Affirmative action policies that will come before the Supreme Court in the upcoming Fisher v. University of Texas case have long been the target of right-wing misinformation that distort the benefits of diversity in higher education. Contrary to the conservative narrative in the media, these admissions processes serve important national interests by promoting equal opportunity and are based on long-standing law.
Right-wing media are reviving the "death panels" lie in reaction to Mitt Romney's criticism of a health-care advisory board during the first presidential debate. In fact, that board, established under the 2010 health care reform law, is forbidden from rationing health care, and Romney's own health care reform in Massachusetts includes a similar unelected board.
The National Review Online and a FoxNews.com op-ed are citing recent layoffs by Alpha Natural Resources, a coal producer, to claim that the Obama administration is waging a "war" on coal miners. But both are ignoring that competition with natural gas is a major reason for the company's layoffs.
Alpha Natural Resources recently laid off 400 coal miners (although about 270 of those workers will be reassigned to other jobs) and announced that it plans to eliminate 1,200 jobs by 2013. The National Review Online's Henry Payne and FoxNews.com guest contributor Phil Kerpen used this announcement to claim that Obama is waging a "war on [mining] workers" and "war on American jobs," respectively. Both quoted Alpha Natural Resources CEO Kevin Crutchfield on the effects of "a regulatory environment that's aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal." But they cropped the quote to exclude that Crutchfield acknowledged the role of natural gas competition, according to the Associated Press' account of Crutchfield's remarks:
Crutchfield called it "a difficult day," but said the shutdowns and layoffs are a necessary part of ensuring Alpha survives in what has become a difficult U.S. market, where coal companies face a dual challenge: Power plants are shifting to cheap, abundant natural gas, while companies like his face "a regulatory environment that's aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal."
Payne only dismissively mentioned the role of increased competition from natural gas in reduced coal-fired electricity generation and resultant layoffs and Kerpen ignored natural gas competition altogether. Payne also completely ignored natural gas in a recent column in the Weekly Standard. He quoted a 24/7 Wall Street post saying "future sales forecasts also are being affected by a series of regulatory actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has resulted in utilities announcing plans to shut down a number of generating stations that have traditionally used Central Appalachia coal." Not included was the prior sentence, which said "In addition to lack of demand from power generating plants due to fuel switching to natural gas and a mild winter, the company also blamed an 'onerous regulatory environment' for the closures."
In a post titled "UMW Is Dead, UAW Is Alive," Payne used the cropped quote from Crutchfield to suggest that it is wrong to attribute the layoffs to natural gas competition (and incorrectly suggest the laid off Alpha workers were part of a union):
John Fund, on a brief hiatus from lying about voter fraud, writes at National Review Online today that there's a vicious double-standard at play in the media's disparate treatment of Mother Jones' video of Mitt Romney denigrating half the country as incorrigible welfare parasites, and James O'Keefe's series of "sting" videos. "The [Mother Jones] tape was played over and over with no caveats, hand-wringing, or speculation that it might have been doctored," writes Fund, who goes on to complain that O'Keefe routinely faces accusations of video doctoring. This complaint is echoed by O'Keefe himself, who has been busily clucking his tongue about the "double standard amongst professional journalists."
That's utter nonsense. If the media did have any reasons to doubt the video's authenticity, they were quickly put to bed by the Romney campaign itself.
Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald has a good explanation here for why the Romney video does absolutely nothing to vindicate James O'Keefe and his M.O. of crafting elaborate hoaxes to trick private citizens and low-level government employees into saying foolish things. I'd add to it that O'Keefe is an incompetent liar who has been caught doctoring his videos. Many, many, many times. A good run-down of the many deceptions in his various video "stings" was put together by, ahem, Mother Jones. O'Keefe has not earned the presumption of trust. In fact, he's worked doggedly to forfeit it.
The same can't be said of David Corn, whose byline tops the Romney video stories. Yes, he writes from a progressive standpoint and works for a liberal publication. He also has decades of professional experience and a reputation for solid journalism. To put Corn and O'Keefe on the same plane is a huge disservice to the former and an unearned plaudit for the latter.
The National Review has attempted to distract from Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) and Rep. Todd Akin's (R-MO) support of the extreme "Sanctity of Human Life Act" -- legislation that equates abortion and contraception to murder -- by neglecting to mention its relevance to Akin's rape comments and falsely asserting potential bans on abortion aren't a concern. But it is the act's radical redefinition of a fertilized egg as a person that Akin was defending with his imaginary claim that "legitimate rape" does not lead to pregnancy, and the fact that voters in conservative states have rejected similar "personhood" laws merely demonstrates how far outside the mainstream Ryan and Akin are.
In their move to distance conservative media from Akin's comments, the editors of the National Review called for Akin to withdraw his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. However, this calculated abandonment of Akin for announcing a right-wing view that the National Review acknowledges, but prefers kept under wraps, ignores the resurgent movement to criminalize all forms of abortion. By omitting the relevance of the Sanctity of Human Life Act to Akin's comments and the editorial's claim that "no state is going to ban abortion in the case of rape even if Roe v. Wade is overruled," the editorial is perpetuating frequent contributor Ramesh Ponnuru's attempts to gloss over Ryan and Akin's hostility to reproductive rights.
Indeed, the National Review's misdirection is even more apparent now that it appears the 2012 Republican platform will once again support a so-called "human life amendment" to the Constitution that would criminalize abortion in all circumstances. Furthermore, not only is the National Review's reassurance on state abortion bans irrelevant if reports on the GOP platform are accurate, it is wholly misrepresentative of recent state efforts to infringe on women's constitutional rights. In fact, conservative-leaning states have seen multiple attempts at "personhood" bills similar to Ryan and Akin's legislation. This fall, Colorado will likely again have a "personhood" ballot initiative presented to its voters, even though the unconstitutional measure just failed in Mississippi and was held "void on its face" in Oklahoma by the state Supreme Court.
Accordingly, it is unsurprising that Akin's apology for becoming "nationally notorious...for saying something stupid" was specifically only for the "words I said" in reference to rape and not for "the heart I hold," wherein presumably all abortion is criminalized pursuant to "personhood" legislation. A radical criminalization that, the National Review fails to mention, could also apply to in-vitro fertilization, stem-cell research, most forms of contraception, and even miscarriage.
Right-wing media are acting as de facto political advisers for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, offering the candidate an array of advice that includes replacing his staffers, finding "his inner pit bull," and talking more about his faith.
In a post criticizing leading American companies' support for the diversity principle in an upcoming Supreme Court case, National Review Online contributor Roger Clegg mischaracterized the nature of the companies' support for diversity, and incorrectly implied it is race-centric in violation of the Constitution. But as the amicus brief for these Fortune 100 companies argues, the pursuit of diversity in higher education is not only important to the nation's economic success, it is also constitutionally permissible.
In October, the Court will hear Fisher v. University of Texas, the latest high-profile civil rights case brought by a rejected applicant challenging a school's race-conscious admissions process. The opponents are asking the Court to not only strike down the specific admissions policy at the University of Texas, but also to reverse Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court's 2003 case that confirmed state consideration of race or ethnicity in higher education admissions -- as one factor among many -- is permissible to achieve the goal of student body diversity.
Clegg mischaracterized the brief filed in this case on behalf of corporations ranging from Wal-Mart and Halliburton, to Microsoft and Starbucks, that instead urges the Court to "reaffirm its holding in Grutter that the conscious pursuit of diversity in the admissions decisions of institutions of higher education - including diversity based upon race, religion, culture, economic background, and other factors - is a compelling state interest."
Right-wing media figures are heaping praise on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget plan, with one Fox host calling Ryan "Mr. Budget." In fact, Ryan's budget plan would harm many Americans: It increases taxes on the poor while cutting them for the wealthy, drastically cuts Medicaid and other needed safety net programs, and would cost millions of jobs by reducing federal spending during a still-weak economy.
Matching the inflammatory rhetoric about health care reform's elimination of cost-sharing for women's contraception, conservative media outlets are currently misrepresenting a preliminary court order in a private company's challenge to this policy. Contrary to the right-wing narrative that crudely oversimplifies the complex legal issues at stake and ignores the need to balance the constitutional rights of employers with those of their female employees, the questions in the case are neither easy nor clear.
When the popular requirement went into effect that most insurance plans -- including employee plans sold to employers -- could no longer charge women co-pays or deductibles for prevention or wellness care, conservative media figures declared a national disaster. On August 1, the Editors of the National Review Online intoned that "[t]his day...is a dark one for religious freedom in the United States." Sean Hannity mirrored this solemnity on Fox News and announced "today is the day that religious freedom in America, in many ways died" (Fox Hannity Show, 8/1/12, via Nexis).
This reaction was unfortunately unsurprising. Despite the fact that many religious believers and institutions and most voters support insurance coverage of contraceptives, birth control has conflicted with the religious concerns of some since the 1960s. Recognizing this, the law provides an exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement to "a nonprofit church or close church affiliate if it primarily employs and serves persons who share its religious tenets, and the purpose of the institution is the inculcation of religious values." [National Health Law Program, 8/12]
The exemption is similar to those used on the state level, and twenty-eight states currently have contraceptive insurance equity acts. The administration may also accommodate non-exempted non-profit organizations by allowing them to opt-out of the provision of insurance coverage for contraception, but instruct insurance companies to meet the preventive and wellness requirements directly. Nevertheless, claiming that these exemptions and accommodations do not go far enough, a for-profit, secular, Colorado-based company filed a lawsuit alleging it too should be treated like a church and be exempted from offering female employees plans with contraception coverage.
The case is one of first impression. As such, the judge issued a preliminary injunction, temporarily halting this company's compliance with the law until the court could consider the merits of the case. The Heritage Institute's Foundry said the company "demonstrated the strength of the religious liberty challenge to Obamacare." Ed Whelan of the National Review Online said "it's clear that the HHS mandate tramples [religious] protections[.]"
It's not that simple.
Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and other conservative outlets are falsely claiming that President Obama, while discussing his own economic policies, said "we tried our plan -- and it worked." This quote has been taken out of context and distorted. Obama was referring to economic policies during the Clinton administration that taxed high income earners at a higher rate than they are currently charged. When Obama said "it worked," he was referring to low unemployment and strong economic growth when these rates were higher. Obama has advocated a return to Clinton-era tax rates for high income earners.
Slate's Dave Weigel, who described conservatives' editing of Obama's comments as "insanely misleading," points to Obama's full quote:
OBAMA: I'm running because I believe you can't reduce the deficit -- which is a serious problem, we've got to deal with it -- but we can't reduce it without asking folks like me who have been incredibly blessed to give up the tax cuts that we've been getting for a decade. (Applause.) I'll cut out government spending that's not working, that we can't afford, but I'm also going to ask anybody making over $250,000 a year to go back to the tax rates they were paying under Bill Clinton, back when our economy created 23 million new jobs -- (applause) -- the biggest budget surplus in history and everybody did well.
Just like we've tried their plan, we tried our plan -- and it worked. That's the difference. (Applause.) That's the choice in this election. That's why I'm running for a second term.
In order to argue that Obama is out of touch on economic issues -- a message that is nearly identical to the one pushed by Romney's campaign -- conservative media figures have spent the week removing all of the context from Obama's comments and juxtaposing them with the current high unemployment rate.
Conservative media have continued to cover up the fact that many Catholic and other religious institutions have come out in support of the Obama administration's policy that ensures women have access to affordable insurance coverage for birth control while making sure no religious organization has to pay for this coverage. Their concealment of this fact came in response to evangelical Wheaton College's announcement that it will join a lawsuit against the policy.
Opponents of health care reform have opened up a new front in their relentless campaign, receiving extensive media attention for their claim that only state-created exchanges can legally offer tax credits for health insurance. This contested reading of the health care reform law would leave consumers in states with federal exchanges -- the default marketplace for states that decline to set up their own exchanges -- without access to affordable health insurance.
Exchanges have become the latest bogeyman in the right-wing media, but a just-released report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains why a legal challenge to them is unsupported by both the clear language of the Affordable Care Act and relevant case law.
As described in a June 25 USA Today op-ed, opponents of exchanges are claiming that their reading of the health care reform law reveals that "[c]redits are [legally] available only in states that create an exchange themselves. The federal government might create exchanges in states that decline, but it cannot offer credits through its own exchanges." Right-wing activist groups have jumped on this argument and are already clamoring for lawsuits to be filed over the administration's interpretation of the law to the contrary. A July 9 article in Congressional Quarterly Today (subscription required) reported the director of policy at the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity as adamant that litigation would "absolutely" ensue.
The idea of suing to block exchange implementation and hamstring affordability programs designed to help low- and moderate-income persons afford coverage in the private insurance market appears to have originated with two frequent National Review Online contributors, Jonathan Adler, Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University, and Michael Cannon, Director of Health Policy at the Cato Institute. Long-time opponents of the Affordable Care Act and authors of the USA Today op-ed, the two first presented this questionable theory to the mainstream press through a November 16, 2011, op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. Cannon, in particular, seems to have made exchanges his personal target, barnstorming the country along with other Koch-backed organizations.
Experts on health care law and policy are highly critical of the proposed anti-exchange lawsuits. However, although the challenge might be a long shot due to its debatable reading of the statute and disregard of congressional intent, even far-fetched legal challenges have legs in today's increasingly conservative courts. Remember broccoli? Amplified by the increasing synergy between right-wing academics and media, the "broccoli" and "inactivity/activity" argument in the health care reform cases rocketed from the fringe to the mouths and pens of Supreme Court Justices.
Judith Solomon, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote the report yesterday that rebuts Adler and Cannon's claims:
Opponents of health reform apparently intend to file a legal challenge to the law on behalf of one or more employers who are penalized for not providing coverage in a state with a federal exchange, based on the claim that the federal exchange was not authorized to provide the subsidies. A court considering such a claim would almost certainly defer to the Treasury Department interpretation that subsidies are fully available through federally operated exchanges.
In providing for a federal exchange, Congress clearly intended that it substitute for a state exchange. One of the primary functions of an exchange is to determine eligibility for, and the amount of, advance premium tax credits so that people can afford to buy coverage. The language of section 1321 of the ACA establishing the federal exchange is clear on that point, as is the reference in section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code to credits being provided through a federally operated exchange. But even if the statute were ambiguous, a court examining whether the Treasury regulations are valid would certainly defer to the agency's interpretation of the statute because it is both permissible and reasonable. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 7/16/12]
From the July 7 edition of MSNBC's Up With Chris Hayes:
Loading the player reg...
National Review Online blogger Ed Whelan is trying to aid the unprecedented obstruction tactics Senate Republicans are using to block President Obama's nominees.
On June 20, 2012, American Bar Association president William T. Robinson III sent a letter to Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging that the Senate hold confirmation votes on three judicial nominees who had strong bipartisan support but were being blocked despite the merits of their nominations. Whelan, a blogger with significant influence in the media and Capitol Hill, responded to the letter by saying: "A Senate staffer in the know tells me that the ABA never sent a similar letter on behalf of George W. Bush's nominees."
But it would have been impossible for the ABA to send a "similar letter" on behalf of President George W. Bush's judicial nominees, because Bush's judicial nominees were not subject to the type of obstruction experienced by the Obama nominees in question.
As the ABA noted in its letter, Obama nominees William Kayatta, Jr., Robert Bacharach, and Richard Taranto "are consensus nominees who have received overwhelming approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee." In addition, Kayatta and Bacharach have "the staunch support of" the Republican senators from their home states. And Taranto, who is nominated to a court with nationwide jurisdiction, has the "endorsement of noted conservative legal scholars."
Nevertheless, Senate Republicans have announced that they are blocking all three of these nominees along with every single one of Obama's judicial nominees until after the presidential election, regardless of whether they would be good judges.
Despite pouring millions of dollars into ads attacking President Obama for supporting clean energy, Republican strategist and Fox News political analyst Karl Rove expressed his support this week for extending tax incentives for wind power. His remarks stand in stark contrast to the conservative media's push to eliminate federal support for renewable energy.
For months, the conservative media have been spreading falsehoods about wind energy to make the case against extending the production tax credit (PTC), which is set to expire at the end of this year. The most recent example is an op-ed by Paul Driessen at The Washington Times, which rattles off a series of myths about wind power's impact on human health and the environment, and its ability to compete with fossil fuels. Last month, a Wall Street Journal editorial suggested that the wind industry will never be "economically sustainable" without government subsidies. A Washington Times editorial concurred, calling wind power "hopelessly uneconomic."
In fact, wind power is increasingly affordable, thanks in large part to the PTC. According to an analysis by the Brookings Institution, the Breakthrough Institute and the World Resources Institute, the tax credit lowers the cost of new wind power to make it "broadly competitive with new gasfired generation." A Bloomberg New Energy Finance report found that some wind farms "already produce power as economically as coal, gas and nuclear generators," and predicted that "the average wind farm will be fully competitive by 2016."
U.S. wind capacity has expanded rapidly in recent years, and the Department of Energy estimates that wind could meet up to 20% of our electricity needs by 2030. But the PTC is vital to the American wind industry's continued success. Extending the tax credit would create or save 54,000 jobs in the next four years, according to a study by Navigant Consulting.
For these reasons, the tax credit enjoys broad bipartisan support among politicians, business leaders, and environmentalists -- and now, even Karl Rove. The conservative media stands out in its opposition to a policy that has facilitated the growth of a promising industry and supported thousands of green, American jobs.