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“Describing White-On-White Violence”: Reporting On Waco Biker Gang Killings Reveals Disparities In News Coverage

Nine people have died after a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs in Waco on Sunday, when gunfire erupted in the parking lot of a Twin Peaks restaurant in the central Texas city.

I use the terms “shootout” and “gunfire erupted” after reading numerous eyewitness reports, local news coverage and national stories about the “incident,” which has been described with a whole host of phrases already. None, however, are quite as familiar as another term that’s been used to describe similarly chaotic events in the news of late: “Riot.”

Of course, the deadly shootout in Texas was exactly that: A shootout. The rival gangs were not engaged in a demonstration or protest and they were predominantly white, which means that — despite the fact that dozens of people engaged in acts of obscene violence — they did not “riot,” as far as much of the media is concerned. “Riots” are reserved for communities of color in protest, whether they organize violently or not, and the “thuggishness” of those involved is debatable. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Texas.

A riot is not simply a demonstration against police brutality. It can also be what happens when scores of hostile white people open gunfire in a parking lot. And when that happens, it can be described as anything but a “riot.”

Here are some synonyms different outlets, as well as law enforcement officials, came up with:


New York Times:

Waco Tribune:
biker gang shooting
“What happened here today” (Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton)
“gun fights” (Swanton)
melee (Swanton)
scuffles and disturbances (on the issue of related violence around the city)
very dangerous, hostile criminal biker gangs (Swanton)
something akin to a war zone

turned a local restaurant into a shooting gallery
a rival motorcycle gang fight
absolute chaos (Swanton)
a situation like happened Sunday afternoon


By: Jenny Kutner, Assistant Editor at Salon, May 18, 2015

May 19, 2015 Posted by | Protests, Riots, White on White Violence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Only Fix Things After The Worst Has Happened”: The Conservative Case For Strengthening Amtrak

The Amtrak crash in Pennsylvania killed eight people and injured dozens more. It has sparked much hand-wringing in the media, though its death toll is surpassed every few hours on American highways.

Still, Republicans have not hesitated in their plan to sharply cut Amtrak subsidies, recently voting on legislation to do just that. One GOP congressman called Amtrak a “Soviet-style operation,” which presumably means he would prefer abolishing Amtrak altogether.

But Republicans, as the ostensible party of conservatism, have an obligation to consider the extant fact of Amtrak, which is a critical institution for millions of Americans. By supposed conservative principles, it is not appropriate to sacrifice the current needs of existing people in pursuit of an ideological utopia.

Michael Oakeshott famously described the conservative temperament as follows:

To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss. [On Being Conservative]

It may be the case that slashing Amtrak’s subsidies or selling it to private companies would result in an overall improvement in service at some future point. (If you care to poke around, successful national rail is operated on all sorts of ownership grounds, from mostly private in Japan to state-owned in Sweden.)

But it is inarguably true that right now millions of Americans depend on Amtrak as it currently exists. It’s a tried, factual, actually existing institution that works well enough for the more than 30 million people who choose to take it every year. Indeed, ridership is actually up 50 percent since 2000. Most of that business is done in the Northeast Corridor, where the population is concentrated enough for true high-speed rail to be a reasonable proposition (someday).

However, it’s also an institution in need of help. As I’ve written before, Amtrak faces a slow-motion emergency regarding its two tunnels under the Hudson River connecting New York City to New Jersey. They’re over a century old, and due to flooding during Hurricane Sandy, will need a total overhaul at some point in the next several years.

Back in 2009, there was a capacity expansion planned that would have alleviated the pressure. That’s out of the question now, thanks to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who bogarted some of the money so he wouldn’t have to raise the gas tax.

A new tunnel under the Hudson is by far the most important potential piece of infrastructure in the nation. Four hundred thousand commuters go through the existing tunnels every weekday. If one were to shut down (or, God forbid, collapse), the total throughput would be cut by something like 75 percent, because the remaining tunnel would have to go both ways. A great many of those people simply would not be able to get to their jobs during rush hour.

Any looming disaster like this presents a choice. A crisis might be the opportune time for reform. But it is simply preposterous to imagine that a new tunnel could be built without substantial federal support. With a likely cost of $7-10 billion, it’s probably too expensive for private corporations to even finance in the first place. (Though it was a private train company that built the original tunnels, there are none remotely that big anymore.)

So my question for all the supposed conservatives out there champing at the bit to abolish Amtrak: What say you to the 400,000 daily New Jersey commuters, or the 30 million Amtrak customers generally? On Oakeshottian grounds, I’d say that conservatives are obligated to make some accommodation of those people, regardless of their ideology about markets.

It doesn’t seem very conservative, much less responsible, to simply procrastinate and only fix things after the worst has happened — which is what’s going to happen.


By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, May 18, 2015

May 19, 2015 Posted by | Amtrak, Conservatives, Infrastructure | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“What A Marvelous Historical Anomaly”: How Dubya Is Winning 2016 For Hillary

What a delightful week, watching Republicans not Democrats sink in the foreign policy quicksand. For most of my adult lifetime—come to think of it, all of it, and pretty much all of my entire lifetime—to the extent that foreign policy has mattered in presidential campaigns, it’s been brandished by Republicans to accuse the Democrats of being soft on whatever the supposed threat was at the time. To think that we might have a presidential campaign in which the Democrats are the ones playing foreign policy offense, forcing the Republicans to profess that they are not war-mongering psychopaths, would be a thing to behold—as well as a measure, eight long years later, of how much damage George W. Bush and his co-belligerents did to the Republican Party.

It surely caught Jeb Bush by total surprise, the shitstorm that kicked up after his first answer about invading Iraq. Yes, he’s rustier than a 1970s Plymouth; yes, he appears not to have been really quite listening to Megyn Kelly; and yes, it’s beginning to dawn on all of us, God help us, that Dubya may have been the smart one.

But all those factors are subordinate to the main one, which is this: History instructs that if you’re a Republican running for president and you’re asked about a war, you probably can’t go wrong by saying you’re for it. A past war, a current war, a future war (perhaps these most of all!), it doesn’t matter. Be pro-war, accuse the Democrats of wanting the United States to suckle at the teat of the UN and the new global order; and if it’s a current war that’s not going swimmingly, blame the Democrats and the anti-war elements at home. These are can’t lose propositions.

Or were. This week, Bush learned otherwise. I know, specifically it had to do with the “knowing what we know now” language, which is what really cranked up the media’s chainsaw. But public anti-war sentiment is even more blunt than that. Here for example is a question from a Quinnipiac poll last summer:  “Do you think the result of the Iraq War was worth the loss of American lives and other costs of attacking Iraq, or not?” This does not say “knowing what we know now,” which would clearly prod the respondent to think, “Oh, yeah, no WMD,” and would be more likely to produce a higher “not worth it” result.

But even keeping the WMD lie out of the conversation, not worth it won by 75-18 percent. Even Republicans said not worth it by 63-27.

It has created a new and perhaps not un- but let’s say little-precedented default foreign policy position in the American electorate: Now, the cowboys have to prove their solution to every problem isn’t to invade it or bomb it. This may have been true for the 1976 election, during the Vietnam hangover. But even if so, concerns about Vietnam were a distant second to unease about Richard Nixon’s rape of the Constitution and Gerry Ford’s pardon of him for doing it. Today, though, this question of reflexive Iraq hawkery is enough of a no-no that some people think Bush might already be sunk and should just quit now.

And this is why we saw Marco Rubio also reverse himself last week (although he would deny that) on the Iraq War. He used to defend the war, but now, with the new Kelly Standard in play, he decided he’d better come out and say: “Not only would I not have been in favor of it, President [George W.] Bush wouldn’t have been in favor of it and he said so.”

Rubio, of course, has neo-conned himself to the gills, and there will be plenty of time for him during this primary season to come out swinging on Iran, once he figures out that Iran and ISIS are not allies. But that even he “clarified” his position in the anti-war direction says something.

Now I should note: It may not play out the way I’m describing during the primary campaign. Yes, as we saw above, rank-and-file Republicans said the Iraq War wasn’t worth it by 63-27. But in the context of a primary season, that 27 can be as loud as or louder than the 63. It’s probably the 27 who are more likely to vote or attend caucuses, which means the minority would have inordinate influence over the shape of the candidates’ rhetoric.

But in a general-election context, the GOP nominee will probably have to tack back pretty quickly toward the anti-war position. This will give Hillary Clinton a great opportunity. For one thing, it’ll weaken the salience of the whole “she can’t defend the country cuz she’s a girl” line of attack, which will come, however subtly. It will allow Clinton to define the terms of what constitutes a sensible foreign policy, and the Republican man will likely have to agree with her.

And most of all it will be a lot better for the world than if the situation were reversed. Contrary to liberals’ deepest suspicions about her, she is not a neo-conservative; she is not going to have regime change in Iran on her mind, which any of the Republicans as president would, except for Rand Paul.

Poor Republicans! Crime is down; they can’t scream law and order. And now war is unpopular, so they can’t say the Democrats are soft on whomever. Their economic theories are increasingly discredited. I guess that leaves the old standby: race-baiting. But we may have reached a point where that doesn’t work anymore either. Should be an interesting race.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 18, 2015

May 19, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, George W Bush, Iraq War, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Particularly Shameless”: Rick Scott Lied On His Mother’s Grave — And Blew A Hole In The GOP’s Anti-ObamaCare Argument

When it comes to ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid, it may seem like a matter of simple logic for states to take the money that’s on offer. It would both help their most vulnerable citizens and pump lots of money into local economies.

Alas, logic and the contemporary Republican Party have little relation to each other, so most GOP-controlled statehouses have turned down the offer. But few have done so in a more clownish manner, or exposed the contradictions in the Republican position more clearly, than Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott has flip-flopped on Medicaid, first opposing it, then supporting it, then opposing it again. This is bad, if not entirely unusual, political behavior. But Scott was particularly shameless, citing his recently deceased mother as his justification for suddenly embracing the expansion in 2013.

As he has now revealed, however, Scott was lying on his mother’s grave. He pretended to embrace the Medicaid expansion to secure a federal waiver for privatizing Florida’s Medicaid system, then quietly dropped his support once the waiver was granted. (The Obama administration’s decision to give the quid without first getting the quo, given who they were dealing with, was not its finest hour.)

So Scott used his deceased mother as a shield to lie about his motives in order to funnel federal taxpayer money to Florida businesses, then reneged on his part of the deal, leaving many poor Floridians to needlessly suffer and in some cases die. All par for the course for Scott, who before entering politics oversaw a massive amount of Medicare fraud as CEO of a large for-profit hospital operator.

At this point, one could say that, rank dishonesty and opportunism aside, at least Scott is standing on principle. He is turning down federal dollars to protect state sovereignty. Not a very attractive principle, but at least a principle, right?

Nope. Before the Affordable Care Act, the federal government made money available to states to create Low-Income Pools (LIP) that would reimburse hospitals that treated patients who couldn’t afford to pay for emergency services. Florida is receiving more than $1 billion a year in federal funds from LIP. The ACA, however, makes the LIP obsolete. It addresses problems of uncompensated hospitals by expanding Medicaid, greatly reducing the number of patients who cannot pay their bills.

The federal government has told Florida that it will not make the LIP funds available, pointing to the Medicaid funding which remains available. But Scott wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Not only is he demanding that the federal funding continue, he has actually filed a frivolous lawsuit arguing that the federal government is obligated to give Florida the LIP money. The Obama administration, having been burned by Scott already, is unmoved.

This lawsuit builds on the Supreme Court’s already shaky holding that allowed states to opt out of the expansion, pushing it to an extreme that would be too absurd even for the Roberts Court. It has virtually no chance of succeeding.

But the decision to file it is instructive. On the one hand, Scott is arguing that taking an extraordinarily good offer from the federal government to insure its poor citizens would be an intolerable intrusion on the sacred sovereignty of the state of Florida. On the other hand, Scott is arguing that Florida has a right to another source of federal tax dollars for health care.

There is, in other words, no actual principle involved here — not even a bad “states’ rights” one. It’s just pure partisan politics, with Florida’s poor people being punished as a result.

As Michael Hilzik of the LA Times observes, Scott’s disgraceful behavior reflects broader trends in Republican governance. The decision of Republican officials at the state level to reject the Medicaid expansion, while misleading their constituents about the dread ObamaCare, continues to have disastrous results for their citizens.

The ensuing mess in Florida — where a huge hole has been blown in the state budget because anti-ACA fanatics won’t take the Medicaid expansion — does at least provide a glimmer of hope for the longer term. Red-state legislators may not particularly care about the many poor people being needlessly denied access to medical care. But they will start to increasingly care about the medical professionals and hospitals who are also being screwed. Once Obama leaves office, it’s likely that more and more states will grudgingly take the federal money.

In the meantime, however, the consequences of misrule in these states will continue to be grim.


By: Scott Lemieux, The Week, May 18, 2015

May 19, 2015 Posted by | Low Income Pools, Medicaid Expansion, Obamacare, Rick Scott | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rat Bait”: Beware Of Republicans Playing Games!

Because you may have missed this story over the weekend, here’s some important news for lefty critics of Hillary Clinton, via the New York Times‘ Parker and Corasaniti. It focuses on the biggest GOP oppo research operation of them all, and ever, America Rising:

For months now, America Rising has sent out a steady stream of posts on social media attacking Mrs. Clinton, some of them specifically designed to be spotted, and shared, by liberals. The posts highlight critiques of her connections to Wall Street and the Clinton Foundation and feature images of Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, interspersed with cartoon characters and pictures of Kevin Spacey, who plays the villain in “House of Cards.” And as they are read and shared, an anti-Clinton narrative is reinforced.

America Rising is not the only conservative group attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left. Another is American Crossroads, the group started by Karl Rove, which has been sending out its own digital content, including one ad using a speech Ms. Warren gave at the New Populism Conference in Washington last May.

“Powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor,” intones Ms. Warren, as images of Mrs. Clinton with foreign leaders flash by.

The new-style digital campaign captures some basic facts about 21st-century communication: Information travels at warp speed on social media, it is sometimes difficult to know where that information comes from, and most people like to read things with which they agree. The result, said Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco who specializes in political advertising, is something more sophisticated.

“Politics is usually basic math,” he said, “and this is a little bit of calculus, thinking a couple steps ahead.”

You know, when it came out during Watergate that Richard Nixon’s campaign staffers were pulling this kind of crap in the 1972 Democratic primaries (mostly aimed at poor doomed Ed Muskie), it was a really big scandalous deal. Now it’s smart politics, or “calculus.” Progressives should beware playing their game.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 18, 2014

May 19, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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