On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol attacked President Obama's decision to give a recess appointment to Justice Department nominee James Cole. Kristol claimed: "The recess appointment there is odd. I mean, it's one thing to recess appoint some foreign service officers who were held up for various reasons for their ambassadorships. To recess appoint the deputy attorney general of the United States when the Senate -- the Democratic Senate seemed unwilling to bring to the floor to have a debate and to have a vote is, I think, unusual."
In fact, President George W. Bush used his recess appointment power again and again to install high-ranking members of his administration.
Furthermore, Cole has received bipartisan support, including from former Republican Sen. John C. Danforth (MO) and Michael Toner, former general counsel for the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney 2000 presidential campaign. And according to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the reason Cole's nomination was not brought to the Senate floor for a vote was that "Despite repeated requests, for more than five months, Senate Republicans refused to debate the nomination of Jim Cole to be the Deputy Attorney General."
On December 29, Obama gave a recess appointment to Cole, naming him deputy attorney general - the number two position at the Justice Department.
But such an appointment is hardly new. Indeed, according to a Congressional Research Service report issued shortly before the end of the Bush administration, Bush made 171 recess appointments. Six of these people were recess appointed to the second-highest position in their respective agencies:
On today's edition of Fox News' Your World, guest host Brian Sullivan had on Federal Communications Commission member Robert McDowell to discuss the FCC vote to implement a form of net neutrality. Sullivan pointed out that it was" a partisan vote, right along party lines," and that McDowell was "one of the two commissioners who voted against the move, fearing what it might bring next."
The two teamed up to misinform about one aspect of the new rules. Sullivan asked, "Building out these networks is massively expensive. So what's wrong with those service providers charging heavier users more? I mean, UPS and FedEx charge you more if you want a package overnight or three days or if it's bigger. What's wrong with doing the Internet and its costs the same way we do package delivery?" McDowell responding by invoking "pricing freedom": "If an Internet service provider wants to cater to a specific market segment that might have certain quality of service demands or speed demands or the size of the pipe, how much data you want delivered over the pipe – those kinds of demands – they should be able to have pricing freedom in order to compensate them for the capital costs that they have to expend in order to deliver those services to consumers. So what this does is it actually calls into question whether or not there will be pricing freedom in order for this to happen."
In fact, net neutrality does not prohibit ISPs from charging customers more for a bigger "pipe," or purchasing more and/or faster bandwidth. What it does is suggest that ISPs will likely be prohibited for charging content providers a premium for making their traffic faster or from slowing down the traffic of other content providers who don't pay a premium. As the FCC explains it:
The Washington Times published an op-ed by former Corporation for National and Community Service Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which Walpin claimed that President Obama fired him "for doing my job of uncovering fraud, waste and abuse." In fact, at the time he was fired, Walpin was accused of acting improperly and not fulfilling his job requirements.
Walpin was writing an op-ed about a bill to grant Inspectors General the power to issue subpoenas compelling witnesses to testify. (IGs currently have the power to issue subpoenas for documents, but not for live testimony.) Democratic Rep. Edolphus Towns (NY) has introduced a version of the proposal in the current Congress, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has co-sponsored the bill.
Whatever you think of that legislation, the right-wing media clearly has an agenda in pushing Walpin's dubious claims about why he was fired.
As we've noted, The Washington Times and Fox News have repeatedly alleged that there is something nefarious about Walpin's firing, and Issa -- the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee -- has strongly suggested that he will investigate Walpin's firing.
But here are a few facts that put Walpin's firing in a different light and that the right-wing media never tell you: In an April 29, 2009, letter Lawrence Brown, who was then the acting US. attorney for the Eastern District of California detailed an investigation into Walpin's handling of allegations that Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the organization he formerly headed, St. HOPE Academy, allegedly misused AmeriCorps grants. The letter alleged that Walpin and his staff failed to include or disclose relevant information regarding the case to Brown's office; that Walpin repeatedly discussed the case in the press after having been advised that "under no circumstance was he to communicate with the media about a matter under investigation"; and that Walpin's "actions were hindering our investigation and handling of this matter."
A lesson for discredited conservative activist Andrew Breitbart: If you're going to cheat, don't show your cards. Even better yet: don't cheat.
Last week Breitbart released a 29-page report calling for a congressional investigation into what he claims is "widespread corruption" surrounding the 1999 USDA settlement in Pigford v. Glickman. The lawsuit was filed by black farmers who were denied loans and whose discrimination complaints were ignored by the USDA between 1981 and 1996. Breitbart asserts that most of the claims for payment under the settlement were filed by undeserving people and that then-Senator Obama pushed to extend the payments for those who missed the filing deadline in order to buy the rural black vote in 2007. (No explanation provided for why Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was such a willing accomplice.)
The allegations of massive fraud made in the report rely heavily on anecdotes apparently provided to Breitbart by what appear to be numerous unnamed USDA employees. But it turns out that Breitbart took portions of an interview with one person and presented them as though they came from several different people. How do we know that? Because after publishing his report, Breitbart posted interviews with his sources on BigGovernment.com in what I assume was an effort to draw more attention to his "Pigford investigation" (I guess the bright red headlines weren't working.)
In the following excerpt from Breitbart's report, each of the USDA sources referenced in bold is actually the same person, according to the interview posted on BigGovernment.com, but are presented in the report as several different people:
Some of the claims of discrimination didn't make sense. One employee reports that there were numerous claims of racial discrimination against the USDA offices in Jefferson County, Arkansas, for example, but the supervisors in that office were all black.
Another employee from Arkansas reports that there were literally hundreds of claims from black women stating they had been the victims of USDA discrimination but in his 15 years in Arkansas, he had only ever seen one black female applicant for a loan.
Still another USDA employee reports that he personally witnessed an example where eight Pigford applicants came from one single family, and they were accepted and granted by USDA. "Pigford was basically legalized extortion," reports this USDA employee, "it reached the point where they were just handing money to people."
We've already taken apart Andrew Breitbart's 1,800-word screed from earlier this week patting himself on the back for his awesome and entirely in-context reporting in July about how Shirley Sherrod is a racist. But I think it's worth examining his wholly fabricated tale that Sherrod was really fired not due to Breitbart's blog post using out of context video snippets to call her a racist, but because of her role in the Pigford class-action lawsuit.
In his blog post, Breitbart writes:
Despite the firestorm, there was still an unanswered question -- why on God's green earth was Shirley Sherrod fired?
My 1400-word piece said Sherrod helped the white farmer. The controversial video clip featured the basis for her defense, The President and Tom Vilsack were doubly informed of the whole story by both me and Sherrod herself.
After highlighting a handful of individuals who mentioned Sherrod's Pigford connection in discussing her firing, Breitbart pointed to former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown's July 25 column in the San Francisco Chronicle, in which he wrote:
As an old pro, though, I know that you don't fire someone without at least hearing their side of the story unless you want them gone in the first place.
This woman has been a thorn in the side of the Agriculture Department for years. She was part of a class-action lawsuit against the department on behalf of black farmers in the South. For years, she has been operating a community activist organization not unlike ACORN.
I think there were those in the Agriculture Department who objected to her being hired in the first place.
You see? It wasn't really Breitbart's fault that Sherrod got fired! He provided all the context needed to show that she wasn't racist (pay no attention to his headline calling her "racist"), but the Agriculture Department wanted her gone because of Pigford! Like he told the Daily Caller, this is his "vindication"!
In July, Brown was speculating absent anything resembling evidence. Now, Breitbart is using that speculation to justify his ludicrous smear of Sherrod and pretend it didn't force her firing. But in between, reporting emerged that pretty much demolishes this wild conspiracy theory.
From the December 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the December 3 edition of Fox Business Network's Freedom Watch:
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On December 1, Fox News contributor Monica Crowley attacked Secretary State Hillary Clinton over an alleged diplomatic cable recently released by Wikileaks regarding human intelligence collection on the United Nations. Crowley was up in arms about the document and said it "seems to be crossing a line." But when given five minutes to explain, she could not come up with a rationale that held water and indeed repeatedly contradicted herself on what Clinton had allegedly done wrong.
The document in question provides guidance to State Department personnel on "the new National HUMINT [human intelligence] Collection Directive (NHCD) on the United Nations ... as well as a request for continued DOS reporting of biographic information relating to the United Nations."
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has said that Clinton "should resign if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations, in violation of the international covenants to which the U.S. has signed up."
Appearing on Fox News' America Live to discuss Assange's statement, Crowley stated: "To enlist the diplomatic corps essentially as spooks when we have a real corps of spooks to do this job seems to be crossing a line." Seconds later however, Crowley largely undercut her own argument by stating: "Look, I have no doubt that other nations at the United Nations are doing this to us."
Before dissecting the rest of Crowley's disastrous attempt to attack Clinton, let's mention some crucial facts that Crowley neglected to mention during her appearance:
First, it is not a new policy for the State Department to gather human intelligence. The New York Times, which was given advanced access to the Wikileaks documents states that Bush administration Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had also ordered "more aggressive intelligence collection" in diplomatic cables.
Second, it is also not new for the United States to spy at the United Nations. The Times also reported: "While several treaties prohibit spying at the United Nations, it is an open secret that countries try nevertheless. In one 2004 episode, a British official revealed that the United States and Britain eavesdropped on Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the invasion of Iraq in 2003."
Third, it shouldn't surprise anyone in the international community that people introduced to them as diplomats are involved in espionage. CIA agents are often given an "official cover" as diplomats. Indeed, as Slate.com has reported: "Most CIA employees engaged in operations overseas are given official cover: a sham job in the U.S. embassy (or working for another government agency) that affords them diplomatic immunity." And this is far from secret. Indeed, there is a Wikipedia entry on official cover. The CIA article on HowStuffWorks.com also discusses official cover.
Fourth, as National Journal's Marc Ambinder reports, the document appears to be part of a government-wide effort to beef up human intelligence spearheaded by the CIA, not a State Department initiative.
Over the past few days, Dick Morris has returned to one of his least-credible allegations against Hillary Clinton: that during her husband's presidential campaign, she used "private detectives to unearth negative information on those who were politically inconvenient during the husband's campaigns for president and his White House tenure" in order to "provide blackmail material to cow them into silence."
Morris offered this claim both in his syndicated column and on Fox News:
Note how Morris doesn't even attempt to provide evidence that this "blackmail" actually happened, while calling it "a matter of documented fact."
This claim has been floating around since 1998, ever since it was first raised by... Dick Morris!
During a March 31, 1998 appearance on CNBC (accessed from Nexis), Morris first dropped the bombshell, claiming that in 1992, the Clinton campaign "hired detectives to snoop around the personal lives of the women who they asked to come up with blackmail material to force them to do that, even if they felt at the time that those women were lying," specifically citing the supposed efforts of private investigator Jack Palladino. Morris claimed that he had "personal knowledge that this happened. Betsey Wright, who coordinated it, told me that it happened."
The next week, the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee announced that they would be investigating Morris' allegations. But they also pointed out a glaring discrepancy in Morris' claim: he had previously given a deposition denying knowledge of Palladino's activities. From an April 8, 1998 article in The Hill:
After seeing the CNBC broadcast, "We recalled that here was a question that he had been asked, and he gave a flat denial," said Will Dwyer, the committee spokesman. "We called (him) to see if he wanted to refresh anything that he had told us in his deposition."
Morris had denied knowledge of Palladino's activities when deposed by committee lawyers on Aug. 21, 1997.
In Morris's conversation with committee lawyers in August, the following exchange took place:
Q. Do you know a gentleman named Jack Palladino? A. No. I think he is some way involved with the DNC (Democratic National Committee), but I don't know who or what.
Asked about this inconsistency, Morris changed his story. Despite saying on CNBC that he had "personal knowledge that this happened" and that Betsey Wright had told him about it, he told The Hill that "he has no first-hand knowledge of the events and based his comments on previously published press reports."
The Clinton campaign did investigate the allegations made against Bill Clinton, and the credibility of those making the claims. Given the complete lack of credibility of many of the accusers and the media's willingness to nonetheless run with their claims, that was both prudent and necessary.
But no credible allegation of blackmail has ever been made. Given the tremendous scrutiny levied against the Clintons over the past decades, I think it's fair to say that the reason is that it never happened.
And let's keep in mind, especially given his backtrack on where this claim comes from, that Morris himself is in no way a credible source. He is the one, after all, who invented and then retracted the claim that in 1997, then-Attorney General Janet Reno threatened President Clinton by saying that if he did not reappoint her as attorney general, she was "gonna tell the truth about Waco."
On his radio show today Beck repeatedly urged his listeners to "get on the phone and call your senator" to tell them to vote against the Food Safety Modernization Act, a bill that would boost the FDA's authority in an effort to prevent incidents of food-related illness. Beck's remarks echo his sponsor, FreedomWorks, which currently has a letter writing campaign against the bill.
First, Beck suggested that the U.S. doesn't have a food safety issue requiring stronger regulation, stating, "Our food is the safest in the world." He added, "What is it about our food supply that is so very, very dangerous that we need to move on this right away?"
But According to the Centers for Disease Control, foodborne illnesses kill 5,000 people every year. A CDC report last year also indicated that "After decades of steady progress, the safety of the nation's food supply has not improved over the past three years," as reported by the New York Times. The GAO has also been warning about problems with insufficient food safety oversight for years.
Beck went on to claim that the bill will "at best increase the cost of food dramatically" and suggested that the legislation is related to efforts to "nudge us out of meat":
Fox News panelist Gary B. Smith claimed that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents "can make up to $175,000 a year" "to pat people down." In reality, TSA personnel primarily responsible for screening passengers make between $25,518 and $44,007 plus locality pay, and even senior managers supervising TSA activities at entire airports earn up to the capped maximum of $172,550, including any pay received based on locality.
You know it's a slow news week when the right-wing is trying to gin up controversy about TSA regulations regarding carry-on cranberry sauce.
Yes, it's come to this:
Fox Nation and Big Government, piggybacking on the current outrage over TSA's new security procedures, are now pretending that the TSA has waged a "war on cranberry sauce." Why? Because the TSA has advised holiday travelers that they cannot pack holiday-related food items such as cranberry sauce in their carry-on luggage.
Yet, these guidelines have existed for years. Back in 2007, The Houston Chronicle reported, "This year, the TSA introduced new holiday food rules to its Web site," and noted (emphasis added):
The following foods will be turned away at security checkpoints. TSA suggests packing them in your luggage, leaving them at home or shipping them in advance:
• Cranberry and other sauces; gravy
• Salad dressing, oils and vinegars
• Maple syrup
• Creamy dips
• Wine, liquor, beer and other beverages
• Jams and jellies
Pies and cakes are allowed through security checkpoints. Note: They may be swabbed for explosives.
So there you go. Travelers haven't been able to pack cranberry sauce in carry-on bags for years now. There is no sudden TSA "war on cranberry sauce."
It looks like the right-wing media will just have to find a new controversy to invent.
The conservative-dominated U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will vote Friday on an interim report that omits critical evidence disproving allegations that the Obama administration refuses to enforce voting-rights laws against racial minorities, according to Media Matters' analysis of a copy of the report we obtained.
Drawing heavily on reports from Fox News, The Washington Times, and The Weekly Standard, the commission's draft report advances the discredited claims of right-wing activists that the Obama Justice Department has a "hostility" toward enforcing voting-right laws in cases where the alleged perpetrators are racial minorities.
The report is the result of the commission's oft-criticized investigation into the Justice Department's handling of voter-intimidation charges that were filed against members of the New Black Panther Party for their actions on Election Day in 2008. After the Bush administration made the decision to pursue civil charges, rather than criminal charges, the Obama administration obtained an injunction against the New Black Panther videotaped holding a nightstick outside a Philadelphia polling station. The DOJ dropped additional charges against the party.
The 123-page draft report echoes the right-wing media's manufactured scandal by focusing on politicized allegations, while ignoring testimony and evidence that directly refutes those allegations.
From the November 18 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
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In a November 16 editorial titled "Big Sister's police state," The Washington Times stated that the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) "tyrannical tactics threaten American freedoms." The Times further wrote: "Many Tea Party candidates standing for election earlier this month promised they were going to 'take our country back.' Stopping TSA would be a good first step."
From the Times editorial:
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has crossed the line. As if subjecting millions of Americans to X-rated x-ray scans and public groping sessions weren't bad enough, the agency now threatens $11,000 in fines against anyone refusing to submit to humiliation at the airport.
No matter how invasive TSA searches become, there's no guarantee anything the agency does will prevent a terrorist attack. A balance must be struck between reasonable security measures and the maintenance of a free society. These decisions cannot be made by Obama administration officials without involving the public in the discussions. Many Tea Party candidates standing for election earlier this month promised they were going to "take our country back." Stopping TSA would be a good first step.