Liberal, Irreverent

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

People For the American Way on SCOTUS decision on Ricci v. DeStefano

a note from People For the American Way I think is important to bring up:

Sotomayor and her panel colleagues were bound by longstanding
precedent and federal law. They applied the law without regard to
their personal views and unanimously affirmed the district court
ruling. To do anything but would have been judicial activism.

The full Second Circuit backed up the panel, which came as no
surprise. Nearly ten years earlier a Second Circuit panel --
consisting of three GOP nominees -- reached the same conclusion in a
similar case (Hayden v. County of Nassau).

When a case virtually identical to Ricci came before the Sixth Circuit
-- Oakley v. Memphis -- a panel rejected the plaintiffs' claims and
affirmed the district court ruling. Notably, they did so in an
unpublished summary order, and one of the three judges was
conservative Bush nominee Richard Allen Griffin.

In other words, Sotomayor is anything but an outlier. She and the
seven other federal judges who decided Ricci and Oakley at the
district and circuit levels were unanimous in determining that
precedent and federal law required the rejection of the suits.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

MediaMatters: The crazy world of Michael Savage

The crazy world of Michael Savage

This week,'s Ron Moore reported that Savage (née Weiner), the nation's third-most-listened-to talk radio host, vowed to "retaliate" against Media Matters for America by posting photos and "pertinent information" about staff on his website. Seriously. You can listen to Savage's disturbing words for yourself.

The comments led Ed Schultz, host of MSNBC's The Ed Show, to discuss the right-wing fringe talker's attacks in his appropriately titled "Psycho Talk" segment. Schultz declared Savage "is pinning a 'Wanted' sign on employees at Media Matters."

As Huffington Post political reporter Jason Linkins put it, "What's strange about this is that Media Matters has been making the case for some time now that right-wing voices have been ramping up rhetoric that specifically urges violent acts and intimidation. So now, Savage is talking about a running a web-stalking campaign against them? Hmmm. I wonder what sort of conclusions a person might draw from that?"

Media Matters responded to Savage, posting a video on YouTube that juxtaposes the seemingly rational face the host put on a during recent CNN interview with screeching audio clips from his own nationally syndicated radio program, including his threats against Media Matters' staff. The video concludes with on-screen text stating "We're Still Listening."

That night on his show, Savage dug in deeper, telling listeners that he's getting "tax returns for Media Matters." Of Media Matters' staff, Savage also repeated his vow to "expose not only their names and their pictures, but also how much money they make for being the good Stalinists that they are."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Did ABC/WaPo poll stack the deck against public plan?

Did ABC/WaPo poll stack the deck against public plan?

June 24, 2009 8:49 am ET by Jamison Foser

ABC and the Washington Post has released a new poll that is sure to get a great deal of attention, as opponents of a public health care plan will use it to claim that the public doesn't really support such a plan. Many reporters will, no doubt, interpret it the same way. But the poll's actual wording appears to stack the deck against a public plan.

Here's how the Post described the poll results:

Survey questions that equate the public option approach with the popular, patient-friendly Medicare system tend to get high approval, as do ones that emphasize the prospect of more choices. But when framed with an explicit counterargument, the idea receives a more tepid response. In the new Post-ABC poll, 62 percent support the general concept, but when respondents were told that meant some insurers would go out of business, support dropped sharply, to 37 percent.

So, it sounds like the ABC/Post poll asked whether people support a public option like the "patient-friendly Medicare system," then asked if they still support a public option if it meant some insurers would go out of business, right? The Washington Post presents this as framing the question "with an explicit counterargument."

But that isn't really what the poll did. Here's the actual wording of the two questions:

21. Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans? (IF SUPPORT) Would you rather have that plan run by a government agency, or run by an independent organization with government funding and oversight?

21a. (IF SUPPORT) What if having the government create a new health insurance plan made many private health insurers go out of business because they could not compete? In that case would you support or oppose creating a government-run health insurance plan?

Note that 21 does not actually include an argument in favor of a public plan. It doesn't indicate that a public option could be better and cheaper than private insurance. It does not link a public plan to "the popular, patient-friendly Medicare system," as the Post's write-up implied. But 21a does offer an argument against the public plan -- that "many" private insurers might go out of business.

The Post's write-up suggests that the poll shows what the American people think when presented with an arguement for the public plan and an argument against it. In fact, it merely shows what people think when they hear only an argument against it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

MediaMatters: Right-wing media and the fringe: A growing history of violence (and denial)

Right-wing media and the fringe: A growing history of violence (and denial

This week, the country's attention was captured by the horrific shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, allegedly by James W. von Brunn, an 88-year-old man with ties to white supremacist and anti-Semitic organizations. The fatal shooting came just two months after an April 7 Department of Homeland Security report detailing potential increases in right-wing extremism.

As Media Matters for America documented, the DHS report was immediately and vehemently rejected by numerous conservative commentators, such as Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, and David Asman, who portrayed it as an illegitimate and politically motivated assault on conservatives. (Media Matters Senior Fellow Karl Frisch puts the attacks in even broader perspective here.)

Following the Holocaust Memorial Museum attack, these commentators faced criticism for their earlier dismissiveness. Some have since unconvincingly (and in the case of Joe Scarborough, inaccurately) defended their past assessment, and a handful of reporters and analysts are still engaging in falsehoods and inconsistencies in criticizing the DHS report. But on Fox News, Shepard Smith took a different position -- for which he was attacked by conservatives -- saying that the report "was a warning to us all. And it appears now that they were right."

The day before the Holocaust Memorial Museum attack, Media Matters Senior Fellow Eric Boehlert wrote that Fox News and its hosts "will have more right-wing vigilantism to explain." He added that "militia-style vigilante rhetoric has become a cornerstone of the conservative media movement in America, and it's now proudly championed by Fox News on a nearly hourly basis." (He also appeared on CNN this week.)

While right-wing media are certainly not legally culpable for any recent attacks, they are responsible for promoting a culture of fear, paranoia, and violence that is anti-government in the extreme -- a culture in which extremists, including von Brunn and Richard Poplawski, who fatally shot three Pittsburgh police officers, were apparently immersed. Poplawski was convinced that the Obama administration was going to take away his guns. Even though no evidence of such a policy exists, right-wing commentators and news organizations made the claim repeatedly before the shooting and have continued to do so since.

Predictably, conservative media figures responded to the museum shooting by attempting to shift attention away from themselves and onto political liberals and even President Obama himself. On June 10, the day of the museum shooting, financial analyst and radio host Jim Lacamp said on Fox News that "we have an administration that's really done a lot of class warfare, a lot of class-baiting. And so, it sets the stage for social unrest." That same day, conservative Tammy Bruce wrote that the Obama administration's "increasing anti-Israel rhetoric and the pandering to the Jew-hating world Arab world ... encourages all the beasts among us." published an op-ed, cited on Friday by Michael Savage, claiming that Obama "is most certainly creating a climate of hate against" Jews. Colorado radio host Bob Newman even raised questions about whether Obama's recent visit to a concentration camp, or his statement about Israeli settlements, were factors in the shooting.

But as always, the most virulent reality-denier was Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh claimed that von Brunn "is a leftist if anything." He said that Obama is "ramping up hatred for Israel" and that "anti-Jew rhetoric comes from the American left." He claimed that MSNBC broadcasts "hate 24/7." Despite the right wing's repeated use of violent, revolutionary rhetoric, Limbaugh said that it was actually Obama who "thrives and needs chaos" to succeed. And in response to Shepard Smith, he remarked that the "claim that the atmosphere is somehow more violently anti-Obama is simply preposterous."

Indeed, Smith's remarks were the exception for the right. Despite its love of fearmongering, Fox News spent the 24 hours after the von Brunn shooting downplaying it. And on his broadcast that night, Bill O'Reilly, who hypocritically and incorrectly criticized the media for a supposed lack of coverage after the shooting death of Army recruiter Pvt. William Long, and who stokes the anger of viewers whenever it suits him politically, barely mentioned the shooting and instead featured what he called a "very important story" on gay penguins. "Do they wear tight T-shirts?" he asked, laughing. During the two shows after the shooting, Hannity barely mentioned it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Supreme Hypocrisy


June 12, 2009
by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, Ryan Powers, and Ian Millhise


Supreme Hypocrisy

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced this week that Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings will begin on July 13, timing that closely mirrors Chief Justice John Roberts' Senate confirmation schedule. Therefore, Sotomayor's hearings will start 48 days after her nomination was announced; Roberts received a hearing after 51 days. The Chief Justice was confirmed 72 days after his nomination, even though senators were distracted from reviewing his record when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. The 72nd day after Sotomayor's nomination will be Aug. 6, the day before Congress' summer recess is supposed to begin. Yet despite Leahy's attempt to achieve parity between President Obama's and President Bush's nominees, Senate conservatives immediately complained that Sotomayor is receiving preferential treatment.

Initially, conservative complaints that Sotomayor cannot be confirmed in a timely manner were heavy on overblown rhetoric and light on substance. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed that obstructing Sotomayor is necessary to prevent a "situation like they did with Guantanamo." A GOP press release suggested that senators should review each of Sotomayor's 3,000 decisions at the pace of six decisions per day -- a rate that would not allow Sotomayor's hearings to begin until 2011. Of course, during Justice Alito's confirmation, Judiciary Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said that "we don't need to read everything." By mid-week, conservatives were claiming that Sotomayor herself is at fault for creating the need for a delay because she was not forthcoming in her disclosures to the Senate. In a letter that closely resembles a press release by the right-wing Judicial Confirmation Network, all of the Senate Judiciary Committee's seven Republicans claimed that Sotomayor hid key documents from the Senate and made conflicting statements that must be resolved before they could consider her nomination. The letter's claims, however, dwell upon trivial distinctions, apply newly invented rules to Sotomayor, or otherwise demand that she complete irrelevant or even impossible tasks before her nomination may be considered. At one point, for example, the letter asks Sotomayor to "clarify" why she has at times referred to herself as a former "vice president" of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund, and at other times referred to herself as the former "First Vice President" of the same organization. At another point, the letter criticizes Sotomayor for failing to turn over copies of the law review articles she edited as a law student, even though neither of Bush's nominees were required to disclose the very same information. Three paragraphs of the letter are devoted to demands that Sotomayor uncover decades-old files from her career as a litigator, even though many of these files may no longer exist. Moreover, the senators' new demands come despite the fact that Sotomayor already provided a stunningly detailed record of her career to the Senate. Her 173-page questionnaire and 130 page appendix far exceed the level of disclosure that was required from either of Bush's nominees. Roberts's questionnaire was 83 pages long; Alito's a mere 64.

The right's disingenuous claim that Sotomayor's nomination must be obstructed are far from novel. Indeed, Sotomayor is only the most recent of Obama's well-qualified nominees to receive the same shoddy treatment. Consider Dawn Johnsen, an Indiana law professor who has been nominated to head the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), and who may be the single most qualified attorney in the world to lead that office. A former acting head of the OLC during the Clinton Administration, Johnsen was among the most outspoken opponents of Bush's pro-torture policies. Nevertheless, Senate conservatives have successfully prevented her nomination from receiving a floor vote, often citing her pro-choice views for justification even though OLC's role has little or nothing to do with abortion. Obama nominee Harold Koh, former dean of the Yale Law School and a leading scholar of international law, has received similar treatment since he was nominated to be the State Department's chief legal adviser. Although an op-ed in the New York Post claimed that Koh wants to apply fundamentalist Islamic law in U.S. courts and anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly called him "too dangerous for America," Koh has received ringing endorsements from mainstream progressives and conservatives alike, including Yale Law School's conservative Federalist Society. Nevertheless, Koh's nomination has yet to receive a vote. Perhaps the most bizarre example of conservative obstructionism, however, is the Senate's failure to confirm Judge David Hamilton, President Obama's nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. A distinguished federal trial judge who has been endorsed by conservatives ranging from Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) to the president of the Indiana chapter of the Federalist Society, Hamilton's nomination is nevertheless endangered by a possible filibuster. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) announced that he would filibuster Hamilton because Hamilton allegedly banned Christian prayers in the Indiana state legislature, but endorsed allowing legislative sessions to be opened with an Islamic blessing. In reality, Hamilton issued two opinions, one applying a Supreme Court decision that bans officially-sanctioned prayers which prefer one religious sect over another, the other holding that permissible non-sectarian prayers may be offered in a foreign language such as Arabic.

Not so long ago, Inhofe sang a very different tune. In 2003, when Bush was still president, Inhofe proclaimed that filibustering a nominee is not only "wrong" but even "contrary to our oath to support and defend the Constitution." McConnell claimed -- falsely -- that judicial filibusters were "unprecedented," a claim echoed by Sessions. Indeed, Senate Republicans were so convinced that Bush's nominees were above scrutiny, they even invented something called the "Ginsburg Rule," which provides that Bush's judges could ignore any question they didn't want to answer during their confirmation hearing. Moreover, conservatives' strident claims were matched by strong-arm tactics such as the "nuclear option," a maneuver that would have eliminated judicial filibusters altogether. Democrats relented, even allowing a judge who believes that basic labor protections such as the minimum wage, maximum hour, and child labor laws are unconstitutional to be confirmed to the nation's second-highest court. Now that they are in the minority, conservatives suddenly think that their own rules shouldn't apply. The only remaining question is whether the majority will allow a dwindling group of right-wing senators to impose such a double standard.


Based on allegations by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Republicans have been suggesting that the Obama administration was putting America at risk by having the FBI read Miranda rights to detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rogers claimed that this policy would lead to U.S. military forces reading Miranda rights to terrorists captured on the battlefield. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) criticized the policy, saying, "They're going back to a law enforcement mentality. ... This dramatically changes the way that our frontline forces work." The policy has also sparked outrage in right-wing circles, where they say that this is another example of the Obama administration coddling terrorists. The reading of Miranda rights, however, happens only on limited occasions and does not occur on the battlefield. It is also part of standard Department of Justice protocol continued from the Bush administration, which also read Miranda rights to select detainees. "In order to preserve the quality of evidence obtained, there has been no overall policy change with respect to detainees," said DOJ spokesman Matt Miller. Gen. David Petraeus explained the effect of the policy on the battlefield at a conference hosted by the Center for a New American Security: "These are cases where they are looking at potential criminal charges. We're comfortable with this."