Town Hall

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  • How The Industry-Backed Reports Attacking EPA's Climate Plan Create A False Media Echo Chamber

    Oil Front Group Uses Misleading Statistics To Claim Acting On Climate Change Will Kill Thousands

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    It seems like a different study attacking the EPA's Clean Power Plan pops up in the media every other week. But many of these studies are riddled with flaws and funded by fossil fuel interests, so media should think twice before repeating their claims.

    A new briefing from the Energy & Policy Institute (EPI) detailed the fossil fuel funding and methodological flaws of six reports attacking the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) carbon pollution standards. One of them, a study from NERA Economic Consulting, has been thoroughly debunked by multiple experts, who say the report is completely out of date, uses faulty efficiency cost assumptions and outdated renewable energy cost assumptions, and does not acknowledge any of the EPA plan's economic benefits, rendering its findings irrelevant.

    The deeply flawed NERA study also forms the basis for a new analysis from the Institute for Energy Research (IER) (not included in EPI's briefing), which concluded that the Clean Power Plan will result in 14,000 premature deaths. IER's analysis led to horrific (and completely false) headlines like this, from the conservative news site Daily Caller:

    Daily Caller

    To arrive at their conclusion, IER used NERA's GDP loss estimate and converted it directly into increased premature deaths. However, using that method doesn't make much sense, as NERA failed to acknowledge the Clean Power Plan's projected life-saving health and economic benefits. Thankfully, IER's conclusion has so far been confined to the conservative media fringe.

    However, numerous groups have touted the public health benefits of pollution standards, and the EPA estimates that its plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants would prevent 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children. So how does IER's analysis arrive at such a drastically different conclusion? A look at the chain of fossil fuel-funding behind IER and the NERA study may provide the answer.

    The cover page of the NERA study states that it was prepared for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the Association of American Railroads, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, Consumer Energy Alliance, and the National Mining Association. Combined, they're a who's who of fossil fuel industry trade groups and advocacy organizations. EPI put together a graphic showing many of the coal and oil companies that comprise these groups:

    As for IER, the group lists former Koch lobbyist Thomas Pyle as its president and is partly funded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers and their political network. IER has also received funding from Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Koch-backed DonorsTrust and Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation.

    The other reports detailed in EPI's briefing include one from the National Black Chamber of Commerce, another from the Beacon Hill Institute, two from Energy Ventures Analysis (one of which was funded directly by coal giant Peabody Energy), and one from IER. These reports are often publicized through coordinated media campaigns and newspaper op-eds across the country.

    EPI's report illustrates how multiple industry-funded studies work in concert to simulate a chorus of diverse voices attacking the EPA's flagship climate plan. But really, it's just the industry protecting its bottom line.

    Image at top via Flickr user Fintrvlr using a Creative Commons License.

  • Joe Scarborough Hypes Right Wing Media's False Claim That Clinton's Server Was Kept In A Bathroom Closet

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    MSNBC's Joe Scarborough falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton's email server was stored in the bathroom closet of the headquarters of Platte River Networks, the Denver based IT management company Hillary Clinton hired to maintain her private emails. But a spokesperson from Platte River confirmed that the server was stored in a data center in New Jersey and that the company does "not store data in any bathrooms."

  • Fox's Latest Christmas Scare Deemed A "Vicious Dissemination Of Untrue Information"

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    Fox News' Todd Starnes accused a Georgia elementary school of "confiscating" Christmas cards in an effort to stifle religious expression, prompting outrage from residents and threats of corrective legislation from Georgia lawmakers. But according to the school district, Starnes' allegations are completely false.

    In a story posted on his Fox News Radio show titled "Georgia School Confiscates Christmas Cards," Starnes cited the husband of one teacher at the school who claimed many teachers were "disgruntled by the school's decision to confiscate the Christmas cards." Starnes asserted that the Bulloch County Board of Education "cracked down" on the Christmas card display, as well as many other acts of "religious expression in their schools" :

    Teachers have been ordered to remove any religious icons or items from their classrooms - ranging from Bibles to Christian music.

    Teachers have also been instructed to avoid student-led prayers at all costs. Should they be in a room where students are praying, teachers have been ordered to turn their backs on their students.

    [...]

    Hundreds of outraged residents have joined a Facebook page to protest the crackdown - and many are vowing to attend a school board meeting on Thursday to let school officials have a piece of their mind.

    The Board of Education released a statement late Tuesday denying the moving of the Christmas cards had anything to do with the "current open and ongoing discussions that the school system is having with local citizens about religious liberties and expression."

    "We don't want this misinformation to derail the positive work we are committed to with our community leaders," Supt. Charles Wilson said in a prepared statement. "I'm appalled by this attack on our school system, and on Brooklet Elementary."

    After Starnes' article, right wing media outlets picked up his story adding to outrage in the community. Town Hall reprinted Starnes' article and The Blaze reported that according to Fox News, "administrators reportedly asked teachers to move a group of hallway Christmas cards out of the view of students." Starnes' report even led one Georgia state senator, Judson Hill (R), to denounce the Bulloch County Board of Education and threaten to "explore possible legislation, if needed, to protect religious freedom of GA taxpayers":

  • Myths & Facts About Wind Power

    ››› ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS

    Following relentless attacks on the solar industry in the wake of Solyndra's bankruptcy, wind power has become the latest target of the right-wing campaign against renewable energy. But contrary to the myths propagated by the conservative media, wind power is safe, increasingly affordable, and has the potential to significantly reduce pollution and U.S. reliance on fossil fuels.

  • NY Post Fabricates Statistic To Vilify Green Jobs

    Blog ››› ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS

    In an editorial blasting President Obama's green jobs initiatives, the New York Post falsely claimed that despite significant investments in clean energy, California's "environmental sector has actually lost jobs, not gained them":

    [T]he Obama administration's entire green-jobs initiative has been a massive boondoggle.

    As The New York Times reported last month, Obama's grand plan to create 5 million green jobs over 10 years has turned into an enormous "pipe dream."

    In California, for example, the environmental sector has actually lost jobs, not gained them.

    Which raises serious questions about this administration's ability to come up with any kind of plan that will productively address America's unemployment crisis.

    In fact, those job losses refer only to the San Jose metro area, not to the state of California as a whole, which has gained almost 80,000 green jobs since 2003 - a 4.2% annual increase - and leads the nation in the number of clean economy jobs.

    Those numbers come from a recent Brookings Institution report assessing green jobs nationally and regionally, which was the subject of the New York Times/Bay Citizen article cited by the New York Post editorial. The Times article has been criticized for cherry-picking information from the Brookings report to paint a misleadingly negative picture of green job growth.

  • Chuck Norris Facts: "Teachers Unions Muscle Legislators Like The Mafia"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Townhall columnist Chuck Norris insists: "I love teachers. I really do. … I applaud the hardworking teachers across this land." But Norris has a funny way of showing his appreciation: comparing teachers unions to the mafia and "gangsters":

    [W]hen teachers unions muscle legislators like the Mafia and Democrats abandon their voting posts because they don't like projected outcomes, haven't we abandoned the very foundational principles of our republic?

    The Wisconsin Education Association Council leads the pack of lobbyists, spending two times as much and five times the amount of time as its closest lobbying competitor in order to buy, bribe and bamboozle legislators to do as it wants.

    What also chaps my hide is that a gigantic chunk of the WEAC's gangster money and time is used to lobby against alternative choices in schools (including charter schools) and against tuition tax credit programs, which aid parents in sending their children to private schools.

    The fact is that teachers union-sponsored protests spreading the land are not primarily about the teachers or the students. They are about the unions and feds maintaining their Mafia-style rule over education and our kids and preventing people from choosing educational alternatives.

  • Tony Blankley Continues To Be Wrong About Tony Blankley's Experiences

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    In December, Town Hall columnist Tony Blankley made a variety of false claims about the mid-1990s, including the false claim that Bill Clinton twice vetoed welfare reform prior to the 1994 mid-term elections. That didn't happen, as Blankley should know: Blankley was Newt Gingrich's press secretary at the time.

    Today, Blankley has another column about his experience in the mid-1990s, and he again doesn't know what he's talking about.

    First, Blankley again gets Clinton's position on welfare reform wrong:

    The GOP in 1995 had three major policy objectives: 1) to balance the budget in seven years, 2) to reform welfare and 3) to pass our Contract with America 10-point plan. President Clinton opposed all three. With Clinton eventually going along, we in fact balanced the budget ahead of schedule, Clinton signed our welfare reform after first vetoing it twice, and about two-thirds of the contract was enacted into law and signed by President Clinton.

    Clinton didn't oppose welfare reform. He supported it, going back to his campaign for president -- long before most Americans had ever heard of Newt Gingrich. And he didn't sign the GOP's welfare reform after first vetoing it twice -- he signed a compromise welfare reform bill after forcing the GOP to make what he viewed as sufficient changes by vetoing their first two bills. Finally, Blankley's suggestion that Clinton didn't support budget-balancing is more than a little disingenuous in light of the fact that in 1993, Clinton signed the largest deficit reduction plan in history, which passed Congress without a single Republican vote.

    Next, there's Blankley's description of the 1995 government shutdown:

    What the GOP House (and Senate) did in 1995 was pass very short-term funding bills (for just a few days) while we continued to debate the president regarding the larger issue of moving toward a balanced budget. When President Clinton refused to sign the bills, the government -- except for essential services -- "shut down."

    In Blankley's telling, the GOP passed continuing resolutions in good faith to keep the government running during negotiations, but Clinton refused to sign them. That isn't really what happened. In fact, the GOP attached other provisions to the funding bills (and debt-ceiling increase), like an increase in Medicare premiums and restrictions on death-row appeals.

    Finally, Blankley says the GOP lost the political battle over the government shutdown in part because "the issue of deficit spending and public debt was of much less concern to the public than it is now" and that Republicans should therefore be undeterred by the lessons of 1995-96 in pursuing deficit reduction at all costs.

    Nonsense. In the early to mid 1990s, deficits got a lot of attention from the media and politicians -- has Blankley forgotten Ross Perot? -- and polls suggested that deficits were a top concern:

    In December 1994, the Pew Research Center found that 65 percent of Americans named reducing the deficit a top priority, compared to 64 percent who said improving the job situation was a top priority. Compare that to January 2010, when Pew found that 81 percent of Americans consider improving the job situation a top priority, and 60 percent said the same of the deficit. (Pew's 2011 report on national priorities isn't out yet, but other recent polling has consistently shown that jobs are a higher priority than deficits.)

    And on September 3, 1995, as the budget battle was heating up, the Washington Post quoted one top Republican saying that deficit reduction was "what we were elected to do." That Republican's name? Tony Blankley.

    So when Blankley claims there is more public concern about the deficit now than in 1995-96, he appears to have things completely backwards.

    The GOP's problem in 1995-96 wasn't that the public was less concerned then with deficits than it is now. It was that then, as now, the public cared about other things more, and rejected the Republicans efforts to gut Medicare and other government programs.

    At the rate Blankley is going, it's only a matter of time before he urges House Speaker John Boehner to lash out at the seating arrangements on Air Force One, claiming that doing so worked out well for Gingrich.

  • Town Hall Columnist: Two Years Of Health Care Debate Don't Count -- But Seven Hours Do

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Under the headline "Health Care Debate -- At Last," Town Hall columnist Bill Murchison makes the laugh-out-loud claim that health care reform hasn't yet been debated:

    To be sure, repeal isn't going to happen this year -- no matter the size of the House majority in favor of it, or such arguments as Republicans bring concerning the unaffordability of the whole enterprise. The exercise of debating and voting on repeal will have wonderful effects notwithstanding.

    Last time around, debate hardly took place. Mrs. Pelosi was firmly in charge on the House side. Passage was a done deal. Cost and constitutional aspects got no airing apart from what the spunkier breed of Republican could manage on non-congressional turf.

    Has Murchison forgotten about the year-long debate over health care reform? (Or the additional year of argument after reform passed?) Or does he think Town Hall readers have? Does he really expect anyone to believe health care reform didn't receive a full and public debate during a year of negotiations, hearings, town hall meetings, and cable news yelling in 2009 -- but it will in the seven hours the House GOP has scheduled for floor debate on repeal?

    I don't know whether Murchison is a delusional fool or a shamelessly transparent liar. Either way, it's hard to imagine a more absurd argument than his claim that health care will get in seven hours the thorough debate he claims it didn't get in all of 2009. He's like a Super Bowl loser touting a pre-season rematch as the definitive contest between the two teams.

  • Tony Blankley re-writes history

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Townhall columnist Tony Blankley, a top aide to House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, completely misrepresents that era:

    Bill Clinton, of course, is famous for triangulating between the Republicans and the Democrats, moving to the center/right, signing the Republican welfare reform bill (which he had twice vetoed before the election of 1994, when the GOP thumpingly took back the House and Senate), agreed to the Republican-proposed balanced budget (which he steadfastly opposed before the election), proclaimed that the era of big government was over and, in his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, bragged about signing into law 14 items that had been in the Republican "Contract with America."

    Bill Clinton did not veto welfare reform before the 1994 election. Didn't happen. In fact, he didn't veto anything before the 1994 election: The first veto of his presidency came in June of 1995. Clinton vetoed GOP welfare reform proposals in late 1995 and early 1996, after which he built up a 20-point lead over Bob Dole before signing a welfare package in August 1996. The difference between Tony Blankley's completely false history and the reality of what happened is not a trivial matter of misremembered dates: It fundamentally undercuts Blankley's point.

    Nor did Clinton oppose a Republican-proposed balanced budget prior to the 1994 election, as Blankely suggests -- in part because there was no such budget. (Republicans did produce alternative budgets in 1993 and 1994 but neither was balanced.) In fact, the Republicans -- every one of them -- opposed Clinton's deficit-reducing 1993 budget. In the winter of 1995-96, Clinton vetoed the Republican budget, again undermining Blankley's portrayal of Clinton as quickly caving to GOP demands after the 1994 election.

    Finally, I have no idea what Blankley thinks is the basis for claiming that Clinton "bragged" in his 1996 convention speech about "signing into law 14 items that had been in the Republican 'Contract with America.'" That contract contained only 10 bills -- and wasn't mentioned in Clinton's speech. More broadly, the suggestion that the speech was some conservative capitulation to the Republicans is ludicrous. In it, Clinton bragged about the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban and a minimum-wage increase -- none of which was popular with Republicans. He excoriated Republicans for producing a budget that contained "cuts that devastate education for our children, that pollute our environment, that end the guarantee of health care for those who are served under Medicaid, that end our duty or violate our duty to our parents through Medicare." He blasted the GOP's "risky $550 billion tax scheme that will force them to ask for even bigger cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment than they passed and I vetoed last year." And so on.

    I understand why conservatives like Blankley and Andrew Malcolm want to pretend that Bill Clinton governed like an arch-conservative: He had considerably more success than the most recent president who was actually conservative. But it would be nice if they used some examples that are, you know, true.

  • A conservative columnist's revealing argument against gays in the military

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Town Hall columnist Bill Murchison writes in opposition to gays being allowed to serve openly in the military, in the process arguing that "Racial integration of the services following World War II was a different kettle of fish." Murchison explains:

    For one thing, sex normally outranks race as a self-identifier. For another, black and white units already existed side by side; President Truman, in 1948, merely ordered their merger. A third difference: the country was at peace, and relatively unified, at the time of the merger.

    Keep in mind, the "relatively unified" country Murchison is describing was one in which racial segregation existed in both fact and law. The 1948 integration of the military was pre-Brown vs. the Board of Education, pre-Selma, pre-Rosa Parks. In describing a country in which black people could not eat in "white" restaurants or attend "white" schools or use "white" drinking fountains as "relatively unified," Murchison demonstrates that he has no idea what that phrase means -- and may reveal more than he intends about his opposition to gays serving openly in the military.