By Doug Porter
Six weeks ago the publisher of the Los Angeles Times closed the deal on buying U-T San Diego for $85 million. It’s time for a quick progress report on the state of San Diego’s daily newspaper.
Now it’s been re-christened as the Union-Tribune, the printing was outsourced and about a third of the staff is gone. The paper’s web site has been spiffed up and actual reporting not influenced by the owner’s agenda appears to be taking place.
Most of all, what I perceived as the aura of shame is gone. Outbursts of pride in the product have been observed recently. For better or worse, they’re being the best newspaper they know how. Those who thought the newspaper would somehow be transformed into either Daily Worker or Breitbart News Network will continue to be disappointed. This is still San Diego and the sale of one media outlet will not change the political and economic realities of this city.
The months prior to the sale must have been tough for the staff. Initial upgrades took a disastrous turn. Many ‘improvements’ were nothing short of embarrassing, like the wannabe cable operation. The multi-media part of the original vision wasted away. Management was shuffled. From where I sat the only question was whether it would be shuttered or sold.
While other parts of the San Diego Union-Tribune appear to be in recovery from the “Papa Doug” era, the tone and tenor of its editorial voice remains largely unchanged. The editorial board remains the same: liberal economic and governance ideas are foolish notions, conservative ones are “common sense.”
We learned this weekend on the UT‘s editorial page about how the oil extraction process known as fracking is really okay and anybody who says otherwise is just silly because its been going on for years.
The independent report on fracking in California commissioned by the state Senate, released last week, offered no smoking guns of any kind to those who depict fracking as a catastrophic environmental threat.
Instead, the 30 scientists who wrote and peer-reviewed the report raised reasonable questions about whether enough is known about chemicals used in the energy extraction process in which underground water cannons guided by the equivalent of massive underground MRIs blast through rock to get to natural gas and oil reserves. The report warned that in a relative handful of cases where fracking is done close to the surface, it could be a threat to groundwater. The most significant issue it raised was to warn of the danger to underground aquifers from dumping fracking wastewater into 900-plus open-air, unlined pits in San Joaquin Valley oil fields.
These concerns must be addressed by state regulators and by energy-exploration companies. But there is a reason such companies didn’t knock the state report. It’s because nothing in it contradicts their position – and the Obama administration’s position – that fracking is a dirty heavy industry that can be made safe with proper regulation. The report found no evidence of fracking causing significant air or water pollution in California – with the caveat that more research might find evidence of such pollution. It also noted that fracking uses less water than is commonly assumed and generates fewer greenhouse gases than other methods of energy extraction.
So an investigative effort not allowed to conduct its own water-quality tests found nothing new when it examined existing data. Not mentioned were the hearings in Sacramento just a few months back revealing wrongfully issued drilling permits, lack of oversight and a non-working system of data collection.
From the Los Angeles Times:
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has called the state’s errors “shocking” and said that California’s oil field waste water injection program does not comply with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
Agency officials have attributed the errors to chaotic record-keeping and antiquated data collection.
What the report actually said was “we don’t know and have no way of knowing” if this is a safe procedure.
From Think Progress:
In terms of water contamination, no California agency has conducted a systematical study of the possible impacts, the assessment said. In fact, across all of California, only one water contamination sampling study — near a fracking site in Los Angeles County — has been done. Results of contamination studies in other regions of the country have been mixed, the report said. But since we don’t know what’s going into the chemical mix, or how it might react with other elements over time, these types of studies might not even be testing for the right things.
“Notably, most groundwater sampling studies do not even measure stimulation chemicals, partly because their full chemical composition and reaction products were unknown prior to this study,” the report said.
The lack of data also means that treated wastewater is not necessarily getting stripped of potentially harmful elements. “Treatment of produced water destined for reuse may not detect or remove chemicals associated with hydraulic fracturing and acid stimulation,” the report noted.
Contrast the Union-Tribune’s editorial point of view with the report from the National Resources Defense Council:
After two years and more than 2,000 pages, the Independent Scientific Assessment of Well Stimulation in California found that the state has a long way to go make oil and gas production safer for communities and the environment. The Summary Report alone includes 23 recommendations for studies, policies, and measures to address risks and data gaps.
So drink up, folks. Have a glass of fracking water on the UT. Mmmmmm…tasty.
San Diego’s Stadium Shamed
Our City Council will be voting on Tuesday on whether to approve $2.1 million for a new environmental impact report for a new football stadium on the Qualcomm site. Never mind that the would-be occupants for the location have walked away from the negotiating table, or the arguments saying the study would be worthless as tits on a slab of bacon if challenged in court.
Nuh-uh. Our city’s leaders are bound for glory…
…Along comes HBO’s John Oliver last night with a full frontal attack on the very idea of taxpayer funded arenas. The Chargers and a host of other sports organizations are shamed along with the politicians who are enabling them. The episode ends with Oliver leading a an imagined locker room pep talk culminating in the chant of “Make Them Pay.”
Drug King Gets Away
El Chapo Guzman, head of the Sinaloa cartel, escaped from prison on Saturday. All hell is breaking loose.
Here’s the quick version from the Associated Press, via KPBS:
Widely considered the world’s richest and most powerful drug trafficker before his capture last year, Guzman slipped down a shaft from his prison cell’s shower area late Saturday and disappeared into a sophisticated mile-long (1.5 kilometer-long) tunnel with ventilation, lighting and a motorcycle apparently used to move dirt.
“All the accolades that Mexico has received in their counter-drug efforts will be erased by this one event” if Guzman is not recaptured, said Michael S. Vigil, a retired U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief of international operations.
More than anything else, the escape undermined Mexico’s assertion it can deal with top drug lords at home and doesn’t need to extradite them to the U.S. The national pride that appeared to motivate Pena Nieto’s administration to prosecute drug lords like Guzman through its own court system has now turned into a national embarrassment.
Donald Trump seized the moment with a prediction on how this would play out.
The U.S. will invite El Chapo, the Mexican drug lord who just escaped prison, to become a U.S. citizen because our “leaders” can’t say no!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 13, 2015
Marcy Wheeler has a grittier view of what this means:
Chapo’s arrest seems to have had little affect on the dominance of Sinaloa in the market (which may also suggest some favor from officials). Which will likely lead the decapitation-faithful in US law enforcement agencies to accidentally shoot Guzmán the next time we “help” with an arrest.
Finally, Chapo’s escape has led to predictable tut-tutting about the corruption of Mexico generally and Peña Nieto specifically. Those complaints are true: over time we’re likely to discover that Guzmán had help from inside, if not from even higher-level authorities (the house where his tunnel ended is close to a military base, apparently).
But is the US really in any position to complain? After all, at least under Eric Holder, our government didn’t even try to imprison our transnational crime organization bosses — people like Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, men who don’t use the same overt violence that Sinaloa does, but who nevertheless have presided over transnational networks of entrenched crime. Jamie Dimon has never had to hide in a tunnel, in part because DOJ presumed he’d always escape whatever legal efforts we made to keep him there. And one reason we don’t change the underlying law is because our Presidents, of both parties, are just as tied to those criminal TCOs as Peña Nieto and many of his predecessors.
I absolutely agree that Guzmán’s escape reflects the lack of seriousness of some in Mexico about prosecuting him. But that’s not unique to Mexico, not even in North America.
On This Day:1787 – The U.S. Congress, under the Articles of Confederation, enacted the Northwest Ordinance, which established the rules for governing the Northwest Territory, for admitting new states to the Union and limiting the expansion of slavery. 1863 – Opponents of the Civil War draft began three days of rioting in New York City, which resulted in more than 1,000 casualties. 1985 – Live-Aid concerts took place in Philadelphia, PA, and London, England.
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