Fox News is now mischaracterizing a court ruling requiring the state of Ohio to allow in-person early voting during the last three days before the election as unfair to members of the military.
On Friday a federal court adopted an injunction preventing Ohio election officials from implementing new restrictions on in-person early voting. The ruling came in response to an Obama campaign lawsuit that sought to overturn a 2011 statute that halted early voting access in the three days leading up to the election except for members of the military and their families. The Obama campaign sought to restore access to the polls for all Ohio residents during that period.
The court agreed, finding that allowing both military and non-military citizens to equally participate in early voting "places all Ohio voters on equal standing." Indeed, the ruling has no impact on military voters and their families, but simply provides all other Ohioans with the same access to the polls they were scheduled to enjoy.
But during the September 3 edition of America Live, Fox News host Megyn Kelly and Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund portrayed the ruling as an insult to the military and an "obstacle" to their access to the polls.
FUND: So what Ohio said is for the last three days before the election we will let military voters vote, but everyone else will have to vote before the three day period. The district judge said, "That's unfair," and said, "You'll have to extend early voting right up until Election Day." It now goes to a federal appeals court. And I think it's pretty clear that the military vote can have a separate designation and can be treated separately because they are different from every average voter.
KELLY: Yeah, they are special. And this was an interesting case we talked about it prior to the ruling because it pitted the Obama administration against military families and voters.
FUND: The National Guard [Association], the Marine Corps Association, all of them said, "This is outrageous what you are trying to do."
KELLY: They said, "There is a justification for treating us differently. And it's not -- you don't get to say that everybody is the same as the military."
FUND: We have enough obstacles in the way of our military now we don't need to create others.
Fund -- who also lambasted early voting in general as "out of control" -- is the latest right-wing figure to invoke the canard that allowing civilians equal access to the polls somehow constitutes an "obstacle" for members of the military who wish to vote.
The Associated Press has published an article debunking the conspiracy theory that a recent ammunition purchase by the Social Security Administration (SSA) signaled an attempt by the Obama administration to impose tyranny upon the American people. AP reporter Stephen Ohlemacher identified conspiracy website InfoWars.com and the right-wing online publication The Daily Caller as prominent pushers of the theory.
It didn't take long for the Internet to start buzzing with conspiracy theories after the Social Security Administration posted a notice that it was purchasing 174,000 hollow-point bullets.
Why is the agency that provides benefits to retirees, disabled workers, widows and children stockpiling ammunition? Whom are they going to use it on?
"It's not outlandish to suggest that the Social Security Administration is purchasing the bullets as part of preparations for civil unrest," the website Infowars.com said.
Another website, The Daily Caller, said the bullets must be for use against American citizens, "since the SSA has never been used overseas to help foreign countries maintain control of their citizens."
The clamor became such a distraction for the agency that it dedicated a website to explaining the purchase. The explanation, it turns out, isn't as tantalizing as an arms buildup to defend against unruly senior citizens.
The bullets are for Social Security's office of inspector general, which has about 295 agents who investigate Social Security fraud and other crimes, said Jonathan L. Lasher, the agency's assistant IG for external relations.
The agents carry guns and make arrests - 589 last year, Lasher said. They execute search warrants and respond to threats against Social Security offices, employees and customers.
Agents carry .357 caliber pistols, Lasher said. The bullets, which add up to about 590 per agent, are for the upcoming fiscal year. Most will be expended on the firing range.
On August 28, Media Matters called attention to a Daily Caller opinion piece by retired U.S. Army Major General Jerry Curry, who theorized that that each piece of ammunition purchased by the SSA "represents a dead American."
Curry speculated that the SSA ammunition could be used in a plot to kill members of the military and replace them with individuals loyal to the president. He then focused on other ammunition purchases by the federal government, suggesting that a larger ammunition purchase by the Department of Homeland Security constituted "enough ammunition to empty five rounds into the body of every living American citizen."
Joining others in right-wing media, Fox News is using the GOP convention as an opportunity to push preferred candidates for Mitt Romney's cabinet. For example, on the August 29 edition of Fox & Friends, Gretchen Carlson promoted the prospect of Rudolph Giuliani serving as Attorney General in a Romney administration. However, in their endorsement of Giuliani for the position of the nation's chief law enforcement officer and legal advisor, the Fox News hosts did not mention Giuliani's patronage of convicted former Department of Homeland Security nominee Bernard Kerik, or Giuliani's questionable record on the protection of civil rights and liberties as Mayor of New York City.
During the August 27 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, producer Cameron Gray facetiously asked Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker if there had been any "crazy shootouts" since Wisconsin loosened its gun laws in July 2011. Gov. Walker stated that "none of the bad things we heard talked about" happened.
The exchange occurred during an interview from the Republican National Convention:
CAMERON GRAY, NRA NEWS PRODUCER: Governor, after you signed concealed carry in Wisconsin -- I was your first interview, it's good to talk to you again -- since then how has the Wild West been? How have the crazy shootouts been? How out of control are the shootings in Wisconsin? [laughter]
GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Well as you can imagine all the hysteria went just the opposite way. Actually, you know one of the most interesting things is when I go to deployments -- deployments of members of the National Guard from Wisconsin -- I get members of the National Guard that come up and thank me for that. And more often than not it's female members of the Guard who come up and thank me. And actually many times they pull out their concealed carrier card and ask me to sign it in person for them. But none of the hysteria, none of the bad things we heard talked about. Instead what we saw was law-abiding citizens having the ability to exercise the right to protect not only themselves but their family and property.
On August 5 a white supremacist fatally shot six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin before committing suicide after being wounded by police. Four others were wounded in the attack.
While guest hosting The O'Reilly Factor on August 24, Monica Crowley praised SB 1070 architect Kris Kobach's filing suit against the Obama administration's "deferred action" policy, which allows young undocumented immigrants to temporarily remain in the United States. But Crowley failed to mention that the deportation policy is the continuation of long-standing prosecutorial discretion, and also neglected to report the lawsuit's basic procedural flaws.
Instead, Crowley ignored the weaknesses of the lawsuit and alleged the policy is "illegal," accused the administration of acting "extra-constitutionally," and finally commended Kobach for "fighting the good fight" against a "banana republic."
The lawsuit was filed in district court by Kobach on August 23 on behalf of 10 disgruntled Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and is underwritten by controversial "immigration-restriction" group NumbersUSA, despite the Supreme Court's recent reminder that "[a] principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials." Nevertheless, the lawsuit challenges the administration's policy of deferred action in deportation proceedings for undocumented youth - a continuation of standard immigration discretion also practiced by George W. Bush - and further undermines its credibility through its choice of plaintiffs.
In an August 24 press release, the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) compared the decision by the University of Colorado to house students who wish to carry guns on campus in separate dormitories than non-gun-carrying students to the infamous 1896 Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson, which announced the racist "separate but equal" doctrine.
The University of Colorado may want to check with its law professors on this one. The university system is releasing new Plessy v. Ferguson-like rules that would segregate its gun-owning students from the rest of their peers.
In doing so, the NRA-ILA drew a false equivalence between one of the most widely panned Supreme Court decisions and a school policy designed to prohibit access to firearms for students under the age of 21. While carrying a gun is a decision made by an individual, the law at issue in Plessy discriminated on the basis of the immutable characteristic of race.
Such a comparison by the gun organization minimizes the horror of segregation in America.
In Plessy, the Supreme Court voted 7 to 1 to uphold a Louisiana state law that required African Americans and Caucasians to sit in separate railroad cars while traveling by train. "Separate but equal" would stand for more than fifty years until it was struck down in Brown v. Board of Education.
The rationale behind the decision in Plessy was unabashedly racist; writing for the majority Justice Henry Brown stated that an African American person "is not lawfully entitled to the reputation of being a white man." The court concluded:
We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.
The argument also assumes that social prejudices may be overcome by legislation, and that equal rights cannot be secured to the negro except by an enforced commingling of the two races. We cannot accept this proposition.
The comparison made by the NRA-ILA recalls a tactic by far-right figures to compare Roe v. Wade to the Dred Scott decision that held African Americans were not citizens of the United States and were thus unprotected by the U.S. Constitution.
From the August 24 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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A Boston Globe editorial noted that by the end of his first term, President Obama will have appointed far fewer lower court judges than either of his two predecessors, and chided him for "fail[ing] to make the most of an opportunity to shape the federal judiciary." The editorial referenced a recent New York Times article that highlighted unprecedented Republican obstruction of President Obama's nominees but does not actually mention this fact. By ignoring Republican obstruction, the Globe gives its readers far less than half the story.
The federal judiciary currently has so many vacancies that more than half of Americans are living in a "judicial emergency." That is, as district judges are increasingly faced with disproportionately large dockets, attention to individual cases falls, resolution is delayed, and access to justice for everyone suffers. As The New York Times reported, as of August 17, "Mr. Obama has appointed just 125 such judges, compared with 170 at a similar point in Mr. Clinton's first term and 162 for Mr. Bush."
The National Review has attempted to distract from Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) and Rep. Todd Akin's (R-MO) support of the extreme "Sanctity of Human Life Act" -- legislation that equates abortion and contraception to murder -- by neglecting to mention its relevance to Akin's rape comments and falsely asserting potential bans on abortion aren't a concern. But it is the act's radical redefinition of a fertilized egg as a person that Akin was defending with his imaginary claim that "legitimate rape" does not lead to pregnancy, and the fact that voters in conservative states have rejected similar "personhood" laws merely demonstrates how far outside the mainstream Ryan and Akin are.
In their move to distance conservative media from Akin's comments, the editors of the National Review called for Akin to withdraw his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. However, this calculated abandonment of Akin for announcing a right-wing view that the National Review acknowledges, but prefers kept under wraps, ignores the resurgent movement to criminalize all forms of abortion. By omitting the relevance of the Sanctity of Human Life Act to Akin's comments and the editorial's claim that "no state is going to ban abortion in the case of rape even if Roe v. Wade is overruled," the editorial is perpetuating frequent contributor Ramesh Ponnuru's attempts to gloss over Ryan and Akin's hostility to reproductive rights.
Indeed, the National Review's misdirection is even more apparent now that it appears the 2012 Republican platform will once again support a so-called "human life amendment" to the Constitution that would criminalize abortion in all circumstances. Furthermore, not only is the National Review's reassurance on state abortion bans irrelevant if reports on the GOP platform are accurate, it is wholly misrepresentative of recent state efforts to infringe on women's constitutional rights. In fact, conservative-leaning states have seen multiple attempts at "personhood" bills similar to Ryan and Akin's legislation. This fall, Colorado will likely again have a "personhood" ballot initiative presented to its voters, even though the unconstitutional measure just failed in Mississippi and was held "void on its face" in Oklahoma by the state Supreme Court.
Accordingly, it is unsurprising that Akin's apology for becoming "nationally notorious...for saying something stupid" was specifically only for the "words I said" in reference to rape and not for "the heart I hold," wherein presumably all abortion is criminalized pursuant to "personhood" legislation. A radical criminalization that, the National Review fails to mention, could also apply to in-vitro fertilization, stem-cell research, most forms of contraception, and even miscarriage.
In a post on National Review Online's Bench Memos blog, Carrie Severino critiques two recent studies by the Center for American Progress (CAP) on the increasing power of conservative and big business interests over the processes by which state court judges are selected and hold office. But her "fact-checking" effort misleads on important points.
Severino makes two significant arguments against the studies, which have been discussed by a New York Times editorial and a post on the New Yorker website by Jeffrey Toobin. She states that both CAP studies, "The Conservative Takeover of State Judiciaries" and "Big Business Taking over State Supreme Courts," greatly exaggerate the number of states in which judges are elected. And she claims that the "Conservative Takeover" study states that conservatives in numerous states have sought to give their governor the power to replace judges "at will." In each case, her argument depends on a strained and deceptive reading of the points being addressed.
Severino's claim that the studies exaggerate the number of states that "elect" their high court judges hinges on excluding the common practice of retention elections, in which judges who have reached the bench by appointment or other means periodically come before the voters in referenda on whether they should be retained in office. The studies include both states that employ retention elections and those that initially select judges through elections in their count, while Severino only counts the significantly lower number of states that use elections for initial selection. Indeed, she cites as evidence for her claim an American Judicature Society factsheet on "initial selection."
Apart from the obvious point that an election is an election, it is not reasonable to argue that retention elections are not a means of "electing" judges. Just as much as initial selection elections fill vacancies on a court, retention elections shape state courts. In recent years retention elections in states including Iowa and Florida have become high-profile, high-dollar contests over who will serve on the state's highest court. For example, The Palm Beach Post reported:
An organization with tea party flavoring is targeting [Florida Supreme Court] Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, the high court's last appointees of late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, although Quince was named jointly with former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Opponents say the justices represent a left-leaning bloc that has turned Florida's court into one of the nation's most activist judiciaries. But the justices are defending themselves, raising an unprecedented level of campaign cash for what could prove to be Florida's first hard-hitting Supreme Court campaign.
It's part of a rising trend nationally that two years ago was marked by three Iowa justices being thrown off the bench by voters following a ruling that allowed same-sex marriage in the state.
In a post criticizing leading American companies' support for the diversity principle in an upcoming Supreme Court case, National Review Online contributor Roger Clegg mischaracterized the nature of the companies' support for diversity, and incorrectly implied it is race-centric in violation of the Constitution. But as the amicus brief for these Fortune 100 companies argues, the pursuit of diversity in higher education is not only important to the nation's economic success, it is also constitutionally permissible.
In October, the Court will hear Fisher v. University of Texas, the latest high-profile civil rights case brought by a rejected applicant challenging a school's race-conscious admissions process. The opponents are asking the Court to not only strike down the specific admissions policy at the University of Texas, but also to reverse Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court's 2003 case that confirmed state consideration of race or ethnicity in higher education admissions -- as one factor among many -- is permissible to achieve the goal of student body diversity.
Clegg mischaracterized the brief filed in this case on behalf of corporations ranging from Wal-Mart and Halliburton, to Microsoft and Starbucks, that instead urges the Court to "reaffirm its holding in Grutter that the conscious pursuit of diversity in the admissions decisions of institutions of higher education - including diversity based upon race, religion, culture, economic background, and other factors - is a compelling state interest."
As conservative media scramble to defend Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) from charges that his proposed overhaul of Medicare would negatively affect seniors, one point is noticeably absent from their discussion: Ryan's plan imposes a Medicare "mandate" remarkably akin to the requirement to purchase insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Fox News and other conservative media are apparently ignoring this similarity, despite their two-year campaign against the highly similar provision in the Obama-supported health care reform law.
Fox News' Dana Perino asked on the August 13 edition of Fox & Friends, "who wouldn't want" Ryan's plan for Medicare? Left unsaid is that the health care reform law's constitutional choice of obtaining a private health insurance plan or paying a health insurance tax and Ryan's choice of obtaining a private Medicare plan or paying a Medicare tax are essentially the same.
Health care law expert Simon Lazarus wrote in Slate that:
Republicans' proposal to replace Medicare with partially subsidized private insurance also operates to "compel" people to pay for private health insurance policies. Moreover, this mandate is not even a pay-or-play option; Medicare taxes are mandatory, whether workers want to buy eligibility for old-age vouchers or not.
From the August 6 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the August 6 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Matching the inflammatory rhetoric about health care reform's elimination of cost-sharing for women's contraception, conservative media outlets are currently misrepresenting a preliminary court order in a private company's challenge to this policy. Contrary to the right-wing narrative that crudely oversimplifies the complex legal issues at stake and ignores the need to balance the constitutional rights of employers with those of their female employees, the questions in the case are neither easy nor clear.
When the popular requirement went into effect that most insurance plans -- including employee plans sold to employers -- could no longer charge women co-pays or deductibles for prevention or wellness care, conservative media figures declared a national disaster. On August 1, the Editors of the National Review Online intoned that "[t]his day...is a dark one for religious freedom in the United States." Sean Hannity mirrored this solemnity on Fox News and announced "today is the day that religious freedom in America, in many ways died" (Fox Hannity Show, 8/1/12, via Nexis).
This reaction was unfortunately unsurprising. Despite the fact that many religious believers and institutions and most voters support insurance coverage of contraceptives, birth control has conflicted with the religious concerns of some since the 1960s. Recognizing this, the law provides an exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement to "a nonprofit church or close church affiliate if it primarily employs and serves persons who share its religious tenets, and the purpose of the institution is the inculcation of religious values." [National Health Law Program, 8/12]
The exemption is similar to those used on the state level, and twenty-eight states currently have contraceptive insurance equity acts. The administration may also accommodate non-exempted non-profit organizations by allowing them to opt-out of the provision of insurance coverage for contraception, but instruct insurance companies to meet the preventive and wellness requirements directly. Nevertheless, claiming that these exemptions and accommodations do not go far enough, a for-profit, secular, Colorado-based company filed a lawsuit alleging it too should be treated like a church and be exempted from offering female employees plans with contraception coverage.
The case is one of first impression. As such, the judge issued a preliminary injunction, temporarily halting this company's compliance with the law until the court could consider the merits of the case. The Heritage Institute's Foundry said the company "demonstrated the strength of the religious liberty challenge to Obamacare." Ed Whelan of the National Review Online said "it's clear that the HHS mandate tramples [religious] protections[.]"
It's not that simple.