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Issue Home December 1, 2010 Site Home

Letters to the Editor Policy

Selective Damage Tolerance

It's an unqualified article of faith among Republicans that we dare not raise taxes in a recession (or ever...) - it would harm the economy. Well, the Tea Party opposes all bailouts as a matter of principle. To oppose bailouts is to allow major businesses to fail, which would harm the economy. If they can consent to harming the economy that way, I can consent to harming it by raising taxes. Because the imperative of reducing our unsustainable deficit is far more urgent than tax cuts for skinflints. If those who've belatedly been denouncing deficits (fine with them under Bush) were serious about it, they'd agree with me and demand we raise taxes. Besides, the alleged harm of taxing the rich (back at Reagan-era levels?) would actually not harm the economy much at all. Certainly not as much as allowing AIG, GM or Citibank to go under. Which would have been fine with the Tea Party.

Will we indulge the unschooled economic preferences of the Tea Party? Hope they'll like the Second Great Depression!

Stephen Van Eck
Rushville, PA

Self-Ponzi Scheme

We all know what a Ponzi scheme is. Probably the most well known Ponzi scheme is the one pulled off by Bernie Madoff. Thousands of investors were scammed out of their retirement savings and many out off their entire net worth. Their lives are ruined as they are without recourse of any substance to recouping their losses. Amazingly, most Americans are clueless regarding the massive Ponzi scheme known as Social Security. Not only have Americans been promised much more than they can possibly receive, at least those younger than fifty, but the money which has been paid into Social Security through your FICA withholding has been dumped into the general revenues. For your money, the Federal Government deposits Treasury Bonds into the Trust Fund and you know, with the latest $600,000,000,000 printing of Federal Reserve Notes, just how much we can count on the Trust Fund bonds. Another slight of hand is the apparent reduction in the budget deficit as a result of using FICA money as revenue and not counting the Trust Fund bonds as an expense. The politicians have it both ways.

We should rightly be furious at the political manipulation of our Social Security contributions (mandatory, like a tax). However, we must realize that we are all complicit in this scheme. We have known for years that SS is under funded but, what did we do about it? We believed the politicians as they told us that everything was fine. We re-elected those who were buying our votes with promises which were to be paid by our children and grandchildren. We are as responsible as the dirt bag politicians who sold us on this scheme. So, what do we do now? I’ll tell you what - we step up to the plate, bite the bullet and take responsibility for our actions. We ask our children for forgiveness and promise to do what we can to make this right. So what does that mean? It means that we stop taking more from Social Security than we have contributed. We demand of our elected officials that they correct this mess, even if it means reductions in our checks. We are taking benefits to which we are not entitled. This has to stop. It is immoral and unethical. We are not that kind of people but we were asleep at the switch and we allowed it to happen. We are awake now and we must take action to assure that our representatives do the right thing for our kids. Now.

Joe McCann
Elk Lake, PA

To Our Area’s Catholics

We have just celebrated Thanksgiving. Our priest at Mass commented on how empty the Church was where we had gathered to give thanks to God for all of the great blessings America has given us - in comparison to how full the stores would be on Black Friday. We have just become too busy to spend time with our Eucharistic Lord.

Christmas is another home coming time and I wish to invite all Catholics who have fallen away to come home for the holidays. There is a special Reconciliation Service for St. Lawrence, St. John the Evangelist and St. Martin of Tours parishes at 6:00 p.m. on December 12 at St. Martin of Tours Parish in Jackson. There will be multiple priests hearing confessions and enough time to not feel hurried or feel self conscious over the time you take. Please remember there is no unforgivable sin except the one that is not confessed. This is Christ’s birthday and the only present He wants from you is your reunion with Him. There is no one who will ever love you as much as He does and He wants to be part of you and your life.

Annette Corrigan
Jackson, PA

PA American Legion Concerned

The Pennsylvania American Legion is concerned about the decision the VA, specifically VISN 4, has made to spend nearly $1 million to customize an upscale office space and add an executive fitness center for their employees, who work at the Del Monte Building located on the North Shore of Pittsburgh. This allocation of funds may not be in the best interest of local veterans in the VISN 4 division which include New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, Ohio, and of course Pennsylvania.

We acknowledge there are many budgets that encompass the operation of a department as complex as the VA including office renovation but the VA was designed for patient care and veteran benefits. In 1865 President Lincoln called upon Congress in his second inaugural address “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” The VA itself adopted that statement as their core mission. The Pennsylvania American Legion expects the VA to uphold that promise and at the same time, be sensible in their decisions concerning taxpayer money earmarked for the care of the American veteran.

The concern of many veterans including the 200,000 Pennsylvania Legionnaires is how does an executive fitness center and prime real estate for office space benefit the local veteran? This comes the same year a therapeutic pool was closed at a local VA hospital due to lack of funds.

Pete Wasco, Department Commander of the Pennsylvania American Legion, stated “I can grasp the fact that many executive offices are more appealing than the average office space but I would expect the VA to be mindful of the duty bestowed upon them to care for the veteran and their family. We expect our VISN 4 to be less extravagant for the executives and more sensible with the finances of the VA, especially with the federal deficit forefront and our soldiers still in harm’s way.”

The Pennsylvania American Legion is an advocate for Veteran’s benefits and services and believes the VA Health Care system is the best absolute care for our veterans. A “System Worth Saving” is a task force established by our national organization to ensure our veterans get access to the high-quality health care and benefits they’re intended to receive.

Pete Wasco, Department Commander
Pennsylvania American Legion

Errant Adjectives And Hollow Statistics

Adjectives are characterless creatures. They care not how they are used, either honestly or deceptively. They can be powerful allies or formidable foes. Two of the species worthy of examination are “risky” and “dangerous.” They are part of the nomenclature of the debate, to drill or not to drill: that is the question?

Both adjectives imply a measure of safety. But what is never addressed is the degree of risk or, indeed, if there is any. The game of Russian roulette illustrates this fuzziness.

Suppose you load only one of the six chambers of a revolver, point it at your head, and squeeze the trigger. Your odds of survival are pretty good, about 80 percent. Now imagine five of the six chambers have a cartridge. The odds of your survival shrink to a dismal 20 percent.

Now imagine that the cylinder is fully loaded. Would you call that risky or dangerous? I think not. There is no chance of avoiding a fatal outcome.

Drilling in the Marcellus is like playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded revolver. Regardless of the amount of risk one assumes, it is neither risky nor dangerous. Why? Because the moment a well is fracked circumstances are set in motion that make ground contamination, water pollution, and air befoulment a certainty. It is societal suicide in slow motion.

“You can never have a perfectly engineered well. It's a very difficult job to do,” said Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, PhD in fracturing engineering and editor-in-chief of Engineering Fracture Mechanics.

When a well is drilled cement is forced down the casing, the metal pipe that lines the borehole. The cement comes out the bottom and is forced up on the outside of the casing. Ingraffea explained that gas migration occurs because cement shrinks with time and gas leaks out between the rock and the cement.

Additionally, because of the explosive pressures used in fracking, any weaknesses or faults in the cement could lead to ruptures and the release of gas and fracking fluid.

Fracturing, itself, is a game of blind man's bluff. “We can't see, smell, hear, or taste what we're doing because it's thousands of feet down there,” said Ingraffea. The bluff is that there will be no adverse effects, no dire consequences.

But if adjectives are fickle, then statistics are slavish servants of their creators. Stats are manufactured to sell everything from household products, to drugs, and, of course, gas drilling. Here's one you may have read: Gas drilling is 98.5 percent successful. So claims the industry.

How can one argue against a number? It has the aura of scientific validity and tagging on the 0.5 couples exactitude with certitude. But for all that, it's meaningless.

What is the industry's definition of success and success for whom? How many wells were involved in this presumed study? What period of time was involved? Was there a conflict of interest in arriving at this percentage? Or is this statistic just a marketing gimmick?

Depending on how one defines the perimeters of success, the industry could easily have come up with a 100 percent success rate, but that would not be believable. But 98.5 is on the outer limits of acceptability. Few question it.

The real success rate is defined not by how much gas is extracted or how much money is made, but by its effect on the land we live on, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. That success rate is 0.0 percent.

A well is being drilled on Holbrook Road, three miles northwest of Lake Montrose. Does this present a threat to the 2,000 residents who depend on this reservoir for water? In a broader sense, will fracking eventually contaminate one or more of the 50 watersheds in Pennsylvania.

And forget the industry's sop that fracking fluid is an innocuous mixture of 98 percent water and 2 percent sand (another statistic). This liquid is a thick, slimy soup of industrial solvents, diesel fuel, benzene, plus a score of other poisonous chemicals, and it can be ten times saltier than seawater.

Fracking fluid can cause central nervous system disorders and cancers to anyone who has unprotected skin contact with the liquid, breathes the fumes, or ingests the fluid.

More troubling: water containing this noxious gel cannot be treated by a municipal water treatment facility.

Ingraffea: “One cannot predict in a jointed [fracked] rock mass how far a fluid will go or where the fluid will go at what point in time. It's unpredictable. We knew that in 1987.”

Bob Scroggins
New Milford, PA

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Thank you, Susquehanna County Transcript

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