7-26-2008 Frickin’ fracking?

The lower back is slowly getting itself back together. I can stand up straight, so at least I no longer look like a vulnerable target when I leave the modest adobe. Do you want to know what it’s like to be, say, 75-years-old and see everyone around you as a potential threat? Wanna know what it’s like to feel so completely vulnerable?

Screw up your back.

I happened upon the following story in today’s Scranton Times-Tribune. And I have to tell you, I understand what balancing the budget and protecting the bottom line is all about. And I also understand the debilitating effects that deficit-spending can have on a community in the long term. But this is exactly how Wilkes-Barre got in trouble with big city crime some 8 years ago. By cutting back where you ought not cut back.

From The Scranton Times-Tribune:

Police staffing drops On 4 recent shifts, city patrolled by fewer than 10

In the three weeks since the Scranton Police Department became free to fill shifts however it sees fit, a few shifts dipped below the usual number of patrolmen, while a change in approach means more officers will be counted toward manning the ranks.

When a court ruling on July 7 enabled the city to enact part of its recovery plan, Mayor Chris Doherty said reforms would be immediate.

So far, the police highway unit was dissolved, a grievance procedure created and a juvenile supervisor position scratched.

But the most significant move has been the elimination of the minimum manning clause, which is generating concerns from officers and city officials that public safety is being compromised.

I do not reside in Scranton. And I do not know all of the specifics. But this sounds awfully familiar to me. This sounds just like Wilkes-Barre circa 1999 or so. This smacks of big trouble further on down the line.

Boscov‘s is in financial hot water? Oh, boy. This will get the howling ninnies to giddily penning our downtown’s obituary right quick.

From The Times Leader:

Reports: Boscov’s chain ailing

Boscov’s, which operates about 50 mid-price stores selling clothing, appliances, electronics and furniture, is searching alternatives to a bankruptcy filing, according to The Post and Reuters, including the closure of up to 10 money-losing stores.

The void theory has been ruminating for a long while now, and there are those who will tell you that the retail void left by Boscov’s pulling out of Wilkes-Barre’s downtown would be quickly filled by much smaller retail shops, ala, a downtown Bloomsburg or a downtown Stroudsburg. And I subscribe to that theory.

This argument has gone back-and-forth over the years, and heated up there for a while once the retail environment in our downtown became Boscov’s and little else. At this point in time, is Boscov’s a blessing? Or is it a curse?

If that gargantuan retail property where to be shuttered, would clothing stores, shoe stores, ice cream shops and the like start popping up after a few months? Methinks they would. And being of the decidedly small business variety, would they more be more affordable? Methinks they would.

Look here, I love wandering on down to Boscov’s for a it of shopping, but it’s not like it’s the cheapest place going. For instance, a Payless shoe store in the downtown would save me a few bucks versus shopping at Boscov’s for imported sneakers.

And if it were to close, what would become of that gargantuan property? It’s not like large department stores are chomping at the bit to open stores in downtown environments. If it were to come to that, methinks that property has to come down. Methinks the Chamber, the City, CityVest and/or Humford Equities has to step into that void and make a bold, reworking stroke.

Whatever. At this point in time, everything you or I say or think is purely speculative.

So, let’s just wait and see.

From the e-mail inbox Hey Mark-

Pertaining to the end of, "Manhunt in Wilkes-Barre ",

What's up with Officer XXXXX? What'd that little guy do to him? I mean, the kids aren't THAT bad in W-B......

What the boy do? Throw an egg at the car? That's still no reason for XXXXX to manhandle him!
Jeez, I thought XXXXX was always a good guy.....


Have no fear, he is still a good guy. The kid in question is my grandson, Gage Andrew. And Gage Andrew is his little buddy and a former bikeabout partner.

They were just funnin’ when that picture was snapped.

I really couldn‘t believe what I was hearing yesterday, while listening to “Corbett” on WILK.

With the news that arrests were finally made in the beating death of the illegal alien in Shenandoah, Rodham Corbett wanted to talk about it. And just as soon as he got into it, he got call after call and an endless parade of guff.

Yeah, well what about what the illegal did to that (white) guy in such-and-such a place?

Stupid stuff like that. Misdirection stuff. Rather than admit that we have a problem right here in this area, the callers pointed to evidence of criminality at the hands of illegal aliens practically everywhere else. And I’m not disputing any of that disturbing malarkey, and neither did Rodham Corbett.

Still, though, the locals calling into the show didn’t seem all that bothered by a group of our born-and-bred white youths beating on a Hispanic-looking guy just for kicks. And causing his death, no less.

As a result, I fired off the following email to Rodham Corbett. I knew he wouldn’t read it on the air, and I also knew he wouldn’t respond to it electronically. It seems as if that he prefers to pretend that his detractors do not exist. And that’s fine.

Anyway, I think what I sent to him pretty much sums up what happened in Shenandoah.

From the e-mail outbox Steve,

Markie from Merrittville, here.

Listen, I agree with you about as often as the Sun implodes. I disagree even with your most private of thoughts.

I've got plenty of "Latinos" in my neighborhood of late, but my only problem with them is that they keep to themselves no matter what and create a separate community within a larger community. I'm hoping that the passage of time will help to change that.

As far as the beating death in Shenandoah is concerned, and from what's been reported in the media, I can come to only one conclusion: That illegal guy was beaten to death only because of the color of his skin.

I'm frustrated with the federal government for not enforcing our borders. I know darn well that illegal aliens are collecting benefits and the like that were originally intended for legal American citizens only. I could go on and on and on with my numerous gripes regarding illegal immigration, but I'm quite certain that you've heard them all before.

The thing is, I can't tell a legal, naturalized immigrant from an illegal immigrant, so why should I bother to hate any of them? (I've got better things to do like tormenting the likes of you.) Better stated, why should I target any of them for my personalized version of physical retribution that they neither earned nor deserved?

The guy was here illegally. But I seriously doubt that the 3 kids that beat him to death knew as much. More likely, they assumed as much. In other words, they beat on the guy based on the color of his skin. What else did they have to go on?

And in my mind, they are 3 more glaring examples of piss-poor parenting. No matter how it's sliced and diced, hate begins at home.

Markie in Merritville (formerly Nord End) a dojo-free community

For what it’s worth, there it is.

From the e-mail inbox …BTW, your latest blog entry. I think I know exactly what shelter you are talking about. If I'm thinking of the right place, my "troubled" aunt stayed there once. While I'm not saying she's a saint (she ISN'T) she has stated similar things to me about the guy that runs it. I don't really want to get any names involved either, but I would say you are most likely headed in the right direction with your lead. Keep fighting the good fight. If you so choose to post what I just wrote, please keep me anonymous. She has also complained about the folks that run VISION as well. I want to believe what she says, but her credibility has been shot by other things she's done in the past. Thankfully she's on a more stable path now.

Look, I have the public documents to back up what I’ve put out there. We’re talking about Ruth’s Place.

Frickin‘ fracking? I’ve never been so hurt in my life. At the tail end of an email exchange yesterday, Kayak Dude hit me with the following: “You have finally evolved into a progressive, liberal environmentalist.”


Needless to say, I immediately became hysterical and went out to the kitchen hunting for a bottle or two of Drano to drink. We didn’t have any, so Wifey put it on the grocery list. And since I’m typing this now, that means my purposely and ridiculously elevated BAC didn’t deliver the desired result either. Rats!

So I followed the link he sent me and read the story on drilling for that much-ballyhooed Marcellus Shale in very, very southern New York state. That very same Marcellus Shale that is supposedly sitting directly under our backyards. That very same Marcellus Shale that will be discovered after we lease out our backyards to companies drilling for natural gas. That very same Marcellus Shale that will make us all richer than our wildest of wild dreams not including Godzilla, Marcia Brady or Laurie Partridge.

Now, as far as drilling for natural gas is concerned, I pictured a drill bit just a tad bit longer than Wilkes-Barre or something thereabouts. But that’s not how this thing works. To break through the rock formations and expose the shale deposits, fracking is the latest available know-how.

Fracking, which is short for hydraulic fracturing of bedrock, involves high-pressure injection of chemicals, grotesque amounts of water siphoned from local tributaries and sand to fracture rock formations. And after those rock formations are fractured, nobody really knows where those chemicals might end up at. Water aquifers are the most likely place, as in, the water table could become rendered unusable by human beings and furry animals alike. And we wouldn‘t want to make all of the furry little animals rabid as all hell, would we?

So, if and when you lease your land to a drilling company, you’re inviting said company to pump a frightening chemical cocktail into the soil beneath you. And if that’s not enough of a cause for concern, fracking requires millions upon millions of gallons of water to be successful. Water that can only come from our local streams, ponds and rivers.

I sent an email requesting drilling specifics to Chesapeake Energy Corp. one of the largest leaseholders in the Marcellus field, but I received no reply. Shock of shocks, no?

On a somewhat personal note, after the protracted battle to deep-six the inflatable dam at Wilkes-Barre resulted in a glorious victory for the River Rats and their unsung leader, Kayak Dude, I figured he was thoroughly satisfied with his doggedly Herculean efforts and was heading off to the environmentalist retirement home. Yeah, I figured he’d be content with hugging trees and raising spotted mosquitoes from here on out.

But when that aforementioned email exchange included this blurb, “This is gonna get ugly”, I thought to myself, Rutro! The napping behemoth sleeps no more. Can “no fracking” t-shirts be in the works before very long? We shall see.

Anyway, this is the first I’ve heard of “fracking” and fracking fluids. But, with practically everybody with any available land to speak of currently courting these drilling outfits in hopes of becoming modern day Beverly Hillbillies, I think we need to get ourselves up to speed in a big, big hurry.

I can do without energy to a great degree. I can ride a bike and leave the motor vehicle parked right where it is. I can turn down the thermostat during the coldest of winters. And I can ignore the heat during the hottest of the hot summers. But I can’t do without a safe water supply.

Now here’s some necessary reading:

From The Times Leader, July 2, 2008:

State, gas drillers discuss water, land protection

Experts have known about the Marcellus Shale layer, which runs from upstate New York into Virginia and touches northern Luzerne County, for decades. They believe it contains enough recoverable gas to supply America’s natural gas demand for two years. However, technology has only recently advanced enough to tap the shale, which lies as much as 8,000 feet below the surface.

J. Scott Roberts, DEP deputy secretary in the Office of Mineral Resources Management, announced additions to the agency’s usual drilling permit specifically for Marcellus Shale that include detailed estimates of water use.

Paul Swartz, the river basin commission’s executive director, said companies need to make timely applications and factor the permitting process into their drilling timelines. Two permits were approved at the commission’s meeting on Thursday, he said, but another 84 – about a year’s worth of work – still await approval. Though there is a water-use threshold for requiring a permit, he said any work in the Marcellus would exceed that threshold and require a permit.

From NBC Channel 34, Binghamton, New York:

Gas Drilling

"This is going to make the plume in Endicott look like a walk in the park."

That's because retrieving natural gas from Marcellus Shale - one of the largest gas reservoirs in the world - uses a process called fracking, where water, sand and chemicals are pumped into a well.

Fractures in the wells, either naturally occurring or ones created through fracking, could potentially contaminate drinking water aquifers.

From Salon.com:

EPA to citizens: Frack you

Haire's doctor blames her health problems on the scenery's relatively recent addition: 600 natural gas wells, drilled by oil companies over the past two years. Every few feet, 150-foot-tall drill rigs, graced with American flags, rise upward into the sky. Compressor stations, banks of rectangular huts with five-foot-diameter fans, sit back from the road and pump the gas into underground pipelines.

Haire is not alone. Several dozen people in the area blame a rash of health problems on the wells, says Colorado lawyer Lance Astrella. For 15 years, Astrella was a successful attorney for the energy industry. For the past 15 years, he has been defending citizens like those in Garfield County, who blame the wells near their homes for their cancerous tumors, rectal bleeding and chronic headaches. Between January and March of this year, eight people called the Garfield County oil and gas department, complaining about black smoke and strong chemical odors they worry are making them sick.

Scientists and environmentalists say the health hazards of the natural gas wells stem not only from air pollution but "fracking fluid," a mixture of carcinogenic chemicals, used in many of them. Laura Amos, 43, an outfitter who lives 20 miles from Haire, recently developed a tumor in her adrenal gland, which she blames on her exposure to the chemicals. Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is a half century-old process in which a gas company injects water, sand and the chemicals into the wells. Developed by Halliburton, the corporation formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, fracking loosens the rock and maximizes the flow of gas to the surface.

At least 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie in the tight sand and coal bed formations below Garfield County, according to gas companies and industry geologists. Over the next eight years, energy companies expect to build more than 10,000 additional wells in the county.

From The River Reporter.com:

What’s in that fracking fluid?

Take, for instance, a substance called ZetaFlow. It’s a compound produced by a Texas-based company called Weatherford Fracturing Technologies, which is added to the millions of gallons of water that are used, under high pressure, to fracture the deep-lying shale deposit. The Durango Herald in Durango, CO has identified ZetaFlow as the agent that sent a nurse to an intensive care unit for several days in April.

According to an account in that paper and other news sources, a nurse at Durango’s Mercy Regional Medical Center came in contact with a gas worker who was allegedly doused with ZetaFlow. The nurse, Cathy Behr, became ill and within five days she said she went into liver, heart and respiratory failure.

Trust me, that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg whereas available links and information are concerned.

The question is, is this fracking safe? Or do we need to band together and tell the EPA to funk the fracking already?

I leaning towards, yes, we do.

Note: There you go, Dude. I fired the first shot. When can I expect my bumper stickers and t-shirts?

Can playing Barry Manilow tunes really scare off vagrants, slackers and the like?

The following is a true story. Wifey can attest to it.

Many moons ago I worked the midnight shift. I’ve covered this many times before, that was back when I used to get paid to baby sit and/or beat on 192 seats worth of oft-rowdy drunks. And I enjoyed it too, too much.

Back in those days, I used to rush home at 8am, change my bandages, discard my ripped, bloodied work clothing and jump in bed fully expecting Wifey to awaken me by noon or so. The thing is, she never could get me out of bed when I wanted her to. And I’d get seriously annoyed with her after sleeping in longer than I wanted to.

One time, both of the volunteer fire companies at Harveys Lake were conducting their annual fund raising parade and they passed right past my bedroom window with every available siren wailing away. The noise woke the nearby dead, but it didn’t wake me up. Nothing could. That’s what Wifey was facing. A guy who just couldn’t be awoken no matter what.

But there did come a day when she got smart. Right below me, in our living room, was my 21 billion jiggawatt stereo system. So, she fired that puppy way, way up there on the decibel scale, turned on the white noise generator, and let loose with Barry Manilow’s dreaded “One Voice.”

Needless to say, it worked. Oh, boy, did it work. It worked very, very well. It worked so completely well, she was probably lucky she didn’t get popped upside the head. The plain fact is, if anyone had gotten between me and that turntable on that day, I’d probably be in prison to this very day.

After that day, she never had another problem trying to stir me out of bed. And somehow, I didn’t break that awful piece of shiny, unscratched vinyl into tiny, tiny bits.

And the lesson? Barry Manilow? No, no, no, you just don’t do that to people. That’s wrong, man. That’s going too far.

Sez me.