The Supreme Court will soon decide Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, a case that could let owners of for-profit, secular corporations ignore the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and provide health insurance that does not cover preventive benefits like contraception. Right-wing media continue to advance multiple myths to support the owners of Hobby Lobby, despite the fact that these arguments have been repeatedly debunked by legal experts, religious scholars, and medical professionals.
Hosts of the network Sunday news shows treated Benghazi myths and facts with false equivalence, an approach that hides the truth about the tragedy.
The right-wing's manufactured hysteria over the release of new White House memos and the House GOP's announcement that it would form a special select committee brought the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya back into the spotlight on the May 4 Sunday news talk shows. The latest charge from conservative media is that a newly-released email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes preparing then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice for the September 16, 2012 Sunday talk shows -- where she suggested that the terror attacks had grown out of spontaneous protests -- was part of a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the attacks.
In a seeming effort to provide false balance between the facts and the myths, the network news hosts lent credence to evidence-free claims by their guests, giving them equal weight with the truth.
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker dismissed sexual assault legislation requiring that consent be present at all times during a sexual encounter.
In her February 21 column, Parker weighed in on the firestorm surrounding Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto's suggestion that both parties are equally to blame in sexual assault cases where both the victim and attacker are intoxicated. Parker wrote that Taranto's argument was "inartful," and concluded that because of their stronger "physicality," "it is for men to not take advantage of women who are bereft of their faculties, no matter the state of their own."
Despite her conclusion, Parker nonetheless lamented "one of the problems with gender issues," wherein "someone always takes things too far, making ridiculous what should be treated with scientific precision." As if to prove her own point, Parker made that observation after seemingly dismissing legislation requiring that "yes needs to be persistent throughout" a sexual encounter:
What got Taranto going was a New York Times article about bystander intervention in campus rape. Basically, if a drunk guy is getting aggressive with a girl, you're supposed to stop him. What was once simple citizenship is now innovative behavior modification. Elsewhere the zeitgeist was buzzing about proposed legislation in California that would codify the terms of consent in sexual relations among college students. Saying "yes" apparently isn't good enough. Now yes needs to be persistent throughout the act.
The comic possibilities are nearly irresistible, but my survival instinct prompts me to exercise restraint. Herein lies one of the problems with gender issues. Someone always takes things too far, making ridiculous what should be treated with scientific precision.
The California legislation in question was introduced earlier this month. According to The Sacramento Bee, it would put "the responsibility on a person who wants to engage in sexual activity to ensure that he or she has explicit consent from a partner." Despite the "comic possibilities" Parker sees, the language of the legislation seems non-controversial:
Consent must be present throughout sexual activity, and at any time, a participant can communicate that he or she no longer consents to continuing the sexual activity. If there is confusion as to whether a person has consented or continues to consent to sexual activity, it is essential that the participants stop the activity until the confusion can be clearly resolved.
Slate's Amanda Marcotte has explained why affirmative consent standards are important:
Women should not be assumed to be consenting to sex unless they say otherwise in blunt language, especially since research shows that most people tend to refuse to go along with activities, sexual or otherwise, with demurring language instead of blunt refusals.
That doesn't mean that the law would require partners to draft a contract before having sex, but it would mean that a rapist would have a harder time pretending that he didn't understand what it meant when a woman repeatedly asked to go home and refused to kiss him back and wiggled away when he tried to take off her clothes, all because she broadcast her refusals politely instead of yelling "no" at him.
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker baselessly criticized President Obama for his administration's "willingness to challenge, rather than protect, religious liberty in this country," citing right-wing legal challenges to insurance coverage of birth control under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a lawsuit that was filed by the previous administration, not the current one.
In a recent column, Parker complained that Obama's decision to speak out against attacks on religious freedom overseas during the National Prayer Breakfast was done "without a hint of irony," because Obama failed to mention the "eroding protections of religious liberty" in the United States. Parker pointed to several high-profile cases as evidence of the Obama administration's supposed "challenge [to] religious liberty in this country." Parker overlooked the fact that the right-wing legal arguments that form the basis of these cases are a radical departure from settled corporate law precedent and the "well-established" religious accommodation practice for objectors toward neutral laws like the ACA's "contraception mandate." Parker also went on to claim that a separate Supreme Court decision in 2012 that ruled in favor of a church's discriminatory hiring practices was further evidence of the Obama administration's attack on religious liberty:
President Obama gave a lovely speech at the recent National Prayer Breakfast -- and one is reluctant to criticize.
But pry my jaw from the floorboards.
Without a hint of irony, the president lamented eroding protections of religious liberty around the world.
Just not, apparently, in America.
Nary a mention of the legal challenges to religious liberty now in play between this administration and the Catholic Church and other religious groups, as well as private businesses that contest the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare.
Missing was any mention of Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor -- whose cases have recently reached the U.S. Supreme Court and that reveal the Obama administration's willingness to challenge, rather than protect, religious liberty in this country.
The more germane question to cases such as Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters is whether the government can accomplish its goal of making free contraception available without burdening religious objectors. Can't women in Colorado get contraception without forcing the Little Sisters, a group of nuns who care for the elderly, to violate their core beliefs? Their charitable work could not long survive under penalties the government would impose on them for noncompliance.
For now, the Little Sisters have been granted a reprieve, thanks to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Arguments in the Hobby Lobby case are scheduled for March, with a decision expected in June. Meanwhile, another case settled in 2012 reveals much about this administration's willingness to challenge religious freedom. In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the question boiled down to whether the government can decide whom a church hires as minister. Since when?
Right-wing media denied the effectiveness of anti-poverty policies in response to President Obama's recent push to reduce income inequality, instead hyping marriage as a preferable economic solution. But experts have rejected that notion, citing a systemic lack of economic opportunity as a more critical issue.
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.
Kathleen Parker, a conservative opinion writer, argued against bans on high-capacity magazines by claiming that "several small magazines" were used in the Columbine High School and Virginia Tech massacres -- even though high-capacity magazines were used in both shootings -- and also falsely suggested that banning assault weapons would necessitate banning all semi-automatic firearms.
In an April 9 column in The Washington Post, Parker falsely suggested that the shooters in those incidents did not use high-capacity magazines:
Limiting the size of magazines also seems like a common-sense solution. Then again, maybe a killer simply would carry several small magazines and swap them out, as Eric Harris did at Columbine High School in 1999 and Seung-Hui Cho did at Virginia Tech in 2007. Harris was armed with a Hi-Point 995 carbine with 13 magazines of 10 rounds each. His partner, Dylan Klebold, carried a semi-automatic handgun and a short-barrel shotgun, which, gun experts will tell you, is the most effective close-range weapon of all. And Cho used two handguns that are not considered "assault weapons."
But like assault weapons, some handguns accept high-capacity magazines. In the 1999 Columbine massacre, where two gunmen killed 13 and injured 21, Dylan Klebold attacked his classmates with an Intratec TEC-9 assault pistol and was found to have brought 52-, 32- and 28-round magazines into the school. Of the 67 rounds fired by Klebold, 55 were fired by the TEC-9, which Klebold was observed carrying -- equipped with a high-capacity magazine -- in an infamous security camera still taken during the shooting. On April 17, 2007 Seung-Hui Cho used two handguns to kill 32 and injure 17 at Virginia Tech. During the shooting, Cho fired 174 rounds from 10- and 15-round magazines. A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) would ban any ammunition feeding device that is capable of accepting more than 10 rounds, the same limit contained in the previous assault weapons ban which expired in 2004.
Parents of some of the children killed in the December 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School have advocated for a ban on high-capacity magazines after being told by authorities that a number of children were able to escape the shooter when he paused to reload. At a press conference in support of a Connecticut proposal to ban high-capacity magazines in that state, Mark Barden, whose son was killed in the mass shooting, explained, "The more times you have to reload the more opportunities there are to escape and to stop the shooting. In the amount of time -- it was somewhere around four minutes -- he was able to fire 154 rounds. I think that speaks volumes about reducing the size [of magazines]."
In Salon, Andrew Koppelman sets out the process by which the constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate made its way - via think tank issue briefs, op-eds, and blog posts - from being a completely off-the-wall notion to a nearly universal article of constitutional faith among conservative activists. This look back is even more important as a means of anticipating how the Right is likely to launch future attacks against Social Security, Medicare, and any number of health, safety and consumer protections. The assault on health care reform shows that the right's combination of established infrastructure, an activist and ideological segment of the judiciary, and partisan media is a powerful one. Progressives should remember how aggressively and effectively the right was able to deploy its view of the Constitution as a weapon, and meet future attempts to do so head on.
Koppelman's research shows that within a few months in mid-2009 the constitutional argument against health care reform went from nonexistent to a subject of mainstream discussion. Koppelman was unable to find any published claim that the individual mandate would be unconstitutional prior to a July 2009 Federalist Society issue brief written by two former Bush administration officials. In August 2009, conservative lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey, who regularly write on issues the right-wing legal infrastructure wishes to move into the mainstream, published a Washington Post op-ed attacking the mandate on constitutional grounds. On September 18, law professor Randy Barnett, who would play a leading role in the subsequent litigation against the act, first weighed in on the issue with a post on Politico. Koppelman notes that days later CBS News reported that "[i]n the last few days, a new argument has emerged in the debate over Democratic healthcare proposals," and that CBS mentioned that the constitutionality issue had emerged on The O'Reilly Factor and Fox News.
It is noteworthy that Fox News was out in front, driving the constitutional attack on the health care law into mainstream debate. Bill O'Reilly raised the constitutional issue on his show on September 9, over a week before Barnett, soon to become the public face of the cause, made his first public pronouncement. That night, in the "Talking Points Memo" portion of his show, O'Reilly said:
And finally it may be unconstitutional to force Americans to buy health care insurance, although Mr. Obama wants that and compares it to mandatory auto insurance. With auto insurance you have a machine that can do damage.
Could be unconstitutional to force you to buy this stuff. But if Obamacare passes, you will be on somebody's policy. That is certain. That's the memo. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 9/9/09, via Nexis]
In her May 18 Washington Post column, Kathleen Parker disputed the notion that the Republicans behind the proposal that sought to make a campaign issue out of President Obama's association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright are "racist," by suggesting that Fred Davis, who oversaw the proposal for the ads, recognized the ads' "racial sensitivity" and planned to hire a conservative African-American as spokesman.
She wrote that although the proposed ads "were not a good idea" and that "to question Obama's character based on his association with Wright at this point seems too much too late," it is "unfair" to cast the Republicans who would do so as racist. She then suggested that the fact that the PAC would have enlisted "prominent African Americans" to "question Obama's character" would have somehow mitigated the racial aspect of the proposed ads:
Obama has a record as president and can be challenged on that record. Raising Wright now would have been a serious miscalculation and would have been interpreted as attempting to inspire racial animus. But it is unfair to smear [ad creator Fred] Davis as a racist, as some have suggested. He obviously created a proposal based on his sense that this would appeal to Ricketts, who said upon viewing the rejected McCain ad: "If the nation had seen that ad, they'd never have elected Barack Obama."
Davis, whose creativity is widely acknowledged, was obviously aware of the possible racial sensitivity, which is why he also hoped to include prominent African Americans, such as radio host Larry Elder, questioning Obama's character. Whites cannot do this without suffering the consequences now in play.
On this morning's edition of The Chris Matthews Show, panelist Kathleen Parker claimed that Mitt Romney has "give[n] away "42 percent of his income, compared to Obama, who gave away 1 percent to charity."
PARKER: Fairness, if you can frame the debate around fairness, you win. And all polling will tell you that. But the conversation that needs to take place is what is fairness? Let's define that. Is it fair to say, oh Mitt Romney gives away more money than most people earn? He didn't have to give away 42 percent of his income, compared to Obama, who gave away 1 percent to charity. I mean, let's really talk about what fairness is.
Parker is clearly suggesting that Romney gave 42 percent of his income to charity. But that 42 percent figure comes from her Washington Post colleague Jennifer Rubin, and represents the amount the Romneys estimate they will pay in 2011 in charity and federal, state, and local taxes. Obviously, Mitt Romney did have to "give away" the money he paid in taxes, unless he wanted to violate the law. In 2011, the Romneys estimate they gave 19.2 percent of adjusted gross income to charity.
In comparing the 42 percent figure to "Obama, who gave away 1 percent to charity," Parker is linking the percentage of their income the Romneys paid in taxes and charitable contributions in 2011 to the percentage the Obamas gave to charity from 2000-2004 - a true apples-to-oranges evaluation. (In 2010 -- the most recent year for which the Obamas have released their tax returns -- the Obamas donated 14.2 percent of their income before tax deductions and exemptions to charity.)
In fact, the Obamas spent a larger percentage of their income on taxes and charity in 2010 than the Romneys did in either 2010 or in 2011.
"Liberal" Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wants you to know that he really doesn't care what happened between Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, who alleged during Thomas' Senate confirmation hearings that Thomas made repeated unwelcome "sexual overtures" to her when she was his assistant:
I was young and boorish once myself and have turned out to be a veritable saint. I venture to say we all did and said terrible things when we were young, which is why nature protects the elderly with failing memories. I want to forget both Hill and Thomas. Let us media types let go of this story.
Hill's accusations against Thomas are back in the news after Thomas' wife recently called Hill seeking an apology for her testimony. Lillian McEwen, Thomas' former girlfriend, also came forward to say that Hill's statements were consistent with the Clarence Thomas she knew. McEwen is currently seeking a publisher for her autobiography.
One thing Cohen is sure of: Hill definitely wasn't sexually harassed, because if she had been, she would have taken advantage of the benefits of affirmative action and found a different job:
In fact, they have nothing to do with anything -- unless it is to prove that nothing about Thomas and his initial accuser, Anita Hill, makes any sense. Her charges fell somewhat short of blatant, coercive, sexual harassment -- or, if they didn't, then why did she follow her abuser, Thomas, from one job to the next? A black, female Yale Law School graduate was not lacking in employment opportunities.
Last week, the Washington Post reported on a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll:
The poll found that misconceptions about the legislation persist, including the "death panel" falsehood propagated by opponents of the legislation.
"A year after the town meeting wars of last summer, a striking 36% of seniors said that the law 'allowed a government panel to make decisions about end of life care for people on Medicare', and another 17% said they didn't know," Kaiser Family Foundation chief executive Drew Altman wrote.
Brendan Nyhan argues that "motivated reasoning appears to play an important role in the persistence of the misperception ... 55% of seniors with an unfavorable view of the law believed in the death panel myth, while only 17% of those with a favorable view did so."
I would argue that something else surely plays a role: The failure of the media to consistently and clearly explain that the "death panels" claim was false. Sure, most major news organizations made that clear at least once. But they didn't do so consistently.
Let's take the Washington Post, for example, since it reported on the persistence of the myth.
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz has praised his paper's "death panels" coverage, writing on March 22: "One stellar moment for the press was the refusal to perpetuate the myth of 'death panels.' ... journalists at The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and ABC News, among others, said flatly that this was untrue." And Post political reporter Perry Bacon said in June 21 Live Q&A: "If you recall, the death panels issue got traction in conservative media, even as papers like ours did not cover it very much."
But this year alone, Post readers have encountered more than a dozen references to "death panels" that failed to explicitly state that such panels didn't exist. The following articles and columns mention the "death panels" claim without stating its falsity:
"The doctor is (finally) in; Medicare administrator must usher in low-cost, efficient care," David Ignatius, July 9
"A patriot's second act," Dana Milbank, June 3
"Under the new health-care law, what will happen when providers' morals conflict with patients' rights?," Rob Stein, May 11
"History shows that Democrats aren't exactly the boys of summer," Al Kamen, March 26
"44: Grassley touts provisions he authored in health bill he voted against," Michael Shear, March 24
"Three points for conservatives," E.J. Dionne, March 23
"The Republicans who stirred the tea," Dana Milbank, March 22
"Would Reagan vote for Sarah Palin?; He's their hero, but Palin and the tea partiers need to understand his true legacy," Steven F. Hayward (AEI) March 7
"Political theater with a point," Kathleen Parker, March 3
"Obama ready to advance on health care; In radio address, GOP compromise still offered but has limited shelf life," Anne Kornblut, February 28
"Trig and political calculus," Kathleen Parker, February 14
"How can apple pie suddenly turn bad?; To learn what's gone wrong with health-care reform, go back to 1994," Abigail Trafford, February 2
"Funding for health-care interest groups often fuzzy," Dan Eggen, January 7
"Leader without a cause," Richard Cohen, January 5
Yes, some of those are opinion columns, including one written by an AEI staffer rather than a Post employee. That isn't a relevant defense: Opinion columns have the ability to influence readers, too -- otherwise, why would they exist? And the Washington Post is responsible for everything that appears in its pages.
And, to be sure, some of those references are critical of the "death panels" rhetoric. The March 23 E.J. Dionne piece, for example, read:
In its current incarnation, conservatism has taken on an angry crankiness. It is caught up in a pseudo-populism that true conservatism should mistrust -- what on Earth would Bill Buckley have made of "death panels"? The creed is caught up in a suspicion of all reform that conservatives of the Edmund Burke stripe have always warned against.
But it didn't say the "death panels" claim wasn't true. (To Dionne's credit, his July 26 column was explicit: "There were no 'death panels' in the Democratic health-care bills. But this false charge got so much coverage that an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll last August found that 45 percent of Americans thought the reform proposals would likely allow 'the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly.' That was the summer when support for reform was dropping precipitously. A straight-out lie influenced the course of one of our most important debates.")
No such credit is owed to Kornblut's February 28 news article, which simply stated "Death panels became part of the debate last summer, after prominent Republicans, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, claimed the government would set them up to decide who could live or die." Or Kamen's misleading statement that "the tea partiers got their operation in gear at the usually dull town hall meetings with lawmakers, berating them for supporting those death panels." Really? "those" death panels? Which death panels are "those"?
Washington Post readers shouldn't be surprised to learn that many people still believe in "death panels" -- not when the Post has repeatedly mentioned the death panel claim without debunking it.
Incidentally, Washington Post reporters and editors won't answer this simple question: Does the Post think it is sufficient to occasionally debunk falsehoods, or does the paper believe it should do so every time it prints those falsehoods?
I'm not sure how else to understand Kathleen Parker's Washington Post column today. Parker says Obama communicates like a woman (He's a "chatterbox") and that "[t]he BP oil crisis has offered a textbook case of how Obama's rhetorical style has impeded his effectiveness." From the column:
When Morrison wrote in the New Yorker about Bill Clinton's "blackness," she cited the characteristics he shared with the African American community:
"Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas."
If we accept that premise, even if unseriously proffered, then we could say that Obama displays many tropes of femaleness. I say this in the nicest possible way. I don't think that doing things a woman's way is evidence of deficiency but, rather, suggests an evolutionary achievement.
Nevertheless, we still do have certain cultural expectations, especially related to leadership. When we ask questions about a politician's beliefs, family or hobbies, we're looking for familiarity, what we can cite as "normal" and therefore reassuring.
Generally speaking, men and women communicate differently. Women tend to be coalition builders rather than mavericks (with the occasional rogue exception). While men seek ways to measure themselves against others, for reasons requiring no elaboration, women form circles and talk it out.
Obama is a chatterbox who makes Alan Alda look like Genghis Khan.
The BP oil crisis has offered a textbook case of how Obama's rhetorical style has impeded his effectiveness. The president may not have had the ability to "plug the damn hole," as he put it in one of his manlier outbursts. No one expected him to don his wetsuit and dive into the gulf, but he did have the authority to intervene immediately and he didn't. Instead, he deferred to BP, weighing, considering, even delivering jokes to the White House Correspondents' Association dinner when he should have been on Air Force One to the Louisiana coast.
His lack of immediate, commanding action was perceived as a lack of leadership because, well, it was. When he finally addressed the nation on day 56 (!) of the crisis, Obama's speech featured 13 percent passive-voice constructions, the highest level measured in any major presidential address this century, according to the Global Language Monitor, which tracks and analyzes language.
Granted, the century is young -- and it shouldn't surprise anyone that Obama's rhetoric would simmer next to George W. Bush's boil. But passivity in a leader is not a reassuring posture.
When last we heard from Lou Dobbs he was busy pushing his anti-immigrant hysteria on Fox News, preparing for his address at the upcoming National Tea Party (Birther) Convention and considering a run for the White House.
Now TVNewser is reporting that Dobbs has offered up his opinion to Gail Shister on CNN's new 8pm show featuring former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker:
After a few moments of laughter he told [Shister]:
"All I can say is, Good Lord almighty." (more laughter) "It's something to behold. I'll leave it at that."
Frankly, I'm surprised Dobbs didn't request copies of Spitzer and Parker's birth certificates.
Say what you will about CNN's new 8pm show but the real joke at CNN for years was Lou Dobbs and he's probably still smarting that he no longer has that enormous perch from which to attack immigrants and advance loony conspiracy theories.
Conservative media have invoked Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's Judaism in order to suggest that she may be a radical or that the court would not represent mainstream America if she is confirmed.