Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Today In Kafka

One of the great traumas of early parenthood is the very first time you hear adorable little Susie or Johnny uttering the F word. Since the standard ritual of the washing-out of the mouth with soap is now considered child abuse in some locales (and for good reason -- have you read the ingredients on a bar of Irish Spring lately?) the most that Mom and Dad can do is a time-out, loss of privileges, and of course taking a good hard look at our own potty mouths.

But how would you feel if your child was under official court order to never, ever utter one particular F word again for the rest of their lives, under pain of having the family homestead taken away and the bank account seized?

 This has actually happened to a Pennsylvania couple who settled a lawsuit against a gas drilling company that polluted their drinking water supply through that most dreaded F word of all: Fracking. Under the terms of the settlement, even the two small children in the family were issued a gag order by the presiding judge, forbidding them to utter the word Fracking for the rest of their lives:
The sweeping gag order was imposed under a $750,000 settlement between the Hallowich family and Range Resources Ltd, a leading oil and gas driller. It provoked outrage on Monday among environmental campaigners and free speech advocates.
The settlement, reached in 2011 but unsealed only last week, barred the Hallowichs' son and daughter, who were then aged 10 and seven, from ever discussing fracking or the Marcellus Shale, a leading producer in America's shale gas boom.
The Hallowich family had earlier accused oil and gas companies of destroying their 10-acre farm in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania and putting their children's health in danger. Their property was adjacent to major industrial operations: four gas wells, gas compressor stations, and a waste water pond, which the Hallowich family said contaminated their water supply and caused burning eyes, sore throats and headaches.
The Hallowiches constantly worry what will happen if the two kids slip up one day and yack about fracking on the playground in a town where fracking has become a way of life and livelihood for many families. No longer can the children partake in discussions about whose water is the smelliest, or who can triple-dog-dare who to be first to test out the latest playground water fountain to see what solid, liquid, gas or flame comes spewing out.

 "They're going to be among other children that are children of people within this industry and they're going to be around it every day of their life, that if they in turn say one of the illegal words when they're outside of our guardianship we're going to have difficulty controlling that," said Mr. Hallowich.

My knee-jerk advice to the Hallowiches might have been to get the F out of town and out of Pennsylvania, where the gas lobby owns the government regulators. That hefty court award should last them awhile if they're thrifty, even if they have to abandon their polluted land and can't find new jobs. One possibility is the next state over (New York), where fracking is still banned, thanks to a strong environmental lobby. The kids could scream Fracking Fracking Fracking!!!! at the top of their lungs and blend right in with the activist crowd. To be really safe, I'd recommend Woodstock, whose town council last year actually voted to make fracking a felony.

But there's a huge catch. If the Hallowiches have cell phones or iPads, they won't be free no matter where they go. The technology now exists for police, courts, governments and probably corporations to remotely monitor the voices and movements of all of us, via the ridiculously easy secret installation of spying software on our electronic devices. They can hear us and they can see us, and that goes for our kids, too. The only solution is to get off the grid entirely. And that would be hard, given that technology has proven both addictive and necessary to our very existence. For example, without the Internet, we'd never be able to find out where they're fracking and how they're snooping.

Meanwhile, Steve Horn of DeSmogBlog has obtained documents proving that the Obama Administration is not only helping to shield fracking polluters from oversight and consequences, but that it actually censored a report establishing a clear link between fracking and the pollution of ground water in Pennsylvania. The EPA lied when it reported that the methane caused by fracking was "naturally occurring" in water and perfectly safe to drink. Two whistleblowers have now accused former EPA Chief Lisa Jackson of being the instigator of the cover-up. She was apparently acting on orders from the boss man himself, who feared that his re-election chances in that important swing state would be damaged by bad publicity. He has, after all, been a longtime booster of the gas industry and its donors. (Jackson, ironically and conveniently enough, now works for Apple, manufacturer of the iPad.)

 I assume that the Justice Department has gone into full panic mode, trying to catch the EPA truth-tellers and indict them for giving aid and comfort to the populace. Because when it comes to leakers, this administration is schizophrenic. It punishes those who help their fellow citizens, and rewards those who poison us -- be it by leaking toxins into our air and water, or by the enactment of toxic policies that have sucked the wealth of an entire nation into the voracious maw of the predatory financial class. 



James F Traynor said...

This guy is a combination of Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson with a dash of Reagan.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Great post, Karen, but while fracking to harvest gas and oil has garnered the most attention, it accounts for only part of drilling-associated aquifer and land pollution. ProPublica has been running a series that (mostly) examines the process of injecting industrial liquid waste down wells for the purpose of supposedly safe long-term disposal. This has been going on for many, many years, and apparently it is anything but safe.








poorperson said...

Karen, energy is a necessary source to sustain life. All efforts to reduce emissions are not necessarily bad, but they come at a high price for those of us without much money (which are a lot of us these days). Further, many efforts to curtail self-generated fuel only leads to increased use of fuel from outside the US where there are far fewer restrictions and guidelines. And so, we are actually creating far more global pollution than if we continued to safely use our own. We all share the same planet. Out of sight may be out of mind for US environmentalists, but it is wrecking our planet, impoverishing our own people and capitalizing our enemies.

James F Traynor said...

poorperson, I will just assume you're sadly deluded.

Zee said...


I'm not what anyone would call an “environmental activist” and admit that I'm fairly ignorant about environmental issues.

But I think that poorperson may have something of a point here.

When I look at the toxic way in which electronic wastes are disposed of in China, India and probably throughout much of the Third World, I can't help but wonder how other activities that impact the environment— e.g., oil/gas drilling, mining and agriculture—are carried out in those same countries:



Perhaps under rather less “regulated,” more environmentally-damaging conditions than here in the West, wouldn't you think?

I can't quantify—even in relative terms—how much more environmental damage might be done by these activities in the Third World vis à vis the in West, but it's worth thinking about poorperson's point rather than casually dismissing it.

Perhaps someone else in this forum with more knowledge than I possess regarding environmental issues could elaborate?

The Black Swan said...

Well I don't want to wander to much into this one, but I would say the US is the kingdom of NIMBY environmentalism.

Let's take a look at Hybrid and Electric cars and most of our consumer electronics as well as materials used in making solar panels.






That last one is a real doozy.

Then take a look at an electric car. Where does the electricity come from? Of the 4million thousand megawatt hours produced every year in the US, only 500,000 come from renewable sources.
So, you are powering your electric car with coal, or natural gas or petroleum. Hardly clean energy at all. (and lets not even get started on nuclear power!)
In fact, when I was in college we did a calculation of our carbon footprint for our travels during Thanksgiving break. While the students who flew had the largest footprint, one who drove in an electric car came in right after all those who flew in airplanes!

So no, we aren't deluded.
I have an incredible amount of Love for this planet I live on and seeing the environmental destruction and degradation that goes on around us is heartbreaking. But I won't lie to myself and I won't lie to others.

Zee, this is why I had previously mentioned that all the institutions of our modern world have failed us.

And finally, a mini rant. The obsession with emissions is astounding. Greenhouse this, carbon dioxide that. How about we talk about some real environmental issues? Fukushima, fracking, industrial waste, mining, etc. The things that directly impact our lives and may in fact make this planet unlivable. I am getting sick of the Global Warming crowd. Rant over.

The apparatus of our enslavement is the tool of our liberation.

May all beings be happy.

The Black Swan said...

And finally,
love this:

The best quote (sarcasm):
"All climate scientists agree that the sun affects Earth’s climate to some extent. They only disagree about whether or not the effect form the sun is minor compared to man-made causes."

Good to know the sun may have something to do with our climate. :)

FYI - Maunder Minimum is what led to the mini Ice Age in the Middle Ages.

Zee said...

@James and @All--

poorperson touched upon something else that often rankles me—and which, I think, I have touched upon before in this forum. But perhaps it's worth reiterating one more time.

Progressives/Environmentalists are fond of pontificating about the need to reduce our dependence upon fossil fuels in general—and upon transportation fuels in particular, i.e., gasoline—accomplished either by reducing domestic production and thereby forcing up costs, or by arbitrary gasoline tax increases to accomplish the same end.

In principle, I agree with the goal to reduce our dependence upon fossil fuels.

BUT, Progresives/Environmentalists never seem to reflect upon the regressive nature of such increased costs on the poor; or, perhaps they do, but just don't give a damn because “their cause is just.”

States like mine are geographically quite large, but are relatively poor and have a large number of rural poor to boot.

As I have observed before, we have 23 (of 33) counties here in New Mexico that are larger than some of your so-called states on the Other Left Coast, viz., Rhode Island (1,212 sq mi) and Delaware (2,491 sq mi):


And people—often, poor people—live out in these remote locales.

There ain't no bus or taxi service in Tres Piedras, Reserve, Springer or Vaughn (and the list goes on), New Mexico. And there won't be any for the foreseeable future.

These people need medical, dental, and other services, to be able to buy groceries, clothes etc., just like you and me.

And I'll bet they don't drive Toyota Priuses or Chevy Volts.

More likely, Mr. and Mrs. Gutierriez of Middle-of-Nowhere, New Mexico, drive a gas-guzzling, full-sized, 1990s vintage pickup truck suitable to their rural life. And they won't be upgrading soon, because they're poor.

Arbitrary increases in gasoline prices to curb our national addiction to oil will hit these people much harder than us city dwellers, who may have mass transit as an option.

Bully for you/us, but what about them?

At the very least, those of us who live out in the wide open spaces, rather than cheek-by-jowl with our fellow man in urban America, need some "scaleable" gasoline “rebate” by virtue of our way of life.

'Cause we don't believe that we should be forced to live like the rest of America, in crumbling, close-packed, urban anthills. No matter how environmentally “sound” it would be.

Zee said...

@The Black Swan--

As always, you give me much to think about. It will take me a while to digest the information on the links that you--and Fred Drumlevitch--have provided, along with what I have recently read on your blog.

James F Traynor said...

First we will not 'safely' use our own fracking nor 'safely' transport what is squeezed from oil sands. I could go on and on, but will not. Will the poor suffer disproportionally from an energy shortage? Under our present system of laissez faire capitalism - of course they will. But they will suffer in any case, unless we change to a more reasonable system. But this won't happen. Strange as it may seem, the Chinese, out of their immense capacity for the practical, may begin to see the light but it is a dim hope.

annenigma said...

The Utah Data Center will require 65 megawatts of electricity costing $40 million/year and use 1.7 million gallons of water per day just to keep the computers cool.

Pearl said...

The definition of Chutzpa


Eli Lilly is suing Canadians for $500 million because it didn't make
enough profit http://bit.ly/13N4Uph via: @sum_of_us

Zee said...


I couldn't open the link that you provided for the Eli Lilly story.

Is this about the same thing?