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March 21, 2014

Washington Post Writers Respond to Powerline's Criticism

You can read their response here.

Here is what they claim. All emphases in the below quotes are added by me.

First, regarding the political leaning of the group that brought this story to our attention, our article makes clear its left-wing origins, the controversial nature of its earlier claims, and its political agenda.

Oh? They make it clear that the group was left-wing?

Here's what the original article says about the group:

The Koch Industries subsidiary holds leases on 1.1 million acres -- an area nearly the size of Delaware -- in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, according to an activist group that studied Alberta provincial records.

An "activist" group -- no political leaning specified. Note, of course, that the media tends to claim leftwing groups are nonpartisan subject-matter-area advocacy groups, with no political leaning, whereas right-leaning groups are always noted as partisan.

Like right here, in the original article:

The biggest lease holder in the northern Alberta oil sands is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the privately-owned cornerstone of the fortune of conservative Koch brothers Charles and David.

Why weren't they simply called "activist"? Further, why aren't they called "libertarian?" They self-identify as libertarian; in fact, everyone except these writers seems to identify them as libertarian.

But the left-wing group is merely termed "activist" and the Koch Brothers are incorrectly termed "conservative."

And then they claim they made the report's left-wing genesis "clear."

Where? Later on the article says that "environmental groups" and Harry Reid are attacking Keystone, but that's not linked to this "activist" group.

This is what I think the writers are relying on when they say the original article made it "clear" this group had a political agenda:

“IFG’s intention is to demonstrate the Koch-Keystone connection,” says IFG’s Victor Menotti.

That doesn't confess the group's political agenda. If there really is a Koch-Keystone connection, that would not be a matter of politics, but of simple factual reportage. One can come away from reading that thinking "These IFG people are just trying to get at the hidden truth" -- like an unbiased investigative reporter might, or like an apolitical "activist" group might.

This is hardly the writers making IFG's leftwing political agenda "clear" -- especially because these writers, given the chance to specifically note IFG's leftwing politics, instead resorted to the euphemism "activist."

By the way, I see nothing in the original article stating that the "activist" group's report is "controversial" in any way, though the writers now claim the original article made it "clear" that the report was "controversial" (meaning, here, I think: contested).

The Washington Post writers seem to accept almost all of it as non-controversial and non-contested.

They did note one point of contestation:

Second, regarding whether Koch would benefit from the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, we make clear that many of Koch’s leases pre-date the pipeline plan, that Koch has not bid for space in the pipeline, and that Koch would not be a customer.

In fact, the original article does say some of this:

The link between Koch and Keystone XL is, however, indirect at best. Koch’s oil production in northern Alberta is “negligible,” according to industry sources and quarterly publications of the provincial government. Moreover, Koch has not reserved any space in the Keystone XL pipeline, a process that usually takes place before a pipeline is built. The pipeline also does not run anywhere near Koch’s refining facilities. And TransCanada, owner of the Keystone routes, says Koch is not expected to be one of the pipeline’s customers.

But then watch how they take that all away to re-assert the "activist" group's claims:

Still, the activist group that is publicizing the figures about Koch holdings in the oil sands – the International Forum on Globalization – is arguing that Koch will benefit indirectly.

Let me note that this same group has estimated a $120 billion loss to the Koch's economic forecasts over the long term (50 years). It takes an awful lot of "indirect benefits" to make up for $120 billion.

But the Washington Post writers suggest that the "activist" group's report still might be true anyway. Maybe those Koch's will reap >$120 billion in "indirect benefits," I guess.

Not to mention the article says this early on, telegraphing its belief in the "Koch-Keystone" connection by hinting at suspect motives and hidden agendas on the part of the Koch brothers:

What is Koch Industries doing there? The company wouldn't comment on its holdings or strategy, but it appears to be a long-term investment that could produce tens of thousands of barrels of the region's thick brand of crude oil in the next three years and perhaps hundreds of thousands of barrels a few years after that.

Sort of conspiratorial, isn't it? What is Koch Industries doing there?

Um, gee, what is an energy company doing leasing property in energy-extraction areas?

Next, they claim their original statement that the Koch's are the largest leaseholder in the province is close enough:

Third, if Koch’s lease holdings are 1.1 million acres, that would make it one of the region’s largest, rivaled only by Shell (1 million net acres through an Athabasca joint venture and perhaps 1.3 million net acres altogether), Cenovus Energy (1.5 million net acres), and perhaps Canadian Natural Resources (717,000 net undeveloped acres plus an undetermined number of developed acres). Shell declined to release its total acreage figures. If Koch's lease holdings are “closer to two million,” as has been said by industry sources we consider highly authoritative, then Koch is indeed the largest lease holder in the province.

Now Koch's holdings of 1.1 million acres are "one of the region's largest," not the largest, as previously claimed, and furthermore, the article resorts to claiming that who knows, maybe they've got 2 million acres.

So now the Post is going back to the earlier claim?

Note what the original article claimed:

The Post confirmed the group’s findings with Alberta Energy, the provincial government’s ministry of energy. Separately, industry sources familiar with oil sands leases said Koch’s lease holdings could be closer to two million acres. The companies with the next biggest net acreage positions in oil sands leases are Conoco Phillips and Shell, both close behind.

The original article notes that even the "activist" group has retreated from the 2 million figure, but now the 2 million is conveniently back in play when these writers need it to be?

Last October, IFG said that Koch owned two million acres in the oil sands; now it says the true figure – based on the Alberta provincial government’s mineral lease records that it links to -- is smaller but still an impressive, industry-leading 1.1 million acres.

What exactly are they now claiming is "confirmed"? They claimed to have confirmed this earlier; they are implicitly retreating from that. They first stated that, as a confirmed factual matter, the Koch brothers were the largest leaseholders in the province; now they say they could be the largest leaseholders, if unconfirmed but claimed estimates (by outside parties) are true.

Here's how the defense ends:

The Powerline article itself, and its tone, is strong evidence that issues surrounding the Koch brothers’ political and business interests will stir and inflame public debate in this election year. That’s why we wrote the piece.

Oh, I see. You just meant to explore "the issues" surrounding "the Koch brothers' political and business interests."

Which is a recitation of the "activist" group's central thesis: That the Koch brothers' political interests are deeply intertwined with their business interests.

The claim that they were writing merely to illustrate that the leftwing gets all spazzy when you bring up the Koch brothers is risible.

You didn't already see "strong evidence' of this in the left-wing -- I mean, "activist" -- group's report, or in Harry Reid's daily Two Minute Hates against the Koch Brothers?

You didn't attempt to claim any of these facts to be independently true, but only that the Koch Brothers would continue to be controversial on the left?

If so, why didn't you call this "activist" group by its accurate descriptor, "leftwing?"

And why is it that only Powerline's tone and attitude suggests political agenda here, rather than the "activist" group's?

Or, frankly, your own tone and attitude?


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posted by Ace at 05:14 PM

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