Right-wing media are championing an appellate decision currently before the Supreme Court that upended the ability of presidents to appoint nominees during Senate recesses as a repudiation of President Barack Obama. But National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning was a radical decision that ignored long-standing precedent, and if the Supreme Court finds such appointments unconstitutional, governmental operations could be hindered to a historic degree.
The founder of the Weather Channel, now a local weatherman on a San Diego television station, dedicated nearly half an hour to climate change misinformation, including claiming that there are more polar bears because "Eskimos ... have now become more civilized."
John Coleman, who is a weatherman for the independent news station KUSI News after being "forced" out of the Weather Channel, said in a segment on climate change this week that polar bear populations have increased because "the Eskimos no longer kill the polar bears for the meat and furs in order to stay alive, it's -- we have now become more civilized in our Eskimo populations around the poles."
In fact, the majority of polar bear populations for which there are sufficient data are declining. Those population levels are somewhat higher than in the 1970s thanks to a ban on polar bear hunting with limited exceptions for traditional hunting by Inuit populations. However, despite conservative media claims to the contrary, this recovery in no way negates the ongoing existential threat that global warming poses to polar bear populations.
In the segment, Coleman -- who has accused NASA climate researchers of "lying" about temperature records -- hosted four paid associates of the Heartland Institute, which has received funding from the fossil fuel industry and once compared those who accept climate science to the "Unabomber." Coleman called Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast, who claimed in the 1990s that moderate smoking has "few, if any, adverse health effects" while simultaneously receiving money from tobacco giants Philip Morris, "a hero of mine."
USA TODAY became the latest mainstream newspaper to incorrectly "balance" the views of the hundreds of scientists behind a major climate report with the the Heartland Institute, a fossil-fuel-funded organization that once compared those who accept climate science to the "Unabomber." In an op-ed published by the newspaper Tuesday, the head of the organization portrayed outright falsehoods as simply "opinion" in order to dismiss the United Nations panel behind the report as a "discredited oracle."
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC), which convenes hundreds of top climate experts from around the world to assess the scientific understanding of climate change, stated in its most recent report that scientists are 95 percent certain that the majority of recent warming is manmade, or about as certain as they are that cigarettes kill. This is an increase from just over 50 percent certainty in 1995, and 66 percent certainty in 2001. Yet the head of the Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast, counterfactually suggested in USA TODAY that "we are no more certain about the impact of man-made greenhouse gases than we were in 1990, or even in 1979."
Bast also falsely claimed that the IPCC "admits, but does not explain, why no warming has occurred for the past 15 years." It would be one thing for Bast to claim that he is not convinced by the IPCC's explanation that that the slightly slower rate of atmospheric warming in the last 15 years was likely due to the ocean absorbing much of recent heat, along with other natural factors such as volcanic eruptions. But Bast simply pretended that this explanation does not exist so that he could cling to the myth that short-term variability rebuts the idea of a long-term greenhouse gas signal.
A recent study by Media Matters found that The Washington Post and Bloomberg News also turned to Bast, making him one of the most frequently quoted climate doubters in IPCC coverage. The New York Times quoted a report backed by the Heartland Institute. None of these newspapers disclosed that Heartland has recently received funding from the Charles Koch Foundation, backed by the CEO of a corporation with major oil interests, and received funding from ExxonMobil from 1998 to 2006. Nor did they mention factors that might help readers assess the credibility of the Heartland Institute, including that in 2012 the group launched a billboard campaign associating "belief" in global warming with murderers such as Ted Kaczynski, the "Unabomber," which they discontinued after backlash from many of their own donors but refused to apologize for.
A study of coverage of the recent United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report finds that many mainstream media outlets amplified the marginal viewpoints of those who doubt the role of human activity in warming the planet, even though the report itself reflects that the climate science community is more certain than ever that humans are the major driver of climate change. The media also covered how recent temperature trends have not warmed at as fast a rate as before in nearly half of their IPCC coverage, but this trend does not undermine long-term climate change.
The Washington Post blithely suggested that Congress should "rewrite" the Voting Rights Act (VRA) rather than allow the Department of Justice to hold states accountable for voter suppression in federal court, seemingly oblivious to the government shutdown caused by the historic obstructionism of the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.
Although the conservative wing of the Supreme Court recently gutted significant protections for the right to vote in last summer's infamous Shelby County v. Holder, judges still have authority under the VRA to enjoin voter suppression after a discriminatory law is enacted. The Department of Justice is suing the states of Texas and North Carolina under these Section 2 powers, and if a court finds that the voter suppression attempted in either of these states was done with the intent to discriminate on the basis of race, Section 3 of the VRA could require these states to once again "pre-clear" their election changes.
In the middle of a Republican-caused government shutdown due to opposition to the Affordable Care Act, however, the Post opined that rather than sue states in court for clear violations of the VRA, it would be "easier and fairer" for Congress to "rewrite" those pre-clearance sections that Shelby County struck down. From the editorial:
EVER SINCE the Supreme Court gutted a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Attorney General Eric H. Holder's Justice Department has been trying to patch it, using the sections of the law that the court left in place to reconstitute the checks on discrimination that had existed for decades. The Justice Department's latest move, involving a challenge to odious new voting restrictions in North Carolina, demonstrates that Mr. Holder is committed to the effort. It also demonstrates why Congress, not the Obama administration, should be the branch of government offering the primary response to the court's ruling.
With a series of wins in cases such as North Carolina's, the Justice Department could reestablish the pre-clearance requirement in many places where it used to apply. The easier and fairer way to revive pre-clearance, however, would be for Congress to rewrite the formula for which places should be covered. The Supreme Court left lawmakers that latitude, and large bipartisan majorities in Congress historically have supported pre-clearance. If lawmakers want to get back to doing something productive, resuscitating the Voting Rights Act would be a good place to start.
Considering DOJ's obligations under the VRA, the Post's objection to legally holding states accountable for voter suppression would have been unnecessarily deferential to the legislative branch in any context. In the reality of a government shutdown, the Post's call that "[i]f lawmakers want to get back to doing something productive, resuscitating the Voting Rights Act would be a good place to start" is downright bizarre.
There's been quite a bit of energy invested by reporters and pundits over the past week figuring out ways in which blame for the Republican-caused government shutdown can be spread around to the Obama administration. Those efforts have culminated in a masterwork of forced equivalence by Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, who argued that the GOP is to blame for being completely unreasonable, and Obama is to blame because he's not indulging the unreasonableness of the Republicans, which is itself a form of unreasonableness.
Writing on her Washington Post blog at 11:00 a.m. EDT on October 7, Rubin lashed out at Republicans in Congress as a bunch of bumbling clowns who have no strategy for the shutdown or the debt limit fight, and no idea what they hope to extract in concessions from the Obama administration. The party, she wrote, is being needlessly stubborn in its unreasonable demands, is completely in shambles, and risks marginalizing itself so long as it clings to the "delusion" that it is "winning":
So long as Republicans think they are winning the speaker and cooler heads in the Senate will have difficulty putting together a package that could resolve the CR and/or the debt ceiling. Meanwhile, the business community, suburban Republicans and lifelong conservatives shake their head in dismay. This mess and the delusion that one can reach unattainable goals at the country [sic] expense are not why they have supported Republicans. And if the GOP doesn't get a grip, these voters might not do so in the future, or at the very least they might close their wallets to GOP candidates.
Writing on her Washington Post blog at 1:30 p.m. EDT on October 7, Rubin lashed out at President Obama for refusing to negotiate with the Republicans in Congress on the debt ceiling or funding the government (the same Republicans she painted as delusional and unreasonable). According to Rubin, the only reason Obama could have for refusing to negotiate (the fact that their demands are delusional and unreasonable apparently doesn't count) is that he wants the "political obliteration of his political opponents."
President Obama's assertion that he won't negotiate is inexplicable, unless the name of the game here is not a deal or economic survival but political obliteration of his political opponents. After weeks of intense focus on the crisis in Syria, the White House is set to turn to the economy.
The White House will counter that they will negotiate, after the continuing resolution and/or debt-ceiling bills are cleanly passed. But that is a distinction without a difference, and White House staffers know it. In actual war you can demand surrender and then negotiation, but in politics the other side has to survive and, hence, you must avoid making the terms so onerous that they can't be accepted. (Unless you think you are "winning" and the goal is to make the other guys look bad.)
When you want above all else to make the opposition look bad and set them up for failure (which, by the way, means a disaster for the country), then you decide to push them so hard they have to cry uncle. And when they are just as obstinate as you, they refuse to and the hostages suffer the consequences.
The "onerous" term the White House is supposedly imposing is refusing to negotiate on what Rubin herself called irrational and "unattainable" policy goals. Rubin is effectively pushing responsibility for the GOP formulating a coherent strategy onto Obama. She wrote in her first post that the GOP will be lost if it doesn't "get a grip." In her second post she said it's actually Obama's responsibility to make sure the other side "survives." At 11 a.m. she said the GOP was setting itself up for failure. At 1 p.m. she said it's the president who's setting them up for failure.
It doesn't make sense, but it covers both parties in blame, so mission accomplished.
Here's a quick synopsis of George Will's last five columns for the Washington Post: bemoaning the politicization of the Federal Reserve Board; tracing the history of isolationism; counseling Republicans to let Obamacare stumble on its own; inveighing against college football's corruption and lawlessness; and examining the legacy of the Bay of Pigs invasion. In those five columns, Will cited a proposed constitutional amendment from 1938, used the phrases "semantic infiltration" and "perverse fecundity," and quoted Ernest Hemingway and H.L. Mencken. He has degrees from Oxford and got his Ph.D from Princeton.
All this to say that George Will is a brainy fellow who enjoys a broad array of scholarly pursuits and has a long-running reputation as a public intellectual. And that's why it's kind of baffling that he's joining Fox News.
To be clear, Will's conservative politics and his counterfactual denialism of climate change fit the Murdoch network hand-in-glove. And he's an old, white conservative man joining what is basically the ongoing televised celebration of old, white conservative men. But the barking partisanship of Fox News and its crude appeals to cultural resentment don't mesh with Will's style of commentary and analysis. You look at George Will, in all his carefully cultivated patrician nerdiness, and the Fox News environment just seems wrong for him. He revels in elitism, whereas Fox News sops to Tea Party anger. Being associated with that does nothing for the George Will "brand," if that's the right word for it. In fact, it probably hurts it.
On October 8, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a challenge to campaign contribution limits that court-watchers call "the next Citizens United." Although opponents of campaign finance regulation characterize aggregate contribution limits as a violation of the First Amendment, media should be aware that such limits guard against institutional corruption in the democratic process, a foremost concern of the Constitution's framers.
Right-wing media figures celebrated the House Republicans' plan to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act by a year, ignoring the consequences that the move would have on the uninsured.
Media outlets are mischaracterizing legislation that licenses anti-LGBT discrimination as a bill that protects fundamental religious and personal freedoms.
Under the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act (MARFA), drafted by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) and co-sponsored by 60 House members, the federal government could not take any "adverse action" against individuals who oppose same-sex marriage or premarital sex on religious grounds. The legislation effectively subsidizes anti-gay discrimination. In a statement, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) noted that religious liberty enjoys robust constitutional and statutory protection, but that MARFA would radically reinterpret the concept to allow federal employees and recipients of federal funds to deny services to LGBT people:
"Every American understands the importance of protecting the rights of people of faith to hold and express their beliefs, including about the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people," said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legislative Director Allison Herwitt. "But our Constitution and laws already strongly safeguard that liberty. The purpose of the legislation introduced today is simply to let federal employees, contractors and grantees refuse to do their jobs or fulfill the terms of their taxpayer-funded contracts because they have a particular religious view about certain lawfully-married couples - and then to sue the federal government for damages if they don't get their way."
For example, if passed, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act would permit a federal worker processing tax returns, approving visa applications or reviewing Social Security applications to walk away from their responsibilities whenever a same-sex couple's paperwork appeared on his or her desk. It would also allow a federally-funded homeless shelter or substance abuse treatment program to turn away LGBT people. Despite the cosponsors claims, there is no evidence that federal programs have or would discriminate against individuals because of their religious beliefs about marriage. Protections against discrimination based on religious belief are explicitly and robustly provided under the First Amendment and federal nondiscrimination statutes. [emphasis added]
Freedom to Marry added that the legislation would also permit businesses to deny leave to employees who wished to care for a same-sex spouse. The libertarian-leaning Volokh Conspiracy blog argued that MARFA is likely unconstitutional, as it privileges religious views in opposition to same-sex marriage and pre-marital sex over other religious views - a stark violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.
Media pundits never seem to tire of writing gun violence prevention's obituary. They seem determined to create a conventional wisdom that no progress on the issue is possible, and shut down any effort to renew a dialogue on public safety legislation that has gone quiet in the halls of Congress despite overwhelming public support for stronger gun laws.
Last week it was the recall election defeats of two Colorado state senators who had supported stronger gun laws that caused some commentators to declare "The Death of Gun Control." They didn't let the facts stand in their way -- the gun laws in question were broadly popular statewide, the recall turnout was extremely low, and efforts by conservatives to recall other pro-gun safety legislators failed. In years past, media have that the power of the National Rifle Association would prevent stronger gun laws from getting consideration.
Now pundits are claiming that comments from the Obama administration following the Navy Yard shooting, deemed insufficiently robust in their calls for stronger laws, mean "RIP for gun control," in the words of The Washington Post's Dana Milbank.
Milbank writes in his September 17 column that "President Obama didn't even try to use the massacre at the Washington Navy Yard to revive the gun-control debate," apparently considering Obama's statement in response to the attack that his administration will "do everything that we can to try to prevent" future tragedies insufficiently specific. In fact, it's not appreciably less specific than his remarks in response to the Sandy Hook shooting, in which he did not lay out any policy goals but said only that "we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."
One tea leaf Milbank reads to bolster his case that the gun violence prevention debate is over is a selective quotation of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney:
At the White House on Tuesday, the Associated Press's Julie Pace noted Obama's subdued response to the shooting and asked if "maybe there's some sort of numbness among the public since these shootings have happened so frequently." Another questioner asked if there's "an exhaustion and an acceptance that this is the new normal."
Press secretary Jay Carney said the president "doesn't accept that it's the new normal."
Maybe not. But the loss of hope for gun control is becoming a durable abnormal.
In fact, a fuller account of Carney's remarks shows that he said the Obama administration would continue to use executive action to address gun violence (the White House announced two new executive actions on gun violence on August 29) and that the administration "continue[s] to call on Congress to listen to the voices of their constituents and legislate accordingly."
Jennifer Rubin is using the fresh horror of the Washington Navy Yard massacre to take cheap shots at President Obama and make petty, insignificant, and ultimately false political arguments. Writing on her Washington Post blog, Rubin swipes at the president for calling the shooting "cowardly," instead of evil:
But what we know now is that a dozen brave souls in service of their country lost their lives, highlighting close to home how indebted we are to the military. President Obama properly acknowledged as such, before proceeding with a hyper-partisan speech blaming Republicans for the lack of economic progress. But Obama also said that the murders were a "cowardly" act. Not so. They were evil. The killing spree was, to be blunt, brazen and audacious. But in the end, just plain evil.
(In contrast with Obama, she points to Virginia governor Bob McDonnell's statement that "hit just the right note," because obviously we're all keeping score here.)
Rubin's reason for attacking the president's non-use of the term "evil" is as follows:
Yes, evil. Liberals tend to shy away from such terms, maybe afraid they'll sound like those dreaded values voters. Or maybe it's their therapeutic mindset that attributes most bad behavior to "sickness," personal or societal. They mocked President George W. Bush when he labeled terrorists as "evil-doers." The chattering class was horrified when President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union the "evil empire."
Even in his Syria speech on Sept. 10, Obama didn't use the word "evil." He said Bashar al-Assad's regime was "repressive" and that use of gas against civilians violated international law and our "common humanity." He said the images were "sickening." But evil? It's not in his vernacular.
This is lazy and wrong. If Rubin had bothered to Google a few of Obama's speeches, she would have noticed this one calling the Tucson mass shooting "evil." Or this one calling the Sandy Hook mass shooting "evil." Or this statement calling the Sandy Hook shooting "evil." Or this weekly radio address calling the Boston Marathon bombing "evil." Or this speech calling slavery "evil." Or this speech calling the Holocaust "evil." Or this statement calling genocide in the Balkans "evil."
House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is looking to crank up the Benghazi scandal machine again. With hearings to explore Benghazi's "unanswered questions" scheduled for September 19, the Republicans on the committee published this morning a report on the "deficiencies" in the independent inquiry conducted by the State Department's Accountability Review Board. Issa and his colleagues clearly want to create buzz among the partisan and DC media (before its public release the report was leaked to Fox News, the Washington Post, and the Daily Beast), and they know that one proven tactic for piquing reporters' interest is to take a shot at Hillary Clinton, which this report does. Feebly.
The previous House Republican report on Benghazi made a big splash with its claim that a cable bearing the former Secretary of State's signature indicated that she had personally denied requests for increased security in Benghazi -- an absurd allegation given that all such messages from the State Department to overseas diplomatic facilities bear the secretary's "signature." The new report's attempt at snaring Clinton is less dramatic: "E-mails reviewed by the Committee," the report states on page 65, "show it is likely that Secretary Clinton's views played some role in the decision making on the future of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi."
The report's Clinton inclusion is already having the intended effect. Fox News noted that the report says "it is likely, based on email evidence, that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's views played a role in the decision-making." CNN wrote that the "report is the closest congressional investigators have come to tying Clinton to aspects of planning for the Benghazi mission before the attack."
But how close is it? The committee's Republicans aren't alleging that Clinton had a role in the decision making process; they suspect her views, as interpreted by subordinates, came into play. And not her views on the security situation in Benghazi, but on the issue of whether to keep the Benghazi outpost operational a year before the attack took place. And they're not 100-percent sure -- it is "likely" that this happened. That language is so carefully hedged that one suspects Issa wanted to avoid a repeat of the "signed cable" fiasco.
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin has come up with a novel and ingenious strategy for responding to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons against its own citizens: attack Iran. Frustrated with what she sees as the slow march to U.S. military action in the Middle East, Rubin posted to her blog this morning the draft congressional resolution she'd like to see in response to the Syria situation:
THEREFORE be it resolved:
1. The president of the United States shall be authorized to use all necessary force against Iran in the event it does not halt all enrichment and allow complete access to all facilities to verify the discontinuation and destruction of its nuclear weapons facilities;
2. It shall be the policy of the United States to support free peoples in Iran seeking to change the regime and obtain essential human rights and a normalized relationship with the West;
3. It shall be the policy of the United States to aid and assist Syrians, including the Syrian Free Army, seeking to live in peace with their neighbors and respecting the individual rights of the Syrian people so as to prevent a victory by the Assad regime and/or al-Qaeda forces;
3. [sic] Russia is an inappropriate party to negotiate on behalf of or verify the compliance of WMD disarmament by its ally Syria or by the government of Iran; and
4. [sic] The president shall be authorized to use all means necessary to achieve the president's stated purposes, to wit, enforcing sufficient consequences for use of WMDs, preventing the risk of future use by the Assad regime or Hezbollah and degrading the Assad regime's ability to use, deliver and command the use of WMDs.
For those of you quick to point out that Iran and Syria are, in fact, not the same place, and that attacking Iranian nuclear facilities would serve to stifle any hope for political moderation within Iran, you're forgetting that Jennifer Rubin is a clear-eyed foreign policy thinker who is respected by her colleagues and never gets anything wrong.
Reading Bob Woodward's recent dissection of previous budget negotiations between Speaker of the House John Boehner and President Obama, readers got to see just how strong the urge is among Beltway media insiders to blame both sides for failed efforts in the past. In the case of Woodward, the urge is so strong it overtakes his own reporting.
Woodward's lengthy September 6 piece, headlined "The inside story of how Obama and Boehner negotiate," examined the weeks-long back and forth between Boehner and Obama late last year as the two tried to work out a budget deal to avoid going over the so-called "fiscal cliff." In the piece, Woodward reports how Obama was willing to make key compromises only to have a larger deal scuttled at the last minute.
Yet after detailing how Obama had offered up significant concessions -- concessions his political supporters strongly opposed at the time -- Woodward concluded that a meaningful deal wasn't struck because Obama, along with Boehner, "would not compromise."
In other words, Woodward's analysis doesn't trust Woodward's reporting.
Touted as a detailed telling based on "congressional aides, meeting notes, and budget documents," Woodward's reporting is quite clear about the string of compromises Obama was willing to make.
Woodward's take-away? Obama shoulders half the blame for failing to craft a deal because he failed to "compromise" sufficiently, despite the fact that the main roadblock to a larger compromise was the unrelenting partisanship of the GOP majority in the House.
No surprise perhaps, since with his book last year about budget negotiations, Woodward previously rallied around the both-sides-are-to-blame narrative: "The ultimate problem, the book suggests, was a lack of leadership by both Mr. Boehner and Mr. Obama," noted the New York Times review of the book.
This sort of graphic misreading of the facts reflects the long-running press phenomena of ignoring or glossing over the Republican Party's brand of radical obstructionism since Obama became president in 2009. (And then blaming Obama for that behavior.) Much of the negotiation coverage, from the so-called fiscal cliff to sequestration, perpetuates the myth that Republicans are willing and eager partners in governance, it's just that Obama hasn't yet figured out how the get them to cooperate. (It's so obvious!)
He's not leading.