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  • Wall Street Journal "Works The Ref," Calling Conservative Chief Justice "Liberal Man Of The Year"

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    As Chief Justice John Roberts receives end-of-year accolades for not striking down health care reform, The Wall Street Journal is mocking this "strange new respect" on its editorial page. But the WSJ's criticism is a thin veil for its clear preference that Roberts return to his conservative ideology, while failing to acknowledge Roberts' record as a clear conservative on issues like corporate power and civil rights.

    The WSJ has already called Roberts' refusal to join his conservative colleagues on the Court and declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional "misbegotten." It is no surprise that a November 20 WSJ editorial treated with disdain the praise for Roberts's late switch, mocking his place on Atlantic Monthly's list of "Brave Thinkers" and being named one of Esquire's "Americans of the Year" along with actress Lena Dunham. From the editorial:

    Chief Justice Roberts shares the Esquire honor with Lena Dunham, the star of an Obama campaign ad and the creator and star of the HBO series about 20-something sexual angst called "Girls."

    She and the Chief Justice also make the Atlantic Monthly's list of "Brave Thinkers" of 2012, by which they mean thinkers who agree with the Atlantic's liberal editors. Ms. Dunham is praised for taking "the soft glow off the 'chick flick,'" for instance when her character acts "like an underage street hooker to turn her boyfriend on," while the Chief Justice gets credit for "maintaining the Court's legitimacy" with a ruling "both brave and shrewd." President Obama probably has Time's "Person of the Year" nailed down, but expect the Chief to finish a close second.

    Such is the strange new respect a conservative receives for sustaining liberal priorities. Our own view is less effusive, and to expiate his ObamaCare legal sins, a fair punishment would be that he hire Ms. Dunham as a clerk.

    Yet Roberts' conservative bona fides are well established, which makes the editorial seem like an exercise in "ref-working," essentially haranguing the Chief Justice to ensure future conservative behavior. In Roberts' case, this would not be a stretch. On issues of corporate power, the Roberts Court is unprecedented in its well-reported conservatism and has given the WSJ much to celebrate.

    Similarly, Roberts' record on civil rights is sufficiently right-wing. With cases addressing affirmative action, voting rights, and marriage equality in the pipeline, the current docket gives him ample opportunity to return to the conservative fold. Excepting same-sex marriage (which has yet to be accepted for review), Roberts' positions on the other two issues  - presented in Fisher v. University of Texas and Shelby County v. Holder  - clearly parallel those of the WSJ.

    The WSJ has characterized precedent affirming the constitutionality of race-conscious admissions policies in school desegregation efforts a "large[] legal mistake," and has called enforcement of the Voting Rights Act the "grossest kind of racial politics." The editorial board appears to have an ally in Roberts, who has already recorded his opposition to both affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act as Chief Justice. As Supreme Court expert Joan Biskupic has reported:

    [T]he kinds of social policy issues that play to Roberts' true conservatism, such as affirmative action and other race-based remedies are on the agenda for the term that starts in October.

    [...]

    From his early days in the Reagan administration, Roberts has sought to roll back the government's use of racial remedies.[As Chief Justice, in] a 2006 case involving the drawing of "majority minority" voting districts to enhance the political power of blacks and Latinos, Roberts referred to "this sordid business (of) divvying us up by race." The following year, in a case involving school integration plans, he wrote, "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

    On marriage equality, Roberts' position is more unpredictable, as he "has not yet voted in a major gay rights case." The WSJ, on the other hand, has already preemptively declared as "activist" any Court decision finding unequal restrictions on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. But both liberal and conservative reporting has questioned whether Roberts would join the WSJ's aversion to a constitutional right to marriage for all, irrespective of sexual orientation. Perhaps this is where the WSJ's pressure is most directed, out of fear that Roberts does not want to be on the wrong side of history.

    Ultimately, regardless of the reasons behind the WSJ's attempt to embarrass the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, it might consider the reflections of conservative federal Judge Richard Posner on the "serious mistake" of right-wing media attacks against Roberts. From an interview with NPR:

    "Because if you put [yourself] in his position ... what's he supposed to think? That he finds his allies to be a bunch of crackpots? Does that help the conservative movement? I mean, what would you do if you were Roberts? All the sudden you find out that the people you thought were your friends have turned against you, they despise you, they mistreat you, they leak to the press. What do you do? Do you become more conservative? Or do you say, 'What am I doing with this crowd of lunatics?' Right? Maybe you have to re-examine your position."

  • Von Spakovsky's Expert Legal Analysis: Modern Civil Rights Movement "Indistinguishable" From "Segregationists"

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    Fox News regular Hans von Spakovsky used a recent U.S Court of Appeals decision striking down Michigan's affirmative action ban as an opportunity to denigrate the "modern 'civil rights' movement" and misrepresent the Sixth Circuit decision as "abusive activism." Contrary to von Spakovsky's claims in the National Review Online, the appellate decision that found the process behind the ban unconstitutional is based on U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

    Repeatedly discredited von Spakovsky is infamous for continuously stressing in the right-wing media the prevalence of voter fraud, despite a dearth of evidence. On November 16, he took on equal protection jurisprudence in the National Review Online and criticized the "continued legal decay" of the Sixth Circuit appellate court and its "liberal activists." His scorn was in response to the recent decision of this federal court of appeals which - for the second time - declared that the 2006 Michigan ballot initiative that passed a constitutional amendment banning affirmative action was an unconstitutional restructuring of the state political process. As reported by SCOTUSblog's Lyle Denniston:

    By imposing a total ban on any consideration of a race-based education policy, the main opinion said, the majority of voters who opposed affirmative action created a situation in which they not only had won on a policy point, "but rigged the game to reproduce [their] success indefinitely."   Minorities are not guaranteed that they will win when they enter into political policy debates, the opinion stressed, but they must not be put at a special disadvantage in seeking policies that they favor and that will benefit them in particular.

    [...]

    The Circuit Court majority opinion, written by Circuit Judge R. Guy Cole, Jr., relied explicitly upon two Supreme Court rulings, both based on the same "political process" reasoning used by Judge Cole.  The first was Hunter v. Erickson, a 1969 decision striking down a move by voters in Akron, Ohio, to change the city charter to make it much harder for city officials to adopt any housing policy to benefit racial minorities.  The second was Washington v. Seattle School District No. 1, a 1982 decision striking down a voter-approved statewide law that bar the use of busing to achieve racially integrated public schools.

    Other conservative media reporting has at least acknowledged that the ACLU and NAACP based their successful challenge to Michigan's ban - known as "Proposal 2" - on Supreme Court precedent. Forbes, although it wrote in opposition of the holding, recognized such precedent but theorized it "would probably be treated differently by the Supreme Court today" because there are likely four justices currently opposed to all affirmative action. Unfortunately, Forbes also misrepresented the opinion as holding "minority groups are entitled not just to equal protection under the laws, but special measures designed to correct past discrimination."

    In fact, the winning argument and opinion explicitly did not turn on the constitutionality or "entitlement" of affirmative action, but rather on the restructuring of a state political process to the specific detriment of a racial minority. As reported by The New York Times:

    [The decision] was not based on racial discrimination, but rather on a violation of the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection. The ban, the court said, unfairly placed a special burden on supporters of race-conscious admissions policies.

    People trying to change any other aspect of university admissions policies, the court said, had several avenues open: they could lobby the admissions committee, petition university leaders, try to influence the college's governing board or take the issue to a statewide initiative. Those supporting affirmative action, on the other hand, had no alternative but to undertake the "long, expensive and arduous process" of amending the state Constitution.

    "The existence of such a comparative structural burden undermines the equal protection clause's guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change," said Judge R. Guy Cole Jr., writing for the majority.

    Von Spakovsky, however, did not bother to analyze this reasoning or acknowledge Supreme Court precedent in his condemnation of the Sixth Circuit's "duplicitous legal reasoning." Instead, he summarily relied on the dissent's assertion that the holding was an "extreme extension" of civil rights law and concluded:

    The Sixth Circuit's decision shows just how far the modern "civil rights" movement and their supporters in the judiciary have gone in adopting the arguments and actions of the discriminators and segregationists of prior generations. Their support for racial discrimination makes them indistinguishable.

  • Right-Wing Media Attack Fair Housing In Continuing Disinformation Campaign Against Civil Rights Law

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    In the continuing campaign against effective civil rights law, right-wing media have recently stepped up their attacks against a federal statute that prohibits acts that have a discriminatory effect on housing patterns. Contrary to this misinformation campaign, "disparate impact" analysis (as this technique is known) is not unconstitutional under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and conservatives' rejection of this analysis abandons its bipartisan origins.

    Disparate impact is the legal term for antidiscrimination law that prohibits actions that have a disproportionate effect on vulnerable groups. Despite its effectiveness - most recently, blocking discriminatory mortgage policies and voter suppression that targeted communities of color - conservative media have attacked disparate impact's legitimacy and dismissed it as a partisan technique only progressives support.

    The National Review Online is a frequent critic, calling civil rights litigation based on disparate impact "not grounded...in sound constitutional theory" and part of a "partisan policy agenda." The Wall Street Journal has echoed claims about this "dubious legal theory," joining NRO in criticizing a recent withdrawal of a disparate impact Supreme Court case under the Fair Housing Act, Magner v. Gallagher. This week, WSJ columnist Mary Kissel recycled her conspiracy theory that the Obama administration's participation in convincing the parties to withdraw the case was "shady" because the administration "didn't want the High Court to rule on the legal theory[.]"

    But these right-wing critics ignore that disparate impact has been legally accepted under numerous civil rights laws for decades, and in the housing context was part of a bipartisan effort to aggressively prevent the segregation of American society. They also ignore basic Supreme Court litigation strategy.

    The constitutionality of disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act has never been addressed by the Supreme Court. There has been no need to take up the issue, as all 11 Circuit Courts have recognized it as a legal method of fair housing enforcement. As explained in a recent ProPublica report, this unanimity is expected given that aggressive government attempts to reverse discriminatory effects in housing patterns were originally considered a core function of the bipartisan Fair Housing Act:

    The plan, [Republican Secretary of Housing and Urban Development] George Romney wrote in a confidential memo to aides, was to use his power as secretary of Housing and Urban Development to remake America's housing patterns, which he described as a "high-income white noose" around the black inner city.

    The 1968 Fair Housing Act, passed months earlier in the tumultuous aftermath of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, directed the government to "affirmatively further" fair housing. Romney believed those words gave him the authority to pressure predominantly white communities to build more affordable housing and end discriminatory zoning practices.

    Furthermore, with regards to the Obama administration's alleged influence in the Magner dismissal, there is nothing unusual about Supreme Court litigators considering the Court's ideological composition in deciding whether to pursue a legal theory that breaks on ideological lines. The ability to calculate a majority is basic Supreme Court litigation strategy. Indeed, it would be surprising if the Department of Justice did not calculate the odds regarding how justices are likely to rule in its cases. This is especially true of civil rights cases, in which conservative and progressive justices have sharply diverging views on the law. As Reuters recently reported, this is why DOJ's opponents are currently rushing to the Court in their attempts to overturn decades of civil rights law:

    [I]n recent years liberals have sought to avoid going to the Supreme Court in cases ranging from affirmative action to voting rights. Advocates for liberal concerns such as abortion rights and gay marriage have also kept a wary eye on the justices while devising strategy in lower courts. Some abortion-rights advocates, for example, have so far declined to challenge state restrictions on abortion based on the notion that a fetus can feel pain, even though they believe the restrictions unconstitutional.

    Those on the other side have taken the opposite tack. Conservatives who have labored to get their cases to the court include Edward Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, founded in 2005 to challenge race-based policies in education and voting. He recently helped lawyers bring an appeal by a white student who said she was denied admission to the University of Texas because of a policy favoring minorities.

    [...]

    "The timing is fortuitous," said Blum, who for two decades has worked with lawyers to challenge racial policies in education and voting districts. Citing the makeup of the Supreme Court, he said: "It's well-known that there are three members of a conservative bloc who have already expressed opinions on this and it's likely that the two new members of the conservative bloc will fall into that camp as well."

    If the right-wing media do not like disparate impact theory because the modern conservative movement has abandoned it, or because the theory rejects the dissenting "colorblind" perspective on modern equal protection law, it should say so and leave it at that. By instead falsely asserting disparate impact laws are illegitimate and thereby calling for the reversal of decades of precedent - and bipartisan legislation - the right-wing media not only misinform their audience, they also disregard the words of Justice Antonin Scalia in one of the Court's most recent Civil Rights Act cases: "If [disparate impact litigation] was unintended, it is a problem for Congress, not one that federal courts can fix."

  • Right-Wing Media Opponents Of Affirmative Action Silent On Romney's Binders Full Of Women

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    Mitt Romney revealed his gender-conscious hiring policies as governor of Massachusetts -- based on "binders full of women" -- during the October 16 presidential debate, a comment that was immediately recognized as an endorsement of affirmative action by several commentators in the media. But The Wall Street Journal editorial page and other conservative media outlets that have harshly condemned such affirmative action policies have yet to fully address Romney's statement.

    In Tuesday's debate, an audience member asked the presidential candidates, "[i]n what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?" In response, Romney described his past utilization of inclusive hiring practices, also known as affirmative action

    ROMNEY: Thank you. And -- important topic and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the -- the chance to pull together a Cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men. And I -- and I went to my staff, and I said, how come all the people for these jobs are -- are all men?

    They said, well, these are the people that have the qualifications. And I said, well, gosh, can't we -- can't we find some -- some women that are also qualified?

    And -- and so we -- we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said, can you help us find folks? And I brought us whole binders full of -- of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

    Mark Shields of PBS immediately recognized the significance of Romney's statements in post-debate analysis:

    MARK SHIELDS: Can I tell you what the lead is -- OK -- what the lead is? Women in binders.

    I mean, that is -- that will be the clip that will be seen around the world, Mitt Romney. And the interesting thing about that is, he told the story about the women in his Cabinet, was that was affirmative action. That is affirmative action.

    He got all these men. And he said, no, no, can't we find some women? Go out and find some women. That's the definition of affirmative action.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: And I will be interested to see The Wall Street Journal editorial page attack him on that tomorrow.

    Others in the media, including New York Magazine's Ann Friedman, quickly took note of Romney's surprising support for a policy many conservatives have strongly criticized:

    Like everyone else, I had several good laughs over the GOP candidate's "binders full of women" quote from last night's town-hall debate.

    But then I realized that, creepy as that imagery is, the country would be better off if more powerful men took a cue from Romney on this one. He says that, as governor, he made "a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet." This is a pretty big statement, especially coming from a Republican candidate. We talk a lot about how diversity matters and how equal representation is important. But in most corners of society, especially the upper echelons of power, we haven't figured out the best way to walk that talk. Usually when advocates suggest that we need policies in place to ensure our elected officials and CEOs and college admission boards are making a concerted effort to go out and find women and people of color, all political hell breaks loose. Just look at conversation surrounding the Supreme Court's recent reconsideration of the University of Texas's affirmative action policies.

    [...]

    Watching Romney tout his appointment record at the town-hall debate last night, I couldn't help but feel a little bit proud of him. Seriously! With the binders anecdote, he was essentially describing affirmative action: He realized he needed more diversity in his cabinet, and so he sought out qualified women he may not have otherwise considered. This is laudable. Shocking, even! Especially when you consider that, also in the first year of his governorship, Romney tried to quietly roll back the state's affirmative action laws.

    Contrary to Mark Shields' joking "prediction," The Wall Street Journal editorial board has not commented on Romney's support of affirmative action as of this posting, even though it recently called on the Supreme Court to "reclaim [its] constitutional and moral bearings" by rejecting a University of Texas Law School admissions policy which takes race into account in order to promote student body diversity.

    The National Review Online also ignored the substance of Romney's debate comments and instead claimed the anecdote was unremarkable, in contrast to their past objection to affirmative action on the basis of both gender and race. National Review Online and The Wall Street Journal should note that Kerry Healey, Romney's Lieutenant Governor from 2003 to 2007 and a current surrogate for his campaign, further told Fox News that the "binders full of women" program amounted to a so-called quota system in which hiring targets were linked to the percentage of women in the Massachusetts population. From America Live:

    MEGYN KELLY: He was claiming that he made a commitment to fill his cabinet positions in Massachusetts with more than just men, he said most of the applicants were men, and most of the guys, the candidates were men.

    KERRY HEALEY: That's right. The back story here is that a women's organization,  a bipartisan women's organization, the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus, came to both candidates in the race and said if you're elected will you pledge, will you promise to put as many women in your cabinet as there are percentage of women in Massachusetts, which is about 50 percent. Both candidates said yes. So when Governor Romney was elected he set out to fulfill that promise. One thing you can know about Governor Romney is that when he makes a promise while he's campaigning, he's going to fulfill that promise.  And so...

    MEGYN KELLY: How did the numbers work out?

    KERRY HEALEY: 50 percent. And it was the highest in the nation.

  • Right-Wing Media Hails South Carolina Voter ID Decision, Ignores Court's Concerns About Racial Discrimination

    ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    Wall Street Journal editorial asserted the recent federal court decision allowing South Carolina's voter ID law to go into effect in 2013 proved that claims of racial discrimination in voter ID laws are "specious." But the Journal - and other conservative media echoing this claim - fail to note that the court was required to hear the case because of uncontroverted evidence that the voter ID law was initially racially discriminatory. In fact, the South Carolina law was only approved because state election officials have sworn to implement it without racial discrimination.

  • Myths and Facts About Affirmative Action, Higher Education, And The Constitution

    ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    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.

  • New Research Continues To Diminish The Right-Wing Media's Voter ID Argument

    Blog ››› ››› ANDY NEWBOLD & THOMAS BISHOP

    New research is adding to the growing body of evidence that voter ID laws not only suppress the right to vote, but that they disproportionately target minority voters. The study is the latest in a series of reports that have been ignored by the right-wing media as they continue to support the laws as a solution to a largely non-existent voter fraud problem.

    The right-wing media has routinely ignored or downplayed the evidence that voter ID laws disenfranchise eligible voters. Recently, Fox News hosted conservative columnist John Fund to promote the laws. During the segment, Fund downplayed the effect they could have on restricting voting rights, claiming there is "no chance that someone will be denied the right to vote because they don't have an ID in Pennsylvania." Fox has attacked the Department of Justice for investigating discrimination in voter ID laws. Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy even highlighted a flawed report that purported to claim that minorities would be protected by voter ID laws. But contrary to the right-wing media's portrayal of the laws, evidence continues to mount showing that the laws would not only suppress the right to vote, they would in fact primarily target minority voters.   

    A September 12 Associated Press piece featured evidence from a study conducted by Cathy Cohen of the University of Chicago and Jon Rogowski of Washington University in St. Louis, which found that as a result of new voter ID laws, "as many as 700,000 minority voters under 30 may be unable to cast a ballot in November." The study pointed to more stringent laws passed by 17 states in the past election cycle that would make it more difficult to vote without government issued identification.

    The federal government has objected to many of these laws in swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, arguing that these laws suppress the vote of the young, minority, and elderly by making it more difficult to cast their ballot than has been the case in the past. The government's case is backed up by the new study, which found that "turnout this year by young people of color ages 18-29 could fall by somewhere between 538,000 to 696,000 in states with photo ID laws."

    They explain that voter ID laws affect minorities disproportionally compared to their white counterparts. Nine percent of Caucasians do not have government-issued ID, compared with 25 percent of African Americans and 16 percent of Hispanics. The AP article went on to cite the research of a non-partisan group that is tasked with examining the political participation of young African-Americans to show the estimated impact of photo ID laws on specific voting blocs:

  • Meet The Press Gives Romney Another Pass on Ties to Constitutional Advisor Bork

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    Mitt Romney's embrace of rejected right-wing Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork received another pass in the media on Sunday when David Gregory, host of NBC's Meet the Press, failed to ask Romney about Bork and his outside the mainstream view of the Constitution in the course of a lengthy interview.

    Bork serves as one of three co-chairs of Romney's "Justice Advisory Committee," which, according to his campaign, advises the candidate on "the Constitution, judicial matters, law enforcement, homeland security, and regulatory issues." Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by a bipartisan Senate majority in 1987 because his positions on the Constitution were so far outside the mainstream.

    GREGORY:  I want to ask you one question on the social issue and that is abortion.  You were on this program in 2007 and you said that you would fight to overturn Roe v. Wade.  I know you said this is an issue for the courts.  I ask you now would a President Romney fight to overturn Roe v. Wade? And what would you do in that fight to achieve that goal?

    MR. ROMNEY:  Well, there are a number of things I think that need to be said about preserving and protecting the life of the unborn child.  And I recognize there are two lives involved: the mom and the unborn child. And I believe that people of good conscience have chosen different paths in this regard.  But I am pro-life and will intend, if I'm president of the United States, to encourage pro-life policies.  I don't--

    GREGORY:  Just encourage or fight for it to be overturned?

    MR. ROMNEY:  Well, I don't actually make the decision the Supreme Court makes and so they'll have to make their own decision.  But, I will, for instance, I'll reverse the president's decision on using U.S. funds to pay for abortion outside this country.  I don't think also the taxpayers here should have to pay for abortion in this country.  Those things I think are consistent with my pro-life position. And I hope to appoint justices to the Supreme Court that will follow the law and the constitution.  And it would be my preference that they reverse Roe v. Wade and therefore they return to the people and their elected representatives the decisions with regards to this important issue.

    Gregory asked Romney one question which touched on the courts and the Constitution: "would a President Romney fight to overturn Roe v. Wade?"  But that question falls short in addressing many other vitally important legal issues - from environmental regulation to racial justice, from women's equality to corporate power - that would come before judges nominated by Romney. Bork presumably advises Romney on these "judicial matters."

    Romney's embrace of Bork is especially relevant and worthy of media scrutiny because the next president will almost certainly be in a position to appoint three or more Supreme Court justices. Four of the current justices are over 70 years of age, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will turn 80 next year. If Romney is elected and is able to confirm justices with views similar to Bork, he will shift the Roberts Court -- already one of the most conservative in history -- even farther to the right.

    Despite the tremendous importance of the next President's ability to reshape the Supreme Court, major media outlets have for the most part ignored Romney's embrace of Bork and its implications for the future of the Court. The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and the three major broadcast networks have all failed to address the issue. Only The New York Times has provided substantial coverage of Bork's role in Romney's campaign.

  • Fox News Floats Giuliani for Attorney General, Completely Ignores His Record

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    Joining others in right-wing media, Fox News is using the GOP convention as an opportunity to push preferred candidates for Mitt Romney's cabinet. For example, on the August 29 edition of Fox & Friends, Gretchen Carlson promoted the prospect of Rudolph Giuliani serving as Attorney General in a Romney administration. However, in their endorsement of Giuliani for the position of the nation's chief law enforcement officer and legal advisor, the Fox News hosts did not mention Giuliani's patronage of convicted former Department of Homeland Security nominee Bernard Kerik, or Giuliani's questionable record on the protection of civil rights and liberties as Mayor of New York City.

  • 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.

  • NRO's Clegg Misses Why American Businesses Support Diversity

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    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." 

  • 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.