Since President Obama took office, the right-wing media have engaged in a smear campaign against Obama administration officials as well as people Obama has nominated for spots in the judiciary. This witch hunt has continued unabated in 2011.
As many faith leaders have recognized, climate change presents a massive ethical challenge since those least responsible for global warming are among the most vulnerable to its consequences, including water scarcity, climate-sensitive diseases, and sea level rise. Yet in response to the recent international climate talks, conservative media outlets are mocking developing countries for seeking adaptation assistance, saying they just want to "cash in" on "climate gold."
Right-wing media have recently attacked President Obama for celebrating Hanukkah too early and for displaying too many Christmas trees at the White House. Right-wing media have long attacked Obama for how he observes holidays, including Thanksgiving, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Easter, Ramadan, and even Halloween.
Anonymous hackers recently released another batch of emails taken from a climate research group at the University of East Anglia in 2009, along with a document containing numbered excerpts of purportedly incriminating material. Many of these selections have been cropped in a way that completely distorts their meaning, but they were nonetheless repeated by conservative media outlets who believe climate change is a "hoax" and a "conspiracy."
Right-wing media have been hyping the claim that a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks shows that President Obama had planned to "apologize" for the bombing of Hiroshima during his 2009 visit to Japan. But the cable only shows there was speculation from "anti-nuclear groups" that Obama might travel to Hiroshima after expressing support for a "nuclear-free world," and the Obama administration has said no apology was ever planned.
Almost since President Obama took office, the right-wing media have made the ridiculous claim that Obama goes around the world apologizing for America. And now they are at it again. On his radio show today, Rush Limbaugh claimed that when he visited Japan in 2009, Obama "wanted ... to apologize for dropping the bomb on Niros -- Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
Limbaugh based his comments on an Investor's Business Daily editorial claiming that a cable released by Wikileaks revealed that Obama had "plans to visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima to apologize for winning the war with the atom bombs."
But the Wikileaks cable cited by Limbaugh and IBD shows nothing of the sort. The cable, if authentic, describes a 2009 meeting between U.S. ambassador to Japan John V. Roos and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka to discuss Obama's then-upcoming visit to Japan. The cable describes the idea of "Obama visiting Hiroshima to apologize for the atomic bombing during World War II" as a "non-starter."
But as ABC News' Jake Tapper has noted: "The cable does not state that the idea was from the U.S. Rather, Roos writes that Yabunaka thought that following President Obama's call earlier that year for a world free of nuclear weapons, anti-nuclear groups would speculate as to whether he would visit Hiroshima."
Tapper also reported that a "senior White House official asserts to ABC News that there was never any plan for the president to apologize for Hiroshima."
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?
An Investor's Business Daily article claimed that nine Department of Energy loan guarantees are going create jobs at a cost of $23 million per job, and the right-wing media have run with that claim. However, this figure assumes that all the loans will default and that the government will have to cover every penny of their cost. Economists have called these types of calculations "bogus" and "bad math."
If ever a writer was suited to pen editorials for Investor's Business Daily, it's Andrew Malcolm. And starting next month, Laura Bush's former flak will leave his post at the Los Angeles Times to go work for IBD, a far-right newspaper that publishes loopy birther columns, climate change denial rants, nasty personal smears, and in general just makes stuff up on a regular basis.
So yes, Andrew Malcolm should be very happy at the somewhat obscure IBD, writing up breathlessly negative appraisals of the president and all things liberal. He's been doing that for years at the Times.
Honestly, it's not really worth the time or trouble detailing Malcolm's long history of dishonesty. (If you'd like examples though, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) Suffice it to say Malcolm has come to symbolize a right-wing media movement that cut all visible ties with journalism, fact-checking, fairness and decency the day Obama was inaugurated, and has instead turned itself into a propaganda movement.
And that's the real reason why this personnel move is noteworthy -- because the Times, one of the largest newspapers in America, for years foolishly gave a national platform to somebody like Malcolm. He was paid to publish purposefully childish, unserious, and disrespectful blog posts, while the faltering Los Angeles newspaper shed employees at a stunning rate.
As LAObserved.com noted in the wake of Malcolm's IBD announcement:
[C]ritics have wondered why the Times devoted a senior (in salary) staff position to a blog that was essentially a gathering place for anti-Obama talking points, while laying off journalists and cutting news and opinion coverage.
And that's been the puzzle of Malcolm employment: Why did a newspaper like the Times decide it would be best if its only opinion writer regularly covering national politics for the largest newspaper in a solidly Democratic state conduct himself like a B-level, Obama-hating blogger? Who at the Times decided it made perfect sense in terms of branding to have someone like Malcolm become the political voice of the daily?
In the rush to cover the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that received a loan guarantee from the federal government, many news media outlets have misrepresented or omitted key facts.
Due to melting ice and the expansion of a warming ocean, the global sea level rose at a rate of 1.7mm/year during the 20th century and at a rate of more than 3mm/year since 1993, according to NASA.
Climate scientist Josh Willis explained that the "pothole" was caused by the dramatic shift in natural climate patterns from El Niño to La Niña, which redistributed the globe's water, dumping much of it on land this year. Willis said the drop in sea level doesn't change the long term trend: "We're heating up the planet, and in the end that means more sea level rise ... But El Niño and La Niña always take us on a rainfall rollercoaster, and in years like this they give us sea-level whiplash."
As you can imagine, that key fact won't stop conservative media from employing the well-worn and always wrong tactic of using short-term changes to dismiss the long-term trends driven by human-induced global warming.
A New York Times/Bay Citizen article cherry-picked statistics from a Brookings Institution report and reportedly misrepresented interviews to call the goal of creating 5 million green jobs in 10 years a "pipe dream." Conservative media have seized upon the Times article to claim that "even" the "left" agrees that investment in green jobs is a "a waste of money and time."
Fox and other conservative media claim that CERN's study of cosmic rays "concluded that it's the sun, not human activity," causing global warming. In fact, at this point the research "actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate," according to the lead author, and it certainly doesn't refute human-induced global warming.
Conservative media have attacked Alan Krueger, President Obama's nominee to head the President's Council of Economic Advisers, for purportedly advocating a "value added tax." But the 2-year-old blog post they cite stated that he did so "only as a suggestion for serious discussion," adding that he was "not sure it is the best way to go."
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly reported the claim that "a fifth of America's electricity generating capacity is about to be taken offline" due to Environmental Protection Agency limits on pollution from coal plants. In fact, this statement vastly overstates even the worst-case scenarios pushed by industry groups, which are themselves based on assumptions that the Congressional Research Service has called into question.