Fair Questions for the DNR

With a summit on justice issues just passed, it’s a good time to ask if the local newspaper can be a part of the discussion, or is part of the problem.

Take, for instance, last Tuesday’s front page (November 9, 2010). Four teens were arrested in Georgia for a murder at a party that got out of hand.  The story was sensationalism.  That’s not a dig.  During my tenure as a newspaper editor many, many years ago, a story being sensational was enough reason to run it.  One editor I worked with called them “Hey, Mabel” stories.  Others referred to them as back-fence stories.  You run them because people are talking or because you want them to.

What’s less understandable is the information the newspaper chose to run about those arrested.  Their names, ages, and addresses did not appear in the story.  The only identifying information was their surnames, run underneath photos cropped so tightly they purveyed only one fact about the suspects: They were black. Continue reading “Fair Questions for the DNR” »

This post was submitted by JGFitzgerald.

I Regret To Inform You That I Will Never Be Rallying For Sanity Again


My enthusiasm sputtered and died as I stood in line at the concessions stand, about the time the seventh person in a witch costume walked past carrying a sign making fun of Christine O’Donnell. I tried to look at it on the bright side – she did manage to temporarily block out my view of the guy roaming a small patch of open grass while performing a minstrel version of “The Times Are A-Changin’”, pausing often for iPhone photo ops with strangers.

But then along came the guy with a sign announcing The End Is Far, after the guy demanding a Return To The Metric System, then a couple holding a giant banner warning of the dangers of a four-hour Boehner, the woman with a giant fake penis strapped around her waist, the woman wearing a sandwich-board homage to masturbation (accompanied by another dig at O’Donnell) and a thousand others that I don’t feel like describing. All of them wore semi-sheepish, aren’t-I-funny? grins, while their fellow rallygoers fell over each other in their haste to photograph the hilarity. This was my Saturday? This is supposed to be meaningful and memorable? Continue reading “I Regret To Inform You That I Will Never Be Rallying For Sanity Again” »

Hope for Replacing Fossil Fuels

On May 19, 2010, the National Academy of Sciences advised the government “to take drastic action” to slow global warming. I don’t think the technical and economic problems are insurmountable. Rather, it is the political will that is missing, mainly in the conservative camp.

It may be that many conservatives are taking some of their cues from Senator James Inhofe. After all, he is Barbara Boxer’s counterpart on the Environmental and Public Works Committee. Inhofe has openly and loudly proclaimed that global warming is a hoax. His portion of the EPW website proclaims that 700 scientists dispute the claims of the IPCC on global warming.

Inhofe claims “An abundance of new peer-reviewed studies, analyses, and data error discoveries in the last several months has prompted scientists to declare that fear of catastrophic man-made global warming “bites the dust” and the scientific underpinnings for alarm may be “falling apart.” However, the only recent article that he cites, and on which he primarily relies, is “Heat Capacity, Time Constant, and Sensitivity of Earth’s Climate System,” by Brookhaven National Lab scientist Stephen Schwartz.

I corresponded with Dr. Schwartz and it turns out that Dr. Schwartz’s paper simply said was that the sensitivity of global temperature to CO2 rise was less than claimed by the IPCC report. Further, Dr. Schwartz has now revised the paper, doubling his figure on sensitivity. Even though the revised figure is still on the low side of the IPCC range, Dr. Schwartz told me by email:

“But if we consider the consequences of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, even for a rather low sensitivity the expected climate consequences would be anywhere from serious to severe to catastrophic.”

Serious to severe to catastrophic!  As you can see, Inhofe is playing fast and loose with the truth.

Most people turn off to the issue of global warming because they fear there is no solution. Although we will use a number of types of renewables as well as conservation and energy efficiency to meet the global warming problem, calculations using solar photovoltaic (PV) technology provide a quick and dirty way to assess the feasibility of accomplishing the task.

The total electric generating capacity of the United States is about 900 gigawatts (almost one terawatt). Eighty percent of the electrical generating capacity of the United States could be replaced by installing photovoltaics (PV) on existing rooftops (source). The cost would be about $2 trillion. If this capacity was implemented over a twenty year period, the per capita yearly cost would be $335.

Of course, we use more than just electrical power in the United States. The total annual use of energy used in the United States is 29,000 terawatt-hours, or 3.3 terawatts average power output (source).

About 85% of our power comes from fossil fuels, or 2.8 terawatts. PV generates about 10 watts per square foot, so you need 0.28 trillion square feet (280 billion square feet) of PV panels to replace all of the fossil fuel used the United States. That comes to 10,000 square miles, or 200 square miles per state. As already shown, over 1/3 of that is already available in rooftops. The cost would be about $5.6 trillion dollars, or $18,666 per person in the United States. Spread over 50 years, it would cost $373 per year per person to provide all of our energy needs with photovoltaics.

Another interesting calculation can be gotten by looking at the impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. This spill is expected to cost more than the Exxon Valdez oil spill ($8.5 billion), and the stock price of BP has dropped $18 billion (source). If we use a figure of $18 billion as the cost of this spill, for this amount of money one could build photovoltaic generating capacity of 9 gigawatts. Over an estimated lifetime of 50 years, the energy produced would be about 740,000 gigawatt-hours, which at a modest price $0.10 per kilowatt-hour has a value of $74 billion. The Deepwater Horizon well had the potential of 50M barrels, which at today’s oil price of $70/barrel has a value of $3.5 billion. Thus, the value of energy that could be produced by PV installations built from the cost of this spill would be 21 times the maximum value of the energy that would have been produced by the Deepwater Horizon well.

Might there be a message in that?

This post was submitted by Bishop Dansby.

Coming Soon: The Harrisonburg Times

The Harrisonburg Times is a new media source for the Harrisonburg-Rockingham metropolitan area.


Our local media outlets are a vital part of information exchange in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham metropolitan area.  The Daily News Record, WSVA, WHSV TV3, and others create a wealth of content on a daily basis, and thereby contribute to the public good in many ways.  These organizations also make tremendous in-kind and financial contributions to support and highlight worthy nonprofit causes related to education, arts, youth, and more.

The Problem

That said, there are current barriers to information exchange from our biggest media outlets, the Daily News-Record and WHSV TV3:

  • The Daily News-Record is now pay-only for online content.  This may not be a problem for local people with subscriptions, but it is a problem for local people who want others to know about the information printed in the newspaper – especially our local business, technology, university, sustainability and economic development communities.
  • There is a break in trust between the current newspaper of record and its market.  The editorial stance of the Daily News-Record diverges more and more from the values and opinions of the bulk of Harrisonburg-Rockingham residents.  For all the good the DNR does to inform the public on local issues, its ultraconservative stance is offending and alienating a growing population of people – some who even make it a personal policy to “Do Not Read” the DNR.
  • WHSV TV3, while having online content, is necessarily limited by their medium to have short news stories that cannot provide a depth of analysis that takes more than a few minutes to convey.  They also undertandably favor stories with a visual appeal, which leaves out many stories better written about
  • The online forums of both of the DNR and WHSV are largely unmoderated and have become havens for reactionary, unthoughtful, and ignorant commentary from a relatively few people that incites useless argument.
  • “What bleeds, leads!” is an unfortunate daily reality for the local main stream media because what bleeds sells.  The result is a constant barrage of content that is sensational and focuses more on conflict than substance.If nothing changes, nothing changes.


The Harrisonburg-Rockingham community is in need of a new and different opportunity to be informed about local issues that impact lives, families, businesses, and politics.  There is also a growing local blogosphere, anchored and made credible by Hburgnews.com.  That single blog is in many ways the only community-driven check and balance to information in the local news, and many times is the only venue for certain dialogue and stories.  The writers, especially Brent Finnegan, should be commended and urged to continue.  Brent’s most recent post indicates a new look is pending.

The Harrisonburg Times aims to become a relevant and valuable contributor of local news and information. The Times will feature political, cultural, business, and educational news, opinion, and features.

There is a growing team of writers who are commited to voluntarily contributing content in many categories.  There is a growing list of advisors who are commited to champion and strengthen this efforts.  And, soon, there will be a growing list of readers.

Coming by April 15

By April 15, 2010, the Harrisonburg Times will have new content on a regular basis.  Until then, there may be some preview stories published.

Get Involved

Writers – We are currently accepting applications!  Click here.
Advisors – To learn more about being an advisor, email editor [at] harrisonburgtimes.com
Advertisers – Your business can advertise here!  Email sales [at] harrisonburgtimes.com for information.

Contribute Financially

The Harrisonburg Times business model will depend on individuals and businesseswho understand the need to financially support an operation.  All early contributions will go towards expenses for developing and advertising Harrisonburg Times.

If you believe we need a new news source, please consider commiting $10 per month via credit card or a one-time donation. Continue reading “Coming Soon: The Harrisonburg Times” »