Once again the Intelligencer tells us how accurate, fair and unbiased it is
Two days ago the Wheeling Intelligencer celebrated its birthday and it did what it usually does - it not-so-humbly congratulated itself in an editorial. Taking its cue from Fox News which keeps telling us how "fair and balanced" it is, the Intelligencer lays it on thick. Here are some of the highlights:
And, at a time when "new media" have raised questions about reliability, there is no better source of accurate, unbiased reporting.
This one is my personal favorite: "accurate, unbiased reporting." How about never printing any AP articles that discuss climate change studies or worse, dropping key paragraphs from AP articles which document that a majority of Americans (including Republicans) support limits on greenhouse gases? (See June 10 and June 11 in the old posts section.) How about biased front page headlines such as " EPA Hot Air Going to Supreme Court" (February 24) or "Holder: Give Drug Dealers a Break" (March 14)?
Our editorial pages provide a variety of viewpoints. . . .
Yes, a variety of opinions from right wing to extreme right wing. The Sunday News-Register at least gives some space to non-right wing viewpoints. (See March 23.)
Our editorial leadership is guided solely by devotion to the best interests of our readers, without regard to any political party or ideology.
Ideals such as ours may seem quaint to some people who are accustomed to blatantly slanted reporting and staunch, unquestioning support of certain candidates and ideologies.
Yes, they’re committed to serving the best interest of some of their readers - Robert E. Murray of Murray Coal, for example. As for the over 150,000 West Virginians who finally have some kind of health care – not-so-much.
And this is without regard to "political party or ideology"? Can anyone name one national Democrat (other than Joe Manchin) or any liberal or environmentalist for whom they’ve had something good to say? I think a good case could be made that The Intelligencer, like Fox News, is a political extension of the Republican Party.
And of course, no one could ever accuse the Intelligencer of "blatantly slanted reporting" or "unquestioning support of certain candidates and ideologies." I may be wrong, but I don’t ever remember the Intelligencer questioning anything that David McKinley or Shelly Moore Capito has said or done. (Isn’t that "unquestioning?") On May 19, after the WV primary, I started counting the column inches of newspaper space that each of the candidates received in order to document quantifiably the amount of attention each is getting from the Intelligencer in this year’s elections. On Labor Day, or shortly thereafter, I’ll give a mid-election report. If you’re a regular reader of the Intelligencer, you won’t be surprised.
I don't know if your reaction is like mine with regards to someone who keeps saying how honest they are, or how they can always be trusted, or how fair-to-everyone they are. My defenses go up about the third or fourth time that I hear it. Shouldn't a reputation of honesty, trustworthiness, and fairness be self-evident and earned? A little over a month ago, the Intelligencer covered a lot of this same ground in an editorial "Press Impartiality Still Matters Here." If you are objective, impartial and accurate, do you have to keep editorializing that you are? My hunch is that like the "fair and balanced" Fox News network, editorializing that you’re accurate and unbiased reinforces your true-believers and perhaps, if you keep repeating it long enough, someone else just might believe you.
"How- how does the Universe end?" said Billy.
"We blow it up, experimenting with new fuels for our flying saucers. A Tralfamadorian test pilot presses a starter button, and the whole Universe disappears." So it goes.
"If you know this," said Billy, "isn't there some way you can prevent it? Can't you keep the pilot from pressing the button?"
"He has always pressed it, and he always will. We always let him and we always will let him. The moment is structured that way."
--- From Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five
I was thinking about Vonnegut’s novel, arguably his best, in the last few days as I was traveling. What brought the novel to mind was my previous post on the militarizing of our local police. The more I thought about this increased militarization the more disturbing I found its ramifications.
Many years ago I read a couple of works by Jacques Ellul. A man of varied interests, Ellul wrote primarily about philosophy, religion and sociology. He often tied them together as he examined technology’s effects upon the world we live in. Among many important ideas, Ellul argued that once a technology is created, we will, with little or no debate as to the consequences of its use, find a way to use it. ("The moment is structured that way.") Put another way - if we can do it, we will do it - once created, its use becomes inevitable. As an example, Ellul argued that once the United States started to work on the atomic bomb, we were, despite doubts raised by some of its creators, bound to use it. More recently, it seems to me, the creation of drone technology meant that we would find a time and a place to use them. (Rationalizations are always easier after the fact. Of course, we’re always doing it to "save lives.") The technological imperative, as it is sometimes called, has little room for a discussion of ethics before its use and once used, it’s too late - as they say, the genie is out of the bottle.
In the fifties and sixties we created military technology for the possibility of jungle warfare and then (surprise, surprise) found a place to try it out – Vietnam. In the 21st century, we’ve created all sorts of technology to fight a "war on terror." (An Orwellian phrase that means whatever our government wants it to mean.) And now some of that technology has been passed on to local law enforcement where it’s being used against the local citizenry who were never given a chance to decide on whether it should be used by the local police in the first place. For example, as noted in the previous post - Ohio County received twenty-eight 5.56-mm and 7.62-mm assault rifles. Here’s a picture of the 7.62 mm:
And here’s the 5.56 mm:
Ohio County now has twenty-eight of these guns! What could possibly be a reason for their use in the Wheeling area? (ISIS rebels bunkered along the banks of the Ohio River? Roving bands of senior citizens terrorizing the locals?) Belmont County now has 53 assault rifles and an armored vehicle and just last week the Ohio State University received a mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle.
The 19-ton armored truck . . . is built to withstand "ballistic arms fire, mine fields, IED's, and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical environments," according to its product description .
Once we have the weapons, we will find an excuse to use them. Ferguson, Missouri was the first but if Ellul and Vonegut are right, it’s just a matter of time until we see more examples of what happens when militarized police assert themselves in our cities, towns and universities. Maybe it’s time for citizens to start asking questions of their elected officials. As the U.S. News and World Report argues:
Before another small town's police force gets a $700,000 gift from the Defense Department that it can't maintain or manage, it behooves us to press pause on the Pentagon's 1033 program and revisit the merits of a militarized America. We must do it now, before Kankakee looks like Kabul or Boise looks like Baghdad.
Increased militarization and citizen apathy – a potentially deadly combination for a democracy. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut – "so it goes."
Militarizing the local police
Perhaps one of the few positive developments (if that’s possible) that have come out of the events in Ferguson, Missouri has been a growing discussion of the increased militarization of local police forces. The New York Times recently researched who has gotten what from the 1033 program that provides used military equipment to local police and has an excellent interactive map here. Using the Times research as a starting point, West Virginia Public Broadcasting provides a breakdown of West Virginia counties here. Its story on the transfer of military weapons begins:
Over 500 weapons and hundreds more pieces of military-grade tactical equipment have been transferred to the state of West Virginia since 2006 through a Department of Defense program known as the 1033 program.
Clicking on their interactive map yields the following:
For Ohio County: 28 assault rifles
For Marshall County: 9 assault rifles and 5 shotguns
For Brooke and Hancock Counties: no weapons or equipment
And for Belmont County, Ohio (using the Times research): 53 assault rifles, 37 pistols, and 1 armored vehicle
Here’s WV public broadcasting’s summary:
A Quick Look at LESO Transfers to West Virginia Through 1033 Program Since 2006:
Kanawha Co. received over 600 weapons and pieces of equipment through the program.
Wood Co. received 34 assault rifles, 185 pieces of night vision equipment, and 40 pieces of body armor.
Two grenade launchers have been issued through the program to law enforcement in West Virginia, with one going to Berkeley County and another to Cabell.
McDowell Co. was the only county to receive a Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle.
20 of West Virginia's counties received no weapons or equipment through the 1033 program.
Grenade launchers? An MRAP vehicle? Assault rifles? Perhaps its time for the local citizenry to start asking "why?"
Coming soon - the "new and improved" wheelingalternative.com
Learning how to put together this blog together has been, at times, a time-consuming and frustrating experience. In the process I've found that old dogs can indeed learn new tricks - its just that they need more time to get it right. In the next couple of days, I plan to make a number of changes that will hopefully make this site look and work like a more-conventional blog site. In making the changes, I hope that it will also make my job easier.
Here's the first of the changes: there will now be two parts to the site - an "old posts" section that will consist of everything I've written since the blog began in March up to August 11 and a "blog" section that will include all my new postings.
Yes, I'm trying to figure out how to remove the annoying "read all."
More evidence that climate change is getting worse
A Truthout article by Dahr Jamail discusses "Peak Water," Methane Blowholes and Ice-Free Arctic Cruises.
Wind cheaper than coal or natural gas?
frackcheckwv.net reports on the strides being made by wind power.
Is it possible for the candidates to talk about another issue?
As I follow the WV senate race, one of the questions that I keep asking myself is "why is coal just about the only issue that's being discussed?" I follow both candidates very closely and while they sometimes move to other issues (Capito tries to tie Tennant to Obama, Tennant connects Capito to Wall Street), they keep coming back to coal. Why? Okay, coal is still a major employer in the state but it’s not the only one. The U.S. Energy Information Agency tells us that there were 17,085 people employed in coal in 2012 (the most recent government statistic I could find) out of a 2013 estimated population for WV of 1,854,304. For the most part, coal companies are not among the major employers in the state. For example, only one coal company made it into the top twenty-five state employers in 2012 (Consol at #5). Furthermore, what could a junior senator from West Virginia do about "the war on coal"? As a number of my sources in previous blog entrees point out, that "war" was lost a generation ago when coal companies found cheaper methods than deep wall mining for coal extraction. Since then we’ve added natural gas to the energy mix further undercutting the need for coal. Finally, coal’s role in climate change is increasingly becoming apparent to more and more Americans (even Republicans) and I think that coal’s decline is a long-term trend that will not be reversed. Are there other issues the candidates could cover? How about health care, jobs, economic growth and income inequality for starters? For example, if I were running Tennant’s campaign I would constantly point out that it was the Democrats that ensured that 150,000 West Virginian’s who previously lacked any health care now have some.
Is this over emphasis on coal the media’s fault? While it would be easy to point the finger at them (and for that matter, bloggers who write about the media) I think, in this case, they mostly report what the candidates say. Another possibility is this race to see which candidate can out-holler the other candidate in claiming "I’m more pro-coal than you," is about something else – perhaps, which candidate is the true West Virginian. That possibility was developed by Christopher Plein, a public administration professor at WVU, who was interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor for "West Virginia Senate test: Which candidate can cozy up closest to coal?":
Mr. Plein credits West Virginia’s distinct history and legacy of coal development for creating an atmosphere in which both sides vehemently criticize one another on coal. Coal is less vital to West Virginia’s economy than it once was, Plein says, but grandstanding about the state’s storied natural resource helps candidates confirm their ties to West Virginia and distance themselves from the Washington establishment.
"Coal sort of serves as shorthand. If you say that you’re pro-coal, you establish your bona fides," Plein says. "You establish that you’re pro-West Virginia."
I think Plein is on to something here and it occurs to me that coal is not the only means for the candidates to prove their loyalty. For example, references to Capito are always to Shelley Moore Capito to remind audiences who her father is and Tennant regularly reminds her audience that she was the first female WVU mountaineer. Can we now all agree that they are both true West Virginians so that we can talk about other issues?
Outside money (Koch), Joe Manchin, and WV elections
From Public News Service:
Of all the outside money flooding into the U.S. House race in West Virginia's 3rd congressional district, funds for attacks on Congressman Nick Rahall are measuring almost twice those supporting him.
With an enormous ad buy last week by Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, out-of-state groups have spent or committed $4 million in attacks on the congressman. Some $3 million of that amount comes from groups allied to oil and chemical billionaires Charles and David Koch.
Senator Manchin, to his credit, has been speaking out on the matter:
Saying "money is destroying the political process," Sen. Joe Manchin is co-sponsoring a constitutional amendment to limit huge campaign spending.
According to Manchin, the Citizens United ruling has contributed to a flood of big money drowning American politics. And that money is the source of the current stalemate in Congress, because, as Manchin said, "it's easier to vote no against everything."
"I've watched people being afraid to make a vote because they're afraid of how much money is going to be spent against them," said Manchin. "How much time, effort and money they'll need to defend themselves. And that's a sad scenario."
Some of Joe’s interest in this may be self-serving – he sees what’s happening in WV's 3rd district and can see the same thing happening to him in two years. However, he deserves considerable credit for his willingness to speak out on the matter.
Matthew McFeeley’s at Switchboard writes about WV and drinking water
"It’s time for the EPA to step in and ensure that drinking water nationwide is protected from toxic oil and gas waste. That means the EPA must take action to prevent endangerment of drinking water sources when a state is not enforcing the law, as in West Virginia. And, if the state still does not comply, EPA should revoke the state’s authority to oversee these wells altogether."
Continue reading here.
Chris Mooney in Mother Jones explains "Why the Scientific Case Against Fracking Keeps Getting Stronger"
And you knew this was inevitable: "Enviros Blamed for Bursting Frack Bubble."
In the article, Richard Heinberg explains the fracking companies’ hype:
Step 1. Borrow money and use it to lease thousands of acres for drilling.
Step 2. Borrow more money and drill as many wells as you can, as quickly as you can.
Step 3. Tell everyone within shouting distance that this is just the of a production boom that will continue for the remainder of our lives and the lives of our children and that everyone who invests will get rich.
Step 4. Sell drilling leases to other (gullible) companies at a profit, raise funds through Initial Public Offerings or bond sales, and use the proceeds to hide financial losses from your drilling and production operations.
Heinberg explains what will soon follow "in four despicable acts:"
Act 1. Fracking boom goes bust as production from shale gas and tight oil wells stalls out and lurches into decline.
Act 2. Oil and gas industry loudly blames anti-fracking environmentalists and restrictive regulations.
Act 3. Congress rolls back environmental laws.
Act 4. Loosened regulations do little to boost actual oil and gas production, which continues to tank, but the industry wins the right to exploit marginal resources a little more cheaply than would otherwise have been the case.
Heinberg doesn’t mention it but his drama certainly applies to "the war on coal." (We're currently in the middle of Act 2.) Heinberg has extensive experience in the industry - it's a good read.
Something you won't see locally - factchecking Capito
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
More on Reid, Tennant and Capito
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 answers.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.
update - August 13
The Intelligencer used the memory of the late-senator Byrd in order to take cheap shots at Tennant and Reid without any documentation as to where the late-senator stood on these issues. On the other hand, the Charleston Gazette's excellent coal blog, Coal Tatoo, recently linked to a speech from Senator Byrd given five years ago in which he argues that climate change is real, the future of coal is limited, and the state needs to begin to look to a future that will include alternatives to coal. Here are a couple of excerpts from his speech:
To be part of any solution, one must first acknowledge a problem. To deny the mounting science of climate change is to stick our heads in the sand and say "deal me out." West Virginia would be much smarter to stay at the table.
The greatest threats to the future of coal do not come from possible constraints on mountaintop removal mining or other environmental regulations, but rather from rigid mindsets, depleting coal reserves, and the declining demand for coal as more power plants begin shifting to biomass and natural gas as a way to reduce emissions.
Change has been a constant throughout the history of our coal industry. West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it. One thing is clear. The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose.