TPM Cafe: Opinion

Amidst the stories of nationwide protests in response to the grand jury decisions in the Mike Brown and Eric Garner shootings, actor Mark Wahlberg’s request to have his decades-old criminal record expunged is poorly timed, to say the least. But Wahlberg’s story nicely exposes a concept that's sometimes hard to pin down: white privilege in America.

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Since 2011, hundreds of anti-abortion legislative bills have been introduced and passed in the state legislatures across the country. They seek to regulate abortion in all kinds of creative ways, from bans on providing abortion via telemedicine, to mandating that clinics have local hospital admitting privileges, to requiring in-person followups for patients two weeks after their medical abortion. They focus on details like room temperature, door width, and scrub and locker room setups for abortion clinics.

These TRAP bills, or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, have all been drafted with the same purpose. The legislation isolates the medical act of purposefully terminating a pregnancy and requires it to have a completely different and unnecessary set of regulations and standards than any other medical procedure, regardless of whether the other procedures are more or less dangerous, common or invasive.

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#ICantBreathe. Actually, I can’t watch the videos.

I can’t look at the photographs without tensing and tearing up. I can’t put my hands up because my arms are so tired. And I am shot. Through the heart. Through the head. Through the soul. There have been so many people back to back, and there always are. The past few months have been different, though. The photographs and videos have circulated through social and traditional media. Images of the last moments of a father’s life. Of a son’s life. Of a child at play. Children with toys that are as American as apple pie. Their last moments, captured, witnessed, seen, shared with the world.

And here is the thing. These images aren’t new. They are as American as super-sized menu items. The skeleton in our closet has been kept in the historical record of lynching postcards, and shows that we’ve been here before. The only new thing is technology and our reaction to it.

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One of the cars parked on the streets near my house in Washington, D.C. has a magnet on the side reading: "Stop killing our black men. Jesus loves them and we need them." This has been a terrible year for police brutality against African-Americans.

Except it hasn't. Because before Eric Garner and Michael Brown, there was Kimani Gray. And Kendrec McDade. And before that Rodney King. And so many others. That magnet has been on that car in my neighborhood for years—as long as I've lived here. More African-Americans will be killed by American police officers before it is removed.

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Of the many disturbing details in Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s Rolling Stone expose of the poor administrative response to sexual assault reports at University of Virginia, one detail is shaping up to be the most controversial: Erdely’s accusation that the school used a soft-handed, even feminist-sounding approach to make the rape accusations disappear. Focusing on Dean Nicole Eramo, head of UVA's Sexual Misconduct Board, Erdely lays out a pattern wherein victims who report are given no real guidance, on the grounds that it might seem too pressuring, and, as a result, most choose not to report. Erdely suggests that, well-meaning as the neutral approach may be, the result is “coddling the victim into doing nothing.”

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It’s 20-20 hindsight time for pols and pundits, so naturally we are hearing a lot of woulda-shoulda-coulda about the Democratic Party. Never mind that the last election was a second-term midterm with a crazy-positive landscape for the GOP: The defeat was totally avoidable, we are asked to believe, if only Barack Obama and/or the Democratic Party had behaved differently!

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It seems we’ve been getting this Pope Francis guy all wrong. A pope who rejects an "economy of exclusion" and gives heartburn to disciples of Reagan by challenging the Gospel of Trickle Down would really just prefer to raise a bubbly champagne toast to those beneficent Koch brothers. In a recent Washington Post essay that doubles as a love letter to the billionaire industrialists, two wealthy Catholic philanthropists find the pope a helpful prop for pushing hackneyed arguments about poverty, markets and the role of government.

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One of the most persistent issues surrounding abortion—and reproductive rights in general—is that of stigma. Stigma is everywhere you look in the abortion debate; it influences every talking point of the anti-choice movement but also crops up in conversations among people that consider themselves more neutral or even pro-choice when it comes to abortion rights. “Sure, I support abortion, but women shouldn’t use it as birth control.” “Abortion’s fine, but only if a woman just has one.” “Well, as long as you have an abortion in the first trimester, I support it. But after that it’s wrong.” Does the judgment inherent in all three of these statements, and countless others that even ostensibly pro-choice people make, stem from stigma? Or does the stigma about abortion make it easier to pass such judgments?

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In 1620, searching for a place to practice their dissident religion in peace, a small group of English separatists sailed to the wilderness coast of America. They were helped by local Indians, who shared with them a great feast comprised of native foods: turkey, cornbread, pumpkin, cranberries. The Indians taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn and squash together with a fish placed in the soil to encourage robust growth; the colony survived and prospered. Jump cut to the Boston Tea Party, Concord and Lexington, and the modern world’s first successful experiment in democracy.

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This Black Friday, workers are striking at 1,600 Walmart locations for a $15 wage and the end of workplace abuses in a series of strikes. But at the same time, these rights are being undermined, in a legislative chamber miles away, with little input from workers. A new Demos report exposes the increasing political involvement of big retail, and how retailers use the political system to undermine worker rights.

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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