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Right-Wing Media Using Texas Disaster To Discredit Clean Energy

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Extreme winter storms wreaked havoc across the United States over the weekend, causing widespread power outages in Texas. As many people are wondering why the largest energy-producing state in the country is facing widespread power failures amid below-freezing temperatures, Fox News' answer is to blame the state's reliance on wind energy. But while renewable energy sources such as wind are a familiar and convenient scapegoat for Fox -- allowing the network to feed fears about clean energy and the Green New Deal that it has long nurtured -- this narrative is flat wrong.

Fox's Big "Frozen Windmill" Lie

On the February 15 edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight, the host not only suggested that the freezing temperatures that hit Texas bring into question the very existence of global warming, but he also claimed that the state's inability to keep the lights on was due to its "reckless reliance on windmills," which he even acknowledged account for only "a quarter of the energy" makeup in Texas (with the majority of power coming from natural gas and coal). To discuss the outages, host Tucker Carlson invited climate denier and frequent Fox guest Marc Morano, who once claimed CO2 is not pollution because we exhale it.

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Fox's morning opinion- and so-called "news"-side shows picked up on Carlson's misleading narrative -- pinning the Texas outages exclusively on wind energy while largely failing to acknowledge that the state is overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels.

Coverage of the outages during the February 16 edition of Fox & Friends First ran under the chyron "Texas Power Issues Blamed on Frozen Wind Turbines." Fox & Friends framed discussion of the outages around the question of whether this is "what America would look like under the Green New Deal" and enlisted climate skeptic Bjorn Lomborg to respond. Lomborg, who is part of the Koch network and has long been a proponent of fossil fuels, spewed outdated and false information about the reliability of renewable energy.

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America's Newsroom anchor Dana Perino similarly framed a discussion of the outages with Fox contributor and Wall Street Journal columnist Bill McGurn around "raising questions about the Lone Star State's increasing reliance on renewable energy." Perino went on to read extensively from the Journal's February 16 editorial, which similarly blamed the outages on green energy and baselessly fearmongered that "the Biden Administration's plan to banish fossil fuels is a greater existential threat to Americans than climate change."

On The Faulkner Focus, anchor Harris Faulkner explicitly tied the outages to President Joe Biden's climate proposal, claiming, "Texas, for example, is shifting toward renewables and being called into question along with the Biden administration's climate plan." Faulkner's segment on the outages also leaned on the misleading and agenda-driven arguments of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board and Tucker Carlson.

Long-standing issues with Texas' energy grid, not frozen wind turbines, are the main culprits behind the state's wave of power outages

In addition to his February 15 segment, Carlson penned an opinion piece for the Fox New website framed around the easily disprovable statement: "The Green New Deal has come, believe it or not, to the state of Texas." Carlson asserted in the piece that the state's power grid failed because "the windmills froze," a claim that has been repeated and amplified by Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and fringe elements of the right-wing media echosphere.

But what really happened in Texas was easily foreseeable by those who follow the state's energy sector and has been discussed at length by local news outlets and public officials, including Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

The historic, devastating winter storm did freeze wind turbine blades, but as Bloomberg noted, "the region's grid operator made clear that power plants -- across all resources -- had tripped offline. And in fact, data from the grid operator shows generation from wind farms has actually been exceeding the agency's forecasts in recent days." The Washington Post's Energy 202 blog reported that Carlson and the Wall Street Journal editorial board's blaming wind energy for the grid's failure "is misleading," adding: "While Texas's capacity to generate energy from the wind is down with some turbines seized up, most of the power generation offline during the cold spell was supposed to come from traditional thermal plants, Texas's grid operator said Monday."

Local Texas energy experts were even more vociferous in their criticism of the state's grid failure, placing most of the blame on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). As an energy fellow at the University of Houston told the Houston Chronicle, the grid "limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances."

This criticism was echoed by David Tuttle, a research associate at University of Texas at Austin's Energy Institute. Tuttle noted that Texas' electric generating plants never winterized, despite recommendations from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation that were issued following an investigation of the blackouts that occurred during a devastating ice storm in 2011. By never mandating these winterization recommendations, Texas public officials increased the likelihood of this unfortunate history repeating itself.

Summarizing the problems faced by the power grid in Texas during the winter storm and the way forward in its wake, TechCrunch author Jonathan Shieber wrote:

The current blackouts have nothing to do with renewables and everything to do with cold weather slowing down natural gas production because of freeze-offs and spiking demand for heating at the same time.
As Dr. Emily Grubert, an assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and, by courtesy, of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, noted, the problem is more of a total systems issue than one associated with renewable power.
"Let us be absolutely clear: if there are grid failures today, it shows the existing (largely fossil-based) system cannot handle these conditions either," Grubert wrote on Twitter. "These are scary, climate change-affected conditions that pose extreme challenges to the grid. We are likely to continue to see situations like this where our existing system cannot easily handle them. Any electricity system needs to make massive adaptive improvements.

The Inconvenient Truth

The outages in Texas highlight how the changing climate is poised to test our power sector and the assumptions that underpin it -- both in Texas and throughout the rest of the country.

While it's true that human-caused climate change is making extreme cold events less likely overall, it is also increasing average air temperatures and thus the amount of moisture the air can hold, which means prolonged cold can yield even greater snowfall. And as Climate Signals notes, "Climate change is also linked to the destabilization of the jet stream, which can lead to outbreaks of Arctic air."

CBS This Morning's meteorologist and climate specialist Jeff Berardelli explained this relationship between climate change and the Texas storm on the program this morning.

But right-wing media and their political allies would be remiss if they let the truth interfere with their efforts to propagate a lie against green energy and climate policies.

In its coverage of the Texas power outages, Fox is deliberately attempting to steer the conversation away from climate change and the shortcomings of our reliance on fossil fuels -- in this case, it's using a well-worn and bogus script against renewable energy to erode support for the Biden administration's plan to transition to a clean energy economy. These efforts to ignore our climate reality are especially dangerous as science predicts more frequent and devastating aberrant and extreme weather events are yet to come.

Biden Is Already Uniting America -- His Agenda Is Wildly Popular

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

As Democrats maneuver to pass a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill to rescue the U.S. economy, journalists are using the fact that most Republicans oppose the emergency legislation to to raise doubts about President Joe Biden's ability to "unify" the country. Instead of marveling at the fact that the GOP stands poised to reject a bill that is highly popular with voters and would send generous payments to tens of millions of American families, the press keeps its focus on Democrats, while missing the larger story.

Echoing the Republican narrative that Biden is supposed to surrender this agenda to the party out of power days after being sworn into office (that's not how elections work), journalists are misreading the "unity" story. At a White House press briefing during Biden's first week as president, a reporter demanded to know, "When are we going to see one of those substantial outreaches that says, 'This is something the Republicans want to do, too'?"

The press insists that Biden's welcome call for unity, following a bloody insurrection inside the U.S. Capitol last month, now means that any policy push by him is divisive because Republicans oppose it.

The focus on the Beltway political process misses the more meaningful story that continues to unfold in the early weeks of the Biden presidency — he is "unifying" the country because his agenda is wildly popular. Unlike the divisive and unpopular agenda that Trump pushed, and the way he governed by caring only about his Republican base, Biden's first weeks in office have been marked by polling that shows deep public support for his domestic and foreign initiatives. That's key because being a leader who can "unify" the country is more important that being a leader who can pick up some Republican votes in Congress.

The dirty little secret the press doesn't like to dwell on, as it excitedly plays up the "unify" theme? Republicans are committed to opposing Biden, period. Just as they were committed to opposing President Barack Obama. The party's radical obstruction has become so normalized over the last decade that journalists no longer recognize it. Instead, they start legislative conversations from a mythical starting point, assuming there are lots of open-minded Republicans who are willing to support Democratic legislation if the Democratic president would properly court them. (Barack Obama criticized for not knowing how to schmooze his opponents, as if that were the reason they wouldn't budge.)

Following the Republicans' radical obstruction of a Democratic-sponsored gun law in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut in 2012, a bill that enjoyed 90 percent public support, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) admitted that most of his Republican colleagues refused to allow a vote in favor because they didn't want a Democratic president to get a 'win.' "There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it," said Toomey.

That GOP partisanship has only hardened today. Yet the press' focus remains fixed on how Democrats can achieve two-party cooperation in the name of unifying the country.

Biden's already doing that. He began his presidency 25 points more popular than Trump, and then began signing a flurry of executive orders designed to eradicate his predecessor's most divisive policies. While Republicans whined about the moves not "uniting" the country, polling show that many of Biden's executive orders enjoy overwhelming public support. They include banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation (83 percent support), requiring masks be worn on federal property (75 percent), overturning the ban on transgender people being able to serve in the military (71 percent), restarting the federal DACA program to protect undocumented "Dreamer" children (65 percent), rejoining the World Health Organization (62 percent), and rejoining the Paris climate according (59 percent).

The list goes on and on as Biden forges a path with policy markers that unify the country.

That includes the proposed Covid relief bill. Depicted in the press as being a deeply partisan and divisive issue, simply because the Republican Party stands opposed to the Democratic legislation, the bill enjoys sweeping support nationwide. Nearly 80 percent of Americans support sending $1,400 checks, 79 percent support federal assistance for state and local governments, and 73 percent are in favor of extending unemployment benefits. Even among Republican voters, the Democrats' $1.9 trillion relief bill gets higher approval marks than does Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Politically, the bill represents a home run for Democrats, but the Associated Press depicts it as a "dilemma" for them because Republicans oppose it. (Why isn't it a "dilemma" for the GOP?) And The Wall Street Journal stressed that Biden faced a "big decision" whether to pass the bill even if all Republicans objected. (Spoiler: He does not.)

Meanwhile, Biden continues to garner high marks for his leadership on fighting the pandemic, the most pressing issue facing the country.

Biden is already helping to unify the country, even if Republicans and the press don't want to acknowledge it.


Wall Street Journal ‘Sanitizes’ Rep. Greene’s Bloodthirsty Behavior

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The Wall Street Journal editorial board says Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's endorsement of assassinating the Speaker of the House, a former U.S. president, and two former U.S. secretaries of state is merely "nutty," and "cuckoo rhetoric."

"On Thursday, under pressure from all sides, Ms. Greene disavowed her past cuckoo rhetoric," the WSJ editorial says.

"Everyone agrees Ms. Greene's past social-media posts were nutty. But it's a troubling precedent for the House majority party to overrule the committee assignments of the minority, based on a politician's words before taking office," the editorial reads.

Really? Not everyone. Most believe they are far worse than "nutty" or "cuckoo."

Are they unaware of all of the QAnon Congresswoman's offenses?

Rep. Greene is a "backer of the violent and absurd 'Frazzledrip' conspiracy theory, which is linked to QAnon and Pizzagate," Media Matters reports, "and essentially claims that Hillary Clinton and former aide Huma Abedin sexually assaulted a child, filleted her face, wore her face like a mask, and then drank her blood as part of a satanic ritual to ingest something called adrenochrome."

To the Journal editorial board, that's apparently not as big deal, and not deserving of stripping a member of Congress from their committee assignments.

"Greene also liked a meme that was posted to her Facebook page in June 2018 claiming that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Clinton, former President Barack 'Obama and their Democrat friends … can't have Trump repeal DACA as it would show DACA was used by them … for human trafficking pedophilia in high places and organ harvesting,'" Media Matters also reported.

Again, no big deal to the WSJ editorial board.

Those are just a few of the many vile and offensive beliefs Greene has promoted.

The sub-head of the editorial board's editorial reads: "House Republicans fail to oblige the Democratic desire for GOP civil war."

That is what the Journal, part of Rupert Murdoch's vast right wing propaganda machine, including Fox News (now facing a $2.7 billion lawsuit) is worried about.

CNN's Andrew Kaczynski, who has co-authored several investigative articles about Rep. Greene, says the WSJ is "sanitizing" the QAnon Congresswoman:

Karl Rove Signals GOP Donors To Push Rewrite Of Election Laws

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute

Hours after President Biden declared that "democracy has prevailed" during his inaugural address, longtime Republican strategist Karl Rove urged Republicans to pressure GOP election officials to create "a model election code" and change the two voting options that led to the 2020 presidential election's record turnout.

"Republicans should...encourage GOP secretaries of state and state lawmakers to develop a model election code," Rove wrote in a January 20 commentary for the Wall Street Journal titled "The Republican Future Starts Now."

"The job of proposing electoral reforms shouldn't be based on the unsupported claims of widespread fraud peddled by Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell," Rove continued. "Instead, the goal should be to suggest measures that restore public confidence in our democracy. How do states with extensive mail-in and early voting like Florida and Texas get it right?"

Rove's commentary comes as Republican-majority legislatures in battleground states such as Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona have proposed bills or convened hearings to review the laws that allowed people to vote early in person or with mailed-out ballots in 2020.

"Whenever Karl Rove writes a piece in the Wall Street Journal, the history of it suggests that Democrats should pay careful attention," said David Daley, author of Unrigged: How Americans are Battling Back to Save Democracy. "Because the Wall Street Journal is where Republicans can signal to their donor class their key projects."

In March 2010, Rove penned a Journal commentary openly discussing the GOP's REDMAP project, which targeted 107 state legislative seats that "would give them control of drawing district lines for nearly 190 congressional seats." REDMAP succeeded, creating GOP majority legislatures and congressional delegations in the otherwise purple states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Alabama.

The website of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model bills for social conservatives and economic libertarians, has not yet promoted election reforms on its website. However, ALEC linked to the Conservative Action project, which posted a defense of the GOP lawmakers who opposed certifying the Electoral College slates from Arizona and Pennsylvania. The expanded use of voting via mailed-out ballots and early voting must be examined, it said.

"The 2020 election was conducted in an unprecedented manner: largely by mail, and in a way that overwhelmed the capacities of many states. It is not at all unreasonable to review the manner in which votes were counted," said the Conservative Action Project memo, which was signed by more than 100 activists and organizations. "Indeed, if the goal is to restore faith in future elections, then a comprehensive review and analysis to determine what went wrong, what went right, and what is in need of reform should be a critical next step."

Daley, whose prior book, Ratf*cked, profiled REDMAP and its impacts on the past decade's political battles and extreme politics, said Rove's commentary was a warning sign.

"Whenever Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal, it not to be a public intellectual but to put ideas in front of the Republican donor class," he said. "It fits perfectly with much of the Republican strategy on voter suppression."

"So much of it sounds reasonable," Daley continued, referring to the suggestion that a model election code be developed and embraced. "How can you be opposed to a blue-ribbon bipartisan commission that is going to step back and ensure that our elections are free, fair, and secure? Except, that's not actually their intention, because we just had an election that was free, fair, and secure. And [Sens.] Hawley and Cruz and 130-plus Republicans in the House voted to decertify [the popular vote results and Electoral College slates from] Pennsylvania and Arizona—even after a Republican governor [in Arizona] signed off on certification."

Already, Republican legislators in 2020 battleground states held hearings where they are badgering statewide election officials —some elected Democrats, some career civil servants — about decisions they took last fall that made it easier to vote with absentee ballots.

For example, on Thursday in Pennsylvania, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, was pressed by Republican representatives for advising county election officials to count the returned mailed-out ballots of people who forgot to put their ballots in a secrecy sleeve. The state's Supreme Court subsequently ruled that the "naked" ballots should be disqualified.

"You disagree with the decision that was rendered by the Supreme Court?" Rep. Ryan McKenzie, a Republican, asked Boockvar.

"It doesn't matter whether I disagree with a decision rendered by the Supreme Court, because the Supreme Court's rule governs," she replied. "But what I would say is, and maybe this is part of your question, do I think that is the right approach for voters for making sure that every eligible voter's vote counts? No, I'd love to see the legislature change that law and say, 'Look, if a voter makes a mistake that does not have anything to do with their eligibility or their qualifications, such as a naked ballot, that vote should still count."

The Thursday legislative hearing was one of 14 that are slated in Pennsylvania to review voting laws and administrative rules that were in effect during the 2020 election. A separate GOP-sponsored proposal would create districts for electing state Supreme Court judges. If put into effect, it could become a judicial gerrymander to recast Pennsylvania's appellate courts—including the Supreme Court.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Rebukes Trump For ‘Embarrassing’ Ploy To Overturn Election

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

It may seem as if President Donald Trump has done everything he possibly could to overturn the results of the presidential election but his most "embarrassing" ploy is likely yet to come, according to the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

According to an editorial published Wednesday night, Trump's worst attempt to invalidate President-elect Joe Biden's win will likely come on January 6 during the Congressional hearing to formally record the Electoral College votes affirmed on Dec. 14.

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Barr Reveals True Motives And Bad Faith In New Interview

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Speaking on the phone for 90 minutes with Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel as his tenure at the Justice Department comes to a close, Attorney General Bill Barr let down his guard. He must have been far too relaxed while talking to a devoted ally who once gratuitously referred to him as "real attorney general," because his comments were much more revealing and inculpatory than he seemed to realize.

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The Payday Loan Sharks Operate On Wall Street Now

The Loan Shark Protection Act would limit the interest charged on credit cards to 15 percent. A 15 percent cap would be too low — naively too low. Too bad the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, weren’t more careful, because their clumsy approach hands ammo to foes of those reining in truly abusive forms of consumer credit, the most obscene example being the payday loan.

As the name implies, a payday loan is a quick infusion of cash to tide the borrower over until the next paycheck arrives, when it’s paid off. But that’s not what usually happens. Here’s the usual scenario:

Joe takes out a $300 payday loan to be paid back in two weeks. He’d be charged something like $45 in fees and interest. That comes to an APR (average percentage rate) of 391 percent. Pretty high borrowing costs, but it’s for an emergency, right?

But more than 75 percent of borrowers don’t pay it right back. They typically turn the loan into 10 loans a year. Each loan is not a new $300 credit. It’s cycling the same $300 loan nine times, every time adding these high fees and interest. So Joe’s costs keep piling up, and he finds himself stuck in a debt trap. The debt trap is the payday loan’s business model.

Payday loan rates and fees vary from state to state, with some allowing astronomical borrowing costs. A typical payday loan in Texas carries an APR of 661 percent! In Nevada, Idaho and Utah, it is 652 percent.

Why do people take out such loans? Because they don’t know what they’re getting into. The payday loan storefronts market their wares as “quick” or “easy” money to be used in emergencies. Some lure customers into the net by giving them the first loan free at zero percent interest.

The ideal payday loan customer is a trusting member of the working poor who is not sophisticated about personal debt. Importantly, the borrower has a dependable trickle of income to tap. The money could come from a job or three, or a disability or unemployment check. (Payday lenders are fond of military personnel. And they always demand that borrowers have a bank account.)

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial tried to tie the unfortunate Loan Shark Protection Act to unrelated criticism of payday loan abuses. It praised payday loans as a welcome alternative to loan sharks and organized crime.

“The availability of legal loans is what helped to put Louie Legbreaker out of business,” the editorial said.

Actually, the loan-sharking business is alive and well, only Wall Street now runs it. Private equity investors include payday lending companies in their portfolios. The desperate folks borrowing from Louie Legbreaker at least knew who they were dealing with.

“Price ceilings on any good or service inevitably reduce supply,” the editorial piously states. You’d think that credit is a basic human right that cannot be denied. In fact, there are people even today’s payday lenders won’t bother with — those without assets or income.

In any case, curtailing the supply of debt traps that its victims have described as “soul crushing” and “a living hell” would not be a bad thing. This industry preys on individuals trying to survive on a typical income of only $25,000, for heaven’s sake.

Of course, pauperizing a large portion of our low-skilled workforce can’t be helping the economy, never mind the human cost. Face it, payday lending, and the politicians who protect it, are a blight on America’s moral standing. Honestly, I don’t know how some people sleep at night.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

White House Cover Story For Alleged Abuser Rob Porter Implodes

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

The White House’s already-shaky cover story about how the administration quickly moved to get rid of a top aide after he was accused of beating his ex-wives suffered another embarassment on Tuesday, when it was revealed the White House initially tried to have the aide talk his way out of the problem. In a room full of reporters.

In the week since Rob Porter left the White House after the Daily Mail published photographs of his battered ex-wife, the administration has been completely unable and unwilling to explain why Porter kept working for chief of staff John Kelly — when Porter had failed his FBI security clearance after the ex-wives detailed his history of abuse.

But on Tuesday, Politico reported this rather stunning revelation, which completely destroys the White House’s official timeline [emphasis added]:

In the hours immediately after the Daily Mail published a photograph of Porter’s first ex-wife with a black eye, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders hastily arranged an off-the-record meeting in the West Wing with Porter and four reporters: the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, Axios’ Jonathan Swan, and the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Bender. In that meeting, which hasn’t previously been reported, Porter relayed his version of events and fielded questions from the group.

Rather than immediately fire Porter, the White House sent him into a room with reporters to try to spin his, and their, way out of the story.

Off the record, of course.

Meanwhile, CBS News reported on Tuesday that the FBI had completed Porter’s background check long before he resigned.

That seems to indicate that the White House knew Porter was never going to be granted the security clearance that he needed to do his job, and that the White House knew why he was being denied clearance — because he was accused of beating his ex-wives.

So yes, the idea that Trump’s team sprang into action the moment they found out about Porter’s dark past and fired him within “40 minutes” is a complete fabrication. How long will the White House cling to it?