It's official - the game is rigged

A curiously timed front-page story in today's Cape Cod Times, under the headline, "FAA to probe turbines' risk to radar."

"Concerned about findings in the United Kingdom, the Federal Aviation Administration will conduct its own evaluation into the effects of wind turbines on air traffic control systems," writes David Schoetz and Kevin Dennehy.

Sounds reasonable enough -- until you read the next paragraph:

"In an April 10 letter to U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, the Cape's congressman and a Cape Wind opponent, the head of the FAA affirmed the agency's concerns about wind turbines." (emphasis added)

An April 10 letter? Why hold off a week and a half before releasing it -- especially where public safety and homeland security are concerned?

The story cites a possible rationale for the curious timing -- "Delahunt's office released the letter last night, a day before wind farm advocates plan to stage a Washington, D.C., press conference pressuring federal lawmakers to defeat a controversial provision in an $8.7 billion Coast Guard bill that could kill the project."

Oh -- that explains it. For a minute I thought it might have something to do with public safety and defending der Fatherland.

There comes a point when the accumulated evidence of a rigged game against Cape Wind -- in the political arena and press coverage from the Cape and islands' only daily newspaper -- becomes too great to deny or ignore. That point was reached today, at least to this observer. 

The FAA story is just the tip of the iceberg. Three weeks ago, on March 30, the Times buried a story inside about Mass Audubon's preliminary approval of Cape Wind. It is widely known among those watching the Cape Wind debate that reporters at the Times were aware of this on March 28. So was the Boston Globe -- which made it the paper's lead story on March 29. The Times hurriedly posted a brief item about the Audubon announcement in its online midday update on March 29 -- allowing the paper to claim it "published" the story the same day as the Globe.

The next day, the lead story in the Times runs under this headline - "Radar risk threatens wind farm." Here is how the story began -- "Foes of the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm say British research on wind turbines interfering with radar raises grave doubts about the Cape project."

Note where the claim is coming from, and it is literally the first word in the story -- "foes" of Cape Wind, none of whom are experts on radar, compared to the indisputable experts on birds at Mass Audubon getting short shrift when it comes to their announcement. Noticing a pattern?

Stick around, it gets better. The same day the Times runs radar as its lead story, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound and windstop.org hold a media conference call at 11 a.m.  -- on how wind turbines affect radar. Having succeeded in planting the story in the Times, where it was ensured of prominent play, Cape Wind opponents pitched it to the rest of the media, which reacted with more skepticism than did the Times.

Then on April 1, the Boston Globe ran a front-page story about Alliance fund-raising practices and the group's overwhelming dependence on wealthy donors. The story passes muster with the Globe, one of the best dailies in the country, and with capecodtoday.com, which broke the story March 31, but not with the Times, which has never reported on it.

It gets even better. On April 6, Senate conferees approved an amendment submitted by Alaska Senator Ted Stevens to provide capricious veto power over Cape Wind to the governor of Massachusetts  -- who just happens to be Mitt Romney, a staunch opponent of Cape Wind.

The next day -- after the deal was done -- the Associated Press reports that "the veto measure got a boost in recent days from longtime project foe US Senator Edward Kennedy, who made a personal appeal last week to Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, a committee member and a leading backer of the veto bill."

"Senator Kennedy spoke to Senator Stevens in support of this provision," said Kennedy spokeswoman Melissa Wagoner.

But Kennedy didn't just speak to Stevens, as any reasonable observer might conclude given the circumstances, he made a pitch to Stevens. This has been reported again by the AP and by Greenwire news service.

The AP's Andrew Miga wrote yesterday that Kennedy "has also drawn fire from project backers for making a personal appeal to Stevens in support of the wind farm."

Greenwire's Ben Geman reported, also yesterday, that a congressional aide said "Stevens worked through the conference committee to include the language after being approached by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who opposes the Cape Wind project."

Consider the timing of Kennedy's appeal to Stevens -- the AP story on April 7 said Kennedy spoke with Stevens "last week" -- when the earlier conference committee language, the so-called Young amendment, was dead in the water and going nowhere fast.

What happens then? A Senate gray-hair leans in close to another who's also been there forever, in a realm where seniority is all, and asks -- hey, could you help me out with this one, it would really mean a lot ...

The response back -- sure, Senator, glad to help, just as I can count on you for -- fill in the blank - or a player to be named later, so to speak. And, Senator Kennedy, be sure to get back to me on what you mean by "adjacent state" ...

Once again, something so obvious it should not need pointing out -- Kennedy is the catalyst pushing Stevens to act on his behalf.  Stevens and Gordon Smith, the Oregon Republican whose switched vote led Senate conferees to approve the Stevens' amendment, are supporting actors in the drama while Kennedy plays the lead, as anyone with even a passing interest in theater will recognize.

Where does Kennedy's pivotal role get reported in the Cape Cod Times? In a page 3 Political Notes column blurb on April 10.

All of which would make abundant fodder for the Times' new ombudsman, Dick LeGrand, if he too were so inclined. But LeGrand apparently believes he represents the interests of paper and not its readers, as ombudsmen sometimes do.

I sent two emails to LeGrand this week inquiring about a possible column from him on Cape Wind coverage. He did not respond to either.

LeGrand's last column, on April 2, was about readers sending email to reporters. The column included a great quote from Times reporter Jason Kolnos -- "If people take the time to respond to me, I should take the time to respond to them."

To which LeGrand ended the column by stating -- "That's a good thought for all of us."

And one to be quickly ignored when awkward questions are directed at the paper.

Looks like the powers that be at the Times found exactly what they wanted in an ombudsman.

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