On Sunday, The Oklahoman's editorial board ran to the defense of the conservative State Chamber of Oklahoma's forthcoming effort to politicize judicial retention races in the state. The State Chamber has created the Oklahoma Civil Justice Council, which will sponsor a controversial "zero-to-100 rating system for judges" based on how friendly, in the council's view, they are to business. Legal experts have called the judicial ranking plan "inappropriate" and an "attempt to slant...the judiciary, in favor of big business and away from the common person."
The Oklahoman staunchly defended the system on grounds that it would inform voters about judicial races, even while noting that the information the State Chamber and its "partner organizations in Oklahoma City and Tulsa" plan to provide would be biased. From The Oklahoman editorial:
The chambers' plan would give non-lawyers at least some information before casting a ballot. The rating plan is an informational campaign, just like any other in politics. Is there bias in the chambers' rating system? Sure. Just like there's bias in any report evaluating lawmakers. And just like there's bias in campaign contributions: Attorneys and businesses don't give money equally to all candidates in all races.
Furthermore, citizens who don't agree with the chambers' agenda are free to ignore their rankings -- or even determine candidate selection based on who the chambers rank as being the worst.
Too often, Oklahoma citizens must vote on judicial races in an information vacuum. The chambers' efforts would fill part of that void. We hope the information provided is relevant, credible and in context. The chambers' ratings system must be a serious and deliberative effort that doesn't criticize judges for merely upholding the law as it's written. Otherwise, they shouldn't bother with the project.
This is a curious argument for the largest newspaper of public record in the state to make. After all, if there's an "information vacuum" with regard to judicial races, The Oklahoman ought to be the one filling it. Instead, Nexis news records prior to the 2010 election indicate they've failed resoundingly at informing the Oklahoman electorate about judicial races.
Right-wing media outlets have been in full freak-out mode this week, fabricating a myth that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been using drones to spy on Midwestern ranchers. In fact, the EPA has been utilizing manned flyovers -- not drones -- to investigate potential polluters since the Bush administration, in an effort to save money and enforce clean water regulations efficiently.
For the past ten years, the EPA has conducted intermittent flyovers "to verify compliance with environmental laws on watersheds," as Reuters reported:
"EPA uses over-flights, state records and other publicly available sources of information to identify discharges of pollution," said a statement issued by the EPA's Kansas City regional office. "In no case has EPA taken an enforcement action solely on the basis of these over-flights."
EPA has for 10 years used flyovers to verify compliance with environmental laws on watersheds as a "cost-effective" tool to minimize inspection costs, according to the statement.
This article originally said that the EPA was using drones to monitor feedlots, but a representative from Senator Johanns office has alerted us that in actuality manned aircraft have been used to monitor the feedlots. We apologize for the error.
Nevertheless, right-wing commentators began falsely throwing the word "drone" into their reports about the EPA's enforcement mechanisms. For example, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly:
KELLY: You know, you gotta picture yourself, right, as one of these Midwestern farmers, because what's been in the news lately? The fact that President Obama's killed more terrorists with drones than any other president. That President Obama has a so-called "kill list." And that on that kill list, sometimes civilian casualties go as well, because if you're near an al-Qaeda terrorist, they assume if you're of an adult male age in a certain community, you also are a terrorist.
Even an American terrorist, an American al-Qaeda, was killed by a drone. So now you're in the Midwest, and you know you're not a terrorist, but nonetheless, you gotta get a little squeamish when you see a drone going overhead.
In the midst of Wisconsin recall election, Wisconsin right-wing radio host Charlie Sykes took to the airwaves to fearmonger about voter fraud and defend the presence of the King Street Patriots -- a Texas-based Tea Party group that was accused of voter intimidation during the 2010 elections -- at Wisconsin polling locations.
The King Street Patriots and their anti-voter fraud effort "True the Vote" boast ties to notorious voter fraud hucksters like James O'Keefe, Hans von Spakovsky, J. Christian Adams (who served as an attorney for True the Vote), and John Fund. The group promised to "man each and every polling location" in Wisconsin to "ensure the integrity of the election." As Talking Points Memo reported of the King Street Patriots' activity in 2010 (emphasis added):
Poll watchers in Harris County, Texas -- where a Tea Party group launched an aggressive anti-voter fraud effort -- were accused of "hovering over" voters, "getting into election workers' faces" and blocking or disrupting lines of voters who were waiting to cast their ballots as early voting got underway yesterday.
Now, TPMMuckraker has learned, the Justice Department has interviewed witnesses about the alleged intimidation and is gathering information about the so-called anti-voter fraud effort.
Harris County, the biggest county in the state, is where a Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots launched an anti-voter fraud initiative called "True the Vote," which recruited poll watchers and amped up fears over groups like the community organizing group ACORN.
Sykes attempted to whitewash the spotty history of the group, describing their work as "outstanding" and casting them as merely a "citizen group" comprised of "Americans who are concerned about voter fraud." His commentary also had the effect of ginning up the threat of voter fraud, which experts agree is not a significant problem. From his June 5 radio show on 620 WTMJ:
SYKES: In the city of Milwaukee, we have the mayor of Milwaukee, who's running for governor, who's made it absolutely clear how seriously he takes voter fraud.
TOM BARRETT [audio clip]: Well, name the name. Name the name. I'm waiting for the first name.
SYKES: There is a group that in fact would provide that name. You might remember the "Verify the Recall" folks -- this was a group, the headquarters is in Texas. They did an absolutely outstanding job of coming up and making a database that allowed people to find out who signed the Walker recall petitions. Right, remember all of that? Well, they're affiliated with a group called the King Street Patriots.
This letter, this came out yesterday. What shocked me the most, I think, about this, is that it came from Phil Walzak, Barrett for Wisconsin. It's the kind of thing that you would expect from some demented extremist like Graeme Zielinski.
"Steve, the King Street Patriots, a group of Texas extremists" -- they are, they are Americans who are concerned about voter fraud.
"Have arrived in Wisconsin. They believe that voter registration for the poor is un-American" -- flat-out lie -- "and would destroy the country." Flat-out lie.
"They have already come to Wisconsin once and intimidated recall petition signers" -- lie -- "and now they've dropped so-called election observers into poll locations across the state."
Yes, Mayor Barrett, because they are doing the job that you refuse to do. And the mayor of Milwaukee, instead of saying, "Hey, we've got nothing to hide, come in and observe," puts out a letter on his own campaign stationery smearing this citizen group.
"Our voter protection team is on alert. We need an additional $100,000 before tomorrow to make sure every last vote is counted. After emailing threats and racial slurs ahead of the 2010 election failed to stop courageous voters from turning out to vote in Houston, the King Street Patriots showed up at the polls and intimidated voters directly."
Tom Barrett is lying.
The right-wing website Breitbart.com is promising to "shine a light" on the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) in the coming days, a campaign that comes as corporate sponsors and lawmakers flee the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Media should be cautioned that any efforts to compare the two organizations is without validity, given their contrasting missions, standards of transparency, degrees of corporate influence, and ideologies.
Denver Post columnist and local radio host Mike Rosen drew criticism this week when he questioned the citizenship status of President Obama. Media Matters looks back at his long record of extreme and hateful rhetoric.
Despite serious legal questions surrounding the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy and Muslim surveillance program, the editorial board of the New York Daily News has been an unquestioning defender of the NYPD.
"You think rising cell phone thefts are bad? Wait till car thefts soar back over 100,000 a year. Wait till you start hearing about mushrooms and learn that the word refers to children who have been struck by stray bullets."
So opined the editorial board of the New York Daily News in response to public scrutiny of the New York Police Department's "stop-and-frisk" policy -- a controversial program that last year alone resulted in over 685,000 stops of primarily black and Latino residents (only 12% of persons stopped were charged with a crime). This week, Manhattan Federal Court Judge Shira Scheindlin granted class action status to a group of victims of the policy who are bringing suit against the city for what they argue is a discriminatory and unconstitutional practice. The Daily News, as well as the New York Post, viewed the ruling -- which they inexplicably believe risks the existence of the "stop-and-frisk" practice altogether -- as nothing less than life-threatening.
In the aforementioned editorial, titled "How to kill New York," the Daily News editorial board ominously predicted that If the program is reformed, 'the body count will start rising.'
The NY Post's editors weighed in as well, attacking outspoken critics of the program whom the editors say "won't rest until the murder rate skyrockets":
They're playing with fire -- all of them.
Indeed, if they do manage to weaken the program, the blood of new crime victims will be on their hands.
So: Will the city once again become the Crime Capital of the World?
Alas, so it seems.
The Union Leader, New Hampshire's most-read newspaper, published an editorial yesterday urging the state House of Representatives and the Governor to approve SB 289, a bill passed by the state senate that would require voters to show photo identification in order to cast a ballot. SB 289, the Union Leader editors argued, is necessary to protect the integrity of New Hampshire's electoral results from the corrupting danger of rampant voter fraud. Their evidence? The work of discredited liar and undercover videographer James O'Keefe, whose attempted investigation of "voter fraud" in New Hampshire last January drew rebukes from election law experts who believed his scheme may have broken the law.
The Union Leader wrote:
Last year, Gov. John Lynch vetoed a voter ID bill, proclaiming, "There is no voter fraud problem in New Hampshire." This year he cannot make that claim with a straight face. The Project Veritas sting on Primary Day in January showed how easy it is to obtain a ballot fraudulently in New Hampshire.
Project Veritas, which is run by O'Keefe, is a surprising source for a mainstream publication to cite, given his history of lies, deception and hyper-partisanship. More importantly, O'Keefe's "sting" in New Hampshire didn't come close to establishing that voter fraud has been committed in New Hampshire at all, much less on any scale that would affect the outcome of an election.
In fact, the specter of a voter fraud epidemic is largely a figment of right-wing imagination. In a 2007 report, NYU's Brennan Center for Justice found that allegations of widespread voter fraud are often exaggerated and that many claims of voter fraud "simply do not pan out." According to the Justice Department, prosecutions for voter fraud are generally few and far between. Even conservative commentator and voter ID proponent Hans von Spakovsky has admitted that there is no "massive fraud in American elections."
Voter ID laws do, however, have the potential to strip fundamental constitutional rights away from many otherwise eligible citizens, especially students, the elderly, and racial minorities. The Brennan Center estimates voter ID laws could exclude millions of eligible voters:
Ahead of the 2012 elections, a wave of legislation tightening restrictions on voting has suddenly swept across the country. More than 5 million Americans could be affected by the new rules already put in place this year -- a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.
Unfortunately, the Union Leader -- and legislators in New Hampshire -- are arguing over how strict the law should be, not whether requiring photo identification is a bad idea for the people of New Hampshire.
In the wake of President Obama's declaration of support for marriage equality and the passage of North Carolina's anti-gay marriage amendment, CNN broadcast a variety of segments focusing on the historic implications of this week's events. Three of CNN's most recognizable faces hosted Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss the issue of same-sex marriage.
Although Piers Morgan, Wolf Blitzer, and Soledad O'Brien failed to identify Perkins as a hate group leader, they did challenge him on several of his anti-gay talking points. O'Brien and Morgan were particularly assertive in challenging his failed logic.
Watch Perkins being interviewed by CNN's Morgan on Tuesday:
Watch Perkins being interviewed by CNN's Blitzer on Wednesday:
Watch Perkins being interviewed by CNN's O'Brien on Thursday:
Hernon Graddick, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), published a column Thursday criticizing CNN's decision to welcome the hate group leader, arguing that the media needs to do a better job of providing context for Perkins' appearances:
[W]ith a wealth of political thinkers, analysts and strategists to go to -- why has CNN turned to Tony Perkins three times in the last few days to represent the "other side?" He was on with Piers Morgan Tuesday night to talk about the vote in North Carolina. He appeared with Wolf Blitzer Wednesday evening to talk about the President's support for marriage equality, and then was interviewed by Soledad O'Brien Thursday morning on the same topic.
All of this is fine, as long as Perkins is put into the proper context. Which he sort-of was by Morgan and O'Brien, but Blitzer didn't even come close.
Here's the crux of the problem -- and the exact reason why GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project was born. Tony Perkins and others of his ilk cannot be used to exemplify those who simply oppose marriage equality. CNN is more than welcome to interview him on the issue of marriage equality, of course. His is unquestionably one of the loudest voices in the nation speaking about the issue.
But when Perkins gets interviewed, a responsible journalist needs to tell the audience exactly who Perkins is speaking for. Based on his own statements -- Tony Perkins represents people who believe supporting LGBT equality is akin to being a terrorist. Who believe marriage equality is the same as bestiality. Who say that gay people are "vile," "hateful," "spiteful" "pawns of the enemy." Tony Perkins does not represent people who oppose marriage equality. Tony Perkins represents those who oppose LGBT people -- period.
If CNN wants that side represented in this discussion, then Perkins is absolutely the right man for the job. But they need to make it clear to the audience that that's what he's there for. And by not doing so, they have not told the whole story.
On Thursday, MSNBC's Chris Matthews demonstrated a good example of how cable news hosts should handle Perkins when he appears on their shows.
Georgia media have been silent as members of ALEC in Georgia's legislature have successfully pushed through a version of ALEC's Charter Schools Act, which would create a state-controlled board with the power to establish and fund charter schools over local opposition. A Media Matters analysis found that while Georgia media have frequently written about the bills, they have completely overlooked ALEC's influence in the debate.