Ringside

Daily Meme: A Brief History of the Hate Crime

Yesterday, a gunman opened fire at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City killing three people. The shooter, Frazier Glenn Miller, a 73-year-old former Klu Klux Klan Grand Dragon, had a history of violence, and once headed a movement called "White Southland." A sample of what he was peddling? Miller sent his supporters ("Aryan warriers of The Order") a points system guide for murders , as The Daily Beast reports—“'N**gers (1), White race traitors (10), Jews (10), Judges (50) Morris Seligman Dees (888).' Dees is the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center." Given the location of the shooting, it's timing on the eve of Passover, and the fact that when he was apprehended by the police, Miller yelled a Nazi salute , law enforcement will prosecute the crime as a hate crime . That means Miller will face charges on both a state and federal level. The law didn't always treat such crimes with increased penalties, however. Here's a quick history of hate crimes prosecution in the...

Daily Meme: Who's Afraid of Stephen Colbert?

Yesterday, CBS announced that Stephen Colbert , the flag-waving, eagle-loving faux-conservative comedian, will replace David Letterman as the next host of the Late Show . Although Colbert made his name on Comedy Central by impersonating a right-wing pundit, he'll play it straight when he gets to the big time. Some people are questioning whether plain ol' Stephen Colbert will be as funny as his Republican alter ego. ( Others wondered why Colbert would take such a big risk, when he's got a good thing going already.) But as The New York Times notes, he has strayed from political comedy before— sort of . Colbert's ascension to the vaunted late-night seat riled up a lot of people. Rush Limbaugh, in particular, did not hold back , decreeing that CBS was "declaring war on the heartland of America" by hiring Colbert. Another right-wing writer compared Colbert's Republican persona to actual blackface , what he calls "Conservativeface." "His show is about pure hatred for conservatives in the...

Daily Meme: FutureSex Scandals/LoveSounds for Hillary

Our theme today is the future, where everyone is looking. To start, House conservatives are thinking that their future might involve a Speaker other than John Boehner. National Journal reports that a group of 40 to 50 Republicans are plotting to oust Boehner right after the November , or at least put the fear of the right into him. Representative Vance McAllister's future is in serious doubt after he was caught on a security camera sucking face with one of his staffers; naturally, he responded to getting caught by firing her. But t he Washington Post has crunched the numbers on sex scandals and found that there have been 14 sex-related scandals since 2000, but only two of the members kept their jobs. So maybe there's a Morning Zoo radio show co-hosted with Anthony Weiner in McAllister's future. We all know that in a few decades, white people will become a minority of Americans, and we'll all sing in perfect harmony. Our old colleague Jamelle Bouie looks to the future of American...

Daily Meme: Yep, He's Toast

There's nothing so satisfying as a good dose of political schadenfreude, which is being served up on a platter this week by Louisiana Representative Vance McAllister. Grainy images of McAllister locked in a passionate embrace with Melissa Hixon Peacock, a married aide, last December are making the rounds online. Peacock's husband, Heath, is fueling the tabloid-esque furor by making the rounds on cable TV. “I’m just freaking devastated by the whole deal, man. I loved my wife so much. I cannot believe this. I cannot freaking believe it. I feel like I’m going to wake up here in a minute and this is all going to be a bad nightmare,” he told CNN Tuesday . He says that he and his wife, who have a six-year-old son, are getting a divorce. It certainly doesn't help that McAllister, a married father of five who joined Congress last November in a special election, campaigned as a staunch Christian conservative who promised to bring his values to Washington. He made his mark early, by inviting...

Daily Meme: Democrats, Republicans, and What Women Want

The question of how to treat women in the workplace has been tripping up America for years. Dolly Parton probably said it best in her 1980 hit, "9 To 5" : "Workin' 9 to 5/What a way to make a livin'/Barely gettin' by/It's all takin' and no givin' /They just use your mind/And they never give you credit/ It's enough to drive you crazy If you let it." In 1998, Lily Ledbetter sued her longtime employer Goodyear claiming that she had been denied pay raises at her job as a supervisor at a plant because of her sex. She only discovered the pay inequities after receiving an anonymous note. Her case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where she lost, but it inspired the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which passed in 2009 , signed by President Obama just as he was taking office. With the idea in mind that information is power when it comes to fair pay, today Obama will sign an executive order that bars federal contractors from taking punitive action against employees who share salary information...

Daily Meme: Must. Kill. Obamacare.

Despite the invincible conviction on the right that Obamacare is a disaster and that Americans are losing their health insurance, a newly released Gallup poll shows the number of people without insurance has declined to 15.6 percent—its lowest level since 2008. The rate of uninsured dropped among all age groups, but the Affordable Care Act has made a significant dent in the number of poor and minority Americans without insurance. As Joan McCarter at Daily Kos points ou t , the Gallup numbers are key to undermining the Republican talking point that most of those signing up on the insurance exchanges already had health insurance. The GOP's response? Must. Kill. Obamacare —also the party's strategy for winning the midterms . Fox News contributor Juan Williams says while that may have worked in 2010, it's no surefire bet this time—and Republicans have no Plan B. The question, writes The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn, is not whether Obamacare is making a difference. "The question is how big...

Daily Meme: A Rough Week for Democracy

Once, long ago, lawmakers from both parties worked together to pass campaign finance reform legislation. It was a simpler time, albeit with terrorist attacks and wars in the Middle East and a presidential administration bent on giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, and in 2002, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold Republican Senator John McCain (remember him?) saw their efforts to decrease the role of money in politics turned into law, adding to an overall campaign finance regulations. But since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts on independent political advertising, and the rise of super PACS, the whole system has been wobbling. On Wednesday , another vestige of the system fell to First Amendment claims. McCutcheon v. FEC knocked down the total limits on individual campaign donations. While there are still caps on how much donors can give to a campaign or party, they can now give to as many...

Daily Meme: Fed Up, Not Gonna Take It

Out in America today, lots of people are fed up. They've reached the end of their rope. They've had it up to here. They're mad as heck, and they're not going to take it anymore. First up: Fresh off yet another victory for the wealthy at the Supreme Court, Charles Koch is absolutely fed up with commoners thinking they can talk back to him, when all he wants is what's best for America. "Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents," he writes today in the Wall Street Journal . "They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.) This is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinsky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced." So he's not saying outright that people who criticize him are Hitler, but hey, if the jackboot fits… Meanwhile, the normally mild-mannered E.J. Dionne is just about fed up with...

Daily Meme: The Obamacare Victory Dance Begins

In a triumphant ceremony in the Rose Garden yesterday afternoon , President Obama announced that the White House's last-minute push to enroll seven million people in private health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act was successful. Sign-ups even slightly exceeded the administration's goal, coming in at 7.1 million newly insured Americans. This was despite the fact that the beleaguered Obamacare website crashed again on Monday , causing much consternation for health insurance procrastinators. White House officials called the rollercoaster ride of the past few days "shit-tastic," a term which Politico helpfully dissects here . Who's responsible for this unlikely victory? Hollywood actors, of course! Back in February, Bradley Cooper met with Obama aide Valerie Jarrett to figure out how to get more people to sign up. Less than a month later, Obama appeared on Between Two Ferns with Cooper's buddy and Hangover co-star, Zack Galafinakis. Regardless of who's responsible, it's...

Daily Meme: Spy Games

Cold War nostalgia is hot these days. Everyone who's anyone is watching The Americans , FX's taut drama about Soviet sleeper cell spies living in the the suburbs of Washington, D.C., during the 1980s, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for their kids by day and carrying out hits by night. Vladimir Putin got geopolitcally retro with his annexation of Crimea recently. And today we learn that there is some good old-fashioned spy bargaining afoot! The New York Times reports that in a bid to ensure that the Israeli-Palestinean peace talks stay alive through 2015, the U.S. and Israel are negotiating the release of Jonathan Pollard, a former American Naval intelligence analyst who was convicted of giving secrets to the Israeli government. Which got us thinking about our favorite spy stories through the years ... Since we've been watcing the aforementioned The Americans , we'll kick off with the Russian agents. There's of course The Rosenbergs—Ethel and Julius —who were executed for...

Daily Meme: Obamacare's Computer Problems

By today's Obamacare deadline, 7 million Americans will have signed up for health-care insurance through one of the Obama administration's online exchanges—despite continuing technical difficulties that have plagued HealthCare.gov since its launch. Shortly after midnight last night, site operators discovered a bug in the system that required them to take the site offline. Things were up and running by 9 a.m. but around noon , the tens of thousands of people rushing to sign up got a free ticket back to the days of dial-up . Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Joanne Peters said that 1.2 million people visited the site during the rush —three times as many as on its previous busiest day. (For a dose of "it could be worse" reassurance, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius could give a call to Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, whose state is scrapping its exchange and starting anew . ) Those stats, Republicans say, are as real as global warming . In...

Daily Meme: The Fog of Donald Rumsfeld

You may recall an infamous news conference in February 2002 — a year before the invasion of Iraq—when reporters packed the Pentagon Briefing Room, hoping to wring some answers about Saddam Hussein's shadowy weapons of mass destruction program from senior defense officials. Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, decided that the reporters did not deserve the benefit of the English language. "As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know," Rumsfeld said. "We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know." The remark was, at the time, widely mocked . But in time, it became so synonymous with Rumsfeld's tenure that he eventually used it to title his memoir . Now, Rumsfeld, years out of office, is the subject of a new documentary by Errol Morris , the filmmaker who captured another infamous defense secretary, Robert McNamara, expounding upon...

Daily Meme: Points of Clarification

The modern world is so confusing. Fortunately, there are lots of people out there trying to clarify things for you, so in today's meme, we're seeking and finding clarity on what bedevils us. Are you a Supreme Court justice who doesn't quite understand how different birth control methods work, what with all those confusing ladyparts going on? Salon has a handy guide to help clear up your confusion. Benjy Sarlin has a great story on Georgia Senate candidate Paul Broun, who is a member of the House because he was personally called upon by God to run for Congress. So if you're wondering whom the Big Guy is supporting in that race, it's been clarified for you. Chris Christie has been totally vindicated by a report from a law firm examining the "Bridgegate" affair. We should clarify that the firm was hired by Christie. Nate Silver and Paul Krugman are apparently in an escalating battle over just how much data can clarify the great questions of the day. If Jeff Gillooly hits Krugman in the...

Daily Meme: The Man From Oops

While the Republican presidential contest for 2016 is delightfully, crazily up for grabs, you probably figured there was one thing you could bank on: Rick Perry would never run again after humiliating himself so memorably in 2011 and 2012. Think again! The Man from Oops is back, now sporting a pair of "make-you-look-smarter" glasses and becoming a regular media darling. Last week he was charming Jimmy Kimmel on a broadcast from SXSW. Then he was sounding reasonably alert on Morning Joe, making Eugene Robinson gush and giggle . And voila! Next thing you knew, Perry was popping up on Fox and Friends , making sure to remind everybody of his Official Story About What Happened in 2012: "You know I had major back surgery six weeks before the election kicked off." The Rick Revival began in earnest at CPAC , where the four-term Texas governor brought 'em stomping to their feet with such stirring lines as this old chestnut, about the few things government should do: “Defend our country,...

Daily Meme: Stopping the NSA Madness This March

In January, President Obama gave a speech at the Justice Department that was basically an acknowledgement that the shady ex-girlfriend stuff that the NSA has been doing to Americans, like going through our phone records and mining our internet activity, was indeed pretty damn shady. He promised, in that vague way that politicians do, to take some action. Well, this week is action central! On Friday , the court order that authorizes the NSA's current data-collection program expires, and the administration wants to initiate a new process, via legislation, that would, in the words of Spencer Ackerman of The Guardian , "significantly curtail the practice [of mass phone data monitoring] but lower the legal standards for the collection of such information." The New York Times has the details : "The N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for...

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