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Brian Powell

Author ››› Brian Powell
  • Cleveland Plain Dealer Editor Talks Of America's "Twilight" In Wake Of Obama's Re-election

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Deputy editorial page editor Kevin O'Brien used his weekly platform in the pages of The Cleveland Plain Dealer to parrot national conservatives by encouraging the Republican-led House of Representatives to continue its policies of obstruction and explaining that people who voted for President Obama are either socialists or consider the president to be a "fun fad." 

    In his November 7 column titled "It's twilight in America," O'Brien also argued that Obama is "bent on [America's] fundamental transformation" -- a prospect furthered by a "rogue Congress" that passed the president's healthcare bill in spite of "what was then popular." O'Brien called on the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to continue acting as a "firewall" of obstructionism. He wrote (emphasis added):

    For the half of America that understands the peril in which their country stands, the House remains the firewall, just as it has been these last two years. And for at least two more years, the House will not let us down.

    It all seems the perfect recipe for gridlock, and gridlock probably will seem to be the result.

    But in this presidential term, nothing as healthy as gridlock will be achieved, because Barack Obama's re-election changes everything.

    Absent a miracle, the president will achieve the fundamental transformation he desires for America.

    The passage of Obamacare by a rogue Congress that ignored what was then the popular will has put this country on a course toward socialism and a different popular will.

    Given the chance to change that course with this election, Americans -- by a very thin margin in the popular vote -- declined.

    O'Brien also attempted to explain to readers exactly why voters would have chosen Obama over GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney (emphasis added):

    Some declined because they just don't see a problem. For young voters, especially, Obama is a fun fad -- a celebrity president who promises them all sorts of wonderful things that are either free or that someone else will pay for. Many of them will come to their senses when they realize they're permanently worse off than their parents, but that will take time.

    Some declined because they actually see socialism as a desirable outcome. They have been fed the progressive line from kindergarten through graduate school, and they believe it sincerely. They also plan to be among the elites who, in a more enlightened country, will make the decisions for the rest of us. To them, Obama is a kindred spirit.

    Some declined because a bigger, more activist, more paternal government benefits them directly, either by employing them or by providing for them in other ways. Mitt Romney may not have been right about their numbers -- his off-the-cuff reference to 47 percent of the population was a little high -- but he was right about their existence, their political priorities and their strength in the voting booth.

    But I think most declined because they're simply afraid of what lies ahead. Rather than facing the problems of incipient fiscal calamity and sociocultural rot, they opted for more reassurances from an Obama-led Washington that all will be well if we just tax more and spend more.

    O'Brien's message to Ohioans echoes the themes national conservatives have been pushing since Election Night -- to encourage more GOP obstruction and to explain away Obama's re-election by dismissing half of the electorate as wards of the state or people who just want "free stuff."

    Meanwhile, editorial boards at Ohio newspapers in nearby Columbus and Toledo argued that the president won re-election because Republicans followed the conservative movement too far to the right. From the Toledo Blade:

    Republicans must step out of the shadows of the party's far-right wing. If the Tea Party continues to dictate the Republican Party's platform, the GOP not only will fail to broaden its base, but also will continue to alienate traditional, more moderate Republicans.

    And the Columbus Dispatch noted:

    Now it's time for responsible Republicans to take their party back from the fringe that loses them elections. It's not true that Republicans needed better candidates. They had excellent contenders. The problem was that the electable ones couldn't leap the lunacy barrier erected by the right wing.

  • How Major State Newspapers Covered The Fight For Marriage Equality

    ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL, SALVATORE COLLELUORI & CARLOS MAZA

    The most widely circulated papers in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington covered the debate over same-sex marriage in their state extensively in the weeks leading up to Election Day. Though all four publications endorsed marriage equality, their news coverage largely ignored the extremism of anti-equality groups and often devolved into "he said-she said" journalism that failed to correct anti-gay misinformation.

  • South Florida Sun-Sentinel Whitewashes Gov. Scott's Role In Florida's Election Nightmare

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    A lengthy South Florida Sun-Sentinel article on Florida's Election Day fiascos whitewashed Republican Gov. Rick Scott's role in creating horrific voting scenarios that have made the state a national laughingstock and disenfranchised parts of the Florida electorate.

    The article, published in the November 8 edition of the Sun-Sentinel, buried Scott's refusal to follow a Florida tradition of extending early-voting hours after reports over the weekend that voters stood in long lines waiting for hours to cast a ballot and noted his refusal only in the context of partisan criticism from former governor and "Obama supporter" Charlie Crist. Worse, the article seemed to imply that Scott joined President Obama in expressing a strong desire to fix the system that he left broken. His comments, however, don't reflect the empathy attributed to him by the reporter. From the article (emphasis added):

    Images of long, long lines of people in South Florida waiting to cast ballots during early voting dominated the airwaves. Many voters in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties reported waiting several hours. That continued on Election Day with some voters in Miami not getting done at the polls until about 1:30 a.m.

    Even Obama seemed to have noticed, making an apparent jab at Florida in his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning.

    "I want to thank every American who participated in this election whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time," he said. "By the way, we have to fix that."

    And the president is not the only one saying that.

    Gov. Rick Scott, when questioned last week about the long voter lines, said that seeing so many people turn out to do their civic duty was "exciting."

    On Wednesday, Scott stopped short of criticizing the state election's process, but said he would be reviewing it with Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

    "What went right, what can we improve?" Scott said.

  • Fox Manufactures A Dishonest "War On Coal" Narrative In Ohio

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Coal jobs and coal production in Ohio have increased since 2007, but a Fox News report ignored this fact while claiming that the "universal perception" in Ohio is that the Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "has made [coal] jobs more scarce." Fox News host Martha MacCallum began the segment by asking, "What has the EPA done to deserve such a bad reputation in this part of Ohio?," which reporter Steve Brown deftly avoided answering.

    From the November 1 edition of America's Newsroom:

    The report featured plenty of video roll of various "war on coal" yard signs and billboards scattered across southeastern Ohio. But, despite being focused on the community's "universal perception" of the EPA (rather than a reality-based discussion of the coal industry), the report featured no public opinion polls and only a single-question interview with a former coal miner. 

    Even after Fox News posed the leading question, "Is EPA a dirty word out here?," the interviewee could not articulate any specific EPA actions that have caused harm to his community. In fact, the miner began his answer with a reference to the booming oil and natural gas industry -- a coal competitor that poses a major threat to the coal industry in Ohio regardless of the EPA.

    And even as long overdue health regulations from the EPA were enacted, coal jobs and coal production are actually up in Ohio. Politifact Ohio wrote yesterday "jobs and coal production in Ohio have increased" since 2007 "by every measurement we could find."

    Avoiding reality to shill for coal industry executives and parrot Republican talking points is nothing new for Fox News. It has been shamefully silent on GOP obstructionism that threatens the health of coal miners and earlier this year, and Fox News starred in a coal industry ad attacking the EPA.

  • Joe Scarborough On 7.8 Percent Unemployment: "These Numbers Don't Add Up"

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Unemployment dropped to 7.8 percent, a number that seemed to bewilder a skeptical MSNBC host Joe Scarborough this morning, who responded to the monthly jobs report by saying, "These numbers don't add up, it doesn't make sense."

    Watch:

    Scarborough maintained his skepticism of the number's veracity throughout the October 5 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, despite receiving explanations from analysts like Josh Green, from Bloomberg Businessweek, who noted earlier in the show:

    One reason this number went down, is we didn't just add 114,000 new jobs, there were the upward revisions in August and in July. So we're talking well over 200,000 new jobs. I think that's evidence that business is getting off the sidelines, hiring.

    Instead, Scarborough turned to former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, who tweeted a conspiracy theory implying the Obama administration influenced the unemployment numbers:

    The Morning Joe panel read the tweet aloud "for entertainment value," according to Scarborough, but co-host Mike Barnacle responded to the tweet, saying, "I don't know where the number came from, I hope it's accurate - I just don't know."

  • The Oklahoman Uses Oil And Gas Sources To Make Case For Energy Independence

    ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL & SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    Over the weekend, The Oklahoman introduced the first installment of a two-part series on "energy independence" that overwhelmingly focused on the oil and gas industry while failing to note its harmful effects on both the environment and public health. The reliance on oil industry sources is unsurprising given that the paper is owned by billionaire oil and gas tycoon Philip Anschutz.

  • Iowa Radio Host Endorses Ahmadinejad's Views On Homosexuality

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson opened his show Tuesday by concurring with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that homosexuality is an "ugly behavior" and accusing CNN's Piers Morgan of "moral, intellectual bankruptcy" for broaching the subject in an interview with the leader Monday night.

    From WHO-AM 1040 (emphasis added):

    [playing clip of CNN interview]

    PIERS MORGAN: Shouldn't freedom and individuality in all those things also extend to people who just happen to be gay? Who were born gay. They weren't made gay. Wouldn't it be great for the president of Iran to say, 'you know something, everyone's entitled to be whatever sexuality they are born to be.' That would be a great symbol of freedom.

    MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: Do you really believe that someone is born homosexual?

    MORGAN: Yes. I absolutely believe that. Yes, I do.

    AHMADINEJAD: I'm sorry, let me ask you this. Do you believe that anyone is given birth to through homosexuality? Homosexuality ceases procreation. Who has said that if you like or believe in doing something ugly and others do not accept your behavior, they are denying your freedom? Who says that? Who says that?

    Perhaps in a country, they wish to legitimize stealing -- 

    MORGAN: You are a father of three. You are a father of -- you have two sons and a daughter. What would you do if one of them was gay?

    AHMADINEJAD: Ah, these things have different ways - the proper education must be given, proper -- the education system must be revamped, the political system must be revamped, and these must be also reformed and revamped along the way. But if you - if a group - recognizes an ugly behavior or ugly deed as legitimate, you must not expect other countries or other groups to give it the same recognition.

    [end CNN clip]

    JAN MICKELSON: Gee, we're still struggling with those same issues in almost exactly the same terms, but I think it is absolutely fascinating that a moment of international tension -- where literally nuclear exchanges could occur -- incendiary comments about the legitimacy of countries and the roots of the legitimacy of Israel have been challenged and they're going to be eliminated. What does CNN ask? 'Hey, what if your kids are gay?' That is a demonstration of the absolute moral, intellectual bankruptcy of Western, mainstream media and that particular journalist -- how values can be so topsy-turvy.

    And the weird thing is, you know, on that exchange I've got to go with that Iranian fellow. Did I ever think I would be the position to actually agree with the potential-serial killing, nuclear-crazed [inaudible]. Talk about ironies. Anyway. Wow.

    This was not Mickelson's first foray into anti-gay commentary. He has referred to the LGBT community as a "religious cult," and suggested that AIDS is God's "invention" to "punish" the "stupid behavior" of homosexuality, which forced Clear Channel Communications (which owns the 50kW WHO-AM 1040) to issue an on-air statement criticizing Mickelson.

    Equality for the LGBT community is at the forefront of political discourse in Iowa, where conservatives are waging a campaign to oust Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins, who "was among seven Iowa justices who voted unanimously in a 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa."

  • Meet The Gas Can Man Fueling Right-Wing Energy Agenda

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Nevada media outlets failed to disclose the Big Oil interests behind a group offering  cheap gas in the state this week to mislead voters about Obama's energy policies, including the false claim that the administration's energy policies are responsible  for high gas prices. The bizarre stunts -- involving a walking, talking, anthropomorphic gas can -- were funded by groups largely financed by the Koch brothers, major conservative political donors who have significant oil interests. These groups are pushing policies that will benefit the Koch empire, not American consumers.

    From the Associated Press:

    Dozens of people lined up at a Reno gas station Tuesday to buy gasoline for $1.84 a gallon as part of a political event.

    The cheap gas was offered by the Gas Can Man, a group funded by a [PAC called] Morning in America, focusing on energy policy. The conservative group Americans for Prosperity also funded the event.

    A spokesman for the Gas Can Man told KOLO-TV that the event was supposed to remind voters that gas prices are high.

    Spokesman Michael Findlay says that gas was $1.84 a gallon in the month of President Barack Obama's inauguration.

    The Las Vegas Sun noted that as "people filled up their tanks, they stood in the shadow of AFP's campaign bus emblazoned with the slogan: Obama's Failing Agenda. One man registered voters." The paper quoted an Americans for Prosperity representative claiming the stunt was an exercise in "citizen education":

    For the organizers of the event, the cheap gas offering wasn't a handout for those in need.

    "It's citizen education," said Nick Vander Poel, of Americans for Prosperity. "This is issue awareness. We're educating them on the issues."

    But the Las Vegas Review-JournalLas Vegas Sun, and local television stations failed to disclose in their reports that the Gas Can Man and the cheap gas-campaign dubbed the "Million Can March" is funded by oil industry barons pushing policies that, if enacted, would line their own pockets but do nothing to lower the price of gas (the Sun disclosed the Koch ties, but neglected to mention their role in the oil industry).

  • Omission Statement: What The Charlotte Observer Isn't Telling Readers About The Voter Integrity Project

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    The Charlotte Observer's reprint of an article on alleged dead registered voters in North Carolina omitted critical information about an activist group pushing voter fraud mythology that were included in the original story, including its ties to a national voter suppression organization.

    The paper, which cut its full-time statehouse reporting staff earlier this year, relied on an article published a week earlier in Raleigh's News & Observer to inform its readers on the efforts of the Voter Integrity Project of NC (VIP-NC) to challenge the status of thousands of North Carolina voters. The Charlotte Observer did not print the Raleigh report in full, however, and omitted significant details about the group's faulty tactics and failed to provide broader context about the issue of voter fraud. On top of this, both papers have neglected to identify the connection between VIP-NC and True the Vote, a national Tea Party-affiliated organization formed to fear-monger about voter fraud.

    Following are examples of News & Observer's reporting that The Charlotte Observer left out:

    • A quote from N.C. Board of Elections Director of Voter Registration and Absentee Voting Veronica Degraffenreid:

    "The Voter Integrity Project has not brought forth any information to show that someone is voting in the name of another, and I think citizens of North Carolina need to be aware of that."

    • A claim by the director of the VIP-NC, Jay DeLancy, that his method of determining the number of alleged dead voters -- a list of 27,500 names -- was based in part on the intuition of his volunteers:

    They began with last names, then a volunteer would look for potential matches - for example considering an "Elizabeth" and a "Liz" with the same age and address to be a match.

    "It took intuition," DeLancy said. "We trained a lot of volunteers."

    DeLancy said he's confident that at least 90 percent of the names he delivered should be removed from the rolls.

    • Questions about the efficacy of VIP-NC's strategy:

    The nonprofit group used "fuzzy matching," Degraffenreid said. The death data from the Department of Health and Human Services includes age but not a date of birth, which is essential in making matches, she said.

    "The Voter Integrity Project doesn't have really the necessary data to make a determination that a voter is deceased," Degraffenreid said.

    Even a full match doesn't mean a registered voter has died. Degraffenreid recalled removing a man who matched on first, middle and last names, date of birth and county of residence who turned out to be a different voter. He showed up to the polls and voted a provisional ballot when he was told he had been removed, she said.

    • Facts about the scarcity of voter fraud:

    Meanwhile, cases of fraud remain rare. In 2009, the board referred 29 cases of double voting to county district attorneys, according to a board report. Since 2000, the board has referred one case of voter impersonation, the report states.