Occam's razor

Fred Wilcox's op-ed piece in today's Ithaca Journal headed, "Time to 'take back America' from Tea Party" (definitely read the comments, too) reminded me to take another look at the program for the Left Forum, which "convenes the largest annual conference of a broad spectrum of left and progressive intellectuals, activists, academics, organizations and the interested share ideas for understanding and transforming the world." Their annual conference was held this past weekend in NYC:

Got it?

There were eight panels that in one way or another touched on the Tea Party movement. From some panel abstracts:

...The economic distress of the last two years,in theory, created the perfect storm for a left-wing revival. Instead, the corporate subsidized, right-wing populist Tea Party has tapped into anti-establishment sentiment throughout the country...

...Socialism has returned as a topic of intense interest in American political rhetoric via Palin, Beck, and the Tea Party, but these redbaiters seem remarkably unaware of the actual history of socialist influence over American politics...

...With the electoral system dominated by two corporate-funded parties and workplace organizing nearly impossible, most working people are inactive or drawn to right-wing movements like the Tea Party...

...The panel will the U.S., the Tea Party and the radicalization of the middle class in the crisis of neo-liberal capitalism...

Three of the eight panels dealt exclusively with the Tea Party: "Learning from the Tea Party," "The Tea Party and the Media," and one that Professor Wilcox would have found especially helpful, "Understanding and Responding to the Tea Party Threat"

“Popular Resentment Abhors a Left Vacuum: Understanding and Responding to the Tea Party Threat" will examine a number of interrelated questions:...* How severe is the threat to democracy, social justice, and livable ecology posed by the Tea Party? What are the future prospects of the Tea Party? * How should left progressives respond to the Tea Party phenomenon and the broader threat posed by the resurgent right in the Age of Obama?

Is that like the Age of Aquarius?  Good grief.
In case you think this is all just silly "proletariat v. bourgeoisie" yada yada, think again:
D.S.A. organizes Left Forum - which used to be called the Socialist Scholars Conference. That's right, the same socialist conferences that  D.S.A.'s old comrade Barack Obama used to attend while he was studying at Columbia University in the early 1980s.
In addition to the Tea Party panels and the traditional Marxist class-struggle stuff were panels on green jobs, the need for a united front against the right, abrupt climate change as the long emergency, aesthetics in protests(?), multiculturalism, white privilege, LGBT topics, Islamophobia, public education, higher education, transforming the food system, non-electoral strategies for change, degrowth, disarmament, environmental studies as radical ecology, narrowing the worldwide spectrum of healthcare, organizing poor whites, and many more including three on fracking, "Fighting Fracking with Art," "In Defense of Water: Building the Movement Against Fracking in NY and PA," and this one:
Capitalism Nature Socialism
Walter Hang is a familiar local name (whose views were addressed in an earlier guest post), as is IC's Maura Stephens. Wonder if she knows Fred Wilcox? Given the unbelievable interconnectedness of the left (never mind the campus proximity), it wouldn't be surprising.
Isaac Newton restated Occam's razor as, "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances."  Well, some on the right have a hard time accepting the idea that the disparate groups represented at Left Forum are simply working together toward a common goal and instead posit more complicated explanations.
The simplest explanation is usually the best.

After all, the science is settled: a perspective


The original post is here. Commentary by Tom Reynolds:

I read the NY Times article on hydrofracking’s wastewater, read Jazz Shaw’s response and read John Hanger’s very lengthy blog.

Hanger is former head of the PA Department of Environmental Protection. His defense of himself and the PA DEP and is a little too defensive for my taste. But his counter to alleged lax oversight highlights an anti-drilling technique that is often used: anti-drilling partisans talk about issues during the early years of drilling as if they are current issues. Hanger cites major advances in PA’s oversight over the past few years; oversight is now considerably different from that presented in the Times.

Hanger does make some other comments that aren’t defensive but shed light on the subject. One interesting statement concerns the Times’ report that pollution had overwhelmed the Monongahela River and therefore people in Pittsburgh were being advised to drink bottled water. According to Hanger, there was NO HEALTH HAZARD related to radiation, but that water was off color, taste, etc., standards and, therefore, Pittsburgh residents were told to consider drinking bottled water if that bothered them.

Hanger flatly states that he does not believe that radiation is an issue. He proposed an interesting solution to the question of the danger of radiation in the water: let’s test it and settle the issue. It is or it isn’t!  Basic!

Buried in the Times’ article that paints a picture of dangerous discharges of radiation, there is one small paragraph. It says, “The radioactivity in the waste water is not necessarily dangerous to people who are near it. It can be blocked by thin barriers, including skin, so exposure is generally harmless.”

The article acknowledges that radium can be dangerous if ingested or breathed, but it does not say at what levels it becomes dangerous or if the waste water reaches those levels; it creates the assumption that the waste water has reached dangerous levels.

The author employs prejudicial, unscientific terms such as “sometimes.” He also says there are confidential reports never released to the public which cause concern. Of course, we are to assume that these studies were kept hidden because they cast drilling in a bad light. (Remember the saying about “assume.”) Perhaps these reports are unpublished because they are lousy science or invalid studies.

The author quotes our local Walter Hang about the dangers of drilling. He likely did not read Pete Grannis’ (former NY DEC’s Commissioner) response to Mr. Hang’s studies. Grannis said of 270 studies used by Hang in his anti-drilling harangues, 106 had to do with oil—not gas; 53 were unrelated to either oil or gas as they dealt with things like lightning strikes and vehicle accidents; and 40 dealt with wells abandoned before modern regulations. (Grannis responded in the Ithaca Journal on January 11th, 2010.) So, Hang got only 71 out of 270 right. Close enough for the NY Times and “Gasland”!

What seems particularly misleading is the anti-drilling partisans talking about drilling towers as eyesores and all the related disruptions. They show satellite photos of things that would be relatively invisible at ground level. The NY Times highlights its article with satellite pictures of drilling towers. What these folks never mention is that this only happens during actual drilling!  Once the well is dug, the towers come down and the wells all but disappear. These publications could highlight their stories with pictures a year after drilling is done—but that would not serve their purposes.

Missing in these articles is a big picture perspective. We need energy! Lots of it. Green energy is not going to be a significant factor for decades, especially if the “greens” continue their current philosophy of “I’m for green energy but not in my back yard.”  In our lifetimes, we will still be primarily dependent upon traditional energy sources such as gas, oil, coal and nuclear. Gas, oil, and coal present recovery issues. Nuclear is initially cleaner but there is a problem with the nuclear waste for 10,000 years. On the other hand, we can treat nuclear waste the same as we treat the bankrupting of America, the destruction of our economic heritage and the trillions in crushing debt: leave it to our children.

Jazz Shaw makes a comment that echoes mine, that the anti drilling folks seem to throw any dirt they can find against the wall, hoping that something will stick.

It would be wonderful if some responsible publication, obviously not the NY Times, would publish statements and rebuttals based on facts. Forget the emotional responses and misleading statements from both sides. Most of us just want the truth and we will deal with it. The truth will probably not point us in a clear direction and we will still have to use judgment, but now it is just “garbage in and garbage out.”

After all, the science is settled in Dryden--according to the chair of the county legislature

I don't usually post a column from another blog in its entirety, but I made an exception in this instance.  Perhaps Martha would like to respond to Jazz Shaw's piece over at Hot Air:


From: Martha Robertson

Sent: Monday, February 28, 2011 1:02 AM

Subject: NYTimes article on gas drilling + online petition for Dryden residents

Dear friends (sorry for any cross-postings!),

If you haven't already read the NY Times expose on gas drilling, focusing on wastewater, take time to do so:

Here's just one of the shocking statements that should wake up the public:

"The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A.<> and a confidential study<> by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

"But the E.P.A. has not intervened. In fact, federal and state regulators are allowing most sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste not to test for radioactivity. And most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008.

"In other words, there is no way of guaranteeing that the drinking water taken in by all these plants is safe.

If you've been on the fence about an outright ban in our town, I hope this article helps you decide!


Earlier I urged residents of the Town of Dryden to sign an online petition asking the town to ban hydrofracking in Dryden. Many of you did; thank you! However, there has been confusion about this petition with another earlier effort. THESE ARE THE SAME PETITIONS. HOWEVER, if you signed earlier, you might still want to go to the site and check to see whether your name is included. The vagaries of this particular online site don't allow the authors to make any changes to the text (including the misspelling of "Tompkins"!), so they are unable to post a clarifying comment.

Please sign a petition to urge the Town Board of Dryden to enact a fracking ban, at<>.

Here's the text of the petition:

To:  Town Board of the Town of Dryden, Tompklins County, NY

We, the undersigned residents of the Town of Dryden, believe that high volume, slickwater hydrofracking for gas extraction threatens our water and our air.

Allowing this practice in our community will significantly endanger our health and well-being.

Hydrofracking is a heavily industrialized process that in surrounding states has snarled traffic and caused significant air, water and noise pollution, and severe damage to roads and other infrastructure. In many places it has had deleterious effects on tourism, hunting, fishing, agriculture and the local economy in general.

We urge the Town Board to ban slickwater hydrofracking in the Town of Dryden.

We need hundreds of Dryden residents to sign the petition! Go to:<>.  Please pass this on!

Interested in doing more? Join the Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition:

Thank you!



From Hot Air (do go there and read the comments as well).:

NY Times Blows Story on Drilling “Dangers”UPDATE: Another Fact Check Fail


There seems to be little question remaining over whether or not there is a rather blatant agenda in some segments of the media when it comes to natural gas drilling in this country. For the latest example, one need look no further than Ian Urbina’s latest piece in the New York Times with the excitable title, Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers.

Never one to soft sell a good meme, the Times skips right past any of the normal environmental hazards associated with energy exploration and goes right for… radiation!

With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the wastewater by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.

One of the dominant themes in the Times’ “analysis” is that drilling waste water – possibly containing radioactive particles (more on that below) – is being improperly dumped into waste water treatment plants by greedy energy companies. They do this, according to the author, because they are under-regulated and looking to save money. To back up the assertion, they quote former Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection secretary John Hanger.

There are business pressures” on companies to “cut corners,” John Hanger, who stepped down as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in January, has said. “It’s cheaper to dump wastewater than to treat it.”

Records back up that assertion.

Well, he should certainly be in a position to know, so that must be some damning testimony, eh? Well… it would be, had the author actually spoken to Mr. Hanger for the article or even had a clue what he was talking about. But he didn’t and John quicklytook to his blog to set the record straight and to point out that the quoted comments related to a different situation and that his actual position was almost precisely the opposite of that portrayed in the Times.

“[T]hough I am quoted in the piece, this reporter never interviewed me. … The words that I find myself saying in this piece were said by me somewhere at some time and in some context but they were not said in the context of an interview for this piece. The reporter never called me after January 18th for any purpose including to confirm the quotation that he put together for me. The reporter did not ask the new administration for my contact information after I left office.”

“I was informed by agency radiation experts that the radiation levels were not a threat to truck drivers, workers at sewage treatment facilities or the public. … I believe the agency staff were handling this issue in a serious, careful manner. I still believe that to be the case.”

The beginning of the article is discussing “radioactive elements” found in waste water from drilling sites and makes quite a fuss over it. Can you find unstable particles in such water? Yes. They’re known as Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials, and in this part of the country you find them in minute quantities if you drill for oil and gas. Or if you dig for coal, or copper or gravel. And if you dig a well down to the aquifer to obtain drinking water for your home, you’ll find them there also. When you dig a basement / foundation for a new home you’ve got a fairly good chance of stirring a few up. They are in the ground all over the planet.

NORM deposits are obviously something to be aware of and sensible precautions are required. But the density of these materials is so low that it is diluted in any major water flow to levels which fall far below any environmental standards, as Hanger further notes.

Once the Times finishes with their headline grabbing lede about radiation (!) in the water, the article then seems to go on in a scatter-shot fashion to throw mud at any wall they can find to see if something will stick. Their second line of attack moves from Eastern PA and NY out to Western Pennsylvania, where evil energy companies made the water so unsafe that residents were advised to drink bottled water instead of the public drinking water supply.

And recent incidents underscore the dangers. In late 2008, drilling and coal-mine waste released during a drought so overwhelmed the Monongahela that local officials advised people in the Pittsburgh area to drink bottled water. E.P.A. officials described the incident in an internal memorandum as “one of the largest failures in U.S. history to supply clean drinking water to the public.”

It’s true that a 2008 recommendation was made favoring the use of bottled water in the Pittsburgh area. But one look at their water safety report for that year shows that the concerns over water quality cover a wide range of problems, including agricultural run-off and unrelated industrial activity, with drilling of any sort falling far down the list. Oh, and then there’s the little matter of faulty sewage treatment plants.

Pittsburgh’s waste treatment plant Alcosan (North Shore) dumps an estimated 21 billion gallons of raw sewage into the river every year… They were fined 1.6 million dollars for violating the clean water act.

The hit piece then leaves the Marcellus shale entirely and swings all the way out west to Texas, where families in “affected areas” are suffering troubling health problems. The quotes from this section immediately got one concerned citizen up in arms over yet another tragic “fracking victim.”

In Texas, which now has about 93,000 natural-gas wells, up from around 58,000 a dozen years ago, a hospital system in six counties with some of the heaviest drilling said in 2010 that it found a 25 percent asthma rate for young children, more than three times the state rate of about 7 percent.

It’s ruining us,” said Kelly Gant, whose 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son have experienced severe asthma attacks, dizzy spells and headaches since a compressor station and a gas well were set up about two years ago near her house in Bartonville, Tex.

Wait… what? I’ve seen a lot of ills laid at the doorstep of fracking in the past, but… asthma? Because of one well and a compressor station near your home? And this startling conclusion is drawn even though the very same paragraph in the article goes on to point out, “The industry and state regulators have said it is not clear what role the gas industry has played in causing such problems, since the area has had high air pollution for a while.

Gee. I wonder what might play a larger role in asthma rates? Nearly inert natural gas rigs or rampant air pollution combined with the usual particles found in an area with naturally high levels of dust, pollen, molds and other airborne irritants?

File this article under the heading of one more attempt to prevent the development of any domestic energy supplies unless they fit in with the green /renewable energy agenda. And that’s the same agenda which, while it may serve a great purpose in the future, still can’t finance itself without massive government subsidized support.

UPDATE: Further in the article, the Times uncovers what must certainly be some sort of conspiracy.

confidential industry study from 1990, conducted for the American Petroleum Institute, concluded that “using conservative assumptions,” radium in drilling wastewater dumped off the Louisiana coast posed “potentially significant risks” of cancer for people who eat fish from those waters regularly.

Ooooo… a confidential study. Sounded pretty shady to me, so I contacted a representative of the American Petroleum Institute to find out why they would be keeping such blockbuster information secret from the public. As it turns out, that study has been public for almost two decades and the results aren’t quite what the Times implies.

The API study mentioned in the NYT article was not confidential. In fact, it was turned into API Publication 4532 and published in 1991. Furthermore, it discusses the health risk associated with radium radiation and concludes, “The number of excess cancers predicted per year is comparable to the number expected to result from background concentrations of radium. Because of the many conservative assumptions incorporated into this screening-level analysis, it can be concluded that the risks associated with the discharge of produced water to coastal Louisiana is small.”

Was anything in this article fact checked before they ran it?

DRAC, Shelly, Redford, & Soros

Which of these things in the post title is not like the others?  Trick question.  They're all related.

DRAC is the Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition, a local group of folks who attend town meetings and so forth to express their opinion that fracking is bad (h/t Kathy).  Fair enough—they're certainly allowed to say what they think (as we are) and since the science on this doesn't appear to be settled, they provide a useful viewpoint.

But, as always when trying to get to the bottom of a tangled heap such as fracking, we should be asking cui bono, who benefits?  In answer to that question, the DRAC people and similar groups round up the usual suspects —the landowners who signed the leases, the fracking companies themselves as well as all of their suppliers, the nameless, faceless evil fat cats—you know the drill, so to speak.  But wait, there's more!—from the NY Post             (h/t Tom):

Shelly's $hale game    His law firm pushes gas-drill 'frack' suits

By BRENDAN SCOTT Post correspondent, Last Updated: 7:56 PM, January 17, 2011

ALBANY -- As Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver leads the fight to block a type of natural-gas drilling in New York, his private law firm is in other states trying to drum up multimillion-dollar lawsuits against the practice, The Post has found.

The speaker's massive Manhattan-based personal-injury law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, plans a pair of public forums this week in Pennsylvania and West Virginia to "listen to the concerns of the community, share information and discuss legal options" about the gas-exploration phenomenon known as "hydrofracking" or "fracking."....

Silver (D-Manhattan) -- citing risks of water contamination by chemical byproducts from the process -- has emerged as a leading foe to expanded natural-gas drilling, which proponents argue could improve New York's energy independence and revive upstate's long-stagnant economy.

Last month, former Gov. David Paterson extended an environmental review period after vetoing a six-month ban shepherded through the Assembly by Silver.

Drilling advocates, government watchdog groups and even some Democrats say Weitz & Luxenberg's anti-drilling push, which follows a similar forum last month in Pennsylvania, raises questions about the powerful speaker's independence on the high-stakes issue....

Silver has for years refused to detail exactly what he makes and what he does for the firm, even as it plays a key role in the state Trial Lawyers Association, one of Albany's most influential lobbying groups.

Silver refused to address questions about whether Weitz & Luxenberg's anti-drilling advocacy posed a conflict for him....

That sort of changes the complexion of the thing, doesn't it?

And then at American Thinker, heartache—to think that I used to like Robert Redford:

The movie Gasland came out of nowhere to slam the shale gas industry -- an industry that has already substantially brought down the price of natural gas throughout the nation, saving consumers and business untold billions of dollars in energy costs.  The natural gas boom spawned by technologies such as horizontal drilling and fracking have also enriched citizens and states that have reaped part of the bounty brought to the surface by these technologies. Gasland casts aspersions regarding the safety of these technologies, especially to the water tables [tvm note: Gasland was brought to Albany last spring by Barbara Lifton].... 

....Did Gasland really come out of nowhere, or did it benefit from the helping hands of George Soros?

Gasland was shown at the Sundance Film Festival -- that was the first step in its journey to make the bigtime (including the HBO screenings). Gasland got a major boost in prominence when it landed a coveted spot at Sundance....

...The Sundance Institute receives funding from  George Soros; furthermore, the Sundance Documentary Film Fund was formerly known as the Soros Documentary Fund. Soros and his Open Society Institute have given many millions of dollars to the Sundance Institute. The officials who run Sundance know their donors and their special interests.

According to the Capital Research Institute, Sundance founder Robert Redford "genuflected" before Soros when Open Society gave the Institute 5 million dollars in its latest "gift":

"Sundance Institute has supported documentary storytellers since its beginning. The recognition of that history by George Soros and the Open Society Institute, and the continuation of our relationship over time, speaks to our shared belief that culture-in this case documentary film-is having a profound impact in shaping progressive change."

Soros responded that he is interested in such movies because "documentary films raise awareness and inspire action."

That presumably includes action that help prevent us freeing ourselves from being dependent for our energy supplies on unfriendly nations....

Go to American Thinker to read the article in its entirety, as well as to find other pieces in the archives that contain more "interesting" information re: hydrofracking and the leftist agenda. 

Lastly, if you keep having the nagging feeling that there are even more dots to connect, that may be because there very likely are. Opposition to seems as though it's always the same group, or groups, of people involved and zoning and sustainability are already quite explicitly linked by those on the left.

We always seem to be behind the curve, don't we? Time to catch up.


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