Michigan State University (MSU) students protested before, during, and after George Will's speech at the university's graduation ceremony in response to the conservative Washington Post syndicated columnist's offensive comments about sexual assault.
MSU invited Will to speak at the December 13 commencement ceremony despite a controversial June column in which he suggested that efforts to fight sexual assault have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges" on college campuses. Students and faculty, women's rights groups, and even Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) condemned the university's decision to host Will and award him an honorary doctorate.
MSU students used the Twitter hashtag #itsonyouMSU to protest the university's decision to host Will for the commencement ceremony. Before Will's speech, students lined up outside of MSU's Breslin Center in a silent protest. MSU Students United, which describes itself as "the autonomous student union of Michigan State University," documented the protests on Twitter, posting pictures of students holding signs with messages like "Only yes means yes" and "Rape is not a privilege":
During the ceremony, students turned their backs on Will's speech in protest, as Bloomberg News reported. Will reportedly didn't mention the controversy surrounding his sexual assault comments:
As Will got up to speak, about 15 people in the audience of several thousand stood up and turned their backs toward him. The columnist, whose writing is carried by hundreds of newspapers, made no mention of the protest, his June 6 column or the subject of sexual assault. The crowd applauded when he was done.
Protesters outside, including students, survivors of sexual assault and support group members, were polite and quiet, braving the chilly weather around the Breslin Center, the school's basketball arena and commencement venue. Some stood with red tape across their mouth and held placards saying "Fund Rape Counselors, Not Rape Apologists."
Joy Wang, a correspondent for News10 in Lansing, MI, posted a picture of the silent protest:
Image via MSU Students United Twitter account.
USA Today amplified a misleading op-ed claiming that proposed net neutrality regulations could cost consumers $15 billion in new user fees and taxes, a number that has been called into question by advocacy groups for faulty assumptions.
On December 12, USA Today ran an op-ed by Progressive Policy Institute's Hal Singer and Brookings Institute's Robert Litan promoting their conclusion that a vote by the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act could cost consumers "a whopping $15 billion in new user fees to consumer bills." The authors claimed that "[o]nce Internet access service is labeled a 'telecommunications service' under Title II, consumer broadband services could become subject to a whole host of new taxes and fees."
Singer and Litan admitted that "the Internet Tax Freedom Act pending in Congress might limit the impact of some of these taxes and fees" and that the FCC could limit service fees to consumers, but argued that such moves are unlikely and would not limit the impact of all fees.
The paper published the authors' claims despite the fact that their calculations have been criticized for relying on faulty assumptions. The nonpartisan open Internet advocacy group Free Press estimated that FCC limits and the Internet Freedom Act would reduce possible fees associated with net neutrality reclassification by nearly 75 percent, to $4 billion. The group called the notion that Internet reclassification would amount to more than $15 billion in new local, state, and federal taxes an unlikely "worst-case scenario" that fails to account for how net neutrality works in practice, as it ignores "the difference between services that cross state lines and those that exist entirely within one state":
Fox News is firing shots at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) after he criticized conservative attempts to delegitimize the Committee's report on Benghazi.
In November, the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee released the results of a two-year investigation that "debunk[ed] a series of persistent allegations," pushed by conservative media, about the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi. Several Republican lawmakers publicly denounced the report, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who said on CNN that he thought the report "is full of crap." Talking Points Memo reported on December 12 that Rogers "brushed off" criticism from fellow Republicans unsatisfied with his committee's findings:
The Weekly Standard also published a piece quoting a number of members arguing that the Bengahzi report was incomplete. Rogers said those comments were just because the outcome wasn't what those members wanted.
"First of all, they didn't read the report. And unfortunately people wanted this report to be the expansive Benghazi report," Rogers told TPM and other reporters right after the Christian Science Monitor Breakfast. "I told everyone, including some members on my committee that it was not going to be an expansive Benghazi report. My jurisdiction -- the committee's jurisdiction was the lane of the intelligence community. So I think they wanted a report to come out to go after the State Department or the White House. That was not my goal. I put no piece of information in a finding if we couldn't corroborate the information. So one piece of testimony is not corroboration. I had to have other corroboration in order to do it."
Rogers said that none of the criticism has been on the findings.
Fox News host Andrea Tantaros responded by suggesting Rogers manipulated the report's conclusions to protect his wife, who was "doing some consulting on security on the ground at the time" of the Benghazi attacks. From the December 12 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered (emphasis added):
TANTAROS: And there's also questions about Mike Rogers, because he put out that report recently. And some Republicans on the committee are very unhappy with him. They have questions.
So he put out this report where he said, oh, nothing happened here, nothing to see here. No Republicans endorsed it. Wasn't his wife doing some consulting on security on theground at the time? So this isn't just a partisan issue. And it is, it is an issue now because the State Department just this week, and we talked about this a couple days ago, Harris, reported that our embassies are still not secure. So in the wake of the torture memo, have we learned anything?
Tantaros' attacks represent a new, more aggressive angle in Fox's ongoing attempt to discredit the report's findings.
Buzzfeed reported that the emails, released after a hacker group broke in to Sony's computer systems, detailed a series of exchanges between Dowd, Pascal, and Pascal's husband Bernard Weinraub, a former Times reporter, for a March 2014 column Dowd was writing about the declining percentage of women in the film industry.
The emails show Dowd promising Pascal she "would make sure you look great" and Weinraub warning Pascal not to tell anyone that he was "seeing the column before its printed." From Buzzfeed:
But the leaked documents show that when Dowd emailed Pascal on March 3 for the column -- which would run online the next night and in print on March 5 -- Dowd told Pascal "i would make sure you look great and we'd check it all and do it properly."
Before Pascal actually interviewed with Dowd for the column, she talked to Weinraub.
"I said the rap that you jus like to make womens films is unfair amnd sexist," Weinraub said in an email to Pascal on March 4. "You made all these "women's movies ===league of their own, 28 days,,,the nora Ephron films...zero dark.... but you also do spifderman... denzel....Jonah hill.....bad teacher etc etc."
Pascal responded, "IM NOT TALKING TO HER IF SHE IS GONNA SLAM ME. PLEASE FIND OUT."
Weinraub assured her, "you cant tell single person that I'm seeing the column before its printed...its not done...no p.r. people or Lynton or anyone should know."
After the column was published later that night, Pascal emailed Dowd, saying "I THOUGHT THE STORY WAS GREAT I HOPE YOUR HAPPY "
Dowd responded: "I hope you're happy! Thanks for helping. Let's do another." Pascal replied, "Your my favorite person so yes" and Dowd finished the conversation with "you're mine! you're amazing"
Dowd denied that she had given anyone an advance look at her column in a statement released to several reporters, as Politico reported:
In an email though, Dowd says she "never showed Bernie the column in advance or promised to show it."
"Bernie is an old friend and the Times' former Hollywood reporter, and he sometimes gives me ideas for entertainment columns. In January, he suggested a column, inspired by a study cited in the L.A. Times, about the state of women in Hollywood. Amy is a friend and I reassured her before our interview that it wasn't an antagonistic piece. She wasn't the focus of the story, nor was Sony," Dowd said. "I emailed with Bernie and talked to him before I wrote the column in March, getting his perspective on the Hollywood old boys' club and the progress of women. But I didn't send him the column beforehand."
The New York Times downplayed the impact of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling and dismissed the influence of money in politics by ignoring record-breaking spending of outside groups, the role of large donor political contributions, and dark money in the 2014 midterm election.
A December 9 New York Times Magazine article entitled "Who Wants to Buy a Politician?" argued that the "forecast that a flood of money would follow" the 2010 Citizens United ruling has largely not come to fruition. Author Binyamin Appelbaum noted that "spending has declined in each of the last two congressional elections" and argued that spending on campaign elections is "economically inefficient" because campaign spending has little impact on election outcomes:
[T]he 2012 presidential election, which recorded $2.6 billion in campaign spending, underperformed many forecasts. And spending has declined in each of the last two congressional elections. Candidates and other interested parties spent $3.7 billion on this year's midterms, down from an inflation-adjusted total of $3.8 billion in 2012, which was less than the $4 billion spent in2010, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.
[B]uying elections is economically inefficient. Most voters, like most consumers, have defined preferences that are difficult for advertisers to shift. Chevron spent roughly $3 million during a recent campaign backing, certain City Council candidates in Richmond, Calif., where it operates a major refinery. Voters instead chose a slate of candidates who want to raise taxes. "Campaign spending has an extremely small impact on election outcomes, regardless of who does the spending," the University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt concluded in a 1994 paper. He found that spending an extra $100,000 in a House race might be expected to increase a candidate's vote total by about 0.33 percentage points. Investors appear to agree that companies can't make money by investing in political campaigns. A 2004 study found that changes in campaign-finance laws had no discernible impact on the share prices of companies that made donations.
Appelbaum points to small donor contributions to argue that the majority of donations are not meant as an influencing factor:
Most campaign money, after all, comes in smaller chunks from individual donors. People who gave $3 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2008 could not have reasonably expected that their small contributions would influence the future president. Even those who give larger sums rarely contribute the maximum allowed by law, as might be expected of someone trying to buy influence. Instead, individual contributions have increased over time merely in proportion to personal income.
But this argument obscures the especially outsized role large donors have in elections and downplays the proportion of large donations to overall campaign spending. The Sunlight Foundation found that in 2012, the median contribution from this group of elite donors was $26,584. Demos, a progressive public policy think tank, analyzed campaign finance data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics and found that most campaigns in 2014 were actually fueled by big donors:
Just 50 individuals and their spouses accounted for more than a third of the total money raised by Super PACs this cycle. Many candidates, including some whose individual contribution totals reach into the millions, report receiving few or even no dollars in contributions from small donors. For example, House Budget--and future Ways and Means--Committee Chairman Paul Ryan reported that all of his more than $5 million in individual contributions came from large donors.
Appelbaum also glossed over the record spending made by outside groups in the 2014 midterms. According to The New York Times, "political groups independent of candidates spent more than $814 million to influence congressional elections last month, a record for the midterms and nearly twice the spending in 2010, Federal Election Commission records show." And as the Center for Responsive Politics noted, this year's figure show an increase in the overall share of campaign financing came from outside groups. Such groups represented 8.5 percent of the total spent in 2010 and are projected to represent 13 percent in 2014 while there were "fewer people donating to political organizations."
Most egregiously, Appelbaum failed to note the role of dark money in elections. According to ABC News, "this year, dark money groups have spent $200 million in 11 of the most competitive Senate races, nearly double the amount they forked out in 2012." As the Huffington Post noted, the 2014 Senate races in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky and North Carolina accounted for nearly half of all dark money spent to target 2014 candidates. Appelbaum cited two of these races, but suggested they were "the exception."
All of this matters, because as Ian Vandewalker of New York University's Brennan Center for Justice demonstrated, the fusion of campaigns and big money can subvert the ability of qualified individuals to pursue public office if they don't have access to wealthy donors:
Although marginal differences in spending won't swing election outcomes, a candidate who doesn't raise a sufficient amount of money is virtually guaranteed to lose. As a result, candidates who don't have connections to wealthy donors may never bother to run, no matter how qualified they are. And the "arms race" mentality tells candidates not to let the other guy get too far ahead in spending. That's why candidates, including incumbent officials, are falling all over each other to raise money.
While it's true that the amount spent on all the congressional elections together hasn't changed much in recent years, that fact obscures the reality that spending is highly concentrated in the competitive races that will decide control of a chamber of Congress. Donors don't just want to buy the gratitude of a candidate, they want the gratitude of the party in power.
The New Hampshire Union Leader referenced the fictional character, Jack Bauer of the television show 24, to call those in favor of releasing the Senate report on CIA torture practices "wusses" and claim opposition to the agency's brutal techniques amounted to "whining."
The December 10, editorial defended the CIA's "enhanced interrogation program" by referencing Jack Bauer as evidence that real life is more complex than the "liberal politicians" behind the report make it seem (emphasis added):
Regarding the politically motivated and highly questionable U.S. Senate report on the CIA released this week, we wonder:
What would Jack Bauer make of these wusses?
Bauer, of course, is the fictional character from the TV series "24.'' He regularly and single-handedly saved America by beating the daylights and the information out of the bad guys with little regard for civil niceties.
We know, real life isn't like television make-believe. But that is precisely the point here. The liberal politicians behind this report are either terribly naive or terribly cynical or both.
Now it is easy to sit in judgment on those who had to find out, fast, who was out to destroy America and stop them. And this business that some brutal tactics make us the moral equivalent of our murderous enemies is garbage.
Sorry to disappoint the Senate Democrats who wrote and released this one-sided, misleading report, but we think most Americans are going to pay little attention to their whining. We certainly hope so.
The details of the Senate report shows that prisoners were subjected to a litany of harsh interrogation techniques including forced rectal feeding, being forced to stand on broken legs, waterboarding (simulated drowning), and sleep deprivation. In addition, the report found that no useful information was garnered from the use of these techniques.
The Union Leader also suggested those in support of the report should not fault the CIA because the agency was charged with "protect[ing] us from further attacks" with few restrictions after 9/11. However the CIA's tactics exceeded limits to interrogation techniques which were laid out by the Department of Justice. As Politico reported, the report detailed instances in which the CIA violated Justice Department legal opinions concerning how the agency should interrogate subjects while ignoring necessary safeguards like training requirements for interrogators.
Notable conservative Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a victim of torture during his five year captivity in a notoriously harsh North Vietnamese prison camp, also denounced the CIA's actions. During his Senate floor statement on the release of the report, Senator McCain explained that the use of torture is strategically ineffective and runs counter to the values of the United States:
I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering. Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.
UPDATE 1 (4:08pm): West has updated his piece but has not admitted to the plagiarism.
The following sentence has been added to the piece, just before the series of paragraphs Media Matters highlighted as originating with the viral story: "Then I came across a widely circulated email and viral internet post about a number of stories that seem to have dropped off the radar of the mainstream media, and conveniently ignored by the Department of Justice."
That sentence replaces one from the original version in which West had credited the research in the article to himself, writing: "I decided to do a little checking and scouring for some information. And it didn't take long to find proof of hypocrisy that reaches the highest levels -- the White House."
The post now includes italicized paragraphs where West had previously committed mass plagiarism. He has also fixed the three plagiarized typos that were originally identified by Media Matters. There is no indication in the post that it has been changed.
UPDATE 2 (5:15pm): Following the publication of this post, Media Matters emailed West for comment. Michele Hickford, AllenBWest.com editor-in-chief, replied that "I know you've already written your story, but I have revised our post to indicate the copy that came from the original sources. I had inadvertently omitted the quotation marks when I originally posted."
Media Matters subsequently asked Hickford for further clarification. Hickford wrote that "Allen West is the author of the post." She also said that "as editor, I had inadvertently omitted the quotes, and once I realized the quotes were omitted, added the sentence regarding the source of the original content to clarify." When asked why the post does not indicate that it has been revised, Hickford wrote: "We do not generally note updates to the stories unless substantive facts of the stories have changed. in this case, the specific shooting incidences remain unchanged."
This explanation doesn't pass the smell test. West originally wrote that he himself did "a little checking and scouring for some information." West did not originally include any links or citations to the material that was purportedly intended to be quoted (and still does not do so). And West's editor "inadvertently omitted" quotation marks for five paragraphs (the sixth paragraph cited below has not been italicized).
Allen West heavily plagiarized from a viral Internet story in a piece attacking the Obama administration for purportedly ignoring the deaths of law enforcement officers. West lifted at least six paragraphs (including typos) from the story, which was previously posted on sites like Yahoo! Answers, Free Republic, Facebook, and the comments section of various websites.
West is a Fox News contributor and former Republican congressman who was recently named the CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), a conservative think tank. Announcing his hiring, NCPA called West, who begins on January 2, "an outstanding choice for CEO. He is a visionary leader, committed to the free-market principles that form the foundation of the NCPA's research and education."
West wrote a December 11 piece for his website responding to recent "black lives matter" protests. He wondered if President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have ever stopped to "consider if the lives of law enforcement officers matter" and claimed he did "a little checking and scouring for some information. And it didn't take long to find proof of hypocrisy that reaches the highest levels -- the Oval Office."
He then heavily plagiarized from a viral piece that began appearing on the Internet months ago. The viral piece, which attacks President Obama's response to law enforcement murders, has been posted on various websites, comments sections, message boards, and Facebook pages (including on West's fanpage by one of his followers).
The piece has been attributed to a wide range of people, including "a Retired Police Officer" or "a retired Federal Law Enforcement Officer." It's also appeared as bylined pieces on community commentary pages and in Letters to the Editor pages under the names Doug Oxford (Citrus County Chronicle, 9/20/14), Bill Jamison (Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, 9/5/14), and Nick Hale (Naples Daily News, 8/31/14), according to a Nexis search.
The claim that President Obama has been indifferent to the deaths of law enforcement officers is wrong. PolitiFact called a variation of the claim "pants on fire" false, writing that "We found many instances of White House 'special recognition' for fallen officers." It added: "the meat of its accusation -- that Obama has ignored the suffering of law enforcement officers killed in action -- is demonstrably wrong. We found at least six instances in which Obama honored the lives of fallen officers in writing or in speeches."
West alternated between lightly rewriting the piece and copying its text verbatim, including typos. His examples and the viral piece's examples appear in the same order.
The Duggar family - made famous by TLC's popular reality television show - just helped repeal an ordinance protecting LGBT people from discrimination. What responsibility does TLC have for the work being carried out by its reality TV superstars?
Since the debut of their TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting in 2008, the Duggar family has slowly evolved from a television novelty to a prominent icon in Republican politics. Their religious fervor, opposition to abortion, and emphasis on conservative "family values" have helped transform them into champions for social conservatives who now make frequent appearances on the campaign trail for GOP candidates. Many have noted the disturbing and ultra-conservative radicalism that lies beneath the Duggar's "family values" - namely the family's extreme views on women's and LGBT rights.
But the Duggar family has maintained a largely symbolic role in right-wing politics - acting more as champions of a socially conservative ideal than as actual players in the fight against social progress.
Until this week.
On December 9, the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, voted 52 to 48 percent to repeal its recently-enacted Ordinance 119, a measure that would have prohibited discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and several other categories.
National news outlets correctly credited the Duggar family for helping repeal the measure. Michelle Duggar, the matriarch of the Duggar family, recorded a robocall earlier this year urging voters to oppose the ordinance, falsely claiming that it would allow male sexual predators to enter women's restrooms. The family donated $10,000 to the campaigns of three vocal opponents of the ordinance. Josh Duggar, who is Executive Director of FRC Action - the political arm of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council - used his position to urge voters to repeal of the ordinance.
The margin for repeal was less than 500 votes. Given the amount of even local media coverage the Duggars' involvement received, it's not a stretch to suggest that the family played a significant role in helping repeal the ordinance.
As young women, there's a conversation many of us have with our parents before we head off to college about how to decrease the risk of being raped or assaulted. We are told things like, never walk alone at night, or have a buddy system with friends at parties. Most importantly, my mother wanted me to know that if something did happen, no matter what, I would be believed, and to take that trust very seriously. This conversation was not part of a feminist power grab or radical lefty ideology. It was about my mother trying to keep me safe.
Michigan State University is delaying publicly releasing its contract for George Will's speaking engagement until after his speech by giving themselves an extension in responding to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Will is scheduled to speak at the school's December 13 commencement ceremony and receive an honorary doctorate, despite his controversial comments arguing that efforts to combat sexual assault on college campuses have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges." Graduate and undergraduate student government associations have passed resolutions denouncing this honor, and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) -- herself an alumna -- issued a statement expressing deep disappointment with the school.
Media Matters contacted MSU requesting information about how much Will would be paid for the speech on December 3. The university responded that per "usual protocol" they could not give out contract information directly, and instead instructed that we file a FOIA request, which we did that same day.
According to the state's law, the university had to respond within five business days. They responded six business days later, on December 11, and told Media Matters they required ten more days "to process" the request "thoroughly" (emphasis added):
A public body must respond to a Michigan Freedom of Information Act (MIFOIA) request within five (5) business days after it receives that request. However, the MIFOIA also permits the public body to obtain additional time to complete its response to an MIFOIA request by issuing a notice to the requester extending the response deadline by up to ten (10) additional business days. This communication serves as notice that in order to process your MIFOIA request thoroughly, additional time is required ... The University will respond to your request on or before 5:00 p.m., Monday, December 29, 2014.