Reuters blog archive
from Nicholas Wapshott:
President Obama’s remarks about what it is to be an African-American in America have disturbed those who prefer to believe our nation is color-blind. That was always a myth, like the notion we are a “melting pot” of nationalities, all heaving together toward a common end. Even in New York, the most cosmopolitan of cities, racial groups tend to keep to themselves and differences survive across generations.
The president’s description of how it feels to be a black man in America -- routinely suspected of being a criminal, followed around stores by security guards, hearing car doors lock as he crosses the street, watching women clutch their purses tight in elevators -- chime with similar experiences related by others set apart from the rest by dint of their skin color.
You can hear the same sorry stories from black visitors to America, shocked to discover that here, far from being a true democracy where everyone is treated the same, it is common for taxi drivers to ignore them, or bars to serve them last, or for public officials to treat them badly simply because they are black. This soft apartheid in America has been brought to the surface by the death of Trayvon Martin. It is a salutary fact that even the most powerful man in the world is treated with suspicion in his own land simply because he is black. After 50 years, Rosa Parks has yet to finish her journey.
There are black racists, too. The most virulent racist I have ever heard was a hostile young black Baptist minister in Harlem convinced that America is run by a secret cabal of Jews. But the president’s comments have primarily exposed deep fissures among conservatives. In all conservative economic theory, from Adam Smith to Friedrich Hayek and beyond, the market operates without prejudice. The price curve has no third dimension of race. In practice, however, many advocates for the free market believe it is legitimate to treat people differently because of their color.
from The Great Debate:
Everyone looks to their president for protection against calamity, and black voters are no different. One little discussed fact of the Obama presidency is how it has been a singularly disastrous economic period for the first black president’s most loyal constituency: black people.
This has led to a running joke in families like mine where, nonetheless, black people cannot utter a word of criticism about him. They love him unconditionally.
from The Great Debate:
Now that a Florida jury has found George Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter, people across the nation are demanding federal prosecution. But this public debate has been clouded by misinformation about the possibility and scope of federal charges.
President Obama’s powerful comments on Friday helped put this matter in perspective. The state prosecution deserves a strong measure of deference. The federal government must, however, conduct a thorough investigation and undertake the rigorous analysis necessary to ensure that the federal interest in punishing civil rights violations is vindicated to the greatest extent possible.
from The Great Debate:
Now the jury has spoken on the question that riveted the public and filled cable news to the gills: Whether George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, murdered a black teenager Trayvon Martin because he happened to be a black kid in the wrong place at the wrong time and in the wrong outfit.
It is hardly a mystery why this tragedy exploded into the trial of the year. It was not just about Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence. It was about the state of race relations in America -- about our racial guilt or innocence.
from Nicholas Wapshott:
Will it prevent racial profiling in the future? No. Will it keep guns out of the hands of reckless and feckless flakes? No. Will it ensure that from now on gun licenses are administered more closely? No. Above all, will it prevent such needless killings from happening again? Certainly not.
from Stories I’d like to see:
Selling artificial knees, analyzing the Trayvon Martin trial, and Random House cancels Paula Deen’s cookbook
When Madison Avenue pitches artificial knees, do we all pay?
Americans -- personally, or through private insurance or Medicare -- spend more than $12 billion a year on artificial knees and hips. That’s more than Hollywood takes in at the box office.
A TV ad I’ve seen recently for artificial knees and hips made by Smith & Nephew, a British medical technology company, may help explain why we spend so much on these implants. It is not the kind of ho-hum ad we now see so regularly, urging us to seek relief from a disease we’ve never heard of by taking a pill with so many side effects it takes the pitchman half the air time to recite them. Instead, Smith & Nephew’s ads look more like a pitch for Nike.
from Bernd Debusmann:
File this under the rubric Only in America – sticks, poles and water guns will be banned from the centre of Tampa at the Republican Party’s national convention next August. Guns, however, will be allowed. The logic behind that is drawn from the U.S. constitution. How so?
The constitution’s second amendment protects the right of citizens to “keep and bear arms” and that is taken to mean firearms. Sticks, poles and water guns do not enjoy constitutional protection. That, in a nutshell, is the argument the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, used to turn down a request by the mayor of Tampa for guns to be kept away, just for four days, from an event forecast by the organizers to draw at least 50,000 people to the city.
from The Great Debate:
For many years, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been a particularly influential organization that has promoted the agenda of corporate America and the political right in state legislatures nationwide, but about which the public has known little. ALEC’s members, who work together to draft model bills, consist of state legislators, who pay little to join, and corporations and trade associations, who pay hefty membership fees. These fees purchase influence over ALEC’s agenda and access to lawmakers. Because ALEC’s issue-areas are quite broad – voter IDs, consumer protection, healthcare, education, the environment and guns, to name a few – not every ALEC bill connects to a particular company’s financial interests. Until now, associating with ALEC’s range of issues seems not to have been much of a problem for most companies, well worth the payoff of having their favored bills promoted. That’s why the stream of recent defections of some of ALEC’s highest-profile corporate members – McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Mars, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Intuit and Kraft – has been so extraordinary.
The principal trigger, of course, has been the taint surrounding ALEC’S “Stand Your Ground” laws, the statute at the heart of the controversy over George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin. The business downside of associating with an organization pushing a law that seemingly turns a criminal perpetrator into a lawful executioner has apparently become too much for these companies, thanks to pressure from the civil rights and consumer community. That’s a good thing. But as we focus on Stand Your Ground laws, we shouldn’t lose sight of the breadth of ALEC’s damage around the country. In fact, some of the wider harm can be found in other parts of this very statute. This law does not just protect perpetrators. It is also a direct assault on crime victims themselves. Specifically, buried in ALEC’s Stand Your Ground laws – on the books in some form in about half the states in the U.S. – is a chilling measure that confers absolute civil immunity on perpetrators who successfully avoid arrest and prosecution under this law, stripping crime victims of their legal rights and access to the courts. This is important, because often in cases where the criminal justice system fails, families turn to the civil courts for help by bringing a civil suit against the perpetrators directly. This law blatantly tears away their constitutional rights.
from Unstructured Finance:
By Matthew Goldstein
The shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen in Florida, has evoked a lot of debate about race in America and the nation’s attitudes to what it means to be a minority.
There’s been a good deal written that major media organizations were slow to react to this tragic story, in part because there simply aren’t enough minority voices on staff. This point was highlighted recently in a story in The New York Times
from Jack Shafer:
Reuters columnist Jack Shafer will discuss Gannett's response to journalists who supported the Gov. Scott Walker recall in Wisconsin, as well as how ESPN handled the Trayvon Martin situation, specifically by dropping the ban that prevented its staff from publishing photos of themselves wearing hoodies.
The chat, hosted by Poynter, will feature feedback from Twitter users who submit their analysis and commentary by using the hashtag #poynterchats.