Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mail Brane Blog: Readers Seeking Answers to Questions

I was very interested in your blog post on Josh Fox's Gasland II and how your wife found it too intense to keep watching (on to Part 2).  But I still find it incredible that these fracking interests and state security folks would put citizens onto terrorist rolls. Do you really believe that, or is Fox exaggerating for effect?  -  Alicia, Louisville, KY

A. I don't think Fox is exaggerating at all. As a person involved in deep politics I am well aware of the extent of the existing spy-surveillance state and how it networks (through fusion centers) throughout the country.  I also noted (June 19th) on the COG or 'continuity of government' program, and the recent discovery that a representative for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation told a group of concerned citizens that "complaining about water quality could be considered an act of terrorism,”.  (See:

Make no mistake the same rubric was adopted to harass and persecute Occupy protestors two years ago. Idealistic kids merely trying to exercise their supposed 1st amendment rights, but actually put in the sights of sniper rifles, e.g. in Houston. So no, it's not a stretch to accept that now all domestic protests are to be considered "terror",  ever since the Bushies' expanded such adaptations to COG  which haven't been altered. And to reinforce that, you might also wish to read William Rivers Pitt's recent blog:

I am interested if you ever found out for sure if you contracted the corona virus in Europe? Were any tests ever done to confirm it? -  Ramone, Pacifica, CA

A. No tests were ever done, because as I noted in the blog post I had no intention of seeing a doc. However, about two weeks after the post went up the symptoms vanished entirely and I was back to my usual jogging-walking exercise routine 3-4 times a week.  So what I suspect is that I'd actually caught a bad (cold) virus that might have been exacerbated because of a depressed immune system (this brought on by the long, sleepless plane flight home). If it was the worst (MERS) form of the corona virus I doubt the symptoms would have ended with no other effects. Of course, I could be wrong and you are right that only a test would confirm it, or negate it.

I enjoyed your posts about Germany, especially the one about Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the one on how the Germans you met dissed Tom Hanks' upcoming HBO series. I have two questions here: 1) Is Hanks really considering still going through with it, after all the buzz? and 2) Why do you suppose the National Archives refuses to release the records on George Joannides the CIA guy who tried to set up Oswald? - Murray, in Enid, OK

A.  Hanks definitely plans to go ahead, from all accounts I've heard. But he's also wise to try and stay under the radar until the immediate premier because he likely knows how it will be skewered by those in the serious research community. This is why there really isn't that much "buzz" - except on a few blogs like mine, which let's face it - don't have the audience of Politico, Daily Kos or Buzzfeed.  Maybe very soon they will catch wind of what Hanks is up to and scrutinize him and his self-professed reasons for doing it. (Which I still believe make for sophisticated brainwashing)

As to why the National Archives refuses to release the Joannides' files, it's fairly obvious: if the government was involved at any level in the assassination - and it's pretty clear it was - then they'd surely want to suppress anything that would impugn guilt or association. This also serves another purpose: keeping the process of ambiguation ongoing. That is, by not releasing anything definitive most people (not in the research loop) are kept guessing and their doubts keep growing: 'Hmmmm....maybe I'm wrong and Oswald is guilty after all!'. Indeed, recent polls now show only 59% reject the Warren Report compared to 73% a few years earlier. Ambiguation works because most people, average citizens, aren't confident enough of their sources or their own research to stand with a position and so flow or blow whichever way the last pundit heard or seen on the tube blows.

Look for the 'Oswald did it' reactionaries (including embedded CIA and NSA assets)  to pump up the volume of their PR- disinfo cant as we approach Nov. 2nd  this year, since it's the 50 th anniversary. The astute reader, however, can obtain a number of excellent antidotes for his brain, mental health by obtaining books such as James Douglass' 'JFK and the Unspeakable' and the new book, Dallas 1963 (available by Oct.) which shows what a nasty, reactionary place Dallas was ca. 1963 and why it wasn't Oswald that put up those ten thousand or more "Wanted for Treason" posters.  I am also planning to have my scifi novel, The Lancer Expedition, out at least by early October, and will keep readers informed.

After all your posts on fracking, I am really REALLY worried about it! I've seen Gasland II but is there any book you can recommend that is worth reading?- Cary B., Tampa, FL

A. I would say it's Robert Heinberg's Snake Oil: How Fracking's False Promise of Plenty Endangers Our Future.  Recall Heinberg is the author of The Party's Over, which warned of the imminent approach of Peak Oil (and the consequences - which we're seeing all over now) years before it happened. Thus, I'd actually advise getting both books because to me, they represent a continuity of argument. Peak Oil transpired when the easiest available, high EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) oil bottomed out, now we're forced to put up millions of natural gas and shale oil frack wells to make up for it. Most people don't even know that the natural gas taken from all the wells marring the countryside isn't even for American use, it's dispatched overseas to places like China where the market price for natural gas is much higher than in the U.S.

You've written a lot on the NSA mass spying stuff. What is your opinion of the Bradley Manning verdict and what do you think will become of Snowden?- Albert H., Detroit

A. Personally, I believe the Manning verdict (20 odd "espionage" charges) was nonsense,  but the judge did get one thing right: tossing out that idiotic "aiding the enemy" charge. As Chris Hayes' explained last night ('All In With Chris Hayes'), had THAT stood, we'd all(using the internet) be in a bad situation, because anything we ever wrote, say in a blog,  complaining about the country, how it does things, its aggressive military empire, the killing of JFK in a coup d'etat, the inequality, the Wall Street vultures, and infrastructure decline - found later on an al Qaeda laptop- could have us condemned for "aiding the enemy". It is total horse manure and based on the egregious use of the 1917 Espionage Act, in the era where the U.S. first began to get neurotic about "Reds". This was after the Russian Revolution, and the resident capitalists in the U.S. had just begun to get paranoid about "Reds" or anarchists, especially making complaints about U.S. entry into WWI.

It is incredible that Obama, a constitutional scholar and former prof, would even remotely consider resorting to this draconian measure to try to stifle speech and let's admit it - letting the people know what their gov't is doing in their name in these misbegotten "wars".   I have to believe, as I wrote earlier e.g., that Obama is so fearful of the shadow players who really run things, that he feels he has no alternative. After all, what happened to JFK 50 years ago still conveys a terrifying message to any sitting president not to rock the boat. JFK did, in multiple ways, and he paid dearly.

My other problem with the "justice" thrown at Manning is that it ignores the true traitors (Cheney, Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Gee Dumbya etc)  who got us into an illegal war in Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands, as well as condoning the practice of torture on dozens of people - violating the Geneva conventions. WHY let those bastards go while you pile on to Manning, who merely exposed war crimes? Hell, the man did us all a favor showing how low the militarists will go to preserve their war -spy state. But such is the nature of "law" and "justice" now in this nation that the traitors escape it and the patriots get prosecuted. It's nuts! NO wonder 44% of the American population is certifiably mentally ill!

As for Edward Snowden, another TRUE patriot, as opposed to the state terrorists who try to claim the label, I believe he will ultimately get asylum in Russia and live there. I certainly don't believe he'd be dumb enough to turn himself in despite those ridiculous promises not to torture or kill him. And the Russians will make no deals unless they can get something out of it, like some of their own (e.g. Viktor Bont)  returned. Quid pro quo.

I just read a book, How We Survived Prostate Cancer,  by Victoria Hallerman, which was depressing as she related the horrible after effects of the brachytherapy radiation treatment her husband received and how he totally lost his sex drive. Is this book really serious? How does it compare to your experience?  - Abby W., Des Moines, IA

A.  Hallerman's book was written before  high dose rate brachy  (using the "IPSA" contouring procedures) became available. Hence, the method she described was still based on the actual implantation of radioactive iodine seeds into the prostate which of course, wrought havoc on the poor guy having it done - ok, many of them. Such was the case with her husband, for whom the burning at urination was so bad he apparently screamed aloud in agony - even when using urinals in restaurants.  Well, when you place 100 odd seeds into the prostate this is what can happen.

In my own case, I received one high dose (1920 CGy) which was geared to a specific region and which targeting could be done superbly because of the IPSA (inverse planning) contouring program (that avoided bladder, rectum) which had been perfected at the Univ. of California at San Francisco Helen Diller Cancer Center, see e.g.

 The bottom line is that the method her husband received and that I received is like comparing chalk and cheese. My total treatment (administered by the hDR afterloader) lasted barely 20 minutes, though granted the prostate implantation surgery lasted about an hour. But the worst effects I had - burning urination, frequent bowel movements- were gone within 2 weeks. His lasted months. Bear in mind Hallerman's husband also had to go on a regimen of hormone therapy to try to reduce the size of his prostate from 95 grams to about half - so the seed implantation could be done properly. The hormone treatment itself is what apparently stole his sex drive, as it would any male's.

Currency Devaluation Would Be A Disaster for Barbados

 Currency devaluation would turn Barbados from a still desirable tourist destination replete with sun and sand, into a crime-ridden gang fiefdom - similar to what Jamaica has become.

In Guyana, South America, in August, 1978, to deliver a 3 day astronomy workshop to teachers, I saw first hand the havoc wrought by currency devaluation. While staying at the Park Hotel in the center of Georgetown -- the capital- I was told to never venture onto the streets after dark, and certainly not while wearing my (gold) wedding ring. Roaming thieves would hack my ring finger off with a machete to get the gold. At that time, the Guyana dollar was worth maybe 10 cents on the U.S dollar. Today, looking at the exchange rates from the Republic Bank of Guyana, it would require 207 G$ to make one U.S. buck. (Can  you process a half-U.S. cent equal to another nation's whole dollar? Imagine how many Ipads you can buy with that?)

This is the way devaluation of currency rolls: downward! Look at all the nations of the Caribbean that have devalued since the 1960s: Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica   - all have been on a downward slide, their populations growing ever more poverty stricken and restive as their respective dollars have continued sliding downward relative to currencies to which they originally had been pegged.

This is why the recent remarks of Jamaica's Opposition leader Andrew Holness (to The Jamaica Gleaner)for an editorial confab, bear attention. His attention was riveted to his birthplace’s prolonged economic troubles which the current government there is hoping would end with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) package that includes tax reform and continued gradual devaluation.

“Tax reform is bitter medicine. [But] devaluation is poison,” was the way Holness put it.
“We were clear in saying that tax reform should have been implemented immediately as opposed to a policy of devaluing the currency. Like it or not, the [Jamaica] government has tacitly agreed to the IMF’s policy of devaluation,” he added.

Barbados hitherto has avoided devaluation (though not austerity measures, as in 1991 after the island had tried "Reaganomics" and tax cuts), usually sought by the Neoliberal institution known as the International Monetary Fund or IMF - because it "makes a nation's goods more affordable for trade partners". But the dirty little secret is that it impoverishes the people! (In 1991 the IMF demanded and got an eight percent cut in all civil servants' wages.)

Now, however, Bajans are worried. Recently, earlier than Holness' comments, Barbados' Prime Minister Freundel Stuart obliquely warned Barbadians by invoking the dreaded  "D-word". His message was tied up with a broader one, that "tough measures" may be needed for the country if it is to reverse its declining economic fortunes. I had blogged on a number of these earlier: E.g.

Therein I noted that Barbados bonds were downgraded to junk by Moody's - this six odd months after Standard and Poor's did the same - which was disturbing in the extreme.  The downgrade lowered the country’s foreign and local currency bond ratings to Ba1 from Baa3. (note: a junk bond, is defined as one that is “below investment grade” due to a heightened risk of default, is any bond with a rating of Ba1/BB+ or lower, according to the system used by Moody’s.)

Standard and Poor’s lowered Barbados’ rating to junk in July, 2012. Moody’s  accompanying statement held that Barbados’ outlook remained negative, and cited two factors in the downgrade: Barbados’ “continuing lackluster economic performance,” and “ongoing deterioration in the government’s debt metrics.”  Barbados’ economy grew by 0.6 percent in 2011 and 0.2 percent through September of 2012, well below expectations.

But the news from the Barbados' Central Bank that likely prompted PM Stuart's ominous warnings was the  $200m loss in foreign reserves over the past year and resulting increased deficits. This and continued very low growth bodes ill for the island and all of us with connections there, including financial. For example, a 50% devaluation of the BDS$ - while it wouldn't wreck our retirement finances - would inflict a grievous hit. Probably very few vacations, maybe only to Vegas or Yellowstone, if that. And then only every few years.

We have seen how difficult it is, for example, when Krimhilde (my sister-in-law and an Eckanckar adept)  comes up for  Eckanckar  conferences in Minneapolis or  to AZ and CO for vacations from Trinidad, whose dollar is worth about one sixth the U.S. $. She has to save for many months and then every bundle of U.S. dollars she spends (i.e. for her portion of hotel accommodations when going with Janice to Aspen, or Pagosa Springs)  has to be re-computed in TT $.

Former Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Courtney Blackman, agrees with Holness that devaluation marks the beginning of a trip to economic hell.  As Sir Courtney recently put it in an interview with a Barbados Business Journal:

"All devaluation has done in Jamaica and Guyana is to make things worse, you just go down. You wouldn’t gain any advantage in Barbados from a devaluation because we are pegged to the United States dollar. Pegging is our best option because we can’t float the currency.

Our economy is too small to float. What the economic situation requires is fiscal discipline which we had for many of our years. We had it under Errol Barrow and Tom Adams. We didn’t have it under [Sir Lloyd] Sandiford and we got into trouble. We had it under [Owen] Arthur during his first two terms and we did very well.

If you are in a situation in which you are short of foreign exchange, meaning you are in a foreign exchange hole, devaluation is not going to get you out. Every time you devalue, you worsen the situation and that’s what has happened in Jamaica and Guyana"

I totally agree with this, having seen first hand the wreckage from devaluation. Let's hope it isn't done in Barbados and that Freundel Stuart finds alternatives to what may be demanded by the IMF and its Neoliberal junkies who don't really care if people are eventually reduced to eating "dirt pies" as in Haiti.

Fox-ite Dummy Lauren Green Gets Schooled by Reza Aslan

Lauren Green may well be a charming lady, and perhaps educated in some areas for which she might aspire to be a competent interviewer. But alas, religious history and textual analysis is not one of them - as she learned when confronting author and religious scholar Reza Aslan a few days ago. (According to Buzzfeed, it "was the most embarrassing interview FOX has ever done") After watching clips from Chris Hayes' show last night, I believe it.

Her first question:

"You're a Muslim so why did you write a book about the Founder of Christianity?"

is dumbo out of the block, and thus Aslan began his tutorial for her, as if she were a kindergartener.

He noted being a "scholar of religion with four degrees, including the New Testament with fluency in Biblical Greek- and studied the origins of Christianity for two decades"

Aslan added that he just happened to be a Muslim, but the Fox dope-ite couldn't or wouldn't let it go, asking an even dumber question:

"It still begs the question, why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?"

But clearly she doesn't grasp what the fallacy of begging the question means, i.e. it  is committed "when a proposition which requires proof is assumed without proof." In other words, it is actually Ms. Green who was doing the question begging by assuming because Aslan is Muslim he can't be a competent scholar of Christianity or Yeshua.  Thus, her de facto proposition, that Aslan is incompetent to do research into Jesus because of being Muslim, requires proof that she doesn't provide but which charge she expects Aslan to defend! She thereby foists the burden of question "begging" onto Aslan for showing WHY he is qualified to do a scholarly study of Yeshua.

Aslan, looking as if trying to take pity on a regressive, backward toddler, replied:

"Because it's my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament, That is what I do for a living. I am a historian, I am a Ph.D. in the history of religion .  This isn't a 'Muslim opinion'. I'm not sure what my faith happens to do with my twenty years of academic study of the New Testament. I do think perhaps it's a little bit strange that instead of debating the arguments of the book we are debating the rights of the scholar to actually write it. My job as a scholar of religions is to write about religions."

But you see, Prof. Aslan, in Dumbo-ville  'Murica, this is not seen as irony. It happens all the time.  But to reinforce this, Green digs herself in deeper approaching moron territory:

"You're quoting yourself as a scholar. I have interviewed scholars who have written books on the resurrection, on the real Jesus, and looking at the same information that you're saying but which is somehow different from theirs, is really not being honest here."

Aslan tried to be empathetic at this point, what else can you be with a recalcitrant dummy masquerading as a prime time network interviewer? He replied:

"M'am, my information is not different from the others at all. It sounds like you haven't actually read my book to see what I've said about the resurrection, or about Jesus or about his claims. I think you might be surprised in what I say."

Ouch!  The book that's elicited such consternation from the reality-challenged is
"Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth."

The book excavates what can really be known about Jesus the person and the context in which he lived. Aslan feels passionate about why that kind of knowledge is so important, as he noted in a recent interview:

"Unless you believe that Jesus lived in some kind of a cultural and political vacuum, that the context of the world in which he lived played no role in his actions or his motivations, then you have to take seriously that he lived in a specific time and place and the things that he said were directed to a specific audience in one of the most tumultuous periods of the history of the Holy Land."

Earlier, actually a week ago,  in another appearance on "Morning Joe", Aslan  noted a typical American tendency to think of Jesus as "some kind of pacifist, a celestial spirit in the world in which he lived",  which is completely at odds from the picture which emerges from the historical study of him.  Aslan noted how Yeshua likely lived in the most tumultuous era for the Holy Land ever known, and also took on the hitherto greatest Empire the world had ever known.

Because he took on that Empire, he was executed as a state criminal. Aslan emphasized that he "was a deeply political figure".

At this point, guest Steve Rattner blurted out:  "So, he was a Terrorist?"

Aslan replied: "No. I mean a terrorist is someone who takes up arms against citizens. There were certainly a lot of Jewish terrorists in 1st century Palestine but he himself wasn't one of those. He was a nationalist revolutionary."

At that point, I immediately thought of the late Hugo Chavez who the U.S. Neoliberal media and associated imps  tried to paint as the biggest villain since Stalin. But as I noted, Chavez walked the walk doing far more to help his downtrodden countrymen than Obama has done for ours (even now Obama's WH  is conducting secret talks with the Repukes on a "Grand Bargain" to  cut Medicare - according to Daily Kos).

It was funny when Morning Joe himself tried to interject his own biblical knowledge by asserting Yeshua had to be a pacifist since he said "turn the other cheek" among other statements. But Aslan responded he also said: "I have come not to bring peace, but a sword.." and also the same man who said, "If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."

Aslan followed up, noting that just by his saying the words, "I am the Messiah" he was committing a treasonable offense, since the imputation was that the kingdom of God would replace the kingdom of Caesar, i.e. the Romans. Thus, he wasn't killed for his spiritual teachings but his political actions.

Aslan, like Oxford scholar Geza Vermes before him ('The Authentic Gospel of Jesus') noted that crucifixion was a punishment  "reserved solely for crimes against the state".

Scarborough tried to pooh pooh this by asserting the Romans were "ambivalent at best when you read about the final week of Jesus' life".

But Aslan slapped that down in concert with many other true scholars such as John Dominic Crossan, noting: "that's not correct either". Scarborough snarked: "So what is it then, a fable?" and Aslan replied (correctly according to textual analysis):

"Never happened! It's an absolute fable. What you have to understand is the very first words written about Jesus in the gospels were written after the Jewish revolt, after the destruction of Jerusalem, after the very movement which Jesus embodied led to the insurrection against the Roman Empire, And the words were written in Greek, not in Hebrew, not in Aramaic - the language of the Jews. They were written specifically for a Roman audience at a time when Judaism had become pariah".

He emphasized:

"If that's the case, if you're writing for a Roman audience and not a Jewish audience then you have to do two things: one, you have to make him just a little bit less Jewish and a little bit less revolutionary and two, you have to remove all blame for his death from Rome.."

Pilate himself was no ambivalent wuss, but a "brutal, bloodthirsty man who sent his troops out onto the streets to slaughter Jews on the slightest pretext".

Scarborough interrupted at this point, yelping as if bitten by a large red ant on the butt: "S-so, so, so ....y-y-you're suggesting...that basically the New Testament is fiction."

Aslan replied coolly and calmly as with the Fox moron:

"No, what I'm saying is the New Testament is myth and myth isn't fiction. You have to understand that what we differentiate between facts and truth is a differentiation the ancient mind would have no conception of.  For them what was important wasn't the actual facts of the event - they wouldn't even know what you're talking about. For them the importance was the truth. So what they wanted to do was create a narrative of Jesus that revealed the truth that they wanted to reveal about him,"

One of the truths the writers wanted to reveal is that it wasn't Rome's fault but the Jews. At which point Scarborough began a prolonged, know-nothing interruption in which he tried to portray himself on an equal scholastic footing as Aslan, but he fell flat. Anyone who knew anything of textual analysis and its role in rendering the NT a myth would peg Joe as at least as big a moron as Lauren Green.

The bottom line in all this is too many religious Americans can't handle the truth: that their "good Book"  is not based on facts or real history, but ancient myths re-told in a certain context. Or s Reza Aslan put it in his interview:

"The historical Jesus: he was an illiterate, day laborer, peasant from the country side of Galilee who hung around with the most dispossessed, poor, weak, outcasts of his society -- people whom the temple rejected".

In  other words, exactly the fitting picture of the "Augustan Hippie" that scholar John Dominic Crossan portrayed in his masterful work: 'The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant'.

Will fundies and the Christian Right reject this? Of course! But these are the same twits who reject Darwinian evolution and claim the Earth is 6, 000 years old!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Somebody Is Lying Here - About Poverty and the Middle Class

Scene in Barbados - May, 1972, left: my aunt and cousin visit near a school where I taught in Peace Corps. Right: homes in the neighborhood I used to live. That was my encounter with poverty  - but chosen deliberately

It is a sad reflection that in a nation where competing interests are often engaged in memetic warfare, as well as PR battles, it is hard to tell the good guys from the bad. Well, check that....for those of us who've done independent research and are capable of critical thinking, it's not so hard. The recent Dept. of Energy report claiming there's no evidence that fracking contaminates water is a case in point. Look at who is doing the report, look at the extent of the government being co-opted by corporate-private agents, and the conclusion that this DOE malarkey is real emerges as bare bollocks (see also my skewering of it here:  )

Now it seems another battle over economic claims has emerged, from differing sources. At stake is the narrative for the next two elections, and whether the liberal side can even invoke the plundering of the middle class by the wealthiest, and the further degradation of the poor. If one side's researchers are correct, a particular duo from the (once liberal) Brooking Institution, then it's game over - basically for any Dem or near--liberal (not Neoliberal) running for office.

I became aware of this on reading the local rag's editorial ('Data Explodes Obama's Myth of a Disappearing Middle Class'), today and its  referencing a paper entitled:  "The exaggerated death of the middle class."   The authors,  Ron Haskins and Scott Winship, claimed that when the numbers are crunched with all of the relevant data included:

"the incomes of the bottom fifth of households actually increased by 26 percent, rather than declining by 33 percent. Those of the middle fifth increased by 37 percent, rather than by only 2 percent. There is no disappearing middle class in these data; nor can household income, even at the bottom, be characterized as stagnant, let alone declining. Even after 2000, estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show the bottom 60 percent of households got 10 percent richer by 2009, the most recent year available."

Hmmmmm......did these bozos run this claim past those now raiding dumpsters and lined up at food kitchens because their food stamps and unemployment benefits have been cut? Have they asked the kids in those families, the kids crying themselves to sleep each night because their stomachs won't stop growling, keeping them awake?  Have they asked all those downsized before they were eligible for their pensions and now having to live on a meager Social Security benefit because they had to take it at age 62? Have they asked all those who are living in states where NO part of Obama care will be available to them, so that they will be ineligible for even the most basic care....given their pre-existing conditions, and other issues? Have they asked all those (such as featured on the PBS documentary 'Two American Families') who had their health benefits cut or removed entirely?

Now, counter this "finding" with the one reported in yesterday's Denver Post ('4 in 5 Adults Confront Poverty in Their Lifetime', p. 14A) and it's quite obvious both claims can't be true. You simply cannot have - by all the principles of logic - 4 in 5 adults of all classes facing poverty at some point, and also no stagnant wages or growing at the rate that Haskins and Winship claim.

According to the Post article:

"Although ethnic and racial minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show.

Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in government data, engulfing more than 76% of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge to be published next year in the Oxford University Press."

The Post article notes that "measured across all races" the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79% or nearly 4 in 5. Pardon me, but this indicates a nation of rising inequality and the degradation of most citizens in terms of their economic welfare. According to William Julius Wilson who specializes in race and poverty at Harvard University, quoted in the piece:

"It's time that America comes to understand that many of the nation's biggest disparities, from life expectancy to poverty are increasingly due to economic class position."

This is something that authors like Michael Parenti ('The Dirty Truth') have tried to educate us about for over 20 years. Parenti, for example, dug up arcane records - not easily available and not in the census - that disclosed that 96% of all wealth accruing to the silver spoons arrives via inheritance. That means these entitled spoiled types get a leg up on everyone else before the race even starts. Did the Brooking Bozos factor any of that into their computations?

The study reported by the Post (and to be published by Oxford Univ. Press) also notes that more than 19 million whites currently fall below the poverty line, which is still defined as $23,012 /yr. for a family of four. Of course, this is more than forty years old, takes no account of inflation, so that if the real poverty line was assigned, we'd likely see over 50 million fitting the category as opposed to only 19 million. Did the Brookings Bozos take that into account? Somehow, I doubt it!

The article goes on to note that while the census figures (and other gov't data) do give a snapshot of poverty, they don't capture the makeup of those who cycle in and out of poverty at different points I their lives - these might be the working poor (earning $7.25 at Mickey D's - not enough to live in a homeless shelter far less one's own apt.) or those white collared types downsized because of their age, and also cut off at the knees before they could collect pensions or health benefits.

If one only takes gov't census or other data into account he will find 12.6% of adults between 25 and 60 lived in poverty. But, when differential time data are integrated into the picture, taking into account intervals of being down and out, the figures increase to 4 in 10 (40%) and that is for living in poverty at least a year in their lives. The risks are particularly great for those between 35 and 55. For example, those between 35 and 45 had a 17 percent probability of encountering poverty in their lives.

The Oxford-published study predicts that by 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85% of all working age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of poverty.

According to Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who calculated the numbers:

"Poverty is no longer an issue of us versus them, it's an issue of 'us'. Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need."

Sadly, the new Haskins and Winship study would have us continue to regard poverty and middle class decline as only a fringe experience, thereby taking social insurance program revisions off the table. Were the authors aware of this? Maybe, maybe not. But they certainly didn't seem to be aware that their methods of measuring income left them open to charges of statistical hijinks and manipulation much like the recent DOE study of the effects of fracking on water - which selectively excluded those depths of the Marcellus Shale wherein frack poisons would most likely be found.

We need to be aware that merely becomes some study arrives out of some institution with a name that echoes some gravitas, it still may not be worth donkey lickspittle.

As for me, have I ever encountered poverty? Yes, for four years - but that was deliberately chosen when I signed up for Peace Corps, to be paid $125 a month. And yes, I'd do it again, just to see how the other half of the planet lives!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Solutions to Rewriting Higher Order Differential Equations in Normal Form

1) y"  - 3y' + 4y = sin 3t


Re-arrange to get:  y" = 3y - 4y + sin 3t

Let: y = x1,  y' = x2, then x2' = y"

Then we can rewrite the higher order DE pair as:

x2' = 3x2  - 4x1 + sin 3t  and x1' = x2 (since y = x1 and y' = x2))

2)   2 d2y/ dt2 + 4 dy/dt – 5y = 0

Divide through by 2 and transpose terms to get:

 d2y/ dt2 =   - 2 dy/dt + 5y/ 2

Let:     y = x1,  dy/dt  = y' = x2,  so that:    d2y/ dt2 =  x2'


x2'  = -2 x2  + 5 x1/2, and x1' = x2

Is General Relativity Vindicated Again? Maybe!

Top: Line-of-sight components of the orbital velocities of the radio pulsar J0348 and its white-dwarf companion, measured, respectively, by radio-pulse timing and spectral Doppler shift.  Bottom:  All binary radio pulsars with measured masses and no significant tidal or mass losses are plotted by mass (with corresponding gravitational binding energy) and orbital-velocity parameter β.

Amazingly, in many scientific circles general relativity or GR remains as controversial as the Darwinian theory of evolution in biology. This despite the fact that for all intents, at least within the confines of our own solar system, GR has been vindicated. For example, it very well predicts the annual advance in perihelion of the planet Mercury, and fairly well predicts the deviation of starlight as it passes near to the Sun in our line of sight. Recall here that the closest thing to a strong field object in the solar system is the Sun whose radius is more than 100,000 times its Schwarzschild radius of 3 km. (The  Schwarzschild radius R(s) = 2GM/c2,  where G is the Newtonian gravitational constant, c is the speed of light in vacuo, and M is the gravitating mass. Once a stellar remnant collapses within this radius, light cannot escape and the object is no longer visible .)

The situation is dramatically different for neutron stars, which comprise the components of what we call "extreme binary pulsars."  The neutron star is an ultradense stellar remnant of a  core-collapsed supernovae. A one solar-mass (1 M) neutron star has a radius of order 10 km, only a few times its Rs. And whereas the gravitational binding energy of an ordinary star is a negligible fraction of its mass, the binding energy of a neutron star can reduce the total mass of its unassembled constituents by as much as 20%.

Thus, the binary pair, labeled J0348+0432, in which the most massive component is a neutron star closely orbited every 2.46 hours by a much lighter white-dwarf star, has attracted astrophysical attention. Though 7000 light-years away, J0348 is quite observer friendly. The white dwarf’s unusually bright hydrogen spectrum yields high-resolution Doppler-shift data and much information about its intrinsic properties. And the neutron star is a radio pulsar whose lighthouse-like radio beam, sweeping Earth every 39 milliseconds, provides an excellent long-term timing reference.

This is the very type of object that would be useful in vindicating GR in an extra-solar context. But why does GR remain so suspect? First, it has problems with quantization, so hasn't yet been reconciled to the other powerful theory of modern physics: the quantum theory. It also has problems with spacetime infinities (i.e. the singularities at the center of black holes), and has difficulty incorporating cosmic inflation (because of superluminal rates of expansion associated with it) and finally GR can't quite cope with the unification of fundamental forces (gravitation, electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear forces).

Enter the extreme binary pulsar J0348+0432. The findings so far conform with it being included in a class called  “clean, relativistic” binaries—those with relativistic velocities and negligible losses due to tidal dissipation or mass transfer, hence they lose energy primarily by gravitational radiation. In GR, the lowest-order gravity-wave production by an extended dynamical source is called quadrupole radiation. But many variations on GR predict that dipole radiation will, under the right circumstances, sap a binary’s orbital energy much faster than the quadruple radiation

The report of a team at Max Planck Institute in Bonn, Germany now appears to have supported that this is the case for J0348+0432. (The new binary pulsar was first spotted by team member Ryan Lynch (McGill University) in accumulated data from a 2007 radio-telescope survey).

Figure 1 shows the 2.46-hour oscillation of the line-of-sight velocity components of the white dwarf and the pulsar as measured, respectively, by spectral Doppler shifts and pulsar timing. The ratio of their oscillatory amplitudes measures the ratio qMp/Mwd of their masses to be 11.7 ± 0.1. The pulsar mass Mp = qMwd was determined to be a record (2.01 ± 0.04) M. The two masses plus the orbit’s period and its line-of-sight velocity components yield a detailed description of the binary orbit: Its plane is inclined 40° from the plane of the sky, and the white dwarf’s orbital velocity is about 0.2% of the speed of light. Its separation from the pulsar is about half the diameter of the Sun.

Figure 2 compares J0348 with other binary pulsar systems, with regard to pulsar mass, orbital velocity, and gravitational binding energy. The figure shows another 2-M pulsar orbited by a white dwarf. But that binary’s orbital velocity is much slower (see Physics Today, January 2011, page 12). On the other hand, the plot shows a unique double pulsar—two pulsars orbiting their center of mass with a relative velocity slightly faster than that of J0348.

Given the new binary’s measured parameters, GR predicts that its present 2.46-hour orbital period Pb should be decreasing by about 8 µs per year as the orbit shrinks due to energy loss by gravitational radiation. To test that prediction, Lynch and Paulo Freire began continual pulsar timing with Puerto Rico’s Arecibo radio telescope in April 2011. Now, based on two years of timing data, the orbital period’s measured time derivative math is 1.05 ± 0.18 times the GR prediction. So thus far there’s no evidence of new physics.  Fig. 3 (below)


shows the constraints imposed on the masses of the binary pulsar J0348 by measurements of the white-dwarf mass Mwd, the mass ratio q, and the time derivative math of the orbital period. In each case, the triplet of lines indicates one standard deviation.

The yellow segment is the 1-standard-deviation confinement imposed on the binary’s mass plane by the math measurement, assuming that GR is the correct theory. The fact that the intersection of the measured q and Mwd lines, which involve no assumptions about GR, falls nicely in the middle of the calculated math swath indicates that GR has thus far passed the team’s radiative test. With increased observing time t over the next few years, the uncertainty on math should shrink rather rapidly—like t−5/2.

Will it satisfy all critics? Hardly!  For example, one group at Boston University has objected based on Augur electron simulations - that challenge the claim that the high energy spectral peak is produced by Augur electrons. Thus, they claim there is "no correlation between electron energies and any information about the intrinsic properties of the pulsar." (The GR proponents have tried to tie the electronic behavior of the instrumental detection LEDs to electrons tunneling out of a quantum well to form peaks in the spectrum observed.)

In any case, as with all good physics we shall have to await confirmation, or at least wait another few years to see if indeed the uncertainty on math  shrinks.  For another GR-related blog post, see:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rewriting Higher Order Differential Equations in Normal Form

In many instances, higher order differential equations (i.e. of order 2 or higher) can be solved by reducing the higher order equation to a linear system (e.g. in dy/dt, or dx/dt or y' or x' )  in normal form. Recall that normal form yields a system such that:

dx1/dt = a11(t)x1 + a12 (t)x2 + ..a1n(t)xn + f1(t)
dx2/dt = a21 (t)x1 + a22 (t)x2 + ..a2n (t)xn + f2(t)
dx n/dt = an1 (t)x1 + an2 (t)x2 + ..ann(t) xn + fn(t)

Example: Rewrite the third order differential equation:

2y"'  - 6y"  + 4y' + y = sin t

in normal form.


First, divide thorugh by 2 and make y"' the subject to obtain:

y"' = - y/2  - 2y'  + 3y"  + sint / 2

Then use substitutions such that:

y = x1,  y' = x2, y" = x3

Now, since:

x1' = y' = x2

x2' = y" = x3

x3' = y"'


x1' = x2

x2' = x3

x3' = - x1/ 2 - 2x2 + 3x3  + 1/2 sin t

Problems for Math Mavens:

Rewrite these higher order DEs as systems in normal form:

1) y"  - 3y' + 4y = sin 3t

2)   2 d2y/ dt2 + 4 dy/dt – 5y = 0

Laying Your Loved One To Rest: Buyer Beware!

Phil Stahl's photo.
Johnny with my wife, Janice, in his Las Vegas care facility in 2009.

According to a piece in TIME (June 24, 'The New Way of Death')  "death in the U.S. is a $13.4 billion  year industry and cremation accounts for about 20% of that number- a percentage that belies the full extent of its popularity- simply because cremation is cheaper than burial".  However, because families (or the person himself) choose cremation as the final mode of farewell doesn't imply or mean dignity need be foreclosed. Though we may have paid less to lay a loved one to rest, we fully expect his corpus will be treated with the same respect and dignity as if he was being buried.

The truth may be somewhat different, as my family learned after my younger brother John was recently cremated. What we didn't expect was a farce on top of the tragedy of his untimely death in which: his body would remain un-cremated for at least 3 weeks, and the final image photo  - which was to be our family's last remembrance of him - turned out to be a "ghoulish nightmare visage" as my wife put it.

The image was so gruesome there is no way in hell I would post it, if only to respect the sensibilities of many readers. So, despite paying nearly  $1,100 for what my family expected would be a decent cremation and final laying to rest, we were appalled as the last photo of Johnny showed him in a cardboard box-  still with hospital gown on, his head jerked to the right in an unnatural contortion, tracheotomy wound still showing with blood evident and eyes wide open in a grisly 'death stare'.  Needless to say, this is NOT the way we wanted to remember him!

Earlier we had to wait 5 days (after his death) for a cremation authorization form to be signed by all members of the family (this new law arrived a few years ago in a number of states.) This took time but we did it as expeditiously as we could as we didn't want John's body lying around any longer than necessary. After the form was submitted, the funeral home (in Oklahoma City) then wrote back and said another form was also needed  - so we had to attend to that costing another couple days. Then a doctor's authorization was needed for the death certificate, and after that was taken care of it had to be redone since the signature wasn't "legible". (What doctor's signature is?) On and on and on it went including other issues - delaying John's cremation at least 3 weeks. We thought all had been appropriately taken care of, then we received the final photo of John which didn't sit well with us. Some attempts were made to get media attention, by my middle brother Jerome in OK, but these didn't pan out.

But I decided to write this blog post to let others know of what they may be getting themselves into if they do happen to choose cremation as an option, instead of burial.  (And note: cremation is not new by any means. As the TIME article observes: "Cremation appears to be as old as traditional burial. The ancient Greeks practiced it. The Romans practiced it. But it wasn't until the 19th century that modern cremation took root in the U.S.."

The problem, of course, is that the U.S. is a Neooliberal capitalist bastion, dominated by the only real god that most worship: money. That means that profits reign over the interest of people in nearly every sphere of interest, from health care, to funeral services. And the truth is that funeral homes are not at all pleased with the increasing choice of cremation which is costing them major profits given it costs about one third of regular burials.

TIME notes what you can expect if you opt for cremation (p. 34):

"First, you'll likely be placed in a plain coffin or a cardboard box. You may have a tag put somewhere on your body or a metal disc placed inside your vessel with a unique number along with matching paper work so the crematorium operators know you're you - but for now you're no longer you, you're No. 15768."

Once you're ID'd you're placed in the crematorium chamber which will operate at 1, 800 F. After an hour of intense heat and flame you're reduced to grayish ash that will be raked into a box and left to cool. From there, personalized urns may be distributed, say to send to family members. But note that at no stage, merely because there is less ritual, does dignity have to be absent.

As cremations have become more popular  TIME (p. 36)  notes," unbelievable stories of errors and misidentifications have cropped up." The most grisly occurred near Noble, GA in 2002 where 334 bodies were found stacked in random piles, all in differing phases of decomposition.

The owner was charged with 787 felony counts and sent away for 12 years. The warning that ought to have alerted people was his offering $125 cremations. While cremations are cheaper than burials they aren't that much cheaper.

Other aspects of the business are also disturbing. As one Florida funeral director with an insight, quoted in TIME, notes, most crematoria are "off the beaten path" and in addition, the industry "doesn't necessarily attract the most reliable employees". He adds: "Lots of times you've got people who are ex-cons. It's really not the kind of job that most people want to do.."

The whole piece, in the wake of what happened to Johnny, got me to re-thinking cremations for my wife and myself.  One alternative way, as the author of the TIME article recommends, is to incorporate a memorial service as part of the cremation. As the author puts it (p. 37):

"Memorials are important for funeral directors because they can't make a living on ashes alone. But it's important for you too, because whether you realize it or not, you may be setting fire to your own history."

That is, should you decide against having your ashes memorialized somewhere. And as the author acknowledges: "What will future Americans think of their ancestors collectively going up in flames?"

Indeed. So given the thousands of hours my wife has put in on her genealogy research for my family - as well as hers- it would be nonsense to toss all that work into the fire as it were, and also leave nothing for our descendants or nieces, nephews to find should they want to extend the family tree.

As for Johnny, though the funeral home messed up his ending, it is at least an object lesson and cautionary note for the rest of us when our own time comes.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

How Anthony Weiner's "Weiner" Problem Can Be Solved

Anthony Weiner is back in the news again, and for all the wrong reasons. Though he insists on running for Mayor of New York City, he doesn't appear to have the sound judgment it takes to govern Podunk, Kentucky far less a bustling metropolis with problems and issues of vastly greater magnitude.

One would have thought Weiner would have learned from his earlier instagramming escapades two years ago, but from news accounts he evidently hasn't. Meanwhile, wife Huma has gone out to try and defend her man's honor and his mayoral campaign, to assorted boos and hisses of the pundits.  Personally, I have to more agree with Joe Scarborough on this that Huma's doing it not so much for her randy hubby but for the kids - who are doubtless taking a lot of flack at school, from other kids. For that she merits commendations and kudos not putdowns.

According to one of the recipients of his "erotic messages" interviewed on CBS' Early Show yesterday morning, Weiner admitted to being a "very horny middle-aged man". The young woman gently attempted to disabuse him of such a pejorative, but alas, his subsequent actions, words and instagrams disclosed otherwise, prompting her to tell the interviewer: "Well, he DID turn out to be a very horny middle -aged man!"

Weiner thus seems to be his own worst enemy. But could there be hope for his reconstruction? Say to become a model citizen and model Mayor? Possibly, but it may require an extreme step.

Here's a hint: many men who get prostate cancer have no other choice than to get what is called "hormone treatments" which are really a form of anti-androgen therapy. The treatments can be administered independently and as such resemble the chemical castration sometimes performed on rapists who want to get out of the can sooner, but are more often used as an adjunct to a more intense initial treatment such as radiation therapy or radical prostatectomy.

The advantage of using HT is that the main fuel for prostate cancer, testosterone, immediately dives. The downside, as any prostate cancer patient who's had it can aver, is that one's sex drive absolutely bottoms out to the point you could trot a harem of voluptuous, nude Playboy bunnies into his room and he would barely blink. "Get it on"? Hell, most who receive HT can't get it up even using PDE5 inhibitors (such as Viagra).

Sex then, doesn't even enter the patient's mind. If this is so, then it follows if such a regimen were administered to Weiner, his hyper-drive sex issues would be solved. No more "weinering" and dispatching the results to mid-20s females to convince them of his manhood. Hell, after a few administrations he'd more likely need several,  29-gauge  1/2" needle injections of Bimix in his dick to even half use a sex toy.

What form would it take? Most likely, a hormone therapy using a combination of luteinizing-hormone releasing hormone LHRH or  Leuprolide (marketed as Lupron) and a non-steroidal anti-androgen (Bicalutamide). Within a few days Weiner would notice the difference. By the end of a month, the guy would no longer be hankering to contact young women or astound them by sleazy dick pics. His wife Huma would no longer have to defend her man's aspirations to political office or go to extraordinary lengths to protect her kids.

In a word, Weiner would be basically ready to assume duties as the Mayor of NYC because his "little head"  would no longer be making his decisions for his regular head. Thus, his judgment would no longer be compromised to the extent he can't be trusted in a serious political office.

Further point: to avoid some of the nasty effects (such as enlarged breasts) of such a treatment, it would be done over months then suspended, then resumed again if needed.

Yeah, Weiner's sex life would likely be a casualty - though a surgical penile implant might help for the occasions he needs it for marital relations. But the takeaway is that he's liberated from his overpowering sex drives which continue to humiliate him and his family.

Isn't such a sacrifice worth it?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Solutions to Differential Equations Using Integrating Factors

The problems again:

(1) Solve:  x2y dy – xy2 dx – x3y2dx = 0

(2) Solve using any method for integrating factors:

x (dy/dx) - 3y = x2


(1)  Factor to obtain:: xy(xdy – ydx) – x2 y2  dx = 0

Now, multiply by (x- 2y- 2):

(x dy – ydx)/ xy – x dx = 0

Then by applying the property of the differential:  d(ln y/x):

d(ln y/x) – xdx = 0

Integrating:: ln(y/x)  =   x2/2 +   c


y / x  =  c  exp (x2/2)  or:    y =   c x  exp (x2/2) 

(2) Put the equation into the form: dy/dx + Py = Q

Then: dy/dx – 3y/x = x

So: P = (-3/x) and Q = x


r = exp(ò Pdx) = exp (-3 ln x) = 1/ e 3lnx = 1 /x3


(1/x3) y = òx (x /x3) dx + C = -1/x + C

So: y = -x2 + Cx3

The DOE "Fracking is Safe for Water" Study: Don't Jump on the Bandwagon Yet!

As I noted in the previous blog post, newspapers, media sites across the nation are spreading the news (mainly in editorials) that AHA! Now we can exhale deeply and drink our water safely because, HEY! The Feds at the Dept. of Energy found out it's " safe!" Not so fast!

In many ways, this smells the same as the effort to torpedo the initial acoustic findings in the Kennedy assassination (which led the House Select Committee on Assassinations - HSCA-  to conclude a 96% probability of conspiracy), when government scientists under a team from the National Academy Of Sciences-  led by Dr. Norman Ramsey-  attempted to refute the findings using their own analysis.   But their efforts were basically all  for naught. Key impediments to accepting their analysis were: a) the team was not comprised of actual acoustic experts like the Barger and Weiss group from MIT that did the original, and b) their conclusions could not be confirmed, nor did they offer any basis by which the results might be replicated - a necessary condition of good science. 

Researcher W. Antony Marsh, in an email to me during the writing of a FAQ for one newsgoup, noted:

"The NAS did not allow any dialogue with critics to review and challenge such a study. They worked in total secrecy. In fact, they did not even make their raw materials available so that other researchers could try to duplicate their work."

They also made loads of basic statistical errors, mostly to do with the nature of a Poisson distribution. It was only relatively recently (2001)  that a paper by D.B. Thomas  (in the journal Science and Justice) went over all the original acoustic data using a much more refined analysis and arrived at the conclusion that the Barger-Weiss team was correct, and there were at least 4 shots as indicated by the telltale impulses, two of which were spaced 1.66 seconds apart . (The recycling time for the 6.5mm bolt action Mannlicher -Carcano allegedly used by Oswald was 2.33 secs.)

The takeaway here? It is always best to look askance when - after a previous study finds for a conclusion not popular with embedded, reactionary interests in the government- a subsequent study arrives to try to refute it. Basically, that is exactly what this new DOE study is all about, trying to refute or neutralize previous adverse fracked water assays taken in PA, and at Pavilion, WY. It is also highly suspicious (the naïve might say "coincidental") that it arrives at thousands of major newspapers mere days after Josh Fox's Gasland II premiers.

As I said, I smell a rat, but then I am a suspicious person by nature, and trust very little of what putative authorities say unless what they say can be independently confirmed.

Rob Jackson, a scientist at Duke University, has warned that a single study should not serve as evidence that fracking is safe, especially since the geology and fracking practices vary across the US. He told the AP that the drilling company might have been unusually meticulous at their research site, knowing that the procedure was being closely monitored. (Hmmmm.......might they have in some way influenced the outcome deploying measures we may not know? Unless the full paper -report is made publicly available the adoption of a suspicious mindset is the only reasonable one, given the government's previous history)

Jackson also explained that other aspects of the drilling process can contaminate groundwater, including poor well construction, accidental surface spills of chemicals and chemical-laced fluids, and wastewater.  What I'd also like to know is whether this DOE study investigated any of the hundreds of wells that have already been deemed leaking, or compromised.

We also need to be aware that the depth of the well might also have an impact on the potential effect on groundwater. Drilling at the well in western Pennsylvania occurred at 8,000 feet below ground, with groundwater in the Marcellus Shale usually found at a depth of 300 feet.  This fact itself is extremely suspicious, since these types of statistical, methodology shenanigans have been seen before in other areas.

A classic example is a spurious climate science paper, a joint 2003 effort by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas. Baliunas and Soon's misuse of statistics may be found at:

 Standing out in the paper was  their choice of using 50-year data periods or  increments when the IPCC scientists had already disclosed anthropogenic warming appears at 30 -year levels.  In other words, the duo specifically ignored the threshold or resolution of data at which the climate effects would be most significant. In effect, Baliunas and Soon employed what we call a 'selective effects filter' to cull the data they preferred not to have to deal with.

In like manner, it seems that with their choice of 8,000 feet below ground for monitoring, the DOE scientists played a similar game. Especially as any fool purporting to do frack water research should know that  groundwater in the Marcellus Shale is usually found at a depth of 300 feet. Hence, the DOE scientists deliberately plumbed to much deeper layers than the contamination would be found, in the same way Soon and Baliunas extended increments to much longer extents than climate effects would be found.

All of which shows the "scientific" game can be rigged to yield the results one wants, and try to pass these over on people who are either gullible, ignorant, stupid or all three.

We also need to note that drilling at a fracking site in Pavillion, Wyoming, on the other hand, occurred at a depth of 1,200 feet. Groundwater in that region is acquired from depths of 800 feet, which means that the fracking site is in close proximity to drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 released a report concluding that chemical-laced fracking fluids contaminated the groundwater in Pavillion, and I listed those nasties, including saturation levels of methane (at 19 mg/L ) in the last two blog posts and benzene etc. at 50 times safe levels.

Yes, the EPA last month dropped its plans to further investigate the preliminary findings, and instead allowed state officials – many of whom are strong drilling advocates – to take over the study. A number of rationales can be surmised for this, none of them good. One is that strong pro-frack voices in the Obama administration have overridden all others. Another is that these voices or other embedded interests knew Josh Fox's incendiary documentary was soon to come out, so tossed the hot potato over to the state hyper-drilling interests to deal with it. In this way they could at once: a) appear to abdicate on their earlier (2011) water test findings by virtue of not pursuing further tests, and b) appease the gas-oil industry interests that obviously have them by the (political) balls.

A third is that the Obama-ites had little choice, given they had already stuck their necks out as gung ho over natural gas development (check out Obama's State of the Union speech). So by doing further tests on the Pavilion water and coming up with confirmation, they'd be in a position we call between the devil (gas-oil interests and PR flacks) and the deep blue sea, i.e. having to back away from the strong stance on natural gas as a transitional fuel on account of its wreaking toxic havoc on water.

As Josh Fox's Gasland II showed, though the EPA shied away from its Pavilion investigation, its initial results caused alarm and convinced environmental activists that fracking can contaminate drinking water – especially at drilling sites close to the surface. Most of us haven't budged from that earlier finding,  DOE study or not, just as most of us (JFK assassination researchers) haven't budged from the original acoustic test results no matter what Norman Ramsey's government pod people had to say or do.

 Readers also need to be aware that a more recent study conducted by researchers at Duke University examined fracking sites across northeastern Pennsylvania and southern New York, where drilling usually occurs at greater depths. The researchers found that household drinking water that comes from any of the 141 wells near fracking sites has higher concentrations of methane, which is the main component of natural gas.  Researchers found that 82 percent of the 141 water wells had elevated levels of methane, and that ethane concentrations were 23 times higher in drinking water at nearby homes.

The main author of the study, Jackson, noted:

“The methane, ethane and propane data, and new evidence from hydrocarbon and helium isotopes, all suggest that drilling has affected some homeowners’ water,”

This again, brings up the issue of awareness. We the public on whose minds (and bodies!)  these findings impinge, need to ask ourselves whether we are prepared to accept the studies, analyses of REAL scientists who adhere to objective measures and don't play statistical games.....or if we are going to allow ourselves to be hoodwinked by blatant sellouts and tools working for the same interests who fund their bogus science investigations - albeit under a "federal government"  patina.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Skewering The Denver Post's Pro-Fracking Propaganda

Honestly, do you REALLY believe anything that the government or its paid hacks and lackeys says? I mean just days ago we had  NSA's honcho James Clapper admitting he lied in Senate hearings back in March when he told Senators NSA didn't collect millions of records. Then yesterday, before the vote to curtail NSA phone snooping via the (Justin) Amash amendment, he claimed if it passed the NSA's abilities would be severely curtailed. Can you say hogswill? Oh, and let's not forget the biggest load of horse shit of all: that one lone guy named Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F. Kennedy 50 years ago. If you believe that one, you likely also believe in the reality of human virgins that give birth - as a Mensa Bulletin contributor put it some 15 years ago.

Now, we know the same applies to fracking and the reason is simple: the gov't has been bought out by the corporations, in this case the oil companies and their for- hire PR firms like Hill and Knowlton. Thus, we ought not be surprised when supposedly "legitimate" government studies are trotted out, not only to support the myth that fracking doesn't contaminate ground water, but to attack those who seek to expose the truth like Josh Fox.

Enter the propaganda churned out 3 days ago in a Denver Post editorial where they claim:

"Given the controversy over oil and gas drilling in Colorado and its impact on the environment, it's worth highlighting a new federal study that looked at one of the biggest bones of contention: the potential for groundwater contamination through hydraulic fracturing.  The study's preliminary verdict is decidely good news.

What The Associated Press is calling a "landmark federal study" by the Department of Energy monitored fracking fluids for a year that were injected deep underground in wells in western Pennsylvania. By tagging the fracking fluid with "unique markers," federal scientists could locate them if they migrated into groundwater.

They didn't. "

Oh, but did these 'federal scientistis" - most likely subsidized by the oil and gas industry- really try?  Oh, in addition, how many former gas -oil industry lobbyists are now ensconced at the DOE? Maybe 100? 200? The Post determined to sow baloney, goes on:

"Indeed, no trace of the fluid was detected in a monitoring zone that was still a mile below drinking water.

The study, by the National Energy Technology Laboratory, is apparently the first time a private company and federal scientists have teamed up in this fashion — which is a bit surprising. "

Actually, it's not "surprising" at all if the feds are in bed with the private corporations, and their lobbyists etc. have coopted them as slaves in the service of the corporations against the people. Happens all the time.

But anyway, let's get to the claims made by the editorial. In contradiction to the Post's rosy bull pockey, as I noted in the previous blog (on Gasland II) the Department of Pennsylvania Environmental Protection stats back up findings of well cement failure in the industry's OWN records! These showed 1,609 wells were drilled in 2010 and there were 97 well failures, or a 6% failure rate. Of the 1,972 wells drilled in 2011, 140 failed, for a 7.1% failure rate. Of the 1, 346 wells drilled in 2012, there were 120 failures, or an 8.9% rate. Who are you going to believe on this, the paid PR liars for the gas fuckers....errrr....frackers, or your lying eyes?

If indeed the wells failed, then by definition it means that effluent, including methane, found a pathway to the Pennsylvania aquifers. (At the end of Gasland II, this is actually confirmed with EPA testing of the Dimock, PA wells, which found methane at ridiculous levels, as well as benzene and a host of other barely pronounceable chemicals.). Of course, the EPA findings were later muzzled, and they evidently subsequently told the Dimock residents their "water is fine" - at the same time issuing a sub rosa warning, "not to drink it". What do you make of it, friends? I say we are all fucked, because clearly the gov't is bought out, lock, stock and barrel.

But the point is that it discloses the Post editorial is drivel.  This is reinforced by the Schlumberger research data I showed, i.e. that well cement failure occurs at alarming rates - as depicted in one of their graphs showing 'fraction of wells affected by cement failure' vs. the well age in years.  After only 12 years forty percent of wells had failed (meaning again methane entering ground water) and after thirty years, fifty percent had failed. That means if 1.5 million new wells are added in the US of A in the next 10 years, as projected, 750,000 will leak after thirty years. If 180,000 are added to PA, that means 90,000 will leak after 30 years.

Another gov't dodge, which at least the Post exposes for us:

"The Environmental Protection Agency did tentatively — and controversially — link water contamination to fracking at a site in Wyoming. Yet just last month, the agency abandoned further study there, reinforcing doubt about the value of its early findings."

This again is horse shit. My last blog post, again for reference, provided what was found at that site in Pavilion, WY:

- Methane in 10 of 28 water wells at "near saturation" level of 19 mg/L, with "similar isotropic signature to production gas"

- Presence of synthetic organic compounds including glycols, alcohols and 2-butoxyethanol.

- Other petroleum -related detections including - benzene at 50 times the safe drinking water level, as well as phenols, tri-methylbenzenes and diesel and gasoline based organics on a "fairly widespread basis"

These were presented by an EPA official to the assembled residents of the town, and prepared on official documents. So now, what? The Post is going to call the EPA earlier study a fraud? That those results were mythical? More accurately, they were 100% spot on correct, and subsequent cowards or politically coopted  Neoliberal, pro-corporate weasels "abandoned further study" - which still doesn't mean the earlier one was wrong

What it does mean is we have a pack of liars and reprobates who are trying to brainwash and mind fuck all of us. And we had better be aware of it, whether it's the baloney about Oswald killing JFK, or the environmental baloney that fracking doesn't contaminate our water.

Then the Post has the nerve and gall to write:

"Whether the news will make a difference is another question. Josh Fox, director of "Gasland" and "Gasland Part II," tells visitors to his website that "water contamination due to fracking" is a "very serious" problem."

And indeed it is, and Josh Fox delivered the visual and documentary evidence to prove it.

One thing the Post editorial is at least good for, is toilet paper if you're on a camping trip and forgot to bring any along.


Jeezus peace, this bullshit has spread like the toxin toluene in ground water! It's not just the Post, it's being carried by every major journal and newspaper across the country! Google: 'National Energy Technology Laboratory fracking study' and you will see what I mean. My thoughts? This is absolutely a prepared or likely pre-prepared response to Fox's 'Gasland II'.

Josh, we need you now to work on 'Gasland III' to expose these lying motherfuckers!

Gasland II - Fracking is Worse Than You Think

Josh Fox during filming of 'Gasland II'- you'll be appalled at what he reveals.

Part 2 of Gasland II,  Josh Fox's intense and informative HBO documentary,  begins with interviewing Jeremiah Gee, a Pennsylvanian, and Ph.D. candidate at Penn State.  Gee relates the "real" definition of fresh water is - as provided by the company(Shell Appalachia) fracking near his home.  That is, one can no longer go by the standard definition, but rather that "fresh" means "fresh to THIS site" - where they are now fracking.  It doesn't mean pure or free of contaminants, just free of contaminants from previous frack sites - maybe.

Then the camera pans to Gee's barn and the loads of bottled water which he now needs to ship in, because ingesting the fracked water would be a death sentence. At a cost of over $1,000 a month he has no other choice, and as he notes, he even has to provide it to his chickens and pet dogs. The alternative is obviously too horrific to contemplate.  As one watches this, absolute fury builds at the assholes that have destroyed his quality of life and imposed such destruction of his prime life resource. Meanwhile, a realtor conveys the actual current  market value of his home, at 00.00. Readers can see more in this article:

The emphasis then shifts to  Tony Ingraffea, a Cornell Professor of geological engineering. He is a two time award winner - from the National Research Council - for rock mechanics research - so is in no way the bozo that the frackers' anti-Fox disinformation websites have portrayed! Ingraffea explains clearly and with easily understood diagrams, how cement can fail and methane can migrate into ground water. Referencing one of the fracking pipes, Ingraffea sketches the interior cement annulus of 1 -inch which is the sole barrier between the fracking contaminants and the water supply. As he says, "what you don't want is for that cement to fail".

"Failure" includes: corrosion, crumbling, or disappearing entirely as a barrier over time. If that happens, then "what's down there" (i.e. the contaminants) can get into the annulus. He then rubs out the chalk barrier representing the cement in the annulus, using his fingers and indicates an arrow moving into it from outside. To quote Prof. Ingraffea:

"So now shallow gas goes into the open annulus, pressurizes the annulus, and the gas migrates into an underground source of drinking water."

Once this happens, other frack contaminants can also migrate into the water, such benzene, toluene and dozens of cancer causing chemicals.

Alternately, the scene flashes to the lying scumball Tom Ridge - appearing on a talk show- who insists that such problems as methane in water "occurred long before there were any fracking wells." In truth, such incidents were relatively rare and represented no where near the level of contamination of water currently experienced, when water issuing from hoses can be set afire - and homeowners are advised to not even water their lawns. Ridge, as a PR whore hire, is merely repeating the bollocks fed to him by the PR firms underwriting the misinformation campaign waged against citizens, and those like Josh Fox who seek to expose their disastrous schemes.

Prof. Ingraffea notes that the cement failure phenomena he illustrates are "very well known and at least as long as we've been drilling wells and casing them".  He adds that in his view there are only "three things that are certain: death, taxes, and fracture".  In the latter case, he explains that amongst the thousands of gas wells including those offshore, there is a probability of 1 in 20 will immediately show a failure (opening between the well casing and rock), and that means methane migration. It also means anything else stored in the rock, including salts, heavy metals, other deleterious things now have a pathway.

That is, 5 percent of all wells will be affected and woe betide any home owners in their vicinity. Ingraffea invokes the 100,000 odd wells in PA alone, noting that failure rate means 5,000 wells have immediately failed in Pennsylvania alone. That translates to 5,000 methane migrations into the ground water and ruination of citizens' lives. Just one well going bad means one aquifer will be polluted, such as in Dimock.

From Prof. Ingraffea, Josh goes to an expert on corporate public relations, Naomi Oreskes, on the PR Departments that serve the vermin frackers and their lot. She is the author of 'Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming'.  Oreskes explains that the job of corporate PR depts. is not to necessarily show they're right, but merely to spur and stir phony debate. Once the debate is consolidated, it becomes a matter of endless back and forth, "he said, she said" etc, and the ruse succeeds by staving off regulation because, hey, "the issue isn't settled". But in reality it is, as much as the fact that 6 million Jews perished in a holocaust.

Josh names the public relations firm Hill and Knowlton which in the 1950s-60s and later was responsible for mounting the phony campaign that tobacco smoke doesn't cause cancer- sowing enough doubt to postpone regulation for decades. America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) hired Hill and Knowlton in 2009 as their PR firm, so when you google  'Gasland 2' and find ANGA website blistering Josh Fox and his documentary, you know it's really Hill and Knowlton behind it.  And be sure, they want to sow enough doubt in your mind to foist a national debate, as opposed to the undeniable observed facts that Fox has revealed. (The recently released "DOE study" - see next blog- which claims fracked water is now "safe" - smells to me like another elaborate PR stunt wrapped up in the supposed gravitas of "gov't scientists". Well, hey, government "scientists" i.e. in the Ramsey panel, were also behind the botched acoustic interpretation of the shots fired in the JFK assassination!)

To show ANGA are liars about the extent of gas leaking, Josh presents actually published memos (Some "fell off the back of a truck" - fortunately for the rest of us!) from the gas industry, headed up 'Leaking Through Casing'. They indicate aspects like "2,000 components" in the fracked liquid, the influence of "harsh conditions",  how wells fail and that they've been trying to solve the problem "for decades".  Worse, they concede in the documents that there's no way of completely preventing or fixing the problem.

In one document, from Southwestern Energy, the diagram clearly shows that the gas well has a cement barrier with a casing that prevents gases from migrating upwards. But this isn't a Powerpoint about drilling wells but rather about how cement and casings fail and allow methane gas and other substances to migrate into aquifers.  Thus, we see from their own documents how cement fails.

Another document from Schlumberger, shows that cement failure occurs at alarming rates - as depicted in one of their graphs showing 'fraction of wells affected by cement failure' vs. the well age in years.  Pausing the DVR to show the graph, I can read off a failure fraction of 40 percent after only 12 years, and a failure fraction of 50 percent after 30 years.  That means if 1.5 million new wells are added in the US of A, as projected, 750,000 will leak after thirty years. If 180,000 are added to PA, that means 90,000 will leak after 30 years.

Another document from Archer, a well servicing outfit, shows the existing percent of wells with "integrity issues" and in the Gulf of Mexico this is 45% of all 6, 650 wells (and according to news reports last night, one is already burning, reminiscent of the BP disaster) and 34% in the North Sea, out of some 1, 600 wells. Moreover, 40 percent are at high risk of "uncontrolled discharge".

Another power point slide is shown from the Society of Petroleum Engineers, that shows given an existing global well population of 1.8 million, and that 35% of them are leaking.  Despite this, the idiots plan to drill MORE wells in the next decade than have been drilled in the last 100 years. (All of which, btw, points to the fact we indeed have passed the Peak Oil mark, and which explains the extent to which extreme drilling is now becoming so common- to the point people's drinking water, air quality is an accepted collateral casualty.)

Recent Department of Pennsylvania Environmental Protection stats back up findings of failure, showing 1,609 wells were drilled in 2010 an there were 97 well failures, or a 6% failure rate. Of the 1,972 wells drilled in 2011, 140 failed, for a 7.1% failure rate.  Of the 1, 346 wells drilled in 2012, there were 120 failures, or an 8.9% rate. Who are you going to believe on this, the paid PR liars for the gas fuckers....errrr....frackers, or your lying eyes?

The Dept. document concluded that the published statistics are "consistent with previous industry data" and that the situation "is not improving".

As Josh puts it, "just as there are no safe cigarettes, there is no safe drilling, and they know it".

Indeed they do. So why LIE to us about it? Why make us, the citizens who note the lies and complain about the destruction of our life quality, the bad guys? The "anarchists"? The "terrorists"? Well, because money is on the line, lots of it, and they want to spread this malignancy worldwide!  That is the next part of Gasland II, Part 2 designed to send shivers down your spine.

Thus we see a humble Australian farmer also is having to deal with flaming water, contaminated by methane gas, and an inability to tend to his land. This, in a country with an already at- risk water table because of prolonged drought. But does the industry care? Does the U.S.? Hell no! As Josh goes on to show, in 2010 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration started the 'Global Shale Gas Initiative', charting shale "plays"  in over thirty countries and pledging a "government to government engagement to help develop shale gas around the World, from Europe, to Africa, to the Arabian peninsula to southeast Asia and South America. Everything now will be destroyed, all the planet's remaining potable water, for the profits of the gas -shale oil frackers. So, in a matter of months, the blighted U.S. map (smeared with red for fracking contaminated regions) metastasized into the map of the world undergoing the same. (Believe me the Germans are pissed off at this as well, and my friend Reinhard assured me they're prepared to fight it tooth and nail!)

Now, all this might be accepted IF the technology of hydraulic fracturing was proven safe and reliable, but as the stats presented show, it isn't.  Hence, it follows that the spread of shale fracking is indefensible.

It's even more indefensible because contrary to the spin, according to Prof. of Environmental Biology at Cornell, Bob Howarth, shale gas is not any better for global warming than other fossil fuels. He notes that the hypothesis that natural gas is a "good transitional fuel" has been tested and the answer is 'NO!'. Howarth adds:

"The White House has clearly bought into this idea that natural gas is part of the solution to moving us gradually off fossil fuel. But they didn't do that with good science".

Howarth estimates that between 3.6% and 7.9% of the total amount of gas produced over the lifetime of a well is emitted into the atmosphere as methane. As he notes there is "continual leakage at the well head, at the storage and processing facilities, purposeful venting and also in the pipeline systems."

This is important since methane is 120 times more efficient at trapping heat than CO2 is over a short 20 -year period. That means that if much more methane outgassing also occurs - from melting permafrost in the Arctic- and those global drilling wells are multiplied, we will likely be in the throes of the runaway greenhouse effect much, much sooner.

Sadly, at the end we see the Paar family in Texas moving from their family home, as well as the Gee family in PA, as well as hundreds of other families. None of them are allowed to tell their stories due to binding 'shut your mouth' mandates issued by the frackers. As Josh notes, "there is something inhuman about not even allowing people to talk". And having to leave their life long homes is bad enough.

Louis Meeks, in Pavilion, WY, meanwhile, isn't about to leave and he attends a meeting with neighbors where the water tests conducted by the EPA are being disclosed. The findings?

-Methane in 10 of 28 water wells at "near saturation" level of 19 mg/L, with "similar isotropic signature to production gas"

- Presence of synthetic organic compounds including glycols, alcohols and 2-butoxyethanol.

- Other petroleum -related detections including - benzene at 50 times the safe drinking water level, as well as phenols, tri-methylbenzenes and diesel and gasoline based organics on a "fairly widespread basis"

The last scenes of the documentary are heartbreaking to a real citizen, as Josh attempts to gain access to a House fracking hearing with his camera (to film for the public's benefit) but is instead handcuffed and led away. NO first amendment rights, at least if you show up with a video camera to hold the vermin weasels in our gov't to account for their own words!
Does this nonsense have to be stopped? Absolutely! The alternative is our total water supply being filthed and undrinkable within another five years. 'Good' only for rats and vermin and I doubt even they'd drink it.

THIS is what's driving the anti-fracking movement (including returned, outraged vets from Iraq shown having to deal with fracking effects including from poisoned water and earthquakes), and what's for sure is it will not stop - not so long as citizens are engaged and aware

To be fully aware, citizens need to know the massive misinformation campaign mounted by the gas frackers against Fox and his documentaries. To see one illustration of the misinfo (as well as disinfo) see:

Sadly, Fox shows the power basis of much of this is because our government has become corporatized, and now corporations wield more power over it than do citizens. (Whose cyclical votes are inevitably trumped by corporate campaign contributions and lobbyist bribes once the dust settles.) How else explain the writing and passing of a law that actually exempts the frackers from the Safe Drinking Water Act?  Read more at:


Also, see this Youtube presentation on the gas industry's misinformation campaign and why you, as a citizen, need to see this documentary however you can. What befalls and affects your fellow citizens also affects you. The corporate gangster state laying waste to your fellow citizens' lives will also one day come to destroy yours, if you are passive and non-engaged.

As Fox observes, quoting the mayor of Dish, TX, "Now you know. Once you know, you can't  not know".