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--- We were overdue for another biased headline

Published by waner in Wheeling Intelligencer · 30/4/2015 14:59:00
Tags: Intelligencer
Photo arrives too late to accompany "fair and balanced" headline

Here's the headline above the Intelligencer's front page article about yesterday's West Liberty Faculty Senate's "no confidence" vote for chief financial officer, Jack Wright :

Faculty Senate Has New Target

And here's the photo of the proceedings that arrived after the "newspaper" was published:




Note -- the Intelligencer does deserve kudos for not using the word "radicals" or the phrase "reign of terror" anywhere in the article. And other than decapitation, could there be anything worse than a vote of no confidence from a faculty senate?

For contrast, here's the headline (using the same information) in today's Charleston Gazette:

West Liberty faculty votes no confidence in administrator


--- More on coal ash

Published by waner in coal · 21/4/2015 11:17:00
Tags: coalMcKinleyashIntelligencer
This morning's Intelligencer editorial on coal ash tells us why we need local Representative David McKinley's proposal to limit the EPA's oversight of coal ash. The editorial gives the reader the impression that coal ash is a harmless byproduct of the use of coal at electric plants. (Hey, it's "used in a a variety of products, including drywall and concrete"and so it must be safe.) Nowhere in the editorial is there any mention of the harms it causes. (For descriptions of the problems caused by coal ash, simply google "harms of coal ash.") One of the best sources that I found is "Coal Ash: Hazardous to Human Health" by Physicians for Social Responsibility. Another excellent source for information on the subject is the Earthjustice website.

In addition to information, Earthjustice also produces short videos. Here is their most recent video on the topic.

Another outstanding Earthjustice video that brings the problem home is "Little Blue" which is about the harmful effects that coal ash has had on the environment in the northern-most area of West Virginia's northern panhandle. (I've referenced "Little Blue" in previous posts on this subject.)

The sad irony is that "Little Blue" is located inside McKinley's congressional district.

McKinley's bill would have major environmental effects. As Frank Holleman who is Senior Attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center has noted:

Rep. David McKinley's bill would dismantle the EPA’s recently announced coal ash protections, put public health and safety at risk by stripping the few critical safety requirements and protections included in the rule, and result in continuing coal ash contamination with no repercussions or responsibility for cleanup.

A final note/question -- the Intelligencer's editorial once again tells us the success that McKinley has had fighting the EPA: "After McKinley exposed the absurdity of the EPA's plan, the agency backed away." This is the third time in the last year that the Intelligencer has asserted this point and after considerable research I have yet to find anything that the EPA backed away from because of David McKinley. As I have asked previously, does anyone know what EPA plan the Intelligencer is talking about or is the Intelligencer giving him credit where credit isn't due?


--- 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.


--- 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.


--- 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. 




--- 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.


--- 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.)


--- 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.


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