Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Stop Playing Nice With The GOP Noise Machine

ERIC BOEHLERT/Media Matters For America:

Talk about lowering the bar to can't-miss depths.
In its Sunday, page-one profile of partisan "provocateur" and Free Beacon founder Michael Goldfarb, the New York Times pointed to a report the right-wing site published this month, which raised questions about a speech Chuck Hagel gave in 2007. Free Beacon claimed Hagel had called the State Department "an adjunct to the Israeli foreign minister's office."
The report represented yet another missile fired by the sprawling, well-funded, far-right smear campaign to obstruct Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense. (A campaign that seems destined to fail, by the way.)
Writing up Goldfarb's supposed successes, the Times treated the Hagel report as a singular Free Beacon victory. (Sen. Lindsey Graham mentioned it on the floor of the Senate!) Even though, as the Times itself point out, Hagel denied the quote and no video was ever found to confirm it. Additionally, one professor who was present at the speech adamantly denied Hagel ever made the State Department comment.
But hey, other than that Free Beacon totally nailed the anti-Hagel story.
Also, note that Goldfarb has a long history of making stuff up, calling it news, and then refusing to admit to his published fabrications. The Times, in its puffy profile about how Goldfarb deftly outwits liberals, failed to mention that troubling career trait.
Coming in the wake of last week's Friend of Hamas debacle at Breitbart.com, the Times' toast to the factually challenged Goldfarb raises questions as to how the mainstream media treat disingenuous players inside the GOP Noise Machine.  (Historically, the press has played nice with them.)
The good news about Ben Shapiro's colossal Breitbart failure with regards to his bogus claims about the (fictitious) Friends of Hamas group that allegedly had nefarious ties with Hagel? It helped shine a spotlight on the type of dishonest skullduggery that goes on within the conservative blogosphere on a nearly daily basis. The bad news is too many publications analyzed the Breitbart debacle against the backdrop of journalism and fact finding.
It's time for journalists to give up the ghost and stop pretending that lots of players on the far right media spectrum even try to engage in journalism as it's commonly defined. (Thankfully, some exceptions exist.)
It's not journalism. It's not even partisan opinion journalism. It's proud propaganda. More and more, it's the intentional spreading of rumor and misinformation for political gain. (And often done in conjunction with the Republican Party.) For too long, the press has allowed right-wing players to hide behind the shield of journalism, and then acted surprised when they cut egregious ethical corners.
Increasingly, "propaganda" is the most accurate description. But it's one that the Beltway press seems reluctant to use, possibly out of fear for the right-wing backlash it would trigger. It certainly wasn't used when dissecting the Friends of Hamas charade.
From Slate [emphasis added]

Most news organizations, upon being caught out like this, would issue corrections. Breitbart.com hasn't done that.
At some point, if they want to be taken more seriously, members of the conservative media will have to take their own declarations about the commitment to journalism more seriously. More importantly, they'll have to realize that reporting isn't just the means to a desired political end; done right, it's the end in itself, no matter what it digs up.
I'm forgiving of occasional mistakes -- we all make them -- but doubling down on content that causes even ideologically friendly competitors to issue corrections? That's harder to forgive or understand.
All three pieces were dead-on in terms of diagnosing the deep shortcomings that the Friends of Hamas calamity highlighted. Where I'd differ is the premise that Breitbart editors were likely embarrassed about the fiasco, or privately wished they had fact-checked the story first and gotten it right, or that they care about getting anystory right.
There's simply no proof to back up those assumptions. None. And note that post-Friends of Hamas, the Noise Machine continues to embrace Shapiro, as his appearance on Fox News Monday made clear.
There's no reason for journalists to continue to view the likes of Breitbart.com through the overly generous prism of attempted-journalism. When seen through the proper lens, when viewed as a propaganda outlet, the product begins to make sense. Then, there is at least a logic to publishing a patently false story, pushing it out to like-minded propagandists within the GOP Noise Machine, and then refusing to acknowledge that it's a fabrication when called out by legitimate sources. 
It's true that not long ago Breitbart sites at least attempted journalism, in the form of dishonest ACORN and Shirley Sherrod stings, and its never-ending Pigford coverage. Those were examples of far-right practitioners going through the motions of collecting original information and then publishing it, albeit in wildly dishonest forms.
Today, those deceitful stings seem like paragons of virtue compared to what too often passes for right-wing reporting.
Remember when The Daily Caller's "investigative reporter" Matthew Boyle claimed that Environmental Protection Agency would be hiring 230,000 new employees to implement climate rules. (A Daily Caller report that was pushed by the GOP.) Not true. Not even close. Yet in response, the Daily Caller refused to retract the absurd claim and instead "tied itself in knots of illogic," as the Washington Post's Erik Wemple described it. (Punchline: "Investigative reporter" Boyle now works for Breitbart.)
And remember when Breitbart and The Weekly Standard recently claimed that 11 armed security guards protect the prestigious Washington, D.C. school where Obama's daughters attend? The report was supposed to highlight Obama's hypocrisy regarding gun control. The claim though, was entirely bogus. Yet neither Breitbart nor The Weekly Standard ever acknowledged or corrected their obvious falsehoods. (A Quaker schoolcrawling with armed guards?)
As those quick examples suggest, right wing sites both consistently employ startlingly incompetent writers andrefuse to correct their falsehoods.
The larger point is to practice GOP propaganda. It's time that press reports reflect that.

Fox News Hosts Breitbart's Shapiro Days After "Friends Of Hamas" Story Implodes

MATT GERTZ/Media Matters For America

Fox News rewarded Breitbart.com editor at large Ben Shapiro with an appearance less than a week after Shapiro publicly embarrassed himself over a fraudulent story linking Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel to the apparently nonexistent group "Friends of Hamas." 
Over the past few weeks, Shapiro has been skewered for attempting to smear Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel by reporting that (according to "Senate sources") he had received money from a shady group called "Friends of Hamas." 
After Shapiro's story imploded when it came to light that there's no evidence that "Friends of Hamas" actually exists, some in the conservative media suggested that their movement needed to police its own to maintain credibility. That accountability will not come from Fox News, which hosted him today and did not ask him about his failed smear.
Shapiro appeared for a discussion of the recent exchange between Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward and the White House over the sequester - a topic that countless other pundits could have discussed. During the segment, Shapiro attacked the media for allegedly being too soft on the Obama White House. From the February 25 America Live segment, hosted by Megyn Kelly:
Shapiro's initial February 7 report spread quickly through the conservative media, even showing up on Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, until Slate's David Weigel pointed out that there was no evidence that "Friends of Hamas" actually existed. New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman added to Shapiro's humiliation when he claimed in a February 19 column that a joke Friedman shared with a GOP source was possibly the provenance of "Friends of Hamas."
The Breitbart.com blogger has come in from widespread criticism from all quarters, with many pointing out that it was his responsibility to determine the plausibility of the "Friends of Hamas" claim rather than simply publishing it as an allegation. For their part, Shapiro and Breitbart.com have denied any failing and lashed out at their critics.
In a February 21 article for TheAtlantic.com, conservative writer Conor Friedersdorf wrote that the conservative media "need to self-police for their own sake." Citing the Shapiro affair, he wrote that other conservative reporters need to be willing to criticize their peers when they get stories wrong and punish those who repeatedly fail to provide accurate information. But he warned that this was unlikely to happen:
Yet inside conservative media, he'll likely maintain his standing. National Review contributors might be more careful when touting his stories. But there won't be public blowback. It won't seem like his peers are outraged or angered that someone is spending down the credibility of conservative media. And Breitbart presumably won't issue an apology, or hire a public editor, or take any other significant step to bolster its credibility among the people who mistrust it.
Fox, at least, appears to have no interest in enforcing standards with regard to who they book. As Friedersdorf notes, among the right-wing media "Only loyalty is vocally enforced."

Rep. Ellison explodes on Fox News, calls Sean Hannity 'worst excuse for a journalist'


Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison attacked Fox News host Sean Hannity on-air tonight in what is surely one of the most explosive and contentious interviews between an anchor and a politician in recent history.
Rep. Ellison began the interview by calling Hannity "the worst excuse for a journalist I've ever seen." He went on to accuse Hannity of violating "every journalistic ethic I have ever heard of" and called him "a shill for the Republican Party."
Hannity calmly endured the attacks from the Minnesota congressman and tried in vain to assure him that he was not a registered Republican, but rather a registered conservative. He finally gave up and told Rep. Ellison to "keep ranting."
The congressman's remarks came after Hannity aired footage of President Obama giving two similar interviews about the looming effects of sequestration, set against a soundtrack of "O Fortuna," from the Carmina Burana. Hannity said the President was "more concerned with fearmongering than finding a solution to the problem he created."
Rep. Ellison cited the background music as evidence of Hannity's "yellow journalism."
"For you to say the President is to blame here is ridiculous," the congressman said.
Roughly three minutes later, Hannity tried to ask questions and was consistently interrupted by Rep. Ellison. Finally, more than six minutes after the interview started, Hannity ended the interview.
"Congressman, you are a total waste of time. We're moving on, because our audience deserves better," he said. "I tried to give you a fair shot."

As sequester looms, O'Reilly goes back to takers and makers

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Arrested Colorado man threatened lawmaker: ‘Hopefully somebody Gifords both of your asses with a gun’

By Arturo Garcia/Raw Story
Denver police arrested a 42-year-old man for allegedly threatening a state lawmaker, her daughter and a colleague in a series of voice mails and emails.
The Denver Post reported on Monday that Franklin Glenn Sain was arrested on Feb. 22 on suspicion of harassing state Rep. Rhonda Fields (D) and unlawfully attempting to influence a public official.
Sain admitted to using racial and sexual slurs against Fields in a series of emails dated between Feb. 13 and Feb. 15. is also believed to have sent an unsigned letter to her office threatening “Death to both” her and her daughter, as well as the message, “I keep my 30 Round Magazines There Will Be Blood! I’m Coming For You!”
One of Sain’s emails, sent on Feb. 15, said of Fields and fellow state Rep. Beth McCann (D), “Hopefully somebody Gifords [sic] both of your asses with a gun,” an apparent reference to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who was shot in the head in a public attack. Giffords survived, but the mass shooting resulted in the deaths of six people.
Fields told police the messages were so disturbing she skipped a Thursday town hall meeting out of fear for both her safety and the safety of others.
“I am grateful for the prompt work of the Colorado State Patrol in bringing this suspect to justice, and I also thank the Denver Police Department, which was instrumental in the investigation,” she said in a statement issued on Monday. “I will not be deterred by threats.”
Sain told police he was “just voicing some frustrations” over Fields’ support for tighter gun regulations in the state.
According to KMGH-TV, he denied being a racist in follow-up phone calls with authorities, despite his use of slurs against both Fields and President Barack Obama.
“I guarantee there is not enough law enforcement, or military to stop an all out overthrow of this government if you or that (racial slur) President tries to take our guns,” he said in one email. “Guarantee, we will make world war I and II look like child’s play, many will die…be prepared.”
KCNC-TV reported on Monday that the state legislature adopted four gun-control measures earlier this month, including two measures sponsored by Fields. One requires universal background checks on all firearms purchases in the state, and the other limits ammunition magazines to 8 rounds for handguns and 15 rounds for larger firearms. The measures will go before the state Senate in early March.
“It is fascinating that Representative Fields is just trying to do the best she can for the people of Colorado, and to keep Colorado children safe by limiting gun violence, and it’s met with more violence,” state Senate President John Morse told KCNC. “It is just appalling.”
Watch KCNC’s report on Sain’s arrest and his alleged threats against Sain, aired Monday, below.

Why Democrats Are So Confident Of A Sequestration Victory

If it appears to you that Democrats are approaching the Friday sequestration deadline with greater poise than the GOP, you’re not mistaken.
Democrats enjoy a massive public relations advantage over the GOP. Voters are prepared to blame Republicans. The Democrats have an unusually steady message. Republicans are lurching from message to message as they try futilely to blame Obama for sequestration’s very existence, while contending that its consequences won’t be so dire (except when they contend it will hollow out the military) and to argue just as futilely that Obama’s revenue demand is an act of duplicity.
But Democrats are also confident because they have an institutional memory of winning a similar fight, when Republicans shut down the government in 1995.
“Before the government shutdown it was very much an open question in most people’s minds which party would win,” recalled Paul Begala, a Clinton White House veteran, and an insider at the time of the shutdown, in a telephone interview Friday. “Republicans were very confident at the time that the government would shutdown and people’s lives wouldn’t change. They were wrong. … [W]e all saw that theory proved in ‘95 and ‘96 and it’s going to happen again.”
Sequestration is different from a government shutdown in some key ways. It won’t bring myriad government services to a halt, but it will delay them and complicate them and make things more expensive and less convenient for ordinary taxpayers. It will also lead to layoffs and furloughs.
This week, the Obama administration is taking steps to publicize these costs, including the president himself, who will deliver remarks at a shipbuilding facility in Virginia on Tuesday.
“If you live in Newport News or Pascagoula or any other of a hundred Navy towns — San Diego to Portsmouth — you know this is going to hurt because this is going to stop construction on ships,” Begala predicted. “So I don’t think it’s going to last very long.”
The harder part is explaining how and when Republicans relent on revenues. If they hold out through the month of March, the government really will shut down, just like it did in 1995, and the pressure on them to cave will amplify. But if they hope to end the standoff before then, it will likely require a party leader — or perhaps a GOP governor or two — to drag the rank and file in a more sensible direction.
“Bob Dole said enough is enough,” Begala recalled. “He stopped it. I may be selling Mitch McConnell short, but he’s no Bob Dole. He’s terribly smart, but he’s more worried about his political hide. … There’s always these gangs that form in the Senate so that’s a good thing. In the House, there’s Paul Ryan, but he’s done nothing.”
These leaders will feel additional pressure if the cuts disproportionately impact their districts or states. (To that point, a regional airport in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisc., might be one of dozens that will be shutdown for months because of sequestration.)
But the White House isn’t really able to target these cuts, either politically or under the terms of the law.
“The pundit in me would like to see a targeted sequestration. So if the two senators from Kentucky don’t want to fund the government, then let’s shut down Fort Knox and move it to San Francisco,” Begala joked. “But the former government official in me knows you can’t and this president won’t. That’s way beneath him.”

The Morning Plum: The false equivalence pundits are part of the problem

By Greg Sargent/The Washington Post

The battle over the sequester has sparked a corollary argument over the proper role of pundits in assigning blame in political standoffs of this type. A number of us have argued that the facts plainly reveal that Republicans are far more to blame than Obama and Democrats for the current crisis. The GOP’s explicit position is that no compromise solution of any kind is acceptable — this must be resolved only with 100% of the concessions being made by Democrats — which means any compromise Dems put forth is by definition a nonstarter at the outset.
Analysts reluctant to embrace this conclusion — an affliction I’ve called the “centrist dodge” — have adopted several techniques. One is to pretend Dems haven’t offered any compromise solution, when in fact they have. A second is to argue that, okay, Dems have offered a compromise while Republicans haven’t, but Dems haven’t gone far enough towards the middle ground, so both sides are still to blame for the impasse. (The problem with this dodge is that it fails to acknowledge that Republicans themselves have openly stated that there is no distance to which Dems could go to win GOP cooperation, short of giving them everything they want.)
We’re now seeing a third technique appear: Acknowledge that Republicans are the uncompromising party, but assert that it’s ultimately on the President to figure out a way to either force Republicans to drop their intransigence or to otherwise “lead” them out if it.
Case in point: David Brooks. Last week Brooks was widely criticized for a “pox on both house” column in which he based his entire argument on the falsehood that Obama has no plan. Brooks repented for his error, and today he offers a good faith effort to describe what he’d like Obama to do to change things. It boils down to this:
My dream Obama wouldn’t be just one gladiator in the zero-sum budget wars. He’d transform the sequester fight by changing the categories that undergird it. He’d possess the primary ingredient of political greatness: imagination. The great presidents, like Teddy Roosevelt, see situations differently. They ask different questions. History pivots around their terms.
I’ll leave it to you to decide whether the prescriptions Brooks offers would really change the current dynamic, but at bottom, the suggestion that it’s all on the president to figure out a way to persuade Republicans to drop their intransigence is still a dodge. The idea that the President can necessarily bend Congress to his will is indeed a “dream.” It doesn’t reckon with the most fundamental question at the heart of all of this: What if there is nothing whatsoever that can be done by the president or anyone else to break the GOP out of its no-compromising stance?  This isn’t an unreasonable reading of the situation; it’s what Republicans themselves have confirmed, publicly and on the record — they will not concede a penny in new revenues, no matter what. And if this is the case — if the fundamental problem is that Republicans really do prefer the sequester to any compromise — isn’t it incumbent on commentators to explain this clearly and forthrightly to their readers?
As Josh Marshall puts it:
Over the last few days, as it’s become increasingly clear that the sequester cuts probably really will happen, the big name pundits are coming forward and complaining that President Obama needs to step forward and ‘exercise leadership’ and solve the problem.
It’s all similar to what we saw in the fiscal cliff negotiations. Official Washington is accustomed to having a Democratic safety net — not cash transfers for those who fall through the cracks of the market economy — but that Democrats will come in and solve crises created by GOP government by crisis. When the Democrats or the Democrats’ party leader — in this case, the President — won’t do that, everyone freaks out.
The argument now is basically that the president is the father who must make his problem children behave. Only this is worse than just a dodge. Lots and lots of people are going to get hurt by the sequester. Anyone who helps deflect blame from Republicans — in the full knowledge that they are the primary obstacle to the compromise we need to prevent serious damage from being done to the country — is unwittingly helping to enable their intransigence.
* GOP won’t accept any compromise solution: Last night, Lindsey Graham turned heads when he said on CNN that he’s willing to accept $600 billion in new revenues along with spending cuts to avert the sequester. This perfectly illustrates what I noted above: After all, no GOP leaders agree with Graham; meanwhile, Democratic leaders do agree with Graham that a mix is the best way to go.
* Another poll finds GOP will take blame for sequester: A new Post poll finds that 45 percent of Americans will blame Congressional Republicans if and when the sequester hits, versus only 32 percent who will blame Obama. Strikingly, 52 percent of moderates will blame Republicans; only 24 percent will blame Obama.
A lot of this is probably driven by the fact that Obama’s general standing with the public is far better; the question is whether that dynamic will hold as the cuts kick in over time.
* Americans think sequester will damage economy, military: Also key from the new Post poll: 60 percent think it will have a “major effect” on the economy, and 62 percent think the effect will be “negative.” Fifty five percent say it will have a “major effect” on the military.
* Don’t bite on the GOP’s sequester ruse, Dems: As expected, Republicans are laying plans to “offer” a proposal to the administration that would allow agency heads to have discretion over where the sequester cuts are allotted. Senator Tim Kaine gets at the irony underlying this proposal:
“These guys bash the president nonstop.Then they are going to take the power of the purse and say, ‘We are so unable to do our job we are going to give you complete flexibility to do it’?”
As I’ve noted before, his alternative would transfer ownership of the cuts to Obama, and would create a false sense that they are not all that threatening, allowing Republicans to evade some political responsibility for them — even as it doesn’t do much of anything to mitigate the actual damage they would do.
* Yes, sequester would mean major cuts to government: Glenn Kessler explains why the claim that the sequester would cut “only” 2.5 percent out of the government, which is widely cited by Republicans, is completely misleading, and why the cuts will be far bigger in practice. While Kessler also finds that there are problems with the White House’s predictions of doom, it is overwhelmingly clear that the sequester has the potential to do deep and serious damage.
* Virginia residents increasingly anxious about sequester: The Post has a nicely reported piece digging into one Virginia community’s increasing anxiety about the coming cuts. This is only a glimpse of what may be to come when the cuts actually begin to make their impact felt. What this article really drives home is that, as much as people hate government in the abstract, when specific programs are threatened people suddenly love government spending.
* And there’s real bipartisan consensus behind gay marriage: It’s good to hear that dozens of Republican officials, some of them very high profile, have signed a brief to be submitted to the Supreme Court that argues in favor of gay marriage. And yet as a whole the GOP has not evolved on this question. It’s one of the starkest tests yet of the party’s ability to adapt to the country’s changing politics and culture, since gay marriage has broad bipartisan support and is strongly embraced by young voters, a growing share of the electorate.
What else?

Florida welfare drug testing program struck down by federal appeals court

By David Ferguson/Raw Story
Republican-led efforts to drug test all recipients of public assistance were dealt a possible death blow Tuesday by a federal appeals court when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Florida’s controversial 2011 law requiring all welfare recipients and applicants to undergo drug testing. According to the Colorlines blog, the court’s decision also undermines a nearly identical law proposed by Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal (R).
The 11th Circuit Court voted unanimously to uphold the 2011 decision by an Orlando, FL court that the tests violate the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizures.
Republicans across the country have sponsored these types of bills in state legislatures, purportedly to protect children from being raised by drug-addicted parents and to stem the tide of drug use among the poor and unemployed. Aside from the testing being unconstitutional, however, that rising tide of poor and unemployed people using drugs has turned out not to exist.
During its brief life as an actively enforced law, less than 2 percent of the people who took the tests failed them. Rather than saving Florida money from its public assistance coffers, the 40 drug tests that were administered ended up costing the state $1,140. Two tests came up positive and one of those results was reversed on appeal, saving the state a total of approximately $120 for that month.
Georgia has waited for the 11th Circuit Court’s decision before implementing Gov. Deal’s program. The court has jurisdiction over Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Critics of the drug testing laws say that the court has sent a signal that Georgia’s law would not survive a court challenge.
Gerry Weber, an attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights, a group that planned to fight the Georgia law in court, said, “We are grateful to the Court for their ruling today that essentially renders Georgia’s law dead in the water.”
Randall Berg of the Florida Justice Institute and co-counsel with the ACLU said in a statement, ”The Court today affirmed that the Fourth Amendment protects everyone, including those who need temporary assistance from the government. Requiring suspicionless drug testing of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients is a slippery slope toward requiring drug testing for the receipt of any kind of government benefit, including social security, farm subsidies, and student scholarships. The line must be drawn, and the 11th Circuit did so today.”

Poll: Republicans 'Out Of Touch' And 'Extreme'

 By Ariel Edwards-Levy/Huffington Post

Some unwelcome confirmation for Republicans worried that their party needs an image overhaul: A majority of Americans views the Republican party as out of touch, too extreme and resistant to change, according to a Pew poll released Tuesday.
Sixty-two percent of adults said that Republicans were out of touch with the American people, and 52 percent that the party was too extreme. In comparison, 46 percent said that Democrats were out of touch, and 39 percent that they were too extreme.
Democrats were also viewed as slightly more likely to be looking out for the country's future -- and, by a 19-point margin, as the party more open to change.
In a lone bright spot for the GOP, while a majority viewed both parties as having strong principles, Republicans had a 6-point edge over Democrats on that measure.
Although Republicans and Democrats each got dismal marks from their opponents, the GOP owes its struggling ratings in part to discontent among its own members, about a third of whom said their party was out of touch and resistant to change. Republicans weren't, however, much more likely than Democrats to say their own party was too extreme.
Republican favorability is at a low ebb, but ratings for both parties have fallen considerably in the past decade, according to Pew.
HuffPost Pollster currently gives the Republican Party an average 31 percent favorability rating, and the Democratic party an average 46 percent rating.
Other recent polling has found that half of Republicans disapprove of their representatives in Congress, and that a slight majority of Americans say the party has moved out of the mainstream.
The Pew poll surveyed 1,504 adults, including 366 Republicans and 470 Democrats, by phone between Feb. 13 and Feb. 18.

8 Inspiring Things That Happened Since Trayvon Martin Was Tragically Killed One Year Ago Today

By Judd Legum/Think Progress
One year ago today, Trayvon Martin — an unarmed 17-year-old boy on his way home from 7-11 — was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. The murder trial is scheduled to begin this June. A separate hearing may be held in April to determine whether Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law gives Zimmerman immunity.
While nothing can make up for the events of February 26, 2012, many people have responded to the tragedy with compassion, courage and strength. Here are some of the most inspiring things that have happened over the last year.
1. 192 colleagues of Trayvon Martin’s mother donated 1,362 hours of their vacation time so she could grieve.
“Sybrina Fulton, who has worked at the Miami-Dade County housing authority for 23 years, collected $40,825 worth of donated vacation time, county records show… the Miami-Dade County Commission passed a resolution sponsored by Bruno Barreiro, Barbara Jordan and Jose “Pepe” Diaz to allow county employees to donate vacation time to Fulton…Records show 192 county employees gave Fulton some of their hours” [Miami Herald, 5/12/2012]
2. Sanford, Florida has a new police chief who has pledged to finally address “long-standing racial tensions between the police department and the African-American community.”
The police chief who decided not to charge George Zimmerman was fired. [ABC7, 2/18/2013]
3. Dozens of major companies ended their support for ALEC, the right-wing group who championed “Stand Your Ground” laws.
The companies that ended their support for the American Legislative Exchange Council include “Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Procter & Gamble, Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, Johnson & Johnson, Dell Computers, Best Buy, General Motors and Walgreens.” ALEC was also forced to end it’s “Public Safety and Election Task Force,” which advocated for “Stand Your Ground” laws around the country. At least 39 lawmakers have also ended their association with ALEC.[ThinkProgress, 4/17/2012; ThinkProgress, 8/7/2012; ThinkProgress, 5/18/2012]
4. Thousands of people peacefully gathered in Sanford, Florida to demand justice for Trayvon Martin.
[News 10, 3/22/2012]
5. A United States Congressman went on the floor of the House of Representatives in a hoodie to show solidarity with Trayvon.
Illionis Rep. Bobby Rush said, “Racial profiling has to stop Mr. Speaker. Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.” After delivering a rousing speech, he was escorted from the floor for violating decorum. [NBC News, 3/28/2012]
6. Legislation to repeal “Stand Your Ground” laws was introduced in four states.
The law was cited by the police as the reason Zimmerman was not arrested for weeks after Martin was killed. [Yahoo, 1/26/2013]
7. Students at Howard University produced this video to highlight the racial profiling of young black men.
“All young black men are not suspicious. We don’t deserve to be harassed, murdered, prosecuted or denied the protections of the justice system all because America believes that we are suspicious… Some of us have already and will eventually change the world. All are not suspicious.”
8. President Obama spoke out about Trayvon Martin in the Rose Garden.
“My main message is to the parents: If I had a son he’d look like Trayvon. I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves.” [3/23/2012]

GOP Senator Launches The Most Dishonest Attack Against Obamacare You’ve Ever Heard

By Igor Volsky/Think Progress
During a Budget Committee Hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) announced that the Affordable Care Act — which had been projected to reduce the deficit by billions over 10 years — would actually increase long-term debt by $6.2 trillion, undermining administration claims that the law would expand coverage to millions of Americans and help reign in federal spending.
“A new government report dramatically proves that the promises made assuring the nation that the largest new entitlement program in history since Medicare — the president’s health care program — would not add a dime to the long or short term debt of America was false,” Sessions said, referring to a recently released study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
“The results of this report confirm everything critics and Republicans have been saying about the health care bill and reveal the dramatic falsehoods that were used to push it to passage.” He went on:
SESSIONS: According to the GAO under a realistic set of assumptions the health care law will increase the deficit by 7/10th percent of GDP or roughly $6.2 trillion over the next 75 years. $6.2 trillion unfunded liability of the United States. In other words, the GAO reveals that the big tax increases in the bill come nowhere close to covering the massive spending.
Watch it:
How is it possible that one report — requested by Sessions — conflicts so starkly with almost all other government assessments to confirm Republican talking points about the law? It’s simple: Sessions designed it that way.
The Alabama senator asked the office to estimate would would happen if the cost containment provisions in the law — the Independent Payment Advisory Board, excise tax on high-cost plans, and reductions in Medicare payments to providers — are “phased out over time” while the coverage provisions remain. Unsurprisingly, the GAO concluded that if the portions of the law that were specifically designed to keep costs under control don’t go into effect, then the law won’t be effective in lowering health care costs. Sessions is touting the government expenditures included in the law — the affordability credits and Medicaid expansion — while ignoring its cost savings. The same report concluded that if “both the expansion of health care coverage and the full implementation and effectiveness of the cost-containment provisions” are sustained, “there was notable improvement in the longer-term outlook.”
To be sure, economists disagree on how best to implement the law’s cost containment provisions. The GAO report notes that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Office of the Actuary has found that providers will not be able to “improve their own productivity to the degree achieved by the economy in large,” proving the savings to be unsustainable. Other economists, however, contend that the actuary doesn’t score savings from preventive care and system modernization and estimate that if those factors are included, the annual growth rate in national health expenditures falls significantly.
The responses of individuals, employers, insurance companies, and Exchange administrators may be hard to predict and Congress may have to adjust the law and its cost containment mechanisms. But for a senator to design a study that purposely underplays the law’s cost controls is not only disingenuous, but also fundamentally misleading and dishonest.
A Congressional source tells ThinkProgress that including Affordable Care Act’s cost containment provisions in the analysis could generate more than $13 trillion in deficit reduction over that same 75-year period.
Page 13 of the report shows how the law’s efficiencies can lower spending on major federal health care programs in the out years: