The real danger of fracking

This can’t be good.

The New York Times, one of the remaining newsgathering organizations that still does investigative journalism, has a worrisome report on the effects of hydraulic fracturing, commonly (often derisively) referred to as “fracking.”

Random example of a hydraulic fracturing well.

It found internal EPA documents that show the wastewater that results from hydraulic fracturing contains toxic chemicals and radium that leaches out from the deeply embedded rock into the liquid used to extract natural gas from these wells.  Says the Times:

“The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

“Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.”

The gas and mining and drilling industries have spent a lot of effort and money arguing that there is no proof that fracking causes any real environmental harm.

Well, this could be the proverbial smoking gun that says otherwise.

For the last several years, as fracking has been touted as a home-grown solution to dependence on imported oil (side factoid: The top two sources of imported oil into the United States are Canada and Mexico. Saudi Arabia comes in at No. 3). Natural gas does burn cleaner than coal or petroleum fuels, so it has fans among environmentalists concerned about global “climate change.”

But for the last several years, a growing chorus of complaints point to contamination of ground water in areas where hydraulic fracturing occurs. There is a large area of a particularly gas-rich Marcellus shale deposited beneath Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

The original concern seems to be giving way to an even more-widespread threat: Poisons not adequately filtered out of wastewater being discharged back into rivers that are sources of communities’ drinking water downstream.

So does this mean we need to start testing our drinking water for radium and dioxins? Yum!



Donald Rumsfeld. Visitor from another planet?

Louis CK, a guest on the Opie and Anthony satellite radio show, asks Donald Rumsfeld if he is a lizard from outer space. What ensues is an alternately fawning and prickly exchange between Rumsfeld and the three in the studio.

Opie and Anthony were fawning. Louis was not. Rumsfeld was on the air ostensibly to plug his new book

At one point Rumsfeld said that it’s important to have intelligence gathering in far-flung places for our safety.

Which I thought was funny, given how his buddy Dick Cheney bolluxed the intelligence gathering in Iran for political gain when he outed Valerie Plame as a CIA operative working on Iran, one of the most hostile nations on Earth. (Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby took the fall and was convicted on federal charges, but does anyone really believe nobody else knew what they were doing?)

But I digress.

I have not listened to Opie and Anthony much since they were fired for an incident involving fake sex in a cathedral and subsequently moved to satellite radio. But they’re entertaining in their, um, unique way.

It’s a pretty funny conversation. And Rumsfeld is in top form in his non-denial.

I guess that makes him an unknown unknown.

Girl cave. No, really, a 12-year-old girl stayed here


This is Mary Campbell Cave, so named for the 12-year-old girl who apparently stayed here as a “guest” of Delaware Indians. This is in Gorge Park in Cuyahoga Falls, for folks not familiar with Northeast Ohio. I struck out on this unseasonably warm day in hopes of finding signs of life. I found slush and mud, mostly.


The trees are nekkid and soft, slushy ice still covers part of the Cuyahoga River near the dam.

How does a tree grow in rock? Botanists may submit your answers in the comments section. My two botany classes didn’t cover trees growing in rocks.

I heard some critter’s peep, which seemed to come from this nook at the cave. Maybe it’s the mysterious rock squirrel, which cleverly blends into rocky surroundings as a protective camouflage. *


* I completely made up the part about a “rock squirrel.” To my knowledge there is no such thing.



The Al Sharpton Show

The Rev. Eugene Norris, pastor at the Mountain of the Lord Fellowship; Boyce Watkins, PhD.; the Rev. Al Sharpton; and Bobbi Simpson, president of the Akron chapter of the National Action Network. Photo by crappy old cell phone.

Al Sharpton came to town Thursday to mobilize the troops in search of more equitable state funding for public schools.

Say or think what you will about Sharpton, he is an engaging and entertaining speaker.

And he has a legitimate point about school funding. The Ohio Supreme Court has repeatedly told the legislature and governor(s) that our existing system of funding schools (largely on the backs of home owners) is unconstitutional. For almost 15 years the state has dragged its feet on drafting a suitable replacement. I seriously doubt one is forthcoming.

Sharpton is not the same guy who championed Tawana Brawley two decades ago, but that debacle will probably forever dog him in critics’ eyes.

So you can bet more than one pair of eyes rolled at the prospect of Sharpton rolling into Akron just as the dust was starting to settle on the Williams-Bolar affair.

The Kelley Williams-Bolar story has become a lightning rod of public opinion in Akron and vicinity. She gamed the system, broke the law, to get her daughters out of a school system she felt was failing her daughters. Ironically, Bolar is an employee of Akron Public Schools. So there’s that. There’s open enrollment, a program that allows students from one district to attend school in another (participating) district. Problem is Copley-Fairlawn schools don’t participate in open enrollment. The state’s funding system apparently penalizes districts like Copley-Fairlawn if they do participate in open enrollment.  That particular conundrum is explained at Patch along with a few other “inconvenient” facts.

There apparently was a bullying issue, which hasn’t been well explained. Wish I’d thought to ask Sharpton about that in the post-speech press conference (duh). Not my finest hour.

And Al did make a point (several points, actually) that parents and students themselves are responsible for how they do in school and in life.

It’s not that all Akron schools are bad. Far from it. My son and daughter both go to Akron Public Schools, even though we live in agood school district, Cuyahoga Falls. But the Miller South School for Visual and Performing Arts and Firestone High School are even better – so good that you have to try out or audition to get in.

But urban school districts do face issues that suburban districts see a lot less of – single-parent families, poverty, crime. The Buchtel “cluster” (the district’s term, not mine) has more than its share of poverty and hardship.

Bolar, a black single mom, and her kids live in the projects. She wanted a way out, and thought she had found it. Her dad lives in the Copley-Fairlawn school district. So that’s where the paperwork said she and her kids live. And she got caught in the lie.

And at that point, the snowball started rolling downhill.

Donald Rumsfeld: statesman, superhero, poet

Among the largely unknown unknowns about former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is that he was quite an accomplished poet. Even if he didn’t know it. Although his recently published memoir is self-serving (well, how many memoirs aren’t self-serving?) and generally savaged by literary critics, the lyrical poetry cited below has been heard by many during open recitals. No charge.


I think what you’ll find,
I think what you’ll find is,
Whatever it is we do substantively,
There will be near-perfect clarity
As to what it is.

And it will be known,
And it will be known to the Congress,
And it will be known to you,
Probably before we decide it,
But it will be known.

—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing

The Unknown

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.

—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

The above gems were posted at Slate.

And now for some more visual fun:

Booyah! Spidey, Rummy and Captain America had money on the Packers.

Former co-colleague (inside joke) Chip Bok inked this gem as the war in Iraq, Son of Desert Storm, was losing momentum and popularity. Even the troops were becoming hostile to this chickenhawk.


Here’s an update on Rummy.

Razor-thin margin of error

Matt went back to school today after four days out of commission. (See Big Air, Big Trouble)

He’s in a brace to keep his spine from getting any more out of whack. It’s a molded plastic body brace that fastens together (velcro!) sort of like a turtle shell. It’s designed to restrict movement from armpits to hips. He keeps it on 24 hours a day for at least a few weeks, except to change undershirts and bathing (very delicately). He’s already complaining about a snap inside that’s pushing against his skin.

I don’t think he fully grasps how serious his injury is and how close he came to paraplegic paralysis, or that one bad move in the next couple of weeks could still put him in a wheelchair. He can’t seem to see past next week, which is really frustrating.

I chatted briefly with the mom of Matt’s buddy, Andrew, who was on the slope with him. She says he told her, “I thought he was dead” after the wipeout. It must have been spectacular.

Now that he’s been home for a couple of days, he’s getting antsy. Doesn’t want to abide by the restrictions imposed by medical necessity. He doesn’t realize that he’s lucky he can walk. He doesn’t want to listen to DeAnne (well, there’s a history to that) or me (I’m more judicious about picking my battles, but this one is for keeps). He’ll listen or else. And the “or else” is a scary prospect.

From what I understand, the primary bone of concern is the second lumbar  (I just mistyped it as “lumber”) vertebra. It has a compression fracture. The doctors said if the fracture had gone, oh, a millimeter deeper, there could have been some spinal cord involvement.

He’s damn lucky. That’s what I call a razor-thin margin of error.

The thing that gets me is it’s not like he’s never seen the devastating effect paralysis has on your life. A grade school classmate of his lost the use of his legs from a bizarre and tragic stroke that cut the blood supply to his spine.

Maybe he’s just too scared to confront it and wants to pretend it’s not serious.

And the other thing that gets me is that all his life Matt has not been the daredevil crazy one. He’s typically far less daring and careless than his sister.

So what gives?

I don’t know. I just hope he calms down long enough for this thing to heal.

Or he’ll never have a choice of whether to get back on the snowboard or not. As it is, he might not. But at least he can make that choice for himself.