Tag Archives: dishonesty

The Court Plays ‘Let’s Pretend’

This rogue Supreme Court no longer shocks me; at this point, I’m numb with disbelief.

The day after overturning affirmative action for Black students (while leaving preferences benefitting Whites intact), the Court didn’t simply ignore decades of  precedent, it went even further afield, ignoring a constitutional rule against issuing “advisory opinions” in order to privilege a “sincere” religious belief.

Robert Hubbell addressed the constitutional principle:

Friday, the Court’s reactionary majority issued opinions in two cases that did not include a constitutional prerequisite to the Court’s jurisdiction—that the issue to be decided presents an actual “case or controversy.” That requirement is set forth plainly and simply in the Constitution. You can look it up.

Instead, the reactionary majority ignored the absence of jurisdiction and proceeded to issue decisions in fake controversies because they can. Looking for deeper meaning is pointless. The reactionary majority has reduced the rule of law to brute force in the service of religious nationalism.

In the days before the Court issued its opinion in 303 Creative, multiple media outlets had confirmed that the entire “case” was bogus. As Heather Cox Richardson explained, not only was the  online business non-existent, the “complaint” had been manufactured.

Smith claims she wants to start the business because “God is calling her ‘to explain His true story about marriage.’” She alleges that in 2016, a gay man approached her to make a website for his upcoming wedding, but yesterday, Melissa Gira Grant of The New Republic reported that, while the man allegedly behind the email does exist, he is an established designer himself (so why would he hire someone who was not?), is not gay, and married his wife 15 years ago. He says he never wrote to Smith, and the stamp on court filings shows she received it the day after she filed the suit.

The Guardian quoted him:

“I can confirm I did not contact 303 Creative about a website,” he said. “It’s fraudulent insomuch as someone is pretending to be me and looking to marry someone called Mike. That’s not me.

“What’s most concerning to me is that this is kind of like the one main piece of evidence that’s been part of this case for the last six-plus years and it’s false,” he added. “Nobody’s checked it. Anybody can pick up the phone, write an email, send a text, to verify whether that was correct information.”

So here we have a case that is entirely prospective, with a fact situation that is falsified–yet radical Justices were so eager to undermine government’s ability to protect marginalized populations from discrimination that they were willing to ignore a basic constitutional principle. As Hubbell correctly notes, the “decision authorizes American business owners to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Period. It is a first step, taken in bad faith and wrapped in lies.”

Richardson reminds us that segregation used to be defended as a deeply-held religious belief.

The widely criticized Court withheld issuance of its most indefensible decisions to the last, and the shameful and dishonest holding in 303 Creative was only one. The Court also ignored a clear lack of jurisdiction in the student loan forgiveness case. The actual party in interest—the corporation that serviced the student loan debt—had refused to file suit. Roberts ruled that the state of Missouri could assert the interests of a party not before the Court –a party that claimed no injury. 

The lack of jurisdiction wasn’t the only problem with that case: constitutional analyst Ian Millhiser wrote that the “decision in Biden v. Nebraska

is complete and utter nonsense. It rewrites a federal law which explicitly authorizes the loan forgiveness program, and it relies on a fake legal doctrine known as ‘major questions’ which has no basis in any law or any provision of the Constitution.”

The majority’s repeated dishonesty is simply stunning. Norman Ornstein said it best:

It is not just the rulings the Roberts Court is making,” he tweeted. “They created out of [w]hole cloth a bogus, major questions doctrine. They made a mockery of standing. They rewrite laws to fit their radical ideological preferences. They have unilaterally blown up the legitimacy of the Court.

The arrogance is breathtaking.

Many Americans will undoubtedly cheer these wildly improper decisions because the results accord with their own policy preferences. That is very short-sighted; the Supreme Court was not created to be a super-legislature, and– as a colleague from my ACLU days used to warn– poison gas is a great weapon until the wind shifts.

Robert Hubbell is right: “The time for hand wringing and half-steps has passed. Real people have lost real liberties—starting with Dobbs and ending 303 Creative. If we do not stand up to protect them with every ounce of our will, we deserve what’s coming.”


GOP: Climate Is A Dirty Word

The other day, I was doing the “housewife” thing–which included cleaning bathroom toilets–and because I am a nerd of the first order, the sight of soapy water swirling down the drain made me think of the GOP.

When “Republican” was the name of a political party that had a policy agenda, a major part of that agenda was protection of the free market and a pretty sustained pushback over government ‘s business regulations. (Barry Goldwater famously proclaimed that government didn’t belong in either your boardroom or your bedroom…but of course, Barry is now considered a RINO.)

Most GOP lawmakers acknowledged the need for government regulations that were necessary to provide an economic “level playing field”–the sorts of regulations meant to prevent unfair business practices, corruption and collusion, and/or harm to the public. The policy arguments focused on the extent and necessity of those rules– matters about which people could have good-faith disagreements.

Those were the good old days!

Axios recently reported on the GOP’s eagerness to tell private businesses what they can and cannot do, and their preferred rules have absolutely nothing to do with bad behavior by their targets. Quite the contrary.

Republicans in Congress have teed up the first veto of the Biden presidency. Curiously, the vetoed bill has nothing to do with children’s books, unisex bathrooms, or even fiscal policy. Instead, it focuses on stock-market asset allocation.

Why it matters: The environmentally conscious global consensus of institutional investors is highly unlikely to be derailed by U.S. political point-scoring. But no good can come from the way in which investment officers increasingly need to navigate a political gantlet.

Driving the news: Both the House and the Senate this week passed legislation overturning a Labor Department rule designed to ensure that fund managers remain capable of considering environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors when making investments.

The aim of the bill was not to change the law — a veto was always certain — but rather to create a 2024 campaign issue. Politicians like Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, characterize the Department of Labor rule as creating “regulations to invest retirement money in far-left liberal causes.” That’s false — the rule mandates nothing at all — but Republicans are hoping it might prove an effective attack vector all the same.

The article quotes an NYU law professor–an expert on environmental law– opining that the  bill “has to be the ne plus ultra of hysterical overreaction to any policy with the word climate in it.”

As the Axios report notes, the GOP is politicizing a “decidedly anodyne” Department of Labor rule that is, in fact, a “laissez-faire attempt to reiterate that investors are free to follow any investment thesis they like.” In other words, a rule aiming to strengthen what used to be Republican orthodoxy.

Climate change is probably the biggest risk facing global markets over the long term. Investors therefore have a clear financial incentive to invest in the companies that are best placed to mitigate or adapt to climate risk, as a way of maximizing their own long-term returns.

There is always a fiduciary reason for ESG investments, but a Trump-era rule tried to discourage such strategies anyway. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute were unenthusiastic about the Trump administration’s stance.

The Department of Labor rule the current bill tries to overturn was written to make it clear that investors don’t need to fear the potential ire of regulatory agencies when they adopt ESG investment frameworks.

It bears emphasizing that the rule the GOP wants to overturn amounts to a promise that, if your business wants to take climate risk into account, government won’t punish you for doing so.

But today’s Republicans insist that concern for climate is a “far left” marker. Today’s GOP has totally abandoned its previous respect for private enterprise and limitations on  legislative authority. The party used to be animated by the libertarian principle that government should be limited to protecting citizens against harm. Americans can and do differ about the nature of the harms that justify government intervention, but things like caring about the environment, reading the “wrong” books, or loving the “wrong” people, were not (at least officially) among them.

Some of this anti-climate fervor reflects the worries of fossil fuel companies, of course, and those companies are big donors to the GOP lawmakers driving this exercise.  Still, we shouldn’t dismiss the political motives behind this propaganda. As the Axios article notes, Republicans are trying to reach swing voters by labeling anything climate-conscious as being part of a far-left agenda.

If recognition of climate change is “leftist,” my belief that words have fixed meanings is  swirling like the water around the drain in my toilet…



Note: post has been updated to correct spelling of Monsanto. Mea culpa.

A lot–probably a majority–of American companies are good corporate citizens. We don’t hear much about them, because they aren’t newsworthy.

Monsanto, on the other hand, is very newsworthy.

Most media about Monsanto is focused on its herbicide Roundup, which has been shown to cause cancer if people are repeatedly exposed to it. (There have been several recent jury verdicts awarding breathtaking sums to afflicted users.) But Monsanto’s sins go well beyond the manufacture and sale of a dangerous product.

The company is especially vicious in its efforts to silence reporters and food safety activists whose coverage is less than glowing.

A non-profit food safety watchdog on Thursday revealed the lengths the agrochemical company Monsanto has gone to in order to keep the dangers of its products secret—monitoring journalists and attempting to discredit them, identifying a progressive musician and activist as a threat, and crafting a plan to counter the watchdog’s public information requests about the company.

Monsanto’s so-called “fusion center” targeted U.S. Right to Know (USRTK), which investigates safety and transparency issues within the U.S. food system. When USRTK filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests beginning in 2015 regarding Monsanto’s relationship’s with publicly-funded universities, the multinational corporation assembled a plan to counter the group’s findings, according to newly-released documents.

Journalists and critics of the company applauded USRTK’s release of the documents and said they only bolstered the case, long made by environmental and public health advocates, that Monsanto must be stopped from profiting off dangerous chemicals and covering up their harms.

The nonprofit had made Freedom of Information requests to universities in an effort to confirm accusations that Montsanto had paid for favorable research results. The 30 plus pages of internal documents that were released detailed the company’s plans to counter and discredit the organization.

In another article, a journalist who was targeted by Monsanto explained how the company goes about discrediting those who publish unflattering reports.

As a journalist who has covered corporate America for more than 30 years, very little shocks me about the propaganda tactics companies often deploy. I know the pressure companies can and do bring to bear when trying to effect positive coverage and limit reporting they deem negative about their business practices and products.

But when I recently received close to 50 pages of internal Monsanto communications about the company’s plans to target me and my reputation, I was shocked.

I knew the company did not like the fact that in my 21 years of reporting on the agrochemical industry – mostly for Reuters – I wrote stories that quoted skeptics as well as fans of Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds. I knew the company didn’t like me reporting about growing unease in the scientific community regarding research that connected Monsanto herbicides to human and environmental health problems. And I knew the company did not welcome the 2017 release of my book, Whitewash – The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science, which revealed the company’s actions to suppress and manipulate the science surrounding its herbicide business.

Monsanto’s efforts included engineering web placement of negative “information” about her–written by Monsanto– that would pop up at the top of internet searches, production of “third party talking points,” and payments to “readers” who would post negative reviews of her book.

The records were uncovered as part of court-ordered discovery in litigation brought by plaintiffs alleging their cancers were caused by exposure to Roundup. The documents  revealed years of company activities aimed at manipulating the scientific record about Roundup.

Companies like Monsanto not only pose a danger to thousands of people–they create a perception that no business enterprise can be trusted. That perception isn’t just bad for law-abiding enterprises–it’s bad for America’s economic health.

A functioning government  with a functioning Consumer Protection agency would shut Monsanto down.

If Dick Cheney Were Capable of Shame….

Darth Cheney has emerged again from whatever hole he occupies, to proclaim the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Bengazi “the worst disaster” he can recall, and to assert that it is evidence of the incompetence of the Obama Administration.

Leaving aside the fact that the Republicans in Congress engineered significant cuts to the budget for embassy security, despite warnings that the cuts would endanger American lives, it is hard to believe the chutzpah of a Bush Administration VP (“vice” in every sense of the word). This was the administration that ignored “Bin Laden Determined to Attack in U.S.” and saw the destruction of the Twin Towers.

This was also the administration in power when we sustained fifty plus attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities abroad, thirteen of which were lethal. (And that’s excluding those in Baghdad). Those attacks in which American diplomats lost their lives occurred during Cheney’s “rein,” and before Barack Obama ever stepped into the Oval Office: Jan. 22, 2002, Calcutta, India; June 14, 2002, Karachi, Pakistan; Oct. 12, 2002, Denpasar, Bali; Feb. 28, 2003, Islamabad, Pakistan; May 12, 2003, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,July 30, 2004, Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Dec. 6, 2004, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; March 2, 2006, Karachi, Pakistan; Sept. 12, 2006, Damascus, Syria; Jan. 12, 2007, Athens, Greece; March 18, 2008, Sana’a, Yemen; July 9, 2008, Istanbul, Turkey; Sept. 17, 2008, Sana’a, Yemen.

I don’t recall Democrats conducting endless investigations and calling for impeachments as a result of those attacks.

If there was ever any doubt that Dick Cheney is a small, twisted, evil man, his willingness to use baldfaced lies in the service of partisan politics, and his eagerness to use the deaths of American diplomats to score cheap points would erase it.

But really, was there any doubt?

Selling Cars and Candidates

When I was in college, I worked one summer for a friend of my father; he owned a Cadillac-Rambler agency (no kidding!), and I was billed as the first female used-car salesman (not “salesperson” back then) in Anderson, Indiana. I soon learned that if I wanted to sell a car, I needed to find out what the buyer wanted and emphasize those features–if someone came in wanting a red car, I talked about what a great shade of red this one had; if they wanted a V-8 engine, I talked about that.

A pretty elementary lesson in marketing.

Unfortunately, that’s the one lesson political candidates at all levels have really learned well.

We like to think of the democratic system as one where candidates and parties offer us competing visions and philosophies, and we choose between them. But all too often, that isn’t what happens. Instead, candidates hide or minimize agendas that they think (usually correctly) voters won’t “buy.” They become stealth candidates of a sort. So we have a Richard Mourdock, a man who won his primary promising to be intransigent, suddenly talking about co-operation and bipartisanship. You have Mike Pence, who has spent his entire time in Congress fighting for far-right culture issues, suddenly voicing concern about  jobs and economic development, and another culture-warrior, Scott Schneider, running ads touting his bona fides as a “family man, and small businessman” who serves the public in the Indiana legislature.

It’s enough to make me sympathize with the folks on the far right who are always complaining that their Republican candidates won’t run a full-throated conservative campaign. That complaint assumes that a campaign run forthrightly on Right issues–defunding Planned Parenthood, passing a “personhood” amendment to outlaw not just abortion but also most birth control, anti-GLBT measures and of course starving government until it’s small enough to drown in Grover Norquist’s bathtub–would be a winner.

Candidates who aren’t entirely delusional recognize that these positions do not reflect the will of the larger electorate, no matter how fervently they are embraced by the True Believers. So they lie. They try to re-invent themselves. They tell us what they think we want to hear. And if they have enough money and good advertising consultants, they often win.

Because selling that car is more important than admitting that it’s maroon, not red. Being elected–achieving some measure of power–trumps running a campaign based upon telling voters the truth.

It’s interesting that so many of these profoundly dishonest campaigns are run by candidates who talk incessantly about the importance of religion, and who want us to know how godly and pious they are. I guess they missed that part about “bearing false witness.”

They’d make great car salesmen.