03/2015 - Blog - Wheeling Alternative

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--- Odds and ends from around the web

Published by waner in odds and ends · 23/3/2015 20:30:00
Tags: coalWV
Coal company honesty

According to Environment & Energy Publishing: "When legally liable, the companies don't dispute global warming" A sample:

U.S. coal companies that are publicly skeptical of man-made climate change acknowledge in mandatory financial disclosures the widely accepted scientific link between fossil fuel emissions and a warming planet, a Greenwire analysis has found.

Sustainable investment advocates warn that such doublespeak undermines the industry's credibility with shareholders. And scientific integrity experts are critical of the coal companies' climate communication strategy, which they argue is detrimental to the long-term health and security of the American people.

Not surprising -- WV shows a significant drop in median income over the last decade

The State Journal is reporting that:

A new study from PEW Charitable Trusts shows a decrease in America's middle class.

The analysis was conducted by Stateline, a PEW project. Researchers found through the study all 50 states experienced declines in the percentage of middle class households, even as the median income for most states declined.

The research also showed the share of a family's income going toward housing state-by-state is generally about 30 percent.

With still one of the smallest median incomes, West Virginia's share of households in the middle class in 2013 was 44.7 percent, while it was 46.7 percent in 2000.

Gun group goes after Senator Manchin with a #BootJoe initiative

While Attorney General Morissey is embracing the gun people (see "Morrisey Watch 6" below), Joe Manchin has gotten himself in deep trouble with them. The Firearms Policy Coalition, according to Ammoland, is calling him a traitor and saying he has to go:

Following West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s March 20 veto of Senate Bill 347, a move possibly inspired by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s fierce opposition to the civil rights proposal, gun rights supporters have renewed calls to ouster Manchin from their ranks.

Manchin, infamous for his authorship of the Manchin-Toomey gun control proposal, attacked the West Virginia civil bill in a March 12 press release.

They are taking action:

Gun owners and Second Amendment advocates can participate in the #BootJoe initiative at bootjoe.com, a website created by the Firearms Policy Coalition to urge gun rights groups to revoke the memberships of Manchin and other anti-gun politicians.

WV history

Finally, if you're interested in some WV history, Virally Suppressed has an interesting read: "Strictly Business: West Virginian Statehood & The Geography of Poverty"

--- Myer finds a scapegoat

Published by waner in Myer/editorials · 22/3/2015 20:13:00
Tags: MyerIntelligencerLGBTcharters
When I think of lobbyists who had the power over the most recent West Virginia legislature, a couple of groups come quickly to mind. First there are the coal operators who got to write their own legislation this term. Second would be the NRA and their friends who changed the concealed-carry law. Third would be the Chamber of Commerce and similar groups (including the local chapter of the Koch brother's Americans for Prosperity and the State Policy Network) who not only tried to pass a right-to-work law but also went after the prevailing wage in WV. (Not to mention their efforts on tort reform.)  These are just a couple of the powerful groups that influenced politics in West Virginia's most recent legislative session. Has Michael Myer ever written about their power?  Not that I can recall. (Please e-mail me if you can point to when he has ever taken any of these groups to task for their lobbying.) No, if you've read Myer, the only groups that try to influence our legislators are trial lawyers, teacher unions, and unions in general. If you read yesterday's Myer column, however, he's added another group to his list of those who think only of themselves instead of what is best for the state. Yes, I'm talking about the LGBT community. Here's Myer on what happened to the charter schools legislation:

But many of its flaws had been worked out when something incredible happened: The bill was killed by the LGBT - lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender - lobby. LGBT advocates persuaded state senators to amend the charter schools bill to ban specifically any discrimination against students or employees based on sexual orientation.

House of Delegates members decided they'd rather ban discrimination for any reason, so they substituted a line simply barring it for any reason that would be unlawful if practiced by a public school.

Sounds reasonable. But the LGBT folks raised the roof over the change - and the charter school bill died.

Is that what happened? (The LGBT group may be organized but are they really that powerful in WV?) If you look at various press accounts you'll find that they don't agree with Myer that legislators thought that there would be no problems for LGBT students. Here, for example, is the Charleston Gazette's take:

■ CHARTER SCHOOLS — A plan for private-run public schools died after a House committee voted to let the schools reject gay students, teachers and staff.

And here is Michael Erb reporting in Myer's own paper, the Intelligencer, on March 15:

The charter schools bill had generated criticism from educators who said it would be a drain on the state's public education system, but opposition exploded when a House committee removed language from the bill which protected gay, lesbian and transgender students from discrimination.

Note that neither of these reports suggest that the LGBT students would still be protected. Why?  Here's the Gazette (Skinner is a delegate from Jefferson, Seufer is a Charleston attorney who practices school law):

Skinner said that while bullying against LGBT students is considered in state policy, there are plenty of other ways that charter schools could discriminate if the amendment becomes part of charter schools law, including during enrollment into charter schools and discrimination against school staff.

Asked about school personnel, Seufer said that decisions by the precursor to the Public Employees Grievance Board established that discrimination based upon sexual preference or orientation is illegal. But under the current version of the bill, charters would be allowed to opt out of the state grievance process.

Myer didn't get his charter schools and so he needs someone to blame. Instead of arguing that the LGBT rights should have been in the bill, he blames those who would have been the victims had the legislation passed. Nice.

--- Morrisey Watch 6

Published by waner in Morrisey · 19/3/2015 20:43:00
Tags: Moorriseyguns
From a March 7 editorial in the New York Times supporting a ban on armor-piercing bullets:

The nation’s police forces should be the first to rally behind a federal proposal to ban the sale and manufacture of the 5.56-millimeter steel-core bullet. The bullet can be used in newly adapted handguns to provide lethal force to pierce the vests and body armor used by law enforcement officers.

Until now, the powerful “M855 green tip” bullet has been legal for use in AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, typically used by target shooters and hunters. But the gun industry’s reckless development of new handguns that use the bullet — criminals prefer handguns over rifles — has led the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to sensibly propose banning it in the name of greater gun safety.

The Bureau has since backed away from considering the ban. Predictably, Attorney General Patrick Morissey isn't satisfied (and, of course, he has an election to think about):

Morrisey on Wednesday said he sent a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives asking it to not resurrect a recently tabled proposal to ban a specific type of ammunition used by hunters and target shooters.

Last week, the ATF announced it was backing away from a proposal to ban the M855 5.56 x 45 mm cartridge after receiving 80,000 comments, most of which opposed the ban. However, Morrisey and other state attorneys general have sent letters urging the ATF to not revive the proposal at a later date.

Okay, the police (for good reason) are against armor-piercing bullets. Not being a hunter, I wondered why would hunters need body-piercing bullets? I looked for an answer on the web and found this picture:
Now I understand. The deer are now wearing protective armor and firing back - the hunters obviously need the armor piercing bullets to once again make it a fair fight.

(Image found at danspapers.com.)

--- Still more proof that Obama is out to get us ("It's a vendetta")

Published by waner in Wheeling Intelligencer · 19/3/2015 10:21:00
Tags: ObamaIntelligencer
I don't know how the Intelligencer missed this one. From a University of Buffalo news release:

President Obama picks UB to win against West Virginia on Friday

--- Leaving a sinking ship

Published by waner in Wheeling Intelligencer · 17/3/2015 17:08:00
Tags: CapehartIntelligencer
This morning's Intelligencer followed-up on the Capehart resignation "new job" (as they described it last week - see below) by using the Freedom of Information Act to get a copy of Capehart's agreement with the school's Board of Governors. As the article documents, Capehart will continue to receive his present salary ($220,000 for the year) plus $1,000 a month for vehicle reimbursement through the rest of 2015 in his new job which is to monitor "legislative activities relating to higher education" even though they have adjourned for the year. (Sounds like a lot of work to me - I wonder if he needs an assistant?)

Compared to Wednesday's headline, this one was neutral: "Details of Capehart Deal Revealed." Perhaps the Capehart deal offended even the editor of the Intelligencer -- the neutrality of the article's title, its contents, and the fact that the Intelligencer actually pursued a Freedom of Information request against one of their former favorites would suggest how far he has fallen. Can a critical editorial/Myer column be next? (Although it will be difficult to link him to President Obama.)

--- Hey! What happened to all those job bills the Republicans promised us?

Published by waner in WV legislature · 17/3/2015 16:55:00
Tags: legislaturejobs
The State Jounal writes:

"This session has been focused on jobs, protecting the ones we have in our coal and energy industries and growing the economy so that new faces can move here, grow here and help us prosper going forward," said Lucas. Republican Party chairman.  He claimed that the Republicans "did more for the taxpayers in 60 days than had been done in the last 60 years."

Really? Let's see. The Republican legislature passed anti-abortion legislation,  weakened both miner safety and water storage inspection, got rid of most restrictions for "concealed carry" of weapons, changed the method of computing prevailing wage, and dealt with tort reform. The last two supposedly improved the business climate in the state. Local Democratic Senator Jeff Kessler had a different perspective:
“It’s mostly been a lot of mean-spirited repeal, taking away from either consumers or workers or wages or from the education system,” Kessler said. “I haven’t seen anything that has created any jobs, fixed a pothole or improved the quality of life in our communities.”

I think that sums it up very well. 

--- A quick glance at the Sunday News-Register

Published by waner in News-Register · 15/3/2015 22:11:00
Tags: NewsRegisterCapehart

(Reaction to the end of the WV legislative session later this week.)

Cosby at the Capitol

On the day following the final day of the legislative session, the top story in the Sunday morning News-Register is "Fans Support Cosby at Capitol."  Can someone explain to me why this incomplete story is front-page news? Okay, if the News-Register thought that this was a top-of-the-front-page news story, why didn't they, at the very least, provide attendance figures?  Was the Capitol Music Hall filled?  Half-empty? Were the people interviewed the only ones there? And what did Capitol officials think about the attendance?  How does Wheeling compare with other cities on his tour? What I learned from the story is that the people who attended the event still support him. Ah, yeah.

More Capehart support -- a letter to the editor

Since I previously wrote about Robin Capehart's resignation and "reassignment" at West Liberty, a letter to the editor in the morning News-Register got my attention.

Norman Moyes wrote a letter to the editor listing Robin Capehart's accomplishments as President of West Liberty University. I do not have the necessary info to comment on all of Moyes list but here are some of Capehart's "accomplishments" (according to Moyes) that I can speak to:

"-- Graduate degree programs." (My understanding is that those programs came with university status - something that was underway before he arrived.)

"-- A professional television station run by students."  (West Liberty's station was in place long before Capehart became president.)

"-- A basketball program that is nationally ranked."  (The coach, Jim Crutchfield, was there before Capehart arrived. Unless he's secretly running plays to Crutchfield, I don't see why Capehart deserves any credit for the basketball team's success.)

"And in addition, he's given Wheeling the best public relations it ever had, thanks to his movie." (Is Moyes justifying Capehart's unethical/questionable actions because it gave Wheeling some publicity?)

In the letter, Moyes notes that he is a West Liberty alumnus and at the bottom he lists his affiliation as "Boston University Professor Emeritus."
I did a little research. Despite the listing of Boston University after his name, Moyes doesn't live in Boston - he lives in Wheeling and guess what?  He's on West Liberty's Foundation and guess who appointed him?  That's right -- Robin Capehart.

In checking his background, I found that Moyes worked in newspapers and then taught at Boston University where he wrote or co-wrote a number of journalism textbooks. I would think that somewhere in one of his textbooks he mentions the concept of "full disclosure" which includes telling the whole truth connected to a matter including any connections the reporter might have to the story. I realize that this is a letter-to-the-editor rather than an article by Moyes. Still, I would have thought Moyes, given his background, would have told us the "whole truth" about his connection to Capehart. 

--- Headlining Capehart's new job

Published by waner in Wheeling "newspapers" · 12/3/2015 17:30:00
Tags: CapehartIntelligencerWestLiberty
Headlines, especially on the front page of a newspaper, should objectively describe what has happened and accurately reflect the contents of the article that follows. On a number of occasions this past year I've highlighted the Intelligencer's clearly biased headlines. In all of these cases the bias was clearly negative. (All were against the Obama administration and all were on the front page - the page supposedly reserved for objective reporting.) Today, the Intelligencer went the other direction -- it presented a positive spin to a very negative story.

The story is that after all three West Liberty University constituencies (faculty, staff, and students) gave him a vote of "no confidence" and facing an April meeting before the state ethics commission, West Liberty President Robin Capehart tendered his resignation yesterday. (If you have been anywhere in the Ohio Valley for the last six weeks, it would have been hard to have missed the original story.) Here are some of today's headlines:

From WV Public Broadcasting:

West Liberty University President Robin C. Capehart Resigns

From the Charleston Gazette:

Facing ethics charge, Capehart resigns as president of WLU
from the Associated Press:
West Liberty University president resigns amid ethics probe
Similarly, Inside Higher Education (a trade publication)
West Liberty President Resigns Amid Ethics Review
And here's the Wheeling Intelligencer:

Capehart has new job at WLU

----- ----- ----- ----- -----

The Intelligencer also tells us that Capehart's resignation becomes effective this Sunday when he will begin his new job as a "legislative liaison and consultant" for which he will be paid (if my math is correct) $182,378.92 for the rest of the year. West Liberty does not currently have a "legislative liason and consultant" (whatever that is) but I'm sure they'll get their money's worth. Except for one detail -- the legislature finishes its business this Saturday night at midnight. Capehart starts the next day and it would have been nice if an Intelligencer reporter could have asked a board member the obvious question: how is Robin Capehart is going to earn his huge salary?

That leads to other questions: financially, how can the WL board justify $20,000 a month for a liason to a legislature that won't be in session? Like other state institutions, West Liberty is feeling the effects of the state's budgetary crunch. According to friends: vacant positions aren't being filled, routine maintenance is being skipped, basic educational supplies, such as paper, are in short supply. With all those other pressing financial needs, how does the board justify giving away $180,000 for something that will have little or no return?

Maybe most importantly, is Capehart being punished or rewarded for his violations?

There were no tough questions asked by the Intelligencer because Capehart is a friend and the Intelligencer seldom publicly embarrasses its Republican friends. Capehart has been a good Republican - he's their former treasurer and he ran for govenor as a Republican in 2004. Back in 2007, on the day that the WL board's was to make its presidential decision, the Intelligencer took the unusual step of editorializing on its front page that Capehart should be chosen as the new president of West Liberty even though neither the staff, nor students, nor the faculty had him as their first choice.

Capehart has earned the paper's love -- he's moved the university to the right politically. Under Capehart, West Liberty has sponsored the BB&T/Ayn Rand speaker series which brings to Wheeling right wing libertarians without anyone to balance their views.  West Liberty has also invited and paid for Republicans hopefuls such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to speak in Wheeling. Last year, West Liberty invited Shelley Moore Capito to speak on campus and in Wheeling. Democrats, liberals, and middle-of the roaders don't get invited to talk politics. Natalie Tennant did speak on campus a number of years ago, but like other Democrats, her purpose was not overtly political or tied to a particular election. (Democrats often get to speak at graduations.)  Finally, Capehart has established ties to the Koch empire. (See here.)

Public universities ought to present a wide range of political opinion from the far right to the far left with stops along the way - a marketplace of ideas. West Liberty only presents right wingers and libertarians and so it's no wonder the Intelligencer loves Capehart. Maybe a new president will restore some balance for everybody's sake.

--- coal news from around the web

Published by waner in coal · 10/3/2015 15:41:00
Tags: coal
Safety violations and a coal miner's death

Even the Intelligencer noted the safety violations connected to the mining death in Marshall County. It will be interesting to read their take on the Orwellian-titled "Creating Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015" which awaits the governor's signature. The best summary of the bill came from delegate Mike Caputo (D, Marion) who wrote:

At a public hearing on this bill held by the House of Delegates, coal miner after coal miner asked the Legislature not to repeal these safety standards. The only supporters of this legislation were coal industry representatives. Not one of those coal industry representatives cited safety of coal miners as their reason for pushing this bill. They cited profits and making coal mines more competitive.

The “Creating Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015” will not create jobs. The “Creating Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015” will not make mines safer for our miners. The most important thing to come out of a coal mine is a coal miner. I’m disappointed that many of my colleagues in the House of Delegates do not place the same value on the lives of our coal miners as they place on the profits of the coal industry.

For a personal reaction to the miner's death see Buckeye BattleCry's diary over at The Daily Kos:

So another coal miner died last night.  Sadly, it doesn't get a lot of attention when they die one at a time.

By the way, WV's Republican legislature is not the only one that is rolling back miner safety. From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

The Kentucky legislature's latest assault in its war on coal miners, House Bill 448, comes on the heels of last year's decimation of state support for mine safety.

Budget cuts mandated by the legislature forced a 38-percent reduction in state mine-safety personnel. The legislature also mandated a reduction in safety inspections per mine from six a year to four a year.

The war on coal

And then there's the "war on coal" in which President Obama gets blamed for all that has gone wrong in the coal industry since the 1980s. One of the causes of the recent decline is obviously the availability of cheaper alternatives (natural gas).  Here's an editorial in the New York Times weighing in yesterday:

Mr. McConnell has insisted for months that Mr. Obama has been waging a “war on coal,” of which the proposed power plant rules are only the latest manifestation. But the real war has been waged by the market and technology, most recently the shift to newly abundant supplies of natural gas.

And here's commentary by energybiz, a publication for "leaders in the global power industry":

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the newly installed Senate majority leader, is fond of lambasting the Obama administration for its "war on coal’’ and its impact on his Kentucky constituents. Following the latest U.N. climate change meeting in Peru in December, for example, McConnell criticized the administration for its "entire international crusade against coal jobs” and pledged that he would “continue to take the war on coal right back to the president and his EPA with laws aimed at protecting coal jobs. . .  .”
A review of the commonwealth’s own coal mining statistics shows that the industry has been in decline for years—driven by nothing more than market forces that punish high cost producers. The same market forces that Republicans tend to champion, at least in the abstract.

For our local "newspapers" and a majority of our legislators, market forces don't apply to the coal industry - it's all Obama's fault.

Mountaintop removal

And finally, some good news for the efforts to end mountaintop removal in the state. From an article in yesterday's New York Times:

Last week, with little fanfare, PNC Financial, the nation’s seventh-largest bank, disclosed a significant strategic shift. The bank said it would no longer finance coal-mining companies that pursue mountaintop removal of coal in Appalachia, an environmentally devastating practice that has long drawn opposition.

It was a big decision for PNC, which has been one of the largest financiers of companies that engage in the mountaintop mining of coal, which involves blasting off the summits of mountains to expose the coal beneath them and dumping the debris into valleys and rivers, which the environmental law organization Earthjustice described as “strip mining on steroids.”

--- Rating outrageous columnists

Published by waner in Wheeling newspapers · 8/3/2015 13:40:00
Tags: Myer
Attacking the academic straw men

I realize that having to do weekly columns can sometimes be tough - the news doesn't always co-operate. Wouldn't it be better to skip a column than to write one like today's Michael Myer column, "Rating Outrageous Campuses?"

Earlier this week, the University of California - Irvine's student council voted 6 to 4 to ban all flags from its lobby.  (You can read about the students' reasons here.)  Two days later, the school's executive cabinet overruled the ban. I think this is a non-story:  a student council passes a ban and two days later its rescinded. The original action, however, got a lot of outrage from the right wing press led by, of course, Fox News. Today Michael Myer uses it as a starting point for attacks aimed at diversity issues, universities, and those who opposed the Vietnam War. He writes:

It's tempting to conclude the resolution's authors haven't read much about Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union or Maoist China.

Or maybe they have.

College and university campuses have encouraged extreme mindlessness for a long time. Many Americans remember the 1960s and early 1970s, when anti-war protests by some students degenerated into spitting on American servicemen. On occasion, "peace" protesters used violence.

Note that his attacks have nothing to do with what happened at UC-Irvine. And once again Myer invokes the "spit on servicemen" cliche this time suggesting that it was higher education that taught them to spit. (By the way, there is academic research that argues that the "spitting on servicemen" never actually happened - the stories of such occurences were likely created to demonize those opposed to the Vietnam War. Here is what I wrote about this last May in another likely-Myer's editorial that referenced the "spitting on servicemen.")

Lost in Myer's broad attacks on the Irvine campus and higher education is the fact that this was not a campus-wide vote and that the student's action was rescinded two days later. Myer could have pointed this out but then what would he write about?

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