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Friday, July 31, 2009

Coulter: Cops aren’t pulling over enough black people

By David Edwards Perhaps feeling guilty for referring to ‘birthers’ as ‘cranks’ recently, Ann Coulter made the absurd case to Larry King that police don’t stop enough African-Americans.

Partial transcript

COULTER: In fact, I have been — at least in the initial crankiness by Professor Gates, I’ve been somewhat of a defender of his, in as much as I’m someone who travels a lot. I get a lot of — I get cranky, too, especially after a long trip from China.

What can’t be defended, I think, is the next 48 hours, the next week, when he could calm down and think, oh boy, I over-reacted. Wish I hadn’t done that. But I think that is a problem. Both aggrieved minorities and aggrieved females are told to take every slight, interpret everything as it’s because your black. It’s because you’re a woman. I don’t think that’s good for blacks or females. I don’t think it’s good for the rest of the country.

And there is one thing I’d like to say about the studies on racial profiling, and even the Bush administration coming out with them. The Bush administration itself suppressed a study that disproved eight billion racial profiling studies about the New Jersey State Troopers. There was a scientific study setting up cameras of people speeding. It turns out New Jersey State Troopers, by scientific evidence that was — the Bush administration kept rejecting and rejecting — were stopping, if anything, not enough blacks.

Al Sharpton thought Coulter should take a lesson from the meeting between Sergeant James Crowley and Dr. Henry Louis Gates. “The climate, Ann, in America is no longer to start arguing and screaming and saying, even the Bush administration is covering up. The climate is, let’s sit down and say we disagree. Now let’s solve the problems, even though we disagree. I hope you learn to do that, Ann,” said Sharpton.

This video is from CNN’s Larry King Live, broadcast July 30, 2009.

Eric Cantor Rips Chris Matthews, MSNBC, HuffPo, Liberal Bloggers For Inflating Birther Story

From The Plum Line Greg Sargent's blog

GOP Rep. Eric Cantor(R-super deluxe size dingleberry) says he’s no birther — he has no questions about Obama’s citizenship, his spokesman tells me. But Cantor is placing the blame for the spread of birtherism not on its authors or on those politicians playing along with it, but rather on Chris Matthews, MSNBC, lefty news outlets and bloggers.

Asked for Cantor’s views on birtherism, his spokesman, Brad Dayspring, emailed me this:

“Mr. Cantor doesn’t question the President’s citizenship, but he has serious questions about the President’s push for government controlled healthcare, taxes on small business job creators, and a huge energy tax on middle class families. He finds it ironic that those most eager to talk about the President’s citizenship are in fact some of his biggest cheerleaders–whether it’s Chris Matthews or others on MSNBC, the Huffington Post, or camera toting liberal bloggers chasing people through the streets of Washington.”

This is the first time Cantor has publicly declared his disagreement with birtherism. But that aside, this is actually a really interesting response. Cantor would rather pick a base-pleasing fight with those who are trying to knock down birtherism than denounce those who are promoting and playing footsie with the idea that Obama isn’t legitimately our president.

And that’s the number two in the House GOP leadership speaking…

Ben Nelson On Ads Run Against Him: They Could Kill Health Care Reform

By Sam Stein

Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) lashed out Friday at the ads being run against his position on health care reform in his home state, saying they would backfire -- and might even derail the entire reform process.

In a statement issued late in the afternoon by Nelson's office, spokesman Jake Thompson warned that if the new series of ads calling out the Senator's "stalling" on reform were "an indication of the politics going into August, then health care reform may be dead by the end of August."

"Nebraskans don't need outside special interest groups telling them what to think. Senator Nelson has nothing but praise for Nebraska groups working toward health care reform. Unfortunately, he says, these outside groups undermine the sincere and dedicated efforts of people in our state," Thompson wrote. "Recently, similar ads have run in Nebraska. Those ads by other special interests prompted hundreds of Nebraskans to call our offices, with 9 to 1 urging Senator Nelson to do exactly the opposite of what the special interest group wanted. In short, the ads backfired."

The hard brush-back by Nelson's staff reflects just how heated the health care debate has become even within the Democratic Party. On Friday morning, two liberal groups, Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and Democracy for America, launched a new ad using the testimony of a Nebraska businessman to call out Nelson for holding up health care legislation in the Senate. The spot was one in a series of television spots the groups have launched targeting the senator.

Asked if Thompson's warning would dissuade his organization from running the ad -- which is slated to air 200 times in Nebraska by next Wednesday -- Adam Green, founder of PCCC, responded: "Absolutely not. We're going to buy more ads in Nebraska on Monday."

"Ben Nelson just called a Nebraska small businessman whose health insurance went up 42% an out-of-state special interest, while never disputing that he is bought and paid for by health and insurance interests who gave him millions to vote against his own constituents," Green continued. "If Ben Nelson stands behinds his spokesman's words, he just proved himself a fundamentally corrupt and out-of-touch politician who feels perfectly comfortable lying to his constituents and going to bat for private insurers who fear competition and want to rip off the people of Nebraska."

MSNBC Host Calls Out Pence’s Lie That House Health Care Bill Will Cost ‘$1 Trillion In Higher Taxes’

By Ben Armbruster

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) has taken a leading role in the Republican efforts to lie and fearmonger about the Democrats’ health care plans in hopes of killing it. Last May, Pence argued the public option “will deprive roughly 120 million Americans of their current health care coverage,” a claim PolitiFact.com deemed to be “false.”

Pence was at it again this morning on MSNBC. This time, he claimed that the House health care bill recently scored by the Congressional Budget Office “will literally cost nearly a trillion dollars in higher taxes.” Host Carlos Watson immediately jumped in. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa,” Watson interjected, “unless you’re looking at different data than I’m looking at, I don’t remember there being a trillion dollars in new taxes.” Pence said he was “rounding up,” and then later revised his figure to $800 billion. But Watson wouldn’t budge, and neither would Pence:

WATSON: I’m very clear that we are not talking about anywhere close to a trillion or $800 billion in new taxes…so if you’ve got data from the CBO that suggests that some of the proposals on the table…represent that much in new taxes then that’s significant new information. Where are you getting that?

PENCE: Well I don’t think that’s significant new information I think the estimates we’ve all been working with from the CBO are in the — I’m trying to remember — it’s about the $800 billion range in the estimated cost of new taxes. … That’s really all out there Carlos.

Watch it:

Pence’s claims are indeed “out there” in that they aren’t true. In fact, the CBO’s preliminary estimate of the House bill said that its entire cost would be just over $1 trillion over 10 years. $540 billion of that (i.e. not $800 billion or $1 trillion) would be paid for with new taxes on the rich affecting just 1.2 percent of U.S. households. The rest of the bill would be fully offset by savings in Medicare and other health systems.

But Pence doesn’t seem to care that his attacks on health reform are lies. He’s promoting the MSNBC segment with Watson on his own YouTube channel. And as further evidence that Pence just blurts out whatever he thinks will kill reform, just this week, he urged those who “oppose government-run health care” to “call your congressman.” Yet later in the same day, Pence said, “I support Medicare.”

NRCC is luring doctors to oppose reform by pretending to ‘honor’ them.

From Think Progress and By Igor Volsky The Wonk Room has learned that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is engaged in a misleading campaign to trick physicians into opposing health care reform. The NRCC has been placing calls and sending “hand-written” faxes to physicians across the country to ostensibly recognize physicians for their “invaluable experience” and ask recipients to call a toll-free number and approve a press release “to honor the achievements of you and other concerned physicians like you.” The missive invites doctors to “represent” their state “as a consultant on Rep. Tom Price’s (R-GA) ‘Physicians’ Council for Responsible Reform,’” but a call to the “Council” suggests that the NRCC’s real goal is to scare physicians and add legitimacy to Republican efforts to stall reform. (Download a copy of the letter HERE.) Listen to the call:

Rather than seeking “critical input” or “guidance” from doctors “who are respected by their peers”, the “Council” warns doctors about the “very real threat of Washington interfering even more with doctor’s efforts to provide the best possible care for their patients” and explains that the physicians on the Council have already agreed to “a free market type thing.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Blue Dogs Delay, Water Down House Health Care Bill

Conservative Blue Dog Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are celebrating their success in delaying a full floor vote on health care legislation past the August recess and in slightly weakening two key provisions during their negotiations with committee Chairman Henry Waxman.

"We have successfully pushed a floor vote to September," Mike Ross (D-Ark.) told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "The American people want us to slow down, and that's what we're doing here."

The Blue Dogs wrestled some concessions out of Waxman (D-Calif.), particularly related to a public health care option and employer mandates. The committee's current version of the public option now more closely resembles that of the health committee in the Senate.

For instance, rather than linking the public option to the rates enjoyed by Medicare, the new language would require a separate agreement without Medicare's bargaining power, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius would be responsible for negotiating deals with service providers from day one of the public plan's existence, rather than year three. States can also set up co-op insurance plans in addition to the public option, but not in its stead.

"The public option must go out and negotiate with providers, just like private health insurance companies do," Ross said. "It's strictly optional. It won't be mandated on anyone. It will not be based on Medicare rates."

Under the terms of the compromise, close to 86 percent of small businesses -- those with an annual payroll of $500,000 or less -- will be exempt from the mandate to provide employees with health insurance, Ross said, although the Blue Dogs weren't alone in pushing for that change. Those with an annual payroll between $500,000 and $750,000 must provide graduated partial assistance.

"That's as close as you can get to totally removing the mandate without removing it," Ross said. "Quite frankly, once you get up to three-quarter million a year in annual payroll, as a former small business owner myself, most of them are already providing health insurance, and if they're not, they should."

Under the original draft legislation, Ross said, barely one-fifth the number of businesses would have been exempted.

Story continues below

Provisions preventing discrimination against people with preexisting conditions remain in the bill, as does a ban on rescission, the notorious insurance-company practice of voiding contracts under some pretext when a customer becomes too costly.

The Blue Dog negotiators -- Ross, Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Zack Space (D-Ohio) -- account for a majority of the seven swing Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and their approval marks a big step toward passing the bill out of committee and onto the floor, where it will be reconciled with the two other health reform bills from the Ways and Means and Education and Labor committees.

Ross said he and the other committee Blue Dogs are determined to keep the cost of the final bill under $1 trillion over 10 years. He stumbled a bit, however, on the question of how many Americans he expects a weaker bill to cover.

"As many as when we went into these -- our objective has always been to make health insurance affordable for as many people as we can in this country," he said, but estimated another 10 steps between the current bill and the one that will reach President Obama's desk. "There's going to be a lot of changes between now and then."

Ross also credited representatives from the Obama administration -- including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Office of Health Reform head Nancy Ann DeParle -- with smoothing over negotiations with Waxman. For its part, the White House Press Office responded with a chipper statement released under Obama's name:

I want to thank the members of both the Senate and House of Representatives for continuing their work on health reform to provide more stability and security for Americans who have insurance, and quality, affordable coverage for those who don't. I'm especially grateful that so many members, including some Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee, are working so hard to find common ground. Those efforts are extraordinarily constructive in strengthening this legislation and bringing down its cost.

House leadership likewise praised the committee Blue Dogs. "I think the way they've structured it is a good compromise," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said. The offices of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) released a laudatory statement not far from Obama's:

We are pleased with the full participation of all our Members, who have reviewed the legislation and proposed significant changes. At this time, we want to particularly recognize the valued leadership of the Blue Dog Coalition to lower costs, to make the legislation work better for their constituents, and to assist small businesses. These are goals shared by all Members of the Caucus. At the request of the Blue Dog Coalition, in order to allow more time to carefully review the additional proposed legislative language, we will bring the bill to the House floor in September.

Meanwhile, some rank-and-file House Democrats have been grumbling that the conservative Blue Dogs are driving the debate. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said several members of the Energy and Commerce Committee complained during floor votes Wednesday afternoon that they hadn't been kept apprised of the changes to the bill before Waxman and the Blue Dogs reached an agreement.

The 83-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, to which Waxman belongs, has reacted with particular horror to the Blue Dog changes to the public option. Though there are not enough progressives on the Energy and Commerce Committee to overpower the Blue Dogs -- only five, aside from Waxman -- caucus co-chair Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) circulated a petition Wednesday afternoon to collect signatures in protest of the deal.

[UPDATE: Just before it began, Waxman scratched Wednesday night's committee markup of the bill in order to address concerns from progressives, he told reporters. Slated to resume the review process Thursday morning, Waxman still hopes to pass the bill out of committee by the end of the week.]

Still, progressive Democrats said they were optimistic that when it comes time to reconcile the three committee bills, the final product will be significantly more to their liking than the Energy and Commerce version. "At this point, I just want to make certain we have a public option and it's good and strong," Slaughter said.

And with that in mind, Democrats are now casting the bill's delay over August recess as a chance for necessary further negotiation and review.

"A lot of people view this as the end ... the conversations are ongoing," Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said. "Is there a Senate bill? You tell me. No? I rest my case. We've got a ways to go."

Poll Shows Obama’s Clout on Health Care Is Eroding but still trusted over Republicans

By ADAM NAGOURNEY and MEGAN THEE-BRENAN

President Obama’s ability to shape the debate on health care appears to be eroding as opponents aggressively portray his overhaul plan as a government takeover that could limit Americans’ ability to choose their doctors and course of treatment, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Americans are concerned that revamping the health care system would reduce the quality of their care, increase their out-of-pocket health costs and tax bills, and limit their options in choosing doctors, treatments and tests, the poll found. The percentage who describe health care costs as a serious threat to the American economy — a central argument made by Mr. Obama — has dropped over the past month.

Mr. Obama continues to benefit from strong support for the basic goal of revamping the health care system, and he is seen as far more likely than Congressional Republicans to have the best ideas to accomplish that. But reflecting a problem that has hindered efforts to bring major changes to health care for decades, Americans expressed considerable unease about what the end result would mean for them individually.

“We need to fix health care,” Mary Bevering, a Democrat from Fort Madison, Iowa, said in a follow-up interview, “but if the government creates the system, I’m afraid the quality of care will go down and costs will go up: We will pay more taxes.”

“It’s going to come down to regulation,” Ms. Bevering said. “What also worries me is whether we will be told what physician we can have.”

The poll was taken at a moment of extreme fluidity, both in terms of the complicated negotiations in the House and the Senate as lawmakers and the administration sort out the substance and politics of competing proposals, and in the efforts by both sides to define the stakes of the health care debate for the public.

With Congress now almost certain to recess until after Labor Day without floor votes on any specific plan, a vigorous advertising and grass-roots effort to shift public opinion is likely in the next month or two. The poll offers hope to both sides.

The changes in the public’s attitude over the past month, even if not huge, suggest one reason Mr. Obama sought so hard to get Congress to vote on some version of an overhaul before heading home.

Opponents of the proposed health care overhaul have already spent $9 million on television advertisements raising concerns about it, said Evan Tracey, the chief operating officer of Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising. The advertisements are financed by the Republican National Committee and aimed at constituents of wavering lawmakers. The committee is also running radio spots.

Officials said the advertising would accelerate as the legislators returned home for the summer. The advertisements present the overhaul as a risky experiment, or a government takeover of health care that would prevent people from choosing their own doctors.

Mr. Obama is making an intense effort to rebut those claims. On Wednesday, he flew to Raleigh, N.C., for a town-hall-style meeting to address the kinds of public concerns reflected in the poll results.

“First of all,” Mr. Obama said, “nobody is talking about some government takeover of health care. I’m tired of hearing that. I have been as clear as I can be. Under the reform I’ve proposed, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor; if you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan. These folks need to stop scaring everybody, you know?”

Mr. Obama sought in particular to reassure people who already have health insurance and whom the overhaul plans under consideration in Congress would benefit by preventing insurers from dropping them or diluting their coverage if they become ill, while also bringing rapidly rising costs under control. And he sought to stoke a sense of urgency for getting a bill signed this year.

“If we do nothing, I can almost guarantee you your premiums will double over the next 10 years, because that’s what they did over the last 10 years,” Mr. Obama said. “It will eat into the possibility of you getting a raise on your job because your employer is going to be looking and saying, ‘I can’t afford to give you a raise because my health care costs just went up 10, 20, 30 percent.’ ”

The national poll was conducted by telephone starting on Friday and ending on Tuesday. It involved 1,050 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Mr. Obama’s job approval rating has dropped 10 points, to 58 percent, from a high point in April.

And despite his efforts — in speeches, news conferences, town-hall-style meetings and other forums — to address public misgivings, 69 percent of respondents in the poll said they were concerned that the quality of their own care would decline if the government created a program that covers everyone.

Still, Mr. Obama remains the dominant figure in the debate, both because he continues to enjoy relatively high levels of public support even after seeing his approval ratings dip, and because there appears to be a strong desire to get something done: 49 percent said they supported fundamental changes, and 33 percent said the health care system needed to be completely rebuilt.

The poll found 66 percent of respondents were concerned that they might eventually lose their insurance if the government did not create a new health care system, and 80 percent said they were concerned that the percentage of Americans without health care would continue to rise if Congress did not act.

By 55 percent to 26 percent, respondents said Mr. Obama had better ideas about how to change health care than Republicans in Congress did.

There is overwhelming support for a bipartisan agreement on health care, and here again, Mr. Obama appears in the stronger position: 59 percent said that he was making an effort to work with Congressional Republicans, while just 33 percent said Republicans were trying to work with him on the issue.

Over all, the poll portrays a nation torn by conflicting impulses and confusion.

In one finding, 75 percent of respondents said they were concerned that the cost of their own health care would eventually go up if the government did not create a system of providing health care for all Americans. But in another finding, 77 percent said they were concerned that the cost of health care would go up if the government did create such a system. M.C.L. Comment: The problem isn't just the Republicans it's the blue dogs who are either are themselves in the pockets of big insurance and big pharm or they're thinking about protecting their own ass in next year elections, because they don't want some far out loon right wing group like the Club for Growth running ads against them. President Obama and the progressive Dems should just passed the bill they want, because the way I see it even if the blue dogs let the Republicans write the bill themselves I'm willingly to wager you still won't see one single Republican vote. And trashing a bill because you want to make sure you get three Republicans to vote along with you is stupid. Jim DeMitt have already stated the Republicans main motivation in slowing or stopping this bill is because they want health care to be President Obama's Waterloo. So you know they're not interested in fixing this problem all they care about is making sure President Obama is politically hurt from their stall tactic.

Conservatives fabricate ‘mandatory’ end-of-life consultations in health bill.

By Igor Volsky

Yesterday, during President Obama’s AARP town hall, a caller stated that she had “heard lots of rumors going around about this new plan.” “I have been told,” she continued, “there is a policy there that everyone that’s Medicare-age will be visited and told to decide how they wish to die.” This “rumor,” which seems to have been started by infamous health care provocateur Betsy McCaughey, has made its way into the standard conservative critique of the Democrats’ reforms. Watch a compilation:

To substantiate their claims, conservatives point to Sec. 1233 of the House Tri Committee bill, a section titled “ADVANCE CARE PLANNING CONSULTATION.” But while the language allows Medicare to reimburse providers for consulting with patients about end-of-life issues, nothing in the section mandates a consultation. The Wonk Room has more.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

After saying Obama has ‘hatred for white people,’ Beck claims, ‘I’m not saying that he doesn’t like white people.’

By Matt Corley Discussing the upcoming meeting at the White House between President Obama, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Officer Jim Crowley, Glenn Beck declared that it was “unbelievable” that the three would meet for a “teachable moment” about a sensitive issue in American life. “Who needs to learn what here?” asked Beck, adding, “this president has exposed himself, I think, as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or white culture.” Challenged by Brian Kilmeade, Beck then claimed that he wasn’t saying Obama “doesn’t like white people”: KILMEADE: But listen, you can’t say he doesn’t like white people. David Axelrod’s white, Rahm Emanuel’s his chief of staff, this, I think 70 percent of the people we see everyday are white. Robert Gibbs is white. BECK: I’m not saying that he doesn’t like white people. I’m saying he has a problem. He has a, this guy is, I believe, a racist. Look the way, look at the things he has been surrounded by. Watch it: According to the thesaurus, the antonym of hate is like. So, yes, when Glenn Beck says Obama has a “hatred” of white people he is saying that “he doesn’t like white people.” M.C.L comment: Yeah Becky, if you forget his mother was white, the grandparents that had a hand in rasing him were white then sure your latest attempt to incite the knuckle draggers that listen to your show might work.

Dean: ‘What’s the point of having a 60 vote majority’ if you can’t pass health reform?

By Igor Volsky According to the New York Times, three Democrats and three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee have crafted a bipartisan agreement around a health care bill that replaces the employer mandate with a free rider provision, establishes a cooperative in place of the public option, and partly funds reform by taxing “Cadillac” health care benefits. Last night, during an appearance on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, former Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT) criticized the “so-called compromise” for not going far enough to reform the health care system: You know, this is going to be a hell of an issue in 2010 cause honestly, what’s the point of having a 60 vote majority in the United States Senate, if you can’t produce…health care reform. You can get health insurance reform. This bill is going to cost us a lot of money and it isn’t going to do anything, if this so-called compromise is true. This compromise does nothing, except it will reform insurance. That’s a good thing to do, but they ought to strip the money out of it cause we reformed insurance like this in Vermont 15 years ago. It’s a fine thing to do, but it doesn’t insure more people. Watch it:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Birther G. Gordon Liddy embarrasses himself on Hardball

By David Edwards On Hardball Thursday, conservative talk radio host G. Gordon Liddy and WRNB Radio’s E. Steven Collins discussed why the debate over President Barack Obama’s citizenship continues to fill radio air time despite the release of the president’s birth certificate which states he was born in Hawaii. Host Chris Matthews lit into Liddy for not giving the silly, unsubstantiated rumors a rest.

Liddy, who was convicted and jailed for his role in the Watergate break-in and who once advocated shooting ATF agents in the head since they wear bulletproof vests, claimed, “You’ve got a deposition, which is a sworn statement, from the step-grandmother, who says, ‘I was present and saw him born in Mombasa, Kenya.’”

Salon’s Alex Koppelman undercuts that urban legend/myth, again, which, he writes, Liddy got “a little garbled.”

Liddy got this particular myth a little garbled, but it’s a favorite of the Birthers’. I’ve covered it before, but it’s worth posting on now, I think, because cable news is just getting back to this story (there was some coverage late last year, when the Supreme Court declined to hear one of the Birther lawsuits) and hosts like Matthews don’t know all the crazy twists of the conspiracy theory well enough to knock them down.

What Liddy was referring to is actually an affidavit filed by a street preacher named Ron McRae, who conducted an interview with Sarah Obama, the second wife of President Obama’s grandfather, through a translator. (Sarah Obama is not the president’s biological grandmother, but he calls her “Granny Sarah.”)

In that interview, Sarah Obama does in fact say at one point that she was there for her grandson’s birth. But that was a mistake, a confusion in translation. As soon as a jubilant McRae began to press her for further details about her grandson being born in Kenya, the family realized the mistake and corrected him. And corrected him. And corrected him. (The audio is available for download here.)

No matter, though, because people who believe in a conspiracy theory simply hear what they want to hear. So some Birther sites have posted transcripts and YouTube clips that end abruptly with the mistranslation and don’t include the corrections.

Gawker observes,

Over the last few days and weeks, as the Birther movement has slowly crept up into the national conversation, many people have wondered, “Just what exactly would satisfy these freaks?” Well, here’s the answer that many have suspected, compliments of G. Gordon Liddy—nothing! Matthews serves Liddy a virtual buffet of evidence here that would seemingly cause any reasonable human being in possession of the capacity for abstract thought to concede this ridiculous argument, but it’s beyond obvious that even if Matthews had produced a video of Barack Obama getting leied by a Hawaiian nurse shortly after exiting his mother’s womb in 1961, G. Gordon Liddy was going to walk off of the Hardball set tonight holding fast to his imbecilic position, muttering indecipherable horseshit about “Kenya” and “illegal aliens” on his way out the door.

Huffington Post’s Sam Stein wrote

The exchange was, at times, excruciating to watch as a largely catatonic Liddy struggled to explain the slew of evidence that points to Obama’s U.S. citizenship. At one point, Matthews showed Liddy a certificate of live birth, which he noted was sufficient enough documentation to get a passport issued by the State Department.

“Let me see it, if you would. It’s interesting that it’s redacted,” Liddy said, pointing to a sequence of numbers in the upper right hand corner.

Matthews then produced a copy that wasn’t redacted. “What do you think now?” he asked.

When asked if Obama “should be picked up” because he’s an undocumented alien, according to birthers, all Liddy could say was “well…”

“I’m serious,” Matthews said. “Let’s — and by the way, do you think his wife is in on this, his mother? How many people are in on this conspiracy to make him look like e was born here? I figure his mother must be involved, his grandparents must be involved. How many people are part of this cover-up?”

This video is from MSNBC’s Hardball, broadcast July 23, 2009.

Rahm Negotiates With Blue Dogs, Says Bill Could Come Next Week

The Huffington Post | Rachel Weiner

In an interview with NPR, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said that the House could vote on a health care bill next week, despite disagreements with conservative Democrats.

"I can tell you what I know, which is that the speaker today announced to the caucus that their intention is to go next week, and she is working toward that goal," Emanuel said.

The top Obama staffer met for several hours with Blue Dogs on Thursday in a hastily-called negotiating session. "We don't have an agreement, but we continue to talk and that's a good thing," Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), said after the meeting. White House aides were also optimistic that the talks would result in a floor vote for next week.

But differences remain, and some Democrats are ready to give up on negotiation soon. Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) announced that he may let the health care bill bypass his Energy and Commerce Committee, saying there is "no alternative" if Blue Dog Democrats don't accept a deal worked out Friday.

"I won't allow them to hand over control of our committee to Republicans," Waxman told reporters.

Asked about Waxman's suggestion, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told the Huffington Post that he'd prefer at this point to go through the regular committee process.

Emanuel also said he was pleased by Republicans' vows to obstruct the bill.

Emanuel shrugged off Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) comments Wednesday that health care is Obama's "Waterloo" and remarks Thursday by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) that Republicans are plotting the bill's demise on a "week by week" basis.

"At least they're honest about their motivation. Their view about health care is about defeating President Obama," he said. "Politically, I actually appreciate what they said."

"I'm OK with politics, as you well know," Emanuel elaborated. "They're seeing it in political terms, and they've decided that if they can beat the president on health care reform, they've scored a big political victory. But what they've also guaranteed in policy terms is that you have the status quo. I actually appreciate what Senator DeMint said and Senator Inhofe. I'm different than everybody, I'm not going to criticize them. I compliment them. They're honest.

Media Matters for America CNN president emails Dobbs pronouncing birther story "dead," but Lou won't let it go

From Media Matters

After CNN President Jon Klein reportedly emailed information to the staff of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight that Klein said shows the "story" about President Obama's birth certificate "is dead," host Lou Dobbs noted that evidence -- which was a statement by the Hawaii Health Department that in 2001, paper records were replaced by electronic records -- on air as Klein instructed, but then asked CNN contributor Roland Martin: "When this could be dispelled so quickly, and -- and simply by producing [the birth certificate], why not do it?"

In the July 23 email to the Lou Dobbs Tonight staff, obtained by Mediabistro's TVNewser, Klein pointed to evidence debunking birther conspiracy theories that Dobbs "should be sure to cite" during that evening's broadcast. Specifically, Klein included in his email information from CNN's "political researchers" that stated "the state of Hawaii Health Department went paperless" in 2001, that the "[p]aper documents were discarded," and that "[t]he official record of Obama's birth is now an official ELECTRONIC record" [emphasis in original]. But while Dobbs did mention during his July 23 CNN show that "the state of Hawaii says it can't release a paper copy of the president's original birth certificate because they say the state government discarded the original document when the health department records went electronic," he nonetheless continued to question the version of Obama's birth certificate available online and argue that Obama should "produce" a valid birth certificate.

From Klein's July 23 email, obtained by TVNewser:

----- Original Message -----

From: Klein, Jon (CNN) Sent: Thu Jul 23 19:00:44 2009 Subject: Important re birth certificate

I asked the political researchers to dig into the question "why couldn't Obama produce the ORIGINAL birth certificate?"

This is what they forwarded. It seems to definitively answer the question. Since the show's mission is for Lou to be the explainer and enlightener, he should be sure to cite this during your segment tonite. And then it seems this story is dead - because anyone who still is not convinced doesn't really have a legitimate beef.

Thx

*****************

*In 2001 - the state of Hawaii Health Department went paperless.*Paper documents were discarded*The official record of Obama's birth is now an official ELECTRONIC record Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the Health Department told the Honolulu Star Bulletin, "At that time, all information for births from 1908 (on) was put into electronic files for consistent reporting," she said.

Introducing a segment about Obama's birth certificate during the July 23 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Dobbs repeated the research forwarded by Klein regarding the Hawaii Health Department, stating:

DOBBS: President Obama promised transparency and openness in his administration. Yet, he's chosen not to release his original birth certificate or a copy of it.

And a number of Americans are asking, why not? The left-wing media has attacked me because I simply asked the question. Meanwhile, the state of Hawaii says it can't release a paper copy of the president's original birth certificate because they say the state government discarded the original document when the health department records went electronic some eight years ago.

That explanation, however, has not satisfied some critics.

However, during the discussion that followed, Dobbs again said that Obama should produce a birth certificate. Dobbs stated: "My -- my issue is this, OK? When this could be dispelled so quickly, and -- and simply by producing it, why not do it?" Dobbs also raised concerns about the copy of Obama's birth certificate that FactCheck.org posted online, referring to it as "a document that says there's another document":

ROLAND MARTIN (CNN contributor): That is an official document. What is in the newspaper is a birth announcement, Congressman. Come on.

REP. TED POE (R-TX): Well, they --

DOBBS: Let -- let -- if I may interject. Do we have a -- could we just put up a copy of that certificate -- certificate of live birth?

What you are looking at there, which I believe is the copy that comes from FactCheck.org, or Annenberg, there's no reference there to the attending physician. There's no reference there to the hospital in which he was born. It is a certificate that refers to the fact that another certificate exists.

MARTIN: Is it an official state document?

DOBBS: I'm sorry?

MARTIN: Is it an official state document of the state of Hawaii?

DOBBS: Well, let me try this again, so I can be really clear about it. It is a document that says there's another document. It does not include that -- you are referring to your father's birth certificate.

A copy of his birth certificate would have the doctor, the hospital that he was born in, correct? And this is the -- and, by the way, this is just what people are concerned about.

Dobbs also replayed remarks from his radio show indicating "where I stand," which included his previous remark that "I believe Barack Obama is a citizen of the United States, folks. Don't you? But I do have a couple of little questions, like you. Why not just provide a copy of the birth certificate? That's entirely within the president's power":

DOBBS: Before we get started, I want to be clear where I stand, because the -- the left-wing media kind of forgot to leave out -- kind of left a few things out. It was inconvenient to their stories.

Just -- just one statement, very quickly, if you will. Play that.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, JULY 21, 2009)

DOBBS: I think the president of the United States is a citizen. But what I don't understand is why he hasn't just produced it to get this -- this noise out of the way.

I believe Barack Obama is a citizen of the United States, folks. Don't you? But I do have a couple of little questions, like you. Why not just provide a copy of the birth certificate? That's entirely within the president's power.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

DOBBS: Why not? That's the question, Roland Martin. What's the answer?

Boehner claims he doesn’t know doctors who support House health bill. By Igor Volsky at 3:25 pm Boehner claims he doesn’t know doctors who support Hou

By Igor Volsky

Yesterday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) denied that doctors supported the health care bill now moving through the House and attacked the American Medical Association for endorsing the legislation:

REPORTER: What is your reaction to the AMA’s endorsement of Obama’s plan?

BOEHNER: I have yet to talk to a doctor who is supporting the plan that is moving through the House. And for the American Medical Association to come out in support of this plan, even though I would think a great majority of their doctors are opposed to it, strikes me as inconsistent at best.

Watch it:

If Boehner hasn’t “talk[ed] to a doctor who is supporting the plan that is moving through the House,” then he isn’t getting out much. In fact, the grassroots doctors organization Doctors For America has 360 members in Boehner’s home-state of Ohio, and 13,642 doctors nationwide who support the major tenets of the House bill. The Wonk Room has more on why doctors support the House bill.

M.C.L comment: I'm willingly to bet that the Boner didn't talk to anyone maybe a lobbist but not a doctor.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pelosi To Senate: "We're Not Ever Going To Be A Chicken"

By Ryan Grim

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that Democrats are getting increasingly close to a health care reform vote on the House floor and need to seize the moment.

"I always call Washington the city of the perishable. When you've got the votes, you take the vote," she said, punching her left hand hard with her right, "Because if you think you're going to wait around until you get more of this or that -- you just never know what happens."

Pelosi was interviewed Wednesday afternoon by reporters from the Huffington Post, Washington Post and The Nation magazine. Earlier Wednesday, she had assured reporters that she had the votes to pass the health care overhaul, a prediction she repeated in her later interview.

Conservative Democrats in the Senate have been watching their House counterparts, the Blue Dogs, closely as each side pushes for delay in their respective chambers. The GOP has said that the path to killing the bill runs through August, and that if it can be delayed, it is more likely that it can be taken down.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) said some kind of announcement from the Senate Finance Committee would help with negotiations with the Blue Dogs in the House. "I think that some of the negotiations that are going on now will be facilitated by the Senate doing something, because it removes some questions as to what are they doing? What is it that they are doing? I say that respectfully," she said.

When she was asked if the Senate might take that statement as license for delay, she said that it was meant to be the opposite. "I think that they should take it as more pressure for them to go forward, because this could be a chicken and egg forever. And we're not ever going to be a chicken," she said.

Staying in session through August was an option, she said, if that's what it takes to get the bill done. "My view is we're just about there and that it would be better for us to go before the recess. The idea that we should stay here until it is done is one that I'm okay with. The only thing is, if we're done, and they're not done and they're gone, what is the point? It's interesting to me that people are saying, 'Don't leave until it's done.' I don't know how much more we can do if the Senate is not going to move."

The Senate is scheduled to be in session one week longer than the House. "They could come out with something in the next 24 hours," said Pelosi. "I'd be a little more concerned if it were next Wednesday and they still hadn't shown anything, but they have another week."

TARP Inspector General Debunks His Own False $23 Trillion Bailout Estimate

By Pat Garofalo

Yesterday, TARP Inspector General Neil Barosky released a report which crudely tallied up the cost of every economic rescue program proposed during the current crisis — including those that have been discontinued or never even began — to state that the total scope of all financial rescue programs comes to about $23.7 trillion. Cable news hosts ran wild with the report, using it to claim that taxpayers will “ultimately” wind up paying $23 trillion in “bailouts.”

The number continued to be cited on cable last night and this morning, with Fox News even claiming that $23 trillion will be the final cost of TARP alone. But Barofsky himself appeared on CNN to explain that the actual outstanding amount for the financial rescues is closer to $3 trillion, including loans that have yet to be repaid. Watch a compilation:

Barofsky’s report clearly states that “these numbers may have some overlap, and have not been evaluated to provide an estimate of likely net costs to the taxpayer”:

[S]ome of the programs have been discontinued or even, in some cases, not utilized. As such, these total potential support figures do not represent a current total, but the sum total of all support programs announced since the onset of the financial crisis in 2007.

But this doesn’t go far enough in explaining how unlikely we are to ever come close to spending so much money. As Floyd Norris explained in the New York Times, Barofsky’s estimate “assumes that every home mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac goes into default, and all the homes turn out to be worthless. It assumes that every bank in America fails, with not a single asset worth even a penny. And it assumes that all of the assets held by money market mutual funds, including Treasury bills, turn out to be worthless.” If this doomsday economic scenario were ever to occur, the American currency would be rendered worthless.

Media Matters pointed out that both USA Today and the CBS Evening News used the same misleading number. And as Norris put it, publishing such a meaningless number makes Barofsky seem like nothing more than “an irresponsible headline hunter.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Health Insurance Industry Spins Data in Fight Against Public Plan

By David S. Hilzenrath

The industry that helped scuttle health reform 15 years ago with its "Harry and Louise" ads is back, voicing support for a central element of the Obama administration's plans: making sure everyone is covered.

That does not mean the industry is backing the administration. Indeed, the leader of the insurance lobby has sent lawmakers a message: Be careful what you change, because "77 percent of Americans are satisfied with their existing health insurance coverage."

Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), invoked the statistic to argue against the creation of a government-run insurance option. But the polls are not that simple, and her assertion reveals how the industry's effort to defend its turf has led it to cherry-pick the facts.

The poll Ignagni was citing actually undercuts her position: By 72 to 20 percent, Americans favor the creation of a public plan, the June survey by the New York Times and CBS News found. People also said that they thought government would do a better job than private insurers of holding down health-care costs and providing coverage.

In addition, data from a Kaiser Family Foundation poll last year, compiled at the request of The Washington Post, suggest that the people who like their health plans the most are the people who use them the least.

Those who described their health as "excellent" -- people who presumably had relatively little experience pursuing medical care or submitting claims -- were almost twice as likely as those in good, fair or poor health to rate their private health insurance as excellent.

The level of satisfaction expressed with private insurance was essentially the same as that with Medicare, the government program for the elderly and disabled.

The industry's stance against a public health plan revives shades of 1994, when it was instrumental in blocking President Bill Clinton's health-care proposals.

"A government-run plan would turn back the clock on efforts to improve the quality and safety of patient care," AHIP has argued. Such a plan "will ultimately limit choices and access," the big insurer WellPoint contends.

But systemic problems have persisted for 15 years, and it is not clear how much private insurers have done, or can do, to solve them.

"Insurers promise choice, they promise innovation, they promise a lot of things, but I think they've delivered very little," said Alan Sager, professor of health policy and management at Boston University. "I think net they give us very bad value for the 10 to 20 percent share of the health dollar they skim off the top."

Instead of choice, they offer "the illusion of choice," he said.

Health-care costs have continued to rise faster than personal incomes and economic growth. Even the industry agrees that much of the spending is wasted, exposing patients to unnecessary risk.

Insurers argue that a government plan could dominate the market, reducing consumers' options. But in the private market, options are limited by employers who restrict employees' choice of insurers and by insurers who restrict their choice of doctors.

Cigna, one of the nation's largest insurers, took away its own employees' alternatives in 2006 and left them with only high-deductible coverage.

"There were a lot of unhappy people," said Wendell Potter, who until last year was Cigna's head of corporate communications. For many people enrolled in such plans, "the deductibles are so high that they forgo care," he said.

Long a defender of the industry, Potter has become an outspoken critic of what he calls its "duplicitous" public relations and lobbying campaigns.

Few people have a better vantage point on the industry's efforts to improve quality and efficiency than Joseph P. Newhouse, professor of health policy and management at Harvard University, editor of the Journal of Health Economics and member of the board of insurance giant Aetna. Asked what results the industry's innovations have yielded, Newhouse said: "It's just very difficult to give much of an evidence-based answer to those questions . . . in either direction."

With respect to the disease-management programs the industry touts -- efforts to make sure people with chronic illnesses get the care they need -- "by and large, the literature suggests it works in some cases, but those cases are fairly limited," he said.

AHIP has produced a stack of glossy reports describing health insurers' efforts to improve care. In recent testimony, Ignagni said private health plans serving the elderly have been highly successful in reducing hospital admissions and readmissions for patients with diabetes and heart disease.

Yet one of the AHIP reports says that in an Aetna Pathways to Excellence hospital incentive program, "readmission rates did not improve significantly."

Opponents of a public option argue that it could put government bureaucrats between patients and doctors. Today, for people with commercial or employer-sponsored coverage, care is overseen by private bureaucracies. Where government bureaucracies answer to the body politic, the corporate versions answer to Wall Street.

The issue of whether a public plan would be more successful at bringing costs under control is harder to evaluate. As a prototype for government-run health care, Medicare has failed to control costs and makes little effort to restrict care.

Economists generally agree that if costs are to be brought under control, someone must say no to care that doctors propose and patients demand. So far, that role has fallen primarily to insurers.

"Private insurers have effectively engaged in rationing, so they're doing the dirty work for everybody else," said Jeff D. Emerson, a former health plan chief executive. "It's a thankless job . . . but somebody has to do it or health care will be even more expensive than it is now."

Private insurers might be better situated than the government to do the unpopular work of saying no, said Paul B. Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, because they are less susceptible to political pressure.

Michael Steele isn’t sure what kind of health insurance he has.

By Matt Corley

Earlier today, The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent noted that RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who is doing everything he can to stop health care reform, went three years without health insurance and once told his kids not to “break anything” because they didn’t have coverage. “Steele, presumably, now has insurance, so his family doesn’t have to be quite so careful,” wrote Sargent. While Steele does have coverage today, Media Matters Action’s Matt Finkelstein points out that he was unable to say for sure what kind of insurance he has during an interview with CNN today:

CNN: What type of health insurance do you have? Do you get that through the RNC?

STEELE: Yup, through my employer.

CNN: What company is it?

STEELE: Uhh. BlueCross BlueShield, I believe. Or maybe not.

Watch it:

According to Finkelstein, Steele repeated his claim that he doesn’t “do policy,” saying, “that’s not my job.”

Matthews To GOP Rep. Advancing ‘Birther’ Myth: ‘You Are Feeding The Whacko Wing Of Your Party’

By Ben Armbruster

Over the past several months, the right wing has been advancing the discredited myth that President Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen. These so-called “birthers” claim that Obama hasn’t produced his a valid birth certificate to prove that he is eligible to be president. (He has). CNN’s Lou Dobbs is the latest to traffic in this nonsense, despite the fact that his own guest-host debunked the “birther” claims on Dobbs’s show.

Today on MSNBC, host Chris Matthews interviewed Rep. John Campbell (R-CA), co-sponsor of a bill that would require candidates for president in the future to present a copy of his or her birth certificate “to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications” for president. “The proposal is not crazy,” Campbell said in defense of the measure. “Congressman, nice try,” Matthews replied. “What you’re doing is appeasing the nutcases…you’re verifying the paranoia out there,” he said. Matthews then held up a copy of Obama’s birth certificate and said, “That’s the way to deal with this, mail this birth certificate to the whacko wing of your party.”

Matthews asked Campbell seven times if he believes Obama is a natural born U.S. citizen, and after a series of dodges, Matthews said, “You are feeding the whacko wing of your party.” Campbell finally answered, “As far as I know, Yes.” “As far as you know? I’m showing you his birth certificate!” Matthews exclaimed:

MATTHEWS: It’s on the screen now, take a close look. It says “Barack Hussein Obama.” He was born August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, is that a state? Yes it was. His mother was caucasian, his father was African. What more do you want? He’s male. He was born, by the way at 7:20 P.M. in the island of Oahu. What more do you want? I mean, I’m serious, you say “as far as you know?” You are playing to the crazies.

“Was he born in this country?” Matthews asked again. “Yes, I believe so,” Campbell replied. “Ok, finally we’re making progress,” Matthews said. Watch it:

Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) was barraged by birthers at a local town hall meeting in Delaware recently and was forced to inform the crowd — much to their dismay — that Obama is indeed a natural born citizen.

M.C.L. comment: So if Bobby Jindal run for president in 2012, I could harass him and his supporters about him showing his birth certificate on this blog?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Beck "Lose[s]" His "Mind;" Screams At Caller: "Get Off My Phone You Little Pinhead!"

Wait a sec here, I thought you would need a mind to lose one. Glenn Beck is probably the biggest douche in right wing radio and that's probably saying a lot. The things that shocked me was that one he let the caller stayed on longer than he probably wanted and two Becky lost his cool with the caller. Usually right wing talk show host drop calls once they turn hostile or a person that knows what they're talking about slip pass the flying monkeys that run call screen.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

GOP Lawmaker Admits Congress Will Pass Democratic Health Care Bill

By Sam Stein A Democratic-endorsed health care bill will pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate this month, one of the White House's main Republican critics in Congress acknowledged on Thursday morning. In an appearance on MSNBC lamenting the type of health care legislation currently being pushed by Democrats in the House, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) made an admission that seems to go against the current conventional wisdom. "We'll get [a health care bill] through the House and Senate this month," he said, defying the usual predictions heard from leading Republicans or skeptical Democrats. Hoekstra would add that it is unlikely that legislators would be able to have a bill on the president's desk before the August recess. But the White House's own timetable doesn't call for that. "We've known for years that we were going to reach this fork in the road where we were either going to reform health care, we were going to provide more options to individuals, more affordable options for individuals to choose their health care, or we were going to create a government-run health care where the government would be making those decisions for us," Hoekstra said. "President Obama, the Democrats in the House and the Senate, have clearly chosen the government-run option. That is why they're in such a hurry to move this program through the House, through the Senate, and get it to his desk." Hoekstra's admission that the two chambers of Congress are likely to pass their respective health care bills within the next month is one of the few times that a lawmaker has pulled back the curtain to reveal exactly where the legislative process currently stands. Passage in the House and Senate would set the stage for reconciling the separate bills in conference committee once the August recess is over. One of the options at the president's hand is the bill recently unveiled by the House, which has become the preference for progressives. That approach won a major endorsement from The New York Times editorial page on Thursday. While the Senate continues to struggle over its approach to health care reform, House Democratic leaders have unveiled a bill that would go a long way toward solving the nation's health insurance problems without driving up the deficit. It is already drawing fierce opposition from business groups and many Republicans. This is a bill worth fighting for. The bill would require virtually all Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty. And it would require all but the smallest businesses to provide health insurance for their workers or pay a substantial fee. It would also expand Medicaid to cover many more poor people, and it would create new exchanges through which millions of middle-class Americans could buy health insurance with the help of government subsidies. The result would be near-universal coverage at a surprisingly manageable cost to the federal government.

Conservative Education ‘Experts’ Want Less Lincoln And More Jesus In Texas Textbooks

The Dallas Morning News reported last week that conservative “experts” advising the state of Texas on school curriculum are arguing that the state’s social studies and history textbooks are giving “too much attention” to some of U.S. history’s most prominent civil rights leaders. David Barton, one of the so-called “experts,” claimed Hispanic labor leader César Chávez “lacks the stature, impact and overall contributions of so many others.” A colleague on the panel agreed, also singling out Thurgood Marshall for exclusion: “To have César Chávez listed next to Ben Franklin” – as in the current standards – “is ludicrous,” wrote evangelical minister Peter Marshall, one of six experts advising the state as it develops new curriculum standards for social studies classes and textbooks. [...] Marshall also questioned whether Thurgood Marshall, who argued the landmark case that resulted in school desegregation and was the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice, should be presented to Texas students as an important historical figure. He wrote that the late justice is “not a strong enough example” of such a figure. According to a draft of the proposed new textbook standards, “biographies of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Stephen F. Austin have been removed from the early grades.” At the same time, Peter Marshall wants more teaching of Christianity’s role “in America’s past“: Marshall…also recommends that school children get a better understanding of the motivational role the Bible and the Christian faith played in the settling of the original colonies. [...] “In light of the overwhelming historical evidence of the influence of the Christian faith in the founding of America, it is simply not up to acceptable academic standards that throughout the social studies (curriculum standards) I could only find one reference to the role of religion in America’s past,” Marshall said in his review. Actual education professionals in Texas appeared dismayed at Marshall and Barton’s assessment. “It is what we expected from unqualified political activists put on this so-called panel of experts,” said Dan Quinn of the nonprofit Texas Freedom Network. “This is yet another step toward politicizing our children’s education.” Jesus Francisco de la Teja, chairman of the history department at Texas State University said, “Whether you approve or disapprove of what [Chavez] did, there is no doubt about his contribution to bettering the lives of an untold number of Americans of limited economic means and education.” Barton, a former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party also insisted on emphasizing “republican” values in Texas’ curriculum: [Barton] said that because the U.S. is a republic rather than a democracy, the proper adjective for identifying U.S. values and processes should be “republican” rather than “democratic.” That means social studies books should discuss “republican” values in the U.S., his report said. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the social studies review panels will meet later this month and post their “initial recommendations” online with “final adoption” set for next March. But “[t]he debate here has far-reaching consequences,” the New York Times noted last January when Texas debated how evolution should be taught in schools, because “Texas is one of the nation’s biggest buyers of textbooks, and publishers are reluctant to produce different versions of the same material.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Updated myths and falsehoods surrounding the Sotomayor nomination

From Media Matters In covering President Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court, the media have advanced numerous myths and falsehoods about Sotomayor. In some cases, the media assert the falsehoods themselves; in others, they report unchallenged the claims of others. Beyond the merits, the attacks by conservatives should be assessed in the context of their reported plans to use the confirmation process to "help refill depleted coffers and galvanize a movement demoralized by Republican electoral defeats"; "build the conservative movement"; provide "a massive teaching moment for America"; "prepare the great debate with a view toward Senate elections in 2010 and the presidency"; and "hurt conservative Democrats." Media Matters for America has compiled a list of myths and falsehoods that have emerged or resurfaced since Sotomayor's nomination was first reported. MYTH: The Supreme Court decided Ricci "9-0" against Sotomayor Following the Supreme Court's decision in Ricci v. DeStefano -- which reversed by a 5-4 margin a decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- several conservative media figures have claimed that the Supreme Court decided "against" Sotomayor "9-0." In fact, while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent that "[o]rdinarily, a remand for fresh consideration would be in order" and that "I would not oppose a remand for further proceedings fair to both sides," she concluded, "[W]hat this case does not present is race-based discrimination in violation of Title VII." That conclusion is consistent with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision Sotomayor joined. In her dissent, joined by Justices David Souter, John Paul Stevens, and Stephen Breyer, Ginsburg also wrote: Applying what I view as the proper standard to the record thus far made, I would hold that New Haven had ample cause to believe its selection process was flawed and not justified by business necessity. Judged by that standard, petitioners have not shown that New Haven's failure to certify the exam results violated Title VII's disparate treatment provision. MYTH: Supreme Court reversal of Ricci an "extraordinary rebuke" for Sotomayor In a May 27 editorial, The Washington Times stated that if the Supreme Court were to reverse the 2nd Circuit decision in Ricci -- which the High Court subsequently did by a 5-4 margin -- "It would be an extraordinary rebuke were a current nominee to be overruled on such a controversial case by the very justices she is slated to join." But it is a myth that the Ricci reversal represents an "extraordinary rebuke" for Sotomayor. Indeed, the Supreme Court reversed at least four decisions by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court in which Samuel Alito either wrote or joined the majority opinion, and Alito also received a "rebuke" by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom he replaced, regarding his dissent in the abortion-rights case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Furthermore, as an appeals court judge, Chief Justice John Roberts was a member of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which, in its July 2005 unanimous ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, allowed a military commission to try Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Guantánamo Bay detainee. Roberts was confirmed as chief justice several months later, in September 2005. Then, in 2006, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's decision on a 5-3 ruling. MYTH: Sotomayor's Supreme Court reversal rate is "high" In a May 27 article headlined, "Sotomayor reversed 60% by high court," The Washington Times reported that "[t]hree of the five majority opinions written by Judge Sotomayor for the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and reviewed by the Supreme Court were reversed" and then uncritically quoted Conservative Women for America president Wendy Wright saying that Sotomayor's reversal rate was "high." Similarly, on May 26, Congressional Quarterly Today uncritically quoted (subscription required) Wendy Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, claiming that Sotomayor "has an extremely high rate of her decisions being reversed, indicating that she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court." In fact, contrary to the myth that it is unusual for the Supreme Court to reverse federal appellate court decisions, data compiled by SCOTUSblog since 2004 show that the Supreme Court has reversed more than 67 percent of the federal appeals court cases it considered each year, except 2007, when it reversed federal appeals court cases 61 percent of the time. MYTH: The 2nd Circuit's decision in Maloney v. Cuomo represented "activism" On May 31, Fox News host Chris Wallace and Supreme Court correspondent Shannon Bream each misrepresented the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller in order to suggest that Sotomayor may have -- in Wallace's words -- been "making policy from the bench" in the 2nd Circuit case Maloney v. Cuomo. Wallace and Bream suggested that Sotomayor's position in Maloney was, as Bream put it, "in contrast to the Heller decision we got from the Supreme Court last year saying the Second Amendment gives individual gun rights." In fact, the 2nd Circuit -- in a per curiam opinion joined by Sotomayor and two of her colleagues -- specifically addressed Heller and said it didn't apply to Maloney, which involved the question of whether the Second Amendment applies to state governments. Indeed, as Lyle Denniston noted on SCOTUSblog, in Heller, the Supreme Court "did not settle whether the [Second] Amendment operates against any level of government other than the federal government and a federal entity, the District of Columbia." In a June 2 decision, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals similarly held that Heller did not apply to states. A June 16 New York Times article reported, "On June 2, a three-judge panel of the court, led by Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook, a well-known conservative, ruled that there was no basis for the court to apply the Second Amendment to the states." From the 2nd Circuit's per curiam opinion: The Second Amendment provides: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." U.S. Const. amend. II. The Supreme Court recently held that this confers an individual right on citizens to keep and bear arms. See District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 2799 (2008). It is settled law, however, that the Second Amendment applies only to limitations the federal government seeks to impose on this right. See, e.g., Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 265 (1886) (stating that the Second Amendment "is a limitation only upon the power of congress and the national government, and not upon that of the state"); Bach v. Pataki, 408 F.3d 75, 84, 86 (2d Cir. 2005) (holding "that the Second Amendment's 'right to keep and bear arms' imposes a limitation on only federal, not state, legislative efforts" and noting that this outcome was compelled by Presser), cert. denied, 546 U.S. 1174 (2006). Heller, a case involving a challenge to the District of Columbia's general prohibition on handguns, does not invalidate this longstanding principle. See Heller, 128 S. Ct. at 2813 n.23 (noting that the case did not present the question of whether the Second Amendment applies to the states). And to the extent that Heller might be read to question the continuing validity of this principle, we "must follow Presser" because "[w]here, as here, a Supreme Court precedent 'has direct application in a case, yet appears to rest on reasons rejected in some other line of decisions, the Court of Appeals should follow the case which directly controls, leaving to the Supreme Court the prerogative of overruling its own decisions.'" Bach, 408 F.3d at 86 (quoting Rodriguez de Quijas v. Shearson/Am. Express, Inc., 490 U.S. 477, 484 (1989)) (alteration marks omitted); see also State Oil Co. v. Khan, 522 U.S. 3, 20 (1997). Thus, N.Y. Penal Law §§ 265.00 through 265.02 do not violate the Second Amendment. MYTH: Sotomayor's position in property rights case was an "extension" of Supreme Court decision in Kelo In a June 15 article citing criticism of a decision by Sotomayor and two other 2nd Circuit judges to throw out a lawsuit alleging a violation of due process and the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause, New York Times reporter Adam Liptak left out key facts, resulting in a significantly one-sided article bolstering the contention by critics of the decision that, in the words of a law professor cited in the article, it was "the worst federal court takings decision" since the Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v. City of New London. In the case of Didden v. Village of Port Chester, the 2nd Circuit upheld the lower court's finding for the defendant, holding that the suit was filed too late and writing that even if the statute of limitations did not bar the suit, the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo would have prevented the court from finding for the plaintiff. Although the court made clear it was deciding the case based on the statute of limitations, Liptak characterized the decision as "applying and extending Kelo" -- without providing any basis for asserting that the decision represented an "extension" of Kelo. MYTH: Sotomayor said, "Latina judges are obviously better than white male judges" Media figures have misrepresented a remark that Sotomayor made in a speech published in 2002, claiming that she suggested, in the words of Fox News' Megyn Kelly, "that Latina judges are obviously better than white male judges." Further advancing the falsehood, numerous media figures have asserted that Sotomayor made a "racist statement." In fact, when Sotomayor asserted, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life," she was specifically discussing the importance of judicial diversity in determining race and sex discrimination cases. Additionally, conservatives, including Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, have acknowledged the significant impact their background and personal experiences have had on their judicial thinking. MYTH: Sotomayor advocated "judicial activism" in 2005 statement that "court of appeals is where policy is made" In their reporting of Sotomayor's 2005 statement that the "court of appeals is where policy is made," several media figures and outlets have advanced the falsehood that her statement represented, in the words of Fox News' Sean Hannity, "the definition of judicial activism." In fact, the context of her comments makes clear that she was simply explaining the difference between district courts and appeals courts after being asked about the differences between clerkships at the two levels, an explanation in line with federal appellate courts' "policy making" role described by the Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2005). Indeed, numerous legal experts have stated that Sotomayor's comment was, in the words of Hofstra University law professor Eric Freedman, "the absolute judicial equivalent of saying the sun rises each morning" and "thoroughly uncontroversial to anyone other than a determined demagogue." From Sotomayor's remarks at a February 25, 2005, Duke University School of Law forum, made in response to a student who asked the panel to contrast the experiences of a district court clerkship and a circuit court clerkship: SOTOMAYOR: The saw is that if you're going into academia, you're going to teach, or as Judge Lucero just said, public interest law, all of the legal defense funds out there, they're looking for people with court of appeals experience, because it is -- court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know -- and I know this is on tape and I should never say that because we don't make law, I know. OK, I know. I'm not promoting it, and I'm not advocating it, I'm -- you know. OK. Having said that, the court of appeals is where, before the Supreme Court makes the final decision, the law is percolating -- its interpretation, its application. And Judge Lucero is right. I often explain to people, when you're on the district court, you're looking to do justice in the individual case. So you are looking much more to the facts of the case than you are to the application of the law because the application of the law is non-precedential, so the facts control. On the court of appeals, you are looking to how the law is developing, so that it will then be applied to a broad class of cases. And so you're always thinking about the ramifications of this ruling on the next step in the development of the law. You can make a choice and say, "I don't care about the next step," and sometimes we do. Or sometimes we say, "We'll worry about that when we get to it" -- look at what the Supreme Court just did. But the point is that that's the differences -- the practical differences in the two experiences are the district court is controlled chaos and not so controlled most of the time. MYTH: Sotomayor advocated "submit[ing] ourselves" to foreign law or "merging our law" with foreign law A June 26 New York Times article uncritically reported a statement made by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) distorting Sotomayor's April speech on the relevance of foreign law to U.S. judges. The Times reported that Sessions, citing "a speech that Judge Sotomayor gave to the Puerto Rico chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in April," stated in a Senate floor statement: "To submit ourselves to their political policies while pretending we are merging our law with theirs is just plain foolishness." The article also quoted Sessions as saying of Sotomayor, "The question is, Who does the judge serve? The people of the United States or the people of the world or some individual country with whom they agree?" However, Sotomayor did not advocate "submit[ing] ourselves" to foreign law or "merging our law" with foreign law in the speech Sessions cited. While Sotomayor advocated in favor of U.S. judges considering ideas from foreign law in the speech, she also specifically said: "American analytical principles do not permit us to use that law to decide our cases." Moreover, Sotomayor's view of the relevance of foreign law is not one embraced solely by liberals. Justice Anthony Kennedy, for example has cited foreign law in opinions he has written. In Roper v. Simmons, for example, Kennedy wrote: It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime. [...] It does not lessen our fidelity to the Constitution or our pride in its origins to acknowledge that the express affirmation of certain fundamental rights by other nations and peoples simply underscores the centrality of those same rights within our own heritage of freedom. In Lawrence v. Texas, Kennedy also cited foreign law in his majority opinion: To the extent Bowers relied on values we share with a wider civilization, it should be noted that the reasoning and holding in Bowers have been rejected elsewhere. The European Court of Human Rights has followed not Bowers but its own decision in Dudgeon v. United Kingdom. See P.G. & J.H. v. United Kingdom, App. No. 00044787/98, ¶56 (Eur. Ct. H.R., Sept. 25, 2001); Modinos v. Cyprus, 259 Eur. Ct. H.R. (1993); Norris v. Ireland, 142 Eur. Ct. H.R. (1988). Other nations, too, have taken action consistent with an affirmation of the protected right of homosexual adults to engage in intimate, consensual conduct. See Brief for Mary Robinson et al. as Amici Curiae 11-12. The right the petitioners seek in this case has been accepted as an integral part of human freedom in many other countries. There has been no showing that in this country the governmental interest in circumscribing personal choice is somehow more legitimate or urgent. MYTH: Sotomayor "assert[ed] that there are 'inherent physiological' differences between the races" In a July 8 editorial, The Washington Times claimed that Sotomayor "assert[ed]" in three speeches "that there are 'inherent physiological' differences between the races" and suggested her comments should disqualify her from serving on the Court. In fact, as the quote the Times provided clearly demonstrates, Sotomayor made no such claim. Rather, in a 2001 speech at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law, a 2002 speech at Princeton University, and a 2003 speech at Seton Hall University, Sotomayor repeated variations of the following statement: "Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague [federal district] Judge [Miriam] Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging." In a July 13 editorial, The Washington Times went even further, misquoting Sotomayor's remarks by falsely claiming she referred to "inherent physiological and cultural differences" [emphasis added] in the speeches in question. MYTH: Sotomayor is a judicial activist CNN's Gloria Borger and Bill Schneider have uncritically repeated Republican claims that Sotomayor is -- in Schneider's words -- a "liberal activist," and in doing so have also advanced the baseless conservative claim that judicial activism is a "liberal" practice. ABC correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg similarly advanced the myth that conservative judges are proponents of judicial restraint while liberal judges are activists. But at least two studies -- looking at two different sets of criteria -- have found that the most "conservative" Supreme Court justices have been among the most activist. Moreover, the recent case of Ricci, which conservatives cite as a purported example of Sotomayor advancing a political agenda in her decisions, actually offers an example of activism by the five conservative justice majority on the Supreme Court, who voted to reverse a decision by the city of New Haven to disregard a fire department test because of racial disparities in the results. Sotomayor, by contrast, voted in the majority on the 2nd Circuit to uphold the city's decision. A 2005 study by Yale University law professor Paul Gewirtz and Yale Law School graduate Chad Golder indicated that among Supreme Court justices at that time, those most frequently labeled "conservative" were among the most frequent practitioners of at least one brand of judicial activism -- the tendency to strike down statutes passed by Congress. Indeed, Gewirtz and Golder found that Thomas "was the most inclined" to do so, "voting to invalidate 65.63 percent of those laws." Additionally, a study published by Cass R. Sunstein (who has been nominated by Obama to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs) and University of Chicago law professor Thomas Miles used a different measurement of judicial activism -- the tendency of judges to strike down decisions by federal regulatory agencies. Sunstein and Miles found that by this definition, the Supreme Court's "conservative" justices were the most likely to engage in "judicial activism," while the "liberal" justices were most likely to exercise "judicial restraint." Further, a June 19 Congressional Research Service analysis of Sotomayor's selected opinions stated that the "characteristics" applying to Sotomayor "appear to include what many would describe as a careful application of particular facts at issue in a case and a dislike for situations in which the court might be seen as oversteping its judicial role." And according to the Politico's Jeanne Cummings, "Sotomayor's history suggests the very sort of judicial restraint that conservatives clamor for in a nominee." MYTH: Obama "decreed" that Sotomayor debate feature "biography" over "qualifications" In a May 29 column, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel wrote that "President Barack Obama has laid down his ground rules for the debate over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor" and then falsely claimed, "Ground Rule No. 1, as decreed by the president, is that this is to be a discussion primarily about Judge Sotomayor's biography, not her qualifications." In fact, contrary to Strassel's claim that Obama "decreed" that "this is to be a discussion primarily about Judge Sotomayor's biography, not her qualifications," in his speech announcing her nomination, Obama began his remarks about Sotomayor by speaking extensively about her qualifications. In his May 26 nomination announcement, Obama stated, "Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system, providing her with a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice." He continued: It's a measure of her qualities and her qualifications that Judge Sotomayor was nominated to the U.S. District Court by a Republican President, George H.W. Bush, and promoted to the Federal Court of Appeals by a Democrat, Bill Clinton. Walking in the door she would bring more experience on the bench, and more varied experience on the bench, than anyone currently serving on the United States Supreme Court had when they were appointed. Judge Sotomayor is a distinguished graduate of two of America's leading universities. She's been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator. She spent six years as a trial judge on the U.S. District Court, and would replace Justice Souter as the only justice with experience as a trial judge, a perspective that would enrich the judgments of the Court. For the past 11 years she has been a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit of New York, one of the most demanding circuits in the country. There she has handed down decisions on a range of constitutional and legal questions that are notable for their careful reasoning, earning the respect of colleagues on the bench, the admiration of many lawyers who argue cases in her court, and the adoration of her clerks who look to her as a mentor. During her tenure on the District Court, she presided over roughly 450 cases. One case in particular involved a matter of enormous concern to many Americans, including me: the baseball strike of 1994-1995. (Laughter.) In a decision that reportedly took her just 15 minutes to announce, a swiftness much appreciated by baseball fans everywhere -- (laughter) -- she issued an injunction that helped end the strike. Some say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball. (Applause.) Judge Sotomayor came to the District Court from a law firm where she was a partner focused on complex commercial litigation, gaining insight into the workings of a global economy. Before that she was a prosecutor in the Manhattan DA's office, serving under the legendary Robert Morgenthau, an early mentor of Sonia's who still sings her praises today. There, Sonia learned what crime can do to a family and a community, and what it takes to fight it. It's a career that has given her not only a sweeping overview of the American judicial system, but a practical understanding of how the law works in the everyday lives of the American people. MYTH: Sotomayor said her ethnicity was the only reason she was admitted to Princeton and Yale MSNBC and Fox News aired portions of a New York Times video package that cropped remarks Sotomayor made regarding affirmative action during a panel discussion with female judges in the early 1990s. The cropped video featured the following remarks by Sotomayor, but omitted the portion in italics: "I am a product of affirmative action. I am the perfect affirmative action baby. I am a Puerto Rican, born and raised in the South Bronx, and from what is traditionally described as a socio-economically poor background. My test scores were not comparable to that of my colleagues at Princeton or Yale -- not so far off the mark that I wasn't able to succeed at those institutions." The cropping of Sotomayor's comments in this way allows conservatives, such as Sean Hannity, to distort Sotomayor's remarks by suggesting that Sotomayor said her ethnicity was the only reason she was admitted to Princeton and Yale. MYTH: Democrats rushed Sotomayor confirmation schedule Fox News' Jon Scott did not challenge Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) claim that scheduling confirmation hearings for Sotomayor to begin on July 13 "would push us ahead of a confirmation schedule that we gave Chief Justice Roberts." In fact, Roberts' hearings were also originally set to begin 48 days after he was nominated -- the same timetable as Sotomayor's hearings -- before being delayed for a week because of Hurricane Katrina and the death of then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Advancing the myth, media have reported without challenge Sessions' call in early June to delay Sotomayor's confirmation hearing until the fall and request for more information related to Sotomayor while ignoring the fact that Sessions urged fast action on Alito's nomination, reportedly saying, "You don't have to read everything he's written." MYTH: "Empathy" is code for "liberal activist" Media figures and outlets have focused on the purported controversy over Obama's May 1 statement that he would seek a replacement for Souter who demonstrates the quality of "empathy" and conservatives' criticism that Sotomayor, in the words of Long, "applies her feelings ... when deciding cases." Several media figures and outlets, including The Washington Post and Fox News' Special Report, have falsely suggested that Obama said that he will seek a Supreme Court nominee who demonstrates empathy rather than a commitment to follow the law. In fact, in the statement in question, Obama said that his nominee will demonstrate both. Other media have stated or advanced the claim that, in the words of a May 4 National Review editorial, "[e]mpathy is simply a codeword for an inclination toward liberal activism." But these media figures and outlets have ignored conservatives' history of stressing the importance of judges possessing empathy or compassion. Indeed, during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, responding to Sen. Herb Kohl's (D-WI) question, "I'd like to ask you why you want this job?" Thomas stated in part: "I believe, Senator, that I can make a contribution, that I can bring something different to the Court, that I can walk in the shoes of the people who are affected by what the Court does." Moreover, then-President George H.W. Bush cited Thomas' "great empathy" in his remarks announcing that he was nominating Thomas to serve on the Supreme Court. Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) similarly stated: "Though his skills as a lawyer and a judge are obvious, they are not, in my view, the only reason that this committee should vote to approve Judge Thomas's nomination. Just as important is his compassion and understanding of the impact that the Supreme Court has on the lives of average Americans." In his review of Thomas' 2007 memoir, My Grandfather's Son (HarperCollins), former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo touted the unique perspective that he said Thomas brings to the bench. Yoo wrote that Thomas "is a black man with a much greater range of personal experience than most of the upper-class liberals who take potshots at him" and argued that Thomas' work on the court has been influenced by his understanding of the less fortunate acquired through personal experience. Additionally, several Republican then-senators, including Strom Thurmond (SC), Al D'Amato (NY), and Mike DeWine (OH), cited compassion as a qualification for judicial confirmation. For instance, during the confirmation hearings for Justice Ginsburg, Thurmond stated that "compassion" was one of the "special qualifications I believe an individual should possess to serve on the Supreme Court," adding that "[w]hile a nominee must be firm in his or her decisions, they should show mercy when appropriate." Similarly, during the confirmation hearings for Justice Stephen Breyer, Thurmond said "compassion" was among "the special criteria which I believe an individual must possess to serve on the Supreme Court."