Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Eclipse of American Democracy, Part One: Bigotry as a Winning Strategy

Democracy is not dying in America. But that's not for lack of effort by leading Republicans and conservative billionaires. Those folks are attacking democratic institutions with everything they've got, because their interests and the interests of the American people are very much at odds. The driving force of American politics in the current decade has been conservative leadership attempting to cement their long-term goals as public policy before changing population demographics overwhelm them and their old, white hegemony at the ballot box. This is the first in a series of articles that will focus on how conservatives are attempting to transform America into an oligarchy where elections are held only to determine which Republican will have the job of making sure corporations and billionaires get everything they want.

Republicans expected to win the 2012 election. In the immediate aftermath of that loss, conservatives noted that the tide of changing population demographics and growing minority vote not only contributed to Romney's loss (given that few non-whites voted Republican) but also that these same trends would prove even bigger challenges in the future, given that American minority populations are growing faster than the white, Christian conservative base of the Republican party.

Here's what conservative pundit Sean Trende had to say:
"For Republicans, that despair now comes from an electorate that seems to have undergone a sea change. In the 2008 final exit polls (unavailable online), the electorate was 75 percent white, 12.2 percent African-American, 8.4 percent Latino, with 4.5 percent distributed to other ethnicities. We’ll have to wait for this year’s absolute final exit polls to come in to know the exact estimate of the composition this time, but right now it appears to be pegged at about 72 percent white, 13 percent black, 10 percent Latino and 5 percent “other.”

Obviously, this surge in the non-white vote is troubling to Republicans, who are increasingly almost as reliant upon the white vote to win as Democrats are on the non-white vote. With the white vote decreasing as a share of the electorate over time, it becomes harder and harder for Republicans to prevail.

This supposed surge in minority voting has sparked discussions about the GOP’s renewed need to draw in minority voters, especially Latinos, usually by agreeing to comprehensive immigration reform."

Republican party leadership was quick to pick up on the theme of expanding minority outreach. Here's a quote from the Republican National Committee "Growth and Opportunity Project", issued in 2013: "We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too. We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities. But it is not just tone that counts. Policy always matters."

That was the strategy the Republican establishment recommended, but it wasn't the one they got in 2016. Here are some quotes from Donald Trump:
March, 2016: "I think Islam hates us... And we can't allow people coming into this country who have this hatred of the United States."
From Time magazine, August, 2016: "Donald Trump kicked off his presidential bid more than a year ago with harsh words for Mexico. "They are not our friend, believe me," he said, before disparaging Mexican immigrants: "They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.""
November 2017: Regarding the suggestion from Greg Sargent of the Washington Post on Twitter that, "Trump regularly attacks high-profile African Americans to feed his supporters' belief that the system is rigged for minorities", Trump responded, "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!"

As it turns out, there was another, completely opposite strategy to the more-inclusive campaign the Republican leadership had suggested: go full-on white supremacist. During the 2016 campaign, Sean Trende described the Trump strategy in terms of numbers: In 2012, the electorate that went to the polls had been 59% white, but, "If we do see Donald Trump push the white vote up into 63-64%, it suggests that as whites move towards minority status that they become more aware of their whiteness, and it plays into politics. It is a disheartening and dangerous trend, but it might be something we don't have any control over."

Trende was exactly right: the "forgotten" white voter who ignored Mitt Romney found a home in Donald Trump's whites-only Republican party, helping Trump carry rust-belt states that nearly everyone thought were safely in the Democratic column. Trende, to his credit, noted after the election that, "my observation was expressly limited to the idea that missing whites could help the GOP win. People interpreted this as advocating for a "whites-only" GOP, which I expressly disclaimed."

Final point: I said this is a series about how Republicans are attacking democracy. Successful appeals to white-supremacy are repugnant, but it takes more than an assault on inclusiveness and on America as the great melting pot to destroy democratic institutions. Next time, I'll take about how Republicans have translated their attacks on minorities into policies that keep minority voices from being heard.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Predictions: 2018 Gubernatorial elections

Most recent update: 4/20/18: IA

In 2018, thirty-six states will hold an election for chief executive. Only nine of these offices are held by Democratic incumbents, as the blue team got clobbered in 2014. The Democrats would especially like to grab the top office in swing states like Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin that are currently dominated by Republicans. Why? Because winning in 2018 means having more say in the decennial redistricting of congressional and state legislative seats in 2021. You see the only reason that Republicans control the US House is because they were able to gerrymander so many states in the last congressional redistricting in 2011. Michigan, for example, elected 9 Republicans and only 5 Democrats to the House in 2012 despite the fact that President Obama beat Mitt Romney there by almost 10%.

The races are categorized as (1.) those that are competitive or at risk of being won by the party out of power (this includes all open-seat races), and (2.) those unlikely to become competitive. This post will be updated continuously until election day.

Competitive/at-risk races:

Rating: Toss up
Independent: Bill Walker (incumbent)
Republican: Former state Speaker of the House Mike Chenault or former state Senator President Charlie Huggins?
Overview: In 2014's weirdest election, Republican Bill Walker declared an independent candidacy, formed a "unity" ticket with Democrat Byron Mallot, and narrowly defeated the Republican nominee (with some help from the Constitution and Libertarian candidates, who ate some of the Republicans' lunch). The Walker/Mallot ticket is running again in 2018, but it faces an uphill battle as Walker is unpopular.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Doug Ducey (incumbent)
Democrat: ?
Overview: Incumbent Doug Ducey is not popular, but top-tier Democrats have so far shown more interest in Arizona's open Senate race.

Rating: Guaranteed Democratic hold
Democrat: Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (incumbent Jerry Brown term-limited)
Republican: ?
Overview: This contest is listed as competitive only because it's an open-seat race. The Brown administration has been very successful and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom comes into this election with a lot of wind at his back. Barring a political earthquake, he'll win.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: ? (incumbent John Hickenlooper term-limited)
Republican: ?
Overview: Everybody wants to be Governor of Colorado: The Democratic primary already has six announced candidates, and the Republicans have seven. Given that the Democrats managed to win this office in the nightmare year of 2014, they have the inside track in 2018 no matter who the candidates are.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Middletown Mayor Dan Drew? (incumbent Dan Malloy term-limited)
Republican: ?
Overview: Dan Malloy has the distinction of being America's least-popular Governor. In a different year, that might be enough to flip this office to Republicans, but the Connecticut GOP has been on life support for a long time.

Rating: Toss up
Republican: State Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam? (incumbent Rick Scott term-limited)
Democrat: Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham?
Overview: The last two gubernatorial elections in Florida were very close, and I expect this one to be no different.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Lt. Governor Casey Cagle (likely) (incumbent Nathan Deal term-limited)
Democrat: ?
Overview: Republican Casey Cagle is a known quantity, and as no prominent Democrats appear to be looking at this open-seat race, this one is probably over before it begins.

Rating: Likely Democratic pickup
Republican: Bruce Rauner (incumbent)
Democrat: ?
Overview: Unlike several other Republican Governors who managed to win election in blue states in 2014, Bruce Rauner has made no effort to create compromise or govern from the center. His term in office has been a total disaster, and polls show him losing to "generic Democrat" by as much as 15 points. Good riddance.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Kim Reynolds (appointed incumbent)
Democrat: Business Fred Hubbell
Overview: (4/20/18) So, the state where I grew up and went to school was all-in for Trump in 2016. Iowa, what happened? Is there any hope? Well, Trump's approval rating is under water by 11% here, that's something I guess. Apparently Kim Reynolds' lead over likely nominee Fred Hubbell is fairly slim. The real question is, how can Iowans possibly be supporting her for election in 2018? An Iowa journalist just won the Pulitzer Prize for his work on Reynolds' disastrous Medicaid privatization. The state is dead-last in GDP growth under all-Republican control. C'mon Iowa, don't sink beneath my already incredibly-low expectations.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Lt. Governor Jeff Coyler? (incumbent Sam Brownback may resign)
Democrat: ?
Overview: It would be difficult to overstate just what a complete wreck Governor Sam Brownback has made of Kansas. Now Brownback is apparently resigning for some phony-baloney job in the Trump administration, meaning Lt. Governor Jeff Coyler will run as an incumbent in 2018. And since it's apparently impossible for the Republicans to lose in Kansas, there you go.

Rating: Leans Democratic pickup
Republican: ? (incumbent Paul LePage)
Democrat: ?
Overview: Republican Paul LePage is a walking garbage can of racist craziness. The only reason why he was twice able to win election was due to two ill-advised independent candidacies by attorney Eliot Cutler that split the Democratic vote. While this will probably be a close race, the eventual Democratic nominee will have the inside track.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Larry Hogan (incumbent)
Democrat: ?
Overview: One month before the 2014 Maryland gubernatorial election, Democratic nominee Anthony Brown lead Republican Larry Hogan by 17 points in the CBS/NY Times poll. Hogan won any way. Hogan's approval ratings are sky-high. He's one of several Republican Governors in eastern blue states who are curiously popular, and he's a good bet for reelection.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Businessman Charlie Baker (incumbent)
Democrat: ?
Overview: Massachusetts has a long tradition of electing moderate Republican Governors to create a balance of power with the Democrats who control everything else. Baker is very popular, and should cruise to reelection.

Rating: Toss up
Republican: Attorney General Bill Schuette (likely) (incumbent Rick Snyder term-limited)
Democrat: Former state Senator Gretchen Witmer (likely)
Overview: The Republicans have a top-tier recruit in Attorney General Bill Schuette, but Schuette comes with the baggage of being part of the scandal-plagued and deeply unpopular Snider administration. Democrats desperately want to win this one, and I like their chances.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: ? incumbent (Mark Dayton retiring)
Republican: ?
Overview: Republicans captured the Minnesota House and Senate in 2016, and Trump narrowly missed pulling off a shock victory there as well. Democrats wants to reverse the situation before the state goes red like Iowa and Wisconsin. Several top-tier Democrats have announced for this race, whereas the Republican candidates are more second-tier. There's a good chance the blue team can win this race and recapture both houses of the legislature.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Attorney General Adam Laxalt (incumbent Brian Sandoval term-limited)
Democrat: Country Commissioner Steve Sisolak
Overview: Laxalt is a great recruit for the GOP, and I think this race will be his to lose. Trump is not popular in Nevada, but he isn't showing the kind of unpopularity there that would suggest a huge wave for Democrats.

New Hampshire
Rating: Toss up
Republican: Chris Sununu (incumbent)
Democrat: Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand (likely)
Overview: There's no polling for this race, but it will likely turn on the size of the Democratic wave: a small wave means Sununu gets another term, a big one sweeps him out.

New Mexico
Rating: Leans Democratic pickup
Republican: Congressman Steve Pearce (likely) (incumbent Susana Martinez term-limited)
Democrat: Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (likely)
Overview: Outgoing Governor Martinez is deeply unpopular, and although both parties should have top-tier nominees, the prevailing winds favor a Democratic pickup in New Mexico.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: State Attorney General Mike DeWine (likely) (incumbent John Kasich term-limited)
Democrat: Former Congresswoman Betty Sutton
Overview: Mike DeWine is a political heavyweight. There's nothing wrong with a candidate like Former Congresswoman Betty Sutton as the Democratic nominee, but I suspect nothing less than a Democratic tidal wave can keep the Republicans from winning this race.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Kate Brown (incumbent)
Republican: ?
Overview: Democrat Kate Brown's polling numbers could be better, but so far no big-name Republican has declared for this race, and as this is deep-blue Oregon I expect Brown to be reelected.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Tom Wolf (incumbent)
Republican: State Senator Scott Wagner
Overview: One of the only bright spots on election night 2014 was Tom Wolf's narrow pickup of Pennsylvania for the blue team. PA is one of the most gerrymandered states at both the federal and state level, and Democrats very much want to be holding on to this office the next time legislative districts are drawn in 2021. Wolf's approval ratings aren't great, but his chances for reelection are solid.

Rating: Toss up
Republican: Scott Walker (incumbent)
Democrat: ?

Overview: It's chilling to think of Republican Scott Walker actually being elected to a third term in what's expected to be a big year for Democrats, yet the big-name pundits are currently calling this race "lean" or "likely" Republican. Walker currently trails a generic Democratic in polls, and given that his two terms in office have been a total disaster for Wisconsin's economy, its workers, its environment for civil rights and pretty much everything else, you'd think he wouldn't have a prayer of winning another election. Yet when I look at the group of second-tier names seeking the Democratic nomination, I can see Walker winning another term. 

Races unlikely to become competitive:
AlabamaArkansasIdaho, Nebraska, OklahomaSouth CarolinaSouth Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Wyoming have incumbent Republican Governors who are likely to win reelection in 2018.

Hawai'i, New York, and Rhode Island have incumbent Democratic Governors who are likely to win reelection in 2018.

Monday, September 04, 2017

A Few Links to Dispel Conservative Myths Part Fourteen: Electric Cars

Is there anything that can't be turned into a red-state versus blue-state conflict? As we saw in the last entry in this series, red-state folks think renewable energy is a fraud being perpetrated against the fossil fuel industry. We shouldn't be surprised then that electric cars are considered an extension of that fraud.

Myth: "The carbon emissions generated by the electricity required for electric vehicles are greater than those saved by cutting out direct vehicle emissions." - 2017 equities study by Morgan Stanley
Fact: "By the end of their lives, gas-powered cars spew out almost twice as much global warming pollution than the equivalent electric car. Disposing of both types of vehicles (excluding reusing or recycling their batteries) produces less than a ton each." "Electric vehicles already result in far less climate pollution than their gas-powered counterparts, and they’re getting cleaner. Optimizing EV production and the disposal or reuse of batteries could further increase their environmental benefits. And as electricity becomes cleaner (which it is), the difference between electric cars and gasoline cars will only grow—cementing the role of electric vehicles in halving U.S. oil use and cutting global warming emissions." - The Union of Concerned Scientists, 2015 Report

The above myth been around for years - that the pollution savings generated by electric cars is more than offset by the pollution generated in manufacturing and disposing of car batteries combined with the fact that much of the electricity the cars use is generated by fossil fuels. As far back as 2009, columnist (and climate change denier) George Will suggested that, "perhaps it is environmentally responsible," to buy one of General Motors' enormous Hummer vehicles, "and squash a Prius with it." That was after a shady "marketing group" called CNW Market Research published a "study" that suggested that the Toyota Prius hybrid was actually more damaging to the environment that GM's Hummer. The "study" in question was based on false science and fraudulent statistics.

Myth: Electric car batteries require a lot of "rare earth" minerals. These are limited in supply, and, "They are mined in conditions that are not optimal, and their demand hurts the environment." -
Fact: "Around 2010, some articles and commentators warned that shortages of rare earths, or China's near-monopoly on them, could choke off the West's shift to renewable energy and other clean technologies. This was never true—but the myth persists." "Some hybrid cars, like (the) 2001 Honda Insight, used nickel-metal-hydride batteries containing lanthanum, but those are now largely replaced by lighter lithium batteries, which typically use no lanthanum. (Both kinds of batteries are also recyclable, and infrastructure for recycling is emerging.) Tesla’s market-leading lithium batteries, like its motors, use no rare earths at all. Non-lithium batteries and potent potential substitutes for batteries (notably graphene ultracapacitors) are also emerging." - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

In 2012, Jocelyn Fong and Shauna Theel of wrote Myths and Facts About Electric Cars. Five years later, it's still a good guide to myths about electric cars. To summarize:
Myth: Americans don't want electric cars.
Fact: They're becoming more popular all the time.

Myth: Electric cars have inadequate range.
Fact: The Chevy Bolt has a range of 238 miles; improving technology has made range-anxiety a non-issue.

Myth: Electric car batteries are unsafe.
Fact: They're just as safe as conventional cars.

Myth: Old electrical batteries are an environmental hazard.
Fact: Car batteries are less toxic than other batteries and can be recycled.

Myth: Taxpayer subsidies to electric cars only benefit the wealthy.
Fact: Years ago, electric cars were mostly something for high-income Americans, however, that's no longer the case. Tax incentives of upwards of $10K in California look pretty good when considering for example the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which has a list price of less than $24K. And let's not forget the benefits to every taxpayer of a cleaner environment. Electric vehicles improve air quality, and, it cannot be said too many times, it benefits everyone to combat climate change.

Finally, a couple of myths about Tesla, America's largest electric car company:
Myth: Tesla will be buying cobalt for batteries from African mines where children are employed in hellish conditions.
Fact: Tesla does not use African cobalt, and plans to source all its materials from the United States.

Myth: Tesla must be a fraud, as it has never been profitable.
Fact: Note that the above article talks only about car sales. Tesla is making enormous investments in solar power and other businesses; those investments are currently outpacing revenues. Tesla suggested in 2015 that it would not be profitable until 2020, but now says it could be turning a profit next year.

Recommended: "The end of the age of the internal combustion engine is in sight." - from an editorial in The Guardian

Friday, April 07, 2017

A Few Links to Dispel Conservative Myths Part Thirteen: Renewable Energy

"A lot of coal miners are going back to work." - Donald Trump, March 28, 2017

"Kentucky Coal Museum Goes Solar"  -, April 7, 2016

How can the President claim that more Americans are going to be mining coal, if even the Kentucky Coal Museum is switching to renewable energy? The answer is simple: Donald Trump is, as usual, not telling the truth.

The Trump administration believes that switching from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy is a hoax, just as they believe that the climate change caused by fossil fuels is itself a hoax. A number of the myths regarding renewable energy were summarized last month by Trump Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke last week in an interview with Fox News. From Kiley Kroh of Think Progress:

"In a statement lauding the president’s order to reverse the halt on new coal leases on federal land, Zinke said, "We can’t power the country on pixie dust and hope."

"Zinke praised President Donald Trump’s sweeping order to roll back Obama-era policies designed to mitigate and prepare for climate change and defended his agency’s move to lift the temporary halt on new coal leases on federal lands — a reversal that will come at a significant cost to taxpayers — by claiming "there’s no such thing as clean energy.""

"I understand you are today rescinding a ban on coal leasing on federal lands… are you hurting the environment to help jobs?" the host asked.

"We’re not hurting the environment," Zinke replied. "If you look at — is there such thing as clean coal? Well there’s no such thing as clean energy — even wind comes at a cost if you want to talk about migratory birds and cutting through."

There's a lot to untangle here, so let's get to it.

Part Thirteen: Renewable Energy

Using coal as energy does not hurt the environment.
Fact: It would be difficult to overstate the negative impact to the environment and to human health of the mining and burning of coal. A partial list of the consequences includes:
* Coal-fired power plants are responsible for one-third of America’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, making coal a huge contributor to global warming.
* Air pollution from coal-fired power plants includes sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter (PM), and heavy metals, leading to smog, acid rain, toxins in the environment, and numerous respiratory, cardiovascular, and cerebrovascular effects.
* Waste products from coal mines contaminate rivers and streams.

Myth: Clean coal technology eliminates the environmental and health concerns associated with mining and burning coal.
Fact: "Clean coal" simply does not exist. From Phil Plait of

"Coal has a lot of other things in it besides carbon, including mercury, sulfur, and more. These pollutants get into the air and cause a lot of problems, including thousands of premature deaths every year. Scrubbing these toxins out of the coal is costly and very difficult, though new power plants do a better job at this than old ones.
But the elephant in the room is that carbon... Because this is heating the Earth up and changing the climate, it’s important to figure out a way to capture the carbon and somehow store it to prevent it from getting into the air. This is called "carbon capture and sequestration," or CCS.

The problem? The technology to do this doesn’t exist. Not in any real sense of the word, that is. There have been some pilot projects done, but they’ve managed only to scratch the surface in the vast amount of CO2 released."

Myth: Trump will bring back jobs to the coal industry through his executive orders resuming the sale of coal from federal land, lifting carbon dioxide limits on power plants, lifting restrictions on coal companies dumping mining waste in streams, and ending Obama-era mandates that agencies consider global warming in a broad range of decisions.
Fact: From Brad Plumer of

"The reasons for coal’s long-term job losses are complex, but analysts typically point to three big factors: 1) mining has become increasingly automated, meaning fewer jobs per ton of coal produced; 2) a glut of cheap natural gas from fracking has cut into coal’s market share, leading to a sharp drop in US coal production since 2008; 3) various Obama-era environmental rules have made it more costly to operate coal plants, which has pushed many utilities to switch to natural gas or renewables.

Trump has promised to attack No. 3 and repeal some Obama-era environmental rules. But he has nothing to say about Nos. 1 and 2. (On the contrary, he’s promised to expand US fracking, which would further hurt coal.) So anyone hoping Trump is "going to bring those miners back," as he’s pledged, and restore the coal industry to its glory days is in for disappointment."

 Myth: Renewable energy sources lack the capacity and affordability needed to replace fossil fuels.
Fact: Secretary of the Interior Zinke dismisses renewables as, "pixie dust and hope." Trump has said of windmills, "I don’t think they work at all without subsidy," which is an interesting remark considering that the fossil fuel industry was subsidized by more than half a trillion dollars between 1950 and 2010 in 2010 dollars.

Renewable energy already has the capacity to replace fossil fuels in the production of electricity. Germany already receives virtually of its power from wind and solar. In California, power from renewable sources has reached 56% of demand.

To give you an idea of where the renewable energy industry currently stands in America, from the Think Progress article linked above:

"Clean energy... continues to be a rapidly growing sector, with wind and solar jobs growing 12 times as fast as the rest of the U.S. economy. Nearly every state has more jobs in clean energy than fossil fuels, according to a recent analysis by the Sierra Club, with clean energy jobs outnumbering fossil fuel jobs by more than 2.5 to 1 and outnumbering coal and gas jobs specifically by a magnitude of 5 to 1."

To put it another way, Trump is obsessed with revitalizing an industry that employees fewer people than Arby's. The Washington Post notes that the coal industry employees only 76,000 employees, and that includes not only miners but administrative staff.

As for the cost of renewables versus fossil fuels, let's return to the fact that even the Kentucky Coal Museum is installing solar power to save money. From Tom Randall of

"While two years of crashing prices for oil, natural gas, and coal triggered dramatic downsizing in those industries, renewables have been thriving. Clean energy investment broke new records in 2015 and is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels."

"Government subsidies have helped wind and solar get a foothold in global power markets, but economies of scale are the true driver of falling prices: The cost of solar power has fallen to 1/150th of its level in the 1970s, while the total amount of installed solar has soared 115,000-fold."

"Just since 2000, the amount of global electricity produced by solar power has doubled seven times over. Even wind power, which was already established, doubled four times over the same period. For the first time, the two forms of renewable energy are beginning to compete head-to-head on price and annual investment."

Myth: America can create coal jobs by increasing exports of low-sulphur coal to China.
Fact: First of all, even if this were true, it would benefit the mining industry in Wyoming, not in West Virginia, where Trump is promising to create mining jobs. But it isn't true any way. Rob Godby of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy notes, "China and its neighbors have a lot of coal available in the region, and getting Wyoming coal over there, given the low margins of potential profit, is way too cost-prohibitive. Plus, Washington and Oregon have made it clear they don't want to be pass-throughs for coal."

Myth: Wind turbines devastate bird populations.
Fact: Let's get back to the other half of that Zinke quote. It's really wind power we should be afraid of, because coal is clean, while wind turbines are killing all the birds, right? Trump has also suggested, "The windmills kill birds," as one of the reasons whey we don't want wind power. From "Wind turbines kill fewer birds than do cats, buildings or the fossil fuel industry. Current mean estimates of wind turbine deaths vary widely and one reputable source says that US turbines kill 20,000 to 573,000 birds yearly, compared with the oil industry’s 500,000 to one million, and cats’ 1.3–4.0 billion."
Myth:Variability dooms renewable energy; when we have too many calm, cloudy days wind and solar power will not be adequate.
Fact: Keith Johnson of the Wall Street Journal notes that renewable power systems are overcoming these concerns:

"System operators have gotten better at using forecasting and integrating wind power. Investment in new transmission lines has also picked up pace, enabling wind farms in isolated locations to offer power more readily to a wider area.

That is the key to overcoming the natural variability of renewables such as wind and solar power. Individual wind farms may be very volatile. But scores of wind farms over thousands of square miles show less volatility—the wind is always blowing somewhere. As grid operators have added more wind in more locations to their systems, as well as the lines to carry that wind, integrating wind power into the electricity system has become easier."

Myth: Donald Trump doesn't care for windmills, because, "We don’t make the windmills in the United States."
Fact: "Few wind turbines are shipped globally because they are so bulky. More than than 21,000 US factory workers make a majority of US wind farm content domestically."  -
Myth: Windmills are, "made out of massive amounts of steel, which goes into the atmosphere, whether it’s in our country or not, it goes into the atmosphere."  - Donald Trump
Fact"Steel is not emitted into the atmosphere during component manufacture or by wind projects. There are the usual emissions associated with any heavy manufacturing process, but making wind turbine components is not especially dirty. Trump's apparent concern for emissions from wind turbine manufacture is impossible to reconcile with his enthusiasm for the coal industry and his disdain for climate change science." -

I'll close with some thoughts from Paul Krugman, from a New York Times article entitled Coal Country is a State of Mind:

"Why does an industry that is no longer a major employer even in West Virginia retain such a hold on the region’s imagination, and lead its residents to vote overwhelmingly against their own interests?"

"Going backward on the environment will sicken and kill thousands in the near future; over the longer term, failing to act on climate change could, all too plausibly, lead to civilizational collapse.

So it’s incredible, and terrifying, to think that we may really be about to do all of that because Donald Trump successfully pandered to cultural nostalgia, to a longing for a vanished past when men were men and miners dug deep."

Thursday, February 02, 2017

A Few Links to Dispel Conservative Myths Part Twelve: Donald Trump's Muslim Ban

"Cowardly and Dangerous"  - The New York Times Editorial Board

"cruel, illegal" - Erwin Chemerinsky for the Los Angeles Times

"Discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under #humanrights law," "The U.S. ban is also mean-spirited, and wastes resources needed for proper counter-terrorism." - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein

We're talking of course about President Trump's January 27 executive order on immigration. From Liam Stack the New York Times: "The order indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, refugees or otherwise, from entering the United States for 90 days: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen." Furthermore, "After the order was signed, students, visitors and green-card-holding legal permanent United States residents from the seven countries — and refugees from around the world — were stopped at airports in the United States and abroad, including Cairo, Dubai and Istanbul. Some were blocked from entering the United States and were sent back overseas."

I have already written about the bigotry and lies spread by Republicans regarding Muslim refugees and Muslims in general. I could write an entire book about everything that is illegal, immoral, bigoted, cruel and counter-productive about Trump's executive order. These things aside, the order has produced an interesting phenomenon: conservatives are trying to claim the order is justified by citing the actions of previous Presidents, especially Barrack Obama. Unsurprisingly, they are not telling the truth.

Part Twelve: Donald Trump's Muslim Ban

: "It's not a Muslim ban." - Donald Trump, 1/28/17
Fact: By any reasonable definition, the order is the fulfillment of Donald Trump's pledge to ban Muslims from the U.S.. In December of 2015, (from Jenna Johnson and Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called Monday for a "total and complete" ban on Muslims entering the United States, barring followers of the world’s fastest-growing religion because he considers the faith rooted in hatred and violence."

The Post's generalization regarding Trump's beliefs is accurate. "Islam hates us," Trump has said. He's also claimed that, "large segments of the Muslim population" favor Sharia (Islamic law) and violence against Americans. William Saletan of has a good summary of Trump's many bigoted statements, and his long-standing plans to keep Muslims out of the U.S..

The "smoking gun" here might be former New York mayor Rudy W. Giuliani, now a key Trump operative. From Amy B. Wang of the Washington Post: Giuliani said in an interview that, "President Trump wanted a "Muslim ban" and requested he assemble a commission to show him the right way to do it legally." Giuliani, an early Trump supporter who once had been rumored for a Cabinet position in the new administration, appeared on Fox News late Saturday night to describe how Trump's executive order temporarily banning refugees came together."

As to whom we should let into the country, Trump has been very clear: in future, persecuted Christians will be given priority over other refugees seeking to enter the United States. Speaking of which...

Myth: "Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible" - Donald Trump, 1/27/17
Fact: While it's true that Christians make up 5% of Syrian population but only 1% of recently admitted Syrian refugees, there is nothing to indicate, and certainly no U.S. policy that has the effect that it has been far more difficult for Syrian Christians to come to the U.S. as refugees compared to Syrian Muslims. Regarding the Trump statement, The Washington Post's Fact Checker has said, "The president could highlight that situation without suggesting that something nefarious is going on."

Myth: "My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror." - Donald Trump, 1/29/17
Fact: From Jon Finer of "Contrary to Trump’s Sunday statement and the repeated claims of his defenders, the Obama administration did not "ban visas for refugees from Iraq for six months." For one thing, refugees don’t travel on visas. More importantly, while the flow of Iraqi refugees slowed significantly during the Obama administration’s review, refugees continued to be admitted to the United States during that time, and there was not a single month in which no Iraqis arrived here. In other words, while there were delays in processing, there was no outright ban."

Myth: The order is based on security reviews conducted by President Barack Obama’s deputies
Fact: While it involves the same countries named as places of concern in the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, Trump's order is in no way "based" on that law or its implementation. Again from Jon Finer: "Trump’s claim that the seven countries listed in the executive order came from the Obama administration is conveniently left unexplained. A bit of background: Soon after the December 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, President Obama signed an amendment to the Visa Waiver Program, a law that allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States without obtaining visas (and gives Americans reciprocal privileges in those countries). The amendment removed from the Visa Waiver Program dual nationals who were citizens of four countries (Iraq, Iran, Sudan, and Syria) or anyone who had recently traveled to those countries. The Obama administration added three more to the list (Libya, Somalia, and Yemen), bringing the total to seven. But this law did not bar anyone from coming to the United States. It only required a relatively small percentage of people to obtain a visa first. And to avoid punishing people who clearly had good reasons to travel to the relevant countries, the Obama administration used a waiver provided by Congress for certain travelers, including journalists, aid workers, and officials from international organizations like the United Nations." 

Myth: There is precedent for the Trump order, as President Carter banned Iranians from the U.S..
Fact: Carter's actions in 1979 and 1980 revoked the visas of Iranian students and the temporary visas of other Iranians traveling to the U.S.. He did not halt the immigration the naturalization process for Iranians, nor did he prevent Iranians from continuing to come to the U.S. as refugees.

In the article linked above by Louis Jacobson of, he notes that, "Carter acted after the Iranian government accepted and defended the action by militants who stormed our embassy in Tehran and took our diplomats hostage," said David Martin, a University of Virginia law professor who has written extensively about immigration law. "It was a classic, major, state-to-state confrontation, based on a flagrant violation of diplomatic immunity. Carter invoked a host of counter-measures long recognized as appropriate under international law." So while we on the subject...

Myth: The Trump order is legal, as federal law says, "Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate."
Fact: An entire nationality cannot be termed, "a class of aliens" under the  law in question, because federal law also specifically outlaws discrimination against immigrants based on national origin.

Six federal judges issued five separate orders blocking parts of Trump’s executive order within 48 hours of it becoming effective. These orders, among other things, 
* Blocked deportations of those detained on entry to the United States.
* Granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the deportations after determining that the risk of injury to those detained by being returned to their home countries necessitated the decision.
* Issued a temporary restraining order to block for seven days the removal of any green-card holders being detained at Dulles International Airport and ordered that lawyers have access to those held there because of the ban.
* Ruled that no approved refugee, holder of a valid visa, lawful permanent resident or traveler from the seven majority-Muslim nations can be detained or removed due solely to Trump's executive order anywhere in the U.S.

Myth: Despite the chaos the ban caused at airports due to its announcement without prior notice, it was necessary to make the ban effective as soon as it was announced. If the ban was set to take effect effect some time after the President announced it, potential terrorists would receive advance notice and thus infiltrate the country via its refugee resettlement or tourist visa programs. Or as Trump tweeted, "If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the "bad" would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad "dudes" out there!"
Fact: From Igor Bobic of the Huffington Post: "That argument isn’t based in reality." People abroad can’t just "rush" into the U.S. The screening process for refugees takes 18 to 24 months, on average. The process for obtaining other types of visas also takes weeks at the very least."

Myth: Key officials at the State Department and Department of Homeland Security we informed of the ban in advance so that they could prepare to implement it when Trump announced it.
Fact: Multiple media reports indicated senior officials at the agencies charged with carrying out the ban were not aware of the changes before its announcement. From Jonathan Allen and Brendan O'Brien at Reuters: "At the State Department, one of the main agencies dealing with visas and immigration, most officials first heard of the executive order on immigration through the media, according to two department officials."

Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham spoke out against the ban, saying, among other things, "It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump's executive order was not properly vetted," adding, "Such a hasty process risks harmful results."

Myth: The order should not be called a "ban". Only the media are doing that. (This is according to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.)
Fact: Trump has repeatedly called the order a "ban." So has Spicer himself.

Myth: As if the order weren't bad enough, (from Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times)
"the executive order states that many people who enter the country illegally "present a significant threat to national security and public safety." It directs the Department of Homeland Security to publish a weekly "comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens."
Fact: (From the NYT article linked above) "Several studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. And experts say the available evidence does not support the idea that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime."

Myth: "We don't know who these people are. We don't know where they're from. We don't know where they're from. They have no documentation. We all have hearts and we can build safe zones in Syria and we'll get the Gulf states to put up the money. We're not putting up the money, but I'll get that done. But you know what? We can't let this happen. But you have a lot of them resettling in Rhode Island. Just enjoy your — lock your doors, folks." - Donald Trump in April 2017, referring to Syrian refugees being resettled in the U.S..
Fact: The current refugee vetting process is incredibly thorough and rigorous. From Stephanie Condon of CBS News:

"The process for any refugee begins with the processing of biographic information (such as an applicant's name and date of birth) and biometric information (such as fingerprints). The information is checked against databases in several different U.S. agencies including the FBI, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

If an applicant has applied for an overseas visa in the past, their biometric information should be on record. It can be used to ensure that the applicant has had a consistent story about the circumstances that prompted them to seek asylum. 

After that, applicants go through a lengthy, in-person interview process overseas. The interviews are conducted by specially-trained DHS officers who spend at least eight weeks learning skills like how to question applicants and test their credibility. These adjudicators receive special training for interviewing refugees from Iraq or Syria."

Natasha Hall, a former immigration officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, describers the grueling process of gaining refugee status here.

Myth: A new "extreme vetting" process for refugees and other travelers to the U.S. will fill gaps in the current process.
Fact: Say, what was the whole point of this ban anyway? Oh yeah, it's so we can introduce "extreme vetting." So what it "extreme vetting"? It's asking applicants how they feel about hot-button political issues. I kid you not. From Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Ryan Browne of CNN:

"The policy would attempt to establish whether applicants' beliefs match US values on gay rights, gender equality and religious freedoms, among others."

I wonder what opinions on gay rights and gender equality tip off Donald Trump as to whether a Syrian refugee is a terrorist. On second thought, I probably don't want to know.

Good night, and good luck.