Jim Justice is a big-talking, brash billionaire who saved one of West Virginia’s most precious historic hotels. But can he do the same for the state?”>
Everybody in West Virginia knows Jim Justice saved the states historic Greenbrier resort from bankruptcy and restored the jobs of 650 laid-off workers.
In a state that ranks low on almost every measure of prosperity, he boosted the local sense of pride by building a training camp for the New Orleans Saints on the property and convincing the PGA to host a premiere tournament at the Greenbrier, turning a dying resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Va. into a sports destination.
He also added a casino, which the Greenbriers web site describes as Monte Carlo meets Gone With the Wind. Its splashy motif tested the old guard, but thats how Justice rolls. According to Forbes, hes West Virginias only billionaire, and now at age 65 hes the frontrunner for governor in tomorrows Democratic primary.
A huge bear of a man with a shock of white hair, he stands 67, weighs over 300 pounds, and wears crocs on the campaign trail. Like Donald Trump, another billionaire businessman turned politician, Justice makes a lot of grandiose pronouncements about what he could do if elected to make the economy take off, promising voters in an April debate, Ill take you on a rocket jobs ride youll never believe.
Aside from a brief stint on the Raleigh County Board of Education 15 years ago, hes a political novice. He was a Republican before he was a Democrat, and a Democrat before he was a Republican.
Hes also dared to question the future of the states most sacred of sacred cows: Coal
Coal is so central to the states psyche and its economic well being that the minerals image is in the state flag.
I do not want to give up on coal. I do not want to throw it away, but you have to have a lot more than coal, Justice told students at Blue Ridge Technical Community College, according to the Martinsburg Journal. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out. No matter what I do, coal may never come back.
That passes for radical in coal country, but theres more to the story. Some accuse Justice of talking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to coal, which is the source of his fortune.
He inherited Bluestone Coal, now Bluestone Resources, from his father, selling it to a Russian conglomerate when coal was still riding high, then buying it back last year for 99 percent less than what he sold it for in 2009.
The coal business did a nosedive in those six years, and Justice says he bought the mines back because he didnt want to see all those miners thrown out of work. He reopened several mines and put over 200 miners back to work. The United Mine Workers has endorsed him.
West Virginians blame coals decline on Obamas war on coal and EPA regulations. The state House of Delegates shifted to Republican control in 2014 after 83 years of Democratic dominance. Still,the voters elect Democrats as governor, and Justice leads in the polls over Republican state Senate leader Bill Cole, a local car dealer.
Justices chief asset is his larger than life personality, and his ability to convince voters that he can do for the state what he has done in his private life, think big, generate jobs and make money.
I can do what no one has ever done, no one, because I have a creative mind like nobodys business and I wont take no, he said in an interview with the Charleston Gazette-Mail. I can pick up the phone and call anybody and hell take my call.
Just like Trump on the national level, the braggadocio does not encompass much in the way of specifics. The message is trust me, Im a smart guy with a lot of contacts, Ill make it happen. If elected, Justice says he will be marketer-in-chief for West Virginia.
Where you think he stands on coal depends on what you choose to hear. But as a coal man himself, he is uniquely positioned to lead the way with tough love.
There are just 11,881 workers left in coal mining in the state, just over half what it was in 2012, and the lowest number in West Virginia since 1890, more than 125 years ago.
Candidates in both parties perpetuate the myth of coal returning, says Ray Smock, who directs the Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education. You cant get elected in West Virginia without suggesting positive things about the coal industry coming back.
Still, things are changing.
Don Blankenship, the disgraced former CEO of Massey Energy, was convicted last month on one misdemeanor count, which carries a $250,000 fine, which he paid, and one year in prison, which he is appealing. While way too little and too late for the 29 lives lost in an avoidable mine accident six years ago, such a verdict ten years ago would have been unimaginable. Booth Goodwin, the former states attorney who prosecuted Blankenship, is one of the Democratic contenders in Tuesdays primary.
Rob Byers, co-editor of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, told the Daily Beast that candidates are saying things they never would have said seven or ten years ago. Theyre saying the coal industry will not save us, and that climate change is real.
Of course any nod toward climate change is so couched as to be almost insignificant. Justice says theres no need to blow our legs off on a concept, but concedes he doesnt know for certain one way or the other, and thats progress of a sort.
When Justice visited with Gazette-Mail editors, he brought an enlarged photo of himself fishing in a creek he had saved and donated to a conservancy group. He wanted them to know he cared about the environment.
Thats not to say Justice isnt full of bravado about the coal industry coming back, which is politically expedient but disingenuous given the trend lines. This may be the last election you have to do that, says Byers, who has interviewed a number of Democratic House candidates, and a lot of them are saying flatly that coal is not coming back. Im not saying theyll get elected, but theres a mood shift, he says.
Justice often says that even when coal was king, West Virginia was 50th in everything else. The Greenbrier had been losing nearly a million dollars a week when he took it over in 2011. Its still not profitable. Its going to be easier to turn around the state of West Virginia than the Greenbrier, he told the students.
For all his altruism, Justice has a reputation for not paying his bills until he gets threatened with a lawsuit. He has a folksy explanation that as the CEO or owner of multiple businesses, including the largest agri-business east of the Mississippi, its like changing socks.
Most people change their socks probably a couple times a day, maybe once a day. Ive got to change (mine) 500 times a day. The likelihood of me putting one pair of socks on when one is green and one is blue during the course of the day is doggone high.
Thats the kind of explanation that at another time might have tested the confidence of voters in the barons of business to work the levers of government. Now, having lost faith in conventional politicians, voters seem ready for Plan B.
He chalks up a history of overdue bills and fines by claiming that any CEO and owner of multiple businesses is bound to make mistakes. Its like changing socks when you have too many, he says. The likelihood of me putting one pair of socks on when one is green and one is blue during the course of the day is doggone high.
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President-elect Donald Trump has said that he does not believe the planet is warming as a result of human activity despite the research-backed consensus reached long ago by researchers across the globe.
He tweeted in 2012 that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” More recently, Trump has pledged to roll back President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan a set of rules that requires states to substantially reduce their emissions over the next few decades.
Right now, his transition website says, “America’s environmental agenda will be guided by true specialists in conservation, not those with radical political agendas.”
The implication seems to be that researchers who accept climate science will have no place in his Environmental Protection Agency, or perhaps his government.
So what will Trump’s actual environmental policies look like? Here’s what we know.
Trump has picked a man named Myron Ebell to oversee the EPA transition.
Ebell is not a scientist and has no degrees or qualifications in climate science. But he serves as director of global warming and environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a libertarian advocacy group in Washington, DC.
In practice, that means he spends his time rejecting and trying to discredit scientists who work to understand the global climate.
Ebell believes climate scientists are part of a coordinated ‘global warming movement’
In an interview with Business Insider in August, Ebell repeatedly referred to climate scientists as “global warming alarmists” and suggested that climate research is in fact an arm of a coordinated political movement.
“I think that the global warming movement has three parts,” he said. “One is to exaggerate the rate of warming, one is to exaggerate the potential impacts of warming and how soon they may occur, and the third is to underestimate wildly the costs of reducing our emissions by the magical amount that they have picked.”
Business Insider spoke with several climate scientists who described Ebell as a kind of gadfly someone’s whose views they must occasionally stoop to address in forums and debates where he’s brought in to represent a discredited anti-climate-change perspective, but not a particularly serious person.
“He doesn’t really know anything about science,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a top Earth scientist at NASA who has faced off with Ebell in the past. “He uses science like a talisman.”
Ebell’s technique, Schmidt said, is to point toward “some little fact” and use it to extrapolate some larger irrelevant and scientifically incorrect point.
Even if Ebell’s scientific claims may not sit well with actual scientists, there are those who have found his perspective valuable.
CEI used to rely significantly on funding from ExxonMobil. As The Washington Post reports, it now receives funding from Donors Trust.
You know, [Trump] said he was going to drain the swamp in Washington, and instead he’s put Myron Ebell a swamp rat, a DC insider lobbyist in charge of the transition at the EPA.
“The Virginia-based organization,” Post reporter Brady Dennis wrote of Donors Trust, “which is not required by law to disclose its contributors, is staffed largely by people who have worked for Koch Industries or nonprofit groups supported by the conservative Koch brothers.”
Good news for deniers, terrible news for environmentalists
Speaking with Business Insider in August before his selection, Ebell outlined his views on the appropriate direction for the EPA.
“When economies get richer, they not only make people wealthier, they generally provide immense environmental benefits,” he said. “And so if you actually believe, if someone actually believes that global warming is a crisis that must be addressed … I think it would be much better to free up the economy and get rid of the EPA rules and a lot of the Department of Energy programs and let the economy boom forward.”
Ebell’s fellow professional climate science skeptics seem cheered by his selection.
“Ebell is an old friend of mine who works on climate and energy issues at the Competitive Enterprise Institute,” wrote Breitbart’s James Delingpole, who regularly publishes posts trying to discredit climate science, in a November 9 article declaring that “the left just lost the war on climate change.”
“The fact that he’s an old friend of mine probably tells you all you need to know about where he stands on global warming,” Delingpole wrote.
He concluded: “Yup, greenies. That climate change gravy train you’ve been riding these last four decades looks like it’s headed for a major, Atlas-Shrugged-style tunnel incident.”
Dan Lashof, COO of the environmental group NextGen Climate America, was as concerned as Delingpole was thrilled.
“Myron Ebell is a libertarian ideologue,” he told Business Insider. “Having him lead the transition team at the EPA is literally putting a tobacco lobbyist in charge of America’s lung protection agency. It’s not normal.”
Lashof said he expects a Trump administration with a Ebell-staffed EPA to work hard to roll back environmental regulations just as the president-elect’s website promises.
“You know, [Trump] said he was going to drain the swamp in Washington, and instead he’s put Myron Ebell a swamp rat, a DC insider lobbyist in charge of the transition at the EPA,” Lashof said.
Death to ‘politically correct technologies’
You won’t hear any disagreement from the right that Ebell will push for killing environmental regulations to benefit fossil fuel businesses.
Patrick Michaels, who works for the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, DC and, like Ebell, has made a reputation for rejecting the consensus on climate science told Business Insider that Ebell’s selection represents a victory for the idea that removing air pollution rules would in fact lead to cleaner air.
“Rich societies are cleaner,” he said. “If you want efficient technologies to come online, the best way to do that is to have a vibrant economy, because that capital will be directed toward producing things with less energy and producing things that use less energy to appeal to consumers.”
This position is intolerable to Lashof.
“This is putting somebody who just denies basic scientific facts in charge of a federal agency,” Lashof said. “We will lead a resistance against the federal government. We will work with state governments to push back and keep progress going based on state policy.”
He said he’s confident there will be economic limits on Ebell’s and Trump’s ability to fight clean energy.
Solar and wind power “are actually cheaper than continuing to run existing coal in a lot of locations,” Lashof said. “That depends to some extent on a federal tax credit, which early indications suggest that Congress and the Trump administration are not likely to try to roll back.”
Both Ebell and Michaels scoff at the idea that either solar or wind power will play a significant role in the energy future of the country. (Michaels calls them “politically correct technologies.”)
“I think in particular I would say the emphasis that the global warming movement or alarmist community or whatever you want to call them on renewables, namely solar and wind, is really short-sighted,” Ebell said. “I think that those two technologies, particularly wind, are dead ends.”
It’s worth noting though that Ebell may have tweaked his public position on this issue in the last couple of months. He told National Geographic after the election that “we love wind and solar.” But he clarified that he doesn’t think the government should get involved in supporting either.
Ebell argued that any reduction in US emissions in the Obama era is the result of a “stagnant economy,” not policies designed to push renewable energies.
“We would like to get rid of all of this stuff,” he said. “And we think that the use of energy will become more efficient just through the innovations that will occur in free markets when people are allowed to invest their money in things that can make money.”
How does climate denial even work?
Asked to explain why someone would reject the scientific consensus that humans are dangerously warming the planet, Michaels simply denied that any such consensus exists.
For evidence that climate change has been largely falsified, he pointed to an October 28 article by the reporter Paul Voosen in the journal Science.
The argument he drew from the Voosen article is a good example of the approach professional climate deniers like himself and Ebell use to undermine science, so it’s worth taking a minute to think about.
“Take a look at the Voosen piece and read between the lines,” Michaels said.
Michaels argued that it shows the many models researchers use to understand the climate have been rigged with “fudge factors” to produce incorrect results, and that “scientists are deciding a priori what the answer is.”
Here’s what Voosen actually reported:
“For years, climate scientists had been mum in public about their ‘secret sauce’; What happened in the models stayed in the models. The taboo reflected fears that climate contrarians would use the practice of tuning [models to real world results] to seed doubt about models and, by extension, the reality of human driven warming. ‘The community became defensive,’ [scientist Bjorn] Stevens says. ‘It was afraid of talking about things that they thought could be unfairly used against them.’ …
“But modelers have come to realize that disclosure could reveal that some tunings [of models] are more deft or realistic than others. It’s also vital for scientists who use the models in specific ways.”
Voosen’s article does not state or suggest any evidence of rigging to falsify warming. Rather, he reports that there has been an effort to bring models in line with observed reality, and that a transparency movement is enabling scientists to more rigorously audit each others’ models for quality.
But Michaels finds a nearly opposite interpretation.
With Ebell on the rise, the question than becomes: Are these sorts of denials valid?
“It’s complete bollocks. You can quote me on that. It’s just rubbish,” Schmidt said of Michaels’ argument.
“So it’s basically a shoot the messenger strategy that they’ve been pursuing for decades, but most actually scientists have been ignoring them for about the same amount of time.”
Schmidt said there is “enormous consensus” among scientists about three points: Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will warm the planet, human activity is increasing their presence in the atmosphere, and that activity is responsible for almost all or all of the warming the planet has seen since the 19th century. This is true.
Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said there’s no longer a serious question to ask about the validity of climate change.
“We understand the physics of what’s happening pretty well now,” he said. “If you load the atmosphere with a greenhouse gas, it will induce a warming. It’s all based on an understanding of how electromagnetic radiation and matter interact. It’s a very mature science. If you are going to deny that somehow, you’d have to deny that your microwave oven works.”
He added that he invites people to come to the NSIDC to download snow and ice data and do their own analysis if they want, though deniers rarely take him up on it.
“People like Michaels and Ebell have been saying that climate modeling isn’t science for decades,” Schmidt said. “And what they really mean is, ‘We don’t like the outputs from those climate models, and so therefore instead of trying to demonstrate why they’re wrong, we’re just going to try to dismiss them out of hand.’
“So it’s basically a shoot-the-messenger strategy that they’ve been pursuing for decades, but most actual scientists have been ignoring them for about the same amount of time.”
‘Nothing he does affects the science’
Schmidt works for NASA, and Serreze works for the NSIDC. That means they rely on federal funds for their research. Trump has made it clear that scientists who accept the consensus position that human activity is causing climate change will not be welcome in his government, or at least his EPA. And his selection of Ebell only reinforces that point. But neither researcher said he expects to lose his ability to pursue science.
“I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t some level of concern,” Schmidt said. “But the federal government is a very, very large place. And the number of appointees is very small.”
“During the [George W.] Bush administration, we had climate skeptics rewriting reports and trying to control what’s said to the media,” he added. “But the planet kept warning. We kept reporting on it. We kept improving the science that underlies our understanding of why it’s changing. And we will work to continue to do so.”
Serreze said: “I think we remain optimistic that wise heads are going to prevail here. There were concerns in the previous Republican administration under George W. Bush. We got through that. I’m confident we’ll get through this.”
As for Ebell’s newfound power to push his views onto scientists, Schmidt said he’s not overly concerned in part because the EPA has never done much research on its own, but also because Ebell lacks the wherewithal to do so.
“He’s not a serious person when it comes to the science,” Schmidt said. “Nothing he does affects the science.”
This is an editorial. The opinions and conclusions expressed above are those of the author.
Read the original article on Tech Insider. Copyright 2016.
Over the past decade or so, it’s become acceptable for adults to like kid’s stuff again. Which is great, because now we can watch great shows like Steven Universe and Gravity Falls without getting the stink eye from the rest of civilization. Occasionally, though, adults will forget that kids too enjoy kid stuff, leading to situations that range from “slightly annoying” to “absolutely terrifying.”
According to recent estimates, approximately 90 percent of all toys are Star Wars toys, and this percentage doubled upon the recent release of The Force Awakens. Stores across the nation stocked up on toys for “Force Friday,” in hopes that they could cram enough bodies into their stores to generate a small black hole. And it nearly worked — retailers watched as their new Star Wars toys sold out in massive numbers … to fans who will probably never touch them again, save for the occasional dusting.
Massive excitement, followed by absolutely nothing: It’s not just for Boba Fett toys anymore!
Obviously, The Force Awakens has wide-ranging appeal, with 34 percent of moviegoers being between the ages of 18 and 34, but nobody anticipated the degree to which adult male collectors would wait out all night to completely clear the shelves. Plenty of fans on social media complained that, despite waiting in line for hours at their local Toys ‘R’ Us or Target, there was almost nothing for them to buy, because the first ten or so people in line had descended on the toy aisles like a group of piranhas skeletonizing a cow. How piranhas and a cow ended up in the same room is a mystery, but so are scenes like this:
“That’s adorable, but I’m still coming any day now.” — Death
But all these megafans buying the toys as collector’s items were only shooting themselves in the foot. Vintage toys from the 1970s and 1980s can go for thousands of dollars these days, but that’s only because so few people bothered to keep them around. When the prequel trilogy came out, along with hundreds of Alderaans’ worth of toys, they were snapped up by collectors by the thousands, which caused their value to drop to that of a lightly-used Tootsie Pop. So instead of securing a financial future crafted from the tears of children, these adults dropped hundreds of dollars on what will eventually become the backdrop for an episode of Hoarders.
Guys, if you really want to make money off these toys, tear them out of the packages and take pictures of all the figures making out with all the other figures. The demand for that will be substantially higher. And seeing as how A) we’ll be getting Star Wars movies until the heat death of the universe; and B) male adults fucking stampeded to The Force Awakens, a few more decades of this bullshit will make the franchise as hip to the kids as C-SPAN.
Though you may not have heard of them, children’s pop group The Wiggles is one of Australia’s most successful musical groups, having released a whopping 44 albums and received critical acclaim for the last 25 years. If you aren’t familiar with their music, here’s one of their most popular tunes on YouTube, “Hot Potato.”
Obviously, their biggest group of fans are children, but it turns out the Wiggles are beloved by another group — a much older, lonelier, hornier group. For at least ten years, members of the band have been receiving letters from older women and single mothers who want to wiggle with them, so to speak. Some of the comments made were so suggestive that we don’t even know what they are, because they couldn’t be reprinted in an Australian newspaper (one of the few known cases of Australia giving a fuck).
A 2009 interview with Anthony, the Blue Wiggle (which is also the worst superhero name we’ve ever heard), revealed that the group has dedicated groupies bearing Krispy Kremes, and has received at least one erotic jigsaw puzzle. The interview also included photos of Anthony which, honestly, explain an awful lot.
The episode where The Wiggles visited a tattoo parlor received critical acclaim.
After years and years of this mommy panty-dropping, The Wiggles have given up on fighting their adult fanbase, and they’ve started doing some adult-only shows. Recently, The Wiggles held a benefit “reunion” show that could only be attended by people aged 18 or over, partly due to the sale of alcohol at the show — something we don’t think Sesame Street would be able to pull off.
As you would expect from a bunch of grownups watching an act they enjoyed as toddlers, most people in attendance were completely fucking blasted. But if you thought this would be the show where The Wiggles let their hair down, you’d be wrong: They played it exactly as they would play it for children. Which makes sense, since that was probably the average brain function at the time for these alcohol-doused adults.
Do we really need to explain bronies? We’re 95 percent sure you know what they are. Hell, we’re sure a solid chunk of you are bronies, reading this article because someone on social media said that we were talking about you. Thanks for that, by the way.
Well, for the three of you who don’t know: “Bronies” are the group of adult, mostly male fans of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. They arrived at the same time the show did, at first ironically, then legitimately after they realized that it’s quite well-made for a kid’s show. Unfortunately, nothing good lasts forever on the internet, and things started getting weird, even when you try to ignore the veritable mountains of MLP pornography (and no, we are not providing any links here).
Two in the Pinkie Pie, one in the Stinkie Pie.
A couple years ago, Tumblr removed a pornographic MLP fan blog called “Ask Princess Molestia,” which in a normal universe would have been the most uncontroversial sentence in history. But because everything is awful, a large number of bronies got outraged, and proceeded to do what the internet always does when it’s outraged: blame a woman and try to ruin her life.
Seventeen-year-old Tumblr user pinkiepony, who reported the blog to Hasbro after her 12-year-old sister came across “Molestia” by accident, was inundated with cryptic threats and allegations of white supremacy, and even tracked down via GPS coordinates, because Hell hath no fury like a man online who isn’t able to see sex literally everywhere he looks.
Shouldn’t enjoying a show called Friendship Is Magic require you to be friendly?
Recently, though, it seems that Hasbro has realized that they are fighting a losing battle. While trademark and copyright law forces them to do things such as send cease-and-desist letters to the creators of a My Little Pony MMO, they’ve decided they could get their hands on that sweet adult collector money, rather than try to curtail the rising tide of bronies. A new high-quality line of figures called <3 My Little Pony is being designed to sell for hundreds of dollars apiece, also known as “a significant fraction of an iPhone.”
That 12-inch human Rainbow Dash will be great emotional support during the buyer’s bankruptcy proceedings.
There’s no word on when Hasbro will start spray-painting and selling real ponies, but we’re reasonably sure they wouldn’t be able to keep them in stock.