As far-right groups go, the Heartland Institute hasn’t quite reached household-name status yet, but it’s working on it. The group’s strange new billboards, at a minimum, will probably help push the group’s notoriety.
The Heartland Institute is “a tax-exempt organization which promotes conspiracy theories about climate scientists, distorts climate science, and attacks regulation of air and water pollution.” Despite support from corporate allies, the group has become so extreme that high-profile supporters, including GM and AT&T, no longer want anything to do with the outfit.
Instead of moderating its views and aiming for the mainstream, the Heartland Institute is buying billboards along highways in Chicago. Joe Romm reported today:
The Heartland Institute has launched one of the most offensive billboard campaigns in U.S. history. The Chicago-based anti-science think tank is comparing all those who accept climate science — and the journalists who report on it accurately — to Charles Manson, the Unabomber, and Osama Bin Laden.
The Guardian described this as “possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns.”
Of course, the Heartland Institute doesn’t quite see it that way. In its defense of the group’s propaganda, the Heartland Institute says it’s eager to convince people that “believing in global warming” is not “sophisticated,” and to do so, it’s noting that “murderers and madmen” agree with those who accept climate science.
Perhaps the group can use some of its remaining funds to buy a textbook on Logical Fallacies 101?
Andrew Sullivan added, “In some ways, this is an almost perfect illustration of what has happened to the ‘right.’ A refusal to acknowledge scientific reality; and a brutalist style of public propaganda that focuses entirely on guilt by the most extreme association.”
By” Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 4, 2012
Partisan politics aside, it’s disgraceful that we’ve empowered lawmakers to disenfranchise our fellow citizens.
Thanks to a sluggish economy, and restrictive voter identification laws from Republican lawmakers, voter registration is down for the first time in years. In particular, registration among African Americans and Latinos has taken a plunge:
Together, the number of registered blacks and Hispanics across the country declined by 2 million from 2008 to late 2010, when the Census Bureau collected the data through its Current Population Survey.
The figure among blacks is down 7 percent, to just over 16 million. Among whites, it dropped 6 percent to 104 million.
Among Latinos, the decline has altered a trend line of steady growth. Given that 12 million Latinos were registered to vote in 2008, some analysts had projected the number would grow to 13 million in 2010 and 14 million this election cycle. Instead, it fell in 2010 to 11 million.
I would hold off on declaring doom for President Obama’s reelection effort. The Obama campaign has spent millions of dollars on building field offices, registering voters, and navigating the new laws. My hunch is that, at the end of the day, these restrictions won’t have as much as affect as we think on the Obama campaign’s ability to mobilize minority voters.
Of course, the horse race is the least important aspect of this development; what should worry everyone is the degree to which the Republican Party has normalized the idea that there ought to be voter restrictions. Remember, voter fraud is virtually nonexistent; between 2002 and 2007, the Justice Department failed to prosecute a single person for impersonating another voter. But rather than confront the reality of voter security, proponents of voter ID push faulty analogies; we check ID for cigarettes and ‘R’-rated movies, why should we leave it at the door when for voting?
The easy (and correct) answer is that voting is a right of citizenship, and restrictions—even if they sound reasonable—do nothing but limit the voices that have input in our democracy. Indeed, as the Washington Post shows, the actual effect of voter ID laws is to make voting rights contingent on race and income. If you’re poor, a minority, or both, it is now harder for you to vote than if you were better off and white.
Americans love to call theirs the greatest democracy in the world, but as long as we actively work to disenfranchise our fellow citizens, there’s no way that we have a claim on “great,” much less good.
By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, May 4, 2012
As the media shine a spotlight on conservative efforts to disenfranchise Democratic voters through aggressive anti–voting fraud measures, conservatives have begun their counterattack. A pair of op-eds published by conservative activists and pundits in the wake of a national anti&endash;voter fraud conference in Houston demonstrates the approach they will take. They also provide a case study in disingenuous, tautological conservative argumentation. They use statistics that are misleading, irrelevant or evidence of nothing more than the success of their own propaganda.
Both pieces cite polling data showing majorities support requiring voters to show photo identification. “Rasmussen Reports showed that 73 percent of Americans approve of Photo ID laws—and in fact, states that have Photo ID in place are seeing increased turnout at the polls, including minority groups (according to data from Indiana and Georgia),” writes Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder and president of True the Vote, a conservative anti-voter fraud group in Houston which sponsored the recent conference.
John Fund of National Review cites the same source. “A brand-new Rasmussen Reports poll finds that 64 percent of Americans believe voter fraud is a serious problem, with whites registering 63 percent agreement and African-Americans 64 percent,” he writes. “A Fox News poll taken last month found that 70 percent of Americans support requiring voters to show ‘state or federally issued photo identification’ to prove their identity and citizenship before casting a ballot. Majorities of all demographic groups agreed on the need for photo ID, including 58 percent of non-white voters, 52 percent of liberals and 52 percent of Democrats.”
These are circular arguments. Rasmussen Reports and Fox News are both Republican-leaning. Conservatives love to cite poll numbers, especially from sympathetic pollsters, that the public agrees with a false claim as if that made it true. But it doesn’t. Rasmussen finds 73 percent think photo ID requirements “do not discriminate.” That’s up from 69 percent the previous time Rasmussen asked the question. Does that mean photo ID laws became 4 percent less discriminatory during the intervening five months?
Whether voter fraud is a regular occurrence, and whether photo ID laws discriminate by disproportionately disenfranchising minorities, city-dwellers, young people and the disabled are matters of fact, not opinion. They should be answered empirically, not by taking a poll. One needs to only look at the data to discover that in-person voter fraud is virtually nonexistent in the United States today. The Republican solution to this imaginary problem, photo identification requirements, is clearly discriminatory, because members of some demographic groups are much less likely to have IDs than others.
If polling shows that a majority of the public disagrees with these factual findings, that just proves they are ignorant or that they have been misled by conservative propaganda. And then conservatives turn around and cite the evidence of mass ignorance, or successful conservative propaganda, as proof that their false claims are true.
Even the majorities in favor of photo ID laws cited by Engelbrecht and Fund are not dispositive. Unlike incorrect beliefs about factual matters, popular opinion on what voting law should be does have some relevance. But unlike some other policy matters, voting rights law should not be decided solely on the basis of popular opinion. Voting rights are civil rights. And it is a fundamental American value that civil rights cannot always be legislated away. A majority’s desire to oppress or disenfranchise the minority must be constrained.
The remainder of Engelbrecht’s and Fund’s analysis are mere sophistry and speculation. That’s election law expert Rick Hasen awarded Fund’s piece the “Fraudulent Fraud Squad Quote of the Day” for the following contention: “Most fraudsters are smart enough to have their accomplices cast votes in the names of dead people on the voter rolls, who are highly unlikely to appear and complain that someone else voted in their place.”
Hasen responds, “I’d love to see the evidence of a single election in the last quarter of a century in which in person impersonation voter fraud using dead people affected the outcome of an election.” Opinion polls notwithstanding, photo ID laws remain a solution in search of a problem.
By: Ben Adler, The Nation, May 6, 2012
Confronted by record judicial vacancies and unprecedented Senate obstruction in filling our courtrooms, the White House Monday is convening a summit meeting of 150 advocates and community leaders from across the country — to demonstrate that the courts are crucial for our nation.
Regardless of where you live, or what issues you care about, all Americans deserve a judiciary that works.
Why Monday? A short-lived Senate deal to speed the pace of some judicial nominees expires that day. Yet right now, roughly 250 million Americans live in a community without enough judges on the bench. Much more needs to be done.
The White House summit reaffirms that progressives at all levels, and from all corners, are deeply committed to filling our nation’s courtrooms with qualified judges quickly — today and in coming months.
A record number of courtrooms are not functioning because there are not enough judges seated to do the work of the American people. This includes 19 empty federal bench seats in 16 states that could be filled today.
Our nation’s courts — where Americans vindicate their most cherished constitutional rights — are under siege by conservatives. As we have seen over the past few months, Senate Republicans have significantly stalled votes on qualified nominees — including ones with broad bipartisan support — just for the sake of obstruction. Many have later been approved by significant margins.
Conservatives have long made the courts a priority. When in power, they have actively worked to fill the bench with judges who share a conservative ideology — one increasingly out of the mainstream. So it should be no surprise that Senate Republicans are so adamant about blocking any progress on filling our nation’s courts today.
The third branch of government has for too long been neglected in politics — particularly by liberals. Yet it plays a defining role in the American story. And progressives have a huge stake in making sure our courtrooms have a full complement of judges familiar with our issues to make the tough calls.
Every issue progressives care about today ends up in court. From education and immigration to the right to work; from clean air, water and food, to the right of the laws of the land to apply equally to all Americans; from protecting the right of our elected representatives to writing laws that protect consumers and providing for our health.
Fortunately, progressives are rising to the challenge. We need judges confirmed now, to be sure. But what we really need — and what we are doing — is building a long-term foundation among the nation’s progressives, on all issues, to care about the courts. Because they matter for all that we stand for.
It’s a foundation motivated by basic values and interests, not just short-term political tactics. We are engaging new groups of progressives to integrate issues involving the courts into their daily work — in their local communities and online — for the long term.
If you care about your issue, you should care about the courts. Or else our hard-fought gains will be undone by an increasingly conservative judiciary.
We know this strategy works. Consider, in just a few days, a groundswell of support forced the Susan G. Komen Foundation to reverse a politically motivated decision to end its funding relationship with Planned Parenthood. Tens of thousands of progressives organized and made their voices heard — online, with small donations and in communities nationwide — and achieved results.
The same thing happened last fall when Bank of America backed down from imposing a monthly $5 debit card fee after an online change.org petition collected 300,000 signatures. This same energy essentially fuels the Occupy movement.
This is a strategy that works especially well for defending the foundational principles of our democracy that progressives care about — like fully functioning courts.
Voters organizing to make their voices heard is the only thing that can counter the power of money-driven advertising in politics. It’s the very essence of a system that works for all Americans — not just the wealthy few.
By: Andrew Blotky, Opinion Contributor, Politico, May 6, 2012
Arizona’s governor threw yet another political volley at Planned Parenthood Friday night, inking a law aimed at preventing thousands of women on state Medicaid rolls from accessing family-planning services—including breast exams and pap smears—from organizations that also offer abortions.
Jan Brewer signed HB 2800 into law at a gathering of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that claims on its website that its “grassroots activists” are “on the front lines in the battle to defund America’s abortion giant—Planned Parenthood.”
The bill drew swift reaction from former U.S. surgeon general Richard Carmona, Arizona’s Democratic candidate for senator. At an opening of his campaign office in Phoenix on Saturday, Carmona told The Daily Beast that “anything we do to diminish access of health care to women” is bad policy.
A longtime preventive-health-care advocate, Carmona said in a statement released today: “This is an example of how politics and overheated rhetoric get in the way of common sense. Planned Parenthood provides a vast array of women’s health care services, often reaching under-served communities where health and economic disparities make access to quality care difficult.”
Bryan Howard, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, struck a similar note, telling The Daily Beast that the intent of the law is to “score political points” and “demonize” Planned Parenthood to “appease certain segments of the voting public.”
The law will reduce Planned Parenthood’s clients by about 10 percent. About 4,000 women on Medicaid, out of a total of 40,000-45,000 patients overall, visit the organization’s 14 Arizona offices, Howard said.
But the law will likely also impact thousands more who may seek family-planning services from Planned Parenthood when the Affordable Health Care for America Act takes full effect in 2014.
As late as last month, Medicaid officials were still trying to figure out the economic ramifications of the bill, according to The Arizona Republic. Officials were not available for comment on Saturday.
In a statement released in the wake of the ceremonial bill signing, Brewer said: “This is a common-sense law that tightens existing state regulations and closes loopholes in order to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortions, whether directly or indirectly.”
Asked about the political strategy behind signing the bill alongside the Susan B. Anthony List, the governor’s spokesman, Matthew Benson, wrote in an email: “Susan B. Anthony List is one of the nation’s most prominent supporters of pro-life elected officials, and HB 2800 was a high priority of the group. It only made sense to sign the measure into law in front of this group and its members.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Susan B. Anthony List donates mostly to Republicans. It contributed $511,416 to Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign in 2012, and in 2010 donated about $23,000 to attempt to defeat congressional Democratic pro-choice candidates Gabrielle Giffords, Raul Grijalva, and Ann Kirkpatrick. (Kirkpatrick lost; the other two won their bids.)
Brewer held off signing the HB 2800 until Tea Party legislators passed one of her top priorities: a bill that would make it easier for her to fire and discipline state employees.
Planned Parenthood is considering a legal challenge as its next step. It’s not “acceptable,” Howard said, to have the state prohibit women from choosing where they want to get birth control.
By: Terry Greene Sterling, The Daily Beast, May 5, 2012