Here’s an interview I did with KPFT’s Ann Raber this week. The topic is Austin Energy’s ambitious plan to ramp up renewables from 12 percent to 35 percent by 2020. The interview will air on KPFT in the Houston-Galveston area.
Rick Perry’s campaign thought it had conjured up the perfect photo-op for the anti-government crowd yesterday. So much for thinking. On the anniversary of the $700 billion federal “economic recovery plan,” Perry’s old pal Grover Norquist, the nation’s leading anti-tax bully, was in Austin for a press conference where Perry would become the seventh governor to sign a big, camera-ready, entirely symbolic “Taxpayer Protection Pledge.” Perry’s campaign has loudly and repeatedly denounced Sen. “Kay Bailout” Hutchison for supporting that first “stimulus” plan. But the name-calling lost a bit of oomph this week when a letter Perry wrote with West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (a Democrat, for goodness sakes!) resurfaced. The letter urged Congress to—er—pass a stimulus package. Though he didn’t endorse a specific plan, the letter makes Perry’s charges against Hutchison seem more than a little hypocritical, even by usual standards. Hutchison, whose campaign appears to be sharpening its elbows, also trumped the governor by signing Norquist’s anti-tax pledge and faxing it to his group, Americans for Tax Reform, before Perry had a chance to assemble the cameras and sign it himself. The Norquist and Perry show went on, in a small conference room at the Four Seasons in Austin. Norquist, who’s previously talked up Perry as prime presidential beef, had noticeably faint praise for the governor: “Rick Perry’s been a leader in comparison to other governors,” he told the assembled reporters and small-government zealots.Once the pledge-signing was over, Perry took reporters’ questions—and a minor fiasco got worse. We hadn’t come to question Perry about the impending fiscal disaster in Texas brought on by his tax-cutting mania; we’d come to ask about his cynical move, earlier this week, to replace three members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission.
The commission had been scheduled to meet today to hear a report from arson expert Craig Beyler. The report adds to already-considerable evidence that Texas likely executed an innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted of setting a fire that killed his three children in 1991. (See Dave Mann’s excellent post on the issue here and my current editorial about Perry here.)
Perry’s cynical shake-up of the commission means that any ultimate admission that Texas executed an innocent man will almost certainly—and very conveniently—delayed until after the gubernatorial primary next March. The commission had planned to issue its findings early next year. In his only previous public comments on Beyler’s findings, Perry had told The Dallas Morning News that even if Willingham didn’t set the fire that killed his children, he still—somehow—murdered them. Hence, the logical first question: “Governor, you made it clear that you’re certain that Willingham killed his children. If it wasn’t arson that killed his kids, how did he kill his kids?” Perry’s response came straight from the Political Contortion 101 textbook: “I think to be making statements of fact as I think I just heard you say that it was not arson, until the state has gone back through this issue and looked at it appropriately, is inappropriate. With the information that we have at hand today, without any new commission work etcetra, they’e gonna take a look at any new information anybody has. But I think to make a statement now that it wasn’t arson is a little premature.” Perry, of course, had asserted as fact that Willingham was guilty of murder, regardless of whether he set the fire. Asked about the questionable timing of his shake-up of the commission, Perry had no better answers. It was “normal protocol,” he said, merely an extension of his commitment to “give Texans the opportunity to serve.” He went on: “I think if you go back and look you’d probably find that the majority of the time we’re asking people to serve on different boards and different agencies, move them around, what have you.”
Sure, right. When even conservative blogger Paul Burka is calling your actions a “Cover-Up,” it’s pretty clear that you’ve been burned. Twice.
Expect Perry to steer clear of reporters for a while. But don’t expect the furor over his latest act of political sabotage to die down any time soon. The state apparently executed an innocent man on the governor’s watch. Perry may be determined not to pay a political price for that, but he already is. Even anti-tax photo ops aren’t safe terrain anymore.
The exercise of raw power is truly stunning to behold.
Gov. Rick Perry today has replaced three members of the Forensic Science Commission, which is investigating whether Texas—under Perry’s administration—executed an innocent man in 2004.
Perry has installed as chairman John Bradley, the district attorney of Williamson County and one of the state’s most notorious tough-on-crime advocates.
Bradley’s first act? He has canceled Friday’s schedule meeting at which the commission was supposed to discuss the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, an apparently innocent man executed in 2004. Willingham was convicted of killing his three kids by starting a 1991 house fire. His case was recently featured in the New Yorker.
The commission last year hired a national arson expert to study the Willingham case. The expert, Craig Beyler, released his report in late August. He concurred with the other fire experts who have looked at the case: the fire was accidental, and Willingham almost assuredly innocent.
The commission planned to hear from Beyler at Friday’s meeting. The commission also planned to release a final report on the case early next year. That raised the possibility that Texas would be the first state to officially admit executing an innocent man.
The timing couldn’t have been worse for Perry, who’s in a tough race for reelection. Asked recently about the case, Perry stood by his decision to execute Willingham, as the Dallas Morning News reported:
Even without proof that the fire was arson, [Perry] added, the court records he reviewed before the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004 showed ‘clear and compelling, overwhelming evidence that he was in fact the murderer of his children.’
That makes no sense. if there was no arson, there was no crime, and Willingham was, by definition, innocent.
The Commission’s inquiry of the Willingham case figured to pose mounting political problems for the governor. And Perry has never been crazy about the idea of the Forensic Science Commission, which the Legislature created in 2005.
It’s worth noting that Bassett’s term had expired, and the governor has the power to appoint whomever he chooses.
But Perry’s actions today certainly appear an attempt to bottle up the Willingham investigation.
It seems Sen. Hutchison is giving Rick Perry a run for his money when it comes to dubious claims about climate change legislation.
At a stop in Big Spring on Monday, Kay railed against cap and trade, warning that action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would wreck the Texas economy, raise prices, and cause massive job losses. Sounds familiar.
The volume of distortions, screwy statistics and faulty logic in her remarks (as thoroughly reported by the Big Spring Herald) is dizzying. Let’s start with one of her sweeping claims.
Even the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) administrator says it will do nothing to stop the global emissions, and wouldn’t even help the environment because no other country is doing this.
I’ve asked the Hutchison campaign to clarify her remarks here. I don’t know if she is referring to something EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said.
In any case, the whole point of Waxman-Markey is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to mitigate climate change. No one has ever claimed that a congressional cap-and-trade effort would “stop the global emissions.”
That’s a red herring, plain and simple.
The core of Waxman-Markey is a cap on domestic greenhouse gasses: a 17 percent reduction by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. Truth be told, this is probably far from enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Still, it’s better than nothing and almost certainly will have some positive effect on the environment.
Hutchison also claims that “no other country is doing this.” Doing what? I don’t know but I’ve asked the KBH campaign to clarify what she meant. Presumably, Hutchison is implying that other nations aren’t tackling climate change.
Many countries have been begging the U.S. to take action for at least two decades, most recently at the UN meeting last week. Does anyone recall the Kyoto Protocol?
Even right-wingers in Europe are pushing for immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Some are already well on their way.
Sweden, for example, imposed a carbon tax in 1991, which has, along with other programs, resulted in a 10 percent cut in C02 emissions (from 1990 levels) despite a 50 percent economic growth rate.
The main thrust of Hutchison’s comments, though, dealt with the economic impacts of cap-and-trade. Let’s zoom in on some of her specific assertions.
“It will be especially hard on Texas,” she said. “The estimates the [Texas] Comptroller has put out are Texas could lose as few as 170,000 jobs and as many as 470,000 jobs because this bill would do so much to raise the price of everything.”
The comptroller study to which she’s referring has become the go-to source for Texas conservatives looking to sprinkle their climate fear-mongering with statistics. But consider the source. The report’s primary author is Dr. Michelle Foss, the Chief Energy Economist for UT’s Center for Energy Economics.
Sounds pretty academic, right? Not really. Foss has a PhD in political science, not economics. She co-owns a coal seam gas company and has worked for Shell Oil, ConocoPhillips, and many other oil/gas companies and utilitiies. She’s also presented at climate change denial conferences. In short, Foss is not a dispassionate analyst.
Not surprisingly, the assumptions used in Foss’s analysis of Waxman-Markey’s economic effects come, in part, from another sketchy analysis by the National Black Chamber of Commerce, an offshoot of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a recipient of funding from Exxon-Mobil.
Hilariously, the peer-review for Foss’s study comes from the climate-denying, Exxon-funded Heritage Foundation, the Exxon-funded American Center for Capital Formation and the National Association of Manufacturers.
Recall that the primary “think tank/academic” presenters at the recent “Cap and Trade Summit” were… drum roll… Michelle Foss, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Center for Capital Formation. These folks must see a lot of each other on the climate-bashing circuit.
The most glaring flaw in Foss’s jobs analysis is that she didn’t include any of the jobs created by Waxman-Markey. As stated on page 5 of the report:
These model results do not incorporate any assumptions of specific benefits for Texas associated with ACESA. For instance, CEE and CPA did not attempt to capture job creation and economic output associated with growth in industries, such as those associated with renewable energy technologies.
Ironically, a wind company just installed one of the largest wind farms in the nation near Big Spring, a beneficiary no doubt of federal and state rewewable energy policies.
Another Hutchison claim:
It’s estimated your home electricity bill will go up 90 percent because of this legislation. So every family is going to have higher costs, as well, for all of the energy they use.
Once again, I’ve asked the Hutchison campaign to provide a citation for this statistic. It certainly doesn’t square with studies by the Congressional Budget Office and the EPA.
The most recent EPA analysis (yes, I’ve read it) found that the average household would see their costs rise $80 to $111, or about 48 cents per day. Consumer spending on utility bills will be 7 percent lower by 2020 due to energy efficiency measures in the bill, according to EPA.
Other economists have estimated the economic benefits of the bill to likely exceed the costs by as much as nine-to-one.
But, whatever. When it comes to climate change, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Kay and Rick. Both prefer to do nothing.
Update: I received a response from Courtney Sanders, a spokesperson in Hutchison’s Senate office. I had asked Sanders to provide clarifications for her factual assertions (see above) and to answer whether she agrees with Perry that climate change isn’t caused by human activity.
The entirety of the response is as follows:
Forrest – check out these two sites. They should clarify.
I’m still trying to get Hutchison’s office to respond to my question regarding her stance on the facticity of climate change.
We’re hearing a lot of talk these days from conservatives about the high price of health care reform.
Not to be outdone, Gov. Rick Perry — using an estimate from the health and human services department — pegged the 10-year cost at $60 billion.
I pointed out last week the flaw in this argument. Yes, expanding health coverage for millions of Texans will cost the state a lot of money — but it will also save a lot of money for county governments, which are paying much of the $7 billion a year in uncompensated care for Texas’ uninsured. (A lot of the cost for uncompensated care arises from people who lack health insurance showing up at emergency rooms in public hospitals — the single most expensive place to receive treatment.)
So health reform isn’t really new spending. It’s a cost shift: state government spends more, counties spend less.
Today the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a study that shows just how much maintaining our current health system will cost Texas in the next decade. (Here’s a summary of the findings. You can find the whole report here.)
It ain’t pretty. Details after the jump.