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“A Very Racist Halloween”: Beneath Any Standard Of Humanity

 (Clay Jones/Creators Syndicate)

The holidays are often a time of stress and conflict, even as people engage in celebration. It’s always at Thanksgiving or Christmas that someone reveals a family secret, or when someone gets drunk and tells someone else in the family exactly what he/she thinks of him, resulting in the excising of said drunken relative from the will.

But who knew Halloween could also bring out the worst in people?

Two adult men in Florida apparently thought it would be just a scream if they dressed up as slain African-American teenager Trayvon Martin and the man who shot him, George Zimmerman. The Trayvon costume featured a hooded sweatshirt with a bloody fake bullet hole in it, and the man who portrayed Martin, William Filene, 25, was in blackface. Meanwhile, a 22-year-old, identified by The Smoking Gun as Greg Cimeno, was wearing a sweatshirt that said “Neighborhood Watch” on it.

The woman who posted the photo on her Facebook page (before making her social media sites private) is Caitlin Cimeno, and she is shown standing between the men. Cimeno, smiling, is fashioning a gun with his hand and pointing it at the faux-Trayvon’s head.

The bigger question – what is wrong with people? – cannot be answered easily. But one has to wonder what has happened to modern culture that people are willing to expose their racism and appalling insensitivity as some sort of joke for everyone with access to the Internet to see. It’s bad enough that they did it; the lack of any shame over it is even worse.

But then, Zimmerman himself seems to have trouble equating fame with notoriety. His lawyers convinced a jury that Zimmerman had acted in self-defense, so he paid no price for taking Martin’s life. Even if that were true, wouldn’t the decent thing to do be to spend some time reflecting on the terrible tragedy of it all? To spend some time each day thinking about the profound loss Martin’s parents suffered? To examine one’s own presumptions and suspicions, asking why Trayvon – wearing a hoodie and carrying candy and iced tea – appeared so suspicious?

Instead, Zimmerman has done a little victory lap of his own, visiting a gun manufacturer and posing there among the firearms. He helped a family get out of an overturned SUV. And he was pulled over for speeding in Texas, where he asked the officer who stopped him whether he recognized him.

We are sadly in an era when people are willing to debase and degrade themselves for attention. (Count up the number of versions of “Real Housewives” to get the picture). But debasing and disrespecting the victim of a terrible tragedy – whether it was a crime or not – is beneath any standard of humanity. One wonders what Cimeno and Filene have planned for New Year’s.


By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, October 29, 2013

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Racism, Trayvon Martin | , , , | Leave a comment

“Grow Up And Get Over It”: Enough Already On HealthCare.Gov, Don’t You Remember Medicare Part D?

OK. I’ve officially had enough of this Republican gloating about Yes, it was a major and inexcusable fiasco, as I wrote last week. So they were entitled to a week of “we told ya so.” Or even two. But really, it’s practically a month now. Enough already. I know that we expect no decency from these people, so this will sound naïve, but truly, what they should be doing now is helping their constituents figure it all out. That’s what the Democrats did in a similar situation.

I refer, of course, to the Medicare Part D implementation in late 2005 and early 2006. That was the big prescription drug bill passed in 2003. You remember—it’s the one where the Republicans didn’t have the votes in the House, even though they controlled the House, and Speaker Tom DeLay held the floor open for 15 minutes after the bell rang as his lieutenants went around and badgered and threatened some GOP members until they changed their vote from nay to aye. My, how at home DeLay would have been with the Tea Partiers.

Anyhow. Most Democrats voted against the bill. In the House just 16 of 203 Democratic members voted yes. In the Senate, however, 11 of 48 Democrats voted for the new Bush entitlement. First, let’s just stop right there. Could you imagine 16 and 11 Republicans ever voting for an Obama legislative priority, something that was clearly Obama’s “baby” in the same way that the Part D bill was Bush’s? There’d be no end to the slobbering over Republicans for being so reasonable. As I recall, the Democrats were attacked at the time for not supporting the bill enough.

So they didn’t. And then, two years later, the rollout came. It was a mess. In mid-October 2005, the Bush administration announced a delay. Reason? It was Yom Kippur, and evidently no one wanted to offend elderly Jews who wouldn’t be using their computers. Right. So it was delayed. But a month later, as Jon Perr noted recently at Crooks & Liars, the planned comparison-shopping website still wasn’t up and running. Even after it finally was, it was confusing and a mess. Some sample headlines: “Web-based Comparison of Prescription Plans Delayed,” The Washington Post; “Glitches Mar Launch of Medicare Drug Plan,” The Wall Street Journal; “President Tells Insurers to Aid Ailing Medicare Drug Plan,” The New York Times.

Needless to say, some of the same people now trying to put the hex on Obamacare spent 2006 pooh-poohing—you guessed it—“glitches,” as Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) put it back then. I’m sure they’d say they’re different things, and it’s true the Affordable Care Act is a bigger undertaking. But they’re precisely similar in spirit—big, new government programs that depended largely on citizen interaction via personal computer. And the ACA fixes what was the biggest problem created by Part D, the so-called doughnut hole in prescription drug coverage. So the Obama bill corrects what was conspicuously awful about the Bush bill. Yes, they are different!

But the biggest difference is not how Republicans behaved back then but how Democrats did. Most Democrats voted against the law. But they did not then sue the Bush administration and try to take the thing to the Supreme Court and get it invalidated. And then, when the start-up was a cock-up, Democrats didn’t go around saying it was proof the law had to go. They tried to fix it. Hillary Clinton, then a senator, said: “I voted against it, but once it passed I certainly determined that I would try to do everything I could to make sure that New Yorkers understood it, could access it, and make the best of it.”

Interesting, no, that we have this quote, this wholly unremarkable quote, from someone the press has described over the years as one of the most polarizing women in America. Here she was being the exact opposite of polarizing, just doing what was then her job, being a normal and rational human being and public servant. She was deciding, amazingly enough, that the needs of her senior-citizen constituents who might benefit from the law once the kinks were worked out were more important than any grudge or animus she might bear toward the sitting administration.

Her husband said it well Sunday, while campaigning with Terry McAuliffe: “But our side, we’re not so ideological. So instead of bashing them and screaming about how incompetent they were, most of our people just tried to help people understand the law and make it work, and then wait for it to get fixed.”

And yet here was Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on TV on Sunday spouting the same oogedy-boogedy that’s been gushing from their mouths for a month. And there was Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), having no earthly idea what she was talking about on CNN. Have Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or Sen. Rand Paul had one kind word to say for Kentucky’s by all accounts excellent implementation of the law under Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear? About 15,000 Kentuckians had enrolled as of last week. I just wonder if a single one of them got a helping hand from staffers for McConnell or Paul.

It’s yet another stomach-turning state of affairs. I’m sick and tired of hearing it. Obamacare is an existential threat to their Weltanschauung, their idea of America? Grow up and get over it. It’s just politics. You lost a political fight. You may someday win it, but until the day you do, behave like adults. And like democrats (and Democrats, the 2006 variety). And for God’s sake, put your sick constituents’ needs ahead of your racial paranoia about the president. Enough, enough, enough.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 29, 2013

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“When Discredited Nonsense Gets Recycled”: Be On The Lookout For Republicans Touting Heritage Foundation Talking Points Again

In the spring, when it was clear that comprehensive immigration reform would be the year’s biggest legislative fight in Congress, the Heritage Foundation wanted to give far-right lawmakers the ammunition they’d need to kill the bill. The group published a report conservative Republicans could ostensibly use to justify their reflexive opposition to the bipartisan proposal.

The result was a fiasco. First, the report itself was exposed as ridiculous, even by conservatives who often agree with Heritage, relying on lazy and incomplete scholarship. Second, one of the report’s co-authors was a guy by the name of Jason Richwine, who’s spent quite a bit of time arguing that white people are inherently more intelligent than people of color.

Soon after, Richwine resigned from Heritage and fair-minded people dismissed the group’s discredited report as nonsense. And yet, as my MSNBC colleague Benjy Sarlin reported yesterday, Heritage hasn’t given up on its document just yet.

Heritage may have distanced itself from its former scholar’s views on race, but not the study he did for their think tank. In a memo to Congressional staff obtained by msnbc, Heritage legislative strategist Tripp Baird said that while some supporters of reform on the Hill this week are “well meaning” in their concern for immigrants, “they’re being used to advance an amnesty policy that is far from conservative, and will cost trillions to American taxpayers.” Another talking point suggests that evangelical Christians supporting immigration reform “probably aren’t aware of the severe fiscal consequences of amnesty for American taxpayers.”

The “cost trillions” line echoes a report co-authored for Heritage by Robert Rector and Jason Richwine.

Yes, in May, Heritage’s report said immigration reform would cost over $6 trillion – a figure even many on the right found laughable. Soon after, independent analyses, including a report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, found that the reform package would actually save hundreds of billions of dollars.

Stepping back, it appears the Heritage Foundation simply hopes lawmakers have forgotten what transpired six months ago. The group published its report, saw it quickly discredited, and largely stopped talking about it. That is, until now, when Heritage decided enough time has passed that it can start repeating the identical bogus claims all over again.

It’s difficult to imagine even the most craven lawmakers taking this seriously, but you never know. Be on the lookout for members touting Heritage talking points anyway.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 30, 2013

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Heritage Foundation, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Resolution To Disapprove”: By Voting Against Themselves, Republican’s Hope To Fool The Tea Party

On Tuesday, the Senate held a vote on a “resolution to disapprove” of raising the debt limit. The resolution failed 45-54. The 45 disapprovers were all Republicans. Twenty-seven of the Republicans voting to disapprove of raising the debt limit also voted, just a few weeks ago, to raise the debt limit. Do those 27 Republican senators disapprove of their own votes because raising the debt limit turned out to be a terrible mistake with disastrous consequences? No. They voted to disapprove of their own actions because a group of loud and angry people disapprove of their actions.

The face-saving “resolution to disapprove” measure seems to derive from a a 2011 McConnell idea that would have preserved the debt limit as a grandstanding ploy without actually risking default. In McConnell’s plan, the president would be allowed to increase the debt limit a little bit at a time, and Congress would then vote on whether to disapprove of the raises. It’s actually pretty brilliant politics, as it would have done two things:

  • Forced President Obama to raise the debt limit, which is always politically unpopular, three times in one (election) year.
  • Allowed every single Republican in Congress to vote against raising the debt limit without worrying that the U.S. would actually default.

Naturally, McConnell’s plan was declared rank RINOism and it went nowhere. This was in part because some conservatives believed that the plan removed the possibility of extracting massive concessions in exchange for raising the limit, but also because there simply are a lot of conservatives who oppose raising the limit at all, ever. The result of not listening to McConnell: Republicans had to vote to raise the debt limit anyway, conservatives now feel betrayed, right-wing Senate primary challenges are more likely, and non-far-right voters have more reason to be scared of allowing Republicans to govern.

Thus the meaningless symbolic vote of disapproval, in both chambers. The sorts of conservatives McConnell is hoping this stunt satisfies may be deluded enough to believe that breaching the debt ceiling wouldn’t be so bad, but they are not dumb enough to be impressed with this gesture. Most important, the people and organizations they get their information and take their cues from will not suddenly start praising these 27 senators, McConnell included, as True Conservatives.

At this point, it’s very easy to get on the wrong side of the activist conservative movement, and once you’re labeled a RINO, there’s almost nothing you can do to clear your name. John Boehner had to let the extremists take the whole country on Mr. Ted’s Wild Ride for a few weeks just to keep his job, and most Tea Party types still hate him. Sen. John Cornyn is in trouble for taking his signature off a petition.

And look at the sad tale of Marco Rubio, who, not long ago, was supposed to be a major contender for the “true conservative” vote in the 2016 Republican primaries. Then Rubio, like an idiot, actually listened to people more concerned with the long-term survival of the GOP than short-term symbolic victories and attached himself to the comprehensive immigration reform project. Activist conservatives hate immigration reform nearly as much as they hate Obamacare. Now, Rubio has abandoned his bill. He’s praised Cruz to the heavens and joined the vote against the deal to reopen the government, but the damage is done. Rubio has been tainted as a cooperator. In March, Rubio came in a close second to Rand Paul in the CPAC straw poll. In October, he received 5 percent — 35 votes out of 762 — in the Values Voters straw poll.

Symbolic gestures, like McConnell’s, and outright flip-flops, like Rubio’s, aren’t going to quiet or stop the conservative revolt. They might at least provide some sort of model for getting through this next year without it doing too much more damage. The government will have to fund itself. The debt ceiling will need to be raised again distressingly soon. The “resolution to disapprove” could be the way Congress passes everything from now on. Pass some sort of minor budget deal, then vote on the resolution disapproving of it. Pass the farm bill, hold the vote disapproving of it. Maybe try immigration reform again with a disapproval vote attached?

None of this will fool Erick Erickson and Heritage Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund and Freedomworks, but it might just allow terrified Republicans to convince themselves that it’s OK to take votes leadership wants them to take. You get to have a backsies!


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, October 30, 2013

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Uproar Over Insurance “Cancellation” Letters”: Offering Terrible Products To Desperate People Is No Longer Acceptable

Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary, took a lot of grief this morning from Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee who were outraged that some people’s individual insurance policies had been “cancelled” because of health care reform.

Some of the rants bordered on the comical. Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, brandished his “cancellation” letter and demanded that Ms. Sebelius nullify the health law for all residents of his congressional district.

Most lawmakers mentioned President Obama’s unfortunate blanket statement that all Americans would be allowed to keep their insurance policies if they liked them. He failed to make an exception for inadequate policies that don’t meet the new minimum standards.

But in between lashings, Ms. Sebelius managed to make an important point. Yes, some people will be forced to upgrade their policies, she said. But that’s preferable to the status quo before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, when insurers could cancel policies on a whim.

“The individual market in Kansas and anywhere in the country has never had consumer protections,” she testified at the hearing. “People are on their own. They could be locked out, priced out, dumped out. And that happened each and every day. So this will finally provide the kind of protections that we all enjoy in our health care plans.”

A true cancellation is when someone gets a letter saying that she’s losing her insurance and cannot renew. That was common practice in the individual market for people with expensive conditions. Under the new law, no one will ever get a letter like that again. They cannot be turned down for insurance.

The so-called cancellation letters waved around at yesterday’s hearing were simply notices that policies would have to be upgraded or changed. Some of those old policies were so full of holes that they didn’t include hospitalization, or maternity care, or coverage of other serious conditions.

Republicans were apparently furious that government would dare intrude on an insurance company’s freedom to offer a terrible product to desperate people.

“Some people like to drive a Ford, not a Ferrari,” said Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. “And some people like to drink out of a red Solo cup, not a crystal stem. You’re taking away their choice.”

Luckily, a comprehensive and affordable insurance policy is no longer a Ferrari; it is now a basic right. In the face of absurd comments and analogies like this one, Ms. Sebelius never lost her cool in three-and-a-half hours of testimony, perhaps because she knows that once the computer problems and the bellowing die down, the country will be far better off.


By: David Firestone, Editors Blog, The New York Times, October 30, 2013

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Insurance Companies, Obamacare | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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