Saturday, October 20, 2012
Posted: 19 Oct 2012 02:10 PM PDT
In this post, I’ll debunk David Brooks’ error-riddled op-ed, “A Sad Green Story.” His piece is so myth-filled, it would be better termed a fairy tale.
Brooks, of course, is the conservative who wants to be loved by progressives. But for every seemingly mavericky thing he says – “I totally accept the scientific authorities who say that global warming is real and that it is manmade” — is another filled with errors, such as his “Flip-Flop on Green Jobs.”
Today’s piece is so bad, it’s hypocrisy has already been skewered by the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein, and its litany of false statements have been debunked by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Media Matters — which I’ll excerpt below.
First though, like every fairy tale, this one begins once upon a time in a land far, far away:
The period around 2003 was the golden spring of green technology. John McCain and Joe Lieberman introduced a bipartisan bill to curb global warming. I got my first ride in a Prius from a conservative foreign policy hawk who said that these new technologies were going to help us end our dependence on Middle Eastern despots. You’d go to Silicon Valley and all the venture capitalists, it seemed, were rushing into clean tech.Yes, it was a happy time in the Bizarro world, Htrae. But soon, a darkness fell over the land:
From that date on the story begins to get a little sadder.You’re crying? I’m so sorry. But don’t worry, kids, this story never happened. It’s just make believe. Look, here, I have the real story. Sure, it also has an unhappy ending, but at least it has the advantage of being true.
Al Gore released his movie “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006. The global warming issue became associated with the highly partisan former vice president. Gore mobilized liberals, but, once he became the global warming spokesman, no Republican could stand shoulder to shoulder with him and survive. Any slim chance of building a bipartisan national consensus was gone.
Then, in 2008, Barack Obama seized upon green technology and decided to make it the centerpiece of his jobs program. During his presidential campaign he promised to create five million green tech jobs. Renewable energy has many virtues, but it is not a jobs program….
This is a story of overreach, misjudgments and disappointment.
You see, there was this couch, and, in an effort sponsored by Al Gore himself, the former Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich sat on it with his Democratic counterpart, Nancy Pelosi, and they both endorsed climate action. You’re crying, again? Oh, I see, yes, he is a giant newt, but his bark is much, much — googolplex much — worse than his bite. Where was I?
Yes, take a look at this chart, it’ll make you feel much, much better … for a while, anyway.
Political polarization on climate jumped in 2009 — long after Gore’s 2006 movie.
Percent of Americans Who Believe the Effects of Global Warming Have Already Begun to Happen, by Political Ideology, from McCright and Dunlap
Many, many Republicans embraced cap-and-trade after the movie and didn’t flip flop on climate until 2009, suggesting again it was something other than Gore’s advocacy to blaim (see Tim Pawlenty: “Every one of us” running for president has flip-flopped on climate change).
Let’s remember that the GOP presidential nominee in 2008 ran on a platform of climate action and cap-and-trade — even his conservative VP, Sarah Palin, endorsed it. That’s a key reason again that you see in the top chart that the liberal-conservative polarization did not accelerate until 2009, when a certain person got elected with overwhelming majorities and the prospect of an actual climate bill became quite real.
Extensive polling data and analysis simply doesn’t support this myth that Gore polarized the debate. Indeed, on the basis of his 2012 peer-reviewed analysis, Dr. Robert Brulle told me,
“I think this should close down forever the idea that Al Gore caused the partisan polarization over climate change.”I’ve asked many other leading experts on social science and public opinion — including McCright and Dunlap, authors of “The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public’s views of global warming, 2001–2010″ — and they all agree the data don’t support this myth. Stanford’s Jon Krosnick also agrees there is no data to support it.
It is a fairy tale, and one that people as intermittently smart as David Brooks should stop telling.
Ezra Klein notes that “pricing carbon” is “an idea Brooks supported then and supports now,” and then he skewers Brooks:
It’s a story, though Brooks doesn’t mention this, of conservatives building an alternative reality in which the science is unsettled, and no one really knows whether the planet is warming and, even if it is, whether humans have anything to do with it. It’s a story of Democrats being forced into a second and third-best policies that Republicans then use to press their political advantage.Brooks leaves the distinct impression that venture capital clean tech boom began in 2003 but then fizzled under Obama’s watch. But that isn’t quite what happened (see “Clean Energy Investments Hit Record Highs in 2011, U.S. Clean Tech VC Funding Jumps 30%“):
It’s a story, to put it simply, of Democrats doing everything they can to address a problem Brooks says is real in the way Brooks says is best, and Republicans doing everything they can to stop them. And it’s a story that ends with Democrats and Republicans receiving roughly equal blame from Brooks.
The existence of this op-ed is part of the story of why the Democrats failed. The story of what happened over the last 10 years is right there in Brooks’s column. But he doesn’t want to say who’s right and who’s wrong, which is the only tool pundits have to help those who are right and push those who are wrong. Instead, he wants to say everybody is wrong, and isn’t it just a shame.
As you can see, clean tech venture investments in US companies in 2011 were near an all-time high last year — and almost a quarter of all venture investment — in spite of coming off the worst economic and financial collapse since the Great Depression.
It wasn’t in 2003 that cleantech VC funding hit its inflection point — it was still a tiny fraction of VC funding and still smaller than government R&D. No, the inflection point would appear to be much closer to 2006, coincidentally enough, when funding doubled. Go figure!
Brooks claims that “Renewable energy has many virtues, but it is not a jobs program.” Yet that doesn’t merely ignore “explosive growth” documented in the sector by a major Brookings report.It’s also massive flip-flop given that not so long ago, Brooks was championing green jobs. Here is what he wrote in January 2010 after a panel discussion that included business executives:
I was once again reminded how many business and investment types are thinking quite practically and capitalistically about green, job-creating technologies. For us Hamiltonian conservatives who believe in internal improvements, energy and infrastructure are obviously the two big areas where we should be investing.Now, less than 3 years later, he writes:
Well, if unnamed articles appeared in the press then they must be true!Obama’s stimulus package set aside $90 billion for renewable energy loans and grants, but the number of actual jobs created has been small. Articles began to appear in the press of green technology grants that were costing $2 million per job created. The program began to look like a wasteful disappointment.
In fact, this nonsense has been widely debunked — in Brooks’ own paper! As Media Matters writes:
But the $90 billion figure — which Mitt Romney cited in the first presidential debate — has been repeatedlydebunked, including by Brooks’ own New York Times. As the Times‘ Matthew Wald explained after the first debate, not all the money went to renewable energy, not all of it has been spent, and much of it was authorized under the Bush administration:
The $90 billion is a real number drawn from the 2009 stimulus package, but it wasn’t all spent, as Mr. Romney said, and a lot of the green energy spending that went out the door on Mr. Obama’s watch was authorized during the Bush administration.The biggest component of the $90 billion was $29 billion for energy efficiency, of which $5 billion involved improvements in the homes and apartments of low-income households. There was also $18 billion for fast trains and $21 billion for wind farms, solar panels and other renewable energy. Supporters point out that much of the energy spending drew in private capital.
Another New York Times fact-check called the number “outrageous” and “a piece of masterful spin.”Then we have the absurd claim of “$2 million per job created.” As MM writes:
The paper was ridiculed earlier this year when then-public editor Arthur Brisbane questioned whether reporters should be “truth vigilantes.” The resounding answer was “of course,” yet the Times and other leading newspapers continue to leave misleading claims unquestioned, even when their own fact-checkers havedebunked them.
These calculations are problematic because they often count loans as if they are grants, and assume that all the money has been spent, development is complete and no new workers will be hired. A more accurate accounting of the jobs impact of clean energy investments might note that a Brookings Institution study found clean energy jobs grew at an average annual rate of 11.1 percent between 2003 and 2010, “more than twice as fast as the rest of the economy.”Here’s a chart from the Brookings report:
Brooks goes on to make a string of misleading or erroneous statements:
The federal agencies invested in many winners, but they also invested in some spectacular losers, from Solyndra to the battery maker A123 Systems, which just filed for bankruptcy protection. Private investors can shake off bad investments. But when a political entity like the federal government makes a bad investment, the nasty publicity tarnishes the whole program.MM eviscerates this:
But as Clean Technica pointed out after Solyndra declared bankruptcy, “the Obama administration is batting a much better average in “picking winners and losers” than the private Venture Capital (VC) market itself.” Clean energy consultant Richard Stuebi expects just 3 out of 10 private investments to succeed — a 70 percent failure rate. By contrast, only three of the 26 companies that received Department of Energy 1705 loan guarantees have filed for bankruptcy, amounting to about 6 percent of the loan guarantee funds.Brooks’ story is a story of overreach, misjudgments and disappointment. His own.
And as economist Dean Baker noted, Brooks suggested that solar energy is faring poorly because “Panel prices have fallen by three-fourths since 2008.” But that drop has actually made solar energy more cost-competitive and helped fuel a boom in installations, even if some high-profile manufacturers like Solyndra have not been able to survive making higher priced panels.
Friday, October 19, 2012
From the Salt Lake Tribune:
From his embrace of the party’s radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: "Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?" The evidence suggests no clear answer, or at least one that would survive Romney’s next speech or sound bite. Politicians routinely tailor their words to suit an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear.[snip](Tipped by JMG reader Jeremy)
In considering which candidate to endorse, The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board had hoped that Romney would exhibit the same talents for organization, pragmatic problem-solving and inspired leadership that he displayed here more than a decade ago. Instead, we have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust. Therefore, our endorsement must go to the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first.
Virginia police have arrested a man working for the Republican Party after he was seen throwing completed voter registration forms in a dumpster behind a shopping center.
Colin Small, a 31-year-old resident of Phoenixville, Pa., worked for Pinpoint, a company hired to register voters on behalf of the Republican Party of Virginia. Prosecutors charged him with four counts of destruction of voter registration applications, eight counts of failing to disclose voter registration applications and one count of obstruction of justice. Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson’s office said there was no indication that the activity was widespread in their jurisdiction and said the conduct “appears to be limited in nature.” His office said there is a possibility that additional charges may be filed.Wanna guess what the party affiliation of the those newly-registered voters might have been? Voter registration in Virginia closed on the day that Small was arrested.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
"We are here in direct relation to the heroes and she-roes who paid with their lives for this right. Many of us are old enough to remember what it felt like to be told we could not register to vote without taking a test or paying a poll tax. Some were asked how many angels danced on a head of a pin, how many bubbles were in a bar of soap. We are here because four courageous college freshmen sat down at a lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960, four years before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, to make a stand for equality. It’s a terrible thing to obstruct access to the ballot. But we follow all those who had the courage to dare to live so we can dare to live.
"Because of them, we are here. So vote to keep moving us forward. And carry with you your friends, family and neighbors. Carry them from your congregations, your beauty salons and barbershops, your sororities and fraternities. Carry with you those five people whose vote could make the difference. You may be pretty or plain, heavy or thin, gay or straight, poor or rich. But nobody has more votes than you. All human beings are more equal to each other than they are unequal. And voting is the great equalizer. It is important. It is imperative. There is no time for complacency." - Maya Angelou, writing for the Winston-Salem Journal.
From the Maddow Blog:
When the president's critics spin this, they'll say, "The deficit was over $1 trillion again," and that will be accurate. What the criticism fails to note, however, is that (a) the deficit is now much smaller than it was when Obama took office; (b) this is the smallest deficit we've seen in four years; (c) this new figure represents an improvement of over $200 billion since last year; and (d) the main drivers of the remaining deficit are Republican policies.
Monday, October 15, 2012
Paul Ryan showed up at an Ohio soup kitchen where he posed for the cameras by scrubbing already-cleaned pots. Dan Amira snarks at New York Magazine: "[S]ome might conclude that Ryan's appearance at the soup kitchen was nothing but a superficial, self-serving photo op designed to counter recent remarks from the GOP ticket that seem to show disdain for the poor. But no, the truth is that Ryan simply cares so much about America's non-income-tax-paying indigent that he thinks they deserve better than eating food from pots and pans that have only been cleaned once."Reposted from Joe
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Reuters has the story:
Plans to save Big Bird, the fuzzy yellow character on U.S. public television's "Sesame Street," from possible extinction are taking shape in the form of a puppet-based protest next month dubbed the "Million Muppet March." The demonstration is planned for November 3 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., three days before the general election. Before the presidential debate between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney had concluded on October 3, two men who had never met each floated the Million Muppet March idea on social media. They immediately united to defend public broadcasting.