway.

But the underlying point remains the same: every member of Congress, in both parties, who gets coverage in the coming months through an insurance exchange will be participating in “Obamacare,” even conservatives who will be reluctant to say so out loud.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 26, 2013

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Now Is The Time, Still”: The Invisible Issues Of 1963 Are Just As Invisible To Some Today

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., August 28, 1963

This is “tomorrow.”

Meaning that unknowable future whose unknowable difficulties Martin Luther King invoked half a century ago when he told America about his dream. If you could somehow magically bring him here, that tomorrow would likely seem miraculous to him, faced as he was with a time when segregation, police brutality, employment discrimination and voter suppression were widely and openly practiced.

Here in tomorrow, after all, the president is black. The business mogul is black. The movie star is black. The sports icon is black. The reporter, the scholar, the lawyer, the teacher, the doctor… all of them are black. And King might think for a moment that he was wrong about tomorrow and its troubles.

It would not take long for him to see the grimy truth beneath the shiny surface, to learn that the perpetual suspect is also black. As are the indigent woman, the dropout, the fatherless child, the suppressed voter and the boy lying dead in the grass with candy and iced tea in his pocket.

King would see that for all the progress we have made, we live in a time of proud ignorance and moral cowardice wherein some white people — not all — smugly but incorrectly pronounce all racial problems solved. More galling, it is an era of such cognitive incoherence that conservatives — acolytes of the ideology against which King struggled all his life — now routinely claim ownership of his movement and kinship with his cause.

When he was under fire for questioning the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for instance, Senator Rand Paul wanted it known that he’d have marched with King had he been of age. And he probably believes that.

But what people like Paul fail to grasp is that the issues against which African-Americans railed in 1963 were just as invisible to some of us back then as the issues of 2013 are to some of us right now. They did not see the evil of police brutality in ’63 any more than some of us can see the evil of mass incarceration now. They did not see how poll taxes rigged democracy against black people then any more than some of us can see how Voter ID laws do the same thing now.

So there’s fake courage in saying, “I would have been with Martin then.” Especially while ignoring issues that would press Martin now.

No, being there took — and still takes — real courage, beginning with the courage to do what some of us are too cowardly, hateful, stubborn or stupid to do: see what is right in front of your face.

Because when Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream,” he was not, contrary to what some of us seem to believe, calling people to co-sign some vague, airy vision of eventual utopia. No, he was calling people to work, work until “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” This was not a sermon about the someday and the eventual. “Now is the time,” said King repeatedly. So it was. And so it is.

We live in King’s “tomorrow” and what he preached in that great rolling baritone at the temple of Lincoln 50 summers ago ought to inspire us anew in this post-Trayvon, post-Jena 6, post-Voting Rights Act, post-birther nonsense era. It ought to make us organize, agitate, educate and work with fresh determination. It ought to challenge you to ask yourself: What have you chosen not to see? And now, having seen it, what will you do to make it right?

Because, we face tomorrows of our own.

Thankfully, we move into them with the same elusive hope — and towering dream — of which King spoke, the one that has always driven African-American people even in the valley of deepest despair.

Free at last!

Free. At last.

 

By: Leonard Pitts Jr., The National Memo, August 26, 2013

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Martin Luther King Jr | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Little Help From Our Friends”: ALEC And Select Conservative Groups Responsible For Writing North Carolina’s Restrictive Laws

When North Carolina voters elected Pat McCrory as their governor in 2012, it was the first time in 28 years that North Carolinians had elected a Republican governor, and the first time in 100 years that Republicans controlled the governor’s office and the state legislature in the Tar Heel state. Since the gubernatorial election, the conservative North Carolina legislature has had the opportunity to propose and pass some extreme and restrictive pieces of legislation — and they did just that, with the help of certain special interest groups.

According to a report in The Charlotte Observer, The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has had just as much say in the state’s policies as any elected official.

ALEC is a self-described “nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty” that began as President Reagan took office in 1981. The Charlotte Observer reports that ALEC had proposed 466 bills modeled on the organization’s conservative vision for states throughout the country.

“Republican lawmakers passed 338 laws this year that will touch every North Carolinian’s pocketbook, every student’s classroom and every voter’s experience at the polls, writes The Observer. ”Their sweeping changes have drawn praise from conservatives, scorn from Democrats and punch lines on Comedy Central.”

“At one point, Raleigh’s News & Observer counted at least two dozen bills that matched ALEC priorities,” the article goes on to say. “They included voter ID, publicly financed vouchers for private schools, and prioritizing energy exploration.”

Two North Carolina lawmakers sit on ALEC’s board of directors: Former House Speaker Harold Brubaker (R), and current House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) (who is also squaring off against incumbent Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) for her senate seat in 2014.) Tillis won ALEC’s “Legislator of the Year” award in 2011.

ALEC’s Commonsense Consumption Act, designed to combat New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to limit the size of soft drinks sold in the city, was approved by ALEC board members in 2004 and again on January 28, 2013. HB 683, which passed in the North Carolina legislature and was signed by Governor McCrory on July 18, 2013, included some of the exact language from the ALEC model.

ALEC also introduced the Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act, which they boasted was the model for North Carolina’s House Bill 2. As stated in an ALEC press release, “This legislation protects the rights of citizens to pay directly for medical care, and would prohibit the government from penalizing North Carolinians for failing to purchase health care.” The bill passed through North Carolina’s legislature, but was vetoed in 2011 by former Governor Beverly Perdue (D).

“ALEC is just one part of a larger picture of (lawmakers) writing legislation to benefit wealthy corporate contributors.” Justin Guillory, the research director for Progress N.C., told the Observer “I don’t want to diminish ALEC’s impact, but they’re only one part of the puzzle.”

The Observer also cites two North Carolina-based groups for their hand in controlling legislation. The Civitas Institute and the John Locke Foundation, both funded by McCrory’s budget director Art Pope, have introduced multiple proposals that have been adopted into state legislation. A book of ideas published by the John Locke Foundation was taken into consideration by Republican legislators and many proposals pertaining to the economy, taxes, and Medicaid were implemented. John Hood, president of the Locke Foundation, said, “Virtually everything we proposed in the book in 2012 was enacted in 2013.”

Grassroots North Carolina serves as another example. The pro-gun-rights group advocated for legislation that allows people to carry weapons on school campuses, bars, and restaurants with a concealed-carry permit.

Despite the best efforts of the conservative groups, however, North Carolina’s hard right turn may ultimately prove be shortlived; according to a recent PPP Poll, the North Carolina general assembly holds a bleak approval rating of only 24 percent.

 

By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, August 26, 2013

August 27, 2013 Posted by | ALEC, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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