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Saturday, August 29, 2015

The NY Times’Dishonest (And Racially-Tinged) Attack on Clarence Thomas

The NY Times’Dishonest (And Racially-Tinged) Attack on Clarence Thomas

PicMonkey Collage - Clarence ThomasThe New York Times had quite the bombshell Friday with a piece alleging that conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has a habit of simply borrowing the language of briefs submitted to the Court, rather than coming up with his own ideas.

Here’s the lede paragraphs to the piece, written by Adam Liptak and entitled “Clarence Thomas, a Supreme Court Justice of Few Words, Some Not His Own.”

Justice Clarence Thomas has not asked a question from the Supreme Court bench since 2006. His majority opinions tend to be brisk, efficient and dutiful.

Now, studies using linguistic software have discovered another Thomas trait: Those opinions contain language from briefs submitted to the court at unusually high rates.

An embarrassing fact, if true. It makes Thomas seem less like a respected and objective purveyor of the law, and more like a mouthpiece parroting whoever he agrees with.

But only a few paragraphs later, Liptak gives a perfectly mundane reason why Thomas uses so much borrowed language: “…he is particularly apt to be assigned the inconsequential and technical majority opinions that the justices call dogs. They often involve routine cases involving taxes, bankruptcy, pensions and patents, in which shared wording, including quotations from statutes and earlier decisions, is particularly common.”

Liptak waits until all the way until the 15thparagraph to give the actual percentages of how often Thomas borrows language compared to his peers.

Over the years, the average rate of nearly identical language between a party’s brief and the majority opinion was 9.6 percent. Justice Thomas’s rate was 11.3 percent. Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s was 11 percent, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 10.5 percent. All three sometimes produce institutional prose.

So in other words, Thomas uses language from submitted briefs barely more often than his liberal peers, borrowing language from submitted briefs is extremely common, and Thomas has a perfectly reasonable explanation for why he uses borrowed language slightly more often. But instead of a generic take on how often the Supreme Court as an institutionrelies on briefs, the Times singled out Thomas and falsely said in its lede that he used borrowed language at “unusually high rates.”

I won’t dance around the issue; this was a partisan attack, plain and simple. There was no journalistic reason to single out Thomas, but plenty of ideological reasons to do so. So rather than write a wonky piece with a dispassionate headline, the Times and Liptak went for partisan clickbait, facts be damned.

Unfortunately, the Times attack plays into the longstanding and disgusting liberal meme that Justice Thomas is just some “puppet” of the other conservative justices (usually Antonin Scalia) and conservatives in general. It’s hard to ignore the underlying racial double standard; that the only black justice is the one who’s somehow incapable of independent thought, but not his white ideological allies on the Court.

Law blogger Adam White wrote a good overview last year of the extent to which mainstream publications have no problem regurgitating the odious implication:

The Washington Post’s Mary McGrory asserted in 1992: “Thomas has come on as Scalia’s puppet.” Linda Greenhouse, of the New York Times, was gentler, but no less prejudiced, when she called Scalia Thomas’s “apparent mentor.” Newsweek trafficked in outright conspiracy theory: “Not only is Scalia an aggressive and articulate proselytizer but one of his former law clerks now works for Thomas. The clerk, Newsweek has learned, exerts considerable influence over the rookie justice.” All told, the conventional wisdom was best reflected by an ACLU official, who complained that “Thomas and Scalia are one person with two votes.”

The reality is that virtually all unbiased court watchers recognize that Thomas has some of the most unusual, idiosyncratic, and unique opinions on the Court, and that half the other Justices are more likely to vote on ideological lines. Scalia and Thomas aren’t the justices most likely to vote the same way: that honor goes to liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena KaganNo less than the Huffington Postand ThinkProgress noted that the notion that Thomas is a puppet of Scalia is a “myth.”

But still, the notion persists that Thomas is a mute moron in the thrall of conservative justices, his (white) wife, and the Catholic Church. Again, it’s hard to separate these baseless allegations from the racist attacks that Thomas is an Uncle Tom and, to use George Takei‘s turn of phrase, “a clown in blackface.” It’s just sad to see America’s supposed “newspaper of record” participating in such tripe.

[Image via screengrab]
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House moving toward vote to defund Planned Parenthood

House moving toward vote to defund Planned Parenthood
By Sarah Ferris - 08-29-15 09:48 AM EDT

House Republican leaders are planning a vote to freeze funding for Planned Parenthood this fall, according to GOP aides, a move that could help mitigate an inter-party battle and avoid a government shutdown.

“We’re encouraged to know there will be a vote this fall, whether it’s our bill or something that is similar,” a spokesman for Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said Friday.

A bill to defund Planned Parenthood is expected to come up for a vote shortly after lawmakers return from recess, aides said. It would likely take the form of legislation from Black which would block federal funding to Planned Parenthood for one year, although leaders are still weighing their options.

“There’s a couple specific possibilities being discussed,” the spokesman said.

A vote to defund Planned Parenthood comes amid an intensifying debate among congressional Republicans who are split about the prospects of a government shutdown over the health provider.

At least 18 Republicans in the House, as well as a small coalition in the upper chamber led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), have said they will refuse to back a budget deal that includes federal dollars for Planned Parenthood.

But others, including Black and Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.), say a shutdown is not a solution.

“I’m not in the shutdown government camp. That is not the way to get to the bottom of this issue, by shutting down the government,” Black told Politico last week.

Black has argued that because Planned Parenthood’s largest revenue stream is Medicaid – which is mandatory spending – a defunding vote would not greatly restrict its budget.

“Those who believe [a shutdown] helps us defund Planned Parenthood misunderstand what the precedent is, and misunderstand what happens,” her spokesman added.

A vote to defund Planned Parenthood this fall would be a change in tune for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has previously said he wants to see the results of congressional investigations before calling a vote. Having evidence in hand against the organization, Boehner has said, would bolster the party’s case and potentially win over Democratic members as well.

Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith declined to comment, saying the fall schedule is not yet decided.

House leaders will likely make their Planned Parenthood strategy clear after their first post-recess conference meeting — a key opportunity for leadership to gauge the interest of rank-and-file members.

Lawmakers will have a jam-packed schedule when they return after Labor Day.

First on the agenda will likely be a measure to disapprove of the Iran deal, with the Senate expected to vote first. As they wait, House leaders could have time to call a vote on defunding Planned Parenthood.

While Boehner has made clear that he condemns Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue program — the target of a number of viral videos — and supports defunding the organization, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) has come out stronger in his push for legislation.

After the first two videos were released, McCarthy said he supported immediately voting to defund Planned Parenthood until the group can clear its name.

"Regardless of where anybody stands on the issue, knowing the doubt of what's going on here, is this a place where tax dollars should be spent? At the very least, there should be a moratorium until this investigation is done," he told reporters.

Black has kept in close touch with McCarthy, and said he promised a vote.

“Kevin McCarthy has told me that yes, he will bring up the legislation, but the sooner the better,” Black told former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on “One America News” this week. She did not say when the vote would come up.

Four congressional committees are currently investigating Planned Parenthood, which was hurled into the national spotlight after a series of secretly recorded videos that accused the group of illegally profiting from its fetal tissue donation program.

Anti-abortion activists have released eight videos against the group, including hidden camera footage from meetings with multiple Planned Parenthood administrators and partners. Planned Parenthood, as well as a team of hired experts, has said the footage was manipulated and that it proves no wrongdoing of the organization.

Boehner is treading carefully on Planned Parenthood and its fetal tissue controversy, which comes just months after weathering an earlier political storm on abortion where he was forced to cancel a vote on a late-term abortion ban because of inter-party strife.

The Senate voted last month on a measure to defund Planned Parenthood indefinitely, a bill drafted by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa.). The legislation fell short of the 60-vote majority.

Cristina Marcos contributed.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Jeb Bush’s foot-in-mouth

Jeb Bush’s foot-in-mouth 

Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
By Dana Milbank

August 28 at 10:17 AM ET

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.
Jeb Bush has been stumping his way across the country, explaining what he would do as president. But nobody seems to understand what the heck he’s talking about.
In July, he said that “people need to work longer hours” as part of an economic recovery. Then he said his remarks had been misinterpreted.
A couple of weeks later he said “we need to figure out a way to phase out” Medicare. Then he complained that critics were taking his remarks out of context.
A week or so after that, he proclaimed that “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” Then he said he misspoke.

Democrats are slamming Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush after his remarks at a Southern Baptist conference, vowing to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood if elected.
That controversy hadn’t died down when he started another by using the term “anchor babies” to describe the children of immigrants — and before long he was complaining that people were misconstruing these remarks, too.
Add to this the four different answers he struggled to give during a single week this spring about whether he would have invaded Iraq, and it’s quite possible that no other person who aspires to occupy the bully pulpit has himself been bullied quite so much by the English language.
Bush comes by this naturally — congenitally, even. His brother, of course, was one of the world’s great malapropism artists during his eight years in office: “Is our children learning? . . . I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family . . . Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream . . . Make the pie higher . . . Too many OB/GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across the country.”
A writer once suggested Bush’s condition was a medical one, to which he replied: “That woman who knew I had dyslexia — I never interviewed her.”
George H.W. Bush, though more in command of his syntax, had an ear for the awkward phrase, as in: “We’re enjoying sluggish times, and not enjoying them very much.” Or: “It’s no exaggeration to say the undecideds could go one way or another.” Or: “For seven and a half years I’ve worked alongside President Reagan. We’ve had triumphs. Made some mistakes. We’ve had some sex — uh, setbacks.”
Jeb Bush established his inheritance of the family trait this year with his kick-off foreign policy speech. He confused Iraq with Iran, said the Islamic State had 200,000 fighters instead of 20,000 and referred to the Islamic State leader as “the guy that’s the supreme leader, whatever his new title is, head of the caliphate.” He said immigration should be “a catalytic converter for sustained economic growth.”
But Jeb Bush’s slips tend to be different from those of his kin. His are more Freudian, involving accidental truths.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) took heat for a series of answers he gave on whether he would have authorized the war in Iraq.
During his first run for Florida governor, in 1994, Bush was asked what he would do for the African American community other than welfare. “Probably nothing,” he said. He recently said that the answer, part of a longer answer about the need for “equality of opportunity,” was “taken out of context.” During that same campaign, he said welfare recipients “should be able to get their life together and find a husband, find a job, find other alternatives in terms of private charity or a combination of all three.” When his primary opponent pounced, Bush said it was “totally out of context.”
But Bush’s context, alas, is often difficult to contextualize. Consider his attempts in May to say whether he would have invaded Iraq, knowing what we know now about Saddam Hussein’s lack of weapons of mass destruction. First it was “I would have,” followed by “I don’t know.” Next, he said the hypothetical question is “a disservice for a lot of people that sacrificed.” Finally, he answered the question: “I would not have gone into Iraq.”
Bush had a reasonable claim that his “longer hours” comment was misinterpreted. He was attempting to say that incomes would be higher if more people could find full-time rather than part-time work.
But it’s dubious for him to claim that his remark about phasing out Medicare was misconstrued. He said it at a town-hall meeting in New Hampshire as part of a call for entitlement reform: “We need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something — because they’re not going to have anything.”
Likewise, it’s difficult to see much to “out of context” claims by Bush and his campaign after his use of the controversial phrase “anchor babies” and his remarks about funding women’s health care.
The context, in general, is plain: When Jeb Bush opens his mouth, danger occurs.
 Twitter: @Milbank 
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Iran renews full funding of Islamic Jihad terrorists

Iran renews full funding of Islamic Jihad terrorists

TEL AVIV – After months of financial hardship, the coffers of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization are set to overflow with Iranian financing as Tehran officially reconciles with Islamic Jihad leadership, Middle Eastern defense officials told WND.

Egypt is aware of Islamic Jihad members who traveled via the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai and from there to Tehran to facilitate the renewal of Iranian funding of Islamic Jihad, a separate Egyptian security source said.

With Islamic Jihad long refusing to aid the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a key regional ally for Iran, Tehran, until the past two weeks, held back financing for most of the terrorist organization’s projects.

Islamic Jihad became so cash-strapped that even its propaganda television network needed to lay off most of its correspondents and producers. Fighters went months with depleted salaries.

“The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East” sets the record straight about the history and politics of this crucial region of the world.

Iran also may have deliberately held back financing of Islamic Jihad because of the intense nuclear negotiations that ended in an agreement last month, the defense officials said.

All that is set to change as Iran has now pledged to renew full sponsorship of Islamic Jihad, the officials said.

The information comes amid a report in Iran’s Fars news agency quoting Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham expressing support for Palestinian “resistance” groups, especially Hamas.

“Iran’s support for all resistance groups continues similar to the past,” Afkham stated in response to a question about whether Tehran’s policy on supporting Hamas had changed.

However, Middle Eastern defense officials here say Iran is not financing Hamas’s political leadership, which instead has drawn closer to Iran’s foe, Saudi Arabia.

Some Iranian financing is being funneled to rival members of Hamas’s so-called military wing as part of an Iranian campaign to destabilize Hamas’s political leadership, which has been engaged in long-term truce talks with Israel, the defense officials said.

The renewed Iranian funding for Islamic Jihad is already paying off.

On Wednesday, a rocket attributed to Islamic Jihad was fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. The rocket landed in the Eshkol Regional Council, with no injuries reported.

The Israel Defense Force on Tuesday announced that four Palestinian members of an Islamic Jihad terror cell had been arrested for plotting to attack Jewish worshipers visiting Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus, considered the third holiest site in Judaism.

The arrests represent the latest alleged Iranian escalation since the signing last month of the nuclear agreement.

Last week, Islamic Jihad fired four rockets from Syria into Israel. Defense officials here corroborated the Times of Israel report last week quoting a senior Israeli security official saying Saeed Izadi, head of the Palestinian Division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s al-Quds Force, planned the rocket attack.

Two of the rockets hit open areas on the Golan Heights while two others landed further inside Israel, striking open areas in the Upper Galilee region. All four rockets were fired from the Syrian sections of the Golan Heights, according to the Israel Defense Force.

In one of the heaviest Israeli bombardments against the Syrian regime in years, the IDF returned artillery fire at 14 Syrian military targets in Syria following the rocket attack.

Last Friday, the Israel Air Force further struck an Islamic Jihad convoy on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

Even though the latest round of fighting was started by Islamic Jihad and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard force, Hezbollah on Sunday increased its alert level to the highest, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai reported Saturday. The report said Hezbollah feared “attempts by Israel to drag Lebanon and Syria into an escalation of a state less than war but more than an operation.”

Hezbollah members were quoted by the newspaper claiming Netanyahu’s government believes that after the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, Israel’s “situation is critical and will soon be tested” with an Israeli escalation.

America Is So in Play

America Is So in Play

Donald Trump’s staying power in the polls reflects a change in the electorate only now coming into focus.

So, more thoughts on Donald Trump’s candidacy, because I can’t stop being fascinated. 

You know the latest numbers. Quinnipiac University’s poll this week has Mr. Trump at a hefty 28% nationally, up from 20% in July. Public Policy Polling has Mr. Trump leading all Republicans in New Hampshire with 35%. A Monmouth University poll has him at 30% in South Carolina, followed 15 points later by Ben Carson.

Here are some things I think are happening.


One is the deepening estrangement between the elites and the non-elites in America. This is the area in which Trumpism flourishes. We’ll talk about that deeper in.

Second, Mr. Trump’s support is not limited to Republicans, not by any means. 

Third, the traditional mediating or guiding institutions within the Republican universe—its establishment, respected voices in conservative media, sober-minded state party officials—have little to no impact on Mr. Trump’s rise. Some say voices of authority should stand up to oppose him, which will lower his standing. But Republican powers don’t have that kind of juice anymore. Mr. Trump’s supporters aren’t just bucking a party, they’re bucking everything around, within and connected to it. 

Since Mr. Trump announced, I’ve worked or traveled in, among other places, Southern California, Connecticut, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey and New York’s Long Island. In all places I just talked to people. My biggest sense is that political professionals are going to have to rethink “the base,” reimagine it when they see it in their minds. 

I’ve written before about an acquaintance—late 60s, northern Georgia, lives on Social Security, voted Obama in ’08, not partisan, watches Fox News, hates Wall Street and “the GOP establishment.” She continues to be so ardent for Mr. Trump that she not only watched his speech in Mobile, Ala., on live TV, she watched while excitedly texting with family members—middle-class, white, independent-minded—who were in the audience cheering. Is that “the Republican base”? I guess maybe it is, because she texted me Wednesday, saying: “I registered to vote today! I am a Republican now!!!” I asked if she’d ever been one before. Reply: “No, never!!!”

Something is going on, some tectonic plates are moving in interesting ways. My friend Cesar works the deli counter at my neighborhood grocery store. He is Dominican, an immigrant, early 50s, and listens most mornings to a local Hispanic radio station, La Mega, on 97.9 FM. Their morning show is the popular “El Vacilón de la Mañana,” and after the first GOP debate, Cesar told me, they opened the lines to call-ins, asking listeners (mostly Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican) for their impressions. More than half called in to say they were for Mr. Trump. Their praise, Cesar told me a few weeks ago, dumbfounded the hosts. I later spoke to one of them, who identified himself as D.J. New Era. He backed Cesar’s story. “We were very surprised,” at the Trump support, he said. Why? “It’s a Latin-based market!” 

“He’s the man,” Cesar said of Mr. Trump. This week I went by and Cesar told me that after Mr. Trump threw Univision’s well-known anchor and immigration activist, Jorge Ramos,out of an Iowa news conference on Tuesday evening, the “El Vacilón” hosts again threw open the phone lines the following morning and were again surprised that the majority of callers backed not Mr. Ramos but Mr. Trump. Cesar, who I should probably note sees me, I sense, as a very nice establishment person who needs to get with the new reality, was delighted.

I said: Cesar, you’re supposed to be offended by Trump, he said Mexico is sending over criminals, he has been unfriendly, you’re an immigrant. Cesar shook his head: No, you have it wrong. Immigrants, he said, don’t like illegal immigration, and they’re with Mr. Trump on anchor babies. “They are coming in from other countries to give birth to take advantage of the system. We are saying that! When you come to this country, you pledge loyalty to the country that opened the doors to help you.” 

He added, “We don’t bloc vote anymore.” The idea of a “Latin vote” is “disparate,” which he said generally translates as nonsense, but which he means as “bull----.” 

He finished, on the subject of Jorge Ramos: “The elite have different notions from the grass-roots working people.”

OK. Old style: Jorge Ramos speaks for Hispanic America. New style: Jorge Ramos speaks for Jorge Ramos. Old style: If I’ve lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America. New style: How touching that an American president once thought if you lost a newsman you’d lost a country. 

It is noted that a poll this week said Hispanics are very much not for Donald Trump. Gallup had 65% with an unfavorable view of him, and only 14% favorable. Mr. Trump and Mr. Ramos actually got into that, when Mr. Ramos finally questioned him after being allowed back into the news conference. Mr. Trump countered with a recent Nevada poll that has him with a state lead of 28%—and he scored even higher with Nevada’s Hispanics, who gave him 31% support.

I will throw in here that almost wherever I’ve been this summer, I kept meeting immigrants who are or have grown conservative—more men than women, but women too. 

America is so in play.

And: “the base” isn’t the limited, clichéd thing it once was, it’s becoming a big, broad jumble that few understand.


On the subject of elites, I spoke to Scott Miller, co-founder of the Sawyer Miller political-consulting firm, who is now a corporate consultant. He worked on the Ross Perot campaign in 1992 and knows something about outside challenges. He views the key political fact of our time as this: “Over 80% of the American people, across the board, believe an elite group of political incumbents, plus big business, big media, big banks, big unions and big special interests—the whole Washington political class—have rigged the system for the wealthy and connected.” It is “a remarkable moment,” he said. More than half of the American people believe “something has changed, our democracy is not like it used to be, people feel they no longer have a voice.” 

Mr. Miller added: “People who work for a living are thinking this thing is broken, and that economic inequality is the result of the elite rigging the system for themselves. We’re seeing something big.” 

Support for Mr. Trump is not, he said, limited to the GOP base: “The molecules are in motion.” I asked what he meant. He said bars of support are not solid, things are in motion as molecules are “before combustion, or before a branch breaks.”

I end with this. An odd thing, in my observation, is that deep down the elite themselves also think the game is rigged. They don’t disagree, and they don’t like what they see—corruption, shallowness and selfishness in the systems all around them. Their odd anguish is that they have no faith the American people can—or will—do anything to turn it around. They see the American voter as distracted, poorly educated, subject to emotional and personality-driven political adventures. They sometimes refer to “Jaywalking,” the old Jay Leno“Tonight Show” staple in which he walked outside the studio and asked the man on the street about history. What caused the American Civil War? Um, Hitler? When did it take place, roughly? Uh, 1958?

Both sides, the elites and the non-elites, sense that things are stuck.

The people hate the elites, which is not new, and very American. The elites have no faith in the people, which, actually, is new. Everything is stasis. Then Donald Trump comes, like a rock thrown through a showroom window, and the molecules start to move. 

Corrections & Amplifications

Georgia voters are not required to register by party affiliation. An earlier version mischaracterized one of the texts from the woman in Georgia.

Donald Trump and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos face off in Dubuque, Iowa, Aug. 25.ENLARGE
Donald Trump and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos face off in Dubuque, Iowa, Aug. 25.PHOTO: CHARLIE NEIBERGALL/ASSOCIATED PRESS