Although all of President Obama's qualified nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit are currently at risk of being refused an up-or-down vote by unprecedented Republican obstructionism, right-wing media have targeted Georgetown law professor Cornelia "Nina" Pillard in particular with misguided smears.
On October 8, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a challenge to campaign contribution limits that court-watchers call "the next Citizens United." Although opponents of campaign finance regulation characterize aggregate contribution limits as a violation of the First Amendment, media should be aware that such limits guard against institutional corruption in the democratic process, a foremost concern of the Constitution's framers.
On November 8, Slate published an article asking, "Are a small number of immigrant wives faking domestic abuse to stay in the country?" It alleges that immigrant women are pretending to be abused by their spouses in order to exploit a provision of the Violence Against Women Act, which in certain cases allows abused non-citizens married to citizens or permanent residents to avoid deportation and/or petition for a green card rather than relying on their spouse to do so on their behalf.
That's a pretty inflammatory allegation. I sure hope the author has some real evidence to substantiate this supposed trend and isn't just casually fueling anti-immigrant extremists by casting doubt on the claims made by battered immigrant women.
The article claims that "hundreds of American men say" their wives exploited VAWA to stay in the country, but provides no source for this already ambiguous figure, "hundreds." Should we assume the author spoke to all of these men? Did she also verify their claims?
The author recounts the story of a Virginia man who says he was wrongly accused of abuse by his Russian immigrant spouse, who he met on an online dating service. Was the woman permitted to stay in the U.S. through the VAWA provision? Who knows? The author doesn't say.
The article goes on to claim that "the intimations of fraud aren't just coming from angry ex-husbands (and a few wives). Immigration agents, lawyers, and the brokers who facilitate marriages between Americans and foreigners say that VAWA is sometimes exploited." Again no source for the claim that agents, lawyers and brokers say this is happening, and no details on what "sometimes" means. From what we're given in the article, the author appears to be basing this assertion on the opinion of John Sampson, a former ICE investigator, who "says immigration authorities make no effort to validate documents submitted by a wife claiming abuse, do not interview her, and discount evidence from the American husband that contradicts the abuse claim."
What the article doesn't tell you: Sampson runs a "Consulting and Investigations" firm whose clientele consists of people who say they were "victimized not only by cold and calculating foreign national brides, but by the 'system' itself." In other words, he makes money by helping men prove that their spouses are faking domestic abuse. Sampson has also signed affidavits used by Orly Taitz in her birther lawsuits seeking to prove that Barack Obama is not eligible to be president.
What is it about reporters that makes them so obsessed with politicians' iPods, and whether they're telling the truth about liking more than one musician? First, Slate's Jacob Weisberg made the improbable suggestion that Hillary Clinton was insincere in saying she liked the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin. Then, Politico's Glenn Thrush followed up on this line of reporting a few years later by purporting to fact-check Clinton's professed fondness for the Beatles and the Stones.
Now comes the Los Angeles Times' Mark Milian:
So if Obama doesn't know how to use Apple's portable music player -- a product hailed for its ease-of-use, even for a Harvard Law graduate -- was the preelection Rolling Stone magazine article about what's on his iPod a farce?
Come to think of it, his picks did seem a little too varied, uncontroversial and universally respectable to be the real deal. Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Sheryl Crow and Ludacris? Give me a break.
What, exactly, is so hard to believe about having Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Sheryl Crow and Ludacris on an iPod? Songs by all four artists can be found on my iPod.
The assumption by Weisberg, Thrush and Milian that everyone has narrow musical tastes is obnoxious -- and suggests that the three of them don't really like music. In my experience, people who do really like music tend to have diverse tastes -- and don't tend to see an iPod containing Dylan, Davis & Crow as a particularly eclectic collection. It also reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of one of the key the benefits of MP3 players like iPods -- they make it easy to own and access a "varied" music library.
But most of all it's a nasty little effort to portray Obama, like Clinton before him, as a phony, no matter how thin the evidence.
If there's one thing journalists love, it's pretending that every flaw evident among conservatives is mirrored exactly among liberals.
Sure, Ann Coulter may fantasize about killing journalists, and Lou Dobbs may help spread nutty ideas about Barack Obama's birthplace, and the conservative movement may have accused Bill Clinton of being complicit in dozens of murders, but reporters will rush to assure you that there are extremists on both the Left and the Right -- and they enjoy similar positions of prominence on both sides.
Enter Slate's William Saletan, whose recent feature about the "food police" contains this whopper of a false equivalence:
To justify taxes on unhealthy food, the lifestyle regulators are stretching the evidence about obesity and addiction ... Liberals like to talk about a Republican war on science, but it turns out that they're just as willing to bend facts. In wars of piety, science has no friends.
Oh, really? Many conservatives want to stop teaching evolution in schools, to pick but one obvious example. They deny global warming, even as the polar ice caps melt away before our eyes. But liberals are just as willing to bend facts, according to Will Saletan, because ... Well, because their estimates of the budgetary impact of increased obesity may be too high.
Yeah. That's the same.
(It's telling, by the way, that Saletan doesn't feel the need to list any actual conservative falsehoods by way of comparison -- he assumes it is self-evident that both sides are "just as willing to bend facts." No need to actually compare the ways in which they do so before making that assertion.)
Slate gives us an idea of what coverage of such an event would be like today. The resulting video is funny because it's depressing. I think the fact that Slate uses such little actual footage of the landing is pretty spot on. Why show the footage when you can read what people are saying in 140 characters or less on Twitter?
What do you think?
Also, be sure to check out these great photos from The Boston Globe remembering Apollo 11. Good stuff.