In a Washington Times piece, Kerry Picket criticized the Department of Justice for saying that its Civil Rights Division is "committed to ending bullying and harassment in schools" and for highlighting its "authority to enforce federal laws that protect students from discrimination and harassment at school because of their race, national origin, disability, religion, and sex, including harassment based on nonconformity with gender stereotypes."
Echoing The Washington Times piece, a National Review Online blog post also attacked the Justice Department's initiative on bullying.
What's wrong with the department's anti-bullying initiative? If harassment rises to the level of a civil rights violation, shouldn't the Department of Justice step in to do something about it?
Not according to Picket. Picket writes that there is a "catch" to what the Department of Justice is doing. It is only targeting some types of bullying, and not dealing with the scenario in which an "overweight straight white male who is verbally and/or physically harassed because of his size."
But here's the thing. If a person is harassed "because of his size," and his size alone, the Justice Department does not have the power to step in. And it's irrelevant whether the victim is straight, gay, or bisexual or white, Asian, black, or Native American. In this context, the Department of Justice enforces civil rights laws, and there is no current civil rights law dealing with discrimination on the basis of weight. On the other hand, if the white male were being bullied because of his race or gender, there may be a role for the Justice Department.
Perhaps law professor David Bernstein at the libertarian Volokh Conspiracy blog put it best: Picket's piece "seems like a cheap rhetorical trick-trying to insinuate that the administration has something against 'straight white males' when the administration is simply staying within the limits of its legal authority."
Continuing to demonstrate his extremism, National Review Online blogger Ed Whelan suggested today that the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainright establishing that states are constitutionally required to provide counsel for indigent defendants in all criminal trials is an example of "liberal judicial activism."
In today's edition of his near-daily series of blog posts titled, "This Day in Liberal Activism," Whelan quotes from a biography of former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan noting that on March 18, 1963, "the liberal bloc [of the Supreme Court] overturned four of the Court's long-standing precedents." Whelan -- a former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia and a former high-ranking Justice Department official -- then goes on to describe the four cases, including Gideon:
In Fay v. Noia and Townsend v. Sain, in (as Justice Harlan puts it in his dissent in Fay) a "square rejection of long-accepted principles governing the nature and scope of the Great Writ," the Court dramatically expands the federal habeas corpus rights of state prisoners. In Gideon v. Wainwright, the Court, overruling its 1942 decision in Betts v. Brady, holds that the Constitution requires that states provide counsel for indigent defendants in all criminal trials. And in Gray v. Sanders, the Court rushes deeper into the thicket of state redistricting, as it adopts a theory of political equality that it had previously rejected.
But not every conservative thinks so poorly of Gideon. In fact, Chief Justice John Roberts said during his confirmation hearing: "I think the basic instinct and genius behind the Gideon decision was without counsel to protect people's rights, they were going to forfeit them, they were going to waive them, due to ignorance or inability to appreciate the proceedings. That's why you need counsel at that stage."
National Review Online blogger Ed Whelan has frequently misinformed in order to attack President Obama for saying that he would seek a Supreme Court nominee who has the "quality of empathy" and is "dedicated to the rule of law." So, when the Huffington Post published a piece highlighting that conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito appeared to rely at least in part on empathy in writing a lone dissent in Snyder v. Phelps -- a case dealing with the extent of Westboro Baptist Church's First Amendment right to protest near the funeral of a deceased Marine -- it didn't take long for Whelan to go on the attack.
In a piece claiming that the difference between the eight-justice majority opinion and Alito's dissent is "a legal one, not a difference between dispassion and empathy," Whelan -- a former Supreme Court clerk and high ranking Justice Department official -- points out that Alito cited the Supreme Court case of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire to say that the First Amendment does not shield utterances that "form 'no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.' "
Whelan adds that "as Alito saw it, an abusive attack on a private figure rather than speech on a matter of public concern -- 'the First Amendment should not interfere with recovery.' "
Therefore, Whelan suggests, empathy played no part in Alito's coming to a different conclusion than all the other justices. But that only makes sense if you ignore much of what Alito wrote as well as Alito's own statements about how he views his role as a judge.
The conservative media have denounced unions in Wisconsin for attempting to negotiate contracts before that state's recently passed anti-union law goes into effect, referring to what they're doing as a "cheap trick." But the conservative media praised Wisconsin Republicans when they used questionable tactics to pass the bill in the state senate.
National Review Online blogger and conservative judicial activist Gary Marx accused Obama judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan of having "a very troubling record of dismissing the Second Amendment" during her time as New York state solicitor general. In fact, Marx's attack consists of criticism of Halligan for doing her job as solicitor general by filing briefs on behalf of the state of New York, and neither of the cases Marx cites deal with Second Amendment issues.
It was only a matter of time before the right-wing media, untethered to decency, attacked Rep. Keith Ellison for his emotional testimony explaining the dangers of "stoking fears about entire groups for a political agenda."
Elucidating that point before Rep. Peter King's controversial hearings on Muslim radicalization, Ellison - the first Muslim elected to Congress -- grew emotional while telling the story of Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a Muslim American who died on September 11, 2001, while trying to rescue people trapped in the World Trade Center, and who was subsequently smeared as a possible terrorist:
Mr. Hamdani bravely sacrificed his life to try and help others on 9/11. After the tragedy some people tried to smear his character solely because of his Islamic faith. Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers only because he was Muslim. It was only when his remains were identified that these lies were fully exposed.
Hamdani's remains were identified in March 2002. In December 2002, The New Yorker explained the circumstances surrounding the months in between Hamdani's death and the identification of his remains:
For a time, his parents thought that Salman was among the thousand or so Muslims detained for security reasons after the attack. Then, to the family's humiliation, the Post splashed his picture on its pages, along with insinuations of collaboration and treason. The Hamdanis protested to their congressman, and even to President Bush. Six months later, Salman's remains were found at the World Trade Center, where, it turned out, he had rushed to save lives, and he was given a hero's burial. [The New Yorker, 12/9/02, accessed via Nexis]
Indeed, on October 12, 2001, News Corp's New York Post ran a story headlined "Missing - or hiding? - mystery of NYPD cadet from Pakistan":
Hamdani was last seen, Koran in hand, leaving his Bayside, Queens home for his job as a research assistant at Rockefeller University, but he never made it to work.
His family distributed missing-person fliers in the fear that the 23-year- old, who is trained as an emergency medical technician, went instead to the World Trade Center to help and was killed.
But investigators for the FBI and NYPD have since questioned the family about which Internet chat rooms he visited and if he was political.
Hamdani, a graduate of Queens College with a biochemistry degree, had been in the NYPD cadet program for three years. He became "inactive" because he needed to work full time, his mother said.
Police sources said he hadn't been to work at the NYPD since April, but he still carried official identification.
One source told The Post: "That tells me they're not looking for this guy at the bottom of the rubble. The thing that bothers me is, if he is up to some tricks, he can walk past anybody [using the ID card]."
To recap, Hamdani disappeared on September 11, 2001. In October, The New York Post published an article questioning whether Hamdani was actually in hiding, reporting that law enforcement officials were asking about what chat rooms he visited and whether he was political. The Post cited an anonymous source speculating that Hamdani might be "up to some tricks." There can be no question that "some people tried to smear his character."
Yet in response to Ellison's testimony, right-wing media figures are calling Ellison a "bigot" and a liar. From the National Review:
Does Ellison's account check out with reality?
No. It is actually pretty close to the opposite of the truth. In fact, six weeks after the September 11 attacks -- before Hamdani's remains were identified, which Ellison implies to be the turning point of public perception -- Congress signed the PATRIOT Act into law with this line included: "Many Arab Americans and Muslim Americans have acted heroically during the attacks on the United States, including Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old New Yorker of Pakistani descent, who is believed to have gone to the World Trade Center to offer rescue assistance and is now missing." That is, Hamdani was actually singled out for particular high honors among the thousands of victims of the September 11 attacks.
There's little evidence of the "rumors" of which Ellison speaks, either. Poke around yourself. Go to Google and search for Mohammed Salman Hamdani's name, using various time frames from before today's hearings (say, in the week after the September 11 attack). You'll discover two discordant sets of returns: none for sites and news reports accusing Hamdani of being a terrorist, and many thousands of pages honoring him as a hero while claiming that he was "widely accused" of being a terrorist. [NationalReview.com, 3/10/11]
Apparently if Google doesn't have a record of everything people were saying 10 years ago, it never happened.
Hannity pounced, and Fox Nation was quick to blast the National Review's smear:
In a word, this is repugnant. More so, as the National Review is fully aware of The Post publishing these rumors. They're just unimpressed by this one instance of a well-publicized insinuation that Hamdani was a terrorist in hiding:
So the Post reported 1) that Hamdani's family believed he died in the WTC attacks, 2) that the FBI asked Hamdani's mother a few background questions after a mistaken sighting, and 3) that an unnamed source felt such questioning implied guilt. No doubt, that was hard on the grieving mother. But frankly, this -- a mistaken sighting, and very preliminary investigations of many people, most of whom turn out to be innocent -- is the kind of thing that inevitably happens after a major terrorist attack.
See. This just happens.
Particularly when you think it's OK to smear Muslims.
Right-wing media have heralded Wisconsin GOP senators' vote to pass Gov. Scott Walker's anti-union legislation through a series of parliamentary maneuvers. But these media outlets have ignored critics who have said that a maneuver used by the Republican senators in order to hold the vote "raises a lot of serious questions" and possibly violated the state's open meetings law.
Yesterday, we showed how the attempt by National Review Online blogger Ed Whelan to paint President Obama's judicial nominee Goodwin Liu as out-of-the-mainstream has actually demonstrated that Whelan is himself far outside the mainstream.
Today, Whelan lashed out at one of the conservative supporters of Liu's nomination, Richard Painter, the former White House ethics lawyer during President George W. Bush's administration. Whelan -- a former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia, a former deputy assistant attorney general, and a former senior Capitol Hill staffer -- claimed that Painter has "evidently lost his marbles":
In addition to failing to confront my actual arguments, Painter relies heavily on the argument-by-authority fallacy. As he puts it:
Now, you can believe the top experts in the areas of Liu's scholarship and prominent conservatives such as Ken Starr and Clint Bolick -- or you can believe National Review Online's Ed Whelan. I know where I would put my marbles.
Set aside that Painter, having evidently lost his marbles, would have to find them first before he could put them anywhere. Painter leaves the false impression that folks like Starr and Bolick have actually responded to my critiques of Liu and of their misunderstandings of his record. So far as I'm aware, they haven't.
As a reminder, in addition to Painter, Liu has the support of Kenneth Starr, Clinton Bollick, John Yoo (who has reaffirmed his support for Liu while criticizing Painter's post), and other conservative scholars.
Conservative commentator Ed Whelan has attacked President Obama's judicial nominee Goodwin Liu, who is having a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, in several recent blog posts. He has even created a "one-stop repository" of his attacks on Liu. There's not much new to the attacks. You can read them if you want. For factual rebuttal, you can look here, here, and here.
But what is amazing is how clearly Whelan's attempt to paint Liu as out-of-the-mainstream succeeds only at showing how out-of-the-mainstream Whelan is himself.
In order to attack Liu, Whelan has had to claim that Kenneth Starr -- former federal judge, former solicitor general, and of course former Whitewater special counsel -- was "badly confused" in a letter he wrote supporting Liu.
But that's not all. Whelan has also gone after former George W. Bush ethics attorney Richard Painter who has written a post in favor of Liu. Painter notes that he "worked to get" Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito confirmed. Whelan calls Painter's defense of Liu "shoddy," "badly flawed," and said it is based in part on "ill-informed or utterly conclusory endorsements of Liu" from "some conservative who ought to know better."
Engaging in a bit of mind-reading to divine Painter's reasons for supporting Liu, Whelan surmises that Painter is "evidently suffering a case of battered-conservative-academic syndrome."
Painter and Starr aren't the only conservative scholars supporting Liu. Former Bush Justice Department official John Yoo, Goldwater Institute director Clint Bolick, and George W. Bush Institute official James Guthrie have also voiced support for him, as have former Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman Jr. and former Rep. Tom Campbell (who ran against Carly Fiorina last year for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate from California).
So are Starr, Painter, Yoo, Bolick, and the other conservatives all "badly confused" or not paying sufficient attention to Liu's record? Or is Whelan just plain wrong? The answer seems pretty simple.
In a National Review Online blog post today, conservative commentator Ed Whelan said we should "disbelieve" the testimony by Obama judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan that "the best way in which we can interpret [the Constitution] is to look to the text and the original intent of the Framers" and that it is not "ever appropriate to rely on foreign law in deciding the meaning of the U.S. Constitution."
His evidence: That Democratic nominees don't believe such things and that Halligan said in post-hearing written questions that she hadn't previously made the same statements. Therefore, she must be lying.
For the record, there are progressives who strongly believe that the text and history of the Constitution should form the basis of constitutional interpretation. Furthermore, in a statement consistent with her prior remarks on the subject, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said during her confirmation hearing that "I do not believe that foreign law should be used to -- to determine the results under constitutional law or American law, except where American law directs."
It is on this flimsy evidence that Whelan accuses Halligan of lying in her testimony. As a reminder, lying to Congress is a felony.
Before conservatives launch their regular attacks against the so-called liberal media, it might be helpful to see if openly conservative media outlets are guilty of the same supposed crime against journalism. And if they are, then it's probably best to shelve the liberal media attack.
Nonetheless, we see this same pratfall over and over. The latest to take the tumble is NRO's Greg Pollowitz, who's indignant that news outlets all be ignored Republican Scott Walker's campaign for Wisconsin governor last fall.
Here's the entire angry item from NRO [emphasis added]:
A quick search of the New York Times website for "Scott Walker" from August 1, 2010, until Nov. 1, 2010, yields nine hits.
Christine O'Donnell, the witch running in Delaware? She scores 162 during the same period.
Sharron Angle in Nevada? 131.
Sarah Palin? 280.
And back to those nine hits for "Scott Walker" — not one is a piece from the Times' op-ed section. In other words, nobody of any notoriety at the Times cared about the Wisconsin governor's race, because these geniuses were too concerned with saving America from the likes of Christine O'Donnell. How's that working out for you?
Elections matter, as does the coverage of said elections.
Those dopes at the New York Times didn't care about Walker's campaign last year, Pollowitz complains.
Right, and you know who else didn't care about Walker's campaign last year? The staunchly conservative Washington Times as well as the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, both of which published even fewer Walker references between last Aug. 1 and Nov. 1, than did the New York Times, according to a Nexis search.
Like I said, before partisans make nasty attacks against the Times and ascribe motivation to its coverage, they might want to first see if conservative media outlets covered (or didn't cover) the same story in the exact same way. Could save some time in the future.
Today, Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Elmendorf sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) estimating that the bill to repeal the health care reform "would cause a net increase in federal budget deficits of $210 billion over the 2012-2021 period." You might think this might stop people from claiming that health care reform repeal is fiscally responsible. But that doesn't account for the dishonesty of the right-wing blogosphere.
Several headlines on conservative blogs are shouting some variant of: "CBO Says Repealing ObamaCare Would SAVE 1.4 TRILLION DOLLARS Over 10 Years"
Where are they getting this? Well, the blogs quote this passage from Elmendorf's letter outlining some of the effects of H.R. 2, the health care reform repeal bill:
The enacted legislation contained a set of provisions designed to expand health insurance coverage that was estimated to increase federal deficits. The costs of those coverage expansions--which include the cost of the subsidies to be provided through the exchanges, increased outlays for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and tax credits for certain small employers--will be partially offset by revenues from the excise tax on high-premium insurance plans and net savings from other coverage-related effects. By repealing those coverage provisions of PPACA and the Reconciliation Act, over the 2012-2021 period H.R. 2 would yield gross savings of $1,390 billion and net savings (after accounting for the offsets just mentioned) of $1,042 billion. [emphasis added by NRO]
But that was just one paragraph in Elmendorf's letter. The next two paragraphs of the letter explained that other provisions in the repeal bill would "increase direct spending in the next decade by $732 billion" and "would reduce revenues by an estimated $520 billion over the 2012-2021 period":
PPACA and the Reconciliation Act also included a number of other provisions related to health care that were estimated to reduce net federal outlays (primarily for Medicare). By repealing those provisions, H.R. 2 would increase other direct spending in the next decade by $732 billion.
The enacted legislation will increase federal revenues (apart from the effect of provisions related to insurance coverage), mostly by increasing the Hospital Insurance payroll tax and imposing fees on certain manufacturers and insurers. Repealing those provisions would reduce revenues by an estimated $520 billion over the 2012-2021 period.
Elmendorf then summarizes:
H.R. 2 would, on net, increase federal deficits over the next decade because the net savings from eliminating the coverage provisions would be more than offset by the combination of other spending increases and revenue reductions.
In total, CBO and JCT estimate that H.R. 2 would reduce outlays by about $604 billion and reduce revenues by about $813 billion over the 2012-2021 period (see Table 2).
So, CBO is not saying, in any way shape or form, that the health care reform law repeal will save the government money. CBO is saying that certain provisions would save the government money, but that those provisions are more than offset by other provisions that would cost the government money.
It's no secret that many in the right-wing media are not fans of President Obama's plan to develop high-speed passenger rail lines throughout the country. However, the right-wing media's reporting on Florida Gov. Rick Scott's decision to turn down federal money to build a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando has been particularly one-sided. Several reports have failed to mention the tens of thousands of jobs that the high-speed rail project would have brought to the state.
From February 12 coverage of CPAC 2011:
Loading the player reg...
Misrepresenting testimony from the CBO director, conservative media claim the health care reform law will eliminate 800,000 jobs. In fact, CBO said the law will "reduc[e] the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, and as health expert Paul Van De Water stated, "If people voluntarily choose to reduce their hours of work ... that's not killing jobs."