Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pat Robertson: “God Even Angrier with Chile than Haiti"

FEBRUARY 27, 2010

Citing what he described as the “the persecution of a great hero who rid their land of Godless communists” as a possible cause, prominent TV evangelist and amateur seismologist Pat Robertson today argued that the 8.8 magnitude of the earthquake that struck Chile early this morning should serve as a warning to the population that “God is even angrier with them than he is with the people of Haiti.”

“If I had to guess, I’d say it must have to do with Chile’s persecution and attempted prosecution of their great former leader, and a personal hero of mine, Augusto Pinochet – who, it should be noted, had never been convicted of a crime when the Lord called him home three years ago.” The popular host of ‘The 700 Club’ and longtime bingo circuit icon also added, “General Pinochet not only assisted the CIA in the overthrow of Chile’s Marxist government, but is widely credited with personally arranging the meetings of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of his countrymen with Jesus.”

General Pinochet, who spent the last eight years of his life fighting prosecution on human rights and other charges before succumbing to congestive heart failure in December 2006, could not be reached for comment, even by Robertson. The General–turned-Dictator has long been considered a transformative figure in the field of Crimes Against Humanity as a result of his landmark policy of ‘Forced Disappearance’, and was even honored in 1998 with the first-ever arrest warrant for a former head of state under the principle of ‘universal jurisdiction’ by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, who is currently investigating former Bush Administration officials for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.

For his part, Robertson, who reportedly lobbied then-President George W. Bush on behalf of former Liberian Dictator and accused Human Rights criminal Charles Taylor in exchange for lucrative gold mining contracts, says that he is “praying that the people of Chile will heed this warning, and never again blaspheme against God and international free-market commerce by nationalizing their most precious natural resources.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Media Matters Daily Summary 02-25-10

An O'Reilly Factor hat trick: Rove, Morris, and Schoen repeat falsehoods on the eve of health care summit
On the night before the bipartisan health care summit, Bill O'Reilly hosted Fox News contributors Karl Rove, Dick Morris, and Doug Schoen, all of whom repeated various falsehoods about health care reform. Read More

Quick Fact: Fox & Friends seizes on Breitbart-pushed video to falsely accuse Dems of hypocrisy on "nuclear option"
Fox & Friends advanced the falsehood that the reconciliation process is the same as the "nuclear option" in order to accuse Democrats of hypocrisy for now considering using reconciliation to pass health care reform when they once criticized the "nuclear option." In fact, Democrats were criticizing a 2005 Republican proposal to change Senate rules regarding the ability to filibuster judicial nominees; it was unrelated to reconciliation, which is a procedure that is part of the Senate rules. Read More

Gingrich falsely claims that health care reform legislation would add "big deficits"
On the February 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich falsely claimed that "all" Democrats' health care proposals "require...higher deficits" and would add "big deficits." In fact, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, both the House and Senate versions of health care reform legislation reduce the federal deficit. Read More

Quick Fact: Kilmeade cites Rove to falsely claim that Obama's budget "tripled the deficit"
On the February 25 edition of Fox News' Fox and Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade cited Fox News contributor Karl Rove to claim that Obama "in the past has said things that have proven blatantly untrue" like, "for example," that "his budget wouldn't triple the deficit, and it has." In fact, only a small portion of the fiscal year 2009 deficit is due to Obama's policies. Read More

Fox News continues to attempt to redefine "nuclear option"
In its latest attempt to redefine the meaning of the term "nuclear option," Fox News has seized on a Breitbart-promoted video to falsely accuse Democrats of hypocrisy for considering using the reconciliation process to pass health care reform, when they had previously opposed the "nuclear option." But, in fact, the nuclear option referred to a Republican proposal to change Senate filibuster rules on judicial nominees and was not related to reconciliation. Read More

Fox News' double standard on who can question the CIA
In May 2009, several Fox News hosts repeatedly attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's statement that the CIA misled Congress on the use of enhanced interrogation tactics. But after Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) recently claimed the CIA's newly released account of a 2003 briefing on interrogation videos is not true, these Fox News hosts ignored the conflict. Read More

Fox News personalities accuse DOJ of sympathizing with terrorists
Numerous Fox News personalities have accused the Department of Justice (DOJ) of sympathizing with terrorists, citing reports that nine DOJ attorneys had previously represented or advocated for terrorism suspects in their private practices. Monica Crowley and Steve Doocy accused the lawyers of being "terrorist sympathizers" and being "sympathetic" to terrorists, respectively, and Michelle Malkin asked whether the DOJ has "jihadis' best interests at heart." Read More

'Ram it through': Media adopt GOP characterization of majority vote
In the past week, media figures have routinely referred to a potential effort to pass a health care reform bill with a majority vote as an effort to "ram," "jam," or "cram" a bill through Congress, a characterization pushed by Republican politicians. The reconciliation process, which enables the Senate to pass legislation with 51 votes, has been used repeatedly by Republicans, including to pass major changes to health care laws.
Read More

Right-wing media falsely claim that health care reform will increase premiums
Right-wing media are using an exchange between President Obama and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to falsely claim that the Senate health care bill would cause individual health insurance premiums to increase. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Senate's version of health care reform would result in lower premiums for most individual enrollees. Read More

A newspaper worth paying for?
In a January 2009 essay about efforts to convince readers to pay for online news articles, The New York Times' David Carr noted one publication that has enjoyed rapid growth in its online paid subscriber base: Cook's Illustrated. According to Carr, "[T]he company has 260,000 digital subscribers at a cost of $35 a year, and that group grew by 30 percent in 2008." A few months later, The Boston Globe reported that the magazine's print subscriber renewal rates "are about 78 percent. ... Most magazines would kill to have renewal rates near 60 percent; the average across all consumer magazines is between 35 and 40 percent." Read More

Quick Fact: Special Report again advances myth that DADT repeal could hurt military readiness
For the second time in a week, Fox News' Special Report uncritically reported Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey's advancement of the myth that repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell policy" could adversely affect "readiness and military effectiveness," ignoring other nations that have allowed gay men and lesbians to serve openly have not suffered such adverse effects. Read More

Garrett presents Obama's rebuttal of GOP health care falsehoods as he-said/he-said
Fox News' Major Garrett presented President Obama disagreeing with Sen. Lamar Alexander's falsehood that under the Senate health care bill "premiums go up because of the government mandate" and Rep. Paul Ryan's falsehood that the Senate bill "does not ... reduce the deficit" as a he-said, he-said debate. But the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) supports Obama on both points. Read More

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feeling the Hate at CPAC 2010 With Andrew Breitbart, Hannah Giles and the Crazy Mob

Max Blumenthal

While I was filming at CPAC for a forthcoming project, I was confronted by Hannah Giles, Andrew Breitbart and a mob of crazed teabaggers. They were enraged by an article I wrote for about James O'Keefe's attendance of and assistance with a white nationalist event featuring open racialists Jared Taylor and John Derbyshire as well as Kevin Martin of the right-wing front group Project 21. Project 21, by the way, is a black front group created and operated by white conservative operatives to provide cover to figures like Taylor.

Did O'Keefe plan the event with his friend, the white nationalist Marcus Epstein, the Tancredo aide who pled guilty to randomly attacking a black woman and calling her the n-word? O'Keefe's role in helping out with and freely attending the event, along with his palling around with characters like Epstein and Taylor highlighted a career filled with racist pranks, from his ACORN pimp costume minstrel show (see Bradblog on the deceptive means Breitbart used to push the pimp costume myth) to his "affirmative action bake sale," in which he and his friends charged white students extra for baked goods while minorities ate for little or nothing. Then there are his diaries about the hell of living in a multicultural university environment. James O'Keefe, the apparent hero of the conservative movement's youth wing, is what racism looks like today.

The only time Breitbart and his goon squad get upset about racism is when they think it is somehow being directed against white people like themselves. That's why a particularly manic mob member (who wouldn't stop using the pretentious word "rubric") seemed to argue to me against the existence of the Congressional Black Caucus because it would not allow a hostile conservative congressman to join. And it's why when CPAC chose as its keynote speaker the race-baiter Glenn Beck, who claimed Obama has "a deep-seated hatred for white people."

It is also worth noting that CPAC played host to Thomas Woods, a former leader of the white supremacist League of the South and contributor to the neo-secessionist Southern Partisan magazine. And that CPAC held a seminar called "Abraham Lincoln: Friend or Foe of Liberty?" led by Thomas DiLorenzo, another League of the South figure who insists Lincoln was the very embodiment of evil. The presence at CPAC of Islamophobes Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller (Geller once argued Obama was "involved with a crack whore in his youth"), promoters of the European neo-fascist Geert Wilders, can not be overlooked either. And stay tuned for my interview with Birther leader Philip Berg, who insisted Obama was actually an Indonesian Muslim who should be tried for treason and possibly executed. These people must have left their sheets at the dry cleaners......................

GOPers Who Voted To Block Jobs Bill Now Vote For It


On Monday, the Senate voted for cloture on the Democratic jobs bill, 62-30. Today, they passed the bill itself in a vote of 70-28.

That means eight senators who voted against cloture (or were absent, which in a cloture vote is the same as a no vote) vote for the bill itself. All of them are Republicans.

The switchers who voted no on cloture but yes today:

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
James Inhofe (R-OK)
George LeMieux (R-FL)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)

And those who were absent Monday but voted yes today:

Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Richard Burr (R-NC)

Correction: This post originally mis-identified one of the senators who was absent Monday but voted yes today.

Stimulus Hypocrite Gov. Bob McDonnell Now Wants The Federal Government To Give Virginia More Money


During his gubernatorial campaign, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) repeatedly criticized the Recovery Act, saying that although it was “massive,” he didn’t think it would “have a stimulus effect.” From the Virginian-Pilot in 2009:

Republican Bob McDonnell is the lone critic [of the stimulus], saying “This bill contains significant categories of spending that may do little to help the economy.

McDonnell has praised GOP congressional members who voted against the plan, saying the increased debt “is not going to be good long-term for America,” but he says he believes Virginia should collect its share of the stimulus anyway.

However, now that he’s in office and facing real budget challenges, he’s singing a different tune. On Monday, McDonnell proudly “announced that Virginia will receive a total of $24 million in federal funding to advance health information technology” — money made possible by the stimulus, which McDonnell conveniently failed to mention. McDonnell’s spokesman insisted that the previous governor, Democrat Tim Kaine, applied for the funds, but that didn’t stop McDonnell from touting them.

Yesterday, McDonnell went even further and asked for more stimulus dollars:

McDonnell said he would “support Congress extending the federal stimulus bill to help states cover rising health care costs, a potential infusion of funds that Virginia lawmakers hope will help close a more than $4 billion budget shortfall.” He added that because Medicaid costs have “just grown so fast, until we have some federal health care reform that really addresses cost, if the federal government is willing to help us for a short period of time, that would be fine.”

– In a meeting at the U.S. Capitol, McDonnell urged the state’s congressional delegation to “help him secure stimulus funds to help build a Rolls Royce manufacturing plant in Prince George County.”

Apparently, McDonnell has concluded that the stimulus is now able “to help the economy.”

Read ThinkProgress’ report on the GOP’s stimulus hypocrisy here.


There's a huge Virtual March happening today to make sure Congress passes real health care reform. I joined, and told my senators it's time to get health care reform done.

The goal is to generate a million messages to Congress TODAY - and we need your help to get there.

Will you join me and sign up for the Virtual March? Just click here:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

John McCain rewrites history, blames Bush for suspending his campaign after he criticizes Obama for blaming Bush


John McCain is fighting for his political life as tea-bagging wingnut blowhard J.D. Hayworth is giving him a run for his money for his Senate seat. And as we've seen with all Republicans, hypocrisy is one of their favorite tools in trying to obstruct, deflect and then take credit for anything.

Now, here's what John McCain said about President Obama's SOTU speech, responding to the fact that George Bush left this country in deep and dark hole in January of 2010.

McCain: ..but it seems to me he quickly lapsed into the BIOB, that's Blame It On Bush routine, that's growing a little tiresome...

BIOB. John McCain is thinking like me, only in reverse. My thing is trying to tell people "Don't Get Fooled Again" about conservatism. But you know, now McCain is lying his butt off to try and salvage his political career. McCain is actually blaming Bush and Paulson for suspending his campaign when the bailout mess first was revealed to the public during the general election, which dealt a serious blow to his presidential run.

AZ Central:

Under growing pressure from conservatives and "tea party" activists, Sen. John McCain of Arizona is having to defend his record of supporting the government's massive bailout of the financial system.
In response to criticism from opponents seeking to defeat him in the Aug. 24 Republican primary, the four-term senator says he was misled by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. McCain said the pair assured him that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program would focus on what was seen as the cause of the financial crisis, the housing meltdown.

McCain wasn't satisfied with attacking Paulson, he also lied and said that he was called into Washington by Bush himself!

In his new book "On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System," Paulson belittles McCain's contribution to the response, noting that "when it came right down to it, (McCain) had little to say in the forum he himself had called." He also called McCain's decision to return to Washington, apparently without a plan, "impulsive and risky" and even "dangerous."

McCain said Bush called him in off the campaign trail, saying a worldwide economic catastrophe was imminent and that he needed his help. "I don't know of any American, when the president of the United States calls you and tells you something like that, who wouldn't respond," McCain said. "And I came back and tried to sit down and work with Republicans and say, 'What can we do?' "..............................................

Media Matters Daily Summary 02-23-10

Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity all ignore Zazi plea deal
On February 22, the hosts of Fox News' three top-rated programs -- Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity -- did not mention the guilty plea on terrorism charges in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn by Najibullah Zazi, who was at the center of an alleged plot to bomb the New York subway system. Beck, O'Reilly, and Hannity have all previously criticized President Obama's desire to prosecute suspected terrorists in the U.S. legal system rather than in military tribunals. Read More

Drudge, CNS News falsely suggest Obama health care proposal would go beyond Hyde to fund abortions
A February 22 CNS News article, to which the Drudge Report linked, claimed that "Obama's 'new' health care plan would use tax dollars to pay for abortions," falsely suggesting that President Obama's plan, which adopts the Senate bill's abortion language, exceeded the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of federal funds for abortions except in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest. Read More

Washington Examiner falsely claims Obama health care bill "includes a sweetheart deal to protect unions' expensive health care plans from taxation"
A February 23 Washington Examiner editorial falsely claimed that President Obama's health care proposal "includes a sweetheart deal to protect unions' expensive health care plans from taxation imposed on nonunion health plans." In fact, the Obama plan delays the excise tax on high-cost insurance plans for all high-cost health care plans, not just union plans. Read More

Will Breitbart, O'Keefe, and Giles come clean about the ACORN pimp hoax?
Last September 12, when the story of undercover ACORN surveillance videos was just breaking, conservative activist Hannah Giles, who starred in the clips as a wannabe prostitute, appeared on Fox News. Host Greg Gutfeld was positively giddy during his Giles interview, as he mocked the ACORN employees who were caught on tape giving Giles and her undercover partner, James O'Keefe, all kinds of misguided advice on how a prostitute could avoid paying taxes on her late-night income. Read More

Right-wing media mock Reid for linking unemployment to rise in domestic abuse
Right-wing media figures have seized on comments Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made linking unemployment to a rise in domestic violence by suggesting that if he loses his re-election bid, then Reid, whose mother was a victim of domestic abuse, will subsequently become abusive toward his wife. Moreover, on Fox & Friends, Laura Ingraham dismissed a 2004 study, which found that "the rate of violence increases as the number of periods of male unemployment increases," to claim that Reid's comments were "lunacy" and "stigmatize the unemployed"; in addition to the 2004 study from which Reid was apparently citing, several other studies and experts indicate that there is a link between abuse and unemployment. Read More

Fox & Friends misrepresents CIA documents to claim they contradict Pelosi on interrogation briefings
During the February 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Alisyn Camerota falsely claimed that newly released CIA documents show House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was briefed "about Abu Zubaydah and waterboarding" on April 24, 2002, and suggested the documents contradict Pelosi's previous statement that she was not told by the CIA in 2002 that waterboarding had been used on Abu Zubaydah. But contrary to Fox & Friends' claims, the documents state only that Pelosi was briefed about "[o]ngoing interrogations of Abu Zubaydah" on April 24, 2002, not about "waterboarding" or enhanced interrogation techniques, which were first used in August 2002, according to the CIA. Read More

Wash. Post's Thiessen justifies waterboarding with yet another falsehood
In his new book, Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen justifies waterboarding by falsely claiming that the CIA adhered to limits on the technique described in a 2002 Department of Justice memorandum. In fact, the CIA inspector general found that one of the "interrogators/psychologists" acknowledged that in order to make the interrogation "more poignant," CIA interrogators at one location did not abide by the memo's limits. Read More

Special Report pushes debunked claim that DADT repeal would "adversely impact" troop readiness
Bret Baier uncritically reported that Gen. George Casey stated that repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy "might ... adversely affect readiness." This claim is refuted by the experiences of several other countries that lifted their bans on gays and lesbians serving but saw no adverse effects on their troops; moreover, Baier did not note that numerous defense experts have called for DADT's repeal. Read More

Court documents reveal Palin’s grandson uses socialized medicine


For someone who once generated a national hysteria by claiming socialized medicine would bring about government-run "death panels" that would kill the elderly and children with mental defects, Sarah Palin seems remarkably calm, what with her grandson now facing the very same allegedly tyrannical construct, that is.

Yes, that's right: Sarah Palin, Alaska's former governor and a millionaire thanks to sales of her book, has a grandson whose health care is paid for by the federal government, according to newly released court documents.

The revelation was made in court documents filed Feb. 16, relating to the child support battle between Bristol Palin and Levi Jonson, available here [PDF link] courtesy of E! Online.

"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care," Palin wrote on her Facebook page in mid-August. "Such a system is downright evil."...................

Monday, February 22, 2010

Media Matters Daily Summary 02-22-10

NY Post distorts facts to claim climate change science is "unraveling"
A New York Post editorial baselessly asserted that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) "bogus" statement about the date by which Himalayan glaciers will likely disappear was a "key finding" in order to claim that climate change science is "unraveling." In fact, scientists have noted that the IPCC report's claim should not be described as a central finding because it was not included in the IPCC's larger summaries; moreover, the editorial distorted several of climate scientist Phil Jones' statements on warming trends to suggest that they undermine the consensus that human activities are contributing to higher global temperatures. Read More

WSJ column falsely claims Phil Jones "said there was more warming in the medieval period"
L. Gordon Crovitz falsely claimed in a Wall Street Journal column that Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, told BBC that "there was more warming in the medieval period, before today's allegedly man-made effects," when in fact Jones said the available data does not establish this claim. Moreover, Crovitz falsely claimed that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "has backed away from" its 2007 statement that up to 40 percent of the Amazonian rainforests are highly sensitive to reductions in rainfall; in fact, IPCC stands by the statement, which is supported by peer-reviewed science despite the incomplete citation in the IPCC report. Read More

Quick Fact: Fox again falsely claims majority vote in Senate is "nuclear option"
A February 22 Fox Nation headline incorrectly referred to the process of reconciliation as the "nuclear option." In fact, "nuclear option" is a term coined by former Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) to refer to a procedure that would be used to change Senate rules; reconciliation requires no rule changes and was used repeatedly by Republicans during the Bush administration. Read More

Perino claims the public "rejected" the public option; polling shows otherwise
On Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Dana Perino claimed that "the public itself rejected resoundedly [sic]" the inclusion of a public health insurance option in health care reform efforts. In fact, numerous polls taken in 2010 have found that a majority or plurality support the creation of a public option. Read More

Wash. Post still publishing George Will's climate misinformation
In his Washington Post column, George Will -- who has been widely criticized for making inaccurate statements about climate change -- distorted comments made by climate scientist Phil Jones in order to suggest that human-caused warming is not occurring. In fact, Jones said that he is "100% confident that the climate has warmed" and added that "there's evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity." Read More

Wash. Post's Thiessen justifies CIA interrogation tactics with falsehood
In his new book, recently-hired Washington Post columnist Marc A. Thiessen justifies the CIA's interrogation techniques by falsely claiming: "In the eight years since the CIA began interrogating captured terrorists, al Qaeda has not succeeded in launching one single attack on the homeland or American interests abroad." In fact, Al Qaeda has repeatedly attacked U.S. interests abroad, including a U.S. consulate, a U.S. embassy, and a Marriot hotel. Read More

Beck falsely claims Obama health care proposal puts "everything you do ... into a computer database for the federal government"
Glenn Beck claimed on his radio show that President Obama's health care reform proposal "order[s] a comprehensive database on health claims, so everything that you do is going into a computer database for the federal government." In fact, nothing in the proposal supports the outlandish claim that it would result in the tracking of "everything you do"; the "database" it describes -- originally included in a Republican proposal -- would contain records related to sanctions on Medicare and Medicaid providers. Read More

Huckabee notes "vile and hateful" attacks on Michelle Obama from "the blogs" -- what about from Fox?
While interviewing Michelle Obama on his Fox News program, Mike Huckabee noted that "[t]here have been so many vile and hateful things said about your husband, said about you," citing "our political climate today and the blogs where people can" launch attacks "anonymously." However, many of the attacks against Michelle Obama, and her husband, haven't just come from "blogs" -- they've been pushed by Fox News personalities, who have characterized the First Lady as "bitter," "angry," "socialist," and unpatriotic. Read More

More than a hundred Republicans bash stimulus, then seek money


"I find it interesting that you have a lot of the Republicans running around and pushing back on the stimulus money and saying this doesn't create any new jobs. Then, they go out and they do the photo ops and they are posing with the big check and they say, 'Isn't this great?'"

A quote from a high-ranking Democratic official? Nancy Pelosi? Howard Dean?

Nope: Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor of California.

Democrats have begun to push back against GOP criticisms of their $862 billion stimulus package, noting that many of the Republicans who've attacked the measure have sought funds themselves. And the number of those who voted against the bill who have cashed in is growing. According to a count by Bloomberg News, more than 100 Republicans and several Democrats who voted against the bill have written to collect on the cash they didn't want spent.

Among the critics who've now sought money from Obama Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:

* Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham "wrote LaHood asking for $360 million to improve Interstate 73 near Myrtle Beach. The construction funding 'is expected to create 5,789 new jobs in the I-73 corridor region,' said the letter, one of a dozen grant pitches signed by Graham." Spokesman Kevin Bishop told Bloomberg: “We have to pay it back, so we might as well ensure that we get our share of the money.”

* Republican Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole called the stimulus a “recipe for disaster” last year; today he's seeking "funding for a grant to help develop an international trade center on a 2,700-acre industrial park, a project he called 'a catalyst for the potential creation' of almost 30,000 jobs."

* Republican Texas Rep. Kay Granger sent out a statement on the anniversary of the stimulus calling the measure "government waste at its worst." Just months before, she signed her name to six grant proposals, including a toll-road project in the suburbs of Dallas and Fort Worth that she posited “would create approximately 3,500 jobs in the local community,” the wire service said.

* Republican Texas Rep. Pete Sessions dubbed the stimulus “a massive spending binge by the Democrat-controlled Congress,” only he requested money for four different projects -- among them a proposal to add a Dallas streecar line. Bloomberg notes the project got $23 million.

* Republican Florida Rep. John Mica said he applauded "President Obama's recognition that high-speed rail should be part of America's future," shortly after the House passed the Democrats' stimulus bill -- which he'd just then voted against.

But perhaps the best? Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young, who said the "bill was not a stimulus bill. It was a vehicle for pet projects, and that's wrong."

He promptly cheered his own success in getting a pet project into the bill, saying that he'd "won a victory for the Alaska Native contracting program and other Alaska small business owners last night in H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."

Want to see if your congressman voted against the stimulus and then tried to cash in? Click here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Profit-Seeking Palin Reportedly Rips CPAC As A Profiteering Convention


One leading Republican who is conspicuously absent from this year’s CPAC is Fox News pundit Sarah Palin. A source told Politico that Palin declined the invitation because she “does not want to be affiliated” with David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union (ACU), which organizes the conference. Saying CPAC will be about “pocketbook over policy,” the source said Palin objected to Keene asking “FedEx for between $2 million and $3 million to [win ACU's] support in a bitter legislative battle with rival UPS” last September. A Palin spokeswoman wouldn’t address the issue directly, saying only, “We support those who advance our core beliefs and lead by principle.”

Palin “ruffled feathers” last year when she dropped out of CPAC two weeks before the event. She had been the conference’s first confirmed speaker and organizers said they were “obviously disappointed.” At the time, she cited the “duties of governing.” Palin also dropped out at the “last minute” from CPAC 2008.

While declining CPAC this year out of concerns over profiteering, she had no problem attending the National Tea Party Convention. Judson Phillips, a Tennessee lawyer who organized that convention and started the for-profit corporation Tea Party Nation, said his intention was to make money from the event. Tickets for the convention cost $549, and many Tea Party leaders publicly condemned Philips’ profiteering. editor Erick Erickson said the event “smelled scammy” and called it a “great con” to make money off peoples’ “passions.” The convention lost sponsors, and even Tea Party stalwarts Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) dropped out.

Palin was reportedly paid $100,000 for her appearance at the Tea Party convention, but CPAC doesn’t pay its speakers and some speculated that Palin’s absence is due to money. Right-wing anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist blamed Palin’s own profiteering for her absence at CPAC:

Palin was paid a lot to go to the other one” says Norquist, referring to the recent Tea Party Convention in Nashville. Her absence this week, he says, is a political sign.

“Is Palin running for president? The answer is no. She could have spoken to 10,000 people, but instead she chose to speak to 600 and get paid $100,000. That’s being a spokesperson and making a living, not running for president.”

Palin is still on the CPAC presidential straw poll — the only candidate who is not a white male. According to a Hotline survey of “GOP party leaders, strategists, activists and pundits representing backers of virtually every potential candidate in the field,” Palin is the odd-on favorite, with former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) close behind.

CPAC Conference Dissolves Into Right-Wing Civil War Over Gay Rights


Late last year, the pro-gay rights Republican organization GOProud announced that it would co-sponsor the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), prompting a right-wing backlash which forced conference organizers to deny the organization a speaking spot during the conference. Today, Alexander McCobin, a member of Students for Liberty, an offshoot of the Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-TX) Campaign for Liberty, took part of his speaking time to thank conference organizers for allowing GOProud to co-sponsor the conference, noting that Students for Liberty asks its members to be “socially tolerant and fiscally responsible.” McCobin was immediately met with angry boos and heckling by the audience:

MCCOBIN: In the name of freedom, I would like to also thank the American Conservative Union for welcoming GOProud as a co-sponsor of this event. (loud boos) Not because of any politics, but because of the message that it sends: If what you truly care about is freedom, limited government, and prosperity, then this symbol is a step in the right direction, and look to the student movement for support! (heckling) The typical Student’s response is to be socially tolerant and fiscally responsible. Students today recognize that freedom does not come in pieces. It is a single concept that we must defend at all times.

Watch it:

A few minutes later, Young Americans for Freedom activist Ryan Sorba approached the podium and slammed GOProud and engaged in a hostile shouting match with pro-gay rights students in the audience, singling out Executive Director of Young Americans for Liberty Jeff Frazee:

SORBA: I want to condemn CPAC for bringing GOProud to this event! (loud booing) I love it. I love it. Guess what. Guess what. Alright. Civil rights are granted in natural rights. Natural rights are granted in human nature. Human nature is a rational substance in relationship. The intelligible end of reproductive act is reproduction. Do you understand that? Civil rights when they conflict with natural rights are (yelling) No YOU sit down. The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do. The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do. Alright? Bring it. Jeff Frazee, guess what, you just made an enemy out of me, buddy. Yeah you, guess what. YOU just made an enemy out of me, thanks a lot.

Watch it:

Yesterday, the anti-gay rights National Organization for Marriage criticized the presence of GOProud at the conference in a news release following a joint appearance on CNN, prompting an acerbic response from GOProud executive director Jimmy LaSalvia. “When the cameras were rolling they were very nice,” LaSalvia said. “Now that the cameras aren’t rolling, rather than walking 20 feet over to us, they fire off a news release. What kind of man can’t walk across the row to deliver a message? I just have a question for them: Who’s the pansy at CPAC? What wusses. Just come over. Don’t play nice if you’re not going to be nice.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Media Matters Daily Summary 02-18-10

NY Post op-ed falsely claims Obama promised stimulus would end net job losses
In a New York Post op-ed, Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation falsely suggested that President Obama promised the Recovery Act would end net job losses; in fact, Obama stated in February 2009 before the stimulus passed that the "magnitude of the crisis" means that even with the stimulus "you're going to have some net job loss, but at least we can start slowing the trend." Additionally, Riedl attacked the "White House estimate of 'saving' nearly 2 million jobs" as "nothing but faith-based economics," ignoring that the administration's estimates of the stimulus' job impact falls within the range of those given by independent analysts. Read More

Fox News crops Romer remarks to two words to falsely claim "she contradicted herself"
Fox News' Sean Hannity and Fox & Friends misleadingly cropped White House economic advisor Christina Romer's remarks to claim that "she contradicted herself" because she said on February 17 that the biggest bang from the stimulus is "absolutely not" behind us and stated in October 2009 that "fiscal stimulus will have its greatest impact on growth in the second and third quarters of 2009." However, as her unedited remarks show, Romer was discussing the impact of the stimulus on employment on February 17 and the impact on GDP in October 22. Read More

Witch Hunt: Right-wing media smears Rashad Hussain as a "terrorist sympathizer"
Right-wing media figures seized on what ABC News' Jake Tapper has described as an "apparently erroneous" report of a statement allegedly made by President Obama's nominee for special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference Rashad Hussain to portray him as a "pro-jihadist," a "radical," and a "terrorist sympathizer." But, as Tapper points out, Hussain has argued that terrorism is "antithetical" to Islam had has written extensively on "[d]iscrediting the terrorist stop al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups." Read More

Cal Thomas, FrontPageMag accusations of Hussain's ties to "Muslim Brotherhood" fall flat
In the latest attack on an Obama appointee, conservative columnist Cal Thomas and each claimed that special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference Rashad Hussain has, in Thomas' words, "a history of participating in events connected with the Muslim Brotherhood." However, the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, from where their claims stem, has been criticized for employing a "fairly loose definition of Muslim Brotherhood affiliates," and numerous prominent conservatives have also met with representatives or affiliates of groups named in its article. Read More

Right-wing media promote, give platform to "anti-government extremist" Oath Keepers
Over the past several months, right-wing media have promoted the Oath Keepers, a group established in 2009 and identified by the Anti-Defamation League as "encourag[ing] members of the military and law enforcement to pledge not to follow certain hypothetical 'orders' from the federal government" that "echo longstanding conspiracy theories embraced by anti-government extremists." On February 17, Bill O'Reilly said that he intended to host a member of the group on his next show to "give forth their point of view." Read More

"Family Guy" Actress with Down Syndrome Puts Palin in Her Place

The father of the actress who provided the voice for the character of the young woman on the episode of Family Guy, which Sarah Palin described as "a kick in the gut", has sent this e-mail to a friend of palingates:

Below is a copy of a letter to the editor that Andrea has written and sent. Please feel free to circulate it on the web or in any other manner that you choose.

All best wishes,

Hal Friedman

My name is Andrea Fay Friedman. I was born with Down syndrome. I played the role of Ellen on the "Extra Large Medium" episode of Family Guy that was broadcast on Valentine's day. Although they gave me red hair on the show, I am really a blonde. I also wore a red wig for my role in " Smudge" but I was a blonde in "Life Goes On". I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor. I thought the line "I am the daughter of the former governor of Alaska" was very funny. I think the word is "sarcasm".

In my family we think laughing is good. My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life. My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes.

Andrea sent her comment by e-mail to the New York Times.........................

Bill would ban federal currency in SC

The Palmetto Scoop

South Carolina will no longer recognize U.S. currency as legal tender, if State Rep. Mike Pitts has his way.

Pitts, a fourth-term Republican from Laurens, introduced legislation earlier this month that would ban what he calls “the unconstitutional substitution of Federal Reserve Notes for silver and gold coin” in South Carolina.

If the bill were to become law, South Carolina would no longer accept or use anything other than silver and gold coins as a form of payment for any debt, meaning paper money would be out in the Palmetto State.

Pitts said the intent of the bill is to give South Carolina the ability to “function through gold and silver coinage” and give the state a “base of currency” in the event of a complete implosion of the U.S. economic system................

Teabaggers create Facebook tribute page for airplane crasher

Joseph Andrew Stack "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants".....Thomas Jefferson

Crash Pilot Appears To Have Written Anti-IRS, Anti-Corporate Screed


Joe Stack, the Texas man who this morning, say law enforcement officials, flew a stolen plane into an Austin building that houses a local IRS office, appears to be the author of a lengthy online screed, lashing out at the IRS, the federal government, and big corporations, and referring to his coming death.

The rant reflects many of the same populist, anti-government, anti-tax, and anti-corporate themes that have surfaced around the country over the last year. It is entitled, and concludes: "Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well."

Stack's Austin home was on fire this morning, at roughly the same time that he's said to have crashed his plane, according to the Austin-American Statesman.

The paper adds that an IRS revenue collection agent who worked on the building's second floor is missing, according to another revenue agent who worked in the building.
The building, known as the Echelon 1 Building, houses about 190 IRS employees, according to a statement from the agency...............................

Return of the Fright Wing

by John Avlon

It's CPAC time again—the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual Washington cattle call begins Friday. This year, they’ve attracted an all-star lineup in a bid for renewed respectability: a half-dozen GOP presidential hopefuls (Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, etc.), conservative congressional darlings, a keynote address by Glenn Beck. And co-sponsorship by the John Birch Society.

Wait, what?..........................

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Meet the Flintstones - 1/3 in Tex. say dinos, humans shared earth

Texas Tribune

Nearly a third of Texans believe humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, and more than half disagree with the theory that humans developed from earlier species of animals, according to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

The differences in beliefs about evolution and the length of time that living things have existed on earth are reflected in the political and religious preference of our respondents, who were asked four questions about biological history and God:

• 38 percent said human beings developed over millions of years with God guiding the process and another 12 percent said that development happened without God having any part of the process. Another 38 percent agreed with the statement "God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago."

• Asked about the origin and development of life on earth without injecting humans into the discussion, and 53 percent said it evolved over time, "with a guiding hand from God." They were joined by 15 percent who agreed on the evolution part, but "with no guidance from God." About a fifth — 22 percent — said life has existed in its present form since the beginning of time............

Media Matters Daily Summary 02-17-10

NY Post falsely accused Obama of "reversing course" on Iranian Revolutionary Guard
A New York Post editorial stated that after opposing a 2007 Senate amendment designating the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization, Obama "revers[ed] course," and that "[n]ow Team Obama is decrying the Guard." However, Obama consistently supported designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, having previously co-sponsored a bill in 2007 to do so. Read More

James O'Keefe and the myth of the ACORN pimp
Last September, when the ACORN scandal that his website helped launch was breaking in the press, Andrew Breitbart wrote a column for The Washington Times detailing the rollout of the undercover, right-wing gotcha. He recalled a 2009 meeting with "filmmaker and provocateur James O'Keefe" that took place in Breitbart's office in June. It was there that O'Keefe played the columnist the surreptitiously recorded videos he'd made with his sidekick, Hannah Giles, and which captured the two famously getting advice from ACORN workers on how prostitutes could skirt tax laws. Read More

Wash. Post adds to its stable of former Republican staffers
With the recently announced hire of former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, The Washington Post now employs four national political columnists who have previously worked for Republican administrations, but only one who has worked for a Democratic administration. The addition of Thiessen, who originated the dubious claim that waterboarding Khalid Shaikh Mohammed "stopped an attack on the Library Tower in Los Angeles," continues to move the Post's editorial page to the right, filling it with prowar and pro-torture views. Read More

Quick Fact: Wash. Times blog repeats climate change myths to attack Gore
A February 15 post on Washington Times' Water Cooler blog, which was later highlighted by The Fox Nation, attacked Al Gore for "sticking to his guns" on climate change "[i]n the midst of heavy snow fall all over the United States and a recent admission from global warming advocate Phil Jones that there has been no warming since 1995." The Times also repeated the smear that apparently stolen emails from East Anglia University show that "scientists were covering up climate science." Read More

WaPo adds Thiessen to its op-ed line-up despite his history of false, dubious, and outrageous claims
In light of The Washington Post's decision to hire former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen as a weekly columnist, Media Matters for America has documented several false, dubious, or outrageous claims Thiessen has made about national security and terrorism. In addition, Thiessen has repeatedly baselessly attacked the Obama administration over its handling of national security and terrorism. Read More

On anniversary of bill's passage, Fox & Friends repeatedly attacked and misinformed about stimulus
On the one-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Fox & Friends purported to analyze the results of the bill and repeatedly shed doubt on the impact of the stimulus on the employment situation. But Fox & Friends ignored independent analyses of the stimulus, including those conducted by Moody's and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, that said the measure raised employment by 1 to 2.4 million jobs by the end of 2009.
Read More

Fox Nation uses "derogatory, even racist" term "anchor babies"
The Fox Nation linked to an article reporting on how "Republican lawmakers in Congress are sponsoring a bill that seeks to abolish birthright citizenship for children born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents" using the headline, "GOP Targets 'Anchor Babies.'" Several media outlets have identified the term "anchor babies" as, in the words of the Rocky Mountain News, "derogatory, even racist, because it implies that Hispanics are having children as a way to stay in the U.S." Read More

McCaughey misinforms about health reform to deter GOP from attending health summit
Serial health care reform misinformer Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed that, under the Senate health care reform bill, "for the first time in history, government officials are given power over how doctors treat privately insured patients." In fact, through criminal law -- including the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act -- federal drug laws, and other methods, states and the federal government currently regulate the relationship between doctors and patients, privately insured or not. Read More

Maddow calls out Beck for falsely claiming that "nobody's saying" the D.C. snowstorm disproves climate change
On her February 12 program, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow responded to Glenn Beck's claim that "nobody's saying" the Washington, D.C. snowstorm disproves climate change by noting that Beck himself previously forwarded such a suggestion. In response, Beck accused Maddow of selectively editing his remarks -- by airing a clip of her show, but editing out the portion where she aired his own comments in which he used the Washington, D.C. snowstorm to cast doubt on climate change science. Read More

Quick Fact: Beck advances myth that stimulus bill is not working
Glenn Beck advanced the conservative myth that no jobs have been created under the stimulus and baselessly claimed that its "intent to restore the economy ... [is] not working either." In fact, independent analyses of the stimulus, including those conducted by Moody's and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, have estimated that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) increased employment by as many as 2.4 million jobs by the end of 2009 and added to real GDP growth in the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2009. Read More

REPORT: After Voting To Kill Recovery, 110 GOP Lawmakers Tout Its Success, Ask For More Money


Today marks the one year anniversary of President Obama signing into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the stimulus. As the economy continued to crater after President Bush left office, Obama’s stimulus sought to provide tax cuts for 95% of working Americans, funds to buoy cash-strapped state governments, new construction and infrastructure projects, and other programs to create jobs, retrain workers, and promote economic activity throughout the country. In December, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the stimulus had successfully created up to 1.6 million jobs, and today, a report shows the Recovery Act will ultimately create 2.5 million jobs. Even the conservative American Enterprise Institute found that the stimulus had boosted the U.S. economy by 4 percent.

House Republican leaders have fought to maintain partisan unity in their effort to kill the stimulus. And they were largely successful. Every single Republican in the House and every single Republican in the Senate — with the exception of Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), and then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter — voted against the Recovery Act. By drawing a sharp distinction between Obama and the GOP, Republican leaders gambled on casting the stimulus as a failure in order to win elections in 2010. In a coordinated effort, Republicans have used every opportunity to attack the stimulus for allegedly failing to create “a single job.”

Last month, President Obama admonished Republicans for going to “ribbon cuttings for the same projects that you voted against.” It’s true: Last year, Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) appeared at a ribbon cutting event for GetAbout Columbia’s MKT Plaza, a pedestrian walking and recreation area funded by the stimulus. (See picture at top right.)

ThinkProgress has investigated opponents of the Recovery Act, reporting throughout the year that many of the lawmakers who tried to kill the legislation have been returning to their home states to claim credit for popular stimulus programs. In a new research report, ThinkProgress finds that over half of the GOP caucus, 110 lawmakers — from the House and Senate — are guilty of stimulus hypocrisy. Among some of the key findings:

Top Republican Senate Recruits Are Stimulus Hypocrites: As ThinkProgress reported, Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), a candidate for Senate, touted over $5 million in stimulus programs he voted to kill. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), the GOP nominee for Senate in Illinois, signed a letter urging Gov. Pat Quinn to provide “Recovery Act (ARRA) funding to expand the Illinois Community College Sustainability Network.”

GOP Leadership Leads The Way In Hypocrisy: Although he regularly slams the stimulus as a waste while in DC, McConnell has returned to Kentucky to take credit for stimulus programs, even taking time to request more funds. ThinkProgress attended two job fairs held by Cantor, where we found dozens of employers able to hire directly because of the stimulus. Indeed, even Boehner’s office released a statement boasting that the stimulus will create “much needed jobs.”

The Audacity Of Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds: Many opponents of the stimulus have been quite brazen with their ability to try to claim credit for the program. For instance, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) spent the morning of July 28th railing against the stimulus, yelling “Where’s the stimulus package? Where’s the jobs?” on the House floor. On the same day of his rant, Kingston’s office sent out multiple press releases bragging that he had secured hundreds of thousands in stimulus funds to hire additional police officers in his district. Other stimulus opponents, like Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) — who has called the stimulus a “trillion dollar debt bill” — have printed out jumbo-sized ceremonial stimulus checks to present to local communities to try to garner positive press.

Individually, over half of the entire Republican caucus has hailed nearly every aspect of the stimulus as a success — from infrastructure funds, to food programs, to education grants. But politically, admitting its success might harm the GOP’s chances in November. So with Republicans fixated on winning politically, they have focused on deceiving the public by calling the stimulus a failure, while pretending successful programs aren’t stimulus funded.

Judging Stimulus by Job Data Reveals Success


Imagine if, one year ago, Congress had passed a stimulus bill that really worked.

Let’s say this bill had started spending money within a matter of weeks and had rapidly helped the economy. Let’s also imagine it was large enough to have had a huge impact on jobs — employing something like two million people who would otherwise be unemployed right now.

If that had happened, what would the economy look like today?

Well, it would look almost exactly as it does now. Because those nice descriptions of the stimulus that I just gave aren’t hypothetical. They are descriptions of the actual bill.

Just look at the outside evaluations of the stimulus. Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative.

Yet I’m guessing you don’t think of the stimulus bill as a big success. You’ve read columns (by me, for example) complaining that it should have spent money more quickly. Or you’ve heard about the phantom ZIP code scandal: the fact that a government Web site mistakenly reported money being spent in nonexistent ZIP codes.

And many of the criticisms are valid. The program has had its flaws. But the attention they have received is wildly disproportionate to their importance. To hark back to another big government program, it’s almost as if the lasting image of the lunar space program was Apollo 6, an unmanned 1968 mission that had engine problems, and not Apollo 11, the moon landing.

The reasons for the stimulus’s middling popularity aren’t a mystery. The unemployment rate remains near 10 percent, and many families are struggling. Saying that things could have been even worse doesn’t exactly inspire. Liberals don’t like the stimulus because they wish it were bigger. Republicans don’t like it because it’s a Democratic program. The Obama administration hurt the bill’s popularity by making too rosy an economic forecast upon taking office......................

Poll: Dems Should Pass Their Agenda -- The People Against It Weren't Voting For Them Anyway


A new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D) suggests that Democrats should go ahead and pass major initiatives such as health care reform and allowing gays to serve in the military. If they don't pass these things, the poll suggests, the people who are against it won't vote for them anyway.

The poll's top-line finds 37% of Americans saying they definitely will not vote Democratic for Congress this fall, 34% will definitely vote for the Dems, and the remainder are up for grabs. The poll shows that 50% oppose the health care bill, with 39% for it -- thanks to a 94%-1% opposition among the people who won't vote Democratic. The poll also found a 54% majority in favor of gays in the military, to 37% against it, with people who will or potentially could vote Democratic favoring it 72%-24%, and those who won't vote Democratic opposing it by 59%-25%.

"Congressional Democrats really need to decide if they're going to let their agenda be dictated by voters who won't support them no matter what they do," writes PPP communications director Tom Jensen. "These numbers provide pretty clear evidence that most of the voters opposed to health care and repeal of DADT will not consider voting Democratic even if the party decides not to move on those issues."

Populist Movement? Meet The Tea Partiers: Male, Rich and College Educated


A new CNN poll sheds light on who makes up the Tea Party movement. According to the results, tea partiers are richer, more male and have more education than the general population.

Eleven percent of respondents to the poll said that they had in someway participated in the tea party movement, either by going to a rally, donating money, or "taking some other active step to support the movement." The demographics among that 11% are much different from the rest of the U.S. population.

"Of this core group of Tea Party activists, 6 of 10 are male and half live in rural areas," CNN reports. "Nearly three quarters of Tea Party activists attended college, compared to 54 percent of all Americans, and more than three in four call themselves conservatives."

Sixty-six percent of the tea party activists reported an income higher than $50,000 per year. Among the overall sample in the poll, that figure was 42%. The group is 80% white, as opposed to 71% among all respondents to the poll.

Politically, the figures are not a surprise. Forty-four percent of tea partiers called themselves "Republican," while 52% said they were independent. Among all those polled by CNN, 25% were Republicans while 44% were independents. A third self-identified as Democrats.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Media Matters Daily Summary 02-16-10

Bolling falsely claims only 595,000 jobs have been created by the stimulus
On the February 16 edition of Fox News' Fox and Friends, guest host Eric Bolling claimed of stimulus money: "$272 billion has been spent," but only "595,000 jobs [have been] created," adding, "that's $450,000 per job." In fact, the employment numbers Bolling cited only represents jobs funded from October 1-December 31, 2009, which make up a small part of the total number of jobs that the White House and other economists estimate have been funded by the stimulus. Read More

Fox News twists words of climate scientist Phil Jones in its continued assault on global warming theory
Following a February 13 BBC Q&A with Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, Fox News' Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Stuart Varney and Fox & Friends have distorted Jones' comments to suggest that they undermine the consensus that human activities are contributing to warming global temperatures. Read More

Fox News claims Palin "slammed ... Limbaugh for using 'retard' " -- but she excused his remarks as "satirical"
In an article about Sarah Palin's critical response to the Fox comedy, Family Guy, "after the show appeared to mock Palin's Down syndrome son," claimed that Palin also "recently slammed ... radio talk host Rush Limbaugh for using the word 'retard.' " In fact, Palin excused Limbaugh's remarks as "satirical." Read More

Right-wing blogs campaign to get Dem candidate on IN ballot with avowed aim of supposed GOP gain
Following the announcement yesterday that Evan Bayh (D-IN) would retire his Senate seat, several right-wing bloggers attempted to corrupt the political process by calling on their readers in Indiana to gather signatures for Democratic candidate Tamyra D'Ippolito for the avowed purpose of supposedly benefitting conservatives and the Republican Party. This is only the latest instance of right-wing media supporting flagrant disregard for the democratic process in order to benefit conservatives.
Read More

Stanek's selection exposes the credentials required to be a right-wing media critic
Both Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism and the Media Research Center's NewsBusters have recently added anti-abortion activist Jill Stanek as a blogger. Stanek has a history of inflammatory and dubious claims; in her inaugural NewsBusters post, however, she admits that she's "not a student of" media analysis. Read More

Monday, February 15, 2010

How Christian Were the Founders?


LAST MONTH, A WEEK before the Senate seat of the liberal icon Edward M. Kennedy fell into Republican hands, his legacy suffered another blow that was perhaps just as damaging, if less noticed. It happened during what has become an annual spectacle in the culture wars.

Over two days, more than a hundred people — Christians, Jews, housewives, naval officers, professors; people outfitted in everything from business suits to military fatigues to turbans to baseball caps — streamed through the halls of the William B. Travis Building in Austin, Tex., waiting for a chance to stand before the semicircle of 15 high-backed chairs whose occupants made up the Texas State Board of Education. Each petitioner had three minutes to say his or her piece.

“Please keep César Chávez” was the message of an elderly Hispanic man with a floppy gray mustache.

“Sikhism is the fifth-largest religion in the world and should be included in the curriculum,” a woman declared.

Following the appeals from the public, the members of what is the most influential state board of education in the country, and one of the most politically conservative, submitted their own proposed changes to the new social-studies curriculum guidelines, whose adoption was the subject of all the attention — guidelines that will affect students around the country, from kindergarten to 12th grade, for the next 10 years. Gail Lowe — who publishes a twice-a-week newspaper when she is not grappling with divisive education issues — is the official chairwoman, but the meeting was dominated by another member. Don McLeroy, a small, vigorous man with a shiny pate and bristling mustache, proposed amendment after amendment on social issues to the document that teams of professional educators had drawn up over 12 months, in what would have to be described as a single-handed display of archconservative political strong-arming.

McLeroy moved that Margaret Sanger, the birth-control pioneer, be included because she “and her followers promoted eugenics,” that language be inserted about Ronald Reagan’s “leadership in restoring national confidence” following Jimmy Carter’s presidency and that students be instructed to “describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.” The injection of partisan politics into education went so far that at one point another Republican board member burst out in seemingly embarrassed exasperation, “Guys, you’re rewriting history now!” Nevertheless, most of McLeroy’s proposed amendments passed by a show of hands.

Finally, the board considered an amendment to require students to evaluate the contributions of significant Americans. The names proposed included Thurgood Marshall, Billy Graham, Newt Gingrich, William F. Buckley Jr., Hillary Rodham Clinton and Edward Kennedy. All passed muster except Kennedy, who was voted down.

This is how history is made — or rather, how the hue and cry of the present and near past gets lodged into the long-term cultural memory or else is allowed to quietly fade into an inaudible whisper. Public education has always been a battleground between cultural forces; one reason that Texas’ school-board members find themselves at the very center of the battlefield is, not surprisingly, money. The state’s $22 billion education fund is among the largest educational endowments in the country. Texas uses some of that money to buy or distribute a staggering 48 million textbooks annually — which rather strongly inclines educational publishers to tailor their products to fit the standards dictated by the Lone Star State. California is the largest textbook market, but besides being bankrupt, it tends to be so specific about what kinds of information its students should learn that few other states follow its lead. Texas, on the other hand, was one of the first states to adopt statewide curriculum guidelines, back in 1998, and the guidelines it came up with (which are referred to as TEKS — pronounced “teaks” — for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) were clear, broad and inclusive enough that many other states used them as a model in devising their own. And while technology is changing things, textbooks — printed or online —are still the backbone of education.

The cultural roots of the Texas showdown may be said to date to the late 1980s, when, in the wake of his failed presidential effort, the Rev. Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition partly on the logic that conservative Christians should focus their energies at the grass-roots level. One strategy was to put candidates forward for state and local school-board elections — Robertson’s protégé, Ralph Reed, once said, “I would rather have a thousand school-board members than one president and no school-board members” — and Texas was a beachhead. Since the election of two Christian conservatives in 2006, there are now seven on the Texas state board who are quite open about the fact that they vote in concert to advance a Christian agenda. “They do vote as a bloc,” Pat Hardy, a board member who considers herself a conservative Republican but who stands apart from the Christian faction, told me. “They work consciously to pull one more vote in with them on an issue so they’ll have a majority.”

This year’s social-studies review has drawn the most attention for the battles over what names should be included in the roll call of history. But while ignoring Kennedy and upgrading Gingrich are significant moves, something more fundamental is on the agenda. The one thing that underlies the entire program of the nation’s Christian conservative activists is, naturally, religion. But it isn’t merely the case that their Christian orientation shapes their opinions on gay marriage, abortion and government spending. More elementally, they hold that the United States was founded by devout Christians and according to biblical precepts. This belief provides what they consider not only a theological but also, ultimately, a judicial grounding to their positions on social questions. When they proclaim that the United States is a “Christian nation,” they are not referring to the percentage of the population that ticks a certain box in a survey or census but to the country’s roots and the intent of the founders.

The Christian “truth” about America’s founding has long been taught in Christian schools, but not beyond. Recently, however — perhaps out of ire at what they see as an aggressive, secular, liberal agenda in Washington and perhaps also because they sense an opening in the battle, a sudden weakness in the lines of the secularists — some activists decided that the time was right to try to reshape the history that children in public schools study. Succeeding at this would help them toward their ultimate goal of reshaping American society. As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.”

Imet Don McLeroy last November in a dental office — that is to say, his dental office — in a professional complex in the Brazos Valley city of Bryan, not far from the sprawling campus of Texas A&M University. The buzz of his hygienist at work sounded through the thin wall separating his office from the rest of the suite. McLeroy makes no bones about the fact that his professional qualifications have nothing to do with education. “I’m a dentist, not a historian,” he said. “But I’m fascinated by history, so I’ve read a lot.”

Indeed, dentistry is only a job for McLeroy; his real passions are his faith and the state board of education. He has been a member of the board since 1999 and served as its chairman from 2007 until he was demoted from that role by the State Senate last May because of concerns over his religious views. Until now those views have stood McLeroy in good stead with the constituents of his district, which meanders from Houston to Dallas and beyond, but he is currently in a heated re-election battle in the Republican primary, which takes place March 2.

McLeroy is a robust, cheerful and inexorable man, whose personality is perhaps typified by the framed letter T on the wall of his office, which he earned as a “yell leader” (Texas A&M nomenclature for cheerleader) in his undergraduate days in the late 1960s. “I consider myself a Christian fundamentalist,” he announced almost as soon as we sat down. He also identifies himself as a young-earth creationist who believes that the earth was created in six days, as the book of Genesis has it, less than 10,000 years ago. He went on to explain how his Christian perspective both governs his work on the state board and guides him in the current effort to adjust American-history textbooks to highlight the role of Christianity. “Textbooks are mostly the product of the liberal establishment, and they’re written with the idea that our religion and our liberty are in conflict,” he said. “But Christianity has had a deep impact on our system. The men who wrote the Constitution were Christians who knew the Bible. Our idea of individual rights comes from the Bible. The Western development of the free-market system owes a lot to biblical principles.”

For McLeroy, separation of church and state is a myth perpetrated by secular liberals. “There are two basic facts about man,” he said. “He was created in the image of God, and he is fallen. You can’t appreciate the founding of our country without realizing that the founders understood that. For our kids to not know our history, that could kill a society. That’s why to me this is a huge thing.”

“This” — the Texas board’s moves to bring Jesus into American history — has drawn anger in places far removed from the board members’ constituencies. (Samples of recent blog headlines on the topic: “Don McLeroy Wants Your Children to Be Stupid” and “Can We Please Mess With Texas?”) The issue of Texas’ influence is a touchy one in education circles. With some parents and educators elsewhere leery of a right-wing fifth column invading their schools, people in the multibillion textbook industry try to play down the state’s sway. “It’s not a given that Texas’ curriculum translates into other states,” says Jay Diskey, executive director of the school division for the Association of American Publishers, which represents most of the major companies. But Tom Barber, who worked as the head of social studies at the three biggest textbook publishers before running his own editorial company, says, “Texas was and still is the most important and most influential state in the country.” And James Kracht, a professor at Texas A&M’s college of education and a longtime player in the state’s textbook process, told me flatly, “Texas governs 46 or 47 states.”

Every year for the last few years, Texas has put one subject area in its TEKS up for revision. Each year has brought a different controversy, and Don McLeroy has been at the center of most of them. Last year, in its science re-evaluation, the board lunged into the evolution/creationism/intelligent-design debate. The conservative Christian bloc wanted to require science teachers to cover the “strengths and weaknesses” of the theory of evolution, language they used in the past as a tool to weaken the rationale for teaching evolution. The battle made headlines across the country; ultimately, the seven Christian conservatives were unable to pull another vote their way on that specific point, but the finished document nonetheless allows inroads to creationism.

The fallout from that fight cost McLeroy his position as chairman. “It’s the 21st century, and the rest of the known world accepts the teaching of evolution as science and creationism as religion, yet we continue to have this debate here,” Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group, says. “So the eyes of the nation were on this body, and people saw how ridiculous they appeared.” The State Legislature felt the ridicule. “You have a point of view, and you’re using this bully pulpit to take the rest of the state there,” Eliot Shapleigh, a Democratic state senator, admonished McLeroy during the hearing that led to his ouster. McLeroy remains unbowed and talked cheerfully to me about how, confronted with a statement supporting the validity of evolution that was signed by 800 scientists, he had proudly been able to “stand up to the experts.”

The idea behind standing up to experts is that the scientific establishment has been withholding information from the public that would show flaws in the theory of evolution and that it is guilty of what McLeroy called an “intentional neglect of other scientific possibilities.” Similarly, the Christian bloc’s notion this year to bring Christianity into the coverage of American history is not, from their perspective, revisionism but rather an uncovering of truths that have been suppressed. “I don’t know that what we’re doing is redefining the role of religion in America,” says Gail Lowe, who became chairwoman of the board after McLeroy was ousted and who is one of the seven conservative Christians. “Many of us recognize that Judeo-Christian principles were the basis of our country and that many of our founding documents had a basis in Scripture. As we try to promote a better understanding of the Constitution, federalism, the separation of the branches of government, the basic rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, I think it will become evident to students that the founders had a religious motivation.”

Plenty of people disagree with this characterization of the founders, including some who are close to the process in Texas. “I think the evidence indicates that the founding fathers did not intend this to be a Christian nation,” says James Kracht, who served as an expert adviser to the board in the textbook-review process. “They definitely believed in some form of separation of church and state.”

There is, however, one slightly awkward issue for hard-core secularists who would combat what they see as a Christian whitewashing of American history: the Christian activists have a certain amount of history on their side.

IN 1801, A GROUP of Baptist ministers in Danbury, Conn., wrote a letter to the new president, Thomas Jefferson, congratulating him on his victory. They also had a favor to ask. Baptists were a minority group, and they felt insecure. In the colonial period, there were two major Christian factions, both of which derived from England. The Congregationalists, in New England, had evolved from the Puritan settlers, and in the South and middle colonies, the Anglicans came from the Church of England. Nine colonies developed state churches, which were supported financially by the colonial governments and whose power was woven in with that of the governments. Other Christians — Lutherans, Baptists, Quakers — and, of course, those of other faiths were made unwelcome, if not persecuted outright.

There was a religious element to the American Revolution, which was so pronounced that you could just as well view the event in religious as in political terms. Many of the founders, especially the Southerners, were rebelling simultaneously against state-church oppression and English rule. The Connecticut Baptists saw Jefferson — an anti-Federalist who was bitterly opposed to the idea of establishment churches — as a friend. “Our constitution of government,” they wrote, “is not specific” with regard to a guarantee of religious freedoms that would protect them. Might the president offer some thoughts that, “like the radiant beams of the sun,” would shed light on the intent of the framers? In his reply, Jefferson said it was not the place of the president to involve himself in religion, and he expressed his belief that the First Amendment’s clauses — that the government must not establish a state religion (the so-called establishment clause) but also that it must ensure the free exercise of religion (what became known as the free-exercise clause) — meant, as far as he was concerned, that there was “a wall of separation between Church & State.”

This little episode, culminating in the famous “wall of separation” metaphor, highlights a number of points about teaching religion in American history. For one, it suggests — as the Christian activists maintain — how thoroughly the colonies were shot through with religion and how basic religion was to the cause of the revolutionaries. The period in the early- to mid-1700s, called the Great Awakening, in which populist evangelical preachers challenged the major denominations, is considered a spark for the Revolution. And if religion influenced democracy then, in the Second Great Awakening, decades later, the democratic fervor of the Revolution spread through the two mainline denominations and resulted in a massive growth of the sort of populist churches that typify American Christianity to this day.

Christian activists argue that American-history textbooks basically ignore religion — to the point that they distort history outright — and mainline religious historians tend to agree with them on this. “In American history, religion is all over the place, and wherever it appears, you should tell the story and do it appropriately,” says Martin Marty, emeritus professor at the University of Chicago, past president of the American Academy of Religion and the American Society of Church History and perhaps the unofficial dean of American religious historians. “The goal should be natural inclusion. You couldn’t tell the story of the Pilgrims or the Puritans or the Dutch in New York without religion.” Though conservatives would argue otherwise, James Kracht said the absence of religion is not part of a secularist agenda: “I don’t think religion has been purposely taken out of U.S. history, but I do think textbook companies have been cautious in discussing religious beliefs and possibly getting in trouble with some groups.”

Some conservatives claim that earlier generations of textbooks were frank in promoting America as a Christian nation. It might be more accurate to say that textbooks of previous eras portrayed leaders as generally noble, with strong personal narratives, undergirded by faith and patriotism. As Frances FitzGerald showed in her groundbreaking 1979 book “America Revised,” if there is one thing to be said about American-history textbooks through the ages it is that the narrative of the past is consistently reshaped by present-day forces. Maybe the most striking thing about current history textbooks is that they have lost a controlling narrative. America is no longer portrayed as one thing, one people, but rather a hodgepodge of issues and minorities, forces and struggles. If it were possible to cast the concerns of the Christian conservatives into secular terms, it might be said that they find this lack of a through line and purpose to be disturbing and dangerous. Many others do as well, of course. But the Christians have an answer.

Their answer is rather specific. Merely weaving important religious trends and events into the narrative of American history is not what the Christian bloc on the Texas board has pushed for in revising its guidelines. Many of the points that have been incorporated into the guidelines or that have been advanced by board members and their expert advisers slant toward portraying America as having a divinely preordained mission. In the guidelines — which will be subjected to further amendments in March and then in May — eighth-grade history students are asked to “analyze the importance of the Mayflower Compact, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut and the Virginia House of Burgesses to the growth of representative government.” Such early colonial texts have long been included in survey courses, but why focus on these in particular? The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut declare that the state was founded “to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus.” The language in the Mayflower Compact — a document that McLeroy and several others involved in the Texas process are especially fond of — describes the Pilgrims’ journey as being “for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith” and thus instills the idea that America was founded as a project for the spread of Christianity. In a book she wrote two years ago, Cynthia Dunbar, a board member, could not have been more explicit about this being the reason for the Mayflower Compact’s inclusion in textbooks; she quoted the document and then said, “This is undeniably our past, and it clearly delineates us as a nation intended to be emphatically Christian.”

In the new guidelines, students taking classes in U.S. government are asked to identify traditions that informed America’s founding, “including Judeo-Christian (especially biblical law),” and to “identify the individuals whose principles of law and government institutions informed the American founding documents,” among whom they include Moses. The idea that the Bible and Mosaic law provided foundations for American law has taken root in Christian teaching about American history. So when Steven K. Green, director of the Center for Religion, Law and Democracy at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., testified at the board meeting last month in opposition to the board’s approach to bringing religion into history, warning that the Supreme Court has forbidden public schools from “seeking to impress upon students the importance of particular religious values through the curriculum,” and in the process said that the founders “did not draw on Mosaic law, as is mentioned in the standards,” several of the board members seemed dumbstruck. Don McLeroy insisted it was a legitimate claim, since the Enlightenment took place in Europe, in a Christian context. Green countered that the Enlightenment had in fact developed in opposition to reliance on biblical law and said he had done a lengthy study in search of American court cases that referenced Mosaic law. “The record is basically bereft,” he said. Nevertheless, biblical law and Moses remain in the TEKS.

The process in Texas required that writing teams, made up mostly of teachers, do the actual work of revising the curriculum, with the aid of experts who were appointed by the board. Two of the six experts the board chose are well-known advocates for conservative Christian causes. One of them, the Rev. Peter Marshall, says on the Web site of his organization, Peter Marshall Ministries, that his work is “dedicated to helping to restore America to its Bible-based foundations through preaching, teaching and writing on America’s Christian heritage and on Christian discipleship and revival.”

“The guidelines in Texas were seriously deficient in bringing out the role of the Christian faith in the founding of America,” Marshall told me. In a document he prepared for the team that was writing the new guidelines, he urged that new textbooks mold children’s impressions of the founders in particular ways: “The Founding Fathers’ biblical worldview taught them that human beings were by nature self-centered, so they believed that the supernatural influence of the Spirit of God was needed to free us from ourselves so that we can care for our neighbors.”

Marshall also proposed that children be taught that the separation-of-powers notion is “rooted in the Founding Fathers’ clear understanding of the sinfulness of man,” so that it was not safe for one person to exercise unlimited power, and that “the discovery, settling and founding of the colonies happened because of the biblical worldviews of those involved.” Marshall recommended that textbooks present America’s founding and history in terms of motivational stories on themes like the Pilgrims’ zeal to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the natives.

One recurring theme during the process of revising the social-studies guidelines was the desire of the board to stress the concept of American exceptionalism, and the Christian bloc has repeatedly emphasized that Christianity should be portrayed as the driving force behind what makes America great. Peter Marshall is himself the author of a series of books that recount American history with a strong Christian focus and that have been staples in Christian schools since the first one was published in 1977. (He told me that they have sold more than a million copies.) In these history books, he employs a decidedly unhistorical tone in which the guiding hand of Providence shapes America’s story, starting with the voyage of Christopher Columbus. “Columbus’s heart belonged to God,” he assures his readers, and he notes that a particular event in the explorer’s life “marked the turning point of God’s plan to use Columbus to raise the curtain on His new Promised Land.”

The other nonacademic expert, David Barton, is the nationally known leader of WallBuilders, which describes itself as dedicated to “presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious and constitutional heritage.” Barton has written and lectured on the First Amendment and against separation of church and state. He is a controversial figure who has argued that the U.S. income tax and the capital-gains tax should be abolished because they violate Scripture (for the Bible says, in Barton’s reading, “the more profit you make the more you are rewarded”) and who pushes a Christianity-first rhetoric. When the U.S. Senate invited a Hindu leader to open a 2007 session with a prayer, he objected, saying: “In Hindu [sic], you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods. And certainly that was never in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration when they talked about Creator.”

In his recommendations to the Texas school board, Barton wrote that students should be taught the following principles which, in his reading, derive directly from the Declaration of Independence: “1. There is a fixed moral law derived from God and nature. 2. There is a Creator. 3. The Creator gives to man certain unalienable rights. 4. Government exists primarily to protect God-given rights to every individual. 5. Below God-given rights and moral laws, government is directed by the consent of the governed.”

A third expert, Daniel L. Dreisbach, a professor of justice, law and society at American University who has written extensively on First Amendment issues, stressed, in his recommendations to the guideline writers about how to frame the revolutionary period for students, that the founders were overwhelmingly Christian; that the deistic tendencies of a few — like Jefferson — were an anomaly; and that most Americans in the era were not just Christians but that “98 percent or more of Americans of European descent identified with Protestantism.”

If the fight between the “Christian nation” advocates and mainstream thinkers could be focused onto a single element, it would be the “wall of separation” phrase. Christian thinkers like to point out that it does not appear in the Constitution, nor in any other legal document — letters that presidents write to their supporters are not legal decrees. Besides which, after the phrase left Jefferson’s pen it more or less disappeared for a century and a half — until Justice Hugo Black of the Supreme Court dug it out of history’s dustbin in 1947. It then slowly worked its way into the American lexicon and American life, helping to subtly mold the way we think about religion in society. To conservative Christians, there is no separation of church and state, and there never was. The concept, they say, is a modern secular fiction. There is no legal justification, therefore, for disallowing crucifixes in government buildings or school prayer.

David Barton reads the “church and state” letter to mean that Jefferson “believed, along with the other founders, that the First Amendment had been enacted only to prevent the federal establishment of a national denomination.” Barton goes on to claim, “ ‘Separation of church and state’ currently means almost exactly the opposite of what it originally meant.” That is to say, the founders were all Christians who conceived of a nation of Christians, and the purpose of the First Amendment was merely to ensure that no single Christian denomination be elevated to the role of state church.

Mainstream scholars disagree, sometimes vehemently. Randall Balmer, a professor of American religious history at Barnard College and writer of the documentary “Crusade: The Life of Billy Graham,” told me: “David Barton has been out there spreading this lie, frankly, that the founders intended America to be a Christian nation. He’s been very effective. But the logic is utterly screwy. He says the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the Constitution. He’s right about that. But to make that argument work you would have to argue that the phrase is not an accurate summation of the First Amendment. And Thomas Jefferson, who penned it, thought it was.” (David Barton declined to be interviewed for this article.) In his testimony in Austin, Steven Green was challenged by a board member with the fact that the phrase does not appear in the Constitution. In response, Green pointed out that many constitutional concepts — like judicial review and separation of powers — are not found verbatim in the Constitution.

In what amounts to an in-between perspective, Daniel Dreisbach — who wrote a book called “Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State” — argues that the phrase “wall of separation” has been misapplied in recent decades to unfairly restrict religion from entering the public sphere. Martin Marty, the University of Chicago emeritus professor, agrees. “I think ‘wall’ is too heavy a metaphor,” Marty says. “There’s a trend now away from it, and I go along with that. In textbooks, we’re moving away from an unthinking secularity.” The public seems to agree. Polls on some specific church-state issues — government financing for faith-based organizations and voluntary prayer in public schools — consistently show majorities in favor of those positions.

Then too, the “Christian nation” position tries to trump the whole debate about separation of church and state by portraying the era of the nation’s founding as awash in Christianity. David Barton and others pepper their arguments with quotations, like one in which John Adams, in a letter to Jefferson, refers to American independence as having been achieved on “the general Principles of Christianity.” But others find just as many instances in which one or another of the founders seems clearly wary of religion.

In fact, the founders were rooted in Christianity — they were inheritors of the entire European Christian tradition — and at the same time they were steeped in an Enlightenment rationalism that was, if not opposed to religion, determined to establish separate spheres for faith and reason. “I don’t think the founders would have said they were applying Christian principles to government,” says Richard Brookhiser, the conservative columnist and author of books on Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris and George Washington. “What they said was ‘the laws of nature and nature’s God.’ They didn’t say, ‘We put our faith in Jesus Christ.’ ” Martin Marty says: “They had to invent a new, broad way. Washington, in his writings, makes scores of different references to God, but not one is biblical. He talks instead about a ‘Grand Architect,’ deliberately avoiding the Christian terms, because it had to be a religious language that was accessible to all people.”

Or, as Brookhiser rather succinctly summarizes the point: “The founders were not as Christian as those people would like them to be, though they weren’t as secularist as Christopher Hitchens would like them to be.”

THE TOWN OF Lynchburg, Va., was founded in 1786 at the site of a ferry crossing on what would later be called the James River. During the Civil War, it was a Confederate supply post, and in 1864 it was the site of one of the last Confederate victories. In 1933, Jerry Falwell was born in Lynchburg, the son of a sometime bootlegger. In 1971 — in an era of pot smoking and war protests — the Rev. Jerry Falwell inaugurated Liberty University on one of the city’s seven hills. It was to be a training ground for Christians and a bulwark against moral relativism. In 2004, three years before his death, Falwell completed another dream by founding the Liberty University School of Law, whose objective, in the words of the university’s current chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr., is “to transform legislatures, courts, commerce and civil government at all levels.”

I visited the law-school building in late fall, with the remnants of Hurricane Ida turning the Blue Ridge Mountains skyline into a series of smudges. The building’s crisp, almost militaristic atmosphere bespeaks a seriousness of purpose; and the fact that it houses, as one of its training facilities, the only full-scale replica of the U.S. Supreme Court chamber points to the school’s ambitions.

I had come to sit in on a guest lecture by Cynthia Dunbar, an assistant law professor who commutes to Lynchburg once a week from her home in Richmond, Tex., where she is a practicing lawyer as well as a member of the Texas board of education. Her presence in both worlds — public schools and the courts — suggests the connection between them that Christian activists would like to deepen. The First Amendment class for third-year law students that I watched Dunbar lead neatly merged the two components of the school’s program: “lawyering skills” and “the integration of a Christian worldview.”

Dunbar began the lecture by discussing a national day of thanksgiving that Gen. George Washington called for after the defeat of the British at Saratoga in 1777 — showing, in her reckoning, a religious base in the thinking of the country’s founders. In developing a line of legal reasoning that the future lawyers in her class might use, she wove her way to two Supreme Court cases in the 1960s, in both of which the court ruled that prayer in public schools was unconstitutional. A student questioned the relevance of the 1777 event to the court rulings, because in 1777 the country did not yet have a Constitution. “And what did we have at that time?” Dunbar asked. Answer: “The Declaration of Independence.” She then discussed a legal practice called “incorporation by reference.” “When you have in one legal document reference to another, it pulls them together, so that they can’t be viewed as separate and distinct,” she said. “So you cannot read the Constitution distinct from the Declaration.” And the Declaration famously refers to a Creator and grounds itself in “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Therefore, she said, the religiosity of the founders is not only established and rooted in a foundational document but linked to the Constitution. From there she moved to “judicial construction and how you should go forward with that,” i.e., how these soon-to-be lawyers might work to overturn rulings like that against prayer in schools by using the founding documents.

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a Christian legal center, told me that the notion of connecting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is “part of a strategy to give a clear historical understanding of the role of religion in American public life” that organizations like his have been pursuing for the last 10 or 15 years.

Besides the fact that incorporation by reference is usually used for technical purposes rather than for such grandiose purposes as the reinterpretation of foundational texts, there is an oddity to this tactic. “The founders deliberately left the word ‘God’ out of the Constitution — but not because they were a bunch of atheists and deists,” says Susan Jacoby, author of “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.” “To them, mixing religion and government meant trouble.” The curious thing is that in trying to bring God into the Constitution, the activists — who say their goal is to follow the original intent of the founders — are ignoring the fact that the founders explicitly avoided religious language in that document.

And here again there is a link to Texas. David Barton specifically advised the writers of the Texas guidelines that textbooks “should stipulate (but currently do not) that the Declaration of Independence is symbiotic with the Constitution rather than a separate unrelated document.”

In 2008, Cynthia Dunbar published a book called “One Nation Under God,” in which she stated more openly than most of her colleagues have done the argument that the founding of America was an overtly Christian undertaking and laid out what she and others hope to achieve in public schools. “The underlying authority for our constitutional form of government stems directly from biblical precedents,” she writes. “Hence, the only accurate method of ascertaining the intent of the Founding Fathers at the time of our government’s inception comes from a biblical worldview.”

Then she pushes forward: “We as a nation were intended by God to be a light set on a hill to serve as a beacon of hope and Christian charity to a lost and dying world.” But the true picture of America’s Christian founding has been whitewashed by “the liberal agenda” — in order for liberals to succeed “they must first rewrite our nation’s history” and obscure the Christian intentions of the founders. Therefore, she wrote, “this battle for our nation’s children and who will control their education and training is crucial to our success for reclaiming our nation.”

After the book came out, Dunbar was derided in blogs and newspapers for a section in which she writes of “the inappropriateness of a state-created, taxpayer-supported school system” and likens sending children to public school to “throwing them into the enemy’s flames, even as the children of Israel threw their children to Moloch.” (Her own children were either home-schooled or educated in private Christian schools.) When I asked, over dinner in a honky-tonk steakhouse down the road from the university, why someone who felt that way would choose to become an overseer of arguably the most influential public-education system in the country, she said that public schools are a battlefield for competing ideologies and that it’s important to combat the “religion” of secularism that holds sway in public education.

Ask Christian activists what they really want — what the goal is behind the effort to bring Christianity into American history — and they say they merely want “the truth.” “The main thing I’m looking for as a state board member is to make sure we have good standards,” Don McLeroy said. But the actual ambition is vast. Americans tell pollsters they support separation of church and state, but then again 65 percent of respondents to a 2007 survey by the First Amendment Center agreed with the statement that “the nation’s founders intended the United States to be a Christian nation,” and 55 percent said they believed the Constitution actually established the country as a Christian nation. The Christian activists are aware of such statistics and want to build on them, as Dunbar made clear. She told me she looks to John Jay’s statement that it is the duty of the people “of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers” and has herself called for a preference for selecting Christians for positions of leadership.

Dunbar’s book lays out the goal: using courts and public schools to fuse Christianity into the nation’s founding. It may be unlikely that it will be attained any time soon, in which case the seeding of Texas’ history-textbook guidelines with “Christian nation” concepts may be mostly symbolic. But symbols can accumulate weight over time, and the Christian activists are in it for the long haul. Some observers say that over time their effort could have far-reaching consequences. “The more you can associate Christianity with the founding, the more you can sway the future Supreme Court,” Martin Marty says. “That is what Pat Robertson was about years ago. Establish the founders as Christians, and you have it made.”

“BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, What Do You See?” It’s not an especially subversive-sounding title, but the author of this 1967 children’s picture book, Bill Martin Jr., lost his place in the Texas social-studies guidelines at last month’s board meeting due to what was thought to be un-American activity — to be precise, “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system.” Martin, the creator of 300 children’s books, was removed from the list of cultural figures approved for study by third graders in the blizzard of amendments offered by board members.

Over all, the TEKS guidelines make for impressive reading. They are thoughtful and deep; you can almost feel the effort at achieving balance. Poring down the long columns and knowing that the 1998 version of these guidelines served as the basis for textbooks in most U.S. states, you even begin to feel some hope for the future.

What is wrong with the Texas process, according to many observers, is illustrated by the fate of Bill Martin Jr. The board has the power to accept, reject or rewrite the TEKS, and over the past few years, in language arts, science and now social studies, the members have done all of the above. Yet few of these elected overseers are trained in the fields they are reviewing. “In general, the board members don’t know anything at all about content,” Tom Barber, the textbook executive, says. Kathy Miller, the watchdog, who has been monitoring the board for 15 years, says, referring to Don McLeroy and another board member: “It is the most crazy-making thing to sit there and watch a dentist and an insurance salesman rewrite curriculum standards in science and history. Last year, Don McLeroy believed he was smarter than the National Academy of Sciences, and he now believes he’s smarter than professors of American history.” In this case, one board member sent an e-mail message with a reference to “Ethical Marxism,” by Bill Martin, to another board member, who suggested that anyone who wrote a book with such a title did not belong in the TEKS. As it turned out, Bill Martin and Bill Martin Jr. are two different people. But by that time, the author of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” was out. “That’s a perfect example of these people’s lack of knowledge,” Miller says. “They’re coming forward with hundreds of amendments at the last minute. Don McLeroy had a four-inch stack of amendments, and they all just voted on them, whether or not they actually knew the content. What we witnessed in January was a textbook example of how not to develop textbook standards.”

Before the January board meeting, one of the social-studies curriculum writers, Judy Brodigan, told me that she was very pleased with the guidelines her team produced. After the meeting, with its 10-hour marathon of amendments by board members, she spoke very differently. “I think they took a very, very good document and weakened it,” she said. “The teachers take their work seriously. I do believe there are board members on the ultraright who have an agenda. They want to make our standards very conservative and fit their viewpoint. Our job is not to take a viewpoint. It’s to present sides fairly. I thought we had done that.”

Regarding religion, the writing teams had included in their guidelines some of the recommendations of the experts appointed by the Christian bloc but had chosen to ignore most. I was led to expect that the January meeting would see a torrent of religion amendments, in which Don McLeroy would reinsert items that the team failed to include, just as he did with other subjects in the past. Last November, over dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant across the street from the Texas A&M campus, McLeroy vowed to do so, saying, “I’ll get the details in there.” At that time, he and others were full of information and bravado as they pushed toward the “Christian nation” goal. But at the January meeting, while there were many conservative political amendments, there were only a few religion amendments. When I talked to him afterward, he shrugged it off in an uncharacteristically vague way. “We’re basically happy with things,” he said.

It’s possible a wave of religion amendments will come in the next meeting, in March, when American government will still be among the subjects under review. But the change of tone could signal a shift in strategy. “It could be that they feel they’ve already got enough code words sprinkled throughout the guidelines,” Kathy Miller says. The laws of Nature and Nature’s God. Moses and the Bible “informing” the American founding. “The Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith” as America’s original purpose. “We’ve seen in the past how one word here or there in the curriculum standards gets seized upon by the far-right members at adoption time,” Miller says. “In the science debate, the words ‘intelligent design’ did not appear, but they used ‘strengths and weaknesses’ as an excuse to pitch a battle. The phrase became a wedge to try to weaken the theory of evolution, to suggest that scientists had serious problems with it. We’ve seen the board use these tiny fragments to wage war on publishers.”

This squares with what Tom Barber, the textbook executive, told me: that in the next stage in the Texas process, general guidelines are chiseled into fact-size chunks in crisp columns of print via backroom cajoling. “The process of reviewing the guidelines in Texas is very open, but what happens behind the scenes after that is quite different,” Barber says. “McLeroy is kind of the spokesman for the social conservatives, and publishers will work with him throughout. The publishers just want to make sure they get their books listed.”

To give an illustration simultaneously of the power of ideology and Texas’ influence, Barber told me that when he led the social-studies division at Prentice Hall, one conservative member of the board told him that the 12th-grade book, “Magruder’s American Government,” would not be approved because it repeatedly referred to the U.S. Constitution as a “living” document. “That book is probably the most famous textbook in American history,” Barber says. “It’s been around since World War I, is updated every year and it had invented the term ‘living Constitution,’ which has been there since the 1950s. But the social conservatives didn’t like its sense of flexibility. They insisted at the last minute that the wording change to ‘enduring.’ ” Prentice Hall agreed to the change, and ever since the book — which Barber estimates controlled 60 or 65 percent of the market nationally — calls it the “enduring Constitution.”

Last fall, McLeroy was frank in talking about how he applies direct pressure to textbook companies. In the language-arts re-evaluation, the members of the Christian bloc wanted books to include classic myths and fables rather than newly written stories whose messages they didn’t agree with. They didn’t get what they wanted from the writing teams, so they did an end run around them once the public battles were over. “I met with all the publishers,” McLeroy said. “We went out for Mexican food. I told them this is what we want. We want stories with morals, not P.C. stories.” He then showed me an e-mail message from an executive at Pearson, a major educational publisher, indicating the results of his effort: “Hi Don. Thanks for the impact that you have had on the development of Pearson’s Scott Foresman Reading Street series. Attached is a list of some of the Fairy Tales and Fables that we included in the series.”

If there has been a shift in strategy, politics may have brought it about. The Christian bloc may have determined it would be wiser to work for this kind of transformational change out of the public gaze. Of the seven members of the Christian bloc, Ken Mercer is in a battle to keep his seat, Cynthia Dunbar recently announced she won’t run for re-election and after 11 years of forceful advocacy for fundamentalist causes on the Texas state board, during which time he was steadfastly supported by everyone from Gov. Rick Perry — who originally picked him as chairman — to tea-party organizers, Don McLeroy is now facing the stiffest opposition of his career. Thomas Ratliff, a well-connected lobbyist, has squared off against McLeroy in the Republican primary and is running an aggressive campaign, positioning himself as a practical, moderate Republican. “I’m not trying to out-conservative anyone,” Ratliff told me. “I think the state board of education has lost its way, and the social-studies thing is a prime example. They keep wanting to talk about this being a Christian nation. My attitude is this country was founded by a group of men who were Christians but who didn’t want the government dictating religion, and that’s exactly what McLeroy and his colleagues are trying to do.”

Ratliff has received prominent endorsements and has outraised McLeroy in the neighborhood of 10 to 1. But hard-core conservatives tend to vote in primaries. Anyone looking for signs of where the Republican Party is headed might scan the results of the Texas school-board District 9 Republican primary on the morning of March 3. If Don McLeroy loses, it could signal that the Christian right’s recent power surge has begun to wane. But it probably won’t affect the next generation of schoolbooks. The current board remains in place until next January. By then, decisions on what goes in the Texas curriculum guidelines will be history.

Russell Shorto is a contributing writer for the magazine. His most recent book is ‘‘Descartes’ Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason.’’