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“The Need For Self Validation”: About The “Outrage” In The Killing Of Christopher Lane

I have nothing to say about the murder of Christopher Lane.

Except this:

The killing of this Australian man, allegedly by a group of boys who were bored and could think of nothing better to do, suggests chilling amorality and a sociopathic estrangement from the sacredness of life. The fact that these teenagers were able to get their hands on a gun with which to shoot the 22-year-old student in the back on Aug. 16 as he was jogging in the small Oklahoma town of Duncan leaves me embarrassed for my country — and thankful I am not the one who has to explain to his country how such a thing can happen.

None of this will satisfy the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people who have written me emails demanding (it is always interesting when people think they can demand a column) that I write about this drive-by shooting as an act of racial bigotry, an inverse of the Trayvon Martin killing, if you will. There is a numbing repetitiveness to these screeds: Where is Jesse Jackson, they demand. Where is Al Sharpton? Where are you? Or as one subject line puts it: “Why no outrage!!!!”

Actually, I have plenty of outrage. Just not the flavor of outrage they would like me to have.

It is, for some people, a foregone conclusion that any time violent crime crosses racial lines, some kind of racial statement is intended. But violent criminals are not sociopolitical theoreticians and violent crime is not usually a social manifesto. With relatively rare exceptions — we call them hate crimes — the fact is, if a thug shoots you, it is not because you are white, black, gay or Muslim, but because you are there.

So is Lane’s shooting one of those exceptions? A case can be made that it is. One of the young black suspects, after all, tweeted his anti-white bigotry back in April. The hashtag: HATE THEM.

But a case can also be made that it isn’t. Of the remaining two suspects, one is reportedly white and the other, the alleged shooter, apparently has a white mother. The prosecutor told the Duncan Banner newspaper there’s no evidence Lane was targeted because of his race and in any event, bringing hate crime charges is a moot point. In Oklahoma, hate crimes are misdemeanors; the boys are already facing felonies.

Again, none of this will satisfy those dozens, if not hundreds, of email writers, not to mention the authors of similar screeds on right-wing websites. What they’re doing is simple. They are using tragedy to play a cynical game of tit-for-tat: “I’ll see your Trayvon Martin and raise you a Christopher Lane.” In other words, they want to use this tragedy to validate their view that white people are victims of black racism.

And if all that was meant when African-Americans decry racism is that sometimes white people do violence against you, then the email writers and right-wing pundits might have a point. But it isn’t and they don’t.

No, what is meant is that even when violence is done against you, you may automatically be considered the “suspect” and your killer set free. What is meant is that judges are harder on you, doctors less aggressive in treating you, banks more apt to deny you, landlords less likely to show you apartments, hiring officers more likely to round-file your application. What is meant is good luck hailing a cab in midtown Manhattan. What is meant is that other people will airily dismiss the reality of those things, or, as has many times happened to me, admit the reality but advise that you should accept your lot in silence.

Then in the next breath, those same people will ask you to empathize with how racially victimized they are. The sheer, blind gall of it beggars imagination.

Last week, Christopher Lane was killed for no good reason, apparently by three morally defective boys.

Sorry, but he’s the victim here. White America is not.


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo, August 28, 2013

August 30, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just Do As I Did”: Did Donald Rumsfeld Counsel President Obama To Lie So As To Create The Justification For Bombing Syria?

Every now and then, one sees something happen right before one’s eyes that defies the laws of time, space, reality and reason. Such a moment occurred yesterday during a truly remarkable appearance by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Neil Cavuto’s Fox Fox Business News program.

During the interview, Rumsfeld appeared to criticize the Obama Administration for failing to present a supportable argument as to why an attack on Syria is in our nation’s best interest.

“There really hasn’t been any indication from the administration as to what our national interest is with respect to this particular situation,” said Rumsfeld.

On the surface, it would appear that Rumsfeld’s criticism was meant to remind the President that—before tossing in those Tomahawk missiles—he needs to present the American people (who largely oppose any American involvement in Syria) with a solid explanation as to why it is in our nation’s best interest to become involved with the Syrian civil war.

I actually agree with the substance of Rumsfeld remarks on their face. While there is nothing to confirm that President Obama has yet to make a decision to take military action in Syria, it is important that the public know all of the facts and be privy to the administration’s thinking should the President ultimately decide to become embroiled in yet more Middle East madness.

However, I say that I agree with Rumsfeld’s remarks “on their face” because I find it nearly impossible to believe that the one time Secretary of Defense would dare to offer such a remark—given his own stunningly horrendous track record on the subject—unless he had  another motive entirely in offering such advice to the President—a motive I would likely not agree with in any way whatsoever.

When one has led one of the most heinous conspiracies in modern American history—a conspiracy to create such a justification for war out of whole cloth and lies for the purpose of tricking the country into supporting an unnecessary invasion—I don’t think it unreasonable to expect that this individual should forever waive the right to advise presidents, politicians or the local street sweeper on such matters. This is particularly true when that individual’s efforts to fabricate and sell a justification for war has led to the death, disfigurement or disability of thousands of Americans while wasting trillions of taxpayer dollars in the process.

Donald Rumsfeld is the perfect embodiment of such an individual and he must know it—so much so that it would seem inconceivable that a man who has committed the crimes against his fellow Americans that Donald Rumsfeld has committed could possibly have the hubris to appear on TV to advise a sitting president on the importance of justifying military action.

That is, unless Rumsfeld had something very different in mind.

Maybe Donald Rumsfeld was attempting to send President Obama a very different message—if you can’t provide the country with a fact-based, valid justification for bombing Syria in retribution for the Assad government’s gassing its own citizens in the dead of night, then do as I did and get busy creating enough facts to make it look good.

After all, who knows how to fabricate a justification for war better than Donald Rumsfeld?

In case you’ve forgotten, here are but a few of Rumsfeld’s greatest hits—

As recounted by former Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O’Neill, the first order of business during the Bush Administration’s very first national security meeting was toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein. According to O’Neill, the discussion was  “all about finding a way to do it. The president saying, “Go find me a way to do this.”

Bush didn’t need to tell Donald Rumsfeld twice. The record is all too clear that the Secretary of Defense gladly took up his boss’s challenge and went looking for a story he could sell to the country in order to take out Saddam Hussein.

When the 9-11 attacks happened, Rumsfeld saw his opportunity.

Before long, we were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that he would use against American interest if we failed to topple his regime. Of course, no such weapons have ever been located.

Then we were introduced to the lie purporting that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium-rich yellowcake from Nigeria in furtherance of his plans to create atomic weapons to be used against American interests—despite ample, proven factual evidence that this was never the case.

And, of course, the greatest hit of them all, Rumsfeld and friends sought to convince us that Saddam was somehow behind the 9/11 attack despite it being crystal clear to the Department of Defense and the remainder of the government that this was never the case.

While the record is clear that Rumsfeld and Cheney sought to tie Saddam to the 9-11 attack within hours of the first plane slamming into the World Trade Center, many supporters of Rumsfeld continue to claim that this was never the case. Yet, the proof of this effort has always been available for all to see, memorialized in writing in the March 18, 2003 letter from President Bush to Congress seeking authorization to use force against Iraq.

“(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”

So outrageous is the notion that Donald Rumsfeld would appear on television and presume to offer his counsel on the importance of the administration setting forth a legitimate case to engage in military action before doing so, one struggles to understand how the irony and stomach churning result of Rumsfeld’s appearance could possibly escape him or anyone else.

Accordingly, a sane individual is left to conclude that either Donald Rumsfeld is either the most despicably clueless man in America—a real possibility, I grant you—or that he was trying to tell the current occupant of the White House to do as he did—if you want to go to war, just lie.

Either way, Donald Rumsfeld has no standing nor right to speak a word on the subject of justifying military action unless it is to provide the nation with a full confession of his own terrible sins. To presume otherwise is an unspeakable offense to the American public, particularly when it comes to those who lost loved ones in a well-packaged, falsely justified and wholly unnecessary war based solely on Donald Rumsfeld’s lies.


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, August 29, 2013

August 30, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Party Full Of Rodeo Clowns”: GOP Flips The Bird To Racial Justice

Republicans haven’t been truly competitive for the African-American vote since Richard Nixon got a third of black voters in 1960 against John F. Kennedy, who spent most of that campaign hedging his bets on civil rights. After that, the party of Lincoln actively drove black people into the ranks of Democrats. The testimony of black Republicans who were sidelined, excluded and even attacked at the 1964 convention in San Francisco, when the party nominated the anti-civil rights Barry Goldwater, is painful to read.

In the post-Reagan years, however, Republicans became more careful about blatantly spurning the support of African-Americans, mainly because an image of racial tolerance, at least, was deemed essential to gaining the support of white moderates and independents; soccer moms, it was said, didn’t like overt racism. Then-Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman’s 2006 speech to the NAACP repudiating the GOP’s ’60s-era “Southern Strategy” wasn’t designed to seriously challenge the Democrats’ lock on black votes, but to give moderates, and maybe even Latinos, a reason to hope the party was evolving on race.

That’s all behind us. As recently as 2007, I believe, it would have been unthinkable that no major Republican leader would accept an invitation to join Wednesday’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. But that’s what happened this week, even though a delusional Bill O’Reilly claimed last night that “no Republicans and no conservatives were invited” to speak. As usual, O’Reilly is wrong: House Speaker John Boehner was washing his hair; wait, he was visiting Wyoming (the sixth whitest state in the U.S., by the way). Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who traveled to Selma with Rep. John Lewis last year, was likewise otherwise engaged. Both Presidents Bush are recuperating from health troubles. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was invited in his brother and father’s stead, but he had other plans. Sen. John McCain also declined.

“We had a very concerted effort, because this is not a political moment,” said Rep. Leah Daughtry, executive producer of the commemoration. “This was about us coming together as a community, so we wanted to be sure that we had all political representations,” Daughtry said. “We attempted very vigorously to have someone from the GOP participate and unfortunately they were unable to find someone who was able to participate.”

RNC chairman Reince Priebus pointed to the fact that Republicans held their own King commemoration Monday, inviting only blacks who are Republicans. Sounds like a fun time — a separate but equal celebration.

The fact that no leading Republican bothered to attend the 50th anniversary commemoration shows how far to the right they’ve moved on race. It’s not just that they’ve thrown in the towel when it comes to appealing to black voters. They also don’t think it’s worth it to make an extra effort to appeal to white voters who flinch at racism.

Thursday morning’s campaign by some Republicans to make march organizers out to be the real racists, because they didn’t invite South Carolina’s appointed black senator, Tim Scott, represents the usual GOP game of racial tit-for-tat. The fact is, the organizers were reaching out to national GOP leaders, and Scott is not one of them. His hostility to everything the Congressional Black Caucus stands for also makes him an unlikely and provocative choice as speaker.

If Scott asked to speak and was rebuffed, we haven’t heard about it. Nothing stopped him, or any other Republican, from wandering down to the Mall to join the throng. Such a move would have attracted media attention and it would almost certainly have been positive. Reporters are desperate to find signs of moderation and decency in today’s Republican Party.

Unfortunately, Republicans aren’t desperate to display such signs. Right now they’re comfortable with the status quo, in which more than 90 percent of self-described GOP voters are white, in a country that’s barely 60 percent white, and getting less white every day. While MSNBC was broadcasting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 speech in its entirety, former Sen. Jim DeMint of the Heritage Foundation was buffoonishly tweeting: “Would MLK have approved of Obamacare?” DeMint couldn’t be bothered to walk to the Mall and talk to any of King’s actual or political heirs. He’s just another rodeo clown in a party that’s teeming with them.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, August 29, 2013

August 30, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Martin Luther King Jr | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Wingnut For Everyone”: Nowadays, Every Fringe Group Has Its Republican Politician

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is pretty much detested by women in Virginia — Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who once left his crying wife and their infant child in a car so that he could make an appearance at a fundraiser, currently leads Cuccinelli among women by 12 points — but he’s got the support of some of the men who used to be married to some of those women, according to this Washington Post story. The “fathers’ rights” movement, a small but vocal group of men fighting for deference in the divorce, child support and custody process, is firmly behind Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli has represented the former leader of a local group in a custody case, and when he was a legislator he supported the fathers’ rights policy agenda.

Cuccinelli is not specifically, openly pro-fathers’ rights (and to be clear, the No. 1 “fathers’ rights” issue is wanting to pay less child support). His support for their agenda is honestly more about his opposition to legal divorce, something else he doesn’t talk about much anymore.

“If you are sued for divorce in Virginia, there’s virtually nothing you can do to stop it,” Cuccinelli said in 2008 to the Family Foundation, a socially conservative Richmond-based advocacy group. “This law has everything to do with the breakdown of the family. The state says marriage is so unimportant that if you just separate for a few months, you can basically nullify the marriage. What we’re trying to do is essentially repeal no-fault divorce when there are children involved.”

As a state senator in 2005, Cuccinelli offered a bill that would have made it so parents initiating a no-fault divorce could have that action counted against them “when deciding custody and visitation.” The measure never came to a vote, but Cuccinelli won praise from Stephen Baskerville, then-president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, for fighting against the no-fault divorce “epidemic.”

On the one hand, banning no-fault divorce is a strange priority for a modern supposed conservative, committed rhetorically to lessening the intrusion of the state into private affairs. The notion that people ought to be able to associate (or disassociate) willingly without the interference of the government is supposed to be the core belief of these guys, I thought. But on the other hand, banning divorce does make more sense, as a policy priority, than preventing gay marriage, for people whose justification for anti-gay beliefs is a desire to make sure that the “traditional” link between marriage and child-rearing is maintained.

But whether or not Cuccinelli is personally pro-”fathers’ rights,” he has their support and has voted the way they like. He does not have a lot of company — even psycho Florida Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed legislation supported by fathers’ rights groups — but they got Cuccinelli, and he might be the next governor of Virginia.

This is truly a golden age for conservative fringe groups. No matter how obscure — or widely reviled — your pet cause is, it’s now easier than ever to find a Republican politician, often a fairly prominent one, willing to support it, or at least allow you to believe that he supports it. Republican politicians now aren’t just responsive to the desires of the big interests, like oil and gas. Nowadays a pol on the make is willing to fight for almost any crazy cause.

If you’re a “fathers’ rights” guy you have Ken Cuccinelli. If you’re a neo-Confederate you have the Paul family. If you’re a hardcore goldbug, you have, well, the Pauls again, but also sometimes most of the rest of the party, it seems like. If you love dogfighting, you have Steve King. If you’re the government of Georgia you have John McCain, though it’ll cost you. (If you’re the government of Malaysia you have whatever conservative pundits you can afford.)

The hardcore Shariah-fearing Islamophobes have their stalwart allies. The Austrian economists are made to feel welcome by major GOP figures. A party that can make room in its tent for the pro-dogfighting lobby has room for any white person with a crazy grievance. And if it weren’t for the fact that most of what these people want is terrible, this would almost be admirable. Because on the other side, the Democrats barely ever listen to some of the biggest and most “mainstream” elements of their political coalition, like the labor movement and environmentalists. The Republicans indulge everyone, which surely makes being a crazy conservative feel much more satisfying. Unfortunately it also generally leads to horrible laws.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, August 29, 2013

August 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Crossing The Constitutional Line”: Gun Bill In Missouri Would Test Limits In Nullifying U.S. Law

Unless a handful of wavering Democrats change their minds, the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature is expected to enact a statute next month nullifying all federal gun laws in the state and making it a crime for federal agents to enforce them here. A Missourian arrested under federal firearm statutes would even be able to sue the arresting officer.

The law amounts to the most far-reaching states’ rights endeavor in the country, the far edge of a growing movement known as “nullification” in which a state defies federal power.

The Missouri Republican Party thinks linking guns to nullification works well, said Matt Wills, the party’s director of communications, thanks in part to the push by President Obama for tougher gun laws. “It’s probably one of the best states’ rights issues that the country’s got going right now,” he said.

The measure was vetoed last month by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, as unconstitutional. But when the legislature gathers again on Sept. 11, it will seek to override his veto, even though most experts say the courts will strike down the measure. Nearly every Republican and a dozen Democrats appear likely to vote for the override.

Richard G. Callahan, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, is concerned. He cited a recent joint operation of federal, state and local law enforcement officials that led to 159 arrests and the seizing of 267 weapons, and noted that the measure “would have outlawed such operations, and would have made criminals out of the law enforcement officers.”

In a letter explaining his veto, Mr. Nixon said the federal government’s supremacy over the states’ “is as logically sound as it is legally well established.” He said that another provision of the measure, which makes it a crime to publish the name of any gun owner, violates the First Amendment and could make a crime out of local newspapers’ traditional publication of “photos of proud young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer.”

But the votes for the measure were overwhelming. In the House, all but one of the 109 Republicans voted for the bill, joined by 11 Democrats. In the Senate, all 24 Republicans supported it, along with 2 Democrats. Overriding the governor’s veto would require 23 votes in the Senate and 109 in the House, where at least one Democrat would have to come on board.

The National Rifle Association, which has praised Mr. Nixon in the past for signing pro-gun legislation, has been silent about the new bill. Repeated calls to the organization were not returned.

Historically used by civil rights opponents, nullification has bloomed in recent years around a host of other issues, broadly including medical marijuana by liberals and the new health care law by conservatives.

State Representative T. J. McKenna, a Democrat from Festus, voted for the bill despite saying it was unconstitutional and raised a firestorm of protest against himself. “If you just Google my name, it’s all over the place about what a big coward I am,” he said with consternation, and “how big of a ‘craven’ I was. I had to look that up.”

The voters in his largely rural district have voiced overwhelming support for the bill, he said. “I can’t be Mr. Liberal, St. Louis wannabe,” he said. “What am I supposed to do? Just go against all my constituents?”

As for the veto override vote, he said, “I don’t know how I’m going to vote yet.”

State Representative Doug Funderburk, a Republican from St. Peters and the author of the bill, said he expected to have more than enough votes when the veto override came up for consideration.

Adam Winkler, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, who follows nullification efforts nationally, said that nearly two dozen states had passed medical marijuana laws in defiance of federal restrictions. Richard Cauchi, who tracks such health legislation for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said: “Since January 2011, at least 23 states have considered bills seeking to nullify the health care law; as of mid-2013 only one state, North Dakota, had a signed law. Its language states, however, that the nullification provisions ‘likely are not authorized by the United States Constitution.’ ”

What distinguishes the Missouri gun measure from the marijuana initiatives is its attempt to actually block federal enforcement by setting criminal penalties for federal agents, and prohibiting state officials from cooperating with federal efforts. That crosses the constitutional line, said Robert A. Levy, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute’s board of directors — a state cannot frustrate the federal government’s attempts to enforce its laws.

Mr. Levy, whose organization has taken a leading role in fighting for gun rights, said, “With the exception of a few really radical self-proclaimed constitutional authorities, state nullification of federal law is not on the radar scope.”

Still, other states have passed gun laws that challenge federal power; a recent wave began with a Firearms Freedom Act in Montana that exempts from federal regulations guns manufactured there that have not left the state.

Gary Marbut, a gun rights advocate in Montana who wrote the Firearms Freedom Act, said that such laws were “a vehicle to challenge commerce clause power,” the constitutional provision that has historically granted broad authority to Washington to regulate activities that have an impact on interstate commerce. His measure has served as a model that is spreading to other states. Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down Montana’s law, calling it “pre-empted and invalid.”

A law passed this year in Kansas has also been compared to the Missouri law. But Kris W. Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, disagreed, saying it had been drafted “very carefully to ensure that there would be no situation where a state official would be trying to arrest a federal official.”

In Missouri, State Representative Jacob Hummel, a St. Louis Democrat and the minority floor leader, said that he was working to get Democrats who voted for the bill to vote against overriding the veto. “I think some cooler heads will prevail in the end,” he said, “but we will see.”

Taking up legislative time to vote for unconstitutional bills that are destined to end up failing in the courts is “a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Mr. Hummel said, adding that more and more, the legislature passes largely symbolic resolutions directed at Congress.

“We’re elected to serve the citizens of the state of Missouri, at the state level,” he said. “We were not elected to tell the federal government what to do — that’s why we have Congressional elections.”

The lone Republican opponent of the bill in the House, State Representative Jay Barnes, said, “Our Constitution is not some cheap Chinese buffet where we get to pick the parts we like and ignore the rest.” He added, “Two centuries of constitutional jurisprudence shows that this bill is plainly unconstitutional, and I’m not going to violate my oath of office.”

Mr. Funderburk, the bill’s author, clearly disagrees. And, he said, Missouri is only the beginning. “I’ve got five different states that want a copy” of the bill, he said.


By: John Schwartz, The New York Times, August 28, 2013

August 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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