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Month: June 2010

Cheney’s Fracking Firewater

Cheney’s Fracking Firewater

In certain parts of rural Colorado, this is what happens if you light a match next to your running tap water.

flammable-tapwater Cheney's Fracking Firewater






The documentary film by Josh Fox titled Gasland explains how flammable tap water came to be.  The film airs on HBO tonight, and the network’s synopsis of the movie includes:

Fox reveals alarming facts about America’s natural gas industry.  In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, championed by then-Vice President Dick Cheney, which exempted fracking [hydraulic fracturing] from numerous long-held environmental regulations such as the Safe Drinking Water Act.  Natural gas companies have installed hundreds of thousands of rigs in 34 states, drilling into huge shale fields, tight sands or coal bed seams containing gas deposits trapped in the rock.  Each well requires the use of fracking fluids – chemical cocktails consisting of 596 chemicals, including carcinogens and neurotoxins, as well as one to seven million gallons of water, which are infused with the chemicals.  Considering there are approximately 450,000 wells in the U.S., Fox estimates that 40 trillion gallons of chemically infused water have been created by the drilling, much of it seeping or injected into the ground across the country.

And we thought the BP gulf spill was bad.  It is, but pumping trillions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the land that seeps into our nation’s waters supply could be just as bad or worse.

Regulations?  We don’t need no stinking government regulations.  The huge corporations in the trillion-dollar extraction industries have nothing but our best interests in mind when they drill wells 5,000 feet below the surface of the ocean and pump trillions of gallons of flammable carcinogens into the earth that seep into our groundwater supplies.  There’s nothing to worry about here…  No need for government watchdogs to get involved!  I mean really, what could possibly go wrong if companies that exist solely to create profits go fracking around the country in search of natural gas?

Finally a New Reason to Fight in Afghanistan

Finally a New Reason to Fight in Afghanistan

The U.S. Military invaded Afghanistan 9-1/2 years ago to topple the Taliban and capture Osama bin Laden.  Our number one reason for being there vacated the caves of Tora Bora just months after we arrived and, since then, the mission has been one of keeping the Taliban at bay and instituting some form of modern democracy in a country populated by people that aren’t to keen about change. 

Obama’s strategy has been to stabilize the country, get the Afghan military trained well enough to do the job themselves, and then get out. 

But today we learned that there’s gold in them there hills!  Well not so much gold, but a lot of other minerals that we need to keep our high-tech, battery powered economy going.  Today’s NYT reports:

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

So far, the biggest mineral deposits discovered are of iron and copper, and the quantities are large enough to make Afghanistan a major world producer of both, United States officials said. Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan.

Just this month, American geologists working with the Pentagon team have been conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan where they believe there are large deposits of lithium. Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world’s largest known lithium reserves.

Finally a reason to get greedy extraction-industry corporations interested enough in this war to wanna fight harder.   Maybe they’ll even be willing to help pay for it.

Mr. Fish delivers the news perfectly with this comic about the importance of what we’ve discovered that “was hidden beneath the feet of the worthless population” of Afghanistan.

American Christian Jihadist Pursues Bin Laden in Pakistan

American Christian Jihadist Pursues Bin Laden in Pakistan

From today’s New York Times:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — An American armed with a pistol and a 40-inch (102-centimeter) sword was detained in northern Pakistan and told investigators he was on a solo mission to kill Osama bin Laden, a police officer said Tuesday.

The man, identified as 52-year-old Californian construction worker Gary Brooks Faulkner, said he wanted to cross over into the nearby Afghan province of Nuristan because he had ”heard bin Laden was living there”, according to officer Mumtaz Ahmad Khan.

Khan said Faulkner was also carrying a book containing Christian verses and teachings.

When asked why he thought he had a chance of tracing bin Laden, Faulkner replied, ”God is with me, and I am confident I will be successful in killing him,” said Khan.

A man on a Mission Impossible like mission from God.

Exactly the kind of response that Bin Laden hoped to get from Americans.

Thank you Mr. Gary Brooks Faulkner for feeding the fire.

Kid in Philly Sips a Beer at a Game

Kid in Philly Sips a Beer at a Game

A TV cameraman and someone with a phone camera got videos of this kid tipping a what is most likely his grandpa’s empty beer bottle to his mouth, and now lots of people are pissed off.

What is the big deal?  It’s a LIGHT beer (98% water!) and, like I said, it’s most likey empty – meaning the kid got maybe a drop of two of warm beer out of the bottle.  If he takes any kind of kid meds for colds like Benadryl or Robitussin cough syrup, he’s getting way more messed up by that stuff than by a couple drops of warm LIGHT beer.

It’s the image that’s made some people furious when they should be  just laughing.  Although, if you go this site, you’ll find that the laughers outnumber the furious by a ratio of about 3:1. 

Hey Philly!  I am with the laughers on this one.

National Education Standards at Last?

National Education Standards at Last?

The good news, potentially, was the release last week of new national standards for math and reading by a panel of experts convened by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. I say potentially because the standards have to be accepted and adopted by individual states, two of which (Texas and Alaska) have already refused to participate in the process.

The bad news is that to get to this point, it has taken us exactly ten years since the last effort, initiated by President George H Bush (America 2000)  continued under Bill Clinton (Goals 2000) and killed by George W Bush, who replaced it with the disastrous No Child Left Behind.  Where his predecessors’ efforts focused, in part, on encouraging all states to adopt rigorous educational standards while providing federally funded but independent reviews and assessments of the results, Junior’s NCLB has had the opposite effect. Its perverse incentives actually encouraged states to dumb-down their standards, and the tests that stem from them, so as to show illusory improvements in performance. Conversely, states that maintained high standards, such as Massachusetts, have been punished by NCLB.

The pace of reform in this country since ‘A Nation At Risk’ was released during the Reagan years makes a snail look like a sprinter.  It really is enough to make you want to scream in frustration. 

The issue of standards is a case in point. How can anybody actually think that it makes sense to have fifty different sets of standards to determine the appropriate reading level of our ninth-graders, or what our sixth-graders should know in math? Yet the move to national standards has been bitterly resisted, primarily by Republicans in congress who have clung to the manifestly erroneous belief that all educational decisions were best left to individual states and local school districts.  If states were competent to handle it alone, we wouldn’t be lagging most advanced countries in the educational performance of our children 25 years after ‘Nation at Risk’ sounded the warning bell.

It’s heartening that a bipartisan consensus among the nation’s governors has prompted this very significant and long overdue step which could have enormous future benefits for our children. Rigorous national standards will, hopefully, lead to common if not identical curriculum and tests, and a measure of coherence may yet emerge from the patchwork quilt that is the American K-12 education system. 

 That’s definitely worth a loud cheer.

George W. Bush, Advocate of Torture

George W. Bush, Advocate of Torture

The New York Daily News reported last week that former President George W. Bush said:

Sure, we waterboarded Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, former President George W. Bush reportedly said on Tuesday.

And he would “do it again to save lives.”

Bush and his military advisors adhered to the morally misguided “intelligence at any cost” school of thinking.  Bush was too stubborn and dumb to realize that the costs of obtaining intelligence through torture was too high. 

There’s a very well researched article in Military Review by Major Douglas A. Pryer, U.S. Army, that examines the Bush way and the more dominant American tradition of the “shining city on the hill” way. 

The article includes a summary of email exchanges between military officers who approved of torture and those who opposed it.  The ethical side was represented by Major Nathan Hoepner, who wrote:

We have taken casualties in every war we have ever fought—that is part of the very nature of war.  We also inflict casualties, generally many more than we take.  That in no way justifies letting go of our standards.   We have NEVER considered our enemies justified in doing such things to us.  Casualties are part of war—if you cannot take casualties then you cannot engage in war.  Period.  BOTTOM LINE: We are American Soldiers, heirs of a long tradition of staying on the high ground. We need to stay there.

Pryer writes that  those who say that the use of torture saved lives (as Bush stated last week) are wrong:

Tragically, interrogators at Abu Ghraib, in the 3ACR, and at FOB Iron Horse had HUMINT leaders who felt morally justified in sanctioning enhanced interrogation techniques, and this belief led their interrogators to use techniques that slipped into truly serious abuse at Abu Ghraib and in the 3ACR.  Furthermore, due to personalities unique to Abu Ghraib, abuse descended further still into the sadistic, sexualized violence that shamed our Nation and nearly led to our defeat in Iraq.  In retrospect, it is ironic that, while these leaders had meant to save lives via enhanced interrogation techniques, their actions helped to destabilize Iraq.  This destabilization, in turn, created thousands more casualties than these leaders could ever have prevented through tactical methods.

Andrew Sullivan was on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday, and he observed that most former presidents advocate human rights, but this one advocates torture, proving he is truly a monster.