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Thanks to good ole Bernie, who pulled off the inescapably notorious fifty Billion (with an upper-case “B”) dollar Ponzi scheme, I learned something about the typical “grifter.” Fortunately for me, he made off with not even so much as a dime of my money.
When it comes to sheer magnitude of prospective con, House Minority Leader John Boehner dwarfs good ole Bernie. In a speech that recently drew national attention, that national legislator inveigled against the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.
According to a winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, Paul Krugman, continuing those tax cuts would enlarge the nation’s budget deficit by some six-hundred and eighty Billion dollars. Incidentally, that’s another upper-case “B.” Plus, that’s more than ten times the swag good ole Bernie plucked off his pigeons.
None of that money may go directly into Boehner’s pocket. Even so, his advancing spurious reasons for continuing those tax cuts constitutes a con. Funny thing about this situation, in my considered opinion, Boehner should know better. Otherwise, he’s delusional, and still a grifter.
For the sake of argument, it might be allowed that Boehner’s delusional. Here’s where the situation gets positively hilarious. Granted delusional he, Boehner’s necessarily conning those tax-payers, the top two percent, who stand to lose the most with the expiration. There’s no way this country can afford to forego those six-hundred and eighty Billion dollars. Our national financial situation is simply too precarious. By inveigling against the aforementioned expiration, Boehner is giving that top two percent false hope. And that is the typical grifter’s stock in trade.
A Alexander Stella
A Corrupted Language
The language of our country has been corrupted. Tolerance no longer means allowing others the right to live their life as they choose in the privacy of their own home. Tolerance now means that I must agree with those of opposing views interpretation of reality. Tolerance now means I must allow them to indoctrinate my children and grand children into their way of thinking. Tolerance now means I must ignore the teachings of my Church and my Bible that certain life styles are morally unacceptable or be seen as a bigot. Tolerance means Christians cannot put up a Christmas scene of the baby Jesus in a public place, but the Muslims can stop traffic every Friday afternoon by worshiping in the streets of New York City on Madison Avenue. Our country has all but left our Christian/Judaic moral base and is lost in the desert.
Americans have the right to worship however their conscience dictates. They do not have the right to force all others to follow or even accept their beliefs. They do not have the right to insist that I structure my life or conscience to accommodate them.
Mother Teresa told us years ago that if we did not stop killing babies we would lose our country's soul. Over 50 million totally innocent pre-born babies have died on the altar of fear or convenience in our country. The pain and suffering of mothers who wake to realize they have not solved their problem - they have killed their baby can be seen in Rachel's Vineyard, a world wide organization which helps them heal. These brave young women, along with Norma Jean McCorvey, the Roe of the Roe vs. Wade abortion decision, fight valiantly to keep other women from making their mistake.
The last election had, at most, a 30% turnout. None of us have the right to complain about the direction our country is going in unless we study the candidates and vote. Do not vote with your emotions only. Do not vote to prove to yourself you are tolerant. Do not vote for a candidate because he/she is black, white, Latino or other. Vote for the best qualified candidate who reflects your values.
The Ground Zero Mosque
There is a big debate going on regarding whether or not a mosque should be allowed to be built very near Ground Zero. Religious freedom is the basis upon which the proponents of this mosque build their case. In my gut, I know that there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing your enemies, the radical muslins, to build a trophy mosque in the area of their greatest triumph over Christian America. There are those who claim the Imam who heads up the project is a moderate but that doesn’t pass the sniff test.
I know, President Obama has said that this is not a Christian country, but I beg to differ. And I know that most of you will differ also. He may or may not be a Christian but we belong to a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles. I support the First Amendment to our Constitution as much as the next guy, but I ask you this: What evidence is there to support the notion that Islam is a religion as contemplated by our Founders? It is a proven tactic to name yourself a name which does not cause the alarms to go off in the minds of your enemy. Does a real religion hold the power of life or death over its’ subjects? If you are born Muslim, you are a subject whether you like it or not or you face death. If your father is a Muslim, you are a Muslim. Does a religion bury an individual up to their chest and stone them to death? Does a religion perform genital mutilation on female children (don’t confuse this with circumcision)? Does a religion flog a woman who refuses to wear a Burka? The Burka is a method used by Muslims to control their women. Does a religion behead a woman for adultery? Does a religion sever persons’ hands for stealing? Does a religion sanction “Honor Killing?” I think not on all of the above. I think it is time for us to realize that the Muslim “religion,” Islam, is a theocracy, a political system wherein the leaders claim their power comes from God (or Allah, as the case may be).
Claiming that your power comes from God may be religious but the totalitarian political system which is derived from that claim is not. I think that it is high time that we stopped all this cow towing to the Muslim world and got on with our business of pursuing Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I say no to the mosque and to the notion that Muslims are protected under the First Amendment. Islam is a political system, nothing more or less.
I was on the National Mall beside the Reflecting Pool in Washington on August 28. I was one of the half million people speaking out for the Restoration of Honor. It was an awesome experience. My wife and I left Annapolis for D.C. at eight in the morning. We went to the New Carrollton Metro Station, the closest, and parked. Upon approaching the gate area, we were stunned to find that the extremely slow moving line was four abreast and, not exaggerating, over a half mile long. We abandoned that approach and drove to RFK stadium where we took the bus available for senior seniors (I well qualify) and handicapped. We arrived at our place at exactly ten o’clock. Amazingly, just before Glenn Beck took the podium, a flight of seven Canada geese in a perfect V formation flew a low altitude pass from the Lincoln Memorial to the WWII memorial down the Reflecting Pool. I kid you not. Something told me right then that there was more to this than meets the eye.
Elk Lake, PA
Gas Severance Tax And “Fair Pooling”
The PA Legislature leaders have agreed with Gov. Rendell to pass (this September) a Severance Tax on natural gas, possibly combined with a “Fair Pooling” Act. As the pressure mounts to do something quickly, I want to add some thoughts as a citizen.
Basically, I think the Severance Tax is unlikely to do much good ; but the “Fair Pooling” proposal will only do harm.
A Severance Tax has been debated for years with several legislative proposals made. Most proposals garner a lot of money for the state coffers but not much for the impacted counties and towns. It seems to be largely a way to avoid taking fiscally responsible steps to reduce the outflow of tax dollars on dubious programs. We should be cutting spending and taxes not raising them.
The "Fair Pooling" Act is a new proposal by the gas companies as their compromise for "accepting" a severance tax. It has gotten very little debate or citizen input and garners nothing for the state coffers, but much for the gas company coffers. Even if the Legislature feels compelled to pass a Severance Tax, it is hard to comprehend why they should pass a Citizen-Unfriendly Act to compensate the gas companies for accepting that tax.
These proposals will reduce the gas lease income from bonus payments and royalty percentages to all landowners whether leased, unleased, or with expiring leases. Many landowners signed leases on very poor terms years ago. Their ability to renegotiate better terms now should not be constrained by gas company friendly laws; nor should those who have not leased be forced by law into gas takings at poor terms.
Many existing leases require the landowner to share "costs" as proportionate deductions from royalty payments. So, some of the severance tax will be passed to the landowner in addition to the lower terms offered for new leases.
The "Fair Pooling" proposal is akin to the recent, widely fought Gathering Pipeline Eminent Domain case in that its effect is to seize land from the landowner at prices and terms more advantageous to the gas companies than the landowner. In both cases, the major impact is to influence negotiations to favor the gas company rather than to force the legal taking. It's likely that the gas companies are holding down bid offers now in anticipation of a law that will set “Pooling” prices at an average of past prices.
The industry proposal is very obviously biased in that direction: It seeks to get a low “Fair Pooling” Royalty and Bonus price based on arbitrarily low prices or by "averaging" the surrounding" lease terms. What a bonanza for a company that has many expiring leases - made years ago. Those "surrounding leases" will have 12.5% Royalty and $250/acre Bonus terms although the current market rate is closer to 21% Royalty and $6000/acre bonus in Susquehanna County. The proposed law gives gas companies an incentive to offer low prices rather than fair market prices.
While some argue that small parcel owners will be drained of their gas without this law; there is little evidence of that happening in fact. The nature of shale gas is vastly different from that of oil or water. It is almost impossible to drain Marcellus shale gas without "fracing" which is effective for only a short distance from the well bore and entails the injection of water, chemicals and sand under high pressure to open the shale fractures and keep them open for gas flow.
To prevent gas being stolen from unleased owners, simply reinforce the law against trespass to clearly prohibit underground trespass of this type. But don't force people into gas leases or takings against their will and against the natural level of market prices.
Again, look at the recent gas gathering pipeline case. When the Marcellus Laser/Northeast Gathering company could not get Eminent Domain or a realistic negotiating threat of it, they settled with New Yorkers ( and soon PA folks) on very much better terms for the landowners. They are getting the pipeline; but paying a real "Fair" market price. The difference is huge - from only a few dollars per pipeline foot originally to $55 per foot. We should do the same for "Pooling" by not letting the government become a silent gas company "partner" in negotiations.
In summary, First, there is no need for a Severance Tax until the Legislature cuts spending and assures that the majority of the tax funds go directly to the communities from which the gas is being extracted or “severed” from the land. Otherwise, it's just a money grab for business as usual. Second, the proposed “Fair Pooling” Act is an attempt by the gas companies to get the power of the State on their side of the negotiating table against the citizens - another version of “Eminent Domain.”
Many landowners were induced to lease by low offers a few years ago. That's sad; but, at least, it was a free choice. To legislatively give the gas companies the ability to force us to accept low offers in the future is neither sad nor free. It is outrageous and tramples our property rights. If you agree, please write your local Representative and Senator. I have.
Take A Tour
I had the rare opportunity to go on the tour of the gas well sites in the Springville-Dimock area this past week.
I know I'm a lucky woman, that is underscored by the fact that my tour guide was extremely knowledgeable, with the gift of teaching, and unparallel driving skills. In some places two to one slopes turned into a rocket launch feeling of straight up. Since this is a rough cut road, skill and hooks are necessary. Once we reached the top, I was able to see what this industry does to get the gas, to lay the pipe lines. It is so cool. I saw equipment that is specific to this industry which made me realize, these boys have been at it someplace, for quite a while. Heavy equipment fabricators need time to design, and engineer machinery to answer the needs of the customer, and trust me, there is no randomness in the designs. Built in hooks.
I saw what the lines look like after they are installed. Contractor grade seed and mulch made the other areas look poor, and not at all like a golf course strip that covers the pipe below. I then saw what a capped drill head looks like.
I was almost disappointed. Where is the noise and air quality issues there? Its a 4-5 foot pipe extending above ground, freshly painted, and weed whacked. I then saw the derricks. Wahoo. I strained to hear for loud noises, the flying dust, the unruly truck drivers, at least some wantonness. Must of been a bad day for me to go. This is what I saw instead.
I think I was thrilled by the sight of the derrick as not only does it rise to neck strain height, its very presence commands that you look. Some fly the flag, some don't, but they are all very well maintained, and freshly painted. All the equipment around these sites are all looking good, or very brand new. The ponds appear to be landscaped, and contained. All the workers have on safety gear and hard hats, and office trailers, with signs that state OSHA and MSHA language is posted very clearly.
At one site, we strike up conversation with a young man who has this work in his blood, and he tells us this is the toughest area he has ever been in. He tells us that there have been protesters, who spit. I show my prejudice when I question if they were from down-state. He said, "na, they are from Dimock and Nicholson." That's a terrible story to tell. Those who know me, know I get told how to get there, but never go anywhere. That must be why I can not believe that I would even know someone, over the high school age, who would spit at anyone. I just find that level of disrespect, to anyone, ignorant.
I know a bit about the mining industry. I know what mud and dust is, and noise. I know mining equipment paint is fresh because it is new, or for sale. There is nothing pretty about construction. It a pain in the back-side. It’s also progress and hopefully, an improvement on what was there before. And on the flip of the coin, sometimes it’s not so improved. I say that, as there was road construction going on, by the gas boys. I thought that would be local work. They are doing a nice job, and are not afraid to make a base, and crown. I am interested in seeing how PA roads hold up to a southern company putting it down. That is for another trip.
I noticed that these wells are close. For some reason I thought they were a loud, vibrating eye-sore on every road. My guide has eyes like a hawk, as I think I may have missed a few of them, so we went on site, in all the stages of the work, and I can really see the progression in the order the work is done; it’s not scary at all.
I can see why there is fear. I hear bad publicity about one, of many gas and pipe companies in this area, that will forever be in the annals of bad boys in this county. In the every industry, you will find the jerks. I think in every group that gathers with a passion, you could probably find a jerk.
What does bug me, is that I think these boys would rather pay to have the company man work, than take any chances on the natives here. For that I am sorry. I showed my ignorance by assumptions, so I can see why it happens.
I'm glad I went and saw for myself. I have no real concerns for the work, or the conditions, as they are certainly regulated. I realize by seeing it from start to finish, that if you don't have a tour guide that knows the way, you could believe everything you read in the paper.
Will there be another accident? Certainly. It’s an inherent part of this job. Huge risk of life and limb. Happens in all jobs. In development you will have unforeseen obstacles. One doesn't always know what lies underneath. I think these guys know their work, do it with a pride, and are learning from others’ mistakes. Maybe the problem is more with how the politics of this thing are playing out, and not at all about whether compromise and solutions are found.
I will go again to these places, as there are a couple of things I didn't see or hear yet. I would hope that those who haven't seen, and only know what is in the media portrayal, will go and see it through, and not just one part of the whole.
And thank you to my favorite tour guide, who by teaching me, opened my eyes.
The Inexorable War Derailed
There are always those in the circle of power with a vampiric drive for bloodletting. Despite our misadventures in Iraq - which destabilized the entire Middle East - the escalating conflict in Afghanistan, the drone bombings on Pakistan and Somalia, the hawks campaign for yet another war, this one with Iran.
“Military action against Iran now seems more likely. Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program,” said former CIA director, Michael Hayden. He continued, “Military action seems inexorable.”
The Orwellian rationale, peace through war, is nothing new, but never was it more preposterously applied than to Iran. In the event of such a war, Iran would immediately attempt to block the Strait of Hormuz. If this passageway were blocked, 40 percent of the world's supply of petroleum would be choked off. The question is this: Could Iran shutdown the Strait? The answer: Easily. Iran has three deterrents to war in her arsenal, two if by water, one if by air.
In 1991, Iraq used pre-WW I contact naval mines. Despite the fact that these ancient munitions often failed to detonate, they were still effective. The USS Tripoli, proceeding with caution in mine-infested waters, struck a mine and was severely damaged. The USS Princeton met the same fate.
Unlike Iraq, Iran has the latest in marine mines. They are anchored to the seabed. When a ship passes over it, the mine rockets up and explodes. These mines are said to be able to cripple a super carrier. The Persian Gulf is a small, semi-enclosed body of water with only two narrow sea lanes. Mines are a particularly effective anti-access weapon.
Her second deterrent to aggression is location. Iran borders the entire eastern bank of the Persian Gulf. From anywhere along this 1500-mile long littoral, high-speed patrol vessels can be launched. These vessels have radar-evading technology, are unmanned, and can travel at 62 mph.
Iran has hundreds of these speedboats that can fire anti-ship cruise missiles or hi-tech torpedoes. These solid-fuel, rocket propelled torpedoes reach speeds of 220 mph. When launched in salvos, they are almost impossible to defeat.
But what decidedly derailed a preemptive strike on Iran by either the U.S. or Israel is this third weapon, the S-300.
During the mid '60s, the cold war was hot. The Soviet Union realized it could not outpace the U.S. Air Force in bomber development or in numbers. In response, the Kremlin shifted strategy to anti-aircraft missile development which has continued to the present. Today, the Russian Federation possesses the world's premier antiaircraft system, the S-300.
The S-300 is a truck transported pack of four solid-fuel rockets. They can simultaneously target low-flying cruise missiles or targets as high as 90,000 feet at 4,500 mph. They require no maintenance and can be deployed in five minutes.
Iran has an unknown number of S-300s obtained clandestinely from Russia, Syria, Croatia, and Libya. Tehran also claims to be manufacturing copies of the potent anti-aircraft system.
All of these weapons, the mines, the coastal defenses, and the S-300s are defensive and have no offensive capabilities. Together, they form a intimidating shield against attack by sea or by air.
But what about Iran's nuclear weapons' program and U.N. mandates against development of such weapons?
Iran's atomic bomb research remains only a “suspected nuclear program.” Further, even if it were engaged in a nuclear weapons R&D program, as a sovereign nation Iran has that right. Allowing that Iran may eventually manufacture an atomic bomb, that, too, would be only defensive. An offensive use of the bomb would bring down an annihilating rain of A- and H-bombs (Israel has both) upon itself.
As for the U.N. mandate against the development of atomic weapons, the U.N. has no right to dictate to any nation, including the U.S., other than the right it presumptuously grants to itself.
Paradoxically, Iranian defenses inadvertently serve U.S. interests. U.S. manpower and finances are stretched to the breaking point in the Mideast; we can least afford another war, let alone one with world-wide repercussions.
As for those who are obsessed with attacking Iran, perhaps now they will be banished to the basement with the other crazies who started the war with Iraq.
New Milford, PA
TO THE EDITOR POLICY
Thank you, Susquehanna County Transcript
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