Huntsville Times says NO to Amendment 3

The editorial board of The Huntsville Times wrote “Not the way to build roads”:

A billion dollars sounds like a lot of money for roads.

But the way Amendment 3 is executed, a billion dollars isn’t going to get you very far.

…the money would come from the approximately $2.5 billion Alabama Trust Fund, a state savings account that its sponsors never intended as a source of road-building money.

Taking $100 million out of the trust fund for 10 years is expected to cost the General Fund about $33 million over the decade. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is an imprudent move when the state has already tapped out its rainy day funds for both the state school budget and the General Fund.

Instead of this amendment, it would be better if the Legislature returns to the issue in a couple of years to offer a plan that targets specific, critical projects that will improve the state’s overall road system, and support areas that continue to grow, like North Alabama.

The Times recommends a “no” vote on Amendment 3.

Yep, we got had

Tuesday’s Huntsville Times published an “Editor’s note”:

Yep, we got had.

Several readers brought to our attention that a letter to the editor we published Saturday was part of a mass letter-writing scam.

The pro-President Obama letters signed by Ellie J. Light have appeared in scores of newspapers across the country, all purporting a local address.

It shouldn’t have happened, but it did and we regret it.  Upon receiving Light’s letter with only a signature, we e-mailed Light seeking identification information, which is typical of any letter that we receive that doesn’t have all the detail we require.  Light falsely reported to us a Huntsville address and zip code.

Thanks to the Times for informing their readers about the scam.  To the Times Editor who wrote the note – nice touch – you didn’t apologize, which is entirely appropriate – you acknowledged the problem and provided some details of your process.

I’m sure that The Times will review the “letter to the editor” process and make whatever improvements they think best.  Consider the following admission when reviewing the authentication process:

Reader ‘ivan’ admits that he scams newspapers using sockpuppets:

During campaigns, i sometimes draft letters for others to recast or adapt and send to the paper(s)… I did have some success in Parker’s [Griffith] campaign — his publicity man was good at getting letter signer-senders.

About that letter from Ellie Light

Gannet Wisconsin Media acknowledged that they were duped by Obama astroturfer ‘Ellie Light’:

A woman named Ellie Light (if that is her real name) recently duped dozens of newspapers around the country, including some here in Wisconsin, into printing her letter praising President Barack Obama as if she were a local resident…

Since the Cleveland Plain Dealer broke the story Friday, Light’s bogus letter has been found in more than 60 papers and counting…

We apologize that this letter appeared on our Web site.

Thanks to Michelle Malkin for spotting the apology.

I expected The Huntsville Times to inform their readers that they were scammed by Ellie Light, so I looked through the Sunday and Monday editions for a note from the Editor or even a correction.  Nothing.

Note to Times Editor Kevin Wendt – you know (or should know) about this issue – you owe it to your readers to tell them that you published a letter praising Obama that was sent to you under false pretenses. 

Patterico reports that “Newspaper Editors Begin to Address Pro-Obama Astroturfing” and praises Mike Throne, the Editor of Ohio’s Chillicothe Gazette, who writes:

I’ve written several times on Astroturfing — a way of sending form political letters to multiple news outlets with a few key strokes — and authored a column on Jan. 17 on how the Gazette was bolstering Opinion page procedures to make sure the opinions submitted were true and accurate.

Yes, the irony of having a letter to the editor situation blow up in your face just days after saying the newspaper is following new procedures isn’t lost on me. It’s embarrassing and regrettable.

But if we hadn’t followed those procedures, I’d feel a lot worse.

In this case we did follow them and were lied to about the local nature of the opinion and the address used. In short, we were duped.

Come on, Huntsville Times – inform your readers.

Huntsville Times gets scammed by Obama astroturfer

The Saturday Huntsville Times published a Letter to the Editor from “Ellie J. Light, Huntsville 35811″, who gushed about Obama and said that “governing is hard work”.

Turns out, “Ellie Light sure gets around” according to Sabrina Eaton of the Cleveland Plain Dealer “Obama has suspicious number of letter-writing fans named ‘Ellie Light’” (read the whole article – it’s instructive):

In recent weeks, Light has published virtually identical “Letters to the Editor” in support of President Barack Obama in more than a dozen newspapers.Every letter claimed a different residence for Light that happened to be in the newspaper’s circulation area…

Variations of Light’s letter ran in Ohio’s Mansfield News Journal on Jan. 13, with Light claiming an address in Mansfield; in New Mexico’s Ruidoso News on Jan. 12, claiming an address in Three Rivers; in South Carolina’s The Sun News on Jan. 18, claiming an address in Myrtle Beach; and in the Daily News Leader of Staunton, Virginia on Jan. 15, claiming an address in Waynesboro. Her publications list includes other papers in Ohio, West Virginia, Maine, Michigan, Iowa, Pennsylvania and California, all claiming separate addresses.

Ace at Ace of Spades says:

Whether Axelrod (did I mention? “the gold standard of astroturf campaigns”) is behind any of this, I don’t know (but he almost certainly is).

Create the illusion of a inevitability. Make people think they are almost alone in disapproving of Obama, so that they self-censor and won’t say they disapprove of Obama, and thereby make other people think they’re alone in that too.

PR, PR, PR. Spin, spin, spin. Alinsky, Alinsky, Alinsky.

It was always dishonest. Now it’s just pathetic.

Note to the editorial page of The Times:  the Plain Dealer article includes some suggestions on how to counteract leftist dirty tricks like this.  As always, we’re pleased to help you guys improve the paper when possible…

Seriously, it sucks to be taken advantage of – but had the newspapers done a better job of vetting Obama before the election you would have known about his campaign’s use of these tactics – and maybe even reported on it (however see John Edwards for an example of what the media willingly hides).

UPDATE:

Patterico has a round up, so far he’s counted letters in “42 publications in 18 states plus D.C.” by “Ellie Light”:

Think there might be some phony Astroturfing there?

Happy New Year to The Huntsville Times

I resolved that my first post about The Huntsville Times would be positive.  John Peck wrote an editorial “Going wild after Forever Wild”:

Alabama’s Forever Wild land preservation program has been wildly successful in acquiring environmentally sensitive property and setting it aside as permanent public green space.

Since voters overwhelmingly approved the program in 1992, Forever Wild has acquired more than 200,000 acres of wild lands including the Walls of Jericho in Jackson County, mountaintop trails around Huntsville, eagle roosting areas around Guntersville and 35,000 acres of wetlands in the Mobile delta.

The properties are bought using a portion of interest earnings off the $3 billion Alabama Trust Fund fed by oil and gas leases…

The official expiration of Forever Wild isn’t until Oct. 1, 2012, but already outside interests are setting their sights on the trust in ways that could decrease its buying power even if Forever Wild wins another 20-year continuance.

Some lawmakers want to tap the Alabama Trust Fund for a $1 billion road building program. Contract holders with the cash-strapped prepaid college tuition plan also want to siphon money from the trust. Recent news reports revealed that the Alabama Farmers Federation is eyeing the trust for farm, soil and water conservation efforts.

Any drawdown on the principal would reduce interest earnings, of which 10 percent is now dedicated to Forever Wild.

Former Times editor John Ehinger was  supportive of Forever Wild and I’ve linked to his columns before.  I’m pleased to see that the new editorial board is just as supportive of this program.  If only The Times would name the “lawmakers” (State Senator Lowell Barron – Democrat) who want to tap into the Trust Fund; don’t leave us hanging…

Thanks Kevin Wendt – I hope The Times makes lots of money and gets lots of new subscribers and wins plenty of major awards this year.  We here at Flashpoint are always willing to nudge you onto the right path to prosperity. Just know that our critiques come from a place filled with love and respect…

While I’m being all warm and cuddly, I’d like to invite The Times to cover the Huntsville Governor Candidates Forum on March 2, 2010.  All seven GOP gubernatorial candidates have committed to attend the forum, which promises to be the largest debate in the State.  The Young Republicans and Right On Huntsville would certainly appreciate the press attention.

***

Back to a Forever Wild-related topic, this time from the Montgomery Advertiser, “Birding trail more popular than expected”:

When the North Alabama Birding Trail opened in September 2005, local tourism and state conservation officials predicted tourists would flock to Alabama to see bald eagles, waterfowl, warblers and other birds.

About four years later, those officials said the response to the trail, which includes 12 sites in and around the Shoals, has exceeded expectations.

“We have a tremendous amount of people coming by or contacting our office for information on the birding trail,” said Alison Stanfield, assistant director of Florence-Lauderdale Tourism. “Interest in the trail remains very high.”

…while there have been no studies to determine how many people visit the bird-watching sites, the trail is boosting tourism in the region…

Mark Sasser, coordinator of the non-game wildlife section for the conservation department, said the success of the North Alabama Birding Trail is spawning a proliferation of bird-watching trails throughout the state.

He said the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel will create a series of birding trails with hopes of including all 67 counties. He said wildlife watching is one of the fastest-growing forms of outdoor recreation in America.

The State really should try to quantify the success of the Birding Trails (in terms of human visitors).  I know that the Forever Wild program suffers from the same lack of good information.  People like the parks, but without this information, we’re just guessing at how successful the program might be in economic terms.

We know that in environmental terms, like plant and wildlife diversity and conservation, or in terms of clean water and protecting watersheds, Forever Wild is successful.  But people pay the bills, and some people (Lowell Barron and some other Democrats) don’t love baby birds and fluffy bunnies and pretty flowers as much as the rest of us.  They’d rather pave paradise…

Malreporting at the Huntsville Times

Way back in November of 2008, The Huntsville Times ran an article by goodthinker Shelby Spires, ‘Both candidates support missile defense’, which contained this rebuttal to concerns that Obama would cut missile defense:

Continued support for missile defense programs seems a lock for either a John McCain or Barack Obama White House given their campaign statements… 

This bit of propagandawise deserves to be unstuffed from the memory hole, in light of Sunday’s headline ‘Bill will send billions here’, again written by versificator Spires.

The Times headline obscures this 20% cut to one of Huntsville’s top employers:

Spending for the Missile Defense Agency comes in at $7.7 billion, down some $2 billion from fiscal year 2009.

Or in other words, in 1983 the chocolate ration was 30 grams per week and in 1984 chocorats went up to 25 grams per week.

The Ministry of Truth Huntsville Times – all the news that’s fit to misprint…

Thanks to waltm for the idea of the Orwell 1984 theme.

E-mails didn’t skip critic Christy

Kudos to The Huntsville Times for putting Climategate on the front page in “State climatologist John Christy, a critic of global warming, mentioned in leaked ‘Climategate’ emails”.

It’s about time that the global warming fraud gets widespread notice.  The data was manipulated to support the fraud and now we know that the raw data has been missing for 20 years (the dog ate my data).  The problem is that the Obama administration still supports the faked conclusions and is apparently willing to destroy the economy to further the ‘green’ agenda. 

The earth warms, the earth cools.  It happens all the time.  This global warming fraud is a socialist attack on capitalist economies.  China is the biggest polluter in the world, and constricting the US economy is the answer. Huh?

All of this is breaking as Obama arrives in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week for a global summit on climate change. The president is expected to pledge the United States will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Christy maintains that the steps being proposed “won’t have much effect” on the air, but will affect the economies of the nations that follow them.

Does Christy ever worry that he might be wrong?

“What I fear most is a government going down the road of centrally planned solutions,” Christy said.

Welcome back Lee Roop, fairly nice job on the article.

Horse manure from The Times

In Sunday’s Huntsville Times Enjoy section, book reviewer Ann Marie Martin recommends the children’s book “The Georges and the Jewels”, by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley.

Hmm… I remember associating the name Jane Smiley with something bad, so I did a Google search on her name.  The FIRST words of the FIRST entry refer to a 2004 Slate article: “The unteachable ignorance of the red states”.  Now I remember.

The day George W. Bush was re-elected President of the US, Jane Smiley had an article published at Slate: “Why Americans Hate Democrats - A Dialogue – The unteachable ignorance of the red states”.   Here are some thoughts from this ‘eloquent’ writer:

The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry.

Smiley continues on to an intellectually dishonest ‘dialogue’ about how ‘red state’ people are the same kind of people who massacred ‘blue state’ people in Lawrence, Kansas during the Civil War.  Why do I say she is intellectually dishonest?  Because Lawrence, Kansas was founded by abolitionist Republicans like Eli Thayer.  Read the Slate article and you’ll wonder how this woman ever received a PhD, much less why she is allowed to teach school.

Here is how ignorance works: First, they put the fear of God into you—if you don’t believe in the literal word of the Bible, you will burn in hell. Of course, the literal word of the Bible is tremendously contradictory, and so you must abdicate all critical thinking, and accept a simple but logical system of belief that is dangerous to question…

The history of the last four years shows that red state types, above all, do not want to be told what to do—they prefer to be ignorant. As a result, they are virtually unteachable.

Offended yet, Bible-thumpers?  How about you “do not want to be told what to do” ignorant libertarians?  Here’s where she goes Commie:

A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know, decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class… They are predatory and resentful, amoral, avaricious, and arrogant… Can the Democrats appeal to such voters? Do they want to? The Republicans have sold their souls for power.

Class warfare.  Yeah, I’ll go right out and buy her children’s book…  Here’s some more ‘eloquence’:

…red state types love to cheat and intimidate…  they are borne of hubris and hatred…

Read the book?  I don’t have to stir up a pile of horse manure to know that it stinks…

I’m left wondering about the apparently unteachable ignorance of The Huntsville Times.  The book reviewer was at best INCURIOUS (which should be an insult to a newspaper), at worst sympathetic to Smiley’s viewpoint. This is an example of what I mean when I say the stench of liberalism permeates The Times.

Don’t even get me started about the stench of the Pulitzer