Right-wing media outlets have been in full freak-out mode this week, fabricating a myth that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been using drones to spy on Midwestern ranchers. In fact, the EPA has been utilizing manned flyovers -- not drones -- to investigate potential polluters since the Bush administration, in an effort to save money and enforce clean water regulations efficiently.
For the past ten years, the EPA has conducted intermittent flyovers "to verify compliance with environmental laws on watersheds," as Reuters reported:
"EPA uses over-flights, state records and other publicly available sources of information to identify discharges of pollution," said a statement issued by the EPA's Kansas City regional office. "In no case has EPA taken an enforcement action solely on the basis of these over-flights."
EPA has for 10 years used flyovers to verify compliance with environmental laws on watersheds as a "cost-effective" tool to minimize inspection costs, according to the statement.
This article originally said that the EPA was using drones to monitor feedlots, but a representative from Senator Johanns office has alerted us that in actuality manned aircraft have been used to monitor the feedlots. We apologize for the error.
Nevertheless, right-wing commentators began falsely throwing the word "drone" into their reports about the EPA's enforcement mechanisms. For example, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly:
KELLY: You know, you gotta picture yourself, right, as one of these Midwestern farmers, because what's been in the news lately? The fact that President Obama's killed more terrorists with drones than any other president. That President Obama has a so-called "kill list." And that on that kill list, sometimes civilian casualties go as well, because if you're near an al-Qaeda terrorist, they assume if you're of an adult male age in a certain community, you also are a terrorist.
Even an American terrorist, an American al-Qaeda, was killed by a drone. So now you're in the Midwest, and you know you're not a terrorist, but nonetheless, you gotta get a little squeamish when you see a drone going overhead.
Right-wing media are arguing that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's victory in the Wisconsin recall election was a victory for the grassroots over unions and progressives. But, due to Citizens United and a loophole in Wisconsin campaign finance laws, the progressive message was swamped by conservative special interest money.
Conservative media outlets are credulously reporting House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's claim that wiretap applications signed by senior Justice Department officials "prove" they "approved" of dangerous gunwalking tactics in the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious, contradicting prior DOJ statements. In doing so, they ignore that the DOJ has repeatedly stated that senior officials do not necessarily review wiretap applications themselves, but rather largely rely on summaries of those applications produced by line attorneys.
"Documents prove senior Justice officials approved Fast and Furious, Issa says," reads the headline of Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle's latest foray into reporting on the ATF's fatally flawed gunwalking operation.
Leaning heavily on Issa's just-released letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Boyle reports that Issa has obtained wiretap applications for that operation that were signed by senior DOJ officials. Boyle notes that Issa claims those documents "show that immense details about questionable investigative tactics were available" to those officials via those applications, supposedly disproving numerous DOJ statements that senior officials there were not privy to the details of gunwalking.
But there's one question that this sort of credulous recitation of Issa's claims does not address: Did those officials actually review the wiretap applications that Issa says contained that information? According to prior DOJ statements dating back to at least last year, the answer is no.
This is not the first time Issa has claimed that wiretap applications supposedly proved knowledge of gunwalking techniques on the part of senior DOJ officials. In February, his committee made similar allegations, claiming in a staff report that "Congressional investigators have learned about the information contained in one Wiretap Authorization and Wiretap Affidavit from Fast and Furious that Jason Weinstein signed. The Wiretap Affidavit presented Weinstein with the details of at least two instances in which ATF agents had witnessed illegal straw purchasing and the subsequent transfer of the purchased weapons to other individuals."
But Politico reported at the time that "Weinstein told investigators that it was his 'general practice' not to read the underlying affidavits in such cases but to rely on a so-called cover memo prepared by another Justice Department office." This was consistent with Politico's report last November in response to similar claims that the wiretap applications could have bearing on what senior DOJ officials knew of Fast and Furious:
The Justice official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said wiretap applications are reviewed by another DOJ office which writes a detailed cover memo that is usually the focus of review by Breuer's staff.
"What gets pulled out for their review is therough the lens of those two questions: necessity and probably cause," the official said.
In a letter that the committee's ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), released in response to Issa's letter today, he reiterated these points in even greater detail.
Conservative media are twisting comments made by an EPA administrator -- and circulated by Senator Inhofe (R-OK) -- to suggest that the Obama administration is trying to shut down the coal industry. But the official was referring to a rule that applies only to new coal plants, and which industry leaders have said "won't have much of an impact" on business.
In a speech at Yale University in March, Region 1 administrator Curt Spalding discussed the EPA's efforts to implement necessary environmental safeguards with minimal economic consequences. Referring to greenhouse gas performance standards for new power plants, Spalding said:
You can't imagine how tough that was. Because you got to remember, if you go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all those places, you have coal communities that depend on coal. And to say we just think those communities should just go away, we can't do that. But she had to do what the law and policy suggested. And it's painful. It's painful every step of the way.
The conservative media seized on these comments as proof of the Obama administration's "plan to destroy the coal industry in America."
The Daily Caller -- once again serving as Senator Inhofe's press office -- reported that Inhofe would take to the Senate floor to "highlight a little-known speech by an EPA regional administrator who admitted on video that the Obama administration's air regulations will kill the coal industry. Likewise, Fox Business' Lou Dobbs reported that Spalding was "caught on tape admitting the Obama administration's air regulations will kill the coal industry."
Fox Nation took that one step further, claiming that Spalding revealed that "the whole point of President Obama EPA's air regulations was to kill coal." And the Blaze reported that according to Spalding, the EPA aims to "drive an entire industry into the ground for no apparent reason."
In fact, Spalding said no such thing. And to suggest that the new greenhouse gas rule would "kill" the coal industry is absurd, as it applies only to new power plants. In announcing the rule, the EPA clearly stated that it "only concerns new generating units that will be built in the future, and does not apply to existing units already operating or units that will start construction over the next 12 months."
And since few companies plan to build new coal plants anyway given the low cost of natural gas, The Economist predicts that the new rules "will only formalise a shift that had already been under way, with little immediate economic impact." American Electric Power, one of the largest U.S. utilities, told the National Journal: "We don't have any plans to build new coal plants. So the rules won't have much of an impact." Duke Energy echoed this point, saying that the new rule "means nothing to us."
The right-wing website Daily Caller yesterday published an article by Jim Pontillo, the firearms manufacturer they have partnered with for their controversial gun giveaway promotion. The publication drew criticism last week following the revelation of Pontillo's past racially offensive and insurrectionist writings.
Pontillo's article for the "Guns and Gear" section is a list of the "Top 10 Guns You'll Find at the Neighborhood Liberal Gun Store" and disparages a wide range of Democratic politicians. Pontillo's list includes the "Pelosi Clinton Mini Derringer" ("Pull the trigger and this pocket pistol shrieks and cackles. No man can stand to be in the vicinity when this thing goes off.").
The Daily Caller's decision to publish Pontillo's political musings comes only a week after the website said his views were irrelevant, telling the Washington Post, "All that's germane to the contest is that he's a fully licensed firearms manufacturer. If we were giving away iPads, the political views of Apple would also be irrelevant." The Caller's decision to feature Pontillo's work follows their "Guns and Gear" section editor's disclosure that he and Pontillo came up with the idea for the Caller gun promotion together.
This is not the first time Pontillo has written for the Caller. In December he authored a rambling piece for the site criticizing "those who lament America's cultural evolution toward secular society" for "devoid[ing] the moral absolutes that served our Founding Fathers" and attacking "the political class and by the main stream media" for supposedly disparaging his customers.
During an interview on NRA News, Mike Piccione, editor of Daily Caller's "Guns and Gear" section, and host Ginny Simone spoke of "a team effort" between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Caller to promote gun ownership. During the interview Piccione said he hoped to expand his online publication's controversial gun giveaway promotion by giving away a firearm to a Caller email list subscriber who signs up for an NRA membership.
MIKE PICCIONE, DAILY CALLER GUNS AND GEAR EDITOR: Check back though because we're going to do a few things. One thing I want to do is I want to give a gun to somebody that joins the National Rifle Association from the Daily Caller.
GINNY SIMONE, HOST: Alrighty.
PICCIONE: Absolutely. Join the NRA and we'll support you.
SIMONE: It's a team effort.
Piccione also admitted that the gun giveaway promotion was the result of a brainstorm session with far right-wing gun manufacturer Jim Pontillo.
The Caller at one point distanced themselves from Pontillo's political views when confronted with extreme and racial comments about President Obama made by prize gun manufacturer Pontillo, telling The Washington Post, "All that's germane to the contest is that he's a fully licensed firearms manufacturer. If we were giving away iPads, the political views of Apple would also be irrelevant." But the next day, Piccione told NRA News host Ginny Simone that he came up with the idea for the promotion with his "friend" Pontillo in order to "remind people" that Caller is "pro-Constitution" and "pro-gun."
Republicans in Congress are attempting to prevent the military from purchasing alternative fuels, which Senator Inhofe (R-OK) believes are merely "perpetrating President Obama's global warming fantasies and his war on affordable energy." And conservative media are backing the attacks on climate change and clean energy programs, suggesting that these investments come at the expense of national security. But experts across the political spectrum agree that climate change poses a serious threat to our national security, and that transitioning to alternative energy will enhance military effectiveness. Here are 15 current and former national security officials in their own words on the threat of climate change:
The Pentagon recognizes that our dependence on oil is problematic not only because of the threat of climate change, but also because of volatile oil prices and supply disruptions that can threaten the military's energy supply. It's Operational Energy Strategy states:
The Daily Caller wants to give you a free gun. A free gun with the Bill of Rights inscribed on the slide, presumably so that not all of your patriotism has to go downrange.
These weapons are made by Jim Pontillo, the owner of FMK Firearms. In addition to making guns, Pontillo moonlights as a lunatic conservative writer. We pointed out yesterday that he's written a smattering of columns for Human Events, one of which extolled the patriotic ardor of modern-day secessionists. And it turns out that, until recently, Pontillo blogged enthusiastically at his website, ForMyKountry.com.
Pontillo's writing bears all the hallmarks of fringe right-wing craziness, to include:
I am looking forward to [Obama's] inaugural address where the "coolest" "rock-star" Commander-In-Chief we've ever had wows us all by doing a fly-by around the newly repainted "Black House" and lands softly at the podium using nothing but those big ears for the flight.
As for Obama, I cannot see how he can expect to get any kind of majority among white America when his most fervent supporters hate white America.
Barack Obama will do very nicely for himself as a politician who represents a narrow and prejudiced group, he'll make lots of money and probably enjoy a long life in public service, but he will never be President of the United States; that job requires he represent all Americans, not just the angry black ones.
For president, he's done.
Poorly considered defenses of the Confederacy:
The American character, from the pilgrims on, has been defined by a special reverence for individual independence and individual right. Recalling the Civil War, the slave issue aside, it is natural to understand the Confederate rebellion. A resistance to government power is integral to the American DNA.
Favorable comparisons of Arizona's SB 1070 to the attack on Fort Sumter:
Arizona's SB1070 is a preemptive strike; a warning to a despotic administration that the American people are only going to tolerate a limited amount of assault on their sovereignty, it is a precursor revealing dissatisfaction turning to action.
Whether or not SB1070 is proper or right is really not the point. The question is...
Are Americans beginning to feel as intently in 2010 that its government has unjustly pushed them, as did the Confederate citizens of 1860?
Pontillo has also published some creepily bizarre stuff that transcends mere fringy-ness and is actually pretty alarming. Like his one-act play about the Virginia Tech massacre (written from the point of view of the murder weapon). And his belief that "we should send the U.S. Military down to Mexico, seize their oil fields, and confiscate the proceeds until the Mexican government changes its policy of encouraging their population to come here for work and send money home, all subsidized by American taxpayers."
This kind of conspiratorial and extremist thought permeates American gun culture, from small-time gun nuts like Pontillo to the highest levels of the NRA, and is enabled by the Daily Caller, which is handing out dangerous weapons just to get a little bump in traffic.
UPDATE: Slate's David Weigel asked Caller Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson about Pontillo's column calling Arizona's SB 1070 "a warning to a despotic administration that the American people are only going to tolerate a limited amount of assault on their sovereignty." Carlson responded to Weigel, "A little rebellion once in a while isn't a bad thing."
UPDATE X2: Erik Wemple of the Washington Post contacted the Daily Caller about Pontillo's "racier opinions." The Caller responded: "All that's germane to the contest is that he's a fully licensed firearms manufacturer. If we were giving away iPads, the political views of Apple would also be irrelevant."
UPDATE X3: The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence released a statement condemning the Daily Caller for promoting Pontillo, given his "inappropriate and dangerous" commentary: "That Tucker Carlson and the Daily Caller would promote a man like firearms manufacturer Jim Pontillo to their readers is a testament to how far the American Conservative movement has moved to the right in the last several years."
Right-wing news site The Daily Caller has come up with an innovative new method of attracting people to sign up for their email updates: Each week through Election Day new registrants will be eligible to win a free handgun. And not just any handgun; the weapon in question is "engraved with the Bill of Rights."
The gun's manufacturer, Jim Pontillo, has attacked American progressives for supposedly seeking to promote communism in America and claimed that "people calling for secession" are not "fanatics who hate America" but are instead acting "in the Founding tradition."
This ad is currently running on the website's NRA-sponsored "Guns and Gear" page:
Clicking on the image diverts readers to the landing page for "The Daily Caller Gun Giveaway," which states:
The Daily Caller will be giving away one gun per week until Election Day -- November 6, 2012.
The FMK9C1 is an American-made high capacity 9mm designed by Jim Pontillo and manufactured in California. Each gun is engraved with the Bill of Rights and comes in one of three colors.
To enter this week's contest, simply sign up below to receive updates from The Daily Caller. Our DC Morning emails are an informative and amusing way to keep up with the latest news.
For many American citizens who embrace a political philosophy which swings left, collectivism, socialism, and ultimately communism is the idealist utopia they aspire to capture and promulgate across America. For these people, For My Kountry, means to ridicule excellence, to fear prosperity, and to blame others for individual failures.
It is an ideology which springs from mankind's weakest tenets...jealousy and envy. It is an ideology which attempts to tear all down to one low and "equal" or "fair" level. It is an ideology incapable of raising anyone or anything upward. Most of all, it is an ideology without any understanding of American culture or our American Founders' dream of creating a country free from government tyranny, open to individual initiative, and most important, insuring to all citizens those inalienable rights guaranteed to mankind by God.
Right-wing media responded to President Obama's May 21 high school commencement speech in Joplin, Missouri, by claiming that Obama "preache[d] socialist BS," called for "military-style community action during crises," and that he "uncorked a campaign speech."
The Daily Caller recently reported that "$3.1 billion in DOE loan guarantees" to First Solar "created mostly overseas jobs." In fact, the chairman of First Solar testified before Congress that "all the jobs directly created with the loan guarantees" are American.
The Daily Caller embedded video of his testimony in its report, but apparently didn't watch it all the way through. Neither did right-wing news aggregator Weasel Zippers, which ran with a similarly misleading headline.
In a House Oversight Committee hearing, Chairman Darrell Issa attempted to make hay of the fact that First Solar, which is based in Arizona and employs thousands in the U.S., also has solar projects and employees overseas. But Michael Ahearn, the chairman of First Solar, clarified that the loan guarantees only support projects in the U.S.:
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA): OK, so jobs created with loan guarantees, stimulus, and others, basically not American.
MICHAEL AHEARN, FIRST SOLAR: No, no, all those jobs are American and all the jobs directly created with the loan guarantee.
During the May 16 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News "straight news" anchor Martha MacCallum and Fox News contributor and The Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson echoed complaints from the Republican chaired House Oversight Committee about the documents the Justice Department has released responding to their subpoena of files related to the failed Fast and Furious operation:
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well there were 22 questions in the last subpoena. 13 of them remain unanswered. The Justice Department hasn't forwarded documents that the House Oversight Committee has requested. And by the way some of those questions, that's the majority of questions, remain unanswered, some of them pertain directly to Attorney General Eric Holder. The Justice Department's position appears to be we can investigate this internally and so we don't need to comply with Congress. I think this is a collision course. Remember this subpoena was issued in October. It's been more than six months now and they have refused to comply. And they have not invoked executive privilege by the way. So it's not even clear on what grounds they are refusing to comply. I don't think there is any question, at least at this point, that there is going to be a contempt citation.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: Well we'll see. And it feels like stalling and feet dragging to a great extent on the part of the Department of Justice.
MACCALLUM: Because they are saying they can't fire anybody, they are doing their own investigation. That is going to take quite some time, most likely until after the election is over and that until they finish that investigation--snicker snicker--and until that investigation is over they feel it wouldn't be right to come out and talk about who they think knew more than they say they knew or exactly when Eric Holder became aware of this program that saw a law enforcement agent killed.
Carlson's comments echo the reporting of his employee, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle, who has written numerous articles about Fast and Furious over the past few months. His pieces almost invariably include the line, "Holder has failed to comply with Issa's Oct. 12, 2011, subpoena," or some variation thereof and often include the claim that DOJ has been nonresponsive to 13 of the subpoena's 22 questions.
These reports minimize the fact that DOJ has released extensive and detailed information about what documents the agency has released to Issa. According to DOJ, responsive documents to 16 of the 22 questions contained in Issa's subpoena have been turned over to the House Oversight Committee or been made available for viewing by Oversight Committee staff. DOJ has stated that no responsive information exists to one of the questions. Additionally, DOJ has stated it does possess documents responsive to the five remaining questions in the subpoena and additional documents responsive to the other categories, but that it is unable to release this material because it is either relevant to ongoing criminal investigations or prosecutions or is deliberative and therefore protected by executive privilege.
But Fox News and The Daily Caller would rather regurgitate Republican talking points than admit that there are two sides to this story.
The Daily Caller's Matthew Boyle is claiming that the Department of Homeland Security has hired "at least four senior staffers and advisers" with "no law enforcement experience into senior law enforcement positions." Boyle went so far as to call them "mini-czars" in a tweet. But the individuals Boyle targeted either do not hold senior positions at DHS or are not involved in law enforcement. By contrast, former President George W. Bush appointed people who lacked relevant experience to head agencies that are currently within DHS.
Boyle attacked the experience of four current or former DHS staffers: Jordan Grossman, Vladimir Skoric, Chris Stelmarski, and Nate Snyder.
Skoric, who began his civil service career in 2008 during the Bush administration, is a special assistant to the deputy under secretary for cybersecurity. In 2011, Skoric was listed as being compensated at a "GS-11" rate, which translates to a mid-level civil service position.
Snyder, who started at DHS in 2009 as a deputy White House liaison, is a special advisor for community partnership and strategic engagement. In 2011, Snyder was compensated at a GS-14 level, higher than Skoric or Stelmaski, but not at the level of the Senior Executive Service, which constitutes the top-level federal civil servants.
And Grossman, who has since left DHS to attend Harvard Law School, was a special advisor and deputy to the deputy chief of staff.
In contrast to the individuals that Boyle identified, Bush really did appoint people without relevant experience to top positions at DHS.
Right-wing media have rushed to dismiss the Washington Post's report that Mitt Romney held down a high school classmate and cut his hair, claiming that "the source" for the story "wasn't actually there." In fact, the Post story relied on accounts from five separate sources, four of whom were named, and as the Post's ombudsman noted, their "accounts remain unchallenged." Romney himself said that he's "seen the reports" about the incident and that he's "not going to argue with that."
A story bubbled up in the right-wing media suggesting that the White House requires "that unborn children get security clearance" if their parents want to tour the building. The reporting was based on an email from the White House that instructs potential visitors about "how to enter security information for a baby that has not yet been born."
The Daily Caller, Washington Free Beacon, Drudge Report, National Review Online, and Fox Nation all highlighted this story and presented it in the context of President Obama's support for abortion rights.
However, a closer reading of the email shows that expecting parents are required to fill out security information for a child who is not yet born only if they anticipate giving birth by the time they want to visit the White House. The email clearly refers to "newborns" and gives instructions for what to do once "the baby is born."
The Huffington Post spoke to a representative from the Secret Service who said that "all White House guests are required to provide information at the time of their request for the tour, including for children and infants, and those expected to be on the tour once born."
So, no, the White House does not require pregnant visitors to register their fetuses as people for security purposes.