Fox News' Neil Cavuto refused to hear arguments in favor of expanded infrastructure investments, instead claiming that revenue for necessary improvements will be lost to fraud or waste. Cavuto has repeatedly argued against and downplayed the necessity of infrastructure spending, revealing his misunderstanding of the the federal budgeting process and the current state of American infrastructure.
On the December 3 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, Cavuto engaged in a contentious interview with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) regarding the congressman's proposal to increase the federal gas tax as a means of financing necessary investments in roads, bridges, and other forms of public infrastructure around the country.
On the December 4 edition of Your World, Cavuto returned to the previous night's argument in his opening segment. He was joined in his heated criticism of infrastructure investments by libertarian pundit Matt Welch, editor-in-chief of Reason magazine. Both Cavuto and Welch continually claimed that they do not know where all of the infrastructure and transportation revenue has gone; maintaining only that it must not be going to the places where it is needed:
CAVUTO: To make the point here, that we're not following the moneys we're already spending that, I think, are not exactly in a 'lock box' just meant for this sort of thing.
WELCH: Yeah, I mean if you look at people who advocate for big government, they actually don't spend a lot of time extolling the virtues of big government, because that is an awkward conversation and because it requires them to do what you were asking earlier, is just document what you've already spent.
WELCH: Spending money on the federal level is an inefficient way to deal with local, and state, and city roads.
CAVUTO: If you were to add it all up. Let's say now -- being devil's advocate here -- let's take the stimulus money, the shovel-ready projects a lot of them were infrastructure-targeted, at around $800 billion and average it out over the last five years and throw in the $60 billion or so you're supposed to get from the oil companies, a lot of taxes, and they were going to tap that for infrastructure. You're looking at $250-300 billion a year that would be presumably allocated to just this sort of thing. We're asking for more?
Cavuto's central argument is that the federal government must not be spending money on infrastructure if our infrastructure is in a state of disrepair. Cavuto repeated a popular Fox News thesis, claiming that the government is wasting, misallocating or stealing tax dollars instead of putting them to good use.
In fact, the government's infrastructure budget is simply woefully underfunded.
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson distorted comments by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) to accuse him of hypocrisy after allowing some of his staff to remain on their current health plans.
After reports that Reid would allow certain staffers to keep their existing coverage, Carlson aired comments Reid made in September 2013 about whether his staff would join the Affordable Care Act's exchanges and claimed he was "changing his tune." Carlson claimed Reid said his entire staff would be on the exchanges and accused him of "total hypocrisy."
However, Reid's statements from September do not contradict his decision to allow select staff members to remain on their existing coverage. Carlson failed to distinguish between Reid's personal legislative staff, who are enrolling through exchanges as mandated by law, and the staff that serves for leadership committees, who the ACA does not require to enroll through exchanges. He and his personal Senate office staff will indeed enroll for new coverage through the exchanges, as mandated by law:
In September, Reid told reporters, "Let's stop these really juvenile political games -- the one dealing with health care for senators and House members and our staff. We are going to be part of exchanges, that's what the law says and we'll be part of that."
That's true. Reid and his personal staff will buy insurance through the exchange.
But it's also true that the law lets lawmakers decide if their committee and leadership staffers hold on to their federal employee insurance plans, an option Reid has exercised.
Conservative radio host Mark Levin blamed undocumented immigrants for the United States' poor ranking in a global education survey of high school students, claiming that "one of the reasons" for the mediocre showing on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is because "a lot of these children only speak Spanish and a certain percentage of them are illiterate in Spanish because they're poor when they come over the border."
PISA, which is administered every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), found that among the 34 OECD countries, the United States performed below average in math at 26th and average in reading (17th) and science (21st). PISA found that even among the U.S.' strongest performers, students in Massachusetts, the top student performers in math, 15-year-olds in Shanghai, showed that they had the equivalent of more than two years of formal schooling over their American counterparts.
But immigration is not to blame for the U.S.' second-rate results. Indeed, according to the results, immigrant students in the United States performed better than the average of member countries in math.
As the Christian Science Monitor further reported:
More than 510,000 15-year-old students in 65 countries and other education programs took part in the 2012 PISA test. Students from Shanghai-China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea scored highest in all three subjects. Switzerland and the Netherlands also ranked near the top.
Set against that backdrop, the US performance in mathematics drew the most handwringing by far. Among 65 nations and jurisdictions where the PISA test was administered, 29 countries and provinces outperformed the US in math in 2012, compared with 23 in 2009, the last time the test was given.
The list of those racing past the US included not only perennially strong competitors like Singapore and South Korea, but also Latvia, Australia, and Vietnam when compared with test results from three years earlier.
In reading, US scores were flat. But students in 19 countries scored higher than the US in 2012, compared with just nine countries three years before. Steady gains by Poland and Germany leapfrogged them past the US along with Estonia, Ireland, and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan).
In science, meanwhile, some 22 countries' educational systems beat out the US average, compared with 18 in 2009.
Overall, the US had a "flat line" performance as other nations surged, said Secretary Duncan.
Discussing the PISA results on his radio show, Levin attributed the mediocre results to undocumented children:
After complaining about the Supreme Court decision that guaranteed all students, regardless of immigration status, a public education in the United States, and lamenting House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) recent move on immigration reform, Levin stated: "I mean, it just shows you how a culture deteriorates -- and not because it's Latino or whatever, it's because it's legal versus illegal. You either have a rule of law or you don't. And apparently we don't."
In the wake of growing pressure on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- a shadowy right-wing group dedicated to pushing a conservative agenda at the state level -- and the exposure of its agenda and tactics, will local media finally acknowledge its influence on state politics when reporting on new legislation?
The Guardian reported on December 3 that ALEC has lost the membership of "almost 400 state legislators" and the funding of "more than 60 corporations" due to the organization's connection to controversial "stand your ground" laws, which received scrutiny following the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. In an effort to rebuild those relationships, ALEC is holding its States & Nation policy summit in Washington, D.C., this week. The event includes Republican legislators such as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), as well as several governors.
Legislators and businesses from around the country will gather to discuss this year's model legislation, which, as the Center for Media and Democracy has highlighted, will run the gamut of policy areas including legislation "opposing U.S. consumers' rights to know the origin of our food," "undermining workers' rights," "stripping environmental protections," and "limiting patient rights and undermining safety net programs." The last category includes legislation to turn Medicaid into a block grant program, similar to the proposal that Ryan has offered in his budget proposals.
State and local media outlets in the past have often neglected to identify ALEC-influenced legislation and failed to report on their state legislators' involvement with the group. A new wrinkle proposed this year by ALEC, however, directly affects state legislators. The Kansas City Star highlighted a document that was published by The Guardian that, although not adopted, would have required state chairs to take a loyalty oath: "I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first." As Star columnist Barbara Shelly wrote:
What? These are elected officials. They are to put the interests of their states and constituents first. Apparently at some level people realized that, because the draft job description was never adopted. But the very suggestion demonstrates ALEC's eagerness to control these lawmakers.
As legislative sessions begin next year, will state media outlets begin to question legislation offered by their state representatives, especially those who are known to be members of ALEC? Will state media outlets question their ALEC state chairmen about the loyalty oath and whether they are putting the interests of ALEC interests above those of their state and constituents?
ALEC's renewed push has essentially given local media a second chance to identify ALEC's influence in their states and potentially identify the corporate interests behind several pieces of legislation affecting their readers.
With the anniversary of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, CT, on the horizon, CNN is promoting a poorly-worded poll question to suggest that there is "fading support" for new laws that strengthen firearms regulation.
CNN.com reports today:
As memories fade from last December's horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, a new national poll indicates that support for stricter gun control laws appears to be fading, too.
According to a new CNN/ORC International survey, 49% of Americans say they support stricter gun control laws, with 50% opposed. The 49% support is down six percentage points from the 55% who said they backed stricter gun control in CNN polling from January, just a few weeks after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a lone gunman killed 20 young students and six adults before killing himself, in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
CNN's Jake Tapper highlighted the new poll numbers, asking Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to explain why "your side of this debate is losing at the public opinion war."
As Media Matters has noted in the past, asking whether respondents would like gun laws to be "more strict" or "less strict" is a particularly poor way to determine their views on the issue. Regardless of their position in the abstract, the vast majority of Americans say they support the passage of specific new restrictions on firearms possession.
That 49 percent support for "stricter gun control laws" represents a slight decline from the 53 percent who supported that aim when CNN/ORC last polled the question, in April. But that April poll also asked respondents whether they supported the specific policy of expanding federal background checks on gun sales -- when asked, 86 percent of respondents said they supported that policy. (As CNN noted, that figure "is in line with just about every other national survey released over the past couple of months.")
That shows the paradox of polling on "stricter gun control laws": in that April poll, a full third of the total respondents said they didn't support "stricter gun control laws" in the abstract, but when specifically asked about one such law, they said they were for it.
Unfortunately, CNN/ORC doesn't seem to have polled specific "stricter gun control laws" in their latest poll, leading to results and thus media coverage that is far less informative.
Fox News won't let the Benghazi story peter out, and they're going to recycle as much old news as they can to keep it going. Fox chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reports on December 4 that "CIA personnel who testified Tuesday on the Benghazi attack provided new evidence that it was premeditated, telling lawmakers that the deadly mortar strike on the CIA annex began within minutes of a rescue team's arrival, Fox News has learned."
For anyone who's been following Benghazi reporting, the "new evidence" that the CIA annex came under mortar fire shortly after the rescue team arrived is really, really old information.
Here's CBS News' timeline of the attack, published in May:
5:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m. ET): The U.S. Regional Security Office in Tripoli gets a phone call from an Arabic-speaking source who says a Westerner has been found in Benghazi and is perhaps at a hospital. It's believed to be Ambassador Stevens. Transfer to airport is arranged.
At around the same time, the additional security team finds transportation from the airport under the escort of the Libyan Shield, another local militia, but decides to head to the annex after learning that Stevens was almost certainly dead. Just after their arrival, the annex takes mortar fire, sustaining three direct hits. The precision of the attacks indicates a level of sophistication and coordination.
Here's the State Department Accountability Review Board's report on the attacks, released in December 2012:
The seven-person response team from Embassy Tripoli arrived in Benghazi to lend support. It arrived at the Annex about 0500 local. Less than fifteen minutes later, the Annex came under mortar and RPG attack, with five mortar rounds impacting close together in under 90 seconds. Three rounds hit the roof of an Annex building, killing security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. The attack also severely injured one ARSO and one Annex security team member. Annex, Tripoli, and ARSO security team members at other locations moved rapidly to provide combat first aid to the injured.
And, just for good measure, here's Fox News' Jennifer Griffin, from this past July:
Doherty left Tripoli at about midnight local time, after chartering a local plane for the rescue. There were no U.S. air assets in Tripoli. He and the quick reaction force arrived at the CIA annex at 5:15 a.m. after being delayed for several hours at the Benghazi airport by the Libyans. The CIA annex, a fortress-like compound with several buildings, is where the Americans in Benghazi had retreated and the body of State Department official Sean Smith had been brought after the initial attack. At the time, Stevens was still missing.
Doherty joined Tyrone Woods, another highly trained former SEAL, on the roof of one of the buildings at the CIA annex. Within minutes, mortars were fired. Doherty and Woods were both killed.
Far-right website WND teased an article on the possibility that gay men will soon be allowed to donate blood with a banner asking, "Does Obama Want You Infected With This?"
From WND's home page:
WND's December 3 article noted that a federal advisory panel is considering lifting the blanket ban on donations by gay men, in effect since 1985. The website hyped one researcher's support for the ban, citing statistics showing that men who have sex with men constitute the majority of HIV infections to justify prohibiting all gay men from donating blood, regardless of whether they practice safe sex or are monogamous:
Should homosexual men - a group with the highest HIV-infection rates in the nation - be allowed to donate blood?
That's the question the federal government is considering this week as it re-evaluates whether it should lift the 30-year ban on homosexual blood donation.
On Thursday, members of the Department of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability will revisit the issue.
But a leading pathologist is warning that the move would heighten the risk of spreading HIV to other Americans.
Dr. Jay Brooks, an expert in blood banking and transfusion at the University of Florida's College of Medicine, told WND the problem with "donations from men who've had sex with men is that they have a much higher prevalence of HIV than the heterosexual community."
"They have a much higher prevalence," he emphasized.
Conveniently, WND omitted the fact that the American Medical Association (AMA) opposes the ban, calling it "discriminatory" and "not based on sound science." Under current policy, a heterosexual woman who has had intercourse with an AIDS- or HIV-infected partner can give blood after a one-year waiting period. Any gay man who has had sex since 1977, however, can never donate. According to the AMA, a case-by-case approach makes far more sense than a sweeping ban.
Other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Japan, and South Africa have already lifted bans on gay blood donations.
This coming Friday, CNN will once again turn over its airwaves to everyone's favorite caliphate-spotting, end-times-prophesying, gold-huckstering bad novelist: Glenn Beck. He will be the special guest for the entirety of the December 6 edition of Piers Morgan Live, which will be guest-hosted by S.E. Cupp, the co-host of CNN's Crossfire who pulls double duty as a contributor to Beck's news venture, The Blaze. Beck's return to CNN (he decamped from the network in 2008, describing the newsroom environment as a "pit of despair") will "likely" feature, according to The Blaze, a discussion of "Beck's latest book, 'Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America,' the creation of TheBlaze and current events."
So CNN will have a conservative pundit interview her own boss about his various business ventures for an entire hour, which should allow plenty of time for all the various conflicts of interest this presents to come to the fore.
But if CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker is to be believed, this is the sort of programming we should come to expect from CNN going forward. "We're all regurgitating the same information. I want people to say, 'You know what? That was interesting. I hadn't thought of that,'" Zucker told Capital New York during a recent interview. "The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts."
If you're looking to send a message that you're prioritizing "attitude" (Zucker's word) and showmanship over actual useful information, an hour-long primetime interview with Glenn Beck is an excellent way to do that.
Fox News' Todd Starnes accused a Georgia elementary school of "confiscating" Christmas cards in an effort to stifle religious expression, prompting outrage from residents and threats of corrective legislation from Georgia lawmakers. But according to the school district, Starnes' allegations are completely false.
In a story posted on his Fox News Radio show titled "Georgia School Confiscates Christmas Cards," Starnes cited the husband of one teacher at the school who claimed many teachers were "disgruntled by the school's decision to confiscate the Christmas cards." Starnes asserted that the Bulloch County Board of Education "cracked down" on the Christmas card display, as well as many other acts of "religious expression in their schools" :
Teachers have been ordered to remove any religious icons or items from their classrooms - ranging from Bibles to Christian music.
Teachers have also been instructed to avoid student-led prayers at all costs. Should they be in a room where students are praying, teachers have been ordered to turn their backs on their students.
Hundreds of outraged residents have joined a Facebook page to protest the crackdown - and many are vowing to attend a school board meeting on Thursday to let school officials have a piece of their mind.
The Board of Education released a statement late Tuesday denying the moving of the Christmas cards had anything to do with the "current open and ongoing discussions that the school system is having with local citizens about religious liberties and expression."
"We don't want this misinformation to derail the positive work we are committed to with our community leaders," Supt. Charles Wilson said in a prepared statement. "I'm appalled by this attack on our school system, and on Brooklet Elementary."
After Starnes' article, right wing media outlets picked up his story adding to outrage in the community. Town Hall reprinted Starnes' article and The Blaze reported that according to Fox News, "administrators reportedly asked teachers to move a group of hallway Christmas cards out of the view of students." Starnes' report even led one Georgia state senator, Judson Hill (R), to denounce the Bulloch County Board of Education and threaten to "explore possible legislation, if needed, to protect religious freedom of GA taxpayers":
As the consequences for 60 Minutes' botched story on Benghazi continue to unfold, it's unclear whether the apparent charlatan at the center of that report will face punishment from the publisher of his book.
After the October 27 segment aired, it was revealed that Dylan Davies, the supposed eyewitness featured in the story, had given conflicting accounts of his actions the night of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi. CBS News eventually pulled the segment and announced after an internal review that correspondent Lara Logan and her producer Max McClellan would be taking a leave of absence from 60 Minutes.
But the 60 Minutes segment wasn't the only publicity boost CBS Corporation gave to Davies' story. Two days after the 60 Minutes report aired, Simon & Schuster imprint Threshold Editions released The Embassy House, a book featuring Davies' dubious account.
While Threshold pulled the book from shelves shortly after CBS retracted its segment, the publisher has not revealed any action it plans to take against Davies to recoup costs or damages from his apparent lies. Requests for comment have been ignored.
But book publishing veterans, including several attorneys who handle such cases, said Threshold's options are clear according to traditional author agreements. They admit, however, that the publisher may have trouble actually collecting any damages.
"One of the important elements in a book publishing contract is a clause called representations and warranties, a list of promises and guarantees that an author makes to the publisher. These are very standard -- the customary assurances that the author gives is that the work is original and does not infringe on copyright," said Jonathan Kirsch, a publishing attorney based in Los Angeles. "Some publishers are smart enough or have lawyers who are smart enough to include additional assurances that the book is true, accurate, and based on sound research."
Kirsch added, "If you had a contract where the representation and warranties clause didn't include these assurances, the publisher would be in a more exposed position. If they do include that assurance then the publisher can sue for breach of contract. At the very beginning of the book contract it says that the book is a work of fiction or non-fiction. If the contract characterizes it as a work of non-fiction or an autobiography or an historical account, there is an implication that it is true and the publisher can sue on that account."