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.
The Daily Caller is the latest in a long line of conservative media outlets waging a campaign of misinformation about the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Today, in typical Daily Caller fashion, Matthew Boyle simply transcribes the distortions about NLRB made by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), a member of the House Oversight Committee. The committee has been attacking the agency for opening a standard investigation into allegedly illegal retaliation against organized labor by Boeing, Inc.
In an interview with Boyle, Gowdy calls for the elimination of the NLRB, an 80 year-old independent government agency tasked with investigating unfair labor practices and protecting the organizing rights of employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act. Gowdy would prefer the legislation be enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and suggests that the NLRB is a politically partisan agency by deceptively implying that the NLRB is not covered by the Hatch Act, a law preventing most federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. Boyle writes:
"The United States Department of Justice has criminal prosecutors and it also has a civil division," Gowdy said. "It's the DOJ that gets involved in anti-trust issues, it's the DOJ who handles issues looking into behemoth telecommunications companies. Surely to goodness, they've got bright lawyers at DOJ. Surely to goodness, they can enforce the provisions of the NLRA." [...]
"[Federal prosecutors'] allegiance is solely to the truth and they're not sycophants for labor unions," Gowdy said. "I have confidence in career prosecutors; I worked with them. They're necessarily and by law apolitical because of the Hatch Act and we trust them with the other major decisions that we have in our civil and criminal justice system."
The NLRB has typically swung with political tides, being a bit more pro-business under Republican administrations and a bit more pro-union under Democratic administrations.
Had Boyle done a minimal amount of research for his article, he would have discovered that Gowdy's insinuation -- that NLRB attorneys don't fall under the Hatch Act -- is completely false. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel quickly confirmed to Media Matters that "the Hatch Act (5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326) governs the political activity of federal civilian executive branch employees, including NLRB employees." In other words, if DOJ attorneys are "necessarily apolitical" because of the Hatch Act, then NLRB attorneys are no different.
Boyle and TheDC are no strangers to lazily parroting conservative distortions, and in this instance Boyle clearly has no desire to present an objective, or even truthful, depiction of the NLRB. He quotes three sources for his 800-plus word article: Gowdy, Republican Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley and Fred Wszolek of the Workforce Fairness Institute. Haley recently called the NLRB "un-American" and has supported dismantling it. Wszolek represents the Workforce Fairness Institute, an organization that has been loudly critical of the NLRB and organized labor and is funded by anti-union business owners.
In the aftermath of the Justice Department's motion to block the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, conservatives in the media have begun attacking the Obama administration and alleging that DOJ's lawsuit was motivated by politics, and not by concern for consumer welfare.
The Daily Caller is doing their part to further the meme this afternoon, reporting that AT&T executives are "confused -- shocked, even," and quoting two anonymous sources affiliated with AT&T suggesting that DOJ rushed out yesterday's complaint against the wireless giant because of "mounting political pressure" and to get ahead of AT&T's message on jobs. Indeed, one of their sources seemed to suggest, implausibly, that DOJ made their announcement yesterday in response to an AT&T jobs announcement from just hours earlier.
From the Daily Caller article:
According to two sources familiar with the matter, on Tuesday of this week -- the day before the complaint -- AT&T representatives and DOJ attorneys had a meeting in which they discussed the wireless company's proposal for its divestitures. Both sources told TheDC there was absolutely no hint or indication given from the DOJ during that meeting that the next day, they would file suit to block the merger.
"We were talking about setting up another meeting..." said one of the sources. "Not once did they say, 'Don't worry about it because we're going to block it tomorrow!'"
"When we got the media advisory, we thought 'This can't be us ... who else could it be?'" said the other source.
Then, on the Wednesday before DOJ filed suit to block the merger, AT&T announced that even with the merger, the company would retain up to 35,000 jobs -- a fact that was sure to become a major talking point for those pushing consolidation of the two companies.
At that point, the theory goes, folks at the DOJ decided to file a complaint before the "mounting political pressure was too insurmountable for them," as one source put it.
Another source familiar with the merger proceedings put the speculation another way, telling TheDC that the "jobs announcement yesterday caused them [DOJ] to move [more quickly] than they had intended."
The "jobs announcement" the Daily Caller's source referred to presumably was AT&T's announcement that they would bring 5,000 outsourced call center jobs back to the U.S. upon approval of the merger. AT&T made that announcement early Wednesday morning, just hours before news of DOJ's lawsuit broke around 10:30 a.m. Deputy attorney general James Cole and acting assistant attorney general Sharis Pozen held a press conference on the suit shortly after 11 a.m.
Art Brodsky, communications director for the public interest group Public Knowledge, dismissed the notion that the Justice Department rushed the civil complaint in response to AT&T's jobs announcement, noting that the case has been under "active consideration" since March. "There was nothing slapdash about this," Brodsky told Media Matters.
When asked about the timing of the complaint at yesterday's press conference, Pozen said: "We went through a lot of effort here; as I said, months of effort, worked thoroughly and carefully with the parties and concluded that this merger violated the law. And when we reach those conclusions we take actions. We wanted to clear up any uncertainty in the marketplace about this transaction."
Are you a right-winger with an axe to grind and a book to sell? Having trouble getting anyone to pay attention to your expensive non-story about liberal evildoers? Then call Caroline May, intrepid reporter for Tucker Carlson's The Daily Caller! The Caller has substantial experience repeating verbatim the politically-tinged accusations made by right-wing figures, and May knows just how to conceal your conservative credentials in an effort to make your story seem credible.
In the latest example of ethical subterfuge, May has written a news story that repeats the claims by conservative bloggers J. Christian Adams and Hans von Spakovsky that the hiring practices at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) "have become politicized under Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama Administration."
Importantly, May doesn't turn a critical eye to the research methods used by Adams and Spakovsky to come to their conclusion that "every single new hire" at DOJ's Civil Rights Division "boasted far-left resumes," she simply pushes their complaints forward. More importantly, May -- for the second time -- completely omits any mention that Adams and Spakovsky played a central role in the saga of politicization at DOJ under President Bush.
May's story is only newsworthy if the "former Department of Justice officials" (Adams and von Spakovsky) she cites are trustworthy sources whose call for investigation is objectively warranted and not based on an ulterior political motive. It's ethically imperative, then, that their significant right-wing backgrounds are disclosed so that readers can fairly assess the credibility of their work and their claims. May does not even attempt this.