|Week Seventy-One January 26 - February 01|
Since Week 69 we now know that drilling activities initiated after the lifting of the moratorium have adversely impacted West Divide Creek and allowed produced formation gas to communicate with the shallow ground water -- again.
...and yet the COGCC still refuses to sample the ground water in the area of the 2008 seep site - all this despite a large area of vegetation die-off (suggestive of methane seep) and persistent iron-reducing bacteria near the beaver house (also where the paralyzed frog was found). The COGCC stull refuses to conduct simple soil/gas analysis - despite a new and vast area of grass die-off emanating form the Schwartz pad reported 12-12-08. The COGCC also refuses to sample the flammable gas accumulating in the creek bed (also where the frog was found).
Probable Reason: The COGCC doesn't want to know what's really occurring in this geology with the kinds of drilling procedures they are allowing without adequate oversight....
Diognosis From An
A high-level regulatory folk in frequent contact with the COGCC recently confided they saw the situation as a crises of mismanagement with the environmental department mired in an established culture of industry favoritism.
They also expressed concern that the environmental department doesn't have the technical or expert capacity to determine what is really occurring in the wetland areas or elsewhere. What's more, the person who told me this doesn't think the agency would know how to fix it even if they could identify the scope of what has and continues to occur, which is why they think this agency is stonewalling and obfuscating and delaying. As a regulatory agency, they really don't want to know - or admit they don't know, let along know what to do about it. Now isn't that a damn scary thought.
Frankly, I suspected as much, but this person - much more politically attuned than I - provided some additional perspective. They did doubt the possibility of corruption though, which - despite their general confidence - I'm still seriously wondering about.
I mean, let's not forget that the COGCC is on industry's payroll. There are a lot of ways to pay someone. In the case of the COGCC, their greatest active function is to permit drilling wells. Those wells bring revenue back to the state which then pays the salaries of the COGCC staff. It's a money loop that is absolutely vulnerable to corruption - especially within an old guard.
How can we forget the criminal oil-gas/regulatory scandal involving sex, drugs and permitting favors that rocked the Interior Department this past year, in Denver.
What's even worse is that this insider has seen all the COGCC Commissioners in action - or inaction, and said that only a couple of them seem to give a hoot about what is going on. Dismissal of public concerns for health, safety and the environment is unfortunately routine. Great, says I. At least I know Tresi Houpt is giving it her all. She's been the only one to go to bat for us and is as frustrated and as absolutely baffled by all of this as we are. Though the insider and I didn't discuss who the other good Commissioner is, I have a reasonably good idea. Thank goodness there is a second one.
This disregard by both staff and the COGCC Commission has been so bad in the past (because of a Commission made up solely of industry lackies) that the state legislature in 2007 finally issued a series of mandates obliging the COGCC to protect public health safety and the environment. This lead to the massive rule-making process we just emerged from and which resulted in very little meaningful change and a whole lot of industry loopholes. The legislature also mandated a re-configuration of the COGCC Commission from 5 to 9 - only some of whom can be associated with industry; but, we've sadly seen how effective that has been.
As far as the new rules go - the COGCC had been long ago mandated to protect public health and safety and even water supplies, but those mandates were largely simply ignored. That's why the legislature added new laws governing the agency in 2007.
What has always made the COGCC's inaction so frustrating is that they have always demanded and been given total primary authority over health, safety and environmental matters - as if they have any business regulating such issues. They won't even recognize a methane seep when ground water results tell them it is occurring. And this is why I still strongly suspect corruption within the agency.
You can effect dumb-ass for only so long.
Supposedly the Health Department and EPA have final jurisdiction when it appears as thought the COGCC is failing in its duties - but that has never produced any real oversight from either oversight agency.... turf, budget, political will, power, and all that - don't you know. If your doubt how this works, take a closer look at the financial and investment industry. All they know is greed, abuse and neglect - just like the oil and gas industry and their regulatory bodies, which have long been directed from the very top down to back off on regulation and promote industry interests
I really had such great hope when Democratic Governor Ritter appointed the new panel of COGCC Commissioners. But, even the head of Colorado's Department of Natural Resources (a COGCC Commissioner), and the head of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (also a COGCC Commissioner) have turned out to be disappointments.
And that was probably the very highest hope we as citizens and landowners have ever had to right the wrongs of the past half-decade.
Maybe it's just too political to be of real benefit to the people which all these commissioners are supposed to protect. Again, it appears that these politicians are more interested in their political careers than serving the interests of the people.
In fact, just today, a Republican Senator said as much regarding the partisan bickering occurring on this hill over the economic stimulus bill.
It's really sad how political power can do that to people. It's like they forget what drove them to become a representative. Hedonism usurps their sense of responsibility and higher self. The fundamental curse of the human condition I suppose.
Whatever the reason...
Long reigns the mantle of carefully structured and preserved ignorance (and the policies and politicians that benefit those that further it).
I'm not one to accept failure as an end result, but there is very little we as individuals can do against this fortified wall of resistance. And we as a people are suffering for it. Our health, our safety, the water, air and wildlife - all are being forsaken.
I just hope the Governor and Commissioners and folks in position to effect needed chance are paying attention - because they are dropping the ball big time, and the consequences of their carefully preserved inaction should shame every one of them.
So, it is now more than apparent than ever that the COGCC is totally defunct.
They must be. I mean, here they go and finally - finally - sample superficial sites around the seep area - after waiting months. And then they say everything is fine and their little 'investigation' is wrapped up.
As a matter of implication, I point out the most recent symptom - vast areas of dead and dying vegetation all around the well that took the massive kick.
Here, once again - albeit inconvenient to their conclusions - I put right in their laps the very latest environmental impact associated with renewed drilling activities, and you know what they do? They blow it off and intentionally delay any meaningful and timely investigation - despite the fact that these effects are clearly related to events that happened in June and continue to occur. It's not a great leap of an educated mind to consider such relativity, given that formation gas has been detected in shallow ground water in this same time frame.
For what purpose the COGCC chooses delay I cannot imagine, but it only supports my theory and the 'insiders' analysis that this agency is operating a half bubble off plumb. What other investigator would obstruct their won investigation?
It is striking to me, that any environmental expert would take a set of observations or visual evidence and apply to it a diagnosis based on wholesale assumptions which themselves are based on explanations that fail to account for a newly introduced cause. The COGCC, evidently under-educated in the complex functions of environmental science, have analyzed incomplete data which they have allowed to become skewed through delay, and they have assumed - just simply assumed - that observable impacts, like suddenly dead vegetation spreading out a quarter mile around a drilling rig, is the result of a lack of irrigation.
They assume this, yet fail to account for a rig sitting on top of the dead vegetation.
This is a special kind of stupidity folks. It teeters on the hilariously inane.
Like the Keystone Cops. Or the Three Stooges.
And when the Director recently suggested that an expert versed in such matters "look at" the site in the middle of winter when the land rests under three feet of snow, I realized this agency, tasked with protecting the public's health and safety, is in real trouble. And so are we.
I am so appreciative of the Director's offer to send this expert out, because I can only imagine how the agency might have conducted the same review.
I know it's wrong to make fun, especially if they
really can't help it, but I couldn't help but visualize such an
Stooges field investigation of dead vegetation
The Scene: Jerry, Joe and Burly have clamored from their state-owned SUV and are looking around a desolate open field near a drilling site. They have been sent to investigate a landowner's claims that natural gas is seeping into the surface and killing the grass.
We begin the scene observing the trio standing in an area of dead ground where they are looking for an absence of grass.
(note: this scenario is fictitious, and any resemblance to any actual person is purely coincidental - and very pitiful.)
Joe – "So, what are we doing here, eh?"
Jerry – "We’re looking for something, you dummy."
Joe – "Oh yeah? Well what are we looking for, if you’re so smart."
Burly – "If we knew what we was lookin’ for, we’d see it!"
Joe – "Oh, right. (pauses to consider) So, how do you figure we’ll see it?"
Jerry – "Because it will be there, you buffoon."
Burly – "Yeah, you buffoon."
Joe – "Why you…"
Jerry – "Hey, knock it off, I think I see something."
(all three stooges gather closely around to observe what Jerry sees on the ground)
Burly – "What is it Jerry? What does it look like?"
Joe (to Burly) – "I can’t see with your big head in the way."
Burly (poking Joe in the eye) – "Nyuck, nyuck."
(Joe stumbles backward over Jerry and falls on the ground.)
Jerry (slapping Burly on the forehead) - "Knock it off, you two! There it is!"
Joe – "What is it Jerry?"
Burly – "Yeah, what is it?"
Jerry - "It’s nothin’!"
Burly – "How can you see nothin’, if nothin’ is there?"
Jerry – "I don’t know."
Burly – "How can you not know nothin’, if nothin’ is there?"
Joe (jumping between Burly and Jerry) – "Because he knows it’s nothin’,
Burly - "Why you…"
Jerry (calling to Burly) – "C’mere,
knucklehead. C’mere and tell me what
Burly (leaning over spot where Jerry was looking) – "I see nothin'."
Jerry – "There you go. Nothing is something when it is nothing."
Burly – "Oh."
Joe – "So, how do we fill out this report? It says, “Describe conditions…”
Jerry (grabbing paper away) – "Give me that!"
Burly (glaring at Joe) – "Yeah, give him that!"
Jerry (wailing on Burly and Joe
with the paper. Jerry studies the paper) – "I
Burly – "Brilliant!"
Joe (to Burly) – "Why is that brilliant?"
Burly – "He don’t know… which
means he must know! He knows what he
Joe (shoving Burly) – "Why you
knucklehead! How can he know when he
Burly (shoving Joe back and
knocking him into Jerry) – "He said he knew
Jerry – "I’ve got something."
Burly – "What is it Jerry? What do you have?"
Jerry – "Nothing."
Burly – "Woot woot woot woot, nyuck nyuck nyuck…. My head is hurting."
Joe (slapping Burly’s head) – "Now your head is hurting."
Jerry (poking Joe in the eyes and
stuffing the report in his pocket) –
I guess we'll just have to wait and see what comes up in the Spring.
Hopefully it will be a new crop of environmental
|Entry - 01-31-09
I got a phone call from a neighbor yesterday who told me that through the grapevine he heard that EnCana, upon drilling another "Brown" Well, a week ago, intercepted a pristine fresh water aquifer at a thousand feet down.
Apparently, a geyser went up as a result and was out of control for two days (this information supposedly comes from a field worker).
This neighbor said EnCana should have reported the incident but failed to.
Apparently, the action was finally met with an order by the COGCC (imagine!) to remediate the well.
Evidently no neighbors were warned about the incident by either EnCana or the COGCC taking EnCana's word that all was well.
The aquifer in question is one of three that serves this area's residents with drinking water, and further charges West Divide Creek with fresh water.
Other comments made during the "dispatch" include EnCana's denied request to put in a "pond" or water pipeline and purported subsequent delivery of a million tons of gravel to the site.
I cannot corroborate any of this, as I did not personally witness it. However, I am far more inclined to take the word of a neighbor over that of EnCana.
I have sent an e-mail to EnCana asking for a report of this event. I doubt I will hear anything back. EnCana is typically less than responsive to landowner's concerns. Plus, I'm not exactly their favorite human being - always asking they stop destroying our home and all that....
I have also asked for a report on the event from the COGCC. Again - not their favorite person.
I will be reporting the incident the EPA once I confirm whether this actually occurred
Some questions that need answering:
What happened, and at what stage of drilling did the encounter occur?
How did the COGCC learn of the incident?
If EnCana intersected the aquifer, what measures were taken to protect the water source from contamination?
What types of chemicals were in use and may have come into contact with the aquifer?
Has the COGCC conducted sampling of resident's water sources to ensure contamination has not occurred? It is not unreasonable to request sampling of resident's water until contamination can be ruled out.
Is EnCana planning on de-watering the aquifer?
If so, or - if remediation efforts fail to protect this drinking water source - has the state made any effort to monitor production in resident's water wells or stream flow in West Divide Creek?
Given that EnCana has a long and storied history of environmental destruction and rules violations I don't think it is unreasonable to ask that residents be provided with an official report and supporting documentation relative to this event.
But as we have seen by the COGCC continued obstruction of their own environmental 'investigations', we are likely to experience even more negligence as an unresponsive regulatory agency continues to allow this wanton pillage to continue without proper and promised oversight.
Ground water is becoming increasingly imperiled across the country due to drilling operations - particularly those involving the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing. In 2006 the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator, reported to the Texas Groundwater Protection Committee that they were investigating 351 cases of groundwater contamination from oil and gas activities in 110 counties.
Isn't this an interesting tid-bit....
Now we know why EnCana is venting NINE wells around us in order to tap
off the natural gas that otherwise woudl blow the hell out of the formaion
under us. Meanwhile, there is STILL a seep, the air is polluted with toxic
emissions, they are wasting a ton of resources America is supposed to so
desperately need and the mineral owners and state and feds are getting
screwed on royalties because, unlike Williams Engery, EnCana obviously
doesn't give a damn about people or the environment and just blow it into
Oh, but this couldn't be what's going on here... no... our situation is magically different. Uh huh.... of course, here, too, the state's regulatory board hasn't found fault with the gas company producing the gas. The unspoken rule must be "bodies"... no bodies, no blame.
DEP zeros in on gas tainting water
"Natural gas invading at least nine water wells in Dimock
"Tests show gas found in water is "production gas," Carmon
said, meaning it escaped from the kind of geological formation commonly
trapped for energy. The state has ruled out the possibility it was the
product of organic conditions in shallow ground water that sometimes affect
Learn more about EnCana's storied environmental past...
Using the same drilling practices as they are using here, EnCana has become the focus of intense opposite in areas where they are the scrutinized focus of aquifer contamination
Citizen Encana: The double life of Calgary’s greatest corporation
Published July 10, 2008 by Adrian Morrow in News
From the article:
"On a rainy spring night in 2006, Darrell Graff was
birthing a cow when the gas came rolling
"EnCana has made its mark everywhere it operates.
This year, it plans to donate $35 million
However, not everyone is happy with the company. Farmers have accused EnCana of contaminating their land with natural gas. The company’s money helped fuel a deadly fight in the South American rainforest between peasants and a government determined to build a pipeline through a nature preserve. And two Alberta ranchers have spent over a year fighting EnCana in court for nothing more than a basic guarantee that the company won’t poison their water. Some of these problems are well-known, others are reported here for the first time."
"Like Morgan, the 50-year-old Ernst
has a tough personality that puts her at home among the independent-minded
farmers and ranchers of Alberta. When the noise started at the compressor
station, she refused to keep quiet.
"In 2005, Ernst noticed something was happening to the water from her well. At first, her dogs wouldn’t drink it. Then, she saw it was fizzing as if it was carbonated. In December, she couldn’t turn her taps off: there was so much gas in her water, it raised the pressure and forced its way through her pipes.
She also discovered she could light it on fire. When lit, a huge blue flame burns on the surface of the water, before turning orange and escaping upward like a flare. “It still scares me,” she says. “You never know what the water is going to do.”
Tests on her water revealed high levels of methane, ethane and several other fossil fuels. It also showed signs of heavy hydrocarbons, like the ones used in drilling fluids. Three other area wells have shown high levels of gas. At least two studies have shown that, when a well is fraced, the pressure can break through the bedrock and leak natural gas into the groundwater. Drilling fluids can also contain trace amounts of chemicals, ranging from diesel to ammonium.
EnCana, however, denied that its fracing had contaminated Rosebud’s water supply."
In Alberta water catches fire!
Excerpted from the article...
"Here is the second of a series of three articles dealing with the burning conflict between Alberta’s two most powerful lobbies, the beef and the oil and gas industry. At stake: water! Some producers and rural residents don’t hesitate to qualify their province of “petro tyranny.”
“My cow streamed with blood through the eyes, the mouth, the nose, the ears and the butt. She was lying down kicking her stomach with her legs as if it was burning inside. My veterinarian had never seen that in twenty years of experience!” reported Dale Zimmerman. The shy cow/calf producer described the agony of one of his animals during the meeting of the Alberta Surface Right Federation last November. Two hundred people were hanging on his every word in a hotel in Camrose, a city in the middle of Alberta and the 2002 drought epicentre"
"Rather, Dale Zimmerman thinks that his animals are dead after having drunk water potentially contaminated by the drilling of a coalbed methane (CBM) well on a neighbour’s ranch 1.5 kms from his farm. Laboratory analysis indicate, among other things, that methane levels contained in the water from these wells have gone from 0 to 75,800 parts per million, transforming his drinking water in an explosive cocktail."
"In the meeting room at the Horsemen, another farmer said loudly without the help of a microphone: “We can replace a well but how can we replace an aquifer?” The two Albertan government representatives present at the meeting remained mute."
Community under suspicion after attacks on gas facilities
Police and security presence adds to residents' frustration after four bombings on EnCana installation
By Laura Drake, The Edmonton Journal
Excerpt form the article follows:
"After the first bombing, EnCana security trucks drove up and down the dark rural roads of northeastern British Columbia every night, headlights flashing into the windows of houses along the way.
Jake Hebert was driving home one night after a long stretch away for work. He was just about there when the security staff pulled him over. When asked what he was doing, he explained he was returning to the house he has lived in for 20 years.
"One was shining a light in my face and the other one was crawling under my truck," Hebert recalled. "It was unbelievable." Three months later, the fourth and most recent bomb targeted at EnCana's natural gas equipment exploded only 300 metres from the Tomslake-area cabin where Hebert lives with his mother, Lisa Webster, and her husband Willy."
"Now security will drive by and stop and look in the windows and it's like, 'What do you think we're doing, building bombs at the kitchen table?' " Hebert said, his head nearly touching the roof as he leaned against a support beam in the old wooden house.
"They think we're all criminals," Willy added, his hands crossed over a half-completed word- search puzzle.
Hebert said one of his close friends, who attended a small sit-in last spring to protest the oil and gas operations, was among the first people to face harsh scrutiny from authorities.
"He finally just gave them DNA samples because he had enough," Hebert said.
His friend, who told The Journal he would not be
interviewed because he didn't want any more intrusions into his life, is not
the only resident whose innocence has been questioned because of objections
to the oil and gas presence."
Letter to the Editor: Stand up for your rights
The Edmonton Journal, January 18, 2009 8:51 AM
Re: "Community under suspicion after attacks on gas facilities; Police and security presence adds to residents' frustration after four bombings on EnCana installations," The Journal, Jan. 11.
The article says that EnCana security guards in the Tomslake area south of Dawson Creek have been looking in the windows of people's homes and pulling people over for interrogation on public roads.
Those actions are wrong -- private security guards have no more rights or powers than any other citizen. The article also says that at least one person has felt obliged to give a DNA sample to clear himself of suspicion. That runs contrary to the presumption of innocence.
Tensions may be high following the Tomslake bombings. But if we don't stand up for our rights, we'll lose them.
-- Vancouver © Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
Announcing this website's newest feature:
In all the years we've been dealing with this junk, listening to the corporate lies and propaganda, indulging the bastardized science and political perversion of the COGCC - one thing has finally become very clear: Hydraulic fracturing has emerged as arguably the single greatest threat to the planet's fresh water supplies.
And the sheer and long-awaited clarity of that threat is certainly something to celebrate.
EnCana and other oil and gas operators would love to keep all of us isolated from one another and the truth buried. An ignorant, paid-off community is a cooperative community, but this week ushers the exposure of what had here-to-far remained pretty well sequestered underground.
The emergent truth about hydraulic fracturing. Click the graphic above or here for the dirty skinny.
In The News....
Houpt fights resolution from Martin in Garfield County commissioners battle
Glenwood Springs, CO /
Post Independent / January 27, 2009
From the article: "“What it
amounts to is I’m trying to get everybody to play on the same page,” Martin
In this article, Tresi Houpt, (Democrat) and Garfield County Commissioner tries to defend herself and electorate viewpoint against His Hiney-nesses latest pet-proclamation... political censorship.
Tresi is a genuine pubic representative (far above the moniker of politician), and as such, she has endeavored steadfastly and daily since her election six years ago against the Republican fortress that defines our County Commission... a county commission that - in it's dimmer moments - has surrendered land owner rights to the oil and gas industry while soliciting fat wads of cash from the same in order to fund deputies' salaries. Not the sharpest tool in the old shed, this Martin or his former Republican co-hort - but by golly - impudent.
'Without honor, without cause, without consequence': This is Martin's pennant of dis-courage.
If this sounds like a harsh indictment - it is not without reason.
For six years we've worked tirelessly to educate the enduring Martin on the devastating effects of this industry when it is allowed to run rough-shod over the people and environment of Garfield County.
For six long and difficult years, we've tried in vain to inspire him to enact reasonable safeguards protecting public health and safety, private property rights and environmental sustainability - all in balance with the reasonable development of mineral resources. But, he is heedless, electing instead to cater strictly to the wishes of industry and acting as their mouthpiece and enabler.
Now, he's feeling all itchy because Tresi also happens to represent her constituency on the COGCC Commission and on other boards. Dear Leader -Martin doesn't want her waving around what he seems to consider weird and creepy notions of dissenting opinion when it comes to his industrial agenda for Garfield County.
Fortunately, newbie Republican County Commissioner Samson sees the wisdom in delaying such a proposal.
The interesting thing about free speech and the oil and gas industry is that when industry moves into a community, free-speech becomes fee-speech and surfaces only at great personal cost. Obviously, this is a trend favored and now leveraged by Martin - since it works in his interests and those of his industrial influencers and election financiers.
Just this past week several folks have spoken to me privately about their need to shrink from the work of helping individuals victimized by his industry. Theirs were volunteer positions. They were fearful that their work with industry - now the county's largest employer - would dry up at a time when all of us are belt-tightening. Some had been told by the biggest industry players they would have to abstain from appearing to advocate for any interests other than industry's - and prevent family members from doing the same.
This is all the more reason to support a public representative willing to stand up for those who will not or believe they cannot speak for themselves.
You know what is a great irony?
Industry loves to align itself with the Republican / Christian / conservative culture. But, I always thought Republicans stood for the rights of the individual - like private property rights and the right to free speech. I thought they took great pride in defending individual liberties. So, where does Industry and their hand-maiden Martin find footing in the idea of silencing people and condemning their land for the uncompensated establishment of man-camps. Where does Industry and their hand-maiden Martin gain credibility in making inappropriate efforts to silence a public official or anyone else revealing the ugly truth behind their interests?
I always thought Christians stood upon the moral high ground and drew strength from standing up for the weak, the innocent, the abused. How then can Industry and those which support it's crude and harmful ways, endorse the wholesale devastation of nature... of the giving land, the breathable air, the drinkable water... defenseless animals crushed underfoot purely in industry's race for profit?
And conservative? Hell, there is nothing conservative about this industry. I've never in my life experienced such wanton and aggressive abuse of every living thing; such cavalier disregard for any kind of human moral value; such utter and total devastation of everything precious and extraordinary they come into contact with.
If industry and their hired gun politicians want to act in this manner, then so be it - but by golly, don't tarnish the ideals of conservationism or rend the original tenants of Republic or disparage the moral doctrine of Christianity by espousing otherwise.
Tell it like it damn well is. And accept the truth and consequences of your actions.]
This 647 page bill (much of it experts consider unread by either the Senate or House) passed today by the House (not a single Republican supported the bill) authorizes 1.2 trillion over the next decade at 350 billion in interest (approx. 40%).
Personally, I am a capitalist, with socialistic sensibilities. The adrenaline of business potential is contagious. I love it. I actually promote small businesses in a small business of my own. But I care about people and the environment, too. As in all things, we must find a fair and sustainable balance.
So, here is my Bird-Brained Plan. I offer it contrast to the Hare-Brained Plan
Our government should not be bailing out massive corporations. If they fail, they fail. It is natural to the business model to implode once something becomes to large to sustain itself; for, that is when smaller businesses come in and take over a market. And a shift occurs. A shift in innovation, efficiency, supply, demand and wealth distribution.
What we've been seeing with this fiasco of a financial sector bailout is fat cats not wanting to give up the ship they've crashed onto a reef. But they don't want to give anyone else a chance to have a ship either. They want it all. And, their latest free-wheeling frenzy of bonus dealing demonstrates they can't handle the generous help they've weaseled from tax-payers. They've gotten too big and too far removed from the reality of their own markets. I mean, these people are out in the stratosphere, baby. Hooking these folks up on public life support is neither logical nor healthy for our economy. Why? Because it constipates market evolution, threatens vitality and you know what else? It's hypocritical as hell.
There is a whole lot of caterwallering about this new bill. And for several reasons: It's too big and ushers too much debt which is unacceptable when it makes us vulnerable to China's political whims. How can that be good? Another reason... not enough cash into infrastructure, not enough into small business, and nothing into environmental restoration. And, Republican's, quit bitching about the arts. Actors and artists will work for the corner of the floor to sleep on and a three-day old slice of pizza. Now, just stop it. That money can go a long way. If only they could learn to balance a checkbook and keep receipts. Of course, fat cats hide and shred all that stuff, so maybe it doesn't matter. but I digress.
As far as I can see, this bill does have at least one very good aspect: It is diverse, with cash funneling into various economic sectors. This is very good for minimizing risk, should one or more parts of it fail to live up to expectation.
There is also a "Buy America" clause for construction projects that has become the focal point of a bunch of weenie anti-protectionism parrots, who have squawked so loudly that President Obama is now looking at it with some scrutiny. Well, I guess I'm old school, but by God, in my book, America comes first, period. You can't help anyone else until you can stand on your own two feet - and I'm not talking about standing on Chinese friggin' imports. Seeing these greedy-ass fat cats on Wall Street dishing up bonuses while American families lose homes, health care and can't afford a gallon of milk - those protectionists can kiss.... well, you get the picture.
Turns out that only about 5% of the "stimulus" goes to infrastructure. Granted, not everyone is a construction worker, but infrastructure is necessary and experts have given it a "D". We need to get our butts in gear and fix this incredible national heritage gifted to us by our predecessors - who built it from practically nothing. Putting more into critical infrastructure is good for our long-term investment, bringing high direct yields in job creation, transportation and national security.
Education is a big benefactor, and while I'm all for education, I am for real education and am no fan of the bloated, failed Democrat's cash cow of a bureaucracy that passes for and desecrates the institution of learning. Yes, money should go to education, and schools need to be better built and outfitted (with American steel), but, no cash for footballs. Cash for science, math, English, history, civics, business and the arts. I'd say footballs too, but sports programs have an established history of beating textbooks back to the starting line in district budgets.
Another thing. One of the fundamental tenants of economics is that economies go through expansion and contraction periods. This is a false assumption regarding a dynamic phenomenon - even if experts do believe it. Economies do not have to expand and contract, a healthy economy will transition. It will evolve. There will be smooth and continuous genesis and attrition of markets and industry.
Healthy economies are like healthy bowels. You eat something, you digest it, you poop it out. That's the ideal, as if I need to remind you.
Government policies act to influence how markets and industries relate. Laws (like this stimulus bill) are full of what are called "carrots" and "sticks". The carrot is an incentive to do something. The stick is a disincentive. In other words, the government says: We will reward corporations if you outsource all your labor! BINGO! Corporations are outsourcing all their labor. Rewarding outsourced labor is both an incentive to outsource and a disincentive to hire Americans.
So, government policy has everything to do with the economy through its prolific generation of laws and policies which are rarely well-considered and are often pushed by lobbyists looking to, you guessed it - incentivize or disincentive something they stand to make a killing on. A good example of this is the carefully and secretly crafted energy bill of 2005, borne from the unholy union of the oil and gas industry and their flying monkey Cheney.
Government policy is why everything in America either fails or flourishes. Behind the burning question, "Why the hell is this happening?" is the answer.... someone's partisan policy is encouraging and facilitating it - often even subsidizing it.
So, if balanced policies are like fiber to a well-functioning bowel, you don't even want to visualize the analogy I have for our failing economy.
Okay, here it is, anyway.
Fat cat corporates, who donate vast sums to the business schools and sports programs of their favorite universities and fund economists' curricula which over-emphasizes the studies of other economists would like you to believe that what you should do to make the economy flourish is buy a crap load of lobbyists and form associations and influence law makers to sponsor bills to incentivize you latest money-making scheme and put to use your latest patent. Fat cats beget fat cats.
This is the equivalent of putting a cork in it and filling up on doughnuts. What happens next is never pretty.
Is isn't that 'policy' is an inherently bad thing, it - like oil and gas development - is often simply poorly conceived. It tends to be exclusive and specialized and no one really stops to consider the ramifications in the broader, constantly shifting scope of the real world.
So, I hope that in the language of this stimulus bill, there is funding for education, because education is vital to the functioning - the transitioning of a healthy economy. It is water to the fiber of the system. Even with good policy, if you don't have a education system that nourishes it, you'll still get bound up.
Truly clean and sustainable energy is something we must invest in. It is the transition that is needed to help us push away from the doughnut trough and waddle, albeit all cramped up, into this century. Think about it, everything we do is intimately tied to fossil fuels which are devastating this planet faster than we can even figure out how many ways how.
Along with this, should be an investment in environmental restoration. For obvious reasons. It is the infrastructure of our very living, breathing selves, and the return is forever. No better investment.
We also need investment in essential services like fire, police and medical. A civilization slowly displaced is like a gigantic growing refugee camp. And the strain on social services will multiply. We need to plan for that. To not do would cause greater and more rapid decline. Crime, disease, you name it. Republicans piss and moan about social nets all the time - unless its their fat cat oil and gas or Wall Street buddies getting a check. They say - Socialism! Socialism! Well, if you haven't figured it out yet, here's a news flash. America has been socialistic since income tax was invented. There are a ton of ways that public money is used to influence markets and populations, and don't let Republicans tell you otherwise. Subsidies are a favorite Republican way of getting a welfare check without calling it welfare. Oh, and so is deregulation, which makes it easier to pillage more from others. The difference between us and say Switzerland is that up in the Nordic countries they pay around 60% tax, but the people of those country are cared for cradle to grave. That is actually a brilliant balance between ignorant poverty-stricken masses and a wealthy elite class. Anything over 60% you are free to keep. So, there's an incentive to be wealthy if you so desire. And people so desire. But you don't have the strain on social systems and the drugs and crime and suffering and homelessness like we see in this country. In America, we pay upwards of 60% when you factor in all the taxes on a dollar, and people are still without something as basic as health care. Up North the people own and better regulate the services that are essential to their lives. Up North, they pay on the front end and sustain a population of vital people - hence enjoying increased and stable productivity. Here, we pay on the back end and let everything fall apart in-between while we continue to bolster the "fat-cat free lunch". America is a land of inequality among classes, and many of the best and most lucrative opportunities are secured through relatively unfair advantage as a result of slanted policy. Socialized opportunity requires socialized reward if we are to bring any kind of balance, thereby invigorating our system and helping ensure its longevity and vitality. The fact is that no other republic has ever lasted longer than 200 years. We need to get it together quick-like and stop experimenting and mislabeling our government structure, so we can see to find our way out the bag we're stuck in.
I am torn on the idea of direct stimulus to those living at poverty levels. And here's why. I think it is needed, absolutely. Fat cats tend to horde rather than invest in times of uncertainty - and they do that because they are smart, not stupid, and have the luxury of waiting for the best opportunities to come along. Poor folk tend to spend all their available wad on food calories and energy to heat their homes, and they do that because they have no other choice and cannot afford to wait. Any check sent to the less fortunate would circulate into the economy immediately, but because of bad free trade policy and corporate monopolies, all that potential is going right back to China who is already making a ton off interest. Direct stimulus to the forgotten and struggling among us is essential. Beyond 'discretionary' cash for kids' field trips, new tires, a carburetor or a water filter; health care is still an American notion, so why not give them an additional amount for medical costs -something far beyond poor Americans. Plumbers, electricians, dry-wallers - the construction trade is also American based (as long as E-verify is kept in place, and it should be), so why not an amount for home improvement, or rent assistance? There are ways to reach out and assist America's increasingly expanding working poor class without giving it all back to China. Such a policy should go hand in hand with policies to support the growth and purchase of American small-farm food products and encourage textiles and other forms of American production.
More money (and a little better regulation) needs to go into non-profits. They are the secondary layer in the economic cake - in between poverty on the bottom and fat cats on the top. Non-profits provide a vital tax shelter for fat cats and, in the process, redistribute some of that wealth to the worker bees. Further, these organizations offer a sense of community and vital services to enhance well-being and take up a lot of slack when the public needs help. Churches, food banks, medical clinics, environmental advocacy, family planning, homeless shelters, hospice and domestic violence shelters.... all of these organizations must be nurtured as they serve both the top and the bottom layers of our economic infrastructure.
Small business. And I don't mean the giant corporations masquerading as small business, and keeping upstarts out of the growth loop. Please. 500 employees is not small business. I'll tell you what small business is. It's Mom and pop and their kids or a couple of friends making stuff and making deliveries or providing a service to their communities. It's the small doctor's or attorney's office. It's the real estate office. It's the small grocery store chain, and the family restaurant. It's the local newspaper and the cleaning service and the plumber for God's sake. Not a ten story building with 1,500 contractors, 500 employees and offices in three countries. Give me a break. This government needs to invest in real small businesses. And probably re-classify them. Let's give nano and micro-business a chance! Give these people loans and let them develop their dream and employ their family and friends and serve their neighbors and friends.
So, infrastructure, green energy, education, restoration, essential services, non-profits small business - those are the biggies I'd like to see included in a stimulus package.
And reversing the housing mess? Three solutions (I used to be a broker): 1) establish a commission to oversee and renegotiate loans and stop this foreclosure insanity. 2) Establish a program allowing people to trade down. You know how everyone always wants to trade up? Well, instead of giving up the home you can't afford, let someone with a little bigger budget buy into it, and you take the next one down. The person you're buying from? They, too, are taking the next one down. And so on. The whole purchase paradigm simply shifts by degrees to the right. And the only group of folks you really have to worry about are those on either end - not everyone in the middle, too. The government already has a 1031 program where you can swap one similar property for another. All we have to do is set up a swap system and many less people are out on the street. and 3) All those folks on either end? Establish a new Homestead Act. There are lots and lots of small communities across the interior of this nation that have - over the past twenty years - been abandoned for the urban centers (Think Rome right before the fall!). For gosh sakes, shore up the railroads and interstates, the highways and bridges and give people property - just like they did in the old days to settle the West. Just give it to them - those intrepid souls heading out West once again to the farms and rural communities of our nation's heartland. Put money into the university's extension programs and teach them how to farm. I personally would like to see more family farms and a hell of a lot less corporate farms. Hey, if the Green Acres couple could do it, why not a couple from Santa Barbara? And I bet they'd rather live in Haychuck, Vermont growing tomatoes than in a box on a sidewalk growing mushrooms. I know I would. And all those small businesses I spoke about investing in? They'd have a place to flock to.
The Bird-Brained plan also requires a leaner, more efficient government. And, Republicans, that doesn't mean less to no regulation. Big business doesn't operate on a moral compass and, as an entity, is a conflicted psychotic personality. Even the most socially and environmentally aware corporations are mythical creatures - half scorpion, half salamander, driven overwhelmingly by the desire and need for market share and profit. Business cannot regulate itself in a free market and the labor base is not in a position to effectively object. Government's role must be one of regulation. So, social safeguarding, fair regulating, and acting - through policy making - as an engine of economic transition and vitality - this is what government should be doing. But, while it is doing that, it should be rigorously guarding against and reporting fraud , waste and abuse. This was a program I learned about in the military (back when toilet seats were going for $750.00). How it works is this: If you see somewhere that either fraud, waste or abuse is going on - you report it and receive a reward. The reward is far smaller than the combined cost of the fraud, waste or abuse. So it was smart and effective. And it should be a required program in all fat-cat institutions... especially those feeding in any way from the public trough.
Do all that, get rid of outsourcing (which reinvigorates manufacturing) and turn free trade into fair trade, and we're on our way!
This is the Bird-Brained Plan, and I call it that for this reason. When I feed our backyard birds here on the mountain, their natural tendency is to segregate - for good reason. The big birds, like scrub jays or magpies often bully the little guys, like juncos and chickadees. When conditions are normal - some of the wilder birds like flickers and magpies don't even come to the table. But when conditions get a little harsher, you see more bird folks coming in for some easy chow. Under these circumstances, the big birds pig all the seed and the little birds get run off with empty tummies. That's not okay. So, I spread the seed around a little and drizzle some into little places only the little birds can or want to go. This way, everyone gets a share - even in good times. But when things turn tough and a wicked winter sets in, I've seen birds that normally segregate, actually feed side by side. Once, I even saw a flicker teach a scrub jay how to dig in the snow with a small stick for buried seed. When it gets tough, everyone is interested in just getting enough to get through the next ten minutes. So, I still scatter the seed out like I normally would - in large areas and small - providing enough range of selection that everyone can participate. And everyone makes it through the winter. I didn't change my method of feeding - I've always fed strategically. The birds didn't change their natures. What changed was the conditions. And we made it all work together.
The Hare-Brained Plan is what's on the table in its current form. It is too big, too fast and without adequate strategic investment. It also needs to be phased in with opportunity to reshape and reallocate. In the great depression and dust bowl days of Oklahoma, forage was dry and sparse - often sprouting under drifts of talc-like dust. Few creatures could survive it. But, these conditions spurned a plague-like crop of resilient jack rabbits. They were running all over the place out of control and scarfing whatever forage remained. It was unbalanced and required immediate and tough corrective action to prevent further damage. That corrective action only addressed the jack rabbits, however, not the dust bowl.
The difference between the two is balance.
In times of crises - you need focus, strategy, patience and persistence.
In times of chaos, you need compassion, community and cooperation - and humor.
We are barreling into a situation requiring all of the above.
Within each of us is at least one extraordinary talent; at least two achievable dreams and a least ten ideas useful to humanity; plus, a whole pile of common sense and capability.
So write your ideas down and send them to your representatives.
And, politicians, stop listening to lobbyists and corporate raiders. Pay attention to the regular folk, and do something right for the people of this country.
And, help us God Bless America!
www.recovery.gov [Official government site where you can go to view the text of the bill called the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009"]
I went here immediately after learning the House would be voting on this bill today but when I got there, all I saw was the following message.
"Check back after the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to see how and where your tax dollars are spent. An oversight board will routinely update this site as part of an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency and unnecessary spending in our government."
In the interest of this very important legislation - which is almost too late to do anything about, here are a few links you may find helpful in keeping up with the bill as it volley's between the Senate (sponsor) and House finding its final form.
www.Gongress.org [outstanding site to get you hooked up with the goings on up on the Hill - and how you political folk voted.]
http://www.congress.org/congressorg/issues/bills/?bill=12473841&size=full - Light summary of bill. Here is the title text: "To create jobs, restore economic growth, and strengthen America's middle class through measures that modernize the nation's infrastructure, enhance America's energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief, and protect those in greatest need, and for other purposes."
The following links were obtained from the Lou Dobbs show on CNN. I've been watching Lou for many many years and agree with about 90+ percent of everything he says. He's the only Independent voice in main-stream media and tends to reflect much of my own Independent view - with the exception of natural gas exploration. On that topic I e-mailed him with a link to this website suspecting that he likely was either uninformed in the issue (unusual) or he was personally invested, which might cloud his perception of what is really occurring out in the gas production fields, and what industry is perpetrating against the American people. Fortunately, he soon stopped talking about the topic which allowed me to watch his show once again - because, boy howdy, hearing him parrot industry rhetoric without a perspective of the 'other side' of the story made me flip channels on more than one occasion, and finally stop watching his show altogether. I mean his slanted perspective made me doubt the full and truthful realm of everything else he spoke about. His cessation of discussion on the topic reinstated his credibility in my eyes and I still consider this extraordinarily courageous man a vital Independent American voice.
Following are links for and from his website:
Find your senator: www.senate.gov
Fid your representative: www.house.gov
Or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
President Barack Obama
Smart or Stupid? My two cents for President Obama...
Respectfully, Mr. President....
It's good that you're keeping after the Republicans. Keeping your hand extended.
Keep listening. Keep trying to bring everyone together.
But keep a sharp eye on both parties.
Stimulus Concessions - and Republican Pressure
Good for you for not backing down on tax breaks for the majority. Willing to be whacked on the head for a principal you promised. That's something I can admire. Plus, it helps that I think you're right.
Respectfully, Mr. President....
So far so good.
I'm sure you'll rest better knowing that you have
my seal of approval.
-- Tommy Smothers
All contents of this site, unless
otherwise noted are copyrighted by Lisa Bracken, 2007-2009. All rights are