News & Notes June 23, 2012

Lots of news today.  I was painting up at the old house yesterday so I didn’t get much time for blogging.  A few more weeks and I’ll be finished there.  This taking care of two houses is for the birds.

The OctoMom is endorsing payday loans.  Known for her bad judgment, this is appropriate.

Sen. Scott Brown R-MA says he meets with kings and queens every day.  Either he needs to quit playing poker or stop going to drag shows.

Mother Jones has a story about which states require HIV status disclosure if one is positive.  Considering the shattering effect of HIV and its status as a lethal disease I believe Pennsylvania is correct in requiring disclosure.  If I had sex with a man who is positive and he didn’t disclose that I’d consider him a criminal and he should go to jail.

Mother Jones (again, this magazine should be required reading) reports on the growing number of privatized prisons.  I’ve written about this travesty.  The subject is beginning to get widespread coverage.  It is very dangerous for our democracy.

Today’s reading list is long but these are important articles.  Economist Joseph Stiglitz discusses The Price of Inequality.  We haven’t been this polarized monetarily since the advent of the Great Depression.

Chesapeake Energy has to pay $1.6 million for poisoning wells in Bradford County.  This is the price we’re paying for a few jobs:  the destruction of our water supplies.  How stupid can we get?

In a bit of neat, fascinating and interesting news spacecraft Voyager is about to enter interstellar space.  Man has never constructed a ship capable of leaving our solar system before.  I’m old enough to recall when Voyager was launched in 1977.  Living to see it accomplish its mission to this extent is fabulous.

If you think we have a stupid Governor Ohio is right behind us.  Gov. John Kasich appointed a dropout to the State Board of Education.  Maybe the other Board members can call signals to the former quarterback.

Speaking of stupidity most Republicans still think Iraq had WMD’s.  How much of this is wishful thinking to justify their mad dash into war or how much is due to listening to bad sources for news is up in the air.  There is no excuse in this internet age for getting bad information.

Businesses have been dumping toxic waste into wells and salt pits.  Now some of it is surfacing.  What won’t we do for the almighty dollar?  What will we do once we’ve poisoned planet earth?  There is no Plan-et B.

The Romney’s dancing horse gave them a nice $77,000 tax credit last year and they get to watch it perform in the Olympics next month.  They’re perfectly normal working folks though. I’m sure you own a dancing horse too.  You have an elevator for your cars too don’t you?  No wonder he was so amazed at the touch screen ordering computer at Wawa.  The rest of us have been using those for ten years.  You want to see something amazing?  Watch how President Romney makes your economy, your job, your retirement and your home disappear.

Luzerne County is forcing LGBT partners to out themselves.  This is very bad policy.  While I’m not a fan of closeted gays I understand the necessity if your home or job depends on discretion.  Until we pass ENDA this is an issue.

News & Notes April 19, 2012

Simon Campbell told Berks Republicans that destroying teacher’s unions is simple:  just cut off their money.  Conservatives who are against educating our children, destroying middle class families and terrorizing workers are hell bent on wrecking all unions and worker’s rights.  This is one good way to make America a third world country.

Sec. of State Carol Aichele, a noted voter supressionist, announced new rules for the Voter ID law.  Still, 80% of college ID’s in Pennsylvania have no expiration date and will be useless of ID for voting purposes.  700,000 Pennsylvanians lack the proper government papers which will be demanded at polling places come November.  Big Brother has arrived and his name is Tom Corbett.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette is the latest entity to endorse Erin Molchany for State House District 22.  

How stupid are Americans?  Only 28% can identify the Chief Justice.

Now that Mitt Romney has established himself as the nominee he is dusting off his Etch-A-Sketch.  While releasing only one year’s tax return, he is telling donors behind closed doors details of his plans he won’t share with voters:

Here is the commercial Pennsylvania House Dems are airing:

Now for a bit of humor:

There’s a grassroots movement growing to allow shareholders to vote to remove management teams.  This is in response to efforts by conservatives to decertify unions.  If that can be legal, they argue, then why can’t shareholders decertify their management?  The CEO of natural gas company Chesapeake Energy would be a prime example of management gone corrupt.

Ted Nugent is just another moron with a gun.  

I have news for this lunatic:  one doesn’t need a gun to be able to defend oneself.

ESPN has been reporting that Gov. Gasbag was instrumental in the firing of Joe Paterno.  Of course since JoePa endorsed Barack Obama he became a target for radical right wing types like Corbett.  I voted in the Penn State Trustee election and all three are, I feel, good choices:  Anne Riley, Jef Wahl, and Stella Tsai.  Jef was President of the Association of Residence Hall Students when we were both seniors and I was served in Undergraduate Student Government.  He was a good man.  I met Stella last month at the White House Community Partnership Summit.  Riley has served with distinction as a Trustee for many years.

News & Notes May 18, 2011

Rick Santorum thinks John McCain doesn’t understand the value of torture.  It’s too bad McCain isn’t running this year because I’d love to watch the 2008 nominee turn to Santorum and say “I know torture, I’ve been tortured, you know nothing about torture or what it does.”  It would be a classic put down moment.  How stupid is Rick that he’d say something like that?  Did he forget McCain was tortured in North Vietnam?

Republicans succeeded in blocking passage yesterday of those oil industry welfare programs being halted.  President Obama targeted the $4 billion in taxpayer breaks given to giant energy corporations making billions while paying no taxes.  The GOP filibuster succeeded.  The tax breaks remain.

Today’s video is about protesters crashing the JP Morgan Chase shareholders meeting:

DEP actually fined Chesapeake Energy over $1 million for the Bradford County well explosion.  These “accidents” are the reason the Susquehanna River replaced the Delaware as the nation’s most endangered waterway.  In yet more Marcellus news DEP is citing Cabot for continuing problems in Dimock and Sen. Joe Scarnati is proposing that each well drilled be assessed a $10,000 impact fee.  Don’t confuse that with an extraction tax.

In litigation news an Appeals Court will not step in and void the settlement in the famous facebook case.  The Harvard twins who claim Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea settled for $20 million but aren’t happy.  I think I could be happy with $20 million.

In some election news yesterday Tom Caltagirone’s hand picked candidate for Mayor of Reading came in third in the Democratic primary.  This from the man going around telling people that he is the only Dem in the area who knows how to win elections?  His DJ candidate Judge Deb Lachina also lost.

Judge Michael Leonardziak never called me after I found two of his poll workers acting illegally at different polls yesterday.

Voters in Philadelphia actually cast ballots for a convicted criminal for Mayor.  In that crooked city it seems like poetic justice.  Michael Nutter still beat Milton Street however with 76% of the vote.   Not everyone there is insane.

In Northampton County a referendum on privatization of Gracedale, the county nursing home, was 3-1 in favor of keeping the facility public.

In Allegheny County Rich Fitzgrald beat Mark Flaherty for County Executive in the Dem primary and State Rep. Chelsa Wagner, the Auditor General’s niece, won the race for the County Controller slot on November’s ballot.

The Democratic race for Judge of Commonwealth Court is very close.  With most precincts now reporting Kathy Bookvar is slightly ahead 306,819 to 304,766 for Barbara Behrend Ernsberger.  This will likely go to a recount.

A gay activist threw glitter all over Newt yesterday.  Is he trying to make the man look good or something?  Sorry but that’s impossible.  I had Gingrich had his pants zipped this time.

News & Notes April 25, 2011

Nice weather is upon us at last!  I got a lot done around the house today and got the launch permit for one of my kayaks.  They are two year Fish & Boat Commission stickers so I alternate my two kayaks each year.  It seems that fewer and fewer places are handling them.  I have a few things to still do to get my trailer in shape then it’ll be back out on the water after a long, hard winter.

The firm which was preparing to defend DOMA for House Republicans announced today it will not do so.  Paul Clement, the attorney who took the case then resigned from the firm and will do the defense on his own.  The law firm was getting tons of bad press for defending discrimination and didn’t seem comfortable with the publicity.

Tea baggers seem especially upset over gas prices.  Entering the Gamesa plant  afew weeks ago to cover the President’s visit several of them were holding signs blaming Obama for the high prices.  Aren’t these the Ayn Rand aficionados who are all hell bent on free markets determining everything?  I suppose only until the free market hurts them?  Now they’re demanding governmental intervention.  Can you say hypocrisy?

A new WikiLeaks document dump is revealing what happened at Gitmo.  Interviews, dossiers of prisoners and other information is illustrating how sorry our efforts were under Bush.  One detaineee was a sheep herder, another was kept for years because he happened upon some Arabic documents.  It took us years to determine he didn’t even speak the language.  Future terror attacks resulting from Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and other atrocities will be blamed on other factors rather than our own pathetic policies.  The question will pour from lips everywhere?  “Why did they attack us?”

Chesapeake Energy finally got their exploding gas well under control in Bradford County.  One result is that gas companies have finally agreed to stop dumping toxic fracking fluid into our waterways and through sewage treatment plants unequipped to handle the substance.  All of our efforts are beginning to gain some success.  It is imperative everyone continue applying pressure.

Tom Corbett said he wants to make Pennsylvania the “Texas of natural gas” but even in Texas they tax gas extraction.  Texas even has its citizen’s opposition to fracking now.  Can we say “frack you Tom Corbett?”

The gas industry claims natural gas is a “clean” fuel but facts say otherwise.  Five millions of water are required to frack each well each time (each well can be fracked about a dozen times) and loads of methane gas are emitted.  Methane is especially bad for climate change.  Also factoring in the gasoline and diesel from all the rigs hauling water, sand and chemicals to each well and gas may be dirtier even than coal.

Natural gas is mostly methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas, especially in the short term, with 105 times more warming impact, pound for pound, than carbon dioxide (CO2), Howarth said, adding that even small leaks make a big difference. He estimated that as much as 8 percent of the methane in shale gas leaks into the air during the lifetime of a hydraulic shale gas well-up to twice what escapes from conventional gas production.

Sen. Jane Orie’s retrial has been scheduled for October.  Her lawyers are appealing to Superior Court with her argument that she cannot be tried again under double jeopardy.  That’s a bit ridiculous since it is apparent her team doctored evidence presented at trial.  You shouldn’t be able to cheat your way to an acquittal.

The next time someone tries selling you on Amway use this information on them.  Rich and Betsy DeVos are co-owners of the private company infamous for its pyramid schemes.  They sink millions into GOP campaigns, think tanks and religious right organizations.  Now they’re funding the efforts to privatize public schools.  SB1 is in a holding pattern in Harrisburg but it may still get a vote so boycott Amway.

The water problems plaguing Harrisburg last week have been blamed on beavers.  Now the Harrisburg Beavers are being blamed for every ill besetting that poor ‘burgh.  Someone has even begun a Twitter account in their name.  The fake Linda Thompson (the horribly incapable Mayor) account is blaming all of her incompetence on the furry creatures.

Rick Santorum says he will repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell if elected president.  This is the same guy who also wants to tell you what sex acts you can and cannot do in the privacy of your home.  Isn’t that the ultimate “big government?”

I went into my local AT&T store this afternoon to complain about my iPhone tracking me and the people didn’t know what I was referring to and had nothing to tell me about how to disable the feature.  AT&T, are you listening?  I can’t hear you now.

Racist Governor Haley Barbour announced he will not run for president.  The GOP fields of clowns remains the same.

Apparently there’s a wedding this Friday for a couple known as Will and Kate.  Seems to be a big deal since the supposed cable “news” people are all agog over the event.  I wonder if the future princess will wear a white gown?  I mean, they’ve been shacked up for a year so I’m assuming she’s no longer a virgin?

I  heard a GOP radio commercial today claiming the Republicans didn’t vote to end Medicare.  Did they read their bill?

Bradford Well A Fracking Mess

Chesapeake Energy lost control of a gas well in Bradford County and it spilled toxic fracking fluid for 16 hours.  The combination of millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic materials contaminated a stream running into the Susquehanna River and seven families were evacuated.  A nearby farmer was told not to allow his cows access to surface water though I’m not at all sure how you tell cows not to drink the water on the fields.  Is there a special bovine language for that?

Will Range Resources, ExxonMobil and other energy companies plastering us with their propaganda about natural gas include scenes like this in their advertising?  The well pad in a remote area will contain six wells and one was being fracked when it exploded.  Toxic fluids escaped the immediate area and neither DEP nor the township were notified about the accident for hours.  Of course it isn’t likely that DEP will do anything anyway under Gov. Corbett.  Perhaps we need to bottle some of this fluid and serve it to the Governor with his lunch.  If it’s safe he shouldn’t have any adverse health issues.

DEP records show that Chesapeake has been fined seven times for a total of $61,101 over the last three years — which makes it tied with Range Resources for the second-highest number of fines in the state next to Chief Oil & Gas, which had nine.

This latest accident comes on the heels of a Congressional report released by Democrats last weekend.  This New York Times article says millions of gallons of toxic chemicals are being injected into the ground to produce this gas.  What is the logic behind using 5 million gallons of fresh water per well to collect gas?  water is becoming a far scarcer resource than natural gas but we’re using vast amounts from our aquifers, affecting homeowner’s wells, to extract the gas and then contaminate what water remains underground?  This is insane.  Some excerpts from the report:

The inquiry over hydrofracking, which was initiated by the House Energy and Commerce Committee when Mr. Waxman led it last year, also found that 14 of the nation’s most active hydraulic fracturing companies used 866 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products – not including water. More than 650 of these products contained chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or are listed as hazardous air pollutants, the report said.

Companies injected large amounts of other hazardous chemicals, including 11.4 million gallons of fluids containing at least one of the toxic or carcinogenic B.T.E.X. chemicals – benzene, toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene. The companies used the highest volume of fluids containing one or more carcinogens in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.

The report comes two and a half months after an initial report by the same three lawmakers that found that 32.2 millions of gallons of fluids containing diesel, considered an especially hazardous pollutant because it contains benzene, were injected into the ground during hydrofracking by a dozen companies from 2005 to 2009, in possible violation of the drinking water act.

GasLand

I saw GasLand last evening at Lehigh University as part of the Southside Film Festival series.  The auditorium in Whitaker Lab was filled to capacity with hardly an empty seat.  Clean Water Action co-sponsored the screening and film maker Josh Fox was there for a Q&A session afterwards.

The film documents problems and issues surrounding the deregulation and expansion of natural gas drilling in shale formations found throughout the country.  Being from Pennsylvania Fox begins his quest here investigating issues surrounding Marcellus Shale drilling and powerfully polluted water supplies poisoned by the 80,000 pounds of harmful chemicals used to drill each well.

The water table in Dimock, as well reported here, has been poisoned by gas drilling.  Two hundred families there are now being supplied with water through DEP.  They have yet to be reimbursed though for the fact their properties are now worthless.  These folks have nowhere to go because they didn’t think things through or do their due diligence before signing lease agreements.  Many are now bankrupt because of their neighbors’ actions.

There are several important lessons to be learned by watching GasLand:

do not sign any lease agreement with gas drilling companies

take water samples of your well before any drilling commences so you have a “before” sample in case of future litigation

if possible have water tests done before any drills are begun in your vicinity

contact all of your state and federal legislators to protest the exemptions these companies have from environmental laws and to insure moratoriums are imposed before more people are poisoned

know your rights and don’t be shy about insisting that no forced pooling deprive you of your property, health and well being

The movie shows numerous people who set their tap water on fire.  This is happening right here in Pennsylvania.  Hydrofracturing is done to obtain the gas and this means hundreds of toxic chemicals are forced into the ground to fracture the shale deposits and release the gas.  Unfortunately most of this toxic mix remains in the ground and the fracking process can result in natural gas seeping up through the ground and through the ground into aquifers.  Each well can be fracked up to 18 times.  Each well location can have multiple well heads and the contaminated water which is recovered through the process is being dumped into creeks, rivers and streams right here in our Commonwealth.  Some canoeists and kayakers documented this just recently along the Kiski River.

State Representatives Steve Samuelson and Bob Freeman attended the screening and answered questions about the cuts to DEP’s budget and other legislative issues being addressed in Harrisburg.  The State Senate has been blocking all efforts to control and regulate the gas industry.  Also there were candidates Mike Horton (State House) and Bill Wallace (State Senate).

Gas drilling is the most serious issue facing Pennsylvania right now.  We are poisoning our population, kiling livestock and pets, rendering people bankrupt because their homes and farms are worthless without access to potable water, forcing our neighbors to buy water supplies elsewhere or be subjected to non disclosure agreements where they surrender their first amendment rights to free speech, expending resources of the state government while sharply reducing the DEP budget (as if we could rely on them to do anything to protect us!) and dumping tons of toxic pollutants into our air, ground and water.  We are surely destroying almost our entire Commonwealth and we aren’t even taxing these gas companies for the gas they’re extracting.

There are things you can do:

contact your state Representative and Senator and demand a moratorium until regulations are passed and enforced

contact your Member of Congress and U.S. Senators to insure fracturing is covered by all federal environmental regulations

attend rallies around these issues

go see GasLand or watch it “on demand” at HBO

speak up loudly before it is your neighbor signing a gas lease which end your life as you know it

As my regular readers know I was in New Mexico last month when this film first came on TV.  Interestingly almost everyone I met around Santa Fe mentioned this movie when I said I was a political writer from Pennsylvania.  People are watching the film and it is having an impact.  I had numerous questions about how Marcellus Shale drilling is going here and what we’re doing about it.  I didn’t have any good news in response to those queries.  Let’s make sure I do for my next trip.

Update:  A PA Young Dem caught this footage of “processed water,” being discharged directly into the Kiski River while canoeing.  Processed water is what remains after fracking.  It is toxic and comes back up the well after being laden with hundreds of toxic chemicals to shatter the shale formation and releasing the gas.  Not all this water remains in the ground and this is how they get rid of it: