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."
On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, The Daily Caller has published a four-part, 6,000+ word series alleging that President Obama was "listed as the lead attorney" in a class action discrimination lawsuit decades ago and thus participated in a process the publication claims triggered the economic collapse of 2008. The Caller appears to have conferred the status of "lead attorney" on Obama on the basis of the fact that his name comes first on an alphabetically ordered list of attorneys; moreover, experts have said that such class-action lawsuits did not trigger the mortgage crisis.
In the 1995 class action lawsuit in question, Buycks-Roberson v. Citibank, the plaintiffs alleged that Citibank had racially discriminated against them when they sought home loans. They pointed to bank data indicating that "the percentage of loan applications approved by Citibank was far lower in areas where the racial composition of the neighborhood was predominantly African-American than it was in areas where the composition of the neighborhood was predominantly White," even when the applicants were in the same income bracket.
According to the Caller, Obama's participation in the lawsuit makes him "a pioneering contributor to the national subprime real estate bubble" and part of a movement that "contributed greatly to a housing bubble that burst in 2007, crashed the nation's economy in 2008." But both their discussion of his role in the case and their analysis of its result are deeply flawed.
Despite its flaws, the Caller piece has already been promoted by Fox News. Caller editor in chief Tucker Carlson appeared on Fox & Friends yesterday to discuss the piece and claimed that Obama "was the lead plaintiff on some of these cases," adding that the lawsuit is "significant" because it is "at the heart of the 2007-2008 economic meltdown."
Throughout its 5,000 word lead story and multiple side pieces, the Caller repeatedly inflates Obama's role in the lawsuit. In the lead piece, Neil Munro reports that Obama "helmed" the lawsuit as "the lead plaintiff's attorney." While he writes that Obama's "role was limited," he also claims that it was "his lawsuit" and that Obama "sought public credit for the lawsuit: His employer submitted a docket to the court that listed him as the lead attorney for two of the three named plaintiffs in the case." Three other Caller stories refer to Obama as the "lead attorney" or "lead counsel" for the plaintiffs.
The sole basis the Caller articles cite for this claim is the case docket. That document lists Fay Clayton as "LEAD ATTORNEY" and lists her first among the attorneys representing plaintiff Selma S Buycks-Roberson. It then provides a list of attorneys for Buycks-Roberson listed alphabetically by first name; "Barack H. Obama" is listed first. That list of attorneys includes Judson Hirsch Miner, who was a name partner at Obama's firm; at the time, Obama was an associate.
With regard to plaintiffs Calvin R Roberson and Renee Brooks, whom the Caller claimed Obama served as "lead attorney," no separate lead attorney is indicated as Clayton was for Buycks-Roberson. While Obama is the first lawyer listed representing each plaintiff, followed by Clayton and the other attorneys, these lists again are ordered alphabetically by first name. But even for Roberson and Brooks, the docket does not ask the court clerk to provide notices regarding the case to Obama; instead such notices are directed to Miner and other attorneys involved in the case.
Moreover, Obama is not listed as one of the attorneys who worked on the complaint filed on behalf of the plaintiffs. Obama also did not speak or even register an appearance during a court hearing in which the judge considered whether to dismiss the case without holding a trial. Nor did Obama sign the agreement that settled the case.
Indeed, a 2007 Chicago Sun-Times article indicates that Obama did not have an extensive role in the lawsuit, with the lead attorney for the plaintiff stating that Obama was "the very junior lawyer in that case" and "not visible" to him during court proceedings.
A recent opinion piece appearing in the Daily Caller which suggests that the federal government is purchasing large amounts of ammunition with the purpose of killing American citizens is so deranged that even the conspiracy-peddling National Rifle Association has debunked the claim.
In the piece, which appears in Daily Caller's Guns and Gear section, retired U.S. Army Major General Jerry Curry wrote that "[p]otentially each hollow nose bullet" purchased by the Social Security Administration for its law enforcement arm "represents a dead American."
He then asked, "If so, why would the U.S. government want the SSA to kill 174,000 of our citizens, even during a time of civil unrest? Or is the purpose to kill 174,000 of the nation's military and replace them with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) special security forces, forces loyal to the [Obama] Administration, not to the Constitution?"
Turning to other ammunition purchases by the federal government, Curry wrote (with emphasis added):
In March DHS ordered 750 million rounds of hollow point ammunition. It then turned around and ordered an additional 750 million rounds of miscellaneous bullets including some that are capable of penetrating walls. This is enough ammunition to empty five rounds into the body of every living American citizen. Is this something we and the Congress should be concerned about? What's the plan that requires so many dead Americans, even during times of civil unrest? Has Congress and the Administration vetted the plan in public.
Obama is a deadly serious, persistent man. Once he focuses on an object, he pursues it to the end. What is his focus here? All of these rounds of ammunition can only be used to kill American citizens, though there is enough ammunition being ordered to kill, in addition to every American citizen, also every Iranian, Syrian or Mexican. There is simply too much of it. And this much ammunition can't be just for training, there aren't that many weapons and "shooters" in the U.S. to fire it. Perhaps it is to be used to arm illegal immigrants?
According to the NRA, which recently responded to Internet rumors about the intended purpose of the ammunition purchases, there is nothing unusual about the amount or type of ammunition being procured by the federal government.
Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney debunked the theory that rounding up and deporting immigrants is a solution to economic problems -- a notion that is widespread throughout the conservative media.
During an appearance on Fox & Friends to discuss Greece's efforts to round up and deport undocumented immigrants, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Varney if deporting immigrants would help Greece's economy and whether America should "follow suit."
Varney said that rounding up and deporting immigrants wouldn't help Greece with its economic problems and denied that they were taking jobs from Greek citizens. He also said that we shouldn't round up immigrants in the United States either:
VARNEY: Should America follow suit, a round up of illegals here? I would say absolutely not. We're not in financial crisis, and we're a very different country. We have a very strong tradition of acceptance of people from all over the world, legal or illegal, we don't round them up and throw them out. We don't do that, thank heavens.
Economists agree that immigration is beneficial to the American economy and that immigrants don't have a negative impact on the jobs of American-born workers. And studies have shown that comprehensive immigration reform could lead to a boost to the economy.
But the myth that undocumented immigrants harm the economy is very common in the right-wing media.
Fox & Friends, the Daily Caller, and the Drudge Report are falsely charging that a businessman that has supported President Obama and Vice President Biden is receiving a taxpayer-financed loan to expand his business overseas. In fact, the loan comes from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which does not use taxpayer funds, and exists for the purpose of helping "U.S. businesses gain footholds in emerging markets" overseas.
The Daily Caller charged:
In late July, John Hynansky -- a longtime friend of Vice President Joe Biden, and a major donor to Biden's campaigns as well as President Barack Obama's -- was awarded a $20 million taxpayer loan to build a foreign-car dealership in Ukraine.
Drudge highlighted this false claim with the headline, "Biden's 'good friend' receives $20M federal loan to open luxury car dealership -- in Ukraine." And Fox News also hyped this claim with co-host Gretchen Carlson saying: "Talk about friends in high places. A major donor to President Obama's campaign getting $20 million in taxpayer money to build a luxury car dealership in the Ukraine."
However, the claim that this loan uses taxpayer money is false. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation states that it is "the U.S. Government's development finance institution" and "helps U.S. businesses gain footholds in emerging markets." While it receives administrative funding from Congress, OPIC "operates on a self-sustaining basis at no net cost to American taxpayers" and has actually reduced the federal budget deficit for 34 consecutive years:
Are OPIC services U.S. taxpayer-funded?
OPIC operates on a self-sustaining basis at no net cost to American taxpayers. In fact, it generated net income of $269 million in Fiscal Year 2011, helping to reduce the federal budget deficit for the 34th consecutive year.
Indeed, during the early 1980s, OPIC returned the taxpayer money used to start up the agency to President Reagan. At the time, Reagan praised OPIC for helping advance the cause of economic freedom in the world.
The Daily Caller, Fox, and Drudge also highlight Hynansky's political contributions and relationship to Biden, but at no point do they present evidence that these donations or his friendship with Biden had any effect on his loan application.
On August 12, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle published an article trumpeting a book's inflammatory claim that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered raids against medical marijuana dispensaries in California in order to distract from the failed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Operation Fast and Furious. But during an interview on NRA News last night, Boyle admitted that there was "not really any evidence" to substantiate the claim.
Boyle's article is largely a regurgitation of allegations made in an excerpt released from the forthcoming book Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational and Scientific, authored by Martin A. Lee. In fact, his article is so reliant on Lee's claims that quotations of the author comprise nearly two-thirds of the 708 word piece.
But on Monday, Boyle acknowledged on NRA News that "there is not really any evidence" to support Lee's claims, only "coincidental ... timing." Indeed, Lee's allegation that "The Justice Department green-lit a scorched earth campaign against medicinal cannabis in order to placate law enforcement and control the damage from the Fast and Furious scandal by deflecting attention to other matters" seems to be based solely on the fact that four federal prosecutors in California announced the raids the same day Holder sent a letter to Issa "defending his handling of the Fast and Furious affair."
From NRA News:
CAM EDWARDS, NRA NEWS HOST: The media was basically ignoring [Fast and Furious]. They didn't want this to be a scandal. I don't know if I necessarily buy the argument that Eric Holder decided to, you know, go after medical marijuana dispensaries in California and crack down and launch this, you know, huge assault to distract from Fast and Furious. Does he have any evidence to back this up?
BOYLE: I mean he is using, basically, the coincidental same timing of everything that's going on at the same time. I mean it does kind of makes in sense in that there's only so many reporters in the mainstream media covering the Department of Justice. And if they've got a choice, "Ok we can cover that Eric Holder is going after medical marijuana dispensaries" or "Eric Holder is arming the Mexican drug cartels." Which one is the mainstream media going to pick? Eric Holder is enforcing the law. That's what they are going to pick. That's the storyline that they are going to cover because we all know that the majority of mainstream reporters are lazy and that they are not going to dig into the real scandals and the real stories that plague this Obama administration. And basically that's kind of where his argument makes a little bit of sense. But I mean he doesn't really have any more evidence other than essentially the politics of coincidence. And the timing all lines up. But other than that -- I mean we will have to wait and see when the book comes out, to see if there is any more real concrete evidence in there --
BOYLE: -- but in the excerpt that was published this weekend, no, there is not really any evidence.
While Boyle said that "we will have to wait and see when the book comes out, to see if there is any more real concrete evidence" of Lee's claims, he did not explain why he chose to write a story on the allegations in the absence of such evidence.
The Daily Caller: Where "the politics of coincidence" are evidence enough to justify an article - as long as it targets the Obama administration.
Fox News and The Daily Caller are promoting the baseless charge that the Obama administration illegally ended a pension plan for workers at Delphi, an auto parts maker, because the workers weren't union members.
The Daily Caller alleges that emails it has obtained show that the Obama Treasury Department was the "driving force" behind the decision to end the Delphi pension plan, instead of the independent federal agency that insures pensions, called the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC). And Fox News has made the same charge. But the emails show nothing of the sort.
The email exchanges come from PBGC employees in 2009, when the government-led rescue of the auto industry was being carried out.
In reality, the emails are so far removed from their context that it's impossible to draw definitive conclusions about them, but the Daily Caller does its best to fill in the blanks by doctoring quotes and ignoring inconvenient information.
Only one of the 16 emails comes from a Treasury Department employee, and it doesn't show pressure to terminate the Delphi pension. In fact, unions aren't mentioned at all in the emails.
Fox has devoted several segments to hyping the cooked-up story. For instance, today, Fox's Lauren Simonetti appeared on Fox & Friends First and claimed that "all along, Treasury and White House officials have claimed that the pension decisions were made by the independent Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Key officials even testified to that under oath. The emails recently obtained by The Daily Caller show that's not the case."
Previously, the Daily Caller reporter who wrote the story, Matthew Boyle, appeared on the August 7 edition of America Live to claim the emails "prove beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the "Obama administration political officials were the ones who ultimately made the decision, coercing the PBGC officials into terminating the pensions of these non-union workers."
The Daily Caller is using a new report from the Migration Policy Institute, which estimates that about 1.8 million undocumented immigrants could benefit from the Obama administration's deferred action on deportation, to revive the spurious myth that immigration depresses employment. But economists have long maintained that immigrants don't take away American jobs and that, in fact, immigration has a positive impact on the economy.
In June, the Department of Homeland Security announced its decision to allow some young undocumented immigrants to apply to stay and work legally in the country without fear of deportation. DHS said the policy was aimed at:
"certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization."
On Tuesday, MPI released an analysis showing that upwards of 1.76 million undocumented immigrants under the age of 31 could benefit from the deferment, which lasts only two years, and is contingent on approval. MPI found:
For years a mutually advantageous relationship has existed between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and firearm manufacturers. The gun industry donates huge chunks of cash -- as much as $38.9 million from 2005 to 2011 -- to the NRA, and the gun rights organization in turn engages in hysterical fearmongering to promote gun sales. One hand washes the other. And now the Daily Caller is joining the action by offering its readers discounted NRA memberships.
It was only a matter of time before the gun-loving Daily Caller recognized the benefit of shilling for the gun industry and its unofficial PR wing, the NRA. In recent months the online publication has been heavily promoting the NRA while offering its readers perks in the form of a weekly handgun giveaway.
But as material published this week demonstrates, increasingly unabashed promotion of the NRA and FMK Firearms calls the Daily Caller's credibility as a news source further into question.
On Wednesday Mike Piccione, editor of the Daily Caller's Guns and Gear section -- which features firearms advertisements, NRA press releases, and other pieces of dubious gun "reporting" -- announced that Daily Caller readers were eligible to purchase discounted NRA memberships. Piccione offered a number of childish reasons for signing up, including, "Joining the NRA is the equivalent of giving [New York City Mayor] Michael Bloomberg the finger."
The ethical implications of a journalism outlet directly helping to fill the coffers of special interest group are certainly weighty. How can one trust the Daily Caller's reporting on the NRA -- which gets itself into the headlines all the time -- when it accepts advertising money from the group and urges its readers to purchase memberships?
The Daily Caller is clearly unconcerned. Nor does it see any problems in publishing columns by Jim Pontillo, who donates the guns for the weekly giveaway from his company FMK Firearms. Pontillo was probably happy for the exposure considering that in previous columns for other online outlets he offered casual racism aimed at the President and defended the Confederacy.
In a Daily Caller column published on Tuesday, Pontillo took umbrage with comments that President Obama made about small business owners (which were taken out of context by Fox News and other right-wing outlets). In his column, Pontillo made clear his feelings about people receiving government assistance:
How much of my success can I attribute to my hard work? Do I owe thanks to the welfare recipients you enrich at my expense? While they sit in government-subsidized housing, talking on their iPhones, viewing Netflix movies on their plasma TVs and eating dinners purchased with government food stamps, I sweat 80 to 100 hours a week trying to make my small business succeed.
Such uninhibited bashing of the needy might (or at least should) embarrass a reputable publication. Other publications might think to avoid mainstreaming a racist crackpot. But the Daily Caller wants to keep giving away guns, so they're sticking with Pontillo for the time being.
The Daily Caller reported late last night that they obtained an exclusive first look at Richard Miniter's forthcoming book Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him, which contains the "bombshell" allegation (sourced to a single anonymous official) that in the first three months of 2011, President Obama thrice canceled the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. Miniter's and the Caller's reporting is contradicted by previous in-depth reports indicating that the plan for the raid wasn't delivered to the president until the end of March, and training for the operation didn't begin until mid-April, meaning that there wasn't yet a "mission" for the president to cancel.
The Daily Caller's David Martosko wrote last night:
In "Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him," Richard Miniter writes that Obama canceled the "kill" mission in January 2011, again in February, and a third time in March. Obama's close adviser Valerie Jarrett persuaded him to hold off each time, according to the book.
Miniter, a two-time New York Times best-selling author, cites an unnamed source with Joint Special Operations Command who had direct knowledge of the operation and its planning.
Miniter's reporting doesn't match up with the New Yorker's deep dive into the Bin Laden raid, published in August 2011, which offered a timeline of the planning process based on quotes and information from a variety of sources, named and otherwise.
According to the New Yorker, in late 2010 President Obama ordered Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to "begin exploring options for a military strike" against the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan where Bin Laden was thought to be hiding, and that planning began in February 2011. At that point, according to the Caller's vague reporting, Obama is alleged to have already twice "canceled" the mission.
Right-wing media outlets are seizing on a recent study to claim that ultraviolet (UV) emissions from compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) pose a threat to human health and may even cause skin cancer. But experts agree that under normal conditions CFLs are perfectly safe, and the study's author says that there is "no link" between CFLs and cancer.
A study published in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology measured the effect of CFLs at distances of 2.5, 7.5 and 35 centimeters (0.98 to 13.78 inches) away from skin cells and found that "the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation." It concluded that "it is best to avoid using them at close distances and that they are safest when placed behind an additional glass cover."
The UV risk is easily eliminated by purchasing double-envelope CFLs, using a lampshade, or staying more than a foot away from an exposed bulb.
Nevertheless, conservative media outlets have exaggerated these findings to once again portray CFL bulbs as unsafe. During a Fox & Friends news brief on the study, Gretchen Carlson reported that CFLs "could be bad for people," and Brian Kilmeade exclaimed: "Goodbye epidermis!" And a Newsmax headline declared that "Energy-Saving Light Bulbs Can Cause Skin Cancer."
But Dr. Tatsiana Mironava, co-author of the study, told Media Matters that "there is no link in scientific literature between CFL exposure and cancer." And dermatologist Dr. Howard Brooks explained that CFLs emit "such a small amount" of UV rays that they "shouldn't be a risk." Dr. Brooks said that skin damage would only be a concern after "prolonged exposure," such as sitting directly underneath a desk lamp for an extended period of time.
From the July 11 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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After Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion upholding health care reform, the right-wing media have attacked his conservative credentials. Despite experts' statements that the opinion might have cleared the way for more rulings restricting federal power and progressive legislation, media conservatives are using this as a pretext to demand even more conservative judicial nominees. There is evidence their pressure is having an effect.
Did you know that American doctors are so incensed over Obamacare's big-government communist socialism that more than eight in ten are going to quit doctoring? It's true, according to a terribly conducted survey conducted by a shady right-wing group, reported credulously by the Daily Caller, and hyped by Matt Drudge and Fox News.
"Eighty-three percent of American physicians have considered leaving their practices over President Barack Obama's health care reform law, according to a survey released by the Doctor Patient Medical Association," reported the Daily Caller yesterday. What is the Doctor Patient Medical Association? The Daily Caller didn't seem too interested (beyond calling them "a non-partisan association of doctors and patients") so we'll have to fill in a few gaps.
The Doctor Patient Medical Association's founder, Kathryn Serkes, is a long-time veteran of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a collection of crackpot malcontents that opposes mandatory vaccinations, wrongly believes undocumented immigrants spread leprosy, and dabbled in Vince Foster conspiracy theorism. The group itself is solidly conservative in its politics: it boasts membership in the National Tea Party Federation; describes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as "Destruction Of Our Medicine," or DOOM; and published a sheet of talking points about the health law to help grassroots activists "beat back the White House spin machine!"
The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle is reporting that a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) memorandum in the possession of congressional investigators "described a specific operation in which guns were allowed to walk across the Mexican border" during Operation Fast and Furious. The memo was drafted and, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), "forwarded to DOJ headquarters" the day before the Justice Department told Congress that no such gunwalking had occurred. Boyle suggests that this indicates that DOJ knew gunwalking had occurred in Fast and Furious when they issued their statement to Congress, and thus that they "may have tried to cover up" the use of such activities. This assertion is false and is directly contradicted by the memo in question, which does not detail a gunwalking operation.
Instead the memo describes a case where ATF agents were forced to "leave the immediate area" of the stakeout of a suspected gun trafficker to avoid detection. While repositioning, the suspect left the area and eluded capture. From the memo:
Special Agent [Gary] Styers was asked to describe the operations and relayed that one of the operations was a suspected transaction that was to occur at a gas station and detailed agents were asked to cover the transaction. While positioning to observe the suspects, Special Agent Styers and other detailed agents were told by Special Agent [Hope] McAllister that the agents were too close and would burn the operation. Special Agent McAllister told all of the agents to leave the immediate area. While the agents were repositioning, the transaction between the suspects took place and the vehicle took possession of the firearms and eventually left the area without the agents following it.
What was described was an unsuccessful law enforcement operation, not ATF acquiescence to the illegal transfer of firearms. Boyle includes much of the text of that passage in his article, but nonetheless concludes that Styers was describing an operation "in which guns were allowed to walk across the Mexican border." Boyle also neglects to mention that Styers, the author of the memo, wrote that during his involvement in Fast and Furious "he did not see any firearms cross the border into Mexico."
This isn't the first time that Boyle has made false claims in his reporting that are easily contradicted by the very documents he cites. In September 2011, Boyle published an article claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was attempting to hire 230,000 new workers at a cost of $21 billion per year. The legal documents cited by Boyle actually indicated that this was a scenario the EPA wanted to -- and eventually did -- avoid.