Right-wing media have inconsistently responded to House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) failed attempt to pass his proposed "Plan B" to resolve the so-called "fiscal cliff" standoff, including praising conservative Republicans who opposed the measure, expressing regret that the measure didn't pass, questioning the viability of Boehner's speakership, and blaming President Obama for the plan's failure, despite Obama's concessions to the GOP.
Right-wing media outlets are reporting that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate of gun violence prevention, denied the National Guard entry into Brooklyn to aid victims in the wake of Hurricane Sandy because members of the National Guard carry firearms. In fact, during the press conference the critics are citing, Bloomberg said he opposed having the Guard patrol the streets because he believed the New York Police Department was sufficiently equipped to protect the public and that the Guard would be better used in locations with smaller police forces.
During an October 31 press conference, Bloomberg was asked to respond to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's request for additional National Guard resources to deter criminal activity. Bloomberg responded that "The National Guard has been helpful, but the NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns," adding that "[w]e don't need it" and that the troops would be better used for that purpose in "locations upstate and into surrounding states where they don't have a police department the size of New York."
REPORTER: Mr. Mayor, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz has a question, additional National Guard in Brooklyn, do you agree?
BLOOMBERG: No, we appreciate the help. The National Guard has been helpful, but the NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns. We don't need it. There has been one or two minor outbreakings, disgraceful as they may be, looting reported in the paper, but the vast bulk of people are doing the right thing. And in Brooklyn people are safe the same way they are in the rest of the city. We have the resources, the NYPD is 100 percent confident that we can protect the public, we've been doing this for an awful long time. You just have to take a look at the crime rate to understand how good a job this is. And the National Guard has plenty of responsibilities. There are plenty of locations upstate and into surrounding states where they don't have a police department the size of New York, and they can use help from the state, and that's where they should be.
Conservative media outlets are claiming that the military is purchasing more electric vehicles in an attempt to "prop up the Obama administration's green agenda." But military leaders across the political spectrum say that the Pentagon's green initiatives will enhance military effectiveness and strengthen national security.
Last month, Stars and Stripes reported that the Defense Department plans to add about 1,500 "road-capable" electric cars to its fleet over the next few years. So far, the military has purchased 168 plug-in electric vehicles -- including some Chevy Volts. Thomas Hicks, the Navy's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy, recently told Scientific American that the goal of the military's green initiatives is "improving our combat capability, improving our mission effectiveness, and reducing our vulnerabilities to foreign sources of fossil fuel."
But conservative media outlets have conjured up another motive, accusing the Obama administration of using taxpayer dollars to boost GM's sales numbers -- even though the military is buying several types of electric vehicles. A Breitbart post said: "The Obama administration is helping General Motors again by buying up its struggling line of electric cars." And a Washington Free Beacon article stated: "The Pentagon's massive car-buying scheme is the latest example of government trying to help GM raise its sales volumes."
Other conservative outlets are calling the purchases a "political statement," and an attempt to "prop up the Obama administration's green agenda." And Fox News, which never misses an opportunity to lambast the Volt, issued the self-fulfilling prophecy that the military's purchase will become "the latest controversy in the Volt's short life."
Several conservative outlets cited a Reuters report that GM is losing up to $49,000 on every Volt sold to suggest that electric vehicles are a waste of taxpayer money. But as the International Business Times pointed out, this figure does not take into account future Volt sales or the application of its technology to other products, which will lower per-vehicle costs. GM called the Reuters figure "grossly wrong," and said that it expects to break even by the time the second-generation Volt is introduced in a few years. Former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz wrote in Forbes that "[m]aybe the Volt, a first-generation technology masterpiece and the most-awarded car in automotive history, will never make a really decent profit. But succeeding generations of the same technology will."
International Business Times noted that the Volt is a forward-looking investment by GM, which "should be reassuring to investors and the market." Likewise, the military's investment in electric vehicles is part of a long-term strategy to reduce its dependence on oil, mitigate the risks of climate change and enhance national security.
Right-wing media are fearmongering over an Obama campaign smartphone app that makes it easier for any smartphone user and Obama supporter to get involved in the campaign without first having to visit a campaign office. Conservative media are claiming that it will allow users to "spy" on their neighbors and report that information back to the campaign.
In fact, the app is designed to simplify the process for getting involved in the 2012 campaign; it includes only information that is publicly available; and it has built-in privacy protections against abuse. Moreover, the Romney campaign also makes voter information freely available to anyone who registers on its website.
On July 30, the Obama for America campaign introduced an iPhone app that "will make it even easier to connect with the campaign and pitch in wherever you are." From the campaign:
This campaign's strength has always come from the millions of grassroots supporters who are organizing their communities, and the new Obama app puts the latest organizing tools right at your fingertips.
With the new app, you can easily find local volunteer events near you, get a list of voters to talk to in your neighborhood, and access all the information you need to spread the word: from President Obama's record to state-specific voting info. You can also stay up to date with breaking news, which you can instantly share with friends and family using Facebook, Twitter, email, and text messaging.
In an article on the app, Pro Publica noted: "All this is public information, which campaigns have long given to volunteers. But you no longer have to schedule a visit to a field office and wait for a staffer to hand you a clipboard and a printed-out list of addresses." Pro Publica went on to report:
It's unclear if the app displays all registered Democrats who live in a certain area, or only a subset of voters President Obama's campaign is trying to reach.
Asked about the privacy aspects of the new app, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign wrote that "anyone familiar with the political process in America knows this information about registered voters is available and easily accessible to the public."
The information included in the app has "traditionally been available to anyone who walks into a campaign field office," said the spokesperson, who declined to be named.
While the app makes voter information instantly available, it displays only a small cluster of addresses at a time. It has built-in mechanisms to detect when people are misusing the data, "such as people submitting way too many voter contacts in a short period of time," the spokesman said.
CNN contributor Erick Erickson and other conservative media are claiming that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood praised Chinese authoritarianism because he said that the Chinese have been successful in building infrastructure. But these outlets cropped LaHood's comments to exclude his explicit praise of U.S. democracy.
In an interview with Foreign Policy Magazine, LaHood said that the "Chinese are more successful" at building infrastructure "because in their country, only three people make the decision. In our country, 3,000 people do, 3 million."
Erickson used those remarks to claim in a post at RedState that LaHood "has come out in favor of the Chicoms over Americans," and that the Obama administration is "rooting against us and for a murderous regime of despots." But Erickson ignored that LaHood added that the U.S. has "the best system of government anywhere on the planet," as Foreign Policy Magazine reported:
LaHood said that despite this, democracy is still preferable. "We have the best system of government anywhere on the planet. It is the best. Because the people have their say," he said.
Right-wing media have praised the decision made by many Republican governors to not participate in the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid eligibility. But the provision being rejected by GOP governors would expand affordable health care coverage to millions of struggling Americans.
Right-wing media have attacked a contract between the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and a public relations firm to raise awareness of health and preventive care opportunities as a "propaganda piece" for the health care law that "violates many of the procurement laws." But PR campaigns like this are nothing new; in fact, the Bush administration spent $1.6 billion dollars over a 30-month span promoting its policies.
On the heels of what some in conservative media circles are heralding as a "breakthrough" story and "journalism in its purest form" -- the Breitbart.com piece highlighting a 1991 pamphlet that erroneously listed President Obama's birthplace as Kenya -- Rush Limbaugh entertained the "thought-provoking theory" on Friday that Obama is actually the one who started the birther conspiracies to take advantage of an "affirmative action opportunity that was available only to those born in Africa."
Limbaugh stated that he agreed with this premise and that the final takeaway from all of this was that "the guy" -- Obama -- "will exaggerate, make it up, lie, what have you. That's the lesson to be learned here."
It's unclear where this "theory" originated, but Limbaugh was referring to a piece posted at Pajamas Media on Friday by Roger Simon, who purported to guide readers through the "mystery of the Kenyan birth" and offered several "explanations" for why the pamphlet, published by Obama's former literary agency in 1991, said Obama was "born in Kenya." He ultimately concluded that "the agent's source for Obama's birthplace was... Barack Obama." Simon went on to write:
Why would he lie about where he was born?
Well, he might have wanted to glamorize his past, but if that's so, it's pathetic. I suspected there was a more substantive reason, one that would cause him to leave his African birth place in place in the bio. But to take the risk of being found out, it would have to be strong.
What if, we thought, as others have suggested, the reason Obama's school records have not surfaced is that he enrolled, at one of those institutions at least, as a foreign student -- a Kenyan?
But why would he choose to do that? Well, maybe for a grant, a subvention, a scholarship that was available uniquely to students from Africa or similar locales.
Yes, I know that's not "fair," in the lexicon of the Lord of Fairness, to have adopted a phony identity and deprived others of an opportunity they may have more richly deserved. But it would certainly fit with Obama's early need to be recognized as a Kenyan by his agent and, presumably, his publisher. As we all know, it's not the crime, but the cover-up. (In this case, actually, it's both.)
As time went on, of course, college drifted away and politics reared its head. The Kenyan identity became less necessary, even a liability, so it was dropped.
I don't know about you -- but this makes sense to me. It also fits with the tomb-like silence around his college years.
But I could be wrong.
The conservative Powerline blog, which Limbaugh cited, jumped on Simon's thread, calling the theory "intriguing" and "thought-provoking."
Sadly, there is nothing "intriguing" or "thought-provoking" about entertaining conspiracies that are being pulled, as far as I can tell, from the air -- especially when so many holes have been poked into this particular birther bubble:
Fox News and other conservative media have promoted a video that suggests environmental regulations will cause "America to fail." But the video, created by a conservative group with a history of ethical problems, makes many misleading claims including denying global warming.
In a recent interview with MSNBC.com, scientist James Lovelock said that he was too "alarmist" in his previous statements about the consequences of global warming and he now appears to be overcorrecting in the opposite direction. While conservative media have used his reversal to question the scientific consensus on climate change, the truth is that Lovelock's views were never in line with mainstream climate science.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a large group of experts that synthesizes climate research into massive reports on the state of the science. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2009 that Lovelock, who is known for formulating the Gaia hypothesis in the 1960s, considered those reports "too optimistic, constrained by 'consensus' (a word that makes his teeth itch) and wedded to computer models." Climate experts, in turn, distanced themselves from Lovelock's doomsday rhetoric. The IPCC's chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, told Agence France-Presse in September 2009 that Lovelock's predictions were "highly improbable"; RealClimate.org, a blog written by climate scientists, noted in 2006 that Lovelock's claims weren't supported by scientific research.
AFP labeled Lovelock a "scientific black sheep." The London Independent said in 2006 that Lovelock was "going out on a limb" and that his claims were "far gloomier than any yet made by a scientist of comparable international standing." And The Washington Post reported in 2006 that "the warming that Lovelock fears will occur is far more dire than that projected by many other scientists," and that his "dire talk no doubt occasions much rolling of eyes in polite circles, particularly among scientists in the United States."
Right-wing media are touting a study claiming the health care reform law will not lower the deficit, but rather increase it by more than $300 billion. In fact, economic experts dismissed the study by conservative analyst Charles Blahous, saying it uses "discredited arguments."
Right-wing media are claiming that a Republican "war on women" is "phony" and "invented" by the left to distract attention from issues such as the economy and gas prices. But Republicans throughout the country have indeed pushed a plethora of legislation during the past few years that would result in limiting women's reproductive rights, access to health care access, and access to equal pay; moreover, right-wing media themselves launched a bullying campaign against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke after she testified in favor of expanded contraception coverage.
Citing a recent study by the government of Nunavut in Canada, conservative media are claiming that the number of polar bears is "increasing." The takeaway, according to these media outlets, is that concerns about the fate of polar bears in a warming world are overblown. But polar bear scientist Steven Amstrup says these commentators are mistaken.
The polar bears located west of the Hudson Bay are one of 19 polar bear subpopulations, and one of 8 subpopulations that are thought to be shrinking, according to a comprehensive review conducted in 2009. (One population was found to be increasing, three are stable, and there isn't enough data to assess the other seven). Amstrup and others previously analyzed bears captured from 1984-2004 and found that the West Hudson Bay population declined from 1,194 in 1987 to 935 in 2004.
But a new survey by the government of Nunavut, a largely Inuit territory in Northern Canada, puts the population size as of last August at 1,013, according to a widely circulated article in Canada's Globe and Mail. This new estimate is derived from a plausible range of 717 to 1,430 bears and, importantly, comes from an aerial survey, unlike the previous studies which involved capturing and recapturing bears.
Amstrup said media outlets claiming the aerial survey shows an increasing population are mistaking a single point estimate for a trend. "The population size is just a number. It is a valuable number to have, but from the standpoint of population welfare, it is the trend in numbers that is critical," he wrote in an email. Because previous estimates used a different methodology, and covered a different geographic area, they cannot be easily compared to the latest figures, contrary to the media narrative. When the aerial survey is repeated in later years, it will then be able to tell us more about how the population size is changing. In the meantime, the Canadian government is expected to release its latest capture-recapture data next month.
Population estimates are used to determine how many polar bears can be killed each year. Hunting polar bears is a significant source of income among the Inuit, who have been skeptical of dire predictions of popopulation decline.
Amstrup emphasizes that "in the bigger picture, whether any one population is currently declining, stable or increasing is beside the point," adding, "it is criticial to remember that our concern about polar bears is focused on the future." The scientists who spend their lives studying polar bears have been unable to envision how the population numbers can withstand the long-term decline of the sea ice.
More detailed responses from Amstrup below:
Right-wing media are now resorting to mocking female university students' health care needs and their call that religiously affiliated colleges and universities provide access to contraceptives. But studies have found that numerous benefits (medical, social, and economic) exist in providing college-aged women -- the most vulnerable demographic for unintended pregnancies -- affordable access to contraception.
As automakers are starting to bring electric vehicle (EV) technology into the mainstream, conservative media outlets have repeatedly misled consumers about electric cars by trying to paint them as environmentally harmful and unsafe, among other false claims.