TPM Cafe: Opinion

There’s a tendency in conservative circles to argue that racism basically ended in 1964 and that any ongoing racial tensions or racial disparities must therefore be the result of some failure on the part of black people to act right. Bill Kristol, Mika Brzezinski, and Joe Scarborough decided to use their time on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" yesterday to cast around some reason to blame black people for the choice of a bunch of white OU frat boys to yell blatantly racist things. The problem, they decided, could not be that some white people continue to be racist. No, the problem is rap music and its dirty words.

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Last week the student government at the University of California-Irvine passed a misguided resolution banning the display of all flags, including the American flag, from some public areas on the campus. The resolution said that "[t[he American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism," adding that flags "construct paradigms of conformity and sets homogenized standards."

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The first time I saw it, I got chills and my eyes watered. Maybe it was the rose-colored quality of most Disney movies, or the musical score that swelled dramatically during each touching moment. More likely, the two-minute trailer for McFarland, USA, which hit theaters last month, affected me on such a visceral level because of the Mexican characters.

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One of the regular features of our contemporary political life is conservative complaints about being victims of “government oppression.” You know what I mean: having to pay taxes to help “losers” is an outrage. Having to buy health insurance is tyranny. Not being allowed to discriminate against gay people is a denial of religious liberty. Letting employees enrolled in government-subsidized health care plans choose types of contraceptives you don’t approve of is complicity in murder. Not being able to expect the IRS to rubber-stamp your application for tax-exempt status for your political group so you can hide your donors is living under fascism, making one fear jackboots kicking down doors in the night. No wonder the most terrifying fear harbored by many of these folk is that Big Government will take away the guns they keep under their pillows!

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Yesterday, the Indianapolis Star obtained an email sent by a medical manager of a VA clinic that appeared to mock veterans' mental health issues. This news is a reminder that while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be winding down, the struggle of vets to deal with the emotional consequences of their service is ongoing—and so are the counterproductive reactions they encounter from those charged with helping them.

More and more vets are writing about their experiences re-deploying back to civilian life. One figure often in the background of these memoirs is the therapist or other caregiver trying to help. These therapists are essential to the healing process—and our ability to properly train them is crucial.

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With allegations of embellishment or outright lies about his work as a journalist falling out of the sky like acid rain, countless talking heads have called into question the character of iconic cable network news anchor Bill O’Reilly.

I don’t need to take their word for it: I am the author of The Man Who Would Not Shut Up: The Rise of Bill O’Reilly.

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Hello again from the New Jersey Corruption Desk. Today we’re working on a new story about a story, first broken on CNN, that the Department of Justice’s public integrity section has gotten approval from Attorney General Eric Holder to prepare indictments against Sen. Bob Menendez, the senior senator from New Jersey.

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The United States is facing a public health crisis. No, not some new measles epidemic or another new or resurgent infectious disease. A more fundamental crisis is unfolding because of declining trust in our public health system.

The federal government's lead public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is responsible for protecting people from international and interstate health threats. The CDC also collects public health data, does research, and provides technical support and guidance to state and local governments. To succeed in its many vital tasks, the CDC must be trusted as a rigorous, nonpartisan resource by the American people. But, unfortunately, over the past year, the agency has experienced a sharp decline in public trust.

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Reasonable people can disagree on whether there’s a 21st century “war on women,” and if so what roles forces such as the GOP, the Christian Right and mass media have played in it. But if we take the historical view, there’s no denying that mainstream American society has consistently attacked activist women, those who dared to push beyond the traditional views or definitions of their era and work for something alternative and better.

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Stop me when this sounds familiar, but there’s a new story brewing in Trenton involving the governor’s office and allegations of improper influence.

This time, it involves an eleven-year-long case against ExxonMobil that Chris Christie’s administration is trying to settle for $255 million. That sum, announced today by acting attorney general John Hoffman, is less than 3% of the $8.9 billion New Jersey officials had long sought from the petroleum giant after the company was accused and found guilty of polluting two wetlands sites in Bayonne and Linden, New Jersey. News of a much-reduced negotiated settlement figure of $250 million, brokered between state lawyers and attorneys representing Exxon, broke on Friday. Today, the number was adjusted to $255 million and lauded by Hoffman as evidence that the Christie administration had “aggressively pushed the case to trial.” It was, he said, “the result of long fought settlement negotiations that pre-dated and post-dated the trial.”

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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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