MSNBC's false narrative on Judge's offshore drilling moratorium ruling

In another trade of reasoned analysis for willing partisan ignorance, the "science, not ideology" crowd is contradicting itself again.

In reporting that quickly followed Tuesday's ruling on the offshore drilling moratorium, MSNBC was on the case with allegations that Judge Martin Feldman had a conflict of interest because he reported owning Transocean stock in 2008.  Borrowing words from the Judge's ruling (pointed at Secretary Salazar's Department of the Interior), MSNBC's reporting is "capricious," "driven by political or social agendas " and "does not seem to be fact specific."

That Secretary Salazar shares an analytical shallowness with MSNBC's reporting is not surprising, given MSNBC and the Administration's frequent collaboration.  MSNBC's attack on Judge Feldman was hairtrigger, poorly researched and quick to malign - all Obama fingerprints.  Nonetheless, the silly narrative is being repeated across the leftosphere, despite that Judge Feldman's ruling is cogent, logical and detailed.  The same cannot be said for Salazar's report or drilling ban.

Fortunately, normal people still stop, think and use good faith when hearing reports like Tuesday's moratorium news.  Good faith and good reporting alike mandate assessing the Judge's ruling on its merits (actually reading it) and crediting a longstanding federal judge with the ability to manage potential conflicts of interest and a decision of recusal.
Good faith aside, MSNBC's reporting is woefully inadequate for many reasons, including MSNBC's failure to get an updated snapshot of Judge Feldman's stockholdings, to assess whether "less than $15,000" is material to Judge Feldman and to consider whether or not the Judge's other energy holdings potentially offset any conflict.

First, stock holdings in 2008 are not the same as stock holdings in June 2010, and only the June 2010 holdings are relevant to this conflict analysis.  MSNBC should have refrained from suggesting a conflict until information on current holdings was available.

Second, "less than $15,000" of Transocean stock does not sound like a lot.  Unlike rabid ad hominem-attacking leftists, we in the rational world still ask about materiality.  That is, what does Judge Feldman's Transocean stock mean to him?  What percent of his net worth or of his total portfolio value does the stock represent?  MSNBC did not ask any such question, which question  I suppose is unnecessary if your reporters are unconcerned with the truth.

Finally, AP reports that the same 2008 report showed that the Judge also owned "Ocean Energy, a Houston-based company, as well as Quicksilver Resources, Prospect Energy, Peabody Energy, Halliburton, Pengrowth Energy Trust, Atlas Energy Resources, Parker Drilling and others."  Ocean Energy no longer exists. Quicksilver, Prospect, Peabody, Pengrowth and Atlas are onshore companies.  It is actually valid to ask if a shutdown of the offshore drilling business might assist these onshore companies by freeing up various factors of production such as labor, equipment and capital.  It seems that, based on his 2008 stock reports and his many onshore holdings, Judge Feldman could just as easily have had a conflict of interest in favor of the Administration's desire to shut down the offshore. 

MSBNC's drilling moratorium reporting is a disservice to the media-consuming public because it is a clear attempt to draw a conclusion that has not been adequately researched and very well could be completely untrue.  MSNBC is again acting as a PR arm of the White House, so why should it be any surprise that its work would is as slipshod as that of the Administration?

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