Sometimes, A Gal’s Just Gotta Rage

from Flickr user Thoth, God of Knowledge
from Flickr user Thoth, God of Knowledge

By now you’ve heard about the SCOTUS  Hobby Lobby decision.

SCOTUS stands for Supreme Court of The United States, but during the past few days, I’ve been rather startled by the acronym’s similarity to the word SCROTUM.

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, here are some links:

They Want More

Ruth Bader Ginsberg is THA BOMB

Hillary’s pissed.

Corporations are people but women are not

What the actual *profanity* *PROFANITY* PROFANITY AT INCREASING VOLUME!!!!!

Then, Jon Stewart quoted Hillary saying The Bible is the most influential book of her life. Honest to god, I can’t believe the transparency of the pandering. What the hell, Hills? Are you strident or not? I say the answer is not.

Maybe she went on to describe the ways in which The Bible has been bastardized by Christian rhetoric. Maybe she means the parts where Jesus is an all-around good dude who had positive ideas about how to be a human in the world. But what is more likely? Her team of Election Manipulators have encouraged her to say shit like that so as not to fully alienate the Religious Right (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days).

It pissed me off.

Other things that pissed me off?

Hobby lobby has no trouble paying for viagra. Sort of like Medicaid has no trouble paying for Penis Pumps.

Nigerian school girls are still missing.

There have been 74 school shootings in the last two years and Gun Lobbyists are still bastardizing the second amendment to “protect” a regular citizen’s “right” to bear arms.

Sexual abuse and assault is still rampant in our culture.

Which, as a mother of a female child, TERRIFIES ME. I’m scared to leave her out of my sight when not in our home. I’m scared some mentally ill person she goes to school with will decide this fall is the fall to tote a little firearm to school and rain bullets.

I’m pissed that I have to worry about that.

I’m angry at how powerless myself and all the other people in the whole country who are worth less than several million dollars are.

I’m angry that the Clintons have the gall to declare themselves broke-ass after their stint in the White House.

And today I’m really fucking sad because a kid I grew up around (our grandmas were BFFs), went to school with, who had loads of friends and was a genius at fixing cars, killed himself.

He killed himself because his dad shot his mom when he was 4. He was there. He killed himself because of domestic violence. He killed himself because of somebody else’s mental illness and gun violence.

I am so wound up today that, after I couldn’t locate my previously existing Yoga DVD, I went to Target and bought two. I did about 50 minutes worth of cardio Yoga and Yoga for stress relief and I feel reasonably calm now. For the rest of the afternoon, I am going to finish reading Eat, Pray, Love, and I am going to try to figure out how to move to space in between frustrated crying jags.

Hopefully I will be refreshed and calm enough to lead tonight’s writing workshop.

What do you all do when you’re full of rage? Am I the only grownup who gets enraged to the point of distraction?




Disappointing the Christian Republicans, It Hurts: 1997 – present

The last bit of this reads like I’m a PhD.  I’m not. I have a BA in English.  In the larger piece, that is clear before you get here.

Hanging out with some friends this weekend, we were talking about our parents and how it’s easy to say, “I don’t care what they think,” but that we never mean it. On some level, no matter how grown up and independent and smart and knowledgeable we become, we  will always crave our parents’ approval.  I am no exception, but I guess I don’t want their approval enough to engage in things I think are barmy.  Onward.

From Flickr User BuckDaddy
From Flickr User BuckDaddy

There are two classifications that are deeply important to my parents. The first is Christian, and if you can claim that one, you get a pass on everything else, even if you do not also espouse the second, Republican.  It helps if you are the Rush Limbaugh sort of Republican, because like a lot of my peers with Jon Stewart, My parents’ only source of news and analysis is Rush. They use terms like “feminazi” and “Slick Willy” without irony. I stopped paying attention, but I shudder to think what that lunatic is saying about Obama beyond “produce your birth certificate, Towel Head!”

When I told my father that I didn’t think I believed in God anymore, he wrung his little hands and said, “Where did we go wrong?”

I have attended a couple of holiday church services with them since leaving home, and each time I do, my poor dad gets this watery-eyed hope on his face that breaks my fucking heart. It is so important to him. I want to rub his back and say, “Dad, I love you, but this is not the answer for me. Don’t worry. In my own religious absolutism, my soul is just fine.” I also want to shake him and say, “If all this supernatural shit you believe about God is true, isn’t it reasonable to expect that god can be anything to anyone? How can you presume to understand anything about God?”

My father used to be my guide in all intellectual pursuits. To his credit, he gave me the sense of what it means to engage in critical thinking. He was just not expecting that to backfire on him. He was expecting me to continue to inoculate myself in his traditions and rhetorics and do the correct kind of critical thinking.  He cautioned me as I announced that I’d be starting college not to let those “liberal idiots” in academia turn me into one of them.

I can’t be sure, but I think he got the following from Rush, which he repeats with glee whenever anybody mentions educated people’s opinions.  BS PhD = Bullshit, Pile higher and deeper.

And so it is that I am a massive disappointment to my parents.

Do You Know about the 99% Rise Movement?

It has taken me nearly 32 years, but I have finally become a fully initiated, angry, emotional, pissed off, pissed on feminist liberal.  It is embarrassing that it’s taken me this long, and there are some embarrassing explanations, and it may help you to know that I’ve been on the road for a good decade, but I’m not going to go into that now.  I’m saving it for my memoir.  We can talk about it later.

Right now, I want you to watch the hell out of this video.

Seriously.  Right. Fucking. Now. Especially if you’re in New York or LA or very close to either.  Please.  Pretty please.  I’m not typically a beggar, but I’m begging.  Do it. Now.  Because tomorrow is the reckoning.  It’s the day you could march on some jackass big money bank that’s allowing Romney to commit public assery cubed.

Then, once you’re done, I want you to click here, and go give these people a little bit of your money.  It’s a little bit of money that will probably help to make you a happier, healthier citizen of the world NONVIOLENTLY.

Thank you.  Really.

Rainy Mornings And The Working Poor

Child in her rain gear.

Child goes to a school that is full of poor kids.  Child is a poor kid.

I am proud and resourceful, so Child’s experience of being a poor kid is different from some of the poor kids she goes to school with.  We are also not always poor.  We are never rich, but we are sometimes lower middle class instead of poor.  It is the way with freelancing.

Child’s first grade teacher told me that she typically loses about half of her students to moving for reasons of financial hardship.

That totally blew my mind.  When I was little, we got maybe one new kid a year, and occasionally kids wouldn’t show up for the following year, but they NEVER left in the middle of the year.

Another thing that blew my mind?

Last year, Child was in a special reading program.  So every day, we did the hour’s worth of homework Child got from her reading help and from her regular class.  Her reading teacher thanked me repeatedly for helping her with her homework, for holding her accountable.

I thought, “but that’s what parents do.”


I take child to school every morning because we live too close for her to get bussed.

And every morning, we working poor people kiss our kids goodbye in our work outfits, some of us are in our pajamas.  Some of us are incredibly young, pushing strollers, or pregnant, or too skinny, or too round, or wear clothes that were obviously somebody richer’s castoffs.

A lot of the parents’ voices rattle from smoking too much. Have kids whose backpacks smell like stale cigarettes. A lot of the parents have stringy, unwashed hair.  A lot of the parents leave the dropping off to the grandparents.  A lot of kids come with somebody else’s parents.  But there’s a real feeling of community and teamwork in these moments.

They feel like home to me.  They feel like moments full of people coming together in a ritual.

Yesterday morning, it was raining.  I often think it’d be a fun view from the air, all the bobbing umbrellas, then the clusters of them at the entrance to the school while people keep themselves, their kids, other people’s kids dry.

When I was little, I barely had to go ten feet from my front door to another dry spot.  I was released within inches of my elementary school, under an awning.

The kids at Child’s school know about trekking for blocks, and they see the value of an umbrella, which is something I had no concept of until I was in my 20s.

And as I crossed High St. on the way to the Pajama Factory, I saw a dad on crutches, getting drenched, shuffling five kids across the street, and I thought, “maybe it’s anecdotal, but there’s a guy who recognizes the importance of getting his kids to school safely & on time.”  He stood, impervious to the rain, watching the kids, made sure they got onto school ground safely.

And as I thought more, I think it’s not anecdotal.  The poor parents I see interacting with their kids obviously love them.  They obviously care about the education.  The trouble is, it takes a lot more hours at $7 to make a living than it does at $30, $100.

And all this ridiculous rhetoric about how poor people are lazy, and Romney’s denial that he’s dismissive toward Americans who don’t pay taxes make me crazy with anger and frustration.  I wonder how many times Romney, not his hired people, helped his children with homework.

How is there any universe in which somebody parenting multiple children and working full time for minimum wage–regardless of the choices, circumstances, etc that led them to that life–could be considered to be lazy?  Working part time for minimum wage and parenting a single child is a greater task than anyone sane would take on outside of parental love.

The fact is that the working poor do not have the time or energy to deal with their kids’ homework.  When the greater pressure is making sure the kids are dressed and fed, who gives a shit about a math worksheet?

It’s not right that our world is like this.  It’s not right that anybody would complain that people who live in poverty don’t have to pay taxes.  It’s not right that there are individual humans who receive enough money annually to pay for private educations for every single one of the underserved kids in my county.  Or that those same humans are pointing their bloated, greedy fingers at the poor–of whom they possess no realistic conception–and saying, “You’re the problem.  You are.  You’re the reason America’s broken.”  How can a group with no voice break America?

But people–even the working poor–listen.  Why?

I would love to understand.  Please help me.  Do you understand how it happens that the filthy stinking rich people who hang out in their luxe mansions, summer homes, golf courses, race tracks, and order more food get to blame and criticize people who have so little they can’t even see to their kids’ educations properly? And why anybody with a modicum of sense would agree?

I Made a Terrible Mistake.

From Flickr User DonkeyHotey (OMG I will die of the clever.)

I am not good at paying attention to politics.

I am annoyed and saddened by the limitations of the scope of the rhetoric.

I am convinced that my vote simply doesn’t matter (though I show up at the polls, just in case), and that rich people are totally in charge of this country, whatever histrionic of republic in which we choose to believe we participate.

And since I’m reasonably certain that unless I get 1% rich (and when I do, boy oh, look out white dudes), I can affect no change, even if I experience wild success in American Letters, I’ll still be a woman, I’ll still be a kooky arty liberal (by appearances, though I am an anarchist/libertarian in my soul), and I would seriously prefer to spend my energy and intellect on more spiritually/culturally rewarding pursuits.

Despite all of this, I could not control myself when the very tippy top of my Facebook News Feed said, “Wanky McWank Pants and 10 other friends like Mitt Romney.”

So I posted the following status update:

So facebook just told me that several of my friends *who will remain unnamed out of respect for their freedom of speech* “liked” Mitt Romney. For a fleeting moment, I considered unfriending every single one of them.

In my mind, I was being flip. I was pointing out the beauty of our illusion of freedom of speech.

When I re-read my status update, I was maybe a little chagrined to realize that, to Romney fans (i.e., humans without critical thinking skills), my status update would be offensive.

But my chagrin was short lived. It was quickly followed by a belly-sinking sense of my own doofus-like state. I should’ve kept my typing fingers still.

I pride myself in staying out of political discussions. I try to maintain a professional attitude and presence in social media. Like to as I might, I do NOT talk smack about people (except for fans of Mitt, apparently), and I do not make personal statements about my relationships, friends and relatives with whose actions/behavior I disagree, or my innermost feelings, dark as they may be.

This Me, of whom you get a sense on my blog, is about 70% persona. People who know me in life can identify the differences between the Me who writes here and the Me who lives in a place and does mundane things like put on socks and go up and down staircases.

I think that any writer would tell you that she inhabits a more perfect self, or a less perfect one, depending on the scenario, when she writes anything.

I think this is why people publish the letters that writers write to people and each other. We are never simply sharing the news. We are always spinning.

This post is supposed to be confessional. I think I lost a “friend” over the facebook status. Based on his ranting, I’m not sure I mind, but I would like to hope that that above-quoted status will be the last thing of a political nature that I personally write on Facebook. Henceforth, I shall only share news articles and comment on other people’s political statuses.

Anybody care to share Facebook rules to live by?

I Remembered a Thing: Temporary, Black, Lesbian College Roommates

From Flickr User shlala

My first roommate ever was a boy.

I can’t imagine now what my parents must’ve thought, but I knew what I was doing back then, and wouldn’t be dissuaded.  Plus, I got to move to New England.  HUGE bonus.  It had been a dream since I read Cynthia Voigt (I think it was her, anyway) in grade school.

There was no need for my parents to worry, but now that I’m a parent, I’m sure they did.  Lots.  Probably they lost sleep over my antics.  They don’t read this blog, so they’ll probably never know I’ve acknowledged it.  Ah, well.  Their loss.

I’ve had pretty good taste in some friends along the way (pretty bad taste in others), and my first roommate, Steve, is definitely good people. We were best friends from high school, kindred spirits, and he was a student at Quinnipiac College (now Quinnipiac University) in Hamden, CT.  Quinnipiac is like New Jersey North.  It’s a campus full of high-end SUVs and boys with carefully manicured facial hair.  Or at least it was back in 2001.  Now they’ve probably got Priuses and boys with artfully shaggy bangs.

Here’s what I mean about Steve being good people:

I had a job at The Olive Garden in Orange, CT (incredible money, seriously).  I loved it.  And I worked with some interesting people.  One such interesting person was a black lesbian named Tina.

She had a son who was five at the time, and who wasn’t in her custody.  She was from Reading, PA.

She had a partner, named Donna, who was the daughter of a preacher man.

These two managed to find themselves without a place to stay. Their homelessness had something to do with Donna’s parents catching her and Tina doing it.  So I invited them to stay with us temporarily.  Probably without consulting Steve.  I don’t know that for sure, but I know myself, and I can imagine myself at 20 being more concerned with the well-being of casual acquaintances than peace in my domestic arrangement.

But Steve was on board.  I reckon he’s still about as laid back as they come.

We set Tina & Donna up on the couch cushions in our living room, and I learned some stuff:

1.  What “ashy” means with regard to dry skin.  I used this term once, many years later, about my own skin in front of a black person.  I wasn’t even thinking of it, just that ashy was a precise adjective.  My audience adopted the same air of bemusement my black ex boyfriend did when he discovered that I use a washcloth to clean myself.  Like, “White people aren’t allowed to do that.”  Good times.

2.  Hair Extensions.  This bumpkin had no clue.  I swear to you, I was shocked.  Like I was about plucking eyebrows.  I came home one day and Tina and Donna were sitting there on the floor, half of Donna’s hair was in her lap.  After I realized that it hadn’t fallen out, I was deeply curious.  Both Tina and Donna were amused by and patient about my naivete.

3.  Arbor Mist isn’t really alcohol.  Here’s awesome about Tina.  She was pregnant.  Yup, pregnant.  From cheating on Donna with a boy from high school.  ?!  I know.  She was the cautionary tale for the phrase, “It only takes one.”  Donna wanted to help her raise the baby.  Tina didn’t have too much qualms about imbibing Arbor Mist.  Here’s another awesome thing about Tina: she had just gotten out of jail.  Yes, jail.  For what?  I honestly don’t know.  I don’t know if I ever did.

But I will say this: in New Haven, I don’t think I ever saw a white person being pulled over.  Pretty sure the cops there throw anybody not white into jail indiscriminately.  Sure, Tina was probably doing something she ought not have been doing, but who hasn’t?  Feel free to be all hoity toity in the comments if you’ve never done anything that you would’ve gone to jail for if you got caught.  Some of us are lucky on two counts: being born white, and not getting caught.

And before you freak out because I said it’s lucky to be white: I’m saying that it with a heart-squeezing dose of guilt.  I don’t think it’s right, good, or fair; and it’s insane especially because it’s 2012–it’s supposed to be the future, isn’t it?

I liked Tina.  I still wonder about her.  She was funny and calm and had great teeth and a cool speaking voice.  I never got to know Donna as well, but she was nice, too.

Here are other things that I remember from our brief cohabitation with Donna and Tina:

1.  I had my first experience getting felt up by a dude at a gay bar. I am reasonably sure I was underage.

2.  I came home from work a few times to find Donna, Tina, and Steve on the couch in front of the evening news studying their Powerball tickets with something like reverence and suspended enthusiasm.

3.  Proper dreadlocks are high maintenance and require some pretty unpleasant smelling product.

4.  Tina was the easiest-to-be-around pregnant person I’ve ever met.

5.  I’m pretty sure that I did not tell my parents that I had a pair of temporary roommates who were both black and lesbians.  I don’t know how that would’ve gone.

6.  Looking back, I can’t believe how incredibly cool Steve was about the whole thing.  I think if the shoe were on the other foot, I would’ve been hopping mad.  Maybe not, though.  I prize privacy and caution a lot more these days than I once did.

Anyway, after they moved out, Tina wasn’t working at the Olive Garden anymore, and I have no clue where the two of them wound up.  But I still wonder about them.  And since the names in this post (except for Steve’s, but I used his proper name with permission) have been changed to protect the innocent, I don’t know if I’ll ever find out what happened to them.

How about you?  What’s your best (or best material) roommate story?

A Dozen Things I Love About New England

This is from Flickr person Bernt Rostad: here's the URL:

This is a picture of a place I used to go a lot in college.  It’s where all the writer wannabes go after readings, after class, after anything one might possibly muster an excuse for drinking.

In retrospect, I have no clue how I afforded so many fancy beers.

I believe the address is New Haven, but it’s in an area of New Haven that’s called Westville.  Next to it is an adorable breakfast nook, a jeweler, and a fancy salon.  In college, I worked at a now defunct restaurant called 500 Blake St. Cafe right across the street from Delaney’s.

Delaney’s has some absurd number of beers on tap, and the food is a notch better than most pub fare.  Most notably spicy calamari.

Places like this are one of the many things I love about New England.

Here are more:

1.  I love driving fast, and the freedom of three lanes.

2.  Houses painted or sided in pretty colors.

3.  24-hour diners with Mediterranean faves like spanikopita, gyros, souvlaki, and real kalamata olives on the Greek salads, as well as burger, grilled cheese, and broiled fish.

4.  Falafel Houses with proper shawerma and baba ghanouj.

5.  Wide availability of light cream for coffee at public coffee venues.

7.  TONS of Universities and the cultural opportunities  & political leanings they embody.  Plus, the way all the Univerity’s smarty-pantses are part of the community.

8.  Never more than an hour from the ocean.

9.  It’s only like 5 degrees, but it’s cooler here than it is in Pennsylvania & south of the Mason Dixon.

10.  Jews!

11.  Massive ethnic presence, so massive ethnic grocery options.

12.  Social liberation.  In New England, it’s harder to find people who hate the gays or the brown people or whomever, who would assume a woman on birth control is a whore, or who would care one way or the other if an adult wore her hair in a strange way or had facial piercings.  In public school, the rhetoric accounts for non-traditional families, etc.

What I Learned About Freelancing From My Dad and Pushing Social

This is from

My blog is my favorite thing about my professional life.

I’m always reading about ways to do it better, and there’s a huge concensus among people who give blogging advice that monetizing a blog–unless you are John Grisham–is probably more hassle than it’s worth.

Last night, via Twitter, I found Pushing Social, which offers a lot of different thinking and advice about using your blog to monetize yourself. Which is a beast of a different color than click revenue and ads from your blog, which is distinct from yourself (hopefully).

One of the reasons I love my blog so hard is that it’s a whooole lot of work for no money.  I have a deeply ingrained sense that I am not good enough, or that there’s no honor, in being fairly compensated for my work.  More on this in a moment.

I am compensated by my blog, however, in more real ways than I am by some of my clients.  My blog forages connections, gives me an audience, and loads of affirmation.

The Origin of Self Worth

The sense that I am somehow less worthy than others as/less talented and dedicated than I am comes to me from the way I have watched my dad, who is a legitimately, maybe even exceptionally, swell, smart man, toil for his entire life for far, far less than he is worth.

I have seen him put in 80-100 hour work weeks and live a very middle-class life.  I have seen him buy a car for $100, put 10 hours of work and $50 in it, and sell it to some sod with a sad tale for $200.

My dad enjoys these arrangements in which he rips himself off because it makes him feel like a good person.  I have heard him say gleefully, “Yeah, but that’s $50 bucks I didn’t have before, and I helped someone out, it’s a win-win!”  Yeah, dad.  And at least three evenings with your family and a Saturday afternoon you didn’t have, too.

As a person in my dad’s family, I have often been on the short end of his work-for-too-little-money-and-moral-affirmation stick.

I watched him buy a falling-down house for $40,000, dump $20,000 plus a half a year’s worth of sweat into it, and sell it in a private sale less than a decade later for only $80,000.  (This was when the real estate market was in full boom, back in the early 2000s–the house was a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom, cavernous, old house: when he bought it, it was uninhabitable).

I’m starting to see that my dad is pissed about taxes and does stuff to “keep Uncle Sam’s hand out of his pocket” because he has, actively and persistently, undervalued his own worth.  He has–for lack of a better way to put it–fucked himself over. People with enough money to live and retire don’t mind paying taxes.

A cynical, but amusing, aside
This is why–contrary to logic–middle class folks tend to vote republican.  They want to keep more of their money.  They also apparently tend to equate moral, religious, and philosophical issues with politics, which is why the republicans are currently spewing hate speak all over women who use birth control instead of telling us what they’re going to do about the absurd educational system.

Recently, I’ve started to notice about myself that I mimic some of my dad’s patterns with regard to my life as a freelancer.  I have a ridiculous tendency to get involved in doing stuff I love and believe in for free or for such a pitiable sum, that I have no time left to find work that pays me–not just enough to live–but what I am worth.

Now, I’m not a hotshot multiply published author with a personal assistant.  But I’m an excellent writer with a constantly growing body of published work, a blog that people like and read, and half a novel written in my head, while only a tenth of it lives in Word.  If I keep doing as my dad does, I will never get to hotshot author with personal assistant land.  I will never make six figures a year.

Hate me if you want to, but I want that.  I want to have too much money.  I have lots of ideas about good things to do with a surplus of money, but for now, I just want to be able to pay my bills on time every month.

But I know that I can–and will–because starting now, I am going to do some things differently.

What does this mean to you, blog readers?

As a writer, the sense that I’m not good enough keeps me striving, working, sanding my nose down.  So don’t worry.  I will keep blogging, and as far as the content of my posts, you probably won’t notice much difference.

You will notice, however, that I will offer products and services more aggressively in my sidebar.  And if you’re here reading this now, it’s because you think I have excellent things to say or get another kind of value out of this blog, and you won’t mind.  Maybe you’ll even pick up my guide about starting a writers’ group, or scoop up a mini writing course for $10.00.

For the time being, I’ll be avoiding banner ads (like from Adsense through Google) and affiliate linking (as through Amazon).

For today: Maybe you noticed, my Workshops Tab is back above.  Please click it and check out the courses through Penn College.  These are less costly than the ones I could offer at the Pajama Factory.

And don’t forget, too, that I’m a professional writer and editor, so if you dig my advice or my writing, maybe you want to hire me.  For what I am worth.

Is Frack, Indeed, Wack? Reflections on Viewpoints and a Call to Discourse.

The other day, I posted about how you should all watch Gasland, and about how I’m getting out of here ASAP.

I live in an area that’s been getting slowly invaded–probably since before I lived here–by Anadarko, Haliburton, etc., and all the requisite dirt and trucks and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) land leases.  These companies and their employees are extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.

The debate over whether they should be allowed or not presently splits many a room in North Central PA.

After the other day, when I linked to Gasland,

an acquaintance of mine sent me the following text:

Just wanted to share with you a few thoughts on gasland.  The filmmakers present a decingly one-sided view; here are a few facts you need to have in your back pocket if you want to properly evaluate the film.

First, the filmmakers present this shocking image of people being able to light the water that comes out of their faucets and they present this image as proof that fracking is dangerous to the environment because it causes gas to leach into our water supply.

First fact; in Pennsylvania, the geology is folded (mountains), which means that you have many pockets of natural gas, both shallow gas and deep gas.  You can find shallow gas pockets close to the water table.  Deep gas pockets are well below the water table.  You find deep gas pockets (the Marcellsu Shale) below 6,000 feet.

Shallow gas pockets are responsible for gas leaching into the water supply.  But it is not clear who causes what.  There was a lot of shallow gas drilling in Pennsylvania 80 years ago and it is certain that this caused some leachign of natural gas into the water supply.  But two things:

1) in mountainous areas where there are mountain streams and shallow gas pockets, people have been able to light the gas bubbles in the streams for over 100 hundred years, well before any drilling began.

2) people who drill their own wells for water (which is many of the people in the movie) can and do coem close enough to shallow gas desposits that the gas bubbles up into their water supply.

There are no instances of the gas from deep pocket deposits migrating into the water supply.  Geologists conducting half a dozen studies have determined that 1) even if there were cracks in the deposit (which by the way occur naturally because of shifting tectonic plates) the gas simply does not migrate upwards through various rock formations for 5,500 plus feet to enter the water supply; and 2) the gas drillers encase their wells with lined concrete which means the gas is pumped directly into the pipeline – the companies test the well lines to make sure there are no cracks in order to maximize profit – to date there has been no migration of gas from these wells.

This does not mean that such migration could not occur, but the current estimats that this would happen is on the order of 0.00000001 percent.

Gasland films only areas where shallow gas drilling has occured and yet they present their information as if it includes all drilling, deep gas drilling as well as shallow gas drilling.

Makes for snesational film, but it is misleading and therefore irresponsible.

There are risks associated with gas drilling; there were a number of smaller companies that sought to maximize profits by takign short cuts, which led to safety issues.  The state of PA cracked down hard on these companies.  At the moment, the small comapnies are no longer involved; the big companies bought them out and are now the major players.  Here is an explnation fo the difference in terms of maximizing profit.  small companies might only have the resources to develop 5 wells and they can only drill to about the quarter of the depth that the larger companies can drill; thus they are always seeking shortcuts.  When a well comes in for a small comapny, they get a return of about 100 to 1 on their investment.  But they may get nothing b’c they could go 0/5.  Large companies however have more resources so they can drill down 6.000 tp 9,000 as necessary adn they can drill more wells.  When a well comes in for a large company, they get a return of 1000 to 1.

The other factor to consider is this: because Pennsylvania as a state was very consdiered about how to regulate the gas adn oil industry with the exporation of the Marcellsu shale, they put a lot of energy into examining the ipact and the benefits from all possible angles.  As a result, Pennsylva is now the world standard for the most comprehensive set of regualtions and policies concerning the gas and oil industry in the world.  the industry would tell you there is too much regulation in PA.  But the real winner is the citizens of PA.

Just a few thoughts.

PDB <—Peter Damian Bellis, Author.  Have his book for free.

I asked Peter to cite his sources, because I like to have a balanced view of all things, especially inflammatory things, and I’m going to share the next bits of response from him (except for the parts about Peter’s spouse and her job) with you now.  I’m hoping to inspire some discourse here.  The comments section is for you, my friends.

Here is a summary fact sheet that also contains links:[1].pdf

PCT{PA College of Technology} has been on the ground floor of this stuff, they are hosts of the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center.  They have received nuymerous Penn State studies concerning the Marcellus Shale play and the drilling that is going on, though from a workforce perspective, they still contain significant info on environmental impact.

The discourse needs to acknolwedge that there are two sides to the issue but to be frank, the anti-gas movement is responding to a mix of isolated negative incidents and generalized propganda.  There is a great deal of science which by accessing the links in the fact sheet can take you to further links to get the science side.  The location of current drilling is so precise b/c of GPS (the same technology we use for directions and cell phones), that they know exactly how far away they are drilling from ground water and every other geologic formation of interest.

Go to:

The amount of regulation in PA far eclipses that in Texas, Colorado, Alaska, or any other state, adnin fact it eclipses the regulations found in any other country.  To say the amount is inadequate, which may be true, is a qualtiatve judgment, but that does not negate the fact that PA is the most regulated region in the world when it comes to oil and gas.

It is extremely important that people have all of the facts before they make judgments and choices; otherwise we run the risk of making very poor choices, of course this is the history of the world, but exacerbated in a sound-byte world wehre stock phrases andimages push our emotions and thereby eliminate the value of reasoned inquiry and intelligent discourse

also a word about the quantity of water used.  according to the state, the gas industry is 7th on the list in terms of water usage by industry.  the golf courses in the state use far more water than the gas industry, and the chemicals they use to maintain their fairways and greens, all of which are toxic, run off directly  into the sewer systems and creeks and immediately impact the water supply. But fewpeople voice concern about this.

Italics are mine, typos are Peter’s.

What I think

Frankly, I do not know where Peter finds time to engage my email inbox in this manner.  I am also interested in hearing what you, my blog readers and your friends, have to say about this.  Please, do your own web searches or present your own anecdotes in the comments.

I’ve whined before about how documentaries do inadequate homework and present a skewed version of the story in a lot of cases.  And there were a few questions I had for Josh Fox after his documentary, but I do not think it’s fair to call his movie “sound bytes and stock images.”

1.  Is the industry still paying the affected people (those who are sick themselves and/or who have contaminated water and/or who have sick animals/poisoned farms) land lease money?  Does that money stop once the gas company is gone, and if it does, does the site stay put?

2.  Did all of the folks in the documentary lease their land, or did some of them just have neighbors who leased their land?  Why didn’t you talk about that in the film?

3.  What, exactly, did the land lease offering you 100,000 dollars say?

4.  How did you afford to drive all over the country making a film?

Here are my observations about what’s happening here, where I live, and about Peter’s notes.

  • It is in Penn College’s interest to believe that there are statistically negligible health/environmental risks involved with natural gas drilling.  The Natural Gas folks have given them piles of cash.  They’ve dumped a lot of money into the community, too, which is how they’re able to stick around, I reckon. I ask, why would they invest so much of their profits back into the community if they’re blameless and not worried about PR backlash?
  • My kid was invited to “Science Night” which would’ve been more accurately named Natural Gas Indoctrination Night.  Fella took her and  she came home with a bagful of swag from the Natural Gas folks.  A big story book (The Adventures of Energenie, who has a gas well logo on his hard hat, and whose adventures are sponsored, loudly, by Anadarko) about how amazing natural gas drilling is, a beach ball, one of those wrist bands kids love…
  • One of my clients is an organization dedicated to helping to rehab flood victims’ lives (yes, they do still need help.  A surprising number of them need a surprising amount of it), and yesterday, I did a courier run all around a chunk of North Central PA.  I was shocked, though not surprised, to see that one of these well beds was neatly and openly positioned on the bank of the Susquehanna River, along route 11.  The giant pit of mire into which fracking water is dumped & mixed with soil and sand over a porous plastic tarp was even bigger and uglier than it looked in Gasland. There is no sensible way to interpret that very real installation other than irresponsible and dangerous.
  • Being able to light a bubble of water in a stream is a ton different than being able to light tap water that was previously drinkable, whether or not a person drilled his or her own well.  How does PDB know that the folks in the movie drilled their own water wells?  And I imagine they would’ve hired professionals to help, since water-well drilling requires equipment that most of folks don’t have on hand, and that these professionals would be aware of the geography such that they could avoid tapping a shallow gas deposit when tapping the water table.
  •  So we’ve made the regulations, but who’s enforcing them?  The state’s budget is in shambles.  Having enough inspectors to be driving around the state and overseeing a number of gas wells that the state recently oopsied over even knowing the correct number of is a proposition that would be costly and require time to develop the infrastructure to support.  Unlike Anadarko and Halliburton, Pennsylvania does not have that kind of bread…or time.

The trouble is that all the research I’m finding–and this is universally true of all kinds of research, except for pure university research, and even that is tainted by the researcher or researching body’s views/biases, etc–may be in support of a behind-the-scenes agenda that I don’t have the time to suss out.

I find this whole thing puzzling and worrisome, but maybe if we all work together, we can scare up the right information & we can all either rest easy or get the heck out of here (or wherever there’s a shale)!

My personal suspicion?  If we follow the money, we’ll get some ugly answers to some real questions.

Some Additional Reading (not even a light score in the surface, really):

Articles from Wilkes Barre’s Times Leader

Rural PA Drinking Water Study, not by Gasland

Interesting public discussion

Other interesting “public” forum

If you are concerned, find a local chapter of The Responsible Drilling Alliance (RDA)

NPR, Rush, Hannity, and Me: Reflections on a PBS Documentary & a Ride Worth Taking

I find the whole politics thing to be exhausting.  I feel like it’s a media full of talking heads touting half truths, and mostly just rhetoric to sway our under-educated public–who has been intentionally trained to NOT think critically–for personal agendas.

On one hand, I forgive them because they’re just trying to make money.  Everybody likes money, even when we hate it, we like it.  On the other hand, I am disgusted & totally overwhelmed by the task of sussing out the truth.  I am not willing to take anybody’s word for it.  My dad believes everything Fox News & Rush Limbaugh say.  Fella believes everything that comes from sources he perceives as “liberal” or “socialist.”  I find myself holding my breath and suspending judgement most of the time.

Last night, Fella and I watched a Frontline documentary that examined the national debt.  The documentary explained that the budget deficit creates the national debt over time, and that there have only been 4 of the last 50 years in which there was actually a budget surplus, and so the national debt shrank instead of grew.  These were four of Clinton’s years.

Between Williamsport and Harrisburg, there’s a seriously sketchy public radio section, so today I thought I’d try out the AM dial, because I love me some talk radio.  I would rather listen to talk–even conservative pundits–than classical music or country or top 40, which were my options.  P.S., AM radio ads are completely hilarious.  It was like being transported back to 1962.

Hoo doggy.  I got to hear Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.  The only one I absolutely WON’T listen to is that crazy Mormon, Glenn Beck.  I would laugh at his verbal hijinks if I could, but mostly I find him to sound like a poorly informed conspiracy theorist.  It’s no wonder that most of his books are made of pictures & hopelessly skewed infographics.

So today, I heard Rush say that Obama is single-handedly responsible for ruining the economy.

WTW?  Pretty sure it was less than a year into his presidency when he had to make a pretty hard decision about allocating public money for some banks, the auto industry, and a ridiculous number of American Mortgages.

How is that ANY politician’s fault?  Even Bush’s?  That was a economic tsunami that didn’t just well up overnight.  That thing was YEARS–and I would posit Clinton/Bush years–in the making.

I heard Hannity say that Obama’s approval rating is at 43%, and that only 27% of Americans identify themselves as liberal.  Pretty good, Obama!

Hannity’s thing was that people are so disgusted by the connotation of the liberal label that they will call themselves anything but.

I mean, maybe that’s true if you’re Hannity, but I’d be a lot less embarrassed to say that I’m a liberal than to say I’m a tea partier.  I’m neither, truthfully.  I call myself a libertarian, but only because it’s so extreme that I don’t have to marry a single ideology, and because I love the IDEA of a very, very tiny government–but culturally, we’re way past that.  Much as I want to, we’ll never be back to the 1890s governance, or lack thereof.

Most accurately, I’m sympathetically unaffiliated.  Whatever I call myself, I can’t vote in primaries–which are the ones that matter–unless I call myself Rep or Dem.  Which I can’t.

Then, when I finally got close enough for WVIA (Williamsport’s public radio), I heard them talking about how the smear Mitt Romney campaign is in full effect EVERYWHERE, and that the Republican ticket is looking weak sauce regardless.

Whatever.  I like listening to Obama quip.  I think he’s wicked smart and/or he has awesome speech writers.  I think he’s also got a terrific sense of humor & must be the most insanely logical person in the world. I love that we haven’t heard about him schtupping interns, or lavishly vacationing on a golf course in Tahiti.  So if he’s doing those things, at least he’s got it on the DL.  If we have him for another 4 years, I’m good with that.  If we get a republican, that’s okay, too.  I don’t think that the political affiliation of the nation’s leader really matters at all because our political system is BROKEN.

As we watched that Frontline documentary, they aired clips from CSpan after Obama submitted his healthcare plan, and it seemed to me like congresspeople and senators are just a bunch of whiny, entitled, rich people who only care about continuing to be in the public eye and arguing over what insanely off-kilter thing they believe their constituents to want, even though they’ve never asked them.

What the hell?  They’re not the reasonable, articulate, well-researched negotiators they should be, they’re middle school students on a playground in very expensive suits who’ve apparently mostly forgotten their very expensive educations.

The only people who really have a voice are the people who have enough money to buy powerful ears.  That’s not most of us.  So I’m just going to buckle in for the ride, and try to get less fat so if shit goes too bad, they’ll let me into Switzerland.