Yesterday David Asman kicked off his Fox Business show, America's Nightly Scoreboard, by claiming that Solyndra "received a very generous set of tax breaks" from the Internal Revenue Service. Asman emphasized that this was "a tax break applied for Solyndra and only for Solyndra" and suggested that "political influence" may have played a role in the IRS decision.
But the tax credit didn't apply to Solyndra at all -- it applied to a manufacturing facility that was considering installing a Solyndra solar panel system. And this ruling is hardly unprecedented: it is one of many private letter rulings issued by the IRS to clarify which technologies qualify for energy tax credits.
Last month, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle published a story that was basically catnip for the anti-regulation crowd. Citing a court brief from the Environmental Protection Agency, Boyle wrote that the EPA was "asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement" new climate change regulations. Boyle also took to Twitter to broadcast how EPA administrator "LISA JACKSON wants an ARMY OF 230k BUREAUCRATS."
Predictably, the story got picked up by Fox News, the office of Sen. James Inhofe, and the usual climate-change-denial suspects. Unfortunately for them, Boyle's story was 100% false. Boyle completely misread the court brief, which detailed how the EPA had avoided the scenario he described.
Boyle's misfire was widely ridiculed, but rather than admit fault and correct the error, the Daily Caller stuck to their guns. Executive editor David Martosko compounded the damage to the publication's credibility by issuing a snide comment to Politico and following that with a misleading editor's note on the Caller website.
Apparently outside observers weren't the only ones aghast at Daily Caller's complete lack of standards. According to a report this morning by FishbowlDC's Betsy Rothstein, "newsroom sources" at the Caller were dismayed by Martosko's defense of Boyle's "pointedly bogus" story and "feared their reputations would be sullied by the widespread negative attention":
Martosko has undoubtedly been a controversial figure from the start. Newsroom sources say his profound defense of reporter Matthew Boyle and his recent EPA piece troubled reporters who believed the story was false and feared their reputations would be sullied by the widespread negative attention the ordeal received in publications such as Politico and parts of the right-wing media. They couldn't conceive why their editor was defending a story many considered pointedly bogus.
I suppose it's slightly reassuring that at least some people at the Caller are capable of acknowledging facts and reality -- too bad their executive editor doesn't seem to be one of them.
Writing for the Daily Caller, nativist crank Tom Tancredo argues that we're missing the big picture regarding the U.S. government's killing of terrorism suspect -- and U.S. citizen -- Anwar al-Awlaki:
Lost in this debate is whether al-Awlaki was ever really an American citizen.
Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico in 1971. Both of his parents were Yemeni citizens in the United States on student visas. As a child, he moved to Yemen along with his parents. He returned to the U.S. as an adult on a foreign student visa.
Under the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment, al-Awlaki is considered an American citizen. Section 1 of the amendment opens, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." The operative phrase is "subject to the jurisdiction thereof." During the ratification debates in 1866, Senator Lyman Trumbull, who was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said that the phrase meant "not owing allegiance to anybody else" and that "partial allegiance if you please, to some other government" is disqualifying. It goes without saying that neither al-Awlaki nor his parents had any allegiance to America.
Anwar al-Awlaki was born in the United States. His parents were not in the service of a foreign government. Therefore, as laid out in the Constitution, he was an American citizen. Period. Full stop. QED.
What Tancredo describes as "the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment" is actually the historical interpretation going all the way back to Reconstruction and reaffirmed many times over by the courts. The only people who dissent from this established concept of American citizenship are post-birthers who refuse to give up the ghost regarding President Obama's citizenship, and anti-immigrant bigots (like Tancredo) who deliberately misunderstand the "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" phraseology in order to argue against conferring citizenship on the children of undocumented immigrants.
A study published in the prestigious journal American Economic Review estimates that the costs imposed on society by air pollution from coal-fired power plants are greater than the value added to the economy by the industry. The study concluded that coal may be "underregulated" since the price we pay for coal-fired power doesn't account for its costs.
According to a Nexis search, not a single major newspaper or television network has covered the study. By contrast, an industry-funded report on the cost of EPA regulations of these air pollutants has received considerable media attention.
The authors of the American Economic Review paper -- Nicholas Muller of Middlebury College and Yale's William Nordhaus and Robert Mendelsohn -- are considered centrists. Mendelsohn opposed the Kyoto climate treaty and spoke this year at the right-wing Heartland Institute's conference on climate change.
Economist Paul Krugman wrote that the study should "be a major factor in how we discuss economic ideology," adding "It won't, of course." From Krugman's post:
It's important to be clear about what this means. It does not necessarily say that we should end the use of coal-generated electricity. What it says, instead, is that consumers are paying much too low a price for coal-generated electricity, because the price they pay does not take account of the very large external costs associated with generation. If consumers did have to pay the full cost, they would use much less electricity from coal -- maybe none, but that would depend on the alternatives.
At one level, this is all textbook economics. Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right. What Muller et al are doing is putting numbers to this basic proposition -- and the numbers turn out to be big. So if you really believed in the logic of free markets, you'd be all in favor of pollution taxes, right?
Since the media began covering the Occupy Wall Street protests, Fox has launched an all-out campaign to mock, attack, and discredit the movement. Fox personalities have claimed the protesters have "absolutely no purpose ... in life," called them the "sludge" of "every single left-wing cause," and claimed they are deluded. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy has even complained they got "between me and a steak dinner."
On this morning's Fox & Friends, Doocy again went on the attack, attempting to discredit the protesters by hyping a Daily Caller story which claimed "Organizer admits to paying 'Occupy DC protesters.' "Doocy seized on the story, leading off the show by excitedly proclaiming "scandal":
Doocy teased the story by calling it "the scandal you got to hear to believe." The Daily Caller also heavily promoted the "scandal," making it the top story on their website this morning:
Their newest descent into failure comes courtesy of one Anthony Watts, who claims to have proven conclusively that Al Gore "doctored a video that's supposed to prove his global warming theories." Here is the video, from Current TV, in which Bill Nye walks us through a simple experiment demonstrating the warming effects of carbon dioxide:
The experiment involves getting two jars, putting a thermometer in both, filling one with carbon dioxide, and heating them to observe how the temperature in the CO2-filled jar rises more quickly. Here's a screengrab of a jar with a thermometer.
The video demonstrates this effect with a split-screen video of two thermometers, one of which shows temperature rising more quickly on one than the other. Again, screengrab:
Watts claims this is malicious doctoring and that "Gore's video of the 'simple experiment' to make his case on CO2 and global warming is a complete fabrication done in post-production." After explaining how he purchased "the exact same props" to "recreate the experiment scene" and hired "a professional photographer with a top-of-the-line Canon D1 camera and Macro lens," Watts announces quite grandly that the thermometers shown on the split-screen "were not actually in the jars during the scene."
Of course, that conclusion is fairly obvious given that the lime-green background in the split-screen is not present in the jars. So all that money spent on props and professional photographers to prove this point was kind of a waste.
Also, it's not much of a point. Gore's people were demonstrating how to successfully conduct a simple experiment. And they dramatized the experiment's results likely because it makes for better video -- as Watts' professional photographer proved, shooting things through glass jars produces distorted images. That they didn't actually perform the experiment is moot.
And none of this says anything about the science of climate change. Carbon dioxide is a warming agent. No one really disagrees with that, and demonstrating how Gore's people edited their video does nothing to challenge that fact.
What is does do, however, is give the climate denialist set the opportinuty to croak about how Al Gore doctors videos to fake climate science, even though nothing was doctored, and the science remains solid.
Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller stands virtually alone in their steadfast and deliberately ignorant defense of reporter Matthew Boyle's story falsely alleging that the Environmental Protection Agency was "asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers."
They do have one high-profile supporter, though: Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). Inhofe's office pushed the false Daily Caller report when it was first published, and they posted a tangled defense of the article that Daily Caller executive editor David Martosko proudly brandished in his discursive editorial note lashing out at the (100-percent correct) critics of his publication's reporting.
That Inhofe would run to the Daily Caller's defense is not surprising. The Daily Caller has quite an amicable relationship with the Oklahoma Republican, based largely on shared skepticism of climate change science. Inhofe has granted several interviews to the Daily Caller, and the publication has a habit of simply repackaging Inhofe's public statements as "news." Articles that employ the "Sen. Inhofe said X today" formula pop up frequently in the Daily Caller archives, and Inhofe's office eagerly republishes those stories on the Environment and Public Works Committee press blog.
Also of note: a Daily Caller columnist bestowed upon Inhofe the 2010 "Award For Political Incorrectness" in recognition for "debunking" the "brazen chicanery" of "the global warming myth" -- an award the senator was happy to receive.
Here's a sampling of the Daily Caller's transcription-as-news treatment of Inhofe.
This week we caught Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle completely misreading a court brief to claim that the "EPA is asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers" to process greenhouse gas regulations "at an estimated cost of $21 billion." In reality, EPA was describing a scenario that it avoided by issuing a rule in May 2010 significantly reducing the number of facilities required to obtain permits for greenhouse gas emissions.
Boyle's report -- which was circulated by Sen. Inhofe's office and made its way to Fox News -- was just wrong. But rather than issue a correction, Daily Caller doubled down, telling Politico that "anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows" EPA wouldn't try to "limit its own power." As more commentators noticed this brazen disregard for the facts, The Daily Caller came up with a more substantive response, still insisting the story "was spot-on and accurate":
Our story about the EPA was spot-on and accurate. It's true that the agency's court filing outlined a "tailoring rule" as a more gradual approach to hiring 230,000 people at a cost of $21 billion. But the EPA was clear that "the Tailoring Rule is calculated to move toward eventual full compliance with the statutory threshold" -- meaning it's not a question of if the EPA wants to triple its budget, but when.
Nope. The brief did not present the tailoring rule "as a more gradual approach to hiring 230,000 people at a cost of $21 billion." It presented the rule as a way to circumvent a scenario in which state and local agencies would need 230,000 employees to review 6.1 million permit applications. The rule phases in compliance, "thereby relieving the overwhelming regulatory burdens on both permitting authorities and literally millions of stationary sources."
You don't need 230,000 new workers if you don't have a massive flood of permit applications to process all at once. Instead of 6.1 million sources requiring operating permits, EPA expects 15,550 -- 97 percent of which can add greenhouse gases to the permits they already have for other pollutants.
Following the lead of Sen. James Inhofe, conservative media are distorting an Inspector General's report in an attempt to discredit EPA's finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. But the IG report addresses obscure procedural issues, not the merits of EPA's finding or the science on which it was based, which even the Bush administration said was robust enough to require an endangerment finding.
Tucker Carlson's content farm screwed up big time.
Two days ago, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle reported that the Environmental Protection Agency, in phasing in greenhouse gas regulations, was "asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers." In fact, the EPA was arguing the exact opposite: that they were avoiding a scenario in which 230,000 new workers would be required. The facts are not in dispute: the Daily Caller got it completely wrong.
Normally, in instances like these, corrections are issued. That's what journalists do.
That's not what the Daily Caller is doing.
Daily Caller executive editor David Martosko is standing by the inarguably false story, and is actually claiming that the facts surrounding the story are subordinate to the narrative they're trying to push. He told Politico:
"The EPA is well-known for expanding its reach, especially regarding greenhouse gas emissions. What's 'comically wrong' is the idea that half of Washington won't admit it. The EPA's own court filing speaks volumes," Martosko said in an email.
"What's more likely: that the Obama administration's EPA wants to limit its own power, or that it's interested in dramatically increasing its reach and budget? Anyone who has spent more than a few months in Washington knows the answer," he added. "The suggestion that the EPA -- this EPA in particular -- is going to court to limit its own growth is the funniest thing I've seen since Nancy Grace's nipple-slip."
This isn't a question of "what's more likely" -- you're wrong. The EPA did not do what you said it did. And the facts of the story actually argue against your hackneyed, preformed notion of the Obama administration's insatiable drive to expand government, which itself is certainly not sufficient basis for a "news" story.
Sweet Nancy Grace joke, though.
Former Republican Congressman and nativist crank Tom Tancredo wrote an op-ed this morning for the Daily Caller titled: "Governor Perry's Muslim blind spot." Tancredo's thesis is that Perry, currently the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is unacceptable because he has "connections to Muslim groups in Texas" that "are well documented."
This might not sound particularly controversial to you or I, but for bigots like Tancredo a cordial relationship with the Muslim community is a deal-killer. And in marshaling evidence for his anti-Perry, anti-Muslim jeremiad, Tancredo veers into self-clowning buffoonery:
Perry's close ties to Muslim groups led the political blog Salon to headline a recent story: "Rick Perry: The pro-Sharia candidate?" Evidence in support of that theme comes from Gov. Perry's refusal to support legislation sponsored by Texas Republican legislators to outlaw Sharia law in Texas.
The title of that blog post, authored by Salon reporter Justin Elliot, was quite clearly a poke at reactionary Islamophobes like Tancredo who view anything short of outright hostility to Muslims as a de facto endorsement of Sharia law. Perry's rhetoric, Elliot wrote, "presents a stark contrast to some other members of the GOP presidential field, who have variously called for resistance to Islamic cultural conquest and outright restrictions on Muslims in public life." And, as it turns out, in the same piece Elliot noted that Perry's relationship with the Muslim community could become a target for "right-wing bomb-throwers."
And then there's the issue of the Daily Caller publishing Tancredo in the first place. He's only grown more extreme since leaving Congress, bemoaning the lack of "civics literacy tests" as a prerequisite for voting (a throwback to Jim Crow which would be very much illegal) and calling for the impeachment of President Obama over an issue that he concedes is completely false. He also famously accused Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor of membership in the "Latino KKK" (his term for the National Council of La Raza). His is a voice that doesn't merit broader dissemination.
The problem is that Tancredo's "Rick Perry doesn't hate Muslims" attack, despite its hateful incoherence, will likely have more than a few heads on the conservative right nodding in approval.
EPA explained in a court brief that by phasing in greenhouse gas regulations and focusing on large sources of emissions, the agency avoids a scenario in which 230,000 new workers would be required. Somehow, the Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle concluded from this that "The EPA is asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers." Other conservative media outlets, including Fox News, repeated Boyle's false report.
Right-wing media have reacted to the announcement that the parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster will make adult and children's meals healthier by inventing the conspiracy that the decision was the result of favors from the administration or political pressure from Michelle Obama. This follows the right-wing media's long history of attacking healthy eating and exercise.
Last week Media Matters noted how Matthew Boyle, who works for Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller, published a one-sided story highlighting conservative attacks on the National Labor Relations Board. In the piece, Boyle "simply transcribe[d] the distortions about NLRB made by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), a member of the House Oversight Committee."
Blogger Brad Friedman notes that Boyle has done the exact same thing this week; basically take dictation from a company and publish a 'news' article without including any comment, context or perspective from the other side. Like the NLRB article, Boyle's latest is a government-bashing piece that condemns regulations. In neither article is anyone given a chance to explain or defend the regulations.
The Daily Caller headline:
The article details how Texas-based coal plant owner Luminant is unable to meet a "new Cross-State Air Pollution rule, which requires Texas power generators to make 'dramatic reductions' in emissions beginning on January 1, 2012."
That's it. EPA regulations forced Luminant to shut down two facilities. No other possible explanation is given by the Daily Caller for why Luminant is laying off 500 workers.
In very little time however, Friedman was able to find an environmental advocate who offered up a very different explanation for Luminant's move [emphasis added]:
This company is highly leveraged, pays out about three and a half billion dollars a year in debt, and is flailing because it bought a lot of coal plants (and decided to build three new ones), as natural gas prices have fallen. Luminant's anxiety about the declining price of natural gas, and its effect on the company's profitability, is right there in their 2010 SEC 10-k filing. So, they're trying to make the EPA and the Clean Air Act the scapegoat for their bad investment decisions.
Boyle really ought to try harder to report both sides of the story.
The right-wing has labeled the Department of Justice's decision to block the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile as politically motivated and anti-jobs. In fact, experts say the DOJ's decision was based on clear violations of antitrust laws and would both protect consumers and prevent significant job loss.