The controversy surrounding the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin has played out, in some ways, contrary to the usual left-versus-right, shouting-match dynamic to which we've all grown accustomed. Calls for increased scrutiny of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law (often cited as the reason Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, has thus far escaped charges) have come from both liberals and conservatives. That Zimmerman should be arrested and charged is a position shared by Al Sharpton and Rich Lowry.
But there is still that segment of the online right that is using the Martin controversy to stoke racial animus.
On March 19, Glenn Beck's news website, The Blaze, posted an article speculating that Martin, who was on suspension from school at the time of his death due to excessive tardiness, might have actually been suspended for any number of criminal acts, including arson, sexual battery, and murder -- an unsubtle implication that Martin had it coming. As Mother Jones' Adam Serwer pointed out, the article's original URL referred to Martin as the "aggressor."
Serwer also noted that The Blaze published a companion piece detailing the little-known New Black Liberation Militia's threat to take Zimmerman into custody. And last night, the Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle filed a story from Sanford, Florida on how "members of the New Black Panther Party ripped President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for not responding forcefully enough to the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager."
Glenn Beck's website, The Blaze, would like you to know that Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, might have been an arsonist. Or a kidnapper. Or even a murderer.
In an article attacking MSNBC's Al Sharpton for "exploiting" the "racial controversy" surrounding Martin's death, The Blaze editor Mytheos Holt writes that "we're also learning more about Trayvon Martin. According to reporters he had been suspended from school." Martin's English teacher said that he had been suspended for "tardiness," but Holt says he has "doubts" and listed every single offense that could have resulted in Martin being suspended from school for 10 days -- to include arson, kidnapping, and murder:
Or possibly even of the following, each of which carries a minimum suspension of ten days:
• Aggravated assault
• Aggravated battery against a non-staff member
• Armed robbery
• Assault/Threat against M-DCPS employees or persons conducting official business
• Battery or Aggravated battery against M-DCPS employees or persons conducting official business*
• Making a false report/threat against the school*
• Sexual battery
• Possession, use, sale, or distribution of firearms, explosives, destructive devices, and other weapons.
But whatever the reason, it's a case that you'll probably be hearing more about in the future.
This is a not-too-subtle implication that Martin might have had it coming. After all, he could have been a kidnapping arsonist. Or a murdering armed robber.
Another chapter in the right-wing media's campaign against Attorney General Eric Holder was launched yesterday as they attacked Holder's efforts to discourage people from violating the District Of Columbia's gun laws as detailed in a speech Holder gave in 1995. Not surprisingly the 17-year-old speech about trying to convince young men not to illegally carry guns instantly became the latest excuse to use the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious to attack Holder.
Following Breitbart.com's release of a short portion of Holder's speech, Glenn Beck's The Blaze, The Daily Caller and Breitbart.com's own Mary Chastain all pushed the highly tenuous connection to Operation Fast and Furious. As Media Matters noted this morning, Holder's speech addressed his role of U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and efforts to teach young people in the city that "it's not hip to carry a gun anymore," an action that was illegal in the District Of Columbia at the time.
The Blaze opened with the suggestion that "New video of Eric Holder from 1995 has surfaced, and it may put "Fast and Furious" in a much broader perspective." The Daily Caller similarly suggested a connection saying "The revelation that Holder wanted to "brainwash" people into being "anti-gun" appears to be supported by what Congress and the American people have learned about Operation Fast and Furious." Breitbart.com's Chastain asserted that Fast and Furious was about providing Holder with "material" for the "anti-gun curriculum" described in this 1995 speech.
Despite a tremendous amount of hand waving, these attacks fail to personally link Holder to the initiation or approval of the controversial tactics used in Fast and Furious. As accurately noted by Charlie Savage in his December New York Times profile of Holder, "no documents or testimony" have disproved Holder's statement that he didn't know about Fast and Furious as it was underway.
Further, Bush-era investigations featured similar 'gun walking' tactics as those used in Fast and Furious. Rather then suggesting those investigations were gun control plots, Fox News and right-wing media outlets rushed to defend the Bush-era programs. The Democratic staff of the House Oversight Committee released a report in January documenting the three similar operations conducted under the Bush administration out of the ATF's Arizona offices.
Neither the Bush-era gun walking investigations or the dearth of evidence regarding Holder's purported connections to the tactics used in Fast and Furious have slowed down the right-wing media's increasingly nonsensical attacks against Holder.
The Breitbart empire isn't letting the massive humiliation following this month's Hug-gate manufactured controversy discourage them from further "Vetting" of President Obama and his administration. In their latest effort, they've discovered that as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia nearly 20 years ago, now-Attorney General Eric Holder publicly discussed a campaign to... wait for it... encourage people in that city not to break the law.
The premise of these Breitbart.com "Vetting" pieces is that decades-old comments and connections of Obama and his advisers somehow tell us more about their agenda than what they have actually done in office. Gun violence prevention is a particularly ripe area for this effort: conservatives have desperately tried to maintain their fiction that the Obama administration is on the verge of a confiscatory gun crackdown, even as the White House makes little effort to push for even the mildest gun control legislation.
Thus, as Breitbart.com editor-in-chief Joel Pollak breathlessly explains:
Breitbart.com has uncovered video from 1995 of then-U.S. Attorney Eric Holder announcing a public campaign to "really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way."
Holder was addressing the Woman's National Democratic Club. In his remarks, broadcast by CSPAN 2, he explained that he intended to use anti-smoking campaigns as his model to "change the hearts and minds of people in Washington, DC" about guns.
Pollak goes on to write that in his speech, Holder said that he wanted a campaign involving television ads and celebrities to convince young people in D.C. that it is "not cool, that it's not acceptable, it's not hip to carry a gun anymore." The implication from Pollak -- and the other right-wing media outlets now picking up on his post -- is that this is evidence that Holder is virulently anti-gun. Some are even echoing right-wing conspiracies to bizarrely link the video to the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious.
What the right-wing media never get around to mentioning is that in 1995, when Holder gave the speech, it was illegal to possess a handgun in Washington D.C.
In other words, in calling for efforts to teach young people that "it's not hip to carry a gun anymore," Holder, the chief prosecutor for the District of Columbia, was discussing a campaign to encourage citizens of his jurisdiction not to break the law.
What a bombshell!
Yesterday, Mark Hemingway of the Weekly Standard snapped a photo of the absurdly inflated price board at a gas station "within walking distance of the White House" and put it under the cheeky headline: "The Shocking Photo the Obama Administration Doesn't Want You to See!"
The gas station in question is the Watergate Exxon, one of DC's charming rip-offs that is infamous for its price gouging. It's a trap for unobservant tourists who don't realize that they can buy gas across the street for significantly less money.
Judging from the wry headline his Twitter feed, Hemingway was making an insidery joke for Beltway media types. Some on the right didn't get it.
Glenn Beck's news website, The Blaze, picked up Hemingway's post and republished the photo under the headline: "Inconvenient Photo Taken At Exxon Gas Station Just Outside White House." (The station actually is over a mile from the executive mansion.) As The Blaze put it: "The station is within walking distance of the White House and the listed price for its Supreme grade is frighteningly pushing $6."
Coincidentally, National Review's Jonah Goldberg has a column today on how gasoline prices are a "debacle" for the president, and accompanying the piece is a photo of an Exxon price board with the Watergate looming in the background.
Scary! But as The Huffington Post's Jason Linkins documented yesterday, the price of regular gas at the Sunoco just across the street from the Watergate Exxon was $4.10 -- the same as today's average price for the DC area. Which means the Watergate Exxon's prices are inflated about 32 percent over the average.
The lesson here: If you're buying gas or trying to get a sense of where gas prices stand, avoid both the Watergate Exxon and conservative blogs.
Fox News and right-wing blogs have promoted a chart that purports to show the "alarming" fact that national debt per person is higher in the United States than in several crisis-stricken European countries. This comparison is flawed because these countries' economies are fundamentally different -- a fact demonstrated by the substantially higher interest rates that the crisis countries using the euro must pay on their debt, compared to countries that can borrow in their own currency.
The Washington Examiner blog Beltway Confidential put up a post yesterday reporting that President Obama's acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jeffrey Zients, worked at Bain & Company in the late 1980s. The Examiner suggested that this could "undercut attacks on Republican Mitt Romney's career as a venture capitalist, because Zients and Romney are both alumni of Bain & Company."
This is a distortion. The criticism of Romney has focused on his work at Bain Capital, not his time at Bain & Company.
To be clear: Bain & Company is an entirely separate entity from Bain Capital. Bain & Company is a business consulting firm that was founded in 1973. Bain Capital is a private investment firm that was founded in 1984.
Bain & Company's website states:
Bain Capital was formed as a separate entity by former Bain consultants to further leverage Bain's results creation capability. Bain Capital is a venture capital company; it is not a sister company nor a division of Bain.
Romney's fellow Republican presidential candidates have been critical of his work at Bain Capital -- not at Bain & Company. From a blog post by ABC's George Stephanopoulos:
Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry calls his rival Mitt Romney's work at Bain Capital a potentially "fatal flaw" which could imperil Republican chances to win back the White House in November.
Perry, who is trailing badly in the polls, spent the week attacking Romney as a "vulture capitalist," whose work at Bain allowed him to reap huge profits by dismantling companies and laying off workers.
Others in the right-wing media are blurring the distinction between the two Bain entities.
Since sexual harassment allegations against GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain have emerged, right-wing media figures have blamed a wide range of people and entities for the story's emergence, from the "Democratic machine" to the "liberal media" and even "the left-wing nutjobs at Media Matters."
In continuing to defend Herman Cain, the right-wing media have tried to connect one of Cain's accusers to the Obama administration. The Drudge Report said that the woman in question, Karen Kraushaar, "works in the Obama administration," while The Blaze said she "works for the Obama administration." However, Kraushaar also held positions in the federal government during both the Bush and Clinton administrations.
According to the story from The Daily that first named her publicly, Kraushaar has served in several government agencies:
Karen Kraushaar currently serves as a communications director at the Inspector General's Office of the Treasury Department, a position she has held since last year.
After the settlement, Kraushaar served as a spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the predecessor of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She was a chief spokeswoman during one of the agency's most controversial immigration cases -- the custody battle over Elian Gonzalez, a Cuban boy rescued at sea who was then held by Florida relatives against the will of his father in Cuba. The boy was eventually returned to his dad.
In 2003, Kraushaar was a communications specialist for the Tax Advocate Service, an independent arm within the Internal Revenue Service that helps impoverished taxpayers.
In addition, the head of the agency Kraushaar reportedly works for now, the Treasury Department inspector general's office, is a Bush appointee.
A Florida 4th grade vocabulary list including the words "boycott," "citizen," and "strike" is causing paroxysms over at the Blaze, with cries that the words demonstrate a sinister plot to "Occupy" classrooms with learning.
Citing a Blaze reader in Ft. Lauderdale, the site links to the following vocabulary list, asking "Is 'Occupy' movement creeping into the classroom?"
This stinging indictment of learning words comes hot on the heels of the Blaze discovering a Texas Spanish teacher daring to add Mexican culture to her language lessons.
The American Nazi Party put out a statement on Thursday that was supportive of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Rocky Suhayda, the party's chairman, said, "My heart is right there with these people."
On the Monday edition of Fox News' flagship "straight news" program Special Report, anchor Bret Baier also treated this endorsement as if it were significant:
Interesting fact about Suhayda: During the 2008 presidential campaign, he declared his preference for Barack Obama over John McCain.
"EXCLUSIVE," blares Glenn Beck's news website, The Blaze, this morning as they blow the lid off a shocking story out of Texas:
BLAZE EXCLUSIVE: TX HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS MADE TO RECITE MEXICAN NATIONAL ANTHEM, PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
The lede is no less gripping:
Students in a Texas public high school were made to stand up and recite the Mexican national anthem and Mexican pledge of allegiance as part of a Spanish class assignment, but the school district maintains there was nothing wrong with the lesson.
The story centers around a sophomore in said Spanish class who objected to the lesson and complained to the principal. This same student videotaped the students reciting the pledge and the anthem en español, thus providing the critical evidence that high school students in Texas are actually being taught things.
It's a huge story -- most of the country has been laboring under the false impression that Texas public schools are mere fronts for the dissemination of anti-knowledge, in which students are fed garbage like "intelligent design" and right-wing revisionist history in the name of learning. The Blaze has helped tear away this veil of misinformation by conclusively demonstrating that students in Texas schools are actually learning things of value, like second languages and the cultural heritage of their southern neighbor.
Equally shocking was The Blaze's revelation that the teacher is not only of Mexican descent, but is actually proud of her heritage and uses that pride to inform her teaching of Mexican culture:
When Brenda made clear she would not stand up and recite the pledge, she was given an alternative assignment: an essay on the history of the Mexican revolution.
Meanwhile, other students continued with their presentations, which took place over the course of several days.
When Brinsdon talked to Santos -- a first-year teacher at Achieve -- about her new assignment, the teacher told her she grew up in Mexico.
"She told me that she loved Mexico," Brinsdon said.
Let's all take a moment to thank Glenn Beck and The Blaze for not falling victim to conventional wisdom and actually reporting on the successes of the Texas education system and the pride and dedication of public school teachers working to improve young Americans' understanding of one of our most important allies.
Or, better yet: díganles "gracias."
The announcement that Sesame Street plans to introduce a Muppet named Lily, an impoverished girl whose family faces ongoing hunger issues, is prompting much snark and derision in the right-wing media.
For instance, The Blaze's blog had this to offer:
Uh-oh. It's time to redistribute Cookie Monster's cookies.
Question: When did Sesame Street become so focused on teaching societal issues? From Bert & Ernie's gay marriage fiasco, to Big Bird's birtherism and growing unemployment. What "injustice" might Mr. Snuffleupagus stand for?
One of my colleagues (who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons) points out that "Snuffy" actually comes from a broken home and represents a lesson in divorce for kids. I had no idea.
Here's something else Barack Obama and democrats can be proud of.
With a record number of Americans on food stamps, record unemployment, increased debt and record poverty, Sesame Street will introduce a poor, starving muppet to educate on the growing number of starving children in Obama's America.
Right-wing media have attacked President Obama by seizing on his comment that America "had gotten a little soft." But Obama said that the United States is a "great country" and that he "wouldn't trade our position with any other country on Earth" because "[w]e still have the best universities, the best scientists, and best workers in the world. We still have the most dynamic economic system in the world."
Right-wing media have attacked Michelle Obama for going shopping at Target, claiming she went " 'incognito,' Lady Gaga-style" and asking, "Who does she think she's fooling?" Right-wing media have previously attacked the first lady for everything from promoting health initiaitves to wearing a red dress at a state dinner.