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      "Whatever information or argument will cajole the people into advancing the money making schemes of individuals is published in papers, proclaimed on the hustings and advocated by men employed to manufacture public opinion.  On the other hand every fact calculated to acquaint the people with the true condition of affairs is frequently carefully suppressed by influential jounals and by those who are recognized as successful politicians."  
                                                                                        --- from the West Virginia Tax Commission: Report on State Development, 1884.

    I'm moving May 1.

I've reached the limits of my web program and my ongoing problem with it changing my font type and size after "publishing" is getting worse.

Consequently, yesterday's post on the Intelligencer's coverage of the no confidence vote at West Liberty will be the last new post on this site.  Since I've already paid rent on the space, I will maintain this site and try to organize it so that I can refer new posts to some of the information found in past posts.

The new site is here or copy and paste: https//thewheelingalternative.silvrback.com/.  (Don't forget to bookmark it.)

I switched to silvrback because (most importantly) it is much easier to blog.  Additionally, it should provide a better experience for you, the reader.  I think you'll find the site easier to navigate and the posts easier to read.  It also has RSS which allows you to get notification when a new post has been published.

For the month of April I reached 500 unique visitors.  Hopefully I will see all of you over at my new site.

Note --- I am still configuring mail.  If you would like to get in touch with me, click on contact me above.


More on Reed, Tennant and Capito (August 11)

Continuing last week’s anti-Tennant editorials/columns, we get two more in Saturday’s Intelligencer:  Michael Myer’s column "Reid the Imperial Majority Leader" and "Defending W.Va. In the Senate" give us a double-dose of why we should all hate Harry Reid and not even think of voting for Natalie Tennant because she has not said whether or not she would support Reid for Majority Leader.  

As with last week’s column, Myer starts with a lie about Obama’s use of executive order:

Much has been written and said about President Barack Obama's use of executive orders to break the law. That sounds strong, but it's accurate.

As he did last week, Myer presents no evidence for his assertion that Obama’s use of executive orders is against the law.  As I suggested last week, reader’s should google "Bush vs. Obama – executive orders" to see how Obama compares to Bush.  (Your first ten results, from varied sources, all demonstrate that Obama is behind Bush in the number of executive orders at this point in their tenure.)  

The rest of the column is mostly an attack upon Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Last week, Myer argued (once again, without evidence) that Reid was an "ultra-liberal." On Saturday, Reid is so powerful that he is the "the imperial majority leader."  (Last week Obama was the "imperial president" – "imperial" must be the new "pseudo.")  When I googled "Reid" and "imperial" I was surprised at the number of right-wing sites that have adopted this perspective.  I will confess that I don’t watch enough Fox News – apparently "Reid is imperial" is now an accepted right wing meme. And because one of the writers at The Hill agrees with him, Myer actually cites it as a source claiming it is "the most authoritative publication." (Of course it is, one of its writers agrees with him.)  I certainly wouldn’t go that far - I find The Hill gossipy and filled with mostly undocumented opinion pieces.  (As anwers.com puts it: "so although The Hill isn't really permanently skewed one way or the other, it generally isn't a great place to get unbiased information. You can just get very biased info from all sides there.")

To the editorial ("Defending W.Va. In the Senate") where we find out that Democratic candidate Natalie Tennant has not said whether she would vote for Reid if she’s elected to the Senate. The editorial asks us to contrast Tennant with her opponent, Shelley Capito:

Rep. Shelley Capito, who is seeking a seat in the Senate from West Virginia, works hard to represent her fellow Mountain State residents. Sometimes that has meant going against the leadership of her Republican Party - but Capito has not hesitated to do that when she believed her state's interests were at stake.

Please, somebody help me here, when has Capito ever gone against the leadership of the Republican Party?  If you want me to accept the premise, shouldn’t the editorial writer provide me with at least one example?  How about voting against the Ryan budget as Republican David McKinley has done?  No, she hasn’t done that.  Since it provides health care for over a hundred thousand West Virginians who have none, how about at least once supporting West Virginians and not voting with all the other Republicans to repeal Obamacare?  No, she hasn’t done that either.  My hunch is that if there was even one example of Capito going against her party’s leadership, our editorial writer would have referenced it. That there are no examples suggests that this will be just another Intelligencer hit piece.

Next, our writer invokes the memory of the late Senator Byrd:

That attitude is in the tradition of one of the most revered public servants in West Virginia history, the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd. He was famous for refusing to take orders from senators or even presidents of his beloved Democrat Party, when he believed acting independently was important to his state and nation.

I don’t think that is why he is "famous." As with Capito, how about an example of Byrd going against the party’s leadership? From 1971 until his retirement Byrd continuously served in various leadership roles for the Democratic Party - when did he ever go against his own leadership?  Before 1971 Byrd did oppose the party leadership when he filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Was that an example of when "
acting independently was important to his state and nation"?  I do not mean to demean Senator Byrd here – I know that he later became a strong civil rights advocate. My point is that the writer believes that simply name-dropping Byrd is all that he or she needs to do to make the point.  

The editorial then takes us back to the "war on coal:"

It has been suggested Congress should take action to stop Obama's war on coal. As long as Reid is majority leader, that will never happen. The same is true of any legislation in opposition to the president.  

I hate to keep pointing out the obvious but Reid has nothing to do with it, the Democratic Party owns a majority in the senate – any Democratic majority leader would have done the same as Reid.

Yet Tennant stands behind Reid. Loyalty to her party's leader in the Senate apparently is more important to her than walking in Byrd's great footsteps.

Of course,Tennant will support Reid – he’s the party’s leader.  And then we’re back to invoking Byrd and his "great footsteps."  Egads, does anybody familiar with the late senator’s career believe that he would have ever preferred Capito over Tennant?  What a pathetic editorial.  

Yes, it’s more of the same from Michael Myer and the Wheeling Intelligencer.

Tags:  Natalie Tennant, Shelley Capito, Michael Myer, Wheeling Intelligencer, war on coal, Robert C. Byrd, Harry Reid

Something you won’t see locally – Politifact fact-checks Capito (August 11)

The Tampa Bay Times truth-checking website, politifact.com, recently fact-checked two statements by Shelley Moore Capito.  It’s conclusion:  mostly false and false.  Both deal with Obama and the EPA.  The first explains:

Capito said, "The president's come out with rules that say, 'No new coal-fired power plants.' " The rules do not explicitly ban future coal plants, so already this is an exaggeration of what the EPA has proposed.

While the future of coal is uncertain, it has much more to do with energy markets and the rise of natural gas — a cheaper and more efficient energy source — than Obama’s regulations. The stricter carbon standards from the EPA may create additional barriers to building new facilities. But already there is one attempt to build a facility that would meet these thresholds and experts expect it won’t be the last.

The test facing coal is real, but Capito goes way too far in her indictment. We rate the statement Mostly False.

And the second notes:

Capito said "What (Obama is) going to come out with in the next several months is you're not even going to be able to burn coal very limitedly in the existing plants." The proposal Capito is referring to is an EPA plan to cut carbon emissions in existing power plants. Those rules do not prohibit current facilities from burning coal, and even Capito’s spokeswoman said the rule "doesn't mean that every plant has to close."

Some facilities will close down within the next decade, but many of those plants were scheduled to be retired anyway due to age and other factors. States and power companies have options to continue to utilize coal for energy, and experts said they expect coal to remain part of the national portfolio for years to come.

We rate Capito’s claim False.

hat tip:  Coal Tattoo

Tags:  Shelley Moore Capito, war on coal

Catching up on fracking news (August 6)

In neigboring Pennsylvania

from Think Progress:  "Pennsylvania AG Looking Into Claims That State Willfully Ignores Fracking-Related Health Complaints"

"Are employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Health really being told to ignore complaints from citizens who complain they’re being sickened by hydraulic fracturing and natural gas drilling? If they are, is it criminal?

That’s the question that the state Attorney General’s office will attempt to answer in the coming weeks, as officials contact and interview multiple residents who say they reached out to state health officials about symptoms they think could be related to drilling, and received no response. In an e-mail to the advocacy group Food & Water Watch, seen by ThinkProgress, a special agent from the attorney general’s environmental crime unit confirmed that they would look into residents’ complaints."

Dan Simpson in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Fracking compromises the future of Pennsylvania"

"Our state officials shouldn’t let oil and gas companies run roughshod over the environment.

I guess that having lived in the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia tristate area for decades of my life should have hardened me to the apparently popular concept that it is completely acceptable to rape the environment to make a few people rich. But it hasn’t."

From the University of Wisconsin:  "Drilling in the Dark: Biological Impacts of Fracking Still Largely Unknown"

"As production of shale gas soars, the industry's effects on nature and wildlife remain largely unexplored, according to a study by a group of conservation biologists published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on Aug. 1."

Germany on fracking: "the dangers of this technology are too great"

""Fracking is not a solution for protecting our climate, which will help us move across to renewable energy. It would be better if our country concentrated on proven, environmentally-friendly forms of energy," said Krautzberger."

Tags:  fracking news

Myer on Tennant and liberals (August 5)

On Saturday, columnist Michael Myer wrote another installment in his anti-Tennant series (see, for example, June 13 below).  For those who have read his previous writings on the WV senate race, the column is predictable. "Tennant Relies on Liberal Cash" depends upon two of Myer’s favorite forms of argument: guilt-by-association and name-calling.

As he has done in the past, Myer connects Tennant with President Obama by arguing that she has supported him in the past.  He then points out that she is now not supporting him on the coal issue "and now she wants people to believe she’ll do battle with him?" As I have argued previously, politician almost always support the top of their ticket at election time.  Some later go in a different direction especially around their own election.  Here’s a Republican example – our local representative, David McKinley, strongly supported the Romney/Ryan ticket in 2012.  Since then, however, he has voted a number of times against the "Ryan budget plan" which would have made major changes to Social Security.  (On one of those votes, he was one of only four Republicans to do so.)  Given the age of voters in this congressional district, McKinley is simply doing what he needs to do to get re-elected. The local "newspapers" have never questioned McKinley’s integrity or sincerity and yet they always question Tennant’s.

Okay, which is the worst?  Being a child molester, serial murderer, Jihadist, or liberal?  I don’t think that I’m exaggerating too much that for Myer, the decision of where to rank the liberal in the list might be a tough call. Okay, that’s his choice.  But if you look at his columns, he assumes that everyone else shares his dislike for liberals. Notice that he seldom, if ever, explains why they should be despised – for Myer, labeling a person "a liberal" is all that we need to know about them.

What’s a liberal for Myer?  My hunch is that it includes everyone who is politically to his left (I realize that takes in a lot of territory) and you almost automatically qualify if you’re a Democrat.  Is this definition grounded in any real world political science?  Not that I could find. Myer writes:

Who’s putting money behind Tennant’s campaign?  Ultra-liberals. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s leadership PAC gave $10,000 to the Tennant campaign.     

Harry Reid is an "ultra-liberal?"  On which planet?  Okay, I thought, maybe I’m missing something – I should do some research.  I found thatsmycongress.com that uses an analysis and a methodology that makes some sense. The site developed liberal and conservative standards, then looked at important liberal and conservative bills that reflected these standards, and then compared them to how the member of congress voted.  The member’s score was then assigned to one of seven groups that ranged from "strong liberals" to "extreme conservatives."  For the 2013 senate (the last year available), Reid finished in the "mushy middle" group with all Democrats but one (Joe Manchin) considered more liberal.  Following Myer’s logic, if Reid is an "ultraliberal," I wonder what it makes the top five liberal Democrats?  Ultra-ultra-ultra-ultra liberals?  Only in a far, far righties’ world could Harry Reid be considered an ultra-liberal.

Myer then notes that even retiring Senator Rockefeller is "pitching in" by giving money to the Democratic PAC with the hopes that some of it will go to Tennant.  Myer also points out that Tennant has received money from Emily’s List (an anti-abortion group) and ActBlue, an Internet group that raises money for Democrats. (Again, are any of these surprising?)  He then notes that individual contributors from ActBlue gave from $5 to $2600 and then asks "(d)o you really suppose the liberals and liberal organizations spending so lavishly on Tennant expect her to oppose Obama?"  Is Obama the only thing these groups care about?  I don’t think so.  (Back to my McKinley example, do you think that the conservatives groups who gave money to him will stop contributing because he doesn’t always follow his party leaders?)  

Maybe it’s time to see how much Capito is getting from some of her various donors. So far in 2014, the top of her donors list is dominated by financial institutions and energy firms.  I can understand the energy companies on the list but why would major financial institutions be giving money to Capito?  Is West Virginia a major banking state?  Hardly.  Are there major projects in the state that will require the presence and participation of these institutions?  I don’t think so.  Maybe it has to do with one of the committees she serves on or that she is a "friend" of the industry.  Yes, Capito is a member of the House Financial Services Committee.  As Politico noted earlier this year:

Capito has long been comfortable operating at the crossroads of Washington and Wall Street. Her father is a former congressman and West Virginia governor and she is married to a veteran bank executive. Since her election to the House in 2000, Capito has been a dependable friend to business and banking interests in Washington.

The financial industry, in particular, considers Capito a go-to person for its concerns about the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulation law. And it’s more than returned the favor this cycle. Individuals and PACs associated with the finance, insurance and real estate sectors have donated more than $750,000 to Capito so far in support of her Senate bid, with Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs ranking among the top contributors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Industry leaders in both West Virginia and D.C. say they’re counting on Capito to be an ally in the upcoming Congress – next year, as a member of the Senate.

Finally, publicintegrity.org tells us that Capito has received $1,795,972 from financial institutions since 2010. Compare that to the liberal groups supporting Tenant.  To rephrase the Myer question: do you really suppose the big financial organizations spending so lavishly on Capito expect her to ever oppose any thing they want?

Tags:  Capito, Tennant, Michael Myer

Another evidence-free editorial from the Sunday News-Register and some thoughts on why the 21st century information explosion may not be making us better informed
(August 3)

Today’s Wheeling News-Register editorial, "Forcing Obama To Obey the Law," begins:

President Barack Obama has made it clear that when he disagrees with the law, he will not enforce it. And when Congress will not pass a law he wants, the chief executive simply issues an executive order that, in effect, creates White House law.

Far from being reluctant to go beyond the limits of the presidency as clearly expressed in the Constitution, Obama actually brags about extending the power of his office in ways that would have worried and angered the nation's founders.

Someone needs to take the lead in reining in this most imperial of presidents.

That someone, according to the editorial, is WV Attorney General Morrisey who is suing the President because he is "cherrypicking" which laws his administration will enforce.  (Just a thought – since no other state is joining Morrisey, shouldn’t the editorial be criticizing Morrisey for what appears to be a frivolous lawsuit that wastes WV taxpayer dollars?  Yeah, right.)

A strong indictment – "the most imperial of presidents."  Is he?  How does Obama compare with previous presidents such as George W. Bush in creating "White House law"?  I Googled "executive orders – Bush vs. Obama" and the results didn’t surprise me.  The first page of results gives you ten sources that include fact-checking sources (Snopes and factcheck.org), a university source (The American Presidency Project at the University of California – Santa Barbara), a couple of newspapers, Forbes magazine, and the Federal Register.  All ten suggest that Obama is behind Bush in executive orders at this point in his presidency and is certainly not exceptional when compared to the rest of the presidents.  My favorite is an article from a 2013 issue of Forbes magazine, a conservative, business-oriented publication. The article concludes:

Mr. Obama is a mere piker when it comes to issuing decrees; he’s been easily out-distanced by the likes of those Republicans – e.g., Eisenhower and Reagan – who today’s conservatives claim to be paragons of constitutionally-limited government.

When it comes to executive orders, Obama is a "piker" and yet for some Republican members of Congress, Fox News, and the Wheeling "newspapers" it is further evidence of an out-of-control presidency. (Some have even seriously suggested impeachment over this issue.)  Does it matter that the facts don’t support their conclusion?  No, I think each of these sources is pandering to its base and, ethics be damned, they are not going to let any contrary evidence confront the voter’s/viewer’s/reader’s previously-formed conclusions.  Thus, one of the results of the increase in more ideology-driven television news sources (Fox and MSNBC, for example) and an Internet which can cater to every possible bias may be a less rather than a more-informed electorate. There’s lots of information out there but it doesn’t necessarily make me better informed and if I choose, I don’t have to see or hear anything that might challenge my beliefs.  More specifically, the Intelligencer/News-Register can distort and lie all it wants – its primary readership doesn’t care as long as their biases and prejudices go unchallenged.

Tags:  executive orders, Wheeling News-Register editorials

Update - August 4

I've noticed that one of the editorial tendencies of the Wheeling "newspapers" is to keep referencing a lie once it's been told.  For example, a couple of months ago a Michael Myer's column made the bogus claim that Germany was the #1 importer of American coal and that it was turning away from its commitment to alternative energy sources. Both points are demonstrably false - see March 31 and May 14 below.  That the original premise was untrue didn't matter - subsequent editorials kept referencing the original lie.  From this morning's editorial titled "Law May Need Some Changes" which discusses a chemical storage law:

In explaining himself, Tomblin may well have had to suppress a smile. That is because his comment is something of a slap at President Barack Obama, who does not hesitate to use executive orders to alter or even ignore laws approved by Congress.

Yeah, I'm sure that's what Tomblin was thinking.

Been away for a few days - time to catch-up

On the environmental watch
(July 30)

New power plant rules

Ecowatch makes a number of good points in "5 Things You Need to Know About Obama’s Clean Power Plant Rule."  Among them:

Appalachian coal communities are at risk, but their big challenges are the price of mining their coal and unfair competition, not pollution regulations. . . .

States overly dependent on coal don’t get lower electricity bills in exchange – coal fired power is no longer necessarily cheap. . . . The most coal dependent state of all, West Virginia,
lt ranks 20th, while the second most dependent, Kentucky, is 32d in electricity affordability. . . .

Obama was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to regulate carbon pollution. The lawsuits and challenges being planned by Obama’s opponents won’t stop the clean-up; instead they would actually increase electricity costs far more. Instead of lawsuits to limit utility options, the U.S. needs a broader—not a narrower—plan to manage the evolution to clean electricity and power.

The article provides some useful information on the "war on coal" especially if you occasionally get into discussions on the subject.

The war on coal

The Charleston Gazette’s blog about West Virginia’s coal industry, The Coal Tattoo, is easily the best source on the subject.  Ken Ward keeps you informed (especially politically) about what you need to know about West Virginia and the various sides in the "war on coal."  Today he takes on the Casey-Mooney congressional battle in  "‘Not our problem’: Nick Casey, climate change, and why W.Va. can’t tackle coalfield problems."  He asks:

So, if indeed we should be just as worried about all the coal that gets burned in China or South America, shouldn’t we think about whether shipping our coal there is such a good policy? Why isn’t that part of what Nick Casey talks about, instead of just saying it’s "not our problem"? Or is his "not our problem" routine just a way of brushing off the EPA proposal without having to really engage in a thoughtful policy discussion about the climate crisis?

If you visit the blog, don’t stop with the Casey entry.  Recent posts include:

"A fresh approach for how W.Va. could deal with EPA"

"Science and silence: Politicians continue to run from mountaintop removal public health studies"

Tags:  war on coal

Senator Joe Manchin in The National Journal (with a headline borrowed from The National Enquirer): "What My Daughter Did Should Be Illegal"
(July 30)

Last week, Heather Bresch who is the senator’s daughter, CEO at Mylan, and WVU’s most infamous MBA graduate, announced that her company was going to renounce its American citizenship and incorporate in the Netherlands.  After a week, the Senator finally did a telephone interview.  As The National Journal’s Ron Fornier describes:

You're a United States senator from a state struggling to compete in the world economy. Your daughter runs a giant drug company with roots in your state, and the firm makes a fortune from taxpayers via Medicare and Medicaid. Everything's cozy and connected and perfectly Washington—until your daughter renounces the firm's U.S. citizenship to reduce its U.S. taxes. What do you do?

If you're Joe Manchin, you duck a reporter's telephone call for six days, then emerge for an interview in which you vow to make your daughter's actions, from this day forward, illegal.

Sort of.

The West Virginia Democrat told me he'd "be happy" to support a bill that outlawed so-called inversions, a loophole that allows U.S. corporations to avoid federal taxes by shifting their tax domiciles overseas. Such transactions are setting a record pace since the first inversion was done 32 years ago.

Read the interview here.

Tags:  Joe Manchin, Heather Bresch

Update July 31

An outraged John Stewart discussed Mylan's departure on last night's The Daily Show.  I think the segment could have been stronger but it is much better than anything else in the mainstream media.

<div style="background-color:#000000;width:520px;"><div style="padding:4px;"><iframe src="http://media.mtvnservices.com/embed/mgid:arc:video:thedailyshow.com:97fcb515-c8eb-4c50-ac64-ca27e7fd44aa" width="512" height="288" frameborder="0"></iframe><p style="text-align:left;background-color:#FFFFFF;padding:4px;margin-top:4px;margin-bottom:0px;font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px;"><b><a href="http://thedailyshow.cc.com/">The Daily Show</a></b><br />Get More: <a href="http://thedailyshow.cc.com/full-episodes/">Daily Show Full Episodes</a>,<a href="http://www.comedycentral.com/indecision">Indecision Political Humor</a>,<a href="http://www.facebook.com/thedailyshow">The Daily Show on Facebook</a></p></div></div>

Which state is America’s most socialist?
(July 30)

Jim Cramer (yes, the screaming guy with stock advice on CNBC) has a website called The Street and it did a video segment yesterday on "The 10 Most Socialist States in America."  Using a an incredibly simplistic formula (state spending as a % of the state GDP) the site concluded that West Virginia was the most socialistic state in the nation.  Jim, I’ve lived here for many years - this ain't a socialistic state.  

hat tip to loganbanner.com

Catching up on recent climate change stories not covered by local media
(July 23)

Planet’s Hottest June On Record Follows Hottest May

Think Progress documents the heat.

University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College Study: Most Americans Support Carbon Tax if Revenue Supports Renewable Energy

Despite what our local papers tell us, Americans are willing to do something about climate change.  Ecowatch discusses the study.  

Storms, Sewage, And Maggots: Climate Change Comes To Chicago

Of course, this would never come to Wheeling!

A new international survey:  U.S. leads in number of people who think climate change is no big deal

A question from the Ipsos Mori Global Trends survey:

Taking the poll one step farther - Chris Mooney in The Guardian and Mother Jones explains "The Strange Relationship Between Global Warming Denial and…Speaking English."

What is the relationship?   "(O)ne possible answer is that it's all about the political ideologies prevalent in these four countries."  More specifically,Mooney suggests that "the English language media in three of these four countries are linked together by a single individual: Rupert Murdoch."  Yes, newspapers, and in the United States, Fox News, play an important role in creating skepticism of the science of climate change.  Mooney also notes the importance of biased think tanks that allow deniers (like Representative McKinley and our local papers) to appear authoritative.

There's also the Anglophone nations' concentration of climate "skeptic" think tanks, which provide the arguments and rationalizations necessary to feed this anti-science position. According to a study in Climatic Change earlier this year, the US is home to 91 different organizations (think tanks, advocacy groups, and trade associations) that collectively comprise a "climate change counter-movement." The annual funding of these organizations, collectively, is "just over $900 million." That is a truly massive amount of English-speaking climate "skeptic" activity, and while the study was limited to the US, it is hard to imagine that anything comparable exists in non-English speaking countries.  

Tags:  climate change

The Wheeling Intelligencer must be joking:  "Press Impartiality Still Matters Here" (July 14)

From this morning’s editorial in the Intelligencer:

Americans are more fortunate than many know in having a wide variety of privately-owned newspapers and other information sources. An example of what can happen without that has been provided in Great Britain.

The BBC, subsidized and thus controlled by the British government, is among the biggest media empires in the world. It has global reach, including appearance on many Americans' cable television lineups.

A few days ago, the BBC's governing body ordered "news" staff to cut back on coverage of scientists who dispute global warming theories. In other words, the BBC now will serve as a mouthpiece for those who demand drastic action to combat climate change.

Perhaps there are other reasons for the BBC’s decision.  Maybe they think they should serve as a mouthpiece for what is a general consensus of the scientific community. The editorial continues:  

How did BBC officials come to their conclusion? A report on coverage of science stories concluded the BBC has been guilty of "over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality."

Yes, the report said that and it explained why:

The key point the workshops tried to impart is that impartiality in science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views, which may result in a ‘false balance.’ More crucially it depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given. In this respect, editorial decisions should be guided by where the scientific consensus might be found on any given topic, if it can in fact be determined.

If you read the report, it concludes that simply giving equal weight to both sides does a disservice to the viewer when the preponderance of evidence exists on one side. The 97% scientific consensus on climate change means that we should not be impartial in the amount of time and space given to both sides. The report’s conclusion is not a new one – numerous press critics have argued the same point:  giving equal time to both sides when one side clearly has science on its side may be "balanced" but it is a disservice to the viewer.

The editorial continues:

In other words, BBC journalist have tried to hard to tell the truth.

No, it means that there are critical points at which we need to quit pretending that there are equally valid arguments on both sides.  (For example, our media no longer balance arguments on whether smoking is harmful to our health.) The editorial concludes:

Here in the United States, government has increased its attempts to manipulate and sometimes to intimidate journalists. But many - again, owned by private companies, not the government - refuse to go along.

Indeed, "slants" can be seen in many news organizations. But the overwhelming majority of us continue to report the news truthfully, as well as we can. Here - thank heaven - there is no such thing as being too rigid about impartiality. (Emphasis is mine.)

Amazing!  I can’t believe their chutzpah.  On March 24 (see March 26 below) the AP previewed an upcoming major report on climate change:

The big risks and overall effects of global warming are far more immediate and local than scientists once thought. It's not just about melting ice, threatened animals and plants. It's about the human problems of hunger, disease, drought, flooding, refugees and war, becoming worse.

As I noted at the time, over 7500 news sources covered the AP story. Did either Wheeling paper?  Of course not.  And on May 6, the  National Climate Assessment study was released.  Since it was big news, I’m sure you read about it - it was in all the papers.  No it wasn’t – neither Wheeling paper covered the story. (see May 8 below).  Finally, in early June (see June 10 below) the Intelligencer ran an AP article about how candidates from coal states were dealing with the climate change issue.  The Intelligencer’s version of the article was exactly the same as the other papers except that the following two paragraphs were not included:

A bipartisan national majority of Americans support limiting greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists blame for climate change, according to a Washington Post/ ABC News poll released Monday.

Fifty-seven percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Democrats support state-level limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and 70 percent of all Americans say the federal government should limit greenhouse gases from power plants.    

How pathetic.  And the editorial’s creator probably says " there is no such thing as being too rigid about impartiality" with a straight face.

Tags:  Wheeling Intelligencer, climate change, BBC and climate change

Tenant/Capito and the West Virginia stereotype
(July 10)

I decided to do a little research on yesterday’s quote from Russell Mokhiber, that Natalie Tenant was trying to "out-Capito Capito on coal."  What I found is that she’s not limiting it to coal.  Here is the picture from Tenant’s Twitter feed from the annual Ripley July 4 parade.

The picture tells us that the right to openly carry a gun is important to her. (On a more subtle level, it may also be a reminder, for those who know her personal history, that she was West Virginia University’s first female Mountaineer mascot.)  Her recent rhetoric reinforces this visual image.  As Alex Lazar at Huffington Post writes:

Tennant, who will campaign with progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on July 14, has been reluctant to lend any support to Senate legislation expanding background checks on gun purchases and maintains that any changes to gun laws should be made at the state level.
She has also tried to characterize her opponent, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito ( R-W.Va .), as not being strong enough on Second Amendment rights.

The comments that accompany her Twitter feed are also interesting.  Tenant writes: "Check out Rollcall story from the "Largest Small Town Independence Day Celebration.""  Following the link gets you to a Roll Call article about the Ripley parade: "Senate Hopefuls Work Parade Route in West Virginia." The article begins:  

RIPLEY, W.Va. — The country’s "largest small town Independence Day parade" had all the expected: beauty queens, sun-drenched crowds and political glad-handling.

The article will eventually get to her picture (as well as one of Capito.)  What caught my attention, however, was the picture of one of the beauty queens above the article. The caption reads: "Miss WV Roadkill waves at fans at the Fourth of July parade."  Okay, Miss WV Roadkill and the festival that crowns her are most likely tongue-in-cheek.  Exaggerating or laughing at the stereotype (co-opting it) is certainly one way to undercut a stereotype’s power to persuade.  That works, however, only when the audience can recognize that it is a stereotype; otherwise it only reinforces it. The captioned picture does not say anything about the WV Roadkill Festival or even hint that it should not be taken seriously and I fear that many of Politico’s non-Appalachian readers woulld not get the joke. I wonder why you would call attention to an article that perpetuates a stereotype of the very people you are trying to persuade?

Can Tenant win by out-Capitoing Capito?  I doubt it - why would anyone accept an imitation when you could have the real thing?

Tags:  Natalie Tenant, Shelley Moore Capito, the West Virginia stereotype  

An interesting interview on the six month anniversary of the West Virginia chemical spill
(July 9)

The Real News interviewed Russell Mokhiber, editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter and founder of SinglePayerAction and Angie Rosser, the executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.  

It’s worth a read.  Here are a couple of the money quotes:

But the reality is it's a broader issue than that. Both--the whole political infrastructure in the state has been captured by the coal, chemical, fracking industries. For example, it's rare to find a politician who will stand up against mountaintop removal, which is destroying the mountains in southern West Virginia and making the people ill with birth defects and cancers and other illnesses. And I haven't heard--maybe Angie's heard--I don't hear any politician in the state speaking out against that.


Senator Elizabeth Warren is coming to support her (Tenant’s) candidacy next week, but little does Elizabeth Warren know--or maybe she does--that, you know, Natalie Tennant is trying to out-Capito Capito here on coal. And it's not working, because, you know, people are starting to get a clue about it.

Tags:  mountaintop removal, Natalie Tenant, war on coal

Attention "war on coal" troops - Bloomberg News disagrees with your generals:  "The EPA Doesn't Kill Coal Jobs. Better Mining Does." (July 9)

Bloomberg News, which is a business and not an environmental publication, explains it very succinctly:

The U.S. has lost more coal jobs since 1978 than it has today, and climate policy isn't the reason. (emphasis mine)  There wasn't any. Coal companies are in the business of producing coal, not jobs. Between 1978, when the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration started collecting data, and 2013, the U.S. shed more than 132,000 coal jobs, or nearly 52 percent of its workforce, according to MSHA data.

In the same period, U.S. coal production jumped almost 47 percent, to about 984 million short tons last year, 16 percent below its 2008 peak.

The U.S. shale gas bonanza made cheap coal look expensive. Coal's contribution to U.S. power generation slipped to 39 percent last year from more than 51 percent in 2004, while natural gas nearly doubled to 27 percent.

Yeah, the troops are being enlisted to fight the EPA to preserve coal jobs that the coal companies will likely eliminate anyway.

Tags:  war on coal

Catching up on environmental news (July 9)

Mountaintop removal

USGS Study: Mountaintop Removal Mining Impacts Fish Populations

On the renewable energy front

First, the good news:

From mother nature network: Renewable energy records smashed (and you better get used to hearing that)

From Think Progress:  Renewable Energy Provided One-Third Of Germany’s Power In The First Half Of 2014

Then, the bad news:

Ohio: Poster Child for Mindless Global Self-Destruction

Tags:  mountaintop removal, renewable energy

"the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here" - I guess we can’t fix stupid
(July 9)

This Kentucky state senator, according to Raw Story, is also an owner of a power plant:

State Sen. Brandon Smith (R-Hazard) joined other lawmakers in attacking the Obama administration and EPA regulations July 2 in a meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment.

"I won’t get into the debate about climate change," Smith said. "But I’ll simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There’s no factories on Mars that I’m aware of."

Tags:  climate change

If fracking does no harm, then why is a Pennsylvania company buying off residents for $50,000 a household?
(July 4)

In Finleyville, PA, located 48 miles east-northeast of Wheeling, the local fracking company has decided to pay off local residents who are concerned about the air and water quality, noise, and their personal health.  As  Naveena Sadasivam at ProPublica reports:

Initially, EQT, one of the largest producers of natural gas in Pennsylvania, tried to allay concerns with promises of noise studies and offers of vouchers so residents could stay in hotels to avoid the noise and fumes.

But then, in what experts say was a rare tactic, the company got more aggressive: it offered all of the households along Cardox Road $50,000 in cash if they would agree to release the company from any legal liability, for current operations as well as those to be carried out in the future. It covered potential health problems and property damage, and gave the company blanket protection from any kind of claim over noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot, air pollution or vibrations.

The agreement also defined the company's operations as not only including drilling activity but the construction of pipelines, power lines, roads, tanks, ponds, pits, compressor stations, houses and buildings.  "The release is so incredibly broad and such a laundry list," said Doug Clark, a gas lease attorney in Pennsylvania who mainly represents landowners. "You're releasing for everything including activity that hasn't even occurred yet. It's crazy."

Tags: fracking

The Hobby Lobby Decision
(July 2)

It did not take long for our local “newspaper” to add their predictable response to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Decision.  And since it’s an editorial, it required an anti-Obama slant:

Being in business does not need to mean compromising one's morals, Supreme Court justices ruled Monday. That should be obvious, but it was not so to President Barack Obama's administration. . . .

In other words, government does not have to use the heavy hand Obama desired.

Simple common sense, right? Not for Obama.

There are many critiques of the decision out there – I found the online edition of Mother Jones, with a couple of different takes, to be among the best.  For example, Kevin Drum argues that "(t)his is not a ruling that upholds religious liberty. It is a ruling that specifically enshrines opposition to abortion as the most important religious liberty in America."

Another article features Justice Ginsberg’s strongly-worded dissent in the case:

"Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today's decision."

"Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be 'perceived as favoring one religion over another,' the very 'risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude."

Finally, extending Ginsberg’s slippery-slope question about where we stop with religiously grounded objections brings me to this article by Gary Wockner in Ecowatch:

In my opinion, this Supreme Court decision appears to stem from a broad sense of deplorable misogyny in popular religions and American culture, and I absolutely oppose this decision. . . .

In my line of work as an advocate for the environment, I’ve been called all sorts of names saying I’m some kind of fanatic for the Earth. Further, in the popular media, folks who rail against environmentalists often say we have elevated environmentalism to a kind of religion.

If so, has the Supreme Court now given us the opportunity to fight against the government’s intrusion in our lives because it violates our religion?

I absolutely oppose the deplorable Hobby Lobby decision. And now it’s the law of the land.

Do I now have to abide by fracking laws that violate my religion?

As Ginsberg noted in her dissent: "the court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield."

Update (July 4)

The "minefield" has started to explode with a number of new challenges:  

The day after handing down the Hobby Lobby decision on Monday, the court issued orders pertaining to six pending cases in which employers claimed religious objections to all contraceptive services required under the Affordable Care Act.

Additionally, it never ceases to amaze me that people/companies/corporations (now that they are to be treated the same) go on record knowing that their past record, which is only a quick "google" away, will face increased scrutiny.  Hobby Lobby, not surprisingly, gets much of what it sells from not-so-Christian China and, as The Huffington Post, among others, has pointed out:

Products bearing "Made in China" labels are found all over the shelves at Hobby Lobby, evidence that some of its wares come from Chinese factories that have a reputation for labor rights violations and rock-bottom wages. Employees at these facilities often end up working grueling hours in prison-like conditions and never earn enough to escape poverty.

"You cannot call your business 'Christian' when arguing before the Supreme Court, and then set aside Christian values when you're placing a bulk order for cheap wind chimes," wrote Christian author and columnist Jonathan Merritt in a recent article for The Week.

The article also notes China's policy on abortion.  And Mother Jones has documented how the Hobby Lobby's 401 k fund is loaded with companies that make the various forms of birth control that the company so strenuously objects to:

Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company's owners filed their lawsuit—show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k).

Tags:  Hobby Lobby case, Wheeling Intelligencer

What has Senator Manchin been doing lately? (June 30)

Senator Joe Manchin (D, coal) was on CBS’s "Face the Nation" yesterday and was asked about sending troops and aid to Syria and Iraq:

Manchin said money and boots on the ground aren't the answer in either Syria or neighboring Iraq, where ISIS extremists are making significant territorial gains.

"If military might or money would have solved that problem in that part of the world, and we could have made it better, we'd have done it by now," Manchin said. "You're not going to change that. They are determined to have sectarian war, to have civil war."

As a conservative Democrat, Manchin's comments probably suggest how unpopular American involvement in the Middle East has become.

Additionally, back in April, the senator defended the Koch brothers from attacks by Harry Reid and others. (See April 17 below.)  There was speculation at the time that his motivation was that he was hoping that the Kochs might spare him when he came up for senate re-election in 2016. It looks as though Joe has realized that this is not likely to happen.  As Politico reports:

"The Koch brothers — the billionaires responsible for closing the Georgia Pacific plant in Mount Hope — have given the maximum legal donation to Nick’s opponent," Manchin wrote in a campaign email for Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall out Thursday, referencing Republican challenger Evan Jenkins. "This isn’t just about out-of-state cash; it’s about an out-of-state agenda that would jeopardize Medicare, raise taxes on working families and ship our jobs overseas."

It sure looks as though Joe is getting his Democratic house in order in preparation for his run for the governorship in 2016.

Tags:  Joe Manchin, Koch brothers

"He who grows the corn should eat the corn" - Rich Lowry, knowing where his corn is buttered, tells a Wheeling audience that Lincoln was a Randian (June 27)

Columnist and National Review editor Rich Lowry spoke in Wheeling yesterday as part of West Liberty University’s BB&T-sponsored, Ayn Rand propaganda series. This morning’s Wheeling Intelligencer described and quoted from his speech which appears to have been at least partially about how Abraham Lincoln believed in free market economics. (Lowry’s most recent book is called Lincoln Unbound - I guess calling it Lincoln Shrugged might have been a bit too obvious.)  According to the Intelligencer’s account of the speech:

Lincoln supported the formation of a market economy, and the establishment of banks and industry.

"He thinks in a properly-function market economy, there should be no such thing as class conflict," Lowry said.  "He opposes redistribution economics. . . . Underneath all of this is a profound belief in the dignity of all labor and the right of proceeds of your own labor.  He believes, ‘He who grows the corn should eat the corn.’  So are these ideals relevant today?  I think they should be more relevant than ever."

And West Liberty pays him big bucks for saying this stuff?

Tags:  Rich Lowry, BB&T speakers, West Liberty speaker series, Ayn Rand

Bob Kinkaid and Chris Hayes discuss climate change and West Virginia coal
(June 27)

I somehow missed this earlier this month as "All In with Chris Hayes" discussed West Virginia/Appalachia and coal/climate change with Bob Kinkaid.  It’s worth a view.

<iframe src='http://player.theplatform.com/p/2E2eJC/EmbeddedOffSite?guid=n_hayes_Dcoal_140602' height='500' width='635' scrolling='no' border='no' ></iframe>

Tags:  Climate change, Bob Kinkaid

Climate change odds and ends (June 23)

U.S. Supreme Court joins "war on coal"

From wvgazette.com:

In a case closely watched by West Virginia critics of the Obama administration, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency another partial victory in its efforts to write rules to reduce emissions of the gases that cause global warming.

Justices ruled that the EPA had authority to impose new permitting requirements on some power plants and factories, though also found that agency officials had exceeded their Clean Air Act authority in an effort to limit the scope of one of their climate change initiatives.

A chance for our local "newspaper" editors to make some money  

Christopher Keating, a Texas physicist, is offering $10,000 for anyone to prove that "via the scientific method, that man-made global climate change is not occurring."

He explains:

I have heard global warming skeptics make all sorts of statements about how the science doesn't support claims of man-made climate change. I have found all of those statements to be empty and without any kind of supporting evidence. I have, in turn, stated that it is not possible for the skeptics to prove their claims. And, I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is.

I am announcing the start of the $10,000 Global Warming Skeptic Challenge.

You can read about it on his blog. (If you visit Keating's blog site, you might also check out his comments section with its skeptics and his very pointed replies to them.)

(Hat tip to Think Progress)

Not all Republicans are climate change deniers

Henry Paulsen wrote an interesting piece on climate change for yesterday’s New York Times. (Paulsen, you may remember, was Secretary of the Treasury in the last Bush administration.)

We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing more urgent as the risks go unchecked.

This is a crisis we can’t afford to ignore. I feel as if I’m watching as we fly in slow motion on a collision course toward a giant mountain. We can see the crash coming, and yet we’re sitting on our hands rather than altering course.

We need to act now, even though there is much disagreement, including from members of my own Republican Party, on how to address this issue while remaining economically competitive. They’re right to consider the economic implications. But we must not lose sight of the profound economic risks of doing nothing.

In the article, Paulsen makes the argument for a tax on carbon emissions.

Tags:  war on coal, EPA, global warming

Rewriting West Virginia history - Archibald Campbell must be spinning in his grave
(June 21)

From yesterday’s Wheeling Intelligencer editorial on the founding of West Virginia:

But a century and a half ago, West Virginia’s founders knew creating our state would not be easy. What they wanted was governmental independence to match the fierce, proud spirit of self-reliance found among so many in the Mountain State.

Excuse me, I thought what they wanted was to remain with the United States.  Had they wanted "governmental independence" they would have stayed with Virginia as they joined with the other states that formed the Confederate States of America and argued that the federal government had no business telling any state what it could or could not do about slavery or any other issue.
What a bizarre reading of West Virginia’s birth – that the reason we seceded was that West Virginians wanted independence from the government – i.e. that the founders of West Virginia believed in states’ rights.  From the paper’s point-of-view it makes sense, however, to try and rewrite West Virginia history so that the Intelligencer’s states’ rights viewpoint on the EPA, Obamacare, and numerous other issues is somehow connected to the founding of our state.   

One final note – one of the prime movers in our secession from Virginia was the Unconditional Unionist Archibald Campbell who was editor of the Wheeling Intelligencer from 1856 to 1884.  I think Campbell would be appalled at what has happened to his newspaper.

Tags:  Wheeling Intelligencer, West Virginia history, Archibald Campbell

How desperate is Fox News on Bengazi?
(June 21)

I’ve not commented on Bengazi because even our local "newspapers" have, for the most part, given up the fight on this non-issue.  I would not mention it now except that I can’t let this one get by – here is Fox News asking Terry Bradshaw (yes, that Terry Bradshaw) to weigh in on Bengazi.

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Tags:  Bengazi, Fox News

A poll result you won’t see in our local "newspapers"
(June 20)

According to the Wall Street Journal:

More than two-thirds of Americans support President Barack Obama’s new climate rule and more than half say the U.S. should address global warming even if it means higher electricity bills, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

The Journal explains:

The poll finds that 67% of respondents either strongly or somewhat support EPA’s new rule, while only 29% oppose it. Americans are also increasingly willing to stomach higher electricity costs in order to cut carbon emissions. More than half of poll respondents—57%—said they would support a proposal requiring companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming even if it means higher utility bills. That figure is up 9 percentage points since October 2009.

(hat tip to Think Progress)

Tags:  EPA, climate change

Michael Myer asks "who are the real extremists?"
(June 14)

Of course, it’s Democrats and liberals.  Today’s column asserts, without much proof, that Democrats are the party of extremist energy policy, extremist health care policy, economic extremism, and then switching from his original premise, hypocrisy, electronic surveillance, and the party to blame for just about everything else that he thinks has gone wrong.  (To his credit, Myer does not blame the Democrats for the Steelers not making the playoffs last season.)  Other than the members of his choir, my hunch is that very few regular readers of this "newspaper" actually read the whole column – they’ve read variations of this column before and figure life is already too short.

Here’s something to look forward to:  Myer does not mention Iraq.  I’m sure that it’s just a matter of time before we will see an entire column on how Obama and the Democrats (and of course, liberals) are to blame for everything that has gone wrong there.

Tags:  Michael Myer

Here's the shorter version of today's Intelligencer editiorial "Tenant is Out of Touch"
(June 13)

Natalie Tenant is a Democrat and thus there is no reason why anyone with "true West Virginia values" should vote for her.

Tags:  Wheeling Intelligencer, Natalie Tenant

Krugman and Mann on "the war on coal"
(June 12)

I’ve been meaning to post this link to an excellent op-ed piece by Paul Krugman in Sunday’s New York Times.  Krugman begins by examining the loss of jobs in the coal industry:

Once upon a time King Coal was indeed a major employer: At the end of the 1970s there were more than 250,000 coal miners in America. Since then, however, coal employment has fallen by two-thirds, not because output is down — it’s up, substantially — but because most coal now comes from strip mines that require very few workers. At this point, coal mining accounts for only one-sixteenth of 1 percent of overall U.S. employment; shutting down the whole industry would eliminate fewer jobs than America lost in an average week during the Great Recession of 2007-9.

Or put it this way: The real war on coal, or at least on coal workers, took place a generation ago, waged not by liberal environmentalists but by the coal industry itself. And coal workers lost.

Krugman then looks at the beliefs of those who deny climate change and concludes:

So the real obstacle, as we try to confront global warming, is economic ideology reinforced by hostility to science.

In a follow-up to this article, noted climate scientist Michael Mann agrees with most of Krugman’s points but also argues that we shouldn’t downplay the massively-funded disinformation campaign.

The fact that there is such strong ideological opposition now among self-identified conservatives to acting on climate change is a direct result of this massively funded and well-organized disinformation campaign. So, yes, the current opposition on the right to acting on climate change is largely ideologically-driven. But that ideological divide was created and continues to be nurtured by a very deliberate disinformation campaign, funded by the Koch Brothers and other conservative interests who are arguably driven as much by financial self-interest (think Koch & Keystone) as by ideology. To argue otherwise is, with all due respect, to let these bad faith actors off the hook.

If you are trying to understand why, given what we know, there continues to be resistance to acting on climate change, they are both worth a read.

One final thought – if you’d like to see what Mann is talking about firsthand, you might want to catch Joy Pullmann from the Heartland Institute on July 24 when she speaks in Wheeling as part of West Liberty’s right wing/libertarian speaker series. (Heartland is a near perfect example of what Mann discusses.)  Don’t worry, however, if you can’t make it – I’m sure the next day’s Intelligencer will give her front page coverage.

Tags:  war on coal, climate change, Paul Krugman, Michael Mann

Sunday’s News-Register examines the debate over coal and its future (June 11)

If you read Sunday’s edition of the Wheeling News-Register I’m sure you noticed that a significant portion of the front section was devoted to a "war on coal" debate under the headline "EPA vs. Coal Industry." To that end, Casey Junkins wrote two articles - one summarizing the views of the senior vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association and a much longer article about how the new regulations might change the region’s future.

The views of the senior vice president (Chris Hamilton) were predictable – other countries don’t want to cut back on coal usage, there really has been a "war on coal," and electricity bills will skyrocket.  No counter arguments were included.

The longer article elaborated on these points and added a few more. For evidence, Junkins made extensive use of clearly-biased sources: a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, a company spokesman from Murray Energy, the president and CEO of the America’s Natural Gas Alliance, and spokeswomen from AEP and First Energy. Additionally, a WVU economics professor, John Deskins, provided neutral testimony on how the ruling could be reversed and surprise, surprise – the larger article actually mentioned an opposing view by the executive director of the Sierra Club.

If you’re keeping score at home (using column inches), here are the percentages for the articles: 85% is pro-coal, 3% is neutral, and 12% could be considered environmental-friendly (although I’m not sure that all of the 12% is positive).  As Junkins writes:

The Sierra Club calls coal an "outdated, backward, and dirty 19th century technology."  According to Open Secrets.org, the Sierra Club donated $452,010 to various Democratic candidates for Congress in 2012, but gave $0 to Republicans.

What does what the Sierra Club gave in 2012 have to do with anything that preceded it in this article?  More importantly, Junkins tells us how much the Sierra Club donated but says nothing about the contributions from the other groups. My hunch is that he included Sierra Club’s contributions so that we would say "how terrible – the group is trying to buy votes - from Democrats, of course." Okay, let’s play the same money game with the groups mentioned above.  Here is what Open Secrets lists each of them gave to congressional candidates in the 2012 election:

American Electric Power                    $7,529,135
American Petroleum Institute             $9,300,000  
Chamber of Commerce                      $4,025,674  
American National Gas Alliance         $1,930,000

The total for just these four is $22,784,809 which is 50 times larger than what the Sierra Club gave at $452,010. To add an additional perspective, let’s also look at our local congressman, David McKinley and see what he received from these industries in 2012:

  Mining industry                                    $310,978
  Oil and natural gas                              $  97,800
  Electric utilities                                    $  94,400

The total that McKinley received in 2012 from just these industries was $503,178.  Yes, one Republican representative, David McKinley, got more from these industries than what the Sierra Club gave to all Democrats.

Once again, it’s just another "fair and balanced" news article about coal from the Sunday News-Register.  

Tags:  war on coal, climate change, David McKinley

Forget journalistic integrity and respect for our readers, we have an agenda to push
(June 10)

Here is a portion of a Monday Associated Press article about candidates and coal carried by 88,000 different media sources. The Wheeling Intelligencer ran most of the article but edited out the two paragraphs in

West Virginia, the second biggest coal producer nationally after Wyoming, watched its production drop to 129.5 million tons in 2012, a 22 percent dive over four years. As of last year, about 20,000 people work in West Virginia coal mining.

Only 29 of Kentucky's 120 counties mine coal, and production dropped 16 percent in 2012 to 91.4 million tons, the lowest level since 1965.

A bipartisan national majority of Americans support limiting greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists blame for climate change, according to a Washington Post/ ABC News poll released Monday.

Fifty-seven percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Democrats support state-level limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and 70 percent of all Americans say the federal government should limit greenhouse gases from power plants.

Grimes' campaign keeps a close eye on the news, looking for opportunities to laud her coal stance. . . .

Here's a quiz question for you:

Yesterday’s front page Wheeling Intelligencer article about candidates and coal demonstrates:

 a.  the "newspaper" has no journalistic integrity
 b.  the "newspaper" is more interested in propagandizing than informing its readership
 c.  the "newspaper" has little or no respect for its readership
 d.  all of the above

I checked a dozen or so of the newspapers that carried the story, including conservative papers such as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Charleston Daily Mail, and could not find a single one that dropped those paragraphs.  

That’s it for me, what they practice is not journalism – they don’t deserve to be called a newspaper.

Tags: Wheeling Intelligencer, climate change   

An imporant court decision on mountaintop removal
(June 8)

From Jonathan Mattise and the Associated Press:

CHARLESTON — A federal judge has ruled that two Alpha Natural Resources mountaintop removal mines in southern West Virginia illegally polluted streams.

U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers in Huntington ruled Wednesday that the Elk Run Coal mine in Boone County and Alex Energy mine in Nicholas County harmed aquatic life in two streams — Laurel Creek and Robinson Fork.

Chambers wrote that aquatic life dwindled as the streams were "unquestionably biologically impaired." Penalties are still undetermined.

"Losing diversity in aquatic life, as sensitive species are extirpated and only pollution-tolerant species survive, is akin to the canary in a coal mine," Chambers wrote.

Environmental groups say it’s the first federal court ruling acknowledging damage from high conductivity discharges. The ruling says conductivity is scientifically proven to be harmful for aquatic life.

Ken Ward Jr. writes about it in the Coal Tattoo blog in the Charleston Gazette:

Of course, Judge Chambers explained in his opinion that he was ruling based on the science — evidence the judge said was "overwhelming" — and the judge explained that he was ruling that, given that evidence, the streams at issue "are unquestionably biologically impaired" and "in violation of West Virginia’s narrative water quality standards."  This case is certainly headed for an appeal, and while that goes on, we’ll wait to see if any West Virginia public officials ever step forward to try to address the growing science that shows residents who live near mountaintop removal face increased risks of serious illnesses and premature death.

Tags:  mountaintop removal

The "straw men" are back - Myer creates his own reality
(June 8)

Saturday’s Michael Myer’s column ("Candidates’ Denial Not Credible") features two of his favorite types of argument – attack your opponents for arguments that they never actually made and proclaim them guilty by association. He begins:

How were we to know?  That has become a popular line among Democrats running for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in West Virginia. Once staunch supporters of President Barack Obama, they now say they’ll fight him tooth and nail on his plan to destroy the coal industry.

Okay, this is real simple.  Myer needs to provide us with evidence that Tenant, or any of the three Democratic congressional candidates ever said anything that would remotely suggest that they supported Obama’s policies on coal (or, for that matter, are now saying "how was I to know").  Myer’s "proof" is that Tenant was an Obama delegate, Gainer endorsed Obama, and Casey was state party chairman.  (Myer says of Casey: he "played a substantial role in putting Obama in the White House."  I’m a bit confused as to his "substantial role" - Obama lost West Virginia by 180,000 votes.)  That’s it, no quotes or any examples to support his larger point or that they are now sorry for having supported him.  Forgive me for pointing out the obvious - they’re all Democrats and members of a party tend to support their party's nominees.  Just like their Republican brethren, they don’t always agree with specific policies but they do support the top of ticket in an election.  For Myer, however, they are all guilty by association simply because they’re in the same party as the President. As for Rahall, Myer asserts that he "voted in favor of some of the early White House initiatives against coal."  Again, there are no specifics given.  I spent some time checking his 2009-10 voting record and could not find any voting difference with Representative Capito’s votes on bills relating to coal or the EPA. If anyone can find an example, please send it along (see "about this site") and I will update this post.

Tags:  Michael Myer, Natalie Tenant, Nick Rahall, Shelley Moore Capito

      Look out!  It’s no longer just a war, it’s now a vendetta!  (June 8)                                                                                                                          

Yes, that’s according to yesterday’s editorial in The Intelligencer ("Vendetta Against Coal Is Apparent").  The online Free Dictionary defines vendetta as:

1. A feud between two families or clans that arises out of a slaying and is perpetuated by retaliatory acts of revenge; a blood feud.

2. A bitter, destructive feud.

Sadly, yesterday's editorial never explains how the "war" became a "vendetta."  It does, however, tell us that: "(i)t is all part of a plan, one certainly crafted more carefully than many White House initiatives, such as foreign policy."

There's some serious paranoia going on here and, by the way, where’s V when you really need him?

Tags:  Wheeling Intelligencer, war on coal

Would today’s Republican Party recognize yesterday’s Republican Party? (June 5)

Ezra Klein suggests how far to the right the Republican Party has moved since 2008 on the issue of climate change.  For example, he quotes then-presidential candidate John McCain:

It doesn't matter "whether we call it 'climate change' or 'global warming,'" McCain warned. "Among environmental dangers it is surely the most serious of all." McCain went on to propose a cap-and-trade plan far more aggressive than the power-plant rules the Obama administration is announcing today.

Klein continues:

In 2008, it still looked plausible that with American leadership, the world could limit the rise in temperatures to about two degrees Celsius. Today, that goal looks laughable. We're on track to see temperatures rise by about four degrees Celsius.

The power plant regulations the Obama administration will announce today are far less ambitious than the proposal McCain offered in Oregon in 2008. They're less ambitious than the proposals Newt Gingrich championed through the Aughts.

And then there are some of us who remember when Richard Nixon created the EPA and argued for a national health care program.

Update - June 6

Klein has posted his own quite pessimistic view in "7 reasons why America will fail on climate change."  Given the state of current American politics, it's hard to disagree with him.

Tags:  Republicans and climate change

Two meaningless articles from the morning paper - "America Lacks Leadership"  
(June 5)

The Wheeling Intelligencer apparently sent reporter Ian Hicks to cover the Developing Unconventional Gas Conference in Pittsburgh this week. As a result, Hicks wrote two articles that appeared on the front page of this morning’s paper. The lesser article (below the fold) covers a speech by Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Tony Clark in which he tells us that the nation has been "given a gift and it’s up to us to make sure we use it and develop it in the right way." Clark’s speech was so lacking in newsworthiness that no other newspaper in the nation, including both Pittsburgh papers, chose to cover it.

Another article which, according to the Intelligencer, is slightly more important (at least according to its placement and size of headline font) discusses the keynote address by Leon Panetta who has worked as CIA Director and Secretary of Defense. (In this case, one other newspaper – the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review noted his attendance and what he had to say about the prisoner exchange but said nothing about his speech.)  Despite the headline, "Panetta:  America Lacks Leadership," most of the article is a summary Panetta’s resume. Eventually Hicks’ concludes:

As he addressed the crowd of energy industry professionals and experts, Panetta acknowledged he knows comparatively little about the ins and outs of the oil and gas industry. But, he said, he knows full well what their work their work means to America.
"As (former) secretary of defense, I can tell you how dependent the security of our country is on your industry," he said.  "The Department of Defense is the single-largest energy user in the nation."

Okay, Panetta admits he knows very little about the industry. Why then is he speaking?  Perhaps more importantly, why is the Intelligencer writing about him?  I can’t answer the first question but I will take a guess on why he’s being covered - the paper spent money for registration and probably some additional expenses, it can at least get some return on the expenses especially if a vaguely anti-Obama headline is attached to it.  Yes, it’s always Obama’s fault.

Tags:  Wheeling Intelligencer, its all Obama's fault

More Keystone Pipeline
(May 31)

A week ago, I dealt with an Intelligencer editorial supporting the building of the Keystone XL pipeline that argued that it will bring down the cost of gas.  Most analysis suggests that it won't.  Yesterday Bloomberg Businessweek published a startling article that documents the pipeline's lousy workmanship.  (Note - PHMSA stands for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.)

“From the start of welding,” the PHMSA wrote in a Sept. 26, 2013, letter (PDF), “TransCanada experienced a high weld rejection rate.” (That is, ultrasonic testing on the welds holding the pipes together determined they were not up to snuff.) “During the first week 26.8 percent of the welds required repairs, 32.0 percent the second week, 72.2 percent the third week, and 45.0 percent the fourth week. On September 25, 2012, TransCanada stopped the Spread 3 welding after 205 of the 425 welds, or 48.2 percent required repairs.”

Let that register.

During one week in September, 72 percent, or almost three-quarters, of the welds on the “safest pipeline in the world” required redoing. (TransCanada, for its part, says it has addressed the PHMSA’s concerns, and you can read its response in writing here [PDF].) Throughout the Keystone XL fight, TransCanada has maintained that the chance of a spill is remote, and that its pipelines are state-of-the-art. But the implications of TransCanada’s inferior welding on its Southern leg are precisely why the Keystone XL has met with such fierce resistance on the ground in Nebraska. It’s there the planned pipe will pass over the Ogallala aquifer, which irrigates much of the Great Plains, and directly and indirectly supports millions of American jobs—and that’s not counting all the drinking water.

Remember, this is from Bloomberg which is definitely not anti-business or anti-growth.  Yeah, let's build that pipeline - what could possibly go wrong?

Displaying Bigotry (May 30)

On May 7 (see below) I highlighted Senator Rockefeller’s comments about why things aren’t getting done in Congress: "for some, it’s just we don’t want anything good to happen under this president, because he’s the wrong color." Neither Wheeling paper chose to cover the speech.  At a committee meeting last week Rockefeller elaborated on those remarks. Again, neither paper covered the speech. On Sunday, however, the News-Register chastised him and his later comments in an editorial titled "Rockefeller Himself Displaying Bigotry."

Rockefeller said some critics of Obamacare "don’t want it to work, because they don’t like the president. Maybe he’s of the wrong color, something of that sort." It is not the first time he has made such an accusation.

Sadly, a tiny minority of West Virginians are racists, just as there are biots everywhere.

The editorial concludes that his departure next year "is a good thing for mountain state residents" and that "Rockefeller owes West Virginians an apology."

I am having a difficult time following the logic of this editorial.  Let’s see: (1) since Rockefeller said that some critics don’t want Obamacare to work because maybe he’s the wrong color, and (2) a few West Virginians are bigots but they (bigots) are also everywhere, we can conclude that (3) Rockefeller owes us an apology and, as the headline suggests, he’s acting like a bigot. Note that Rockefeller never criticizes or, for that matter, mentions West Virginians in either speech (although obviously some would be a part of the group that has criticized Obamacare).  In fact, if you read about these speeches, I think that it becomes obvious that Rockefeller is talking about his fellow senators and representatives in both speeches rather than West Virginians. (For example, Senator Tim Scott (R) of South Carolina who was present for Rockefeller’s second speech took Rockefeller’s comments very personally.) Finally, note that Rockefeller uses very tentative and qualified language - "maybe" and "something of that sort" to avoid making too sweeping of a generalization. Hey, but let’s not let logic, what the man actually said, or his carefulness of generalization get in the way of a good attack.

Memorial Day Editorial (May 28)

For the Wheeling newspaper editorial pages, the first two summer holidays are predictable - include: an old column by Adam Kelly - "the Country Editor," an editorial demonstrating how patriotic the papers are, and a column or two from their stable of right-wing syndicated columnists.  This year didn’t disappoint with columns by Pat Buchanan and Scott Rasmussen, an oldie-but-goodie by Kelly, and a bizarre editorial.  Readers of the Intelligencer are probably familiar with Buchanan’s world view, and probably wonder, as I do, how Rasmussen’s poll results can have any credibility given his non-neutral, conservative and pro-Republican columns. (Not surprisingly, Rasmussen’s finished near the bottom out of 28 national pollsters in predicting the last presidential election.)  I hope to deal with some of Kelly’s writings later this summer.  Today I’d like to focus on the editorial.

While the editorial, "Honoring Heroes Who Were Different," is unsigned, my hunch is that it was written by Mike Myer.  (The column uses one of Myer’s favorite methods of arguing, the straw-man fallacy, and it attacks one of his favorite targets – intellectuals, who are always "so-called" or "pseudo." For example, see his column on "pseudo-intellectual" Froma Harrop a couple of months ago.)  This editorial begins:

Today, even as we honor those who gave their lives in military service for us, Americans are tolerating another round of warnings about those who came home.

They are different, some so-called intellectuals tell us. They are to be feared, others add.

Okay, how about providing some examples, or even one example of a politician, columnist, political leader, Democrat, or even a "so-called intellectual" who has said this?  I spend probably far too many hours surfing the web including visiting some "out-there" political sites and in all my travels I have yet to see this argument made by anyone. (And if someone had actually said this, I’m sure our writer would have named him/her.)  The editorial’s premise is totally bogus – there is nothing here – the purpose of this assertion is simply to set up a straw man as a means to attack the usual targets.
The column continues by tying this to Vietnam War veterans so that the writer can get to what I believe is the purpose of the editorial – to attack those who opposed the Vietnam War:

Sadly, this is nothing new.  Many Vietnam-era veterans remember coming home to be spit upon and accused of being "baby killers."

The editorial compares the non-existent attack upon today’s veterans to the supposed attacks on returning soldiers during the Vietnam War. I say "supposed" because academic research exists that questions whether veterans were actually verbally abused and spat upon when they returned (or at least to the extent that we now allow editorial writers to use "many" to describe the extent of the occurrences without any evidence).  One of the researchers is Jerry Lembcke, a Holy Cross University sociology professor and Vietnam War veteran, who researched the topic and wrote The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam that summarizes his research.  In an article for the Boston Globe, he writes:

For a book I wrote in 1998 I looked back to the time when the spit was supposedly flying, the late 1960s and early 1970s. I found nothing. No news reports or even claims that someone was being spat on.  (Follow the link to read more of his analysis.)

Additionally, as Lembcke and others have written, the supposed spitting does not pass "the smell test."  We are to believe that in all of thse cases of the "many veterans" who were spat upon, not a single one physically responded to their attacker.  A writer at Slate likens this to other urban legends and argues:

Why does it always end with the protester spitting and the serviceman walking off in shame? Most servicemen would have given the spitters a mouthful of bloody Chiclets instead of turning the other cheek like Christ. At the very least, wouldn't the altercations have resulted in assault and battery charges and produced a paper trail retrievable across the decades?

Having read a number of sources Monday and yesterday on this matter, I’m not ready to say unequivocally that soldiers were never spat upon.  What I would say is that if it did happen, it was indeed very rare and certainly does not justify the use of "many."  Why then is it accepted as an absolute truth?   Lembcke answers:

The persistence of spat-upon Vietnam veteran stories suggests that they continue to fill a need in American culture. The image of spat-upon veterans is the icon through which many people remember the loss of the war, the centerpiece of a betrayal narrative that understands the war to have been lost because of treason on the home front.

Does that explain the editorial?  Since it’s more of the usual straw-men, name-calling and lack of evidence from the Intelligencer, it’s fairly easy to dismiss it as the ranting of a writer who spent the weekend watching a Rambo marathon on Spike TV.  But I think that Lembcke is on to something. This editorial is not just about thanking veterans for their service. By linking the editorial’s premise to the Vietnam War, it’s also about using veterans and Memorial Day to attack those who opposed that war.  Maybe the Intelligencer should publish an editorial attacking those who would use the special days set aside for veterans as an excuse to further their own political agenda.  Wait, nevermind.

Some interesting articles from the last couple of days (May 24)

From Wednesday’s The National Journal: The House Science Committee Has Held More Hearings on Aliens Than on Climate Change

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee—led by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, since 2013—has held 15 hearings on space exploration alone, at least three of which have involved the search for extraterrestrial life. By comparison, Smith's committee has held just two hearings devoted to climate change.

So what else is new – from Thursday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "New rules aim to curb black lung, coal mine owners deem regulation costly"

And from Friday’s Think Progress: The Untold Story Of What Happened At An Overcrowded West Virginia Jail After The Chemical Spill

When roughly 10,000 gallons of chemicals leaked into a West Virginia watershed this January, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency. Officials shut down schools, deployed the National Guard, and rallied volunteers to bring water and support to the 300,000 people without potable water.

But in the state’s emergency response, there was one group that many forgot: the 429 prisoners locked in Charleston’s overcrowded jail, who were entirely dependent on the state to provide them clean water.

Read the rest of the story here.

A reprieve for Blair Mountain (May 20)

From Appalachian Voices:

An order from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection will put a section of a mountaintop removal permit near historic Blair Mountain off limits to mining until at least 2018 when the permit comes up for renewal.

The DEP order prohibits Aracoma Coal, a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources, from mining within 1,000 feet of the mountain’s historic battlefield. The 1,600-acre battlefield was briefly added to the National Register of Historic Places, but was delisted after a coal industry-led campaign falsified public opposition to the historic designation.

(source of photo: https://newscenter.berkeley.edu/tag/blair-mountain/)

Are you kidding me?  The top story from Sunday’s News-Register:  "GOP Honors Local Veterans"
(May 19)

How, under any definition, does this qualify as "news" let alone become the top story of the day?  I thought Memorial Day was next Monday or is it Veteran’s Day already?   Wait – look at the sub-headline:  "McKinley:  Keep Military Strong."  Obviously it’s the official launch of Ogden Newspapers’ campaign to re-elect Representative David McKinley.

They’re off and running (May 19)

As a long-time reader of the Monday-Friday Wheeling Intelligencer and Saturday/Sunday Intelligencer-News Register, I’ve always been fascinated by how blatantly they support one candidate over another on their news pages.  (Note - I have no problem with their supporting specific candidates in the editorial section of the paper.)   

The best (worst?) example in recent memory was four years ago when incumbent Alan Mollohan was challenged by Mike Oliverio in the Democratic primary.  The newspaper’s news sections had nothing but good things to say about Oliverio up to the day of the Democratic primary when, having defeated the hated Mollohan, Oliverio seemingly dropped off the face of the earth (or at least that part of the earth that is covered by our local papers).  Republican David McKinley would get almost all of the coverage from that point forward and win by the narrowest of margins.  Two years ago, Democrat Sue Thorn received the same treatment in her bid to unseat McKinley.  (I may be wrong but I recall only seeing her name mentioned only three or four times in the six months before the election.)  

Okay, that was my perception and now it’s time to be a bit more scientific.  To that end, I will employ a scholarly method used by media researchers and social scientists – content analysis.   A simple definition is "a technique for systematically describing written, spoken or visual communication. It provides a quantitative (numerical) description."  In working with newspapers, researchers often count the number of column inches devoted to the subject as the key measurement.  Since each party’s candidate was chosen last Tuesday, we can now keep track of how many column inches each candidate receives right up until Election Day. (Note – in order to insure that the results do not reflect the biases of the person doing the counting, content analysis does not attempt to decide if the story is positive or negative – the column inches are simply counted.)  I will look at two races, the first congressional district election between David McKinley and Nick Casey and the U.S. senate race between Shelley Moore Capito and Natalie Tenant, and document how much news coverage each candidate receives.

Sunday’s paper carried the first story in which one of the candidates is mentioned (see above) and so here is how the race is going:

McKinley - 9 column inches
Casey – 0
Capito – 0
Tenant – 0

If Vegas bookmakers were making a line on my race, I think that McKinley would be the morning line favorite to win the race at around 3/5 odds while his opponent (Casey) would be the longshot in the field at 80 to 1.  (Capito would be 8/5 and Tenant 50 to 1.)  A note for gamblers, Casey and Tenant are both underlays (the odds aren't high enough) in my estimation.

Climate Change Matters (May 14)

    Globally, 2nd warmest April

Despite a colder than average April for most of the Northeast, NASA reports that April 2014 was the 2nd warmest month globally since scientists have been keeping records.  Think Progress also reports that:

The data announcement also marks this April as the 350th month in a row where the globe has experienced above-average temperatures, a phenomenon that scientists agree is largely caused by increases of man-made greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.

    Columbia Journalism Review looks at why the media continues to act as though the issue of climate change is still debatable

The Columbia Journalism Review has been around for many years and it generally does an excellent job of doing what its name suggests – examining the state of contemporary journalism.  The current issue features an essay by  Robert S. Eshelman titled "The danger of fair and balanced:  As the science grew more convincing about man’s effect on climate change, it’s as if the journalists were stuck in time."  

The essay quotes former New Yorker staff writer Bill McKibben who was one of the first journalists to call attention to the likelihood of climate change:

"There’s no other way to say it other than that, over 25 years it’s been a massive failure of journalism to communicate the idea to the public that the most dangerous thing that ever happened in the world is in the process of happening."

Eshelman, among other reasons, sees journalism’s need to present both sides as a major problems:

Since those early days of climate coverage, scientists have grown more certain that there is unassailable evidence that human behavior is making a dire contribution to the planet’s rising temperatures. Yet it’s as if journalists are stuck in time, presenting the science as something still under debate. A notion to be evaluated, tossed around. As scientific certainty grows—97 percent of qualified scientists agree that the planet is warming and humans are the cause—today’s reporters, editors, and producers should cease with the false conceit about a debate and instead drill deeply into the political terrain.

(Note – see John Oliver’s visual representation of the same point below.)

Eshelman suggests other reasons.  If you’re interested in what part journalism plays in the fact that the public is not demanding that something be done about climate change, it’s definitely worth a read.

    Showtime makes available first four episodes of Years of Living Dangerously

Supposedly Showtime will be making available the first four episodes of their series on climate change, Years of Living Dangerously, for free this weekend.  (Robert Eshelman, see above, is the associate producer.)

Update – I notice that the first episode is available on their website and on youtube here.

Germany and alternatives
(May 14)

As part of his own big lie strategy, local editor Michael Myer and the Intelligencer keeps telling us that Germany is going back to coal as its primary source of energy.  It's interesting to note that at one point this past Sunday, Germany was getting 74% of its energy needs from renewable energy.  Granted, the 74% was the peak, but it averaged 27% for the first quarter of 2014.

Do WV's political leaders believe that human actions are causing climate change?
(May 12)

The Charleston Gazette has been asking WV’s political leaders whether or not they believe in climate change.  David Gutman wrote about it this morning:

A majority of West Virginia’s political leaders either declined to respond or gave evasive answers when recently asked a yes-or-no question, whether they thought human actions were causing climate change.

What did they answer?  On the Democratic side, Senators Rockefeller and Manchin said both said “yes" with an explanation.  Representative Nick Rahall evaded the question but still managed to mention the coal industry: “We know the earth’s climate is ever changing. I believe there are a variety of factors and that those who focus their blame so intensely and entirely on our coal industry are being completely illogical.”  Governor Tomblin didn’t say “yes” or “no” although he understands “the importance of environmental stewardship.” Secretary of State Tenant also did not answer the question and replied with a campaign speech:

Let me be very clear: I will fight President Obama and anyone else who tries to undermine our coal jobs. It’s not my job to argue the science. It’s my job to make sure policy solutions work for West Virginia. I refuse to accept that we have to choose between protecting our air and protecting our jobs when I know West Virginia can lead the way in producing technology that does both.

On the Republican side, Representatives Capito and McKinley along with Attorney General Patrick Morrisey “did not respond to repeated requests sent over the last several weeks.”

Update - Speaking of climate change deniers, John Oliver had an excellent segment about them on last night’s HBO series Last Week Tonight. " onclick="return x5engine.imShowBox({ swipeImg: 'res/imSwipe.png', closeImg: 'res/imClose.png', loadingImg: 'res/imLoad.gif', startIndex: 0, media:[{type: 'youtube', url: '', width: 800, height: 600, text: '', 'showVideoControls': true }]}, 0, this);" class="imCssLink">Watch it.

If they aren’t presenting the news, should we still call them newspapers?
(May 8)

Here is the opening two paragraphs of the AP story summarizing the National Climate Assessment’s study released on Tuesday:

Global warming is rapidly turning America the beautiful into America the stormy, sneezy and dangerous, according to a new federal scientific report. And those shining seas? Rising and costly, the report says.

Climate change's assorted harms "are expected to become increasingly disruptive across the nation throughout this century and beyond," the National Climate Assessment concluded Tuesday. The report emphasizes how warming and its all-too-wild weather are changing daily lives, even using the phrase "climate disruption" as another way of saying global warming.

The study “is the most detailed and U.S.-focused scientific report on global warming” in that it deals with the effects on a regional and state basis.  When I googled those first two paragraphs from the AP report under “news” this afternoon I found 9110 news sources. (Since I used quotation marks, this number does not reflect the sources that may have rewritten or summarized the report.)  If you add Wheeling to your search the only media source that appears is WTRF.  Neither Wheeling newspaper covered this story.  That’s right, this story is not “news” according to Ogden Newspapers.  (Today’s Intelligencer, getting ready for the congressional campaign, printed a column by Representative McKinley on climate change that was obviously written at an earlier date. I’ll have more to say on McKinley and his questionable sources at a later date.)

Finally, even an Intelligencer favorite, Senator Manchin, admits that there is a problem:  “There is no question that global warming is real and that billions of people have impacted the world’s climate,” Manchin said in a statement. “We must seriously consider the findings n the National Climate Assessment, especially concerning the threat of extreme flood-producing rainfalls in West Virginia."

Update – even the wild-eyed, radical, tree-hugging Wall Street Journal covered the report:

Climate change is creating problems for American citizens coast to coast and costing the economy billions of dollars, as extreme weather brings flooding, droughts and other disasters to every region of the country, a federal advisory panel concluded in a report released Tuesday.

What did the climate study say about West Virginia?
(May 8)

The Charleston Daily Mail cites the study:

Throughout the Northeast, populations are also concentrated along rivers and their flood plains. In mountainous regions, including much of West Virginia and large parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, more intense precipitation events will mean greater flood risk, particularly in valleys, where people, infrastructure, and agriculture tend to be concentrated.

What were state leaders doing on Tuesday when the climate study was released?
(May 8)

According to the Charleston Gazette:

The West Virginia Coal Forum in partnership with the Logan County Chamber of Commerce will conduct a meeting to discuss these green house gas emission standards and the impact to our state and the nation from Noon – 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6th in the Field House at Logan High School in Logan, West Virginia.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin will headline the event and conduct a ceremonial bill signing of House Bill 4346.  Passed during the 2014 Legislative Session, the bill establishes a framework for the development of a state compliance plan for EPA’s new climate rules while preserving current fuel supplies and protecting West Virginia coal jobs.

A variety of local, state and regional experts and policy leaders will speak at the event, to include:
– Governor Earl Ray Tomblin
– Senators Art Kirkendoll and Ron Stollings
– Delegates Rupert Phillips and Ted Tomblin
– Bill Raney, WV Coal Association
– Jeff Herholdt, WV Division of Energy
– Roger Horton, Citizens for Coal
– Chris Hamilton, Vice-President, WV Coal Association & Co-Chair, WV Coal Forum
– Fred Tucker, UMWA, Co-Chair, WV Coal Forum

An interesting day to hold the forum although I don’t think they saw the irony.  (It reminds me of the day of the Charleston chemical spill when all three WV representatives were busy voting for even more restrictions on the EPA.)

Charleston chemical spill update
(May 7)

AlterNet’s Thom Hartman reacts to the Charleston chemical spill and why it took the EPA four months to begin to examine what happens when you inhale MCHM.  In particular, he faults the media:

Although the Elk River spill was national news back in January and February — it’s fallen off the radar of the mainstream media ever since.

Why? Because West Virginia is mostly full of poor people, and it's mostly poor people who are being hurt by this spill.  

Of course — had the Elk River spill occurred in the Hudson River off the wealthy Upper West Side of Manhattan or in the Potomac River along the upscale Georgetown waterfront — it would be the top story on mainstream network and cable news shows every single night.

His conclusion:

Everywhere you look these days, the two main institutions that should protect the powerless — our media and our government — are standing idly by as the country marches through a new Gilded Age.

Hartman doesn’t pull any punches – it’s worth a read.

The President is “the wrong color” – Senator Rockefeller explains why some things aren’t getting done
(May 7)

From Politico: retiring Senator Rockefeller explained yesterday why some problems are never addressed:

"It’s an American characteristic that you don’t do anything which displeases the voters, because you always have to get reelected here,” he added. “I understand part of it. It has to do with — for some, it’s just we don’t want anything good to happen under this president, because he’s the wrong color.”

He continued and explained why he hasn’t said anything:

And he added there’s “nothing sadder to me” than a politician, from either party, “who doesn’t dare do something or vote for something that he or she believes in.”

Rockefeller blamed himself, too, saying his own previous silence on difficult issues that could have drawn the wrath of voters “infuriates me at myself.”

“Why haven’t I been more up front about this in previous sessions? We’ve all seen this coming,” Rockefeller said, adding that the country’s eroding ability to fund infrastructure is a “slow-motion spiral downwards on something so basic.”

He acknowledged his own relative freedom to speak his mind now, saying he has “the ease of the fact that I’m not running again.”

Myer on Obamacare
(May 3)

Mike Myer, in his Saturday column, is back to one of his favorite targets - Obamacare.  This time he wants to deal with the numbers:

Here in West Virginia, just 19 percent of those enrolling were in the in 18-34 age group.  That’s the lowest percentage in the country.

Correctly, he notes that younger enrollees are important to making the system work.  He continues:

Here in West Virginia, 38 percent of the enrollees are 55 years of age or older.  Nationally, the figure is 26 percent.

Does Myer offer an explanation for either of these statistics?  Other than later hinting that West Virginians are smarter than most people ("we recognize a good deal when we see it"), he doesn’t explain the numbers. Wouldn’t the fact that West Virginia is demographically the 2nd oldest state in the country at least partially explain these numbers? (source USA Today)  Of course it would but let’s not let that get in the way.  

Myer then writes about the newly-covered – the 12.8 million overall and the 156,000 West Virginians and notes that most will be getting at least part of their coverage paid for by "someone else. How in the world are we going to pay for all of this?"  Myer doesn’t care that this has all been explained previously or that over 150,000 of his fellow West Virginian’s finally have some type of healthcare.  (He cares about them only when he can enlist them to fight in the war on coal and other rightwing projects.)   Perhaps, he needs to look at the Congressional Budget Office most recent report on Obamacare.  Among its findings:

The Congressional Budget Office has released updated estimates on the Affordable Care Act's impact on both the budget and the health insurance industry. The findings show that the president's signature health care law is actually growing cheaper to implement, costing the government $5 billion less in 2014 than was previously projected. The law also is projected to cover more individuals than previously believed, owing, in part, to some broader workforce trends. . . .

Twelve million more non-elderly people will have health insurance in 2014 than if Obamacare had not become law. . . .

The cost of the health care law is falling, according to the CBO. Between 2015 and 2024, the price tag of Obamacare will be $1.383 trillion, $104 billion lower than prior estimates.

A look at Weirton
(May 2)

Tomdispatch is featuring an essay by Peter Van Buren. "This Land Isn’t Your Land, This Land Is Their Land An Empire in Decline (City by City, Town by Town)," examines four communities including Weirton, West Virginia. From the introduction to the essay:

In all of this, one thing missing has been the classic American observer, the keen reporter setting out on the road to catch the new look of a land in pain and misery. Today, TomDispatch aims to remedy that. Peter Van Buren, former State Department whistleblower and author of a new book on American inequality, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, has been traveling the ever-expanding, ever-rustier Rust Belt taking the temperature of a land with a significant fever. Here’s his account.

In the essay, Van Buren looks at a decaying Atlantic City, the "dark side of the moon" (Weirton), the "The Most Exclusive Gated Community: U.S. Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina," and Spanish Harlem.  His section on Weirton includes a short history of its decline and its depressing current state.  It’s definitely worth a read if you care about what is happening in the Northern Panhandle.

What's the matter with West Virginia?
(part 2)  (April 29)

On April 18 I cited an excellent article from Alternet.com that correlated a state’s obesity rates and Republican control.  As Alex Henderson noted "(t)he Republican-dominated states where obesity rates are the highest are states where one is more apt to find more poverty, weak union protection, an abundance of people who lack health insurance and a strong opposition to the Affordable Care Act of 2010."  I finished the blog post by asking: "why do people vote against their best economic and health interests?"  Last Saturday’s New York Times looks for an answer by examining why West Virginians have not embraced Obamacare.  The article contrasts it with the law’s expansion of Medicaid:

Nationwide, more people have signed up for private plans than for Medicaid, but the results are the opposite in West Virginia, where about 15 percent of residents — 270,000 of 1.8 million — lacked insurance when the law took effect. Initial sign-ups for Medicaid, about 115,000 since Oct. 1, are nearly double what actuaries projected, and roughly five times the number of people believed to have bought private plans from the one insurer in West Virginia’s marketplace, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. An estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people enrolled in private coverage, fewer than predicted.

The article discusses the infusion of out-of-state money (Koch) and bad information (death panels and chips embedded in their bodies) and that

(m)any of the uninsured were also deterred from participating by cultural factors: unfamiliarity with insurance, computer illiteracy, Appalachian isolation and, most of all, cost. But also at play was hostility to Mr. Obama.

The president is definitely unpopular here," said Jeremiah Samples, assistant to the secretary at the State Department of Health and Human Resources. "I would not discount it as a factor; I have heard folks discuss it." He added, "There is perhaps a lot attributed to the A.C.A. that is not actuarially accurate."

Landfill wastewater, coal pollution, and the U.S. Supreme Court joins the "war on coal" (April 29)

Here are a couple of important environmental stories found on the net:

    West Virginia Landfill Wastewater Shows Elevated Radioactivity Due to Fracking

Bill DiBenedetto reports for Triplepundit:

The list of perils and impacts from the hydraulic fracturing method of extracting natural gas is mounting, and the latest is that  radioactivity  is showing up in wastewater from gas field landfills in West Virginia that serve as disposal sites for Marcellus Shale cuttings,  Public News Service reports.

Bill Hughes, chair of the  Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority, is quoted in the report as saying tests on water leaching from the Meadowfill landfill near Bridgeport show "widely varying levels of radioactivity, sometimes spiking to 40 times the clean drinking water standard." The radioactivity occurs naturally in the drill cuttings and brine that come from Marcellus gas wells, he said, so it is in the waste dumped in Meadowfill and other landfills.

"We are putting radioactive waste in a bunch of landfills in large quantities, and we don’t yet know the long-term danger of doing this," Hughes said.

Speaking of landfills, Ohio County residents will be asked to vote in the May 13 primary on whether to raise the limit from thirty to fifty thousand on the amount of solid waste the Short Creek land fill can handle in a given month.  A Saturday editorial in the Intelligencer tells us that we shouldn’t worry because "(c)ompany officials have said there are no plans to use the landfill for any type of waste not accepted now. Liquid waste such as "frack water" from gas wells is not handled there."  Let’s hope so.

    Coal Company Unlawfully Polluted West Virginia Water, Federal Judge Rules

ThinkProgress reports on the decision against Alpha Natural Resources.  

    In Victory for Obama, Court Backs Rules for Coal Pollution

The New York Times reports on today’s Supreme Court decision:

In a major environmental victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate the smog-causing pollution from coal-fired power plants that wafts across state lines from 27 Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast.

The 6-to-2 ruling upholds a centerpiece of what has become a signature of President Obama’s environmental agenda: a series of new Clean Air Act regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants. Republicans and the coal industry have criticized the effort as a "war on coal."

Koch money and West Virginia elections
(April 26)

The Koch brothers along with their money have become an increasingly important influence in American politics.  Their net worth recently topped $100 billion making them the second richest family in the world.  Through various foundations, the Kochs have spent large sums of money to promote conservative/libertarian ideas.  For example, just one of their political groups, Americans for Prosperity, spent $122 million on the 2012 presidential election and as a result of recent court decisions, this number is expected to grow.  Additionally, they’ve given large sums of money to American universities in order to influence future generations. WVU usually makes it into their top ten recipients and even smaller schools, West Liberty for example, gets Koch money.  (I hope to put together a longer piece on the right-winging of local public education this summer.)
This year, Koch-funded groups are dominating the outside-the-district spending in House races. For example, in 14 districts these groups have spent $5.7 million which is three times more than all Democratic outside groups have spent.  And the Kochs have been getting more active in West Virginia politics – the Rahall-Jenkins race being the best example.  Interestingly, Rahall and the Democrats appear to be fighting back with ads pointing out how much the Kochs are spending -

Over $1 million and counting: that’s how much the billionaire Koch brothers are spending to elect Evan Jenkins," the ad says. "The Koch brothers wouldn’t be billionaires if they didn’t get what they paid for — in Washington, Evan Jenkins won’t work for us.

And the Kochs have also gotten involved in WV’s senate race.  From Wednesday’s Huffington Post:

West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant attacked Americans for Prosperity, a conservative nonprofit backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch, on Tuesday for distributing "misleading" and "confusing" voter registration mailings, according to the  Associated Press .

The leaflets, sent out to at least eight different  counties, warned residents that if they did not update their voter registration before April 22, they could become ineligible to vote in the upcoming May 13 election. The mailer also included a voter registration card and prepaid envelope.

Tennant, who is  running for U.S. Senate , warned residents on Tuesday to discard the mailers, clarifying that residents need to update their registration only under three conditions:

If you have not moved, changed your name, or switched political parties, then you should throw this mailer into the trash because your voter registration is still valid. ... We were made aware of this situation because there was a large number of confused citizens calling our office and the offices of county clerks asking questions about why they had to update their voter registration information. The secretary of state’s office did not send this mailer, and it did not come from county clerks. We don’t know what the purpose of the mailer is but we do know that it is confusing citizens.

Berkeley County Chief Deputy Clerk Bonnie Woodall, who oversees voter registration in the county, also described residents as "very confused and duped" by the AFP leaflets.

And of course, there's Senator Manchin who has defended the Kochs.  

Charleston chemical spill update – 100,000 affected  
(April 23)

Ken Ward Jr. writes in today’s Charleston Gazette:

Roughly 100,000 residents may have suffered skin reactions, eye irritation, nausea or other ailments after exposure to MCHM following the January leak of the chemical into the Kanawha Valley’s Elk River water supply, according to new estimates made public Tuesday.

The estimates are based on physician reports to the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and a household survey conducted by a University of South Alabama environmental engineer who was later hired by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to investigate the impacts of the Freedom Industries leak.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Health Department, said his calculations put the number of people who experienced such symptoms at nearly 93,000. Using slightly different calculations, environmental engineer Andrew Whelton, who is a leader of Tomblin’s West Virginia Testing Assessment Program, put the figure at just less than 109,000.

Their reviews — which have yet to undergo peer review or be published in a scientific journal — project far greater public health impacts on the region’s residents than numbers previously released by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

Let’s see if either of our local newspapers covers this story.

PBS presents A Fierce Green Fire documentary
(April 23)

On Monday, PBS showed A Fierce Green Fire, the 2012 environmental documentary. From IMDB’s capsule review:  "an exploration of the environmental movement - grassroots and global activism spanning fifty years from conservation to climate change."  It’s an excellent film and the good news, in case you missed it, is that PBS is making it available online for the next 6 weeks here.  
Additionally, the filmmaker will be doing an online chat later today:

A day after the national PBS premiere of American Masters: A Fierce Green Fire, filmmaker Mark Kitchell will participate in the American Masters online chat and screening of the entire film, Wednesday April 23 at 2:30 pm PT / 5:30 pm ET.

What’s the matter with West Virginia?
(April 18)

Alternet has an article up by Alex Henderson that suggests a correlation between a state’s obesity rate and its politics.  “The 10 Most Obese States in America (And the Right-Wing Policies That Promote Poor Health)” uses a recent Gallup study of obesity rates as its starting point:

Of the 10 states Gallup cited as the most obese, eight went for Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election: Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Oklahoma (the exceptions in that top 10 are Ohio and Delaware, both of which Obama won). And except for Montana—which came in at #1 for thinness—all of the 10 states Gallup cited as the least obese are states Obama carried (including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Mexico, California, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, Colorado and New York).

His conclusion:

This is no coincidence: Republicans promote policies that tend to entrench poverty, and obesity and poverty often go together. The Republican-dominated states where obesity rates are the highest are states where one is more apt to find more poverty, weak union protection, an abundance of people who lack health insurance and a strong opposition to the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Henderson does admit that the causes of obesity are not that simple and he also acknowledges that there is “plenty of obesity . . . . in Democrat-dominated cities.”  Additionally, his analysis of West Virginia (#2 on the obesity list) does have to account for the fact that the Democrats still control most of the important positions in the state.  His answer is that many of them are center-right Blue Dog Democrats and that Republican ideas are widespread in the state. (I wouldn’t disagree.)  For example, he notes that Evan Jenkins (Nick Rahall’s likely opponent) has made repealing Obamacare an important part of his campaign. Henderson concludes:  “Given West Virginia’s obesity and poverty rates and frighteningly low life expectancy, rolling back healthcare reform is the last thing that state should be doing in 2014.”

Something that Henderson doesn’t address is “why do people vote against their best economic and health interests?”  I wish I had an answer.

PBS Newshour follows-up on Charleston chemical spill: "Are new regulations tough enough to prevent another West Virginia chemical spill?"  
(April 17)

Last night's PBS Newshour did a 10 minute+ segment on the Charleston chemical spill that featured interviews with Ashton Marra from WV Public Broadcasting and Evan Osnos who recently wrote about it and West Virginia politics in a long article for The New Yorker (linked below).  It's worth a look.

What's Senator Manchin (D - Coal) been doing lately?
(April 17)

On yesterday's front page of The Wheeling Intelligencer is an AP story about Senator Joe Manchin telling the mining industry to:  

speak out about coal’s role in providing affordable, reliable electricity to the country to help combat strict new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.

Thanks, Joe - I’ll bet they never thought of that idea!

Additionally, the Senator has been saying a number of interesting things – most of which have not been reported in our local media. For example, Politico, on Monday suggested that Manchin is "considering donating to GOP incumbents who share his centrist tendencies."  (Because that’s what good Democrats do?)
And last week the Senator was on Fox News’ Fox and Friends defending the Koch brothers. According to Manchin (from a Kos diary):

People want jobs. You don’t beat up people. I mean, I don’t agree with their politics or philosophically, but, you know, they’re Americans, they’re doing— paying their taxes.

As Kos jokes:

Maybe the Koch brothers will be so overwhelmed with gratitude at the kind words that they give him a pass in 2016 . . . ha ha ha ha ha! Yeah, who is kidding who? He's defending the guys who will happily blow him to oblivion next time he faces the voters.

Perhaps the Senator, down deep, knows that, and that’s why, according to the Politico article, he

is "absolutely" considering another run for governor, calling it a "big option." West Virginia governors can serve two consecutive terms, then are eligible to run again after four years have passed, clearing the way for a Manchin run in 2016.  "I’ll wait until after the ‘14 election and start making some decisions," Manchin said. "I would never say I’m leaning any way."

(This morning's Charleston Gazette follows-up on this story.)

Coming soon - the long-awaited E. Gordon Gee interview
(April 12)

Wow!  This morning’s Intelligencer front page warns us that "E. Gordon Gee’s first full-length interview with any media outlet since his January return to West Virginia University" will be in tomorrow’s News-Register.  As a preview of the big event, the Intelligencer gives us a few choice quotes from the interview.  (Warning - Gee does have a way with metaphors.)

"We're a very complex place and unfortunately we've built a lot of silos. We are a series of colleges and programs connected by a PRT and not by common values. We need to move from being a cacophony to a chorus; we need to start singing together."

"I tell everyone we are an elephant, and we need to become a ballerina because we will not remain an elephant, we can only go another way and that's become a dinosaur. . . . We're going to have to embrace change, or else we're going to become irrelevant, and irrelevancy is not something I accept."

Finally, if you have the morning paper, take a look at the accompanying photo of Supreme Court Justice (and Don Blankenship vacation-buddy) Brent Benjamin shaking Gee’s hand at this year’s State of the State address.  The source is "Photo provided" which I assume would be Gee.  Yes, sometimes one picture is worth (in the case of tomorrow’s interview) thousands of words.

Update - (April 13)

Coming in at just under 4,000 words, there was not much that was interesting or surprising.  (However, those who read the whole thing should probably qualify for CEUs from WVU.)   And not unlike comic movie sequels, The Return of E. Gordon Gee had all the funny stuff in the preview.

Because Rep. McKinley can’t possibly be anti-coal – he’s a Republican
(April 11)

From today’s Charleston Gazette (because the Wheeling Intelligencer didn’t cover it):

The National Republican Campaign Committee attacked Democratic Rep. Nick J. Rahall on Thursday for voting against the budget proposed by House Republicans leaders, claiming it showed that Rahall is anti-coal.

But the NRCC said nothing about Republican Rep. David McKinley, who also voted against the budget popularly known as the Ryan budget after its main author, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Check this video out - "The Fracking Song - My Waters on Fire Tonight"
(April 8)

I was unable to download this video and so you'lll need to visit ProPublica to watch it.  The video and ProPublica's website should make it worth your visit.

Reading Michael Myer (April 8)

Saturday – "Politics Becomes Too Personal" a look at the "big lie strategy," projection, and evidence

Myer first discusses what he calls the "big lie strategy" which he ascribes to liberals (of course).  The strategy, as he describes it, is simple – you tell a big lie and then you demonize your opponent.  His examples include the head of the EPA and Harry Reid.  Do Republicans ever use the strategy?  I guess not because his examples are an Obama bureaucrat and a Democrat.  (And I’m sure we will eventually find WMDs in Iraq and Republicans never called opponents of the Iraq War traitors or something worse.  How many thousands of lives did that "big lie" cost us?)

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines projection as " the attribution of one's own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people or to objects." Again, step 2 in his "big lie strategy" is to "demonize those who disagree with you."  Look at any of his political columns and you will almost always find a number of attacks upon his opponents and yet, according to Myer, that’s what liberals and Democrats do.  For example, in the first sentence of this article we have "radical environmentalists" and in the fourth paragraph, they’re "Luddites."  

And what does Myer use to support his various assertions in this column?  Nothing.

But that’s the climate change alarmists’ strategy – to blame every evil they can think of on global warming.  (I might not consider this an overreach if there was some support here.)

Remember claims climate change was causing more hurricanes of greater severity?  It just isn’t true.  (It isn’t?  Then how about some evidence?)

Sunday – "We Know It’s Almost Heaven"- stereotypes and evidence

Myer wants to discuss Criminal Minds, a television program he has not seen, and the stereotypes that are supposedly in the show.  He suggests why:

Many people seem to need to be able to look down on others if they are to feel good about themselves. It's just one of the foibles of humankind exploited regularly by some people in politics and entertainment. But I repeat myself . . .

We all know, for example, the liberal explanation of why West Virginia went against Barack Obama in two presidential elections. We must be racists.

That’s it?  That’s what liberals believe?  Is there any evidence for this assertion?  According to Myer, liberals didn’t give Hillary Clinton, another liberal, any credit?  Didn’t she appear more fiscally and socially conservative?  Isn’t she the wife of Bill Clinton who won twice in the state?  Didn’t she and Bill spend much more time in the state?  Myer needs to demonize liberals and so it doesn’t matter.

He then offers proof that the state is not racist:

Nevermind that, according to a recent report by the national Kids Count organization, African-American children in our state are slightly better off than the national average. Kids Count considered a variety of indicators of well-being, ranging from economic factors to health and education.  Black children here ranked 25th in the 50 states in well-being. White West Virginia youngsters were dead last. So, if we're trying to discriminate against African-Americans, we're not doing a very good job of it.

Reread the quote.  Myer is saying that because black kids are relatively better off than white kids, the state isn’t racist?  Huh?  That’s the only component to racism – how relatively better off black kids are?  I’m not arguing that the state is racist, but this certainly doesn’t prove that it isn’t.

The Freedom of Information Act and Attorney General Morrisey
(April 7)

At various times, the Wheeling Intelligencer and News-Register have asserted and even demonstrated that they are committed to open government.  For example, here is an Intelligencer editorial from February 16 in support of the Armstead Bill:

Too often, politicians publicly proclaim their allegiance to principles of open government, then privately do all they can to keep constituents in the dark. Combatting that requires vigilance on the part of the people and those officials who still consider themselves public servants. (Note – misspelling is in the original.)

And sometimes the local papers do the right thing - for example, last month they challenged the Ohio County Sheriff with a Freedom of Information Act request.  All too often, however, the local papers appear to want open government only when it can be applied to politicians they don’t like - former Attorney General Darrell McGraw, for example, quickly comes to mind.  On the other hand, the current Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey, is either defended or gets a pass from our local papers.

Here’s a front page story from Sunday’s Charleston Gazette titled "Morrisey won’t release emails in drug firm lawsuit; AG has ties to Ohio pill distributor." (The Gazette had sued to get the information under the state's Freedom of Information Act.)

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey refuses to make public emails and other documents that might show if he took part in his office’s lawsuit against a drug company that Morrisey’s wife lobbies for in Washington, D.C.

The drug distributor, Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health, contributed to Morrisey’s inauguration party last year, and the company’s executives wrote checks to Morrisey’s campaign — before, as well as after, the November 2012 election.

The lawsuit, which Morrisey inherited from ousted Attorney General Darrell McGraw, alleges that Cardinal Health helped fuel Southern West Virginia’s problem with prescription drugs by shipping an excessive number of pain pills to the region.

Shouldn't our local papers have been a part of the Gazette's lawsuit, or at the least, covered the story?

Hey Joe, you know what they say – "if you lie with dogs, you get up with fleas"  
(April 1)  updated (April 3)

From "They lied to my face" by Ken Ward Jr. on today’s front page of the Charleston Gazette.

Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday harshly criticized a new Internet video about the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, calling it "propaganda" and saying he only agreed to be interviewed by the producers because they never disclosed to him their connection with former Massey Energy President Don Blankenship.

Manchin called the video "shameful" and said its maker, Adroit Films, "never disclosed to me the intent" of the production.

"They lied to my face and told me this documentary was focused on mine safety, an issue I have been committed to since the Farmington Mine Disaster that killed my uncle and 77 miners," Manchin said in a prepared statement. "Had I known the film was in any way associated with Don Blankenship, I would have never agreed to the interview."

Yes, as we approach the 4th anniversary of the Big Branch mining disaster which killed 29 miners, Don Blankenship has put out a video that suggests that neither he nor Massey Energy were at fault in the mining disaster.  (The 51 minute video is available here on youtube.)  Manchin was interviewed for the documentary and now claims that he was selectively edited to make it look like he agreed with Blankenship and his theories of what really caused the explosion.

Given their cozy relationships with Blankenship, the mining industry, and Senator Manchin, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the Wheeling newspapers do with this story.

Update - April 3

Yesterday, the Intelligencer printed an Associated Press story: "Manchin Tells Company To Remove Him From Film."  Additionally, ABC News and "Nightline" covered the story including a discussion of where Federal prosecutors are in their investigation:

Four years into the criminal investigation of the nation’s worst mining disaster in decades, federal officials told ABC News that prosecutors are now focused on the role of West Virginia coal boss Donald L. Blankenship.

Blankenship was interviewed by ABC news and again asserted that the scientific evidence will prove his innocence:  "No one ever did more for improving or trying to improve safety."  ABC News noted the timing of the video's release:

The public relations offensive comes after Blankenship refused to participate in the official state and federal investigations into the disaster – with his lawyer invoking his fifth amendment rights in a letter to investigators. Blankenship told ABC News he declined to meet with investigators because he did not believe they would treat him fairly.

Must-read "Letter from West Virginia" in this week’s The New Yorker magazine
(April 1)

If you care about West Virginia, you need to read this article from the current (April 7) edition of The New Yorker magazine. Using the Charleston water spill as a starting point, Evan Osnos explains, better than anyone in recent memory, what is happening to our state. (I was going to highlight a couple of the important paragraphs but I found that there were far too many.)  It’s a long article but, in my opinion, it’s a must-read.

A look at Michael Myer's Sunday column (March 31)

On weekends, Editor Michael Myer usually has a column in either the Saturday Intelligencer or the Sunday News-Register.  While I’ve not kept statistics, his political targets are frequently the policies of the Obama Administration, politicians who are not as right wing as he is, Obama, those who are part of the “war on coal,” Obama, liberals who are ending civilization as we know it, and of course, Obama.  As an editor, you would think that Myer would be very careful with the kinds of support that he uses to back up his claims. My experience, in occasionally checking his sources, has been that he sometimes uses vague and questionable sources. So, let’s examine the Mike Myer column for March 30, “Committing Economic Suicide.”

Myer begins:

We Americans often are accused of not keeping up with more "progressive" folks in slashing our use of coal. We're supposed to feel inferior, somehow, because we haven't stopped using the most economical means of generating electricity.

Don't believe it. A few weeks ago, I was among a group of newspaper people listening to an energy policy analyst. She asked us if we knew what country imports the most U.S. coal.
China, you think?

Wrong. It's Germany. Yes, Germany, home to one of the most militant "green" movements in Europe.

His first paragraph contains his obligatory cheap shot at liberals or “progressives” (they are “so-called.”) Looking at his support, note what he does in the second paragraph – he does not identify his source or whom she works for.  Why not tell us who she is or whom she works for so that the reader can decide if she might be biased?  (My hunch is that the source is not a neutral one, otherwise Myer would have used her name and the source.  If I had to take a guess it would be that she works for Murray Coal or the coal industry.)   Most importantly, look at what she claims – that Germany imports the most U.S. coal.  Is this correct?  If you google “U.S. coal exports,” the first source listed is the U.S. Energy Information Administration and if you go to their site you will find a list of countries and how much coal they import from us.  Was Germany first?  No, they were ninth in 2013 and seventh in 2012.  How hard would it have been to check the policy analyst’s assertion?  (It took me two or three minutes to find the data.)  Shouldn’t an editor be checking her assertion?  I guess not if there’s a chance it won’t support his already-formed conclusion.  

Myer additionally asserts that Germany has increased its coal use from 44% in 2012 to 45.5%.  Those numbers check out but he doesn’t explain all of the story.  Under Germany’s Energiewende, the country is attempting to move away from nuclear and coal to renewable energy sources.  Nuclear dropped from 15.8% to 15.4% and renewable sources increased from 22.8% to 23.4% in the same period.  (Yes, over 23% from renewable.)  Why did coal use go up?  Coal’s gain comes at nuclear’s loss as the U.S. Energy Information Administration notes:

Although coal is Germany's most abundant indigenous energy resource, its role in the country's energy mix, albeit significant, has been decreasing steadily over time. However, coal use has increased since the Fukushima reactor accident since it can be used as a substitute for nuclear power in electricity generation.  

Finally, Myer compares U.S. coal production with China which produces four times what we do.  His numbers are accurate but the conclusion that he draws from this is that because we are looking at alternatives to coal, we are committing “economic suicide.”  Maybe he needs to take a closer look at the vibrant German economy where renewable sources of energy now cover almost one-fourth of Germany’s energy needs.

Last night's The Daily Show on "The Benefits of Fracking"  
(March 28)  updated (April 1)


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Update - An interesting story on fracking and the making of this video is available at Public Herald.

Why worry about covering climate change when you can feature a Murray Energy suit against the EPA instead?
(March 26)  updated (March 27)

On Monday, the Associated Press covered an important international meeting on climate change:

If you think of climate change as a hazard for some far-off polar bears years from now, you're mistaken. That's the message from top climate scientists gathering in Japan this week to assess the impact of global warming.

In fact, they will say, the dangers of a warming Earth are immediate and very human. . . .

The key message from leaked drafts and interviews with the authors and other scientists: The big risks and overall effects of global warming are far more immediate and local than scientists once thought. It's not just about melting ice, threatened animals and plants. It's about the human problems of hunger, disease, drought, flooding, refugees and war, becoming worse.

A google news search gets you about 7500 sources that chose to run the article.  If you add Wheeling to your search you see links to WTRF's AP news page and the Wheeling Water Warriors Facebook page.  What about Wheeling's newspapers?  Not a word.  Instead, on Tuesday's front page the Intelligencer chose to cover Murray Energy's lawsuit against the EPA:  "Murray Targets EPA In Lawsuit" with a subheading "'Radical' agency is killing coal industry, company contends."   

Update - This morning's Intelligencer featured an AP story on eagle deaths at wind farms:

The Obama administration is refusing to turn over documents related to enforcement of environmental laws at wind farms where dozens of eagles and other protected birds have been killed, House Republicans charged on Wednesday.

The story, with a large font headline and graphic, takes up half of page 5.  I'm sure Murray Energy is pleased.  Not to diminish possible eagle deaths caused by wind farms but isn't the overall effects of climate change at least as important?

Trivializing the other side – how the Sunday Wheeling News-Register editorially stacks the deck
(March 23)

I’m sure that most regular readers of the Sunday Wheeling News-Register have seen page C3 of the editorial section where the newspaper offers two liberal columnists with the banner “the left’s turn” and two conservative columnists under “the right’s turn” on opposing sides of the page.  At first glance, it would appear that the newspaper is actually looking to present ideas that are not necessarily part of the usual right-wing orthodoxy that dominates its editorial pages.  Look more closely, however, and see that “the right’s turn” always deals with substantive issues while “the left’s turn” seldom, if ever, does.  Instead, “the left’s turn” almost always covers trivial and mundane matters that can’t help suggesting to the casual reader that liberals have no serious thoughts or ideas.  Pick up any Sunday edition and my point will be proven – today’s paper is fairly typical.  “The right’s turn” has a column by Charles Krauthammer titled “U.S. Policy Toward Russia Separated From Reality” and another column by Linda Chavez titled “Backing Minimum Wage Hikes For All the Wrong Reasons.”   Contrast that with the left side: “We Need More Politicians Poking Fun at Themselves” by Mark Shields and “Sometimes, It’s Good For Women To Be Bossy” by Connie Shultz.  Are they stacking the deck?  Of course they are.  There are plenty of liberal columnists who regularly author well-developed and thought-provoking articles; Paul Krugman, Ellen Goodman, and Leonard Pitts Jr. quickly come to mind.  Of course, the News-Register is not interested in printing liberal ideas that are articulate and well-researched when they can print columns that are irrelevant or downright silly and then label them as “The Left’s Turn.”  Hey, News-Register editors – if conservative ideas are so great, what are you afraid of?  

A member of WV's 1% speaks up:  we need to end our negativity
(March 19)

The owner of the Greenbriar Resort and West Virginia's only billionaire, Jim Justice, believes that West Virginians are too negative especially about the $25 million tax break the WV legislature recently gave him.  As Russell Mokhiber in The Huffington Post explains:

Justice wants the people of West Virginia to forget their poverty and contaminated water and blown off mountains, to forget that Justice got a $25 million tax break while the legislature struggled to pass a $1.50 increase in the minimum wage, and instead to focus on the Greenbrier's announcement that it will be hosting the NFL's New Orleans Saints for a couple of weeks at the end of the summer.

Mokhiber quotes Justice in an interview that he did with Hoppy Kercheval:

"At the end of the day, our governor, the president of the Senate, President Kessler, the speaker of the house, Speaker Miley, the legislature, they deserve so much credit, because they are visionaries," Justice said about the men and women in Charleston who carried water for Justice, Puccio and Greenbrier to guarantee the $25 million in tax breaks that were targeted exclusively for the medical facility at the Greenbrier.

Jeff Kessler - a visionary!  Who knew?

Duke Energy’s coal ash spill
(March 18)  updated (March 21)

One of the most underreported stories in area news coverage has been Duke Energy’s coal ash spill that has affected at least 70 miles of the Dan River with toxic sludge.  When reading about the spill, I can’t help thinking about how politicians and regulators in North Carolina so closely mimic their counterparts in West Virginia and the rest of Appalachia where the coal industry, despite its constant whining about regulations, does whatever it pleases.  A federal grand jury is currently looking into the spill.  As the Associated Press reported yesterday:

The first batch of subpoenas was issued Feb. 10, the day after an Associated Press story raised questions about whether North Carolina regulators had helped shield Duke from a coalition of environmental groups that wanted to sue under the U.S. Clean Water Act to force the company to clean up its coal ash pollution.

Their efforts were stymied by the state environmental agency, which used its authority under the federal act to intervene. The state quickly proposed what environmentalists derided as a "sweetheart deal" where the $50 billion Charlotte-based company would have paid just $99,111 to settle violations over toxic groundwater leeching from two of its plants with no requirement that it stop the pollution.

It’s probably just a coincidence but the governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, worked for Duke Energy for 28 years before becoming governor.

Finally, the story does have a West Virginia angle in that at least part of the toxic sludge came from WV mountaintop removal operations.  Three of Duke Energy’s sources include: No. 9 Surface Mine, the Great Alum Plant, and The Holden #25 Slurry Impoundment (all in Mingo County).

Update - Today, the Associated Press carried yet another story on Duke Energy's illegal dumping of coal ash - this time into the Cape Fear River:

North Carolina regulators say Duke Energy illegally pumped 61 million gallons of contaminated water from a coal ash pit into the Cape Fear River, marking the eighth time in less than a month the nation's largest electricity company has been cited for environmental violations. . . .

State regulators from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources claim that the illegal pumping has been in progress for a number of months.

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index - WV still ranks 50th
(March 16)

Although the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index was annouced at the end of February, I just recently stumbled upon it.  West Virginia managed to hold on to 50th place - the same as last year.  According to Healthways:  

More than 178,000 interviews nationwide fueled the 2013 analysis, which examined Americans’ perceptions on topics such as physical and emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, social and community factors, financial security, and access to necessities such as food, shelter and healthcare to create a composite well-being rank for each state.

Moving into first place and replacing last year's #1 (Hawaii) is North Dakota which now has the country's lowest unemployment rate thanks to an oil boom.  Okay, why did North Dakota's oil boom move them from #19 to #1 while West Virginia's natural gas boom has had no effect on its last place ranking?  (I'm sorry that my comments section is not completed - this might have been an interesting question for discussion.)

Wheeling Intelligencer Still Flunking Journalism 101
(March 14)

Earlier this month I how the Intelligencer ignored basic journalistic principles when they editorialized in their page 1 headline. Today, at the top of page 1, they do it again.  The AP story begins:

Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday endorsed shorter prison sentences for most drug offenders, saying the U.S. was wasting money on overcrowded jails and that the stiffest penalties should be reserved for violent crimes.

Here are the first three google search headlines from various news sources for this particular article:

Holder endorses proposed nonviolent drug sentencing reforms (CBS News)
Eric Holder pushes reduced drug sentences (Washington Examiner)
Holder backs shorter sentences in drug cases (Houston Chronicle)

Compare that to the Wheeling Intelligencer's biased headline:

Holder:  Give Drug Dealers a Break

Examining recent health studies of fracking (March 13)

Naveena Sadasivam writes:

For years, environmentalists and the gas drilling industry have been in a pitched battle over the possible health implications of hydro fracking. But to a great extent, the debate — as well as the emerging lawsuits and the various proposed regulations in numerous states — has been hampered by a shortage of science.

Sadasivam and Propublica.org examine three of the more recent studies.

A look at West Virginia coal and alternative energy
(March 11)

In a well-documented article, Think Progress' climate section looks at the role coal plays in West Virginia's current economy, its likely role in the future, and why it is so difficult for West Virginians to look at renewable alternatives.  It's worth a read.  

"They're baaack" - earthquakes in the Youngstown area close a fracking site
(March 11)

From the Columbus Dispatch:

State officials shut down a fracking operation in northeastern Ohio Monday after two earthquakes were felt in Mahoning County. . . . A magnitude 3.0 quake was reported at 2:26 a.m. and a magnitude 2.6 at 11:45 a.m. yesterday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The location was just south of Youngstown, near a seven-well fracking operation.

Texas-based Hilcorp Energy responded:

It is far too early in the process to know exactly what happened, and we are not aware of any evidence to connect our operations to these events.

I'm sure that nothing could possibly go wrong - S.B. 317 to allow guns at afterschool programs and sporting events (March 6)

Tom Lane writes about S.B. 317:

Astounding as it may seem, the Legislature is poised to pass S.B. 317, which allows a "person with a valid concealed handgun permit" to carry a "firearm into a municipally owned recreation facility" including places for "sports" and for "housing an after-school program or other similar facility where children are regularly present."

And, if a city should be so bold as to hinder such a person from entering an after-school program with handguns and ammunition, the city is subject to "redress" for the violation of these legislatively created "rights" and, for its temerity, may also be required to pay the attorney fees of the offended gun carrier.

Local senator Jeff Kessler is among the co-sponsors.

Update I (March 9) - the bill passed and now awaits the governor's signature.

Update II (March 10) - a local media source (WTOV Steubenville) finally does a story on the bill

Catching up on West Virginia’s water crises
(March 6)

As I began to put this site together, the Charleston water crisis broke.  Other than local stories about how area residents were supplying aid, the Wheeling media’s coverage of this multifaceted story mostly followed the storyline provided by the networks and the Associated Press.  If you wanted to keep up, the best source was and still is the Charleston Gazette.  Obviously, given their location, that’s not surprising.  What is surprising is the lack of coverage by our local media.  In reading and watching local stories about the crisis, it often seems as though the Charleston area was located in a distant state or even a third-world country.  It was certainly not a place just three hours away.  Here then, are some of the noteworthy stories you likely missed about the state’s water problems:

Wheeling Intelligencer Flunks Journalism 101
(March 2)

One of the first ideas taught in a basic journalism course is the concept of objectivity and how it applies to news articles and even headlines.  In fact, it is a basic tenet of jounalistic ethics.  For example, the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Jounalists states: "Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context."  On February 24 the Wheeling Intelligencer published an Associated Press report on its front page that began:

Industry groups and Republican-led states are heading an attack at the Supreme Court against the Obama administration’s sole means of trying to limit power-plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming.

Here was the Intelligencer's biased headline:  EPA Hot Air Going to Supreme Court.

Compare that to the more neutrally-worded first five newspapers that turned up in a google search of the article:

U.S. Supreme Court climate case looks at EPA's power (Northjersey.com)
High court climate case looks at EPA's power (Burlington Free Press)
Climate case at Supreme Court looks at EPA's power (Washington Examiner)
High Court looks at EPA's Power (Hawaii Tribune Review)
High court climate case examines EPA's power (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's headline is especially interesting given that they are a very conservative newspaper.  The Tribune-Review, however, explains that they present objective news throughout the paper and reserve their opinions for their editorial pages.  The Intelligencer, it would appear, makes no such distinction.  

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