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--- Time for another pro-coal/Murray Energy article

Published by waner in climate change · 16/4/2015 16:07:00
Tags: coalIntelligencerMurray
Job cuts blamed on Obama, EPA, the Sierra Club, and Michael Bloomberg

Yesterday's front page Intelligencer article, describes in the first two paragraphs that Murray Energy is cutting 214 coal jobs locally. Other than the last paragraph, the rest of the article is an attack on President Obama, the EPA, the Sierra Club, and Michael Bloomberg for his "Beyond Coal" campaign.

The article is a typical Wheeling "newspaper" article on coal:

  • It presents only one side. There are seldom any explanations for why governments, organizations, and individuals want to limit the use of coal. Beyond the ludicrous ones (the Intelligencer sometimes claims that it is a "vendetta" by Obama), the explanations that are offered seldom do justice to the arguments presented by the other side.
  • The articles never mention that most of the jobs lost in the coal industry occurred a generation ago.
  • The articles seldom deal with today's economic realities - that other sources of energy (for example, natural gas) are much cheaper.
  • The industry people quoted in the article are never asked a tough question. For example, this article's final paragraph tells us that "(t)he 214 Mountain State layoffs come as Murray announced plans last week to pay $1.37 billion for a 34 percent stake in St. Louis-based coal company, Foresight Energy." Okay, Murray Energy, if the future of coal is so bleak, why did you just pay over a billion dollars for a stake in another coal company?


--- It's tax day!

Published by waner in taxes · 15/4/2015 14:48:00
Tags: taxesIntelligencer
Blame the federal government

It's tax time so it's no surprise that our local "newspaper" uses the day to rail against the federal government.. Today's editorial, "Federal Taxes Out of Control,"  tells us about the Tax Foundation findings on when we no longer work for the government.
 
Each year at about this time, coinciding with the April 15 deadline for most people to file income tax returns, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation releases figures on how much it costs Americans to pay for local, state and federal governments. The foundation announces dates for "Tax Freedom Day," the point during the year at which an average person has worked long enough to pay all his taxes.
 
But in both our states, Tax Freedom Day comes later and later each year. Last year it was April 10 for West Virginians and April 14 for Ohioans.

Again, don't blame your local and state officials. They appear to have done a good job of limiting the damage to our bank accounts. The fault lies in Washington, which takes an ever-increasing bite out of our budgets.
According to the Tax Foundation, the average American will have to work until April 24 to cover his tax bill this year. In 2009, the date was April 10.

I've seen this type of statistic from the Tax Foundation before and so I decided to take a look at the editorial's characterization that the foundation was "nonpartisan." Here is Ed Dolon at EconoMonitor:

The foundation invites journalists to describe it as “a non-partisan research think tank, based in Washington, DC,” but not all agree. For example, Dan Crawford, writing for Angry Bear, says, “Its work is aimed at one purpose–convincing Americans that they pay too much in taxes and that government is too big.” Others point out contributions from the Koch Family foundations and ties to other conservative groups as signs of partisan bias. Paul Krugman says flat-out that “knowledgeable people don’t trust the Tax Foundation.”

Interesting.  It would seem that they may be "nonpartisan" but they certainly don't appear to be non-political.  What about their use of statistics?  Here I found a couple of writers/economists who point to how they mislead with statistics. (For example, using "average" rather than "median" which greatly distorts the findings.) Tom Moran writes:

The Tax Foundation wants to sweep away all those subtleties in service to its ideological bottom line. That's not what a real think tank does. That's propaganda, pure and simple.

 And here is Linda M. Beale who teaches taxes at Wayne State Law School explaining "why":
 
It seems likely that the primary purpose is to mislead ordinary Americans about the role of taxes and the amount of taxes they pay.  The Tax Foundation gets my maximum "boo" for its shameless exploitation of statistics to mislead Americans about both their own tax burdens and the role of government in our lives.
 
Finally, I would note that the editorial tells us not to blame "your local and state officials" yet it doesn't give us any evidence or reason why we shouldn't.  No, it's all the Federal government's, and by extension, Obama's fault. (Isn't everything?)

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

 For some research into how much residents of each state pay in taxes check out the work done by wallethub.com.  (See here for example.)  They've been doing a number of interesting economic studies and so far I have not found any problems or major biases in their work - let me know if you see any.


--- Another "aren't we great" column

Published by waner in Wheeling "newspapers" · 13/4/2015 09:55:00
Tags: Myer
Living in a glass house, throwing a Rolling Stone

Okay, I didn't get it just right but I was close.  At the bottom of my post ten days ago on the Intelligencer's plagiarism of a Chaleston Gazette article (see four posts down) I speculated that we were due for another one of those "why we're such a great newspaper" editorials.  But I was off a bit in my prediction.  It's not an editorial - it's a Mike Myer column (a distinction without a difference?), and it's about more than just the local's credentials, it's also about how Rolling Stone magazine's has tarnished the reputation of newspapers because too much of the public lumps them together under a "media" heading.

Early in the column Myer tells us that "he'd like to pop a few people at Rolling Stone magazine in the mouth."  Before doing so, he might take a closer look at his own "newspapers." This post is not a defense of Rolling Stone magazine -- their actions are indefensible. No, this is a look at Myer's hypocrisy in claiming some sort of moral superiority to the magazine.

1.  How about misrepresenting a source?  Scroll down one post and you see how the Intelligencer cherry picks its quotes.  An isolated incident?  Hardly -- see posts on December 20 and February 21, for example.

2.  How about lying about what a source says?  Go to a December 20 post about a prevailing wage editorial ("How low can they go?") in which the Intelligencer claims a study found that the prevailing wage cost West Virginian $224 million in one year.  If you actually go to the study you'll find that the study was about Michigan; West Virginia is not mentioned anywhere in the report. But that didn't stop the editorial writer from telling us about how the prevailing wage had cost West Virginians so dearly. (Who's going to actually bother to check, right Michael?)

3.  What about editing out of Associated Press articles material which didn't agree with their biases?  In the most egregious example last year, they edited out polls from an AP report that a majority of both Democrats and Republicans believed in limiting greenhouse gases? (See my post of June 10 in the old section.)  And how about dropping the last couple of paragraphs which criticized Republicans in another AP story after the most recent inaugural address in January?

4.  How about refusing to carry stories about climate change?  When the most important study of climate change in 2014 was released, neither paper carried the story (see March 26).  When the largest worldwide rally on climate change took place last September most papers featured previews and then published long AP stories on their front pages about the event with pictures. The locals ignored all of this except for a couple of paragraphs about it on an inside page.

5.  How about plagiarism - stealing from another source without proper attribution. Check the April 2 post below titled "Plagiarism."

And then Myer says:

We draw a hard line between our news pages and those on which we as an institution and as individual writers provide our opinions.

Yeah, right.  Ironically, my first-ever post on this blog a year ago was about a biased headline on the front page. The story concerned a suit against the EPA and instead of using "High Court Climate Case Examines EPA Power" or something similar to that as every other newspaper I checked used, the Intelligencer used "EPA Hot Air Going to the Supreme Court." (See March 2 in the other section).  They then followed it up two weeks later with "Holder: Give Drug Dealers a Break."  (You might also check the anti-Obama headlines before the State of the Union Address. (See January 19 and 20).

Finally, I'll end with Myer's opening sentence:

Here at the Wheeling News-Register and The Intelligencer, we make our money by selling a single product to readers: trust.

I would disagree. The "newspapers" make money largely because the Ogden Corporation has a monopoly.  What choice does the reader have other than going to Kroger to buy the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review which doesn't cover our local stories? ("The Trib" is a conservative newspaper but at least one that separates it's biases from its news pages.) There is no competition in the newspapers as you have in Charleston, for instance, where you have a conservative afternoon paper balanced by a more liberal morning paper. How about local TV and radio?  Since the deregulation of radio and TV, the news has to pay its own way and thus it's tough to justify much expenditure on something that costs a lot of money to do the right way. Yes, people subscribe to Ogden "newspapers" but they want local sports and obituaries, election results, recipes, classified ads and comics. Yeah, Republicans and right-wingers probably "trust" the papers (read the online comments section sometime) but I doubt that many Democrats or liberals do.  So, please spare us the sanctimonious crap.  Clean up your act then maybe we can talk about trust. 


--- Intelligencer not honest about hurricanes

Published by waner in Wheeling Intelligencer · 10/4/2015 15:38:00
Tags: climateNOAAIntelligencer
More dishonesty from the Intelligencer

This morning's editorial, "Obama Not Honest About Hurricanes," once again features the Intelligencer's cherry-picking of data on the science of climate change.

The editorial begins by claiming that the president is "untruthful about climate change" and then quotes him:

"We know climate change is not a distant threat . . . most Americans see climate change hitting their communities through extreme weather events - from more severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves . . ." (The  ellipses are in the editorial. Note that the rest of the editorial will ignore the severe droughts, wildfires, and record heat waves that the president cites as the editorial focuses only on "more powerful hurricanes." Can we conclude that the Intelligencer agrees with the president on droughts, wild fires, and heat waves?)

On hurricanes the editorial argues that the frequency/severity of hurricanes has not increased:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists studied hurricanes since 1878 and found what may have been a slight increase. But statistically, "this trend is so small . . . that it is not significantly distinguishable from zero," they note.

"It is premature to conclude that human activities - and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming - have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane activity," NOAA concluded.

Looks mighty damning unless you look at the actual NOAA study and examine all of the study's conclusion: (The Intelligencer quote is underlined.)

    • It is premature to conclude that human activities--and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming--have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane activity. That said, human activities may have already caused changes that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of the changes or observational limitations, or are not yet properly modeled (e.g., aerosol effects).
    • Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause hurricanes globally to be more intense on average (by 2 to 11% according to model projections for an IPCC A1B scenario). This change would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm, assuming no reduction in storm size.
    • There are better than even odds that anthropogenic warming over the next century will lead to an increase in the numbers of very intense hurricanes in some basins—an increase that would be substantially larger in percentage terms than the 2-11% increase in the average storm intensity. This increase in intense storm numbers is projected despite a likely decrease (or little change) in the global numbers of all tropical storms.
    • Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause hurricanes to have substantially higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes, with a model-projected increase of about 20% for rainfall rates averaged within about 100 km of the storm center.

Note that the Intelligencer cites only the first sentence and even that sentence ignores NOAA's qualifier ("that said") which undercuts that first sentence. Because the study is written by scientists it is careful about its conclusions yet look at the next three bullet points -- they believe that hurricanes will probably get worse in intensity, in their numbers, and produce higher rainfall when they occur, and all three are likely caused by anthropogenic warming. It is difficult to read the study's summary and not conclude that NOAA is very concerned about climate change.  I guess, however, that if you're an ethically-challenged editorial writer who works for a publication that shills for the coal industry, the concept of being fair to what a source is saying overall never occurs to you.


--- "War on coal" interview

Published by waner in coal · 7/4/2015 19:28:00
Tags: coal
Salon has a post up that examines "What environmentalists get wrong about Big Coal."  It's an interesting article that begins:

Coal has got to go. That much is undeniable. Climate change is presenting us with a tremendous, urgent threat, and coal is the dirtiest and largest single source of the fossil fuels still pouring into our atmosphere.

But while that’s settled (among scientists, if not some particularly stubborn politicians), the conversation about how we’re actually going to transition away from coal is just getting started. And too often left out of that discussion, says journalist Richard Martin, is the human cost of the industry’s decline — how the people, and communities, built on Big Coal’s promises will be left to fare once it’s no longer in the picture.

Martin has written a book, “Coal Wars: The Future of Energy and the Fate of the Planet,” about the problem: 

This is not a book of advocacy or environmental policy or technology. The premise of the book is if we don’t do something to drastically reduce our consumption of coal, there is no hope of limiting global climate change. My view is either we shut down the coal industry, or it’s going to shut us down. What the book tries to do is take a look at the human drama and the human costs associated with this effort to transform our power system and really, if not shut down, then certainly limit our ongoing consumption of coal.

The rest of the article is an interview with him.  If you accept his biases (he's editorial director at a clean energy firm), Martin makes a number of thoughtful points.


--- Odds and ends

Published by waner in odds and ends · 3/4/2015 15:48:00
Tags: frackingWVhealthManchin
Bloomburg News says "Fracking Operators Ran Up 2.5 Violations a Day, Study Shows"

According to the study:

Oil and gas drillers ran afoul of regulators on average 2.5 times a day in three energy-intensive states for mistakes such as wastewater spills, well leaks or pipeline ruptures during the boom in hydraulic fracturing.
Online records in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Colorado showed regulators issued 4,600 citations from 2009 to 2013, the Natural Resources Defense Council said Thursday in a report. The report excluded violations in 33 other states with drilling because such records aren’t available on the Internet.

If it makes you feel any better, Pennsylvania was easily the leader.


Senator Manchin and the estate tax

Roll Call tells us about recent votes on taxes and the rich. Senator John Thune of South Dakota (R) proposed an amendment that would eliminate the estate tax. It passed 54-46 and the only Democrat to vote with the Republicans was Joe Manchin. (The article did not give an explanation and I can't explain it.)

 
Healthy, least healthy counties in West Virginia

According to Metro News, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute recently released their annual county-by-county health rankings for West Virginia.

The five healthiest counties in West Virginia, starting with most healthy, are Pendleton, Jefferson, Monongalia, Pleasants, and Upshur. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy, are McDowell, Wyoming, Mingo, Logan, and Mercer.
 

In a not unrelated matter, Yes magazine tells us:  "In a Win for Opponents of Mountaintop Removal, W.Va. Govt Decides to Study Health Impacts"
 

For decades, people in southern West Virginia have suffered from elevated rates of health problems like lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and birth defects. In McDowell County, for example, life expectancy for females is about 73 years, approximately eight years below the national average.

Although many attribute these problems to the poverty of the region, scientists and epidemiologists have been looking at a different culprit. Beginning in 2006, more than two dozen studies have explored the possibility of a link between the region’s illnesses and mountaintop removal mining, a common term for the surface mining of coal.

The article suggests that WV will be taking a closer look at the studies. Last month:

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announced that the state would conduct an official review of those studies, under the leadership of the state Bureau for Public Health’s commissioner, Dr. Rahul Gupta.
 
 
And perhaps connected to all of the above, a recent Gallup survey finds "Mood-Altering Drug Use Highest in West Virginia, Lowest in Alaska."


--- Plagiarism

Published by waner in Wheeling Intelligencer · 2/4/2015 16:39:00
Tags: Intelligencerplagiarism
The Intelligencer sinks even lower

The online Oxford Dictionary provides us with a simple but workable definition of plagiarism. It is "the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own."

Yesterday I linked to a story by Phil Kabler in the Charleston Gazette who reported that former-WLU president Robin Capehart's ethics hearing had been postponed. (See post below.)  I wondered when or if our local "newspapers" would cover the story. This morning's Intelligencer contained an unattributed story about Capehart in which almost half of it is word-for-word from the Kabler article. (Neither Kabler nor the Gazette is referenced, however.) Here is the Intelligencer article with the plagiarized sections underlined:
 
WEST LIBERTY - Citing the availability of a witness and ongoing settlement negotiations, the West Virginia Ethics Commission has postponed former West Liberty University president Robin Capehart's hearing until June 29.

The hearing had been set for April 16, but Capehart's attorneys requested the delay as a witness will be unable to testify on that date, according to a continuation order issued Tuesday by Hearing Examiner Jennifer Taylor.

The order also notes there are "ongoing settlement negotiations" with the Ethics Commission, which may require additional time beyond April 16.

In January, the commission's Probable Cause Review Board issued a 13-count charge of alleged ethics violations against Capehart for misuse of university resources and personnel in production and promotion of two motion pictures involving his daughter and produced by Capehart's privately owned independent film company, Flyover Films.

Among the allegations is that Capehart put film company manager/producer Kristen Siebert on the university's payroll, first as a temporary employee at the university's cable-access TV station and eventually as a consultant under a $4,000-a-month professional services contract.

Capehart also is accused of charging personal expenses to his state credit card while traveling to promote the movies.

Capehart resigned from the university March 11, but remains on staff as a legislative liaison and consultant at his president's salary through the end of the year.


We are about due for another one of those "why we're such a great newspaper" editorials from the Intelligencer. Perhaps this one will highlight their skills at cutting and pasting. 




--- Where's the Capehart story?

Published by waner in West Liberty University · 1/4/2015 08:35:00
Tags: CapehartIntellignecer
Nothing in the Wheeling "newspapers" about this

The Charleston's Gazette tells us:  "Capehart Ethics Hearing Postponed."

An Ethics Commission hearing for former West Liberty University President Robin Capehart has been postponed to June 29, according to a continuation order issued Tuesday by Hearing Examiner Jennifer Taylor.

The hearing had been scheduled to begin on April 16, but attorneys for Capehart sought the delay, indicating a key witness will be out of the country and unable to testify on that date.

The order also notes there are “ongoing settlement negotiations” with the Ethics Commission, which may require additional time beyond April 16.

Ethics complaints are frequently resolved prior to going to public hearing, with the accused entering into conciliation agreements, in which they admit to fault on some or all of the charges and agree to pay restitution and fines.

While they're waiting, perhaps the Ethics Commission can get Capehart to watch the legislature for them.


--- 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.


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