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Brian Powell

Author ››› Brian Powell
  • What The Media Failed To Tell You About Claims of Dead Registered Voters in North Carolina

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Allegations by a non-profit group that there are 30,000 dead people registered to vote in North Carolina have received play in local and national media (including Fox News) over the last week -- what isn't being reported, however, is the group's history of making false allegations of voter fraud or the larger pattern of finding no merit to "dead voter" accusations.

    The group, led by recently retired Air Force officer and Tea Party darling Jay DeLancy, calls itself the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina (VIP-NC).  In yet another Fox News attempt to fear-monger about post-mortem voter fraud, DeLancy was invited to appear on the September 5th edition of Fox & Friends to hype his group's findings. During the interview, he admitted that so far, his group has only found a handful of allegedly deceased individuals actually voting, and that they're not ready to release an exact number on their findings. To put that tentative "handful" in context, over 2.5 million votes were cast in the 2010 general election in North Carolina.

    Neither the hosts of Fox & Friends nor the myriad straight news sources reporting on the '30,000 dead voter' claims mentioned the history of these types of allegations collapsing or the fact that voter fraud is extremely rare. In fact, Fox News has tried to gin up fears about dead people voting before. An hour-long special that aired in April, Fox News Reporting: Stealing Your Votereported on an already-debunked claim that 953 ballots were cast by "dead" voters in South Carolina. However, an investigation by the state's Election Commission found no evidence of fraud.

    Nor did Fox mention in this week's segment that DeLancy's project has failed previous attempts to expose voter fraud in the state. Earlier this year, the group submitted the names of over 500 registered voters they claimed were non-citizens, alleging that half of those may have actually voted illegally or committed some other related crime. A subsequent investigation flagged only 11 registrants for closer inspection.* From the Raleigh News & Observer:

    Earlier this summer, the organization sued to have 528 Wake County residents it claimed were not U.S. citizens removed from the voter registration. The county elections board investigated the complaint and removed 11 names from its registry and referred the names to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Cherie Poucher, director of the Wake County Board of Elections.

  • The New York Post Suddenly Silent After NYPD Muslim Surveillance Found To Be A Bust

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    After months of berating the Associated Press over its investigation of the New York Police Department's Muslim surveillance program, the New York Post is suddenly tongue-tied. Following an article by the Associated Press which found that the six-year NYPD program has not yielded a single terrorism investigation, the paper hasn't published a single piece of coverage of the AP story. 

    The Associated Press uncovered the admission on August 21st:

    In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday

    The Demographics Unit is at the heart of a police spying program, built with help from the CIA, which assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Police infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames. [...]

    But in a June 28 deposition as part of a longstanding federal civil rights case, Assistant Chief Thomas Galati said none of the conversations the officers overheard ever led to a case.

    "Related to Demographics," Galati testified that information that has come in "has not commenced an investigation."

    It's not surprising that the NY Post is not covering the issue, given that it goes against the pro-surveillance narrative the paper has been trying to push for over a year. For example, in an editorial on November 22, 2011, the NY Post declared, "New Yorkers should be thankful that its police department has been collecting information and conducting surveillance of Muslim communities." After all, they noted on December 26, "there is very good reason why anti-terror investigations often lead to the Muslim-American community." The Post's editorial board penned pieces defending the program on February 13March 14March 22March 30, and April 17.

    In June, a Post editorial baselessly alleged that the Muslim surveillance program "led to the arrests of several would-be terrorists." In July, the editorial board got more specific, claiming that, "the NYPD's Intel Unit has had a sterling record since it was established in the wake of 9/11, helping disrupt 14 terrorist plots against the city in the last decade."

    The commanding officer of the NYPD "Intel Unit" would seem to disagree that the Muslim surveillance tactic played a role:

    "I never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report, and I'm here since 2006," he said. "I don't recall other ones prior to my arrival. Again, that's always a possibility. I am not aware of any."

    While the Post editorial board has never really been one for facts, failing to report a news piece that goes against your narrative takes pushing misinformation one step further. 

    UPDATE: The New York Post editorial board finally weighed in on August 26, largely utilizing semantic arguments against the Associated Press and failing entirely to rebut Galati's admissions that the surveillance program is ineffective. Many Post readers, however, were left with only one side of the story. As of August 28, a full week after the story broke, the paper's straight news sections had still not reported on Galati's testimony.

  • A 'COUNTING' FRAUD: New Book By John Fund & Hans Von Spakovsky Parrots Tired Voter Fraud Falsehoods

    ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    In their new book, Who's Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at RiskWall Street Journal columnist John Fund and Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky attempt to gin up fears about stolen elections and widespread voter fraud by making use of cherry-picked story-telling, falsehoods, and baseless allegations.

  • Fox News Hides The President's Budget Plan

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Now that Mitt Romney has chosen Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) -- made infamous by his extreme budget proposal -- as his running mate, some at Fox News are pretending President Obama's plan to reduce the deficit doesn't exist. But President Obama has a plan to reduce the deficit. It's been laid out in significant detail for nearly a year and was widely reported in the media. 

    On the August 11 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, host Dave Briggs asked, "will the pressure be on [the Obama campaign] to come up with some sort of deficit reduction plan that they have punted on?"

    Watch:

    Later on Fox & Friends Saturday, conservative radio host Michael Graham also claimed that the Obama administration doesn't have a plan, saying, "I refuse to debate anyone on the Paul Ryan plan until they tell me the Obama plan. ... there is no plan from the White House."

    Watch:

    Again, Obama does have a plan to reduce the deficit. It's a plan that's been lauded for its specifics and includes a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, with an emphasis on near-term stimulus and middle-term deficit reduction -- a hierarchy of priorities that coincides with the advice of economists, who note that unemployment is still the most immediate need to address.

    The Washington Post's Ezra Klein bookmarked the deficit provisions for anyone having trouble finding them:

    On deficit reduction, Romney's plan "requires spending cuts of approximately $500 billion per year in 2016." He has not released spending cuts that come anywhere close to that goal. He does have some nice words to say about the Ryan budget, but Romney advisers have told the media that their candidate disagrees with large parts of it, including the Medicare cuts.

    The comparison to Obama is, again, instructive. Pages 23 through 37 of Obama's budget detail dozens of spending cuts and tell you how much money they'll save. You might not like those spending cuts, or you might want to see more. But at least you know the specifics of the president's plan.

    ABC News highlighted some of the provisions in September 2011:

    The bulk of the savings in the president's plan come from $1.5 trillion in deficit-reduction through new taxes for high-end earners and $580 billion in cuts to entitlement programs, including $248 billion to Medicare and $72 billion to Medicaid.

    [...]

    Obama also proposed other means to raise taxes, including more than $800 billion by allowing the Bush tax cuts for upper income earners to expire and $300 billion by closing loopholes and eliminating special-interest tax breaks.

    In total, the president's plan will claim more than $4 trillion in deficit reduction through entitlement cuts, tax increases and war savings, in particular. The proposal includes $1.2 trillion in savings from the Budget Control Act and $1.1 trillion from drawing down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Of course, conservatives are certainly aware of Obama's budget and its deficit priorities. But if they acknowledge its existence, they'll be forced to compare it to a Romney plan that "defies the rules of math," or a Ryan plan dubbed "the most fraudulent budget in American history."

  • Cleveland Plain Dealer Regurgitates Conservative Misinformation On Voting Rights

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    On the eve of the 47th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer relied on notorious voter fraud huckster Hans von Spakovsky and other dubious sources to continue to distort the debate over voter ID laws. Specifically, Von Spakovsky argued that voter ID laws do not affect minority turnout and suggested that, in fact, the opposite is true. From the article:

    Von Spakofsky [sic], a senior legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, says voting in both Georgia and Indiana increased dramatically in the states' presidential primaries and general presidential elections after photo ID laws went into place.

    "In Indiana, which the U.S. Supreme Court said has the strictest voter ID law in the country, turnout in the Democratic presidential primary in 2008 quadrupled from the 2004 election when the photo ID law was not in effect," von Spakofsky last year told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "According to Census Bureau surveys, 59.2 percent of the black voting-age population voted in the 2008 election compared to only 53.8 percent in 2004, an increase of over 5 percentage points."

    In reality, as Colorlines.com has reported, such a conclusion cannot be drawn:

    Von Spakovsky noted that "Georgia had the largest turnout of minority voters in its history," and then drew the conclusion, "As shown by these data ... voter ID requirements can be easily met by almost all voters and do not have a discriminatory or disparate impact on racial minorities." The message sent: Georgia 2008 voter turnout was good; therefore voter ID laws are good.

    These are specious conclusions to draw at best because it relies on a non-existent causation or correlation between the implementation of the state's voter ID law and voter turnout without controlling for other factors such as the growth in voting age population and the growth in the number of people registered to vote during the same period.

    I spoke with Charles S. Bullock III, the Richard B. Russell Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia who said that the state's voter ID law "is not a cause" for the increase in minority voter turnout and "that you can't build a case for a causal link" between the implementation of the voter ID law and the increase in minority voter turnout. In fact, voter turnout would have increased in Georgia in the 2008 presidential election with or without the voter ID law for a number of other factors, says Lubbock, including a "gradual increase" in the voting-age population of African Americans, and also the excitement around the possible election of the nation's first black president. But this does not mean that everyone was able to "easily" get an ID card. [...]

    The Increase in Georgia's minority voter turnout was due to large increases in voter registration and the excitement around the Obama campaign, despite the voter ID law, but not because of it.

  • NY Post Frequently Exploits Shooting Victims To Push Pro-'Stop-And-Frisk' Agenda

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    With facts and statistics staring down the New York Post's attempted defenses of the New York Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk agenda, the Post has been forced to resort to purely emotional appeals in their attempt to maintain public support for the policy.

    Over the past few months, the New York Post has published several news pieces dedicated to interrogating the friends and family members of recent New York City shooting victims. Each story features someone emotionally close to the case speculating about whether ramping up the New York Police Department's controversial "stop-and-frisk" policy could have saved their loved ones' lives. Meanwhile, the Post's editorial page has been littered with hyperbole and graphic imagery -- fear mongering designed to scare readers into believing that ending stop-and-frisk will result in "more blood in the streets."

    Several recent interviews in the news section of the New York Post have followed the above theme. Given the unconditional support for stop-and-frisk expressed by the Post's editors over past months, it's difficult to view these stories as anything more than an effort to exploit the raw emotions of their subjects in order to push the paper's political objectives in a "straight news" format. One example, from the New York Post on July 19, was an interview with a mother whose teenage son was shot and killed in July:

    The grieving mother of a 15-year-old student who was shot in the head and died last week told The Post police should stop and frisk every person on the streets in order to stem increasing gun violence.

    "My son is gone because of an illegal gun on the street," said Natasha Christopher, whose eldest son, Akeal, died on his birthday.

    "If they had frisked the person who killed my son, it would have been one less gun on the streets. I'm for it," she declared.

  • Denver Post Omits Writer's Ties To Koch Brothers

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    On Sunday, the Denver Post published an op-ed about climate change by Americans For Prosperity's Sean Paige, but did not disclose AFP's close ties to the Koch brothers -- fossil fuel magnates who benefit financially from convincing the public that our consumption of fossil fuels is a harmless indulgence with no ill effects. The companion counter-argument by children's author and astronomer Jeffrey Bennett tellingly noted "Despite any debate you may hear in politics or the media, there is no scientific doubt that global warming is tilting the odds the wrong way."

    In his op-ed, Paige suggests that we are simply experiencing "natural" "climate fluctuation" and argues that the specter of "climate change" is "the ultimate all-purpose excuse" to evade responsibility for disaster or increase regulations.

    Deriding Americans concerned about climate change is nothing new for AFP. Nor is it surprising, if one knows that AFP was founded and bankrolled by David and Charles Koch, whose Koch Industries is a major player in fossil fuel markets. The Denver Post's failure to explain what AFP is, which speaks to Paige's potential agenda and the trustworthiness of his claims, is a significant breach of the duties it owes to its readership.

    Furthermore, in providing Paige and AFP such a prominent platform, the Post has contributed to an unfortunate national trend in failed media coverage of the wildfires in the West - ignoring or diminishing how climate change increases the risk of fire there. Paige's column dismisses the effects of climate change as a "cop-out," and completely ignores significant research indicating climate change has contributed to warmer and drier conditions. A study by the U.S. Global Change Research Program sums it up:

    Wildfires in the United States are already increasing due to warming. In the West, there has been a nearly fourfold increase in large wildfires in recent decades, with greater fire frequency, longer fire durations, and longer wildfire seasons. This increase is strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and earlier spring snowmelt, which have caused drying of soils and vegetation.

  • Chick-fil-A President Comes Clean About Company's Anti-Gay Philosophy

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Chick-fil-A is now confirming in no uncertain terms that the company maintains an anti-LGBT philosophy -- a stance supported in practical terms by the company's history of donations to anti-gay groups.

    Although his company's policies seemed to indicate otherwise, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy previously claimed that the company is not anti-gay -- "not anti-anybody." Cathy, who on Monday foreshadowed his public comments in a blog post titled "Thought For The Week: Become A Part Of The Story," cleared up any confusion by denouncing marriage equality and its advocates in interviews published in Baptist Press and on The Ken Coleman Show over the past two days. From OnTopMag.com (emphasis added):

    Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy has described gay marriage supporters as "arrogant" for going against God on marriage.

    In an interview on the Ken Coleman Show, Cathy defended his company's support of groups opposed to marriage equality.

    "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,'" Cathy said. "And I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about."

  • The Hill Opens The Door For GOP Myths About The EPA

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    On Wednesday, The Hill turned an undiscriminating spotlight on a new Republican effort to, as The Hill put it, "block the EPA from using drones." From the article:

    Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and 11 other House members introduced a bill Tuesday that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from conducting aerial drone surveillance of farms to enforce the Clean Water Act, or using any other overhead surveillance.

    "Unemployment has been at or above 8 percent for 30 consecutive months. Is conducting flyovers of family farms across the country really the best use of taxpayer money?" Capito asked on Tuesday.

    In fact, flyovers are exactly that -- a cost-saving measure, as the Washington Post reported last week:

    This is the part that's true: for more than a decade, EPA inspectors have flown over farmland in small private planes -- the traditional kind of aircraft, with people inside them. The inspectors are looking for clean-water violations, like dirty runoff or manure dumped into a stream.

    The EPA says the flights are legal under a 1986 Supreme Court decision. And they're cheap: an on-the-ground inspection might cost $10,000, but it costs just $1,000 to $2,500 to survey the same farm by air.

    An agency spokesman said these flights are not happening more frequently now than in the past.

    What's worse, the Hill story also ignores the fact that the GOP bill is designed in part to solve a problem that has never existed. Despite the manufactured outrage by Republicans, the EPA has never used drones, and the right-wing myth that the agency was "spying" on farmers with unmanned vehicles has been roundly debunked for some time.