The oil-industry funded front group for Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, has a Buzzfeed list featuring animated gifs of the "Top 10 Ways To Celebrate Earth Day: For Conservatives." Media Matters has gathered all the ways that anti-conservation "conservatives" have truly decided to celebrate Earth Day this year:
Fox News celebrated Earth Day by hosting Fox Business' John Stossel who is "cheering for fossil fuels" that were responsible for dozens of disasters last year. Forbes contributor and oil and gas industry consultant David Blackmon caught on to the trend, writing an op-ed glorifying the fossil fuel industry titled "Be Thankful On Earth Day For Oil & Gas."
Earth Day happens to lie on the same day as Vladimir Lenin's birthday, so it must be a communist plot, according to conservative blogger Erick Erickson. Erickson filled in for Rush Limbaugh on his radio show on Earth Day by ranting about the connections between environmentalism and communism.
The United States (and globe) has been warming since the first Earth Day -- but that didn't prevent snow-trollers from emerging once again to cast doubt on global warming. On April 22, climate "skeptic" favorite Ryan Maue tweeted at conservative blogger Erick Erickson: "Remind folks on Earth Day... to not put away their snow shovels until July 4th." Erickson later fulfilled Maue's request as a guest host for on The Rush Limbaugh Show.
Jim Treacher, a reporter for the conservative news site Daily Caller, joked that he would celebrate Earth Day by burning "dangerous tires before they can pollute the planet," mocking NASA's Twitter campaign asking the public to take a "#GlobalSelfie" for Earth Day.
Fox News frequent Marc Morano hyped a piece by Roy Spencer that equated climate science to a "religion" -- one of the most prominent ways conservatives erode trust in scientists according to a study by the Yale Project on Climate Communications. Spencer wrote, in honor of Earth Day:
As in other religions, most Earth worshipers are more or less hypocritical. Spend a day being "good", spend the rest of the year failing.
I mostly find Earth Day just plain annoying for the rank hypocrisy on display. A state-sponsored religious day of worship, along with all of the 1st Amendment-violating regulations to codify it.
The final installment of the U.N.'s top climate report, which calls for prompt, extensive action to avoid calamitous impacts from climate change, garnered relatively little attention from the major print, cable and broadcast media outlets compared to the first installment. However, coverage of the third report rightfully gave far less space to those who cast doubt on the science.
Recent media reports on President Obama's judicial nominations misleadingly suggest that his confirmation record is now better than that of his predecessor George W. Bush, but rampant GOP obstructionism is still contributing to an alarming amount of "judicial emergencies" across the country.
National Review Online and the right-wing Heritage Foundation recently used Obama's overall total as well as his 2014 first quarter judicial confirmation numbers to claim that the president "outpaces" his Republican predecessor, at a rate that will eventually "steamroll" the total number of Bush appointments to the federal bench.
Unfortunately, this misinformation appears to have been spurred by recent media stories that reported raw confirmation numbers, without sufficient context. For example, according to Politico, Obama is now "outpacing George W. Bush on judges," because he has succeeded in getting 237 judges confirmed, while 234 judges were confirmed "by this point in [Bush's] presidency." This total number of seated judges is what right-wing media choose to focus on in their extrapolation of Obama's ultimate record, while ignoring the president's actual seating rate (confirmations in light of total vacancies). When the number of vacancies Obama has to deal with in comparison to Bush is added to an examination of their respective records, it is evident that the president still has a long road ahead to leave office with a rate similar to his predecessor, especially in the face of Republicans' unprecedented obstructionism.
Even though the total number of Obama's confirmations has exceeded Bush's, Obama has more vacancies to fill and has to appoint more nominees than his predecessor. According to the Alliance for Justice, "Only 79% of Obama's nominees have been confirmed compared to 89% at this same point for Bush; likewise, Obama has filled only 73% of the total judicial vacancies up to this point in his presidency, while Bush had filled about 82%." As a result, says AFJ, "Bush fared significantly better in getting his nominees confirmed" than Obama has so far.
This has real-world consequences by delaying and denying justice across the country.
The Heritage Foundation recently published a faulty report on the economic effects of the EPA's forthcoming carbon pollution regulations, and its findings have been repeated uncritically in conservative media despite the foundation's fossil fuel funding and the report's "deeply problematic" analysis.
The Heritage Foundation released their new report, titled "EPA's Climate Regulations Will Harm American Manufacturing," just as House Republicans have been ramping up their latest effort to overturn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) carbon pollution regulations. On March 6, the House passed a bill that would heavily weaken the Clean Air Act and would "seriously cripple the Obama Administration's ongoing drive to curb dangerous carbon pollution," according to Dan Lashof of the NRDC (the bill is not expected to pass the Senate). This is part of the GOP's effort to curb what they call President Obama's "war on coal," a slogan the Heritage Foundation repeats in their report.
Many of the criticisms of the EPA's carbon pollution rules are misleading, but perhaps none are more so than those from the Heritage Foundation, an organization whose studies have previously been criticized by even the conservative American Enterprise Institute and libertarian Cato Institute. This time the organization released a report on the EPA with findings even more dire than its prematurely released data: that carbon regulations will reduce income, kill nearly 600,000 jobs including 336,000 manufacturing jobs in 2023 alone, cut a family of four's income by $1,200 a year, and cost the U.S. economy a total of $2.23 trillion. Their claims were repeated uncritically in the Daily Caller, FoxNews.com, and Politico's Morning Energy. But the entire report is "radically problematic" and has a "tenuous connection with reality," according to policy expert Michael Livermore in a phone call with Media Matters -- and here's why:
The benefits of clean air standards have been shown time and time again to significantly outweigh the costs. In fact, the Clean Air Act has already saved $22 trillion in healthcare costs, according to a cost-benefit analysis from the EPA.
And health experts agree. According to a press release from the American Lung Association (ALA), the carbon regulations would help prevent "more than 16,000 premature deaths by 2030," due to lower levels of the particulate-forming pollution that comes from burning coal:
"Roughly half of the population in the United States currently lives in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution that is linked to serious illnesses, including asthma attacks, lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes and even death. Children are particularly susceptible to the health effects of air pollution because their lungs are still developing. Carbon pollution that fuels climate change will make it harder to achieve healthy air for all.
"Researchers have estimated that safeguards enacted now to reduce greenhouse gases - including carbon pollution from all sources in the U.S. - would prevent more than 16,000 premature deaths by 2030. The lives would be saved as a result of reductions in the ozone, and particulate-forming pollution that is also reduced as carbon is reduced. Cleaning up carbon pollution from power plants is essential to saving those lives.
It seems the Heritage Foundation does not believe there will be any benefits to clean air, as they do not include any benefits in their analysis of the carbon pollution regulations.
Michael Livermore, Senior Advisor at New York University's Institute for Policy Integrity, explained in a phone call that "even as a cost prediction, [the report is] very inaccurate because it doesn't paint a complete picture about how the economy is going to respond." He expanded (edited lightly for clarity):
One reason it overstates the cost is because it doesn't account for productivity gains that are associated with clean air benefits [...] They're only looking at ways in which productivity might be reduced because of energy prices but they're not looking at ways in which productivity can be increased because people are healthier and live longer.
In addition to that, they're not accounting for -- as far as I can tell -- the various ways that in a dynamic economy, labor markets and technology will adapt to the agency's greenhouse gas regulations.
They assume that any transitions that occur within the energy sector will propagate out to other sectors of the economy and basically act like a shock that's going to reduce employment everywhere. And again, that's not really accurate, that's not how labor markets work, they're holding things constant like macroeconomic policy and the business cycle, all of which are other compounds that are going to affect the employment rate. So their model has a very tenuous connection to reality in terms of anything that's going to happen that they're predicting, with any degree of accuracy in terms of employment.
And in fact, other models which are more empirically grounded find that when you impose regulatory requirements on firms they're just as likely to hire more workers as they are to lay workers off -- and these are in the most highly regulated industries -- because you have to hire workers to comply with environmental statutes. So for example, yes, it might be the case that some coal miners might need to be laid off and need to transition to other forms of employment, but there's also going to be work building new gas fired power plants and energy efficiency retrofits.
So those two countervailing effects, for the most part, most serious economists will argue that our best estimate of the net effect is zero. That any of the employment effects are going to wash out. Because we don't know if there's going to be negative employment effects, but if there are, they're usually going to be associated with countervailing employment effects that are positive. And there's macroeconomic policy like interest rates, like government spending, like taxation, like trade, all of which are going to affect the employment rate far, far more than anything that's going to happen at the regulatory level.
In January 2014, Resources for the Future (RFF), a nonprofit that conducts independent research on environment and energy issues, published a report on the costs of carbon regulations under the EPA's Clean Air Act. They found, contrary to the Heritage Foundation, that the carbon standards will result in "very small changes in average electricity prices" as a likely outcome, and predicted "positive and large" net benefits in every scenario.
The Clean Air Task Force -- a public health and environment advocacy group comprised of engineers, scientists, and specialists -- similarly found in a February 2014 study conducted by The NorthBridge Group that a "highly cost-effective approach" to carbon regulations under the Clean Air Act is feasible:
Simply by setting performance standards that result in displacing electricity generated by high emission rate coal-fired power plants with generation from existing currently underutilized, efficient natural-gas power plants, the U.S. can realize significant, near- term reductions in carbon pollution at a minimal cost.
The analysis predicts that the CATF proposal will:
- Decrease by 2020 of 27%, or 636 million metric tons of CO2, from 2005 levels;
- Avoid 2,000 premature deaths and 15,000 asthma attacks annually as a result of the annual reductions of over 400,000 tons in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in 2020;
- Result in monetized health and climate benefits of $34 billion, which is over three times the cost of compliance;
- increase in average nationwide retail electric rates by only 2% in 2020 which, based on Energy Information Administration forecasts, should result in no net increase in monthly electric bills.
Finally, the Natural Resources Defense Council crafted a proposal to support the EPA's goal of reducing carbon emissions, resulting in net benefits that outweigh the costs "as much as 15 times."
National Review Online turned to a researcher with a history of dubious scholarship and inflammatory racial theories to defend the University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus' deeply flawed study attacking same-sex parenting. The researcher, Jason Richwine, resigned from the Heritage Foundation after it came to light that he had written that new Latino immigrants are likely to have "low-IQ children."
In a November 18 blog post for NRO, Richwine depicted Regnerus as the victim of a left-wing conspiracy, citing a recent court order to release records concerning the 2012 publication of Regnerus' study, which purported to find that children raised by same-sex parents fare worse than those raised by heterosexual parents. Experts strongly condemned the study, citing its methodological flaws. Regnerus didn't compare children of married same-sex parents to those of married straight parents, and he failed to establish a causal relationship between same-sex parenting and negative outcomes for children.
Most damning was the revelation that the rabidly anti-LGBT Witherspoon Institute funded and helped plan the study. Given that Regnerus' research has figured prominently in anti-equality debates around the world, the call for greater transparency on the study's funding and design is understandable. That's what spurred the recent court order.
Ignoring those concerns, Richwine argued that those holding Regnerus accountable have embarked on a "witch hunt" (emphasis added):
Modern-day America is civilized in that, while we conduct plenty of witch hunts, we do at least stop right before the burning-at-the-stake part. That's progress! But it's not much consolation for Mark Regnerus, whose scholarly research questioning same-sex parenting has drawn a seemingly unprecedented level of ire from left-wing activists and their academic allies.
Jennifer Marshall and I detail here the furious reaction that Regnerus sparked, but suffice to say that it involved hysterical condemnations in the press, a frivolous "scientific misconduct" investigation conducted at the behest of a blogger (!), emotion-laden joint statements, evidence-free accusations of corruption on the part of the journal, and more.
Now the journal's editor will have his e-mails scrutinized for the slightest inappropriate thought. The point of all of this, of course, is to scare away scholars from conducting research that the Left doesn't like. This isn't a free-speech issue in the strict sense that the government is threatening to throw Regnerus in jail (or burn him at the stake), but the effect is the same: the silencing of unpopular ideas.
It's telling that rather engage with the substantive issues raised by the blogger (!) who flagged Witherspoon's role in shaping Regnerus' study, Richwine simply asserted -- falsely -- that critics' arguments were "evidence-free."
A new report from the Heritage Foundation attacks the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), mounting a perverse and fallacious defense of allowing businesses to discriminate against workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In advance of the Senate's expected historic vote on ENDA, Heritage Foundation fellow and "ex-gay" therapy-advocate Ryan T. Anderson published a report titled "ENDA Threatens Fundamental Civil Liberties." The report, which is the culmination of Heritage's recent attacks on ENDA in conservative media, rehashes some of the worst conservative arguments against the law, which would merely prohibit employers from harassing or discriminating against LGBT employees. Here are the seven worst arguments he uses to attack ENDA:
A central conservative argument against ENDA is that the law would create "special" rights and privileges for LGBT people. According to Anderson:
ENDA creates special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Specifically, it would make it illegal for organizations with 15 or more employees to "fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment of the individual, because of such individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity."
In reality, ENDA would merely extend the same employment protections that already exist under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - for race, sex, religion, age, and disability status - to include sexual orientation and gender identity. ENDA's text explicitly prohibits special privileges for LGBT employees, including "preferential treatment or quotas."
Florida Watchdog.org, an offshoot of the Koch brothers-funded Watchdog.org, parroted right-wing media claims that Congress is receiving an "exemption" from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by receiving a "special subsidy" from the government for its health insurance. However, this zombie lie is not based in fact and is due to a Republican effort to politicize the implementation of the law.
A co-author of the Heritage Foundation's new immigration report, which right-wing media have hyped despite even conservative criticism about its methodology, has long promoted inflammatory theories about the relationship between race and IQ in Hispanic immigrants, an unsurprising fact given his ties to extremist anti-immigrant organizations.
Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post's Wonkblog reported that Jason Richwine, a co-author of the Heritage report, asserts in his 2009 doctoral dissertation titled "IQ and Immigration Policy" that "there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races." Matthews wrote [emphasis added]:
While it's clear he thinks it is partly due to genetics -- "the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ" -- he argues the most important thing is that the differences in group IQs are persistent, for whatever reason. He writes, "No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against."
Matthews also included Richwine's dissertation abstract, which forwards the idea that the U.S. should not only select its immigrant pool based on IQ, but that immigrants and their future generations are not apt to obtain his desired level of intelligence [emphasis added]:
The statistical construct known as IQ can reliably estimate general mental ability, or intelligence. The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market. Selecting high-IQ immigrants would ameliorate these problems in the U.S., while at the same time benefiting smart potential immigrants who lack educational access in their home countries.
His dissertation, however, was not the first time Richwine promoted these offensive claims. In July 2008, while Richwine was a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, he said in a panel discussion of the book The New Case Against Immigration, broadcast on C-SPAN, that "races differ in all sorts of ways, and probably the most important way is in IQ":
The argument that immigrants themselves are no different from the ones that came 100 years ago I think is, is quite wrong, and I think that the major difference here is ethnicity -- or race, if you will. I think that race is important for two main reasons. One is that human beings as a species are a naturally tribal group of people. We have inside, outside, groups. We have families, for one example, where, you know, family comes first in virtually every society. And we tend to be very attuned to even small, trivial differences between groups. I don't mean to suggest I think this is a good thing, I wish we could be more universalist, but the reality is that we're not going to be that way, and we shouldn't be basing policy on that either.
The second reason I think race is important is that there are real differences between groups, not just trivial ones that we happen to notice more than we should. Races differ in all sorts of ways, and probably the most important way is in IQ. Decades of psychometric testing has indicated that at least in America, you have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, and then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks. These are real differences. They're not going to go away tomorrow, and for that reason, we have to address them in our immigration discussions and our debates.
Richwine's anti-immigrant language is reminiscent of that used by the Pioneer Fund, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designates as a hate group that "funds studies of race and intelligence, as well as eugenics, the 'science' of breeding superior human beings that was discredited by various Nazi atrocities." The Pioneer Fund supports the notoriously anti-immigrant and fellow SPLC hate-group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), founded by nativist John Tanton who publishes The Social Contract Press. Richwine spoke at a 2010 event for The Social Contract Press on the "myth of immigrant crime," and, according to the group, argued that "immigrant and illegal alien crime is higher than crime committed by other demographic groups." After joining the Heritage Foundation's Domestic Policy Studies Department in January 2012, Richwine spoke at a Social Contract writing workshop last September about the "connection between culture and immigration" as part of a weekend event hosted by anti-immigrant and white nationalist organizations.
UPDATE: The Heritage Foundation issued a statement to BuzzFeed about Richwine's 2009 dissertation:
"This is not a work product of The Heritage Foundation. Its findings in no way reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation," Heritage VP of Communications Mike Gonzalez told BuzzFeed in a statement. "Nor do the findings affect the conclusions of our study on the cost of amnesty to the U.S. taxpayer."
This post has been updated for clarity.
Fox News devoted significantly more airtime to the Heritage Foundation's claims that providing legal status to undocumented immigrants will have negative fiscal impact, but mostly ignored pro-immigration rallies during the same period.
According to the Washington Post, the Cato Institute has identified another major flaw with the conservative Heritage Foundation's immigration report that further invalidates Heritage's conclusions: Heritage has repeatedly touted the use of "dynamic" scoring, as opposed to the "static" scoring used in its immigration studies, as the more accurate model for gauging fiscal impact.
As Cato Institute immigration expert Alex Nowrasteh explained, estimating a proposed bill's fiscal impact using dynamic scoring involves taking into account how legislation "will affect the rest of the economy, also changing tax revenue and government spending." He added: "Since increased immigration will increase the size of the economy, it will also increase tax revenue and some government spending."
As Nowrasteh went on to note, however, Heritage used "static" scoring to analyze immigration reform in 2007 -- which assumed the bill would not affect the rest of the economy.
Heritage has also employed the "static" method in a new analysis claiming that granting "amnesty" to undocumented immigrants would cost U.S. taxpayers $6.3 trillion, leading immigration experts and economists to dismiss it. The American Enterprise Institute stated that using such a model "fails to capture indirect but important economic impacts of immigration such as increasing economic activity or positively affecting American employment."
As the Post reported, this directly contradicts Heritage's views on "dynamic" scoring:
The libertarian Cato Institute has also rebutted the Heritage Foundation's analysis and said Monday that it fails to take into account the economic benefits of immigration reform.
"We're very disappointed that our fellow free-marketers at Heritage, who have done such great work promoting dynamic scoring methodology for so long, would fail to employ it on immigration reform," Cato spokesman Chris Kennedy said.
Indeed, as Cato noted, Heritage Foundation founder and former president Ed Feulner championed the use of dynamic scoring in a 2002 column. Fuelner called the "static" model "wrong-headed" and advised Congress to "switch to a method many business owners use-'dynamic scoring'-which assumes that if you change the way you do business, customers will react in relatively predictable ways."
Fuelner added: "Would 'dynamic scoring' always give lawmakers perfect estimates? No, but it surely would get much closer to the true cost than 'static scoring' does."
In a 2002 research piece on taxes, then-senior fellow Daniel Mitchell (now a senior fellow at Cato) similarly warned about the "perils and pitfalls of static forecasting" and advised against continuing to use "outdated and inaccurate static models." He wrote:
An objective examination of the historical evidence, however, demonstrates that dynamic scoring gives policymakers more accurate information. Dynamic scoring does not predetermine outcomes; it simply ensures that lawmakers will have the most comprehensive data when making decisions.
The strong theoretical argument for dynamic scoring is buttressed by a great deal of historical evidence. The United States has experienced significant shifts in tax policy over the years, and the historical record both demonstrates the shortcomings of static analysis and provides ample proof that the revenue-estimating process should be modernized.
William Beach, Heritage director of data analysis, argued in prepared remarks to the House Ways and Means Committee in September 2011 that "the absence of dynamic economic analysis in major policy debates should be enough to stop such a debate until it is informed by such analysis."
Moreover, a section in its April 23 report, "America's Opportunity for All" -- for which former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) co-wrote the foreword with Fuelner -- calls for using dynamic scoring "to make more practical and useful fiscal information available to Congress":
Budgeting has all but collapsed in recent years, reflecting an erosion of both fiscal policy and Congress's ability to govern. Process reforms should focus first on compelling Congress to budget regularly in a systematic and responsible way. Enforcement procedures should be strengthened to ensure spending discipline. Finally, the process should incorporate realistic projections of fiscal outcomes. For example, lawmakers should estimate and publish the projected cost over 75 years of any proposed policy or funding level for each major federal program, especially entitlements. Any major policy change should also be evaluated over a long-term horizon. In addition to calculating the costs of proposed congressional actions without regard to the economy's response to those actions (known as "static" scoring), the government should require a parallel calculation that takes that response into account (known as "dynamic" scoring) to make more practical and useful fiscal information available to Congress when it decides whether to pursue certain actions.
In criticizing the report, economist Tim Kane, a former Heritage fellow whose 2006 report on immigration for the organization concluded that the "argument that immigrants harm the American economy should be dismissed out of hand," wrote:
The net effect of this Special Report does real damage to the cause of dynamic analysis. For more than a decade, Heritage has called on CBO to add dynamic analysis to its tax reform studies. I could not agree more. And now, ironically, I can only hope CBO does an analysis of immigration reform that will show how skewed the Heritage immigration work has become.
Media outlets are reporting that a new immigration report from the conservative Heritage Foundation found that passing the proposed Senate comprehensive immigration bill will cost $6.3 trillion. In fact, the Heritage report is not an analysis of the entire Senate's "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act," and does not take into account costs or savings of the proposal's broader reforms.
From the May 6 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Media coverage of the debt ceiling frequently claims that raising the limit without simultaneous spending cuts would give President Obama a "blank check," repeating a pattern of promoting this false narrative -- or failing to correct it -- that occurred during the unprecedented brinkmanship of 2011. The phrase implies that the debt ceiling governs additional spending desired by the White House, when in fact it is a restriction on the executive branch's ability to borrow money to pay for spending measures already enacted by Congress.
PBS' Frontline recently aired a documentary titled "Climate of Doubt," examining how conservative groups, frequently funded by the fossil fuel industry, have pushed Republicans to reject the scientific consensus on manmade global warming. Here, Media Matters looks back at how Fox News has contributed to that "Climate of Doubt," often teaming up with industry to misrepresent science and attack all efforts to address this threat.
Conservative media have claimed that the Obama administration is waging a "war" on "cheap," "clean" coal that will cause blackouts and massive layoffs. In fact, the Obama administration has simply implemented long overdue and legally required clean air regulations to protect public health without hurting electric reliability or employment, and much of the transition away from coal is due to the rise of cheaper, cleaner natural gas.