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“These [Expletives] Always Get Away”: George Zimmerman “Gets Away” With Gunplay Yet Again

Once again, a 911 call to police involving George Zimmerman sends chills down the spine. This time it’s Shellie Zimmerman, calling the cops on her estranged husband, the killer of Trayvon Martin who was acquitted of second-degree murder charges in July. And if you have followed the Zimmerman case as closely as I have the five-minute call and the aftermath will give a sickening sense of deja vu.

“[H]e’s in his car,” Shellie tells police. “And he continually has his hands on his gun and he keeps saying, ‘Step closer.” He’s just threatening all of us with his firearm — and he’s going to shoot us.” She tells the dispatcher that George “accosted my father” and “punched my dad in the nose.” In addition, he “took my iPad out of my hands and smashed it.”

As scary as that sounds, it’s what Shellie says next that is frightening. “I’m really, really afraid,” she said. “I don’t know what he’s capable of. I’m really, really scared.” At one point, she yells at her father to “get back inside; George might start shooting at us.”

Listening to the call, my thoughts went to Witness No. 9 in the Zimmerman case. She was the relative who called the Sanford Police Department just days after Zimmerman killed Trayvon on Feb. 26, 2012. During the call, she accused Zimmerman of being a racist she said,  “He would start something. He’s a very confrontational person. It’s in his blood. Let’s just say that.”

The punch to Shellie’s father’s nose reminded me of the altercation between Zimmerman and Trayvon. Remember, Zimmerman said Trayvon “sucker punched” him in the nose before the tussle that led to the unarmed 17-year-old’s death. And George’s counter-claim that Shellie was the aggressor today at her parents’ home in Lake Mary, Fla., is a near-replay of what happened in Aug. 2005. Back then, Zimmerman’s former fiance sought a restraining order against him because of domestic violence. So, he sought a restraining order against her in return.

Since Zimmerman was acquitted in July, he has been in the news for touring the headquarters of the manufacturer of the gun he used to kill Trayvon and for two speeding violations. He was let off with a warning each time. Today, Zimmerman was not arrested today, but he was questioned by police. And because Shellie and her father have declined to press charges against Zimmerman, he was free to go. “We have no victim, no crime,” Lake Mary police chief Steve Bracknell said.

The night Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon he called the non-emergency line at the Sanford, Fla., police department. “These [expletive], they always get away,” he said. Just a little bit of history repeating, I suppose.


By: Jonathan Capehart, The Washington Post, September 9, 2013

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Gun Violence | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Putin Admiration Society”: The Object Of The Right’s “Creepy Crush” Affections

The more Russian President Vladimir Putin cracked down on gay rights, the more U.S. conservatives discovered a fondness for the Russian autocrat. Indeed, support for Putin among social conservatives and leaders of the religious right movement only seems to be growing.

But in recent weeks, the right’s embrace of Putin seems to have expanded well beyond social conservatives and anti-gay activists. Eric Boehlert reported on Friday on Republican media figures backing Putin with growing enthusiasm as U.S. tensions with Syria escalate.

Note that late last month, just hours before Obama addressed the nation regarding Syria, Matt Drudge bizarrely tweeted that “Putin is the leader of the free world.”

More recently, the Putin admiration society has been on full display all across the right-wing media landscape. On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh also seemed to side with Putin…. Limbaugh appeared to be impressed by the fact Russia had compiled a 100-page report blaming Syrian rebels for the chemical weapons attack, not Russia’s longtime ally, President Bashar al-Assad. Limbaugh told his listeners: “Now, I don’t know about you, but what does it feel like to have to agree with a former KGB agent?”

RedState published a piece late last week arguing, “We’ve reached a sad state of affairs when the Russian president has more credibility than [sic] the American president but that is where we are.” Pat Buchanan defended Putin after the Russian leader prosecuted a rock band that played songs Putin didn’t like.

The Washington Times‘ Ralph Peters told Fox viewers last week, “I don’t like Putin, but I respect that guy. He is tough. He delivers what he says he’ll deliver. He knows his people. He presents himself as a real He-Man.”

How far has the right’s wild-eyed contempt for President Obama gone? Far enough that conservatives can barely contain their increasingly creepy crush on the former KGB official with an authoritarian streak.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 9, 2013

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, Religious Right | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A False Narrative Of Equivalency”: A Lesson On Racism For New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, like most Americans, doesn’t understand what racism is. Or perhaps he does and is purposefully pretending to be obtuse to score some political points. Either way, his remarks in a recent interview with New York magazine do little more than further confuse the public as to what racism entails by reinforcing a false narrative of equivalency.

Interviewer Chris Smith suggested that the Democratic front runner in the mayoral race, Bill de Blasio, was running a “class-warfare campaign,” at which point Bloomberg interjected to add “Class-warfare and racist.” He attempted to clarify, saying:

Well, no, no, I mean* he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing. I do not think he himself is racist. It’s comparable to me pointing out I’m Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.

*(The “no, no” part was added to the text after protest from the mayor’s office, but it hardly changes anything.)

It’s true that de Blasio, like many other politicians, has featured his family in his campaign. What’s unique to de Blasio is that he is a white man who is married to a black woman and is the father of two biracial children. His son, Dante (and Dante’s huge Afro), have been featured in commercials that have been critical of stop-and-frisk, the police tactic made famous during Bloomberg’s tenure. Dante’s appearance has personalized de Blasio’s objection to a tactic that was deemed unconstitutional, but not before police stopped and frisked more black and brown young men than even live in the city. One hopes de Blasio would object to stop-and-frisk even if his son were not at risk of being a victim of this racist policy, but making an appeal to voters on a personal level, showing that you can relate to the real issues affecting everyday people, is politics 101.

Bloomberg thinks it’s racist.

The definition of racism in public discourse has been so distorted that any mention of race is construed as racist, mostly by opportunistic right-wingers looking to deflect from their own racist beliefs.

Any analysis of race and racism in America that does not account for the country’s white supremacist foundation is useless. Ultimately, racism is a system of oppression that has disproportionately benefited those classified as “white” and regards others as second-class citizens. For a policy/thought/action/statement to be racist, it has to reinforce that second-class status. Absent the power of doing so, we’re not talking about racism. Bigotry, perhaps, or personal hatred, but not racism. Racism needs power.

It’s why Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk is racist, and de Blasio pointing out that his son could be a victim of stop-and-frisk isn’t. One uses the power of the state to impose second-class citizenship on a group and justifies it by employing rhetoric that deems them inherently criminal and inferior; the other is a personal testimony of how that affects the lives of those who are targeted.

This only becomes difficult to parse when we live in an America that is so afraid of its past, it assigns racism to the demons of its history, rather than acknowledging the smartest, bravest, and kindest among the architects have also held deeply racist views and helped perpetuate this system of oppression. Those who regard themselves as “good” people cannot also believe themselves racist. And those who invests their own money in programs to aid black and Latino boys would never be found on the side of a racist police tactic.

Yet, that’s exactly where Bloomberg finds himself. Deflect as he may, his term as mayor is characterized by one of the most far-reaching and racist public policies of this generation. I’m not saying Bloomberg is racist. But who cares? The racism of the policies he has stood behind have already done their damage.


By: Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation, September 9, 2013

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Race and Ethnicity | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Contemptible Animals”: Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, And Their Craven And Brazen Hypocrisy On Syria

The Republican hypocrisy on Syria is just amazing. Imagine that Mitt Romney were president. Romney took a far more hawkish line than Barack Obama did on Syria during the campaign. He wanted to arm the rebels, supported in-country cover ops, and so on. So if Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons during President Romney’s tenure, there’s every reason to think he’d be pushing for action too. And what, in that case, would Republicans now temporizing or opposing Obama be doing in that case? They’d be breathing fire, of course. There’s a lot of chest thumping talk right now about how a failed vote will destroy Obama’s credibility. I guess that may be to some. But to anyone paying attention, the credibility of these Republicans is what will suffer, and the vote may well come back to haunt some of them in 2016.

Some Republicans are, to their credit, taking the position consistent with their records. John McCain stood up to those people who looked like they were about two feet away from his face at that town hall meeting last week. Lindsey Graham deserves more credit, since he’s facing reelection and is being called “a community organizer for the Muslim Brotherhood.” On the other side, Rand Paul and the neo-isolationists are probably taking the same position they’d take if Romney were president, although we can’t be completely sure. If Romney were in the White House, by 2016, “was so-and-so tough on Syria?” would probably be a top litmus test (unless, of course, things got really terrible over there). I could easily see Paul declaiming on the unique evil of chemical weapons that just this once required him to break from his noninterventionist views, but as things stand he at least is taking the position with which he is identified.

But most of them? Please. The Gold Weasel Medal goes to Marco Rubio, as others such as Tim Noah have noted. Back in April, Rubio thundered that “the time for passive engagement in this conflict must come to an end. It is in the vital national security interest of our nation to see Assad’s removal.” Removal! Obama’s not talking about anything close to removal. So that was Rubio’s hard line back when Obama was on the other side. And now that Obama wants action? Rubio voted against the military resolution in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.

Ted Cruz? Just in June, Cruz wanted to go into Syria and rough ’em up. “We need to develop a clear, practical plan to go in, locate the weapons, secure or destroy them, and then get out.” Now? Syria is a distraction from, you guessed it, Benghazi. He said last week: “We certainly don’t have a dog in the fight. We should be focused on defending the United States of America. That’s why young men and women sign up to join the military, not to, as you know, serve as al Qaeda’s air force.”

There are many others. These two are worth singling out because they want to be president, and their craven and brazen flip-flopping on one of the most important issues to come before them in their Senate careers is more consequential than the flip-flopping of some time-serving senator no one’s ever heard of. But the whole picture is contemptible.

Can you imagine how these people would be wailing for Assad’s head on a pike if Romney were asking for this resolution? And the Republicans in the House? I suppose a small percentage of them may be opposed. But the radio blowhards, now inveighing against “Obama’s war,” would be whooping up war fever like Hearst, and most in the House would follow suit. And remember, this is the party that voted en masse for a massive Medicare expansion in 2003—that is, a vote that was against everything they stood for, but one they took in the name of party loyalty.

They are out to undermine Obama’s credibility. They don’t care a whit about Assad, Iran, Hezbollah; indeed, on that last point, if any of them knows anything about Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, they must admire him. Nasrallah accomplishes with impressive efficiency in Lebanon what they want to accomplish in America—preventing the government from being able to do anything good for the people. All they want to do is make Obama look bad.

In contrast, look at Obama’s explanation of why he went to Congress in the first place. He was asked this question last week while in Russia. What he said is worth reprinting at length, I think: “I did not put this before Congress, you know, just as a political ploy or as symbolism. I put it before Congress because I could not honestly claim that the threat posed by Assad’s use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians and women and children posed an imminent, direct threat to the United States. In that situation, obviously, I don’t worry about Congress; we do what we have to do to keep the American people safe.

“I could not say that it was immediately, directly going to have an impact on our allies. Again, in those situations, I would act right away. This wasn’t even a situation like Libya, where, you know, you’ve got troops rolling towards Benghazi and you have a concern about time, in terms of saving somebody right away. This was an event that happened. My military assured me that we could act today, tomorrow, a month from now, that we could do so proportionally, but meaningfully. And in that situation, I think it is important for us to have a serious debate in the United States about—about these issues, because these—these are going to be the kinds of national security threats that are most likely to recur over the next five, 10 years.”

That’s a candid and thoroughly decent (and by the way, thoroughly constitutional) thought process. Obama couldn’t honestly say to himself that what Assad did represented the kind of direct threat to the American people that would permit the sidestepping of Congress, so he decided to go through all this. Now, of course, one can more cynically say it was the polls, and surely they played a role. But the president’s statement is in line with what we know about virtually all his top aides telling him “Don’t go to Congress” and him resisting that advice.

Obama isn’t a stupid man. He knew a lot of these yahoos would vote no just because it’s him. But he surely hoped that a certain number of them just might cast a vote in line with their worldview, which would slide many of them into the yes column. I’m sure many of my liberal readers are just glad they’re voting no, however cynically they might be doing it. Fine. But you should also leave a little space in your brain for the contemplation of just what a bunch of relentless hypocrites they are, making a decision as weighty as this purely on the basis of their hatred of Obama. And this defeat, if defeat it is, is supposed to destroy his credibility? It would only destroy theirs—that is, if they had any.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 9, 2013

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Syria | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Presidency Is Not On The Line”: The Vote On Syria Is Important, But It Will Not Dictate The Fate Obama’s His Presidency

The Hill published an item this morning that helps capture much of the Beltway thinking about Congress’ upcoming votes on military intervention in Syria. “The fate of President Obama’s second term hangs on his Tuesday speech to the nation about Syria,” the piece argues. “If Congress votes against a military attack on President Bashar Assad’s regime, Obama’s credibility may be shot, perhaps for the rest of his tenure.”

This is certainly the conventional wisdom, eagerly touted by Republicans. If Congress rejects the White House’s call for action, Obama’s defeat will be so catastrophic, he might as well resign.

Obviously, the House and Senate votes are very important; it’d be foolish to argue otherwise. The world is watching, and if the president’s call for authorization is rejected by Congress, it will carry significant consequences — for Syria, for U.S. foreign policy, and for the administration.

But let’s not go too overboard.

Yes, Obama is prepared to use force in response to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, and lawmakers seem prepared to turn down the president’s request. But let’s not lose sight of the larger dynamic here: Obama asks Congress for a lot of things, and lawmakers routinely say no. Kevin Drum’s take rings true:

[W]hy would rejecting Obama’s request “incapacitate the president for three long years”? I’m not asking this in the usual rhetorical way, where I pretend not to know even though I really do. I’m really asking. Presidents suffer defeats all the time. Obama lost on cap-and-trade. He’s lost on plenty of judicial and executive branch nominations. He couldn’t get agreement for a grand bargain. He lost on gun control. What’s more, Republicans have been opposing him on virtually everything from the day he took office. In what concrete way would a defeat on Syria change this dynamic in even the slightest way?

Legislation that Congress was unlikely to pass will face equally long odds regardless of the outcome of the Syria debate. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine any lawmakers looking at a bill that might yet pass and saying, “Well, I was prepared to vote for this, but since the authorization to use force in Syria didn’t work out, forget it.”

Obama couldn’t get Congress to focus on job creation. Or gun violence. Or really much of anything at all. A loss on a Syria resolution may have some qualitative differences — it’s foreign policy, not domestic — but Clinton lost House votes on Bosnia and Kosovo, and his presidency didn’t magically collapse on the spot.

If Obama comes up short on Syria, it’d really just be a reminder that congressional Republicans will simply reject everything the president wants out of hand, even when they agree with him — which is something we already knew.

Brian Beutler is thinking along the same lines.

When President Obama decided to seek authorization to bomb Syria, he didn’t just throw the fate of his plans into the hands of 535 unpredictable members of Congress. He also made himself vulnerable to overblown suggestions that his entire second term is on the line.

Political reporters have a weakness for narratives, and the narrative of a weakened president is irresistible. Moreover, members of Congress will feed that narrative. Even Democrats. If you’re Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, a great way to pad your vote count is to plead to your caucus that if the resolution fails, Obama will become a lame duck a year earlier than he ought to.

This pitch is both morally and factually incorrect.

Lawmakers who were prepared to vote for immigration reform won’t change their minds over Syria. The same is true of lawmakers who want to hold the debt ceiling hostage, change the sequestration policy, or really do much anything. The vote on Syria is important, but it will not dictate the fate of Obama’s presidency.

Just to be clear, the outcome of this foreign policy fight matters. In the short term, it will carry life-and-death consequences in Syria, and in the medium term, it will likely affect the nation’s diplomatic and national security efforts (though I’ve long argued that Republican radicalism has put the U.S. in a post-treaty phase anyway).

But the notion that Congress can effectively end Obama’s presidency with one vote on a resolution on force in Syria appears to be an overstatement. Some Republicans may want to use it as an excuse to reject an agenda they disapprove of anyway, and some in the media may see a pretense to write the president’s political obituary, but both are a little over the top.


By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, September 9, 2013

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Syria | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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