Weeding Our Political Garden
Admittedly, I do not have a green thumb. If our home is verdant it’s entirely by my wife’s efforts but I do recall once reading some gardening advice that seemed useful: you can’t get rid of weeds by simply pulling them out. You must plant something in their place to prevent their return.
I think of that advice when I hear people complain about some politicians. I believe “disgusted” is their term of choice, and certainly the media has uncovered plenty of unsavory behavior for us to be disgusted about. Still, I’m bothered by that cynicism because I know firsthand that most elected officials are honest and good people who take their public service as a point of pride. Nonetheless, I certainly understand where that cynicism stems from, especially when you read the sordid affairs smeared on the pages of New York’s newspapers these days.
Rising from the very depths of America’s soul, the words have a power all their own. There is something mighty and great in their sentiments; an unconquerable truth that cannot be defeated or subdued. Words so wedded to the soul of America, that the merest reflection invests them with grandeur and magnanimity:
Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these, the homeless, tempest –tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
I read with interest, the April 2012 Anton News article about the panel discussion pros and cons of so-called “hydrofracking.” The debate as framed makes good points, however, it also misses a few key points. What is overlooked in the current imbroglio, is that when I was an exploration and development geologist for a Fortune 100 oil and gas company, for all the majors I worked with the preferred industry standard well completion practice was called an “acid frac, or an acid job,” for both oil and gas wells. Based on my understanding, it is still the preferred method for non-horizontal wells (i.e. vertical wells, not the tight shale plays), not hydrofracking. The acids pumped into these wells are highly concentrated, such as hydrofluoric and hydrochloric acid, to basically “clean out” or dissolve rock and natural cements to produce preferential flow paths for oil and gas to enter into the well bore. These are old practices and involve hundreds of thousands of U.S. wells, than are typically hydrofracked. These are unregulated practices, as are the drilling muds that are used. “Mud” is also a misleading term, as these muds are laden with various polymers, chemicals, and heavy metals, formulated to bring to surface drilled crushed rock, to coat the borehole to prevent contamination of water bearing zones, and importantly to prevent blowouts as the borehole is being advanced. My company experienced a “blowout” of a 17,000 well in Oklahoma, that blew the entire drill string out of the hole because it had encountered an over-pressured gas zone and the mud was not thick or heavy enough to counter the massive pressure. “Muds” are excluded from reporting, regulation or oversight by the so-called “Chaney” clause. It must be noted that key to a successful well is the completion method employed, the type of mud used, and how the well casing is advanced and literally cemented into place. The blow out of BP’s Deep Water Horizon Anaconda well in the Gulf is a recent chief case in point of questionable cementing and related practices, there was also a major blowout several years prior in Ohio. Well drilling and completions are not regulated, left up to what is termed “best professional practice.” Large areas and groundwater zones in many old producing areas in the continental U.S. are contaminated from prior practices. This realization is kind of like the effort citizens and the government had to come up with to effect seatbelt and other safety standards for cars to reduce deaths and injuries, because inspite or despite best practice, accidents do happen.
It’s a concept so indelibly stamped into the American Justice System, that its absence from jurisprudence would be as startling as if the Sun was plucked from the sky: A criminal defendant is innocent until proven guilty. The explosive but not unexpected reaction to the verdict of the six-women jury in Florida acquitting George Zimmerman in the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has given rise to but another debate on burden of proof.
The racial mix, as it often does, proved as precarious as nitroglycerin. Florida’s “stand your ground” laws provided the basis for Zimmerman’s defense in the case. Zimmerman, despite a warning from the police to stand down, followed Martin within the complex he was patrolling, which led to a fight between the two. During the scuffle Zimmerman shot Martin in what he says was self-defense.
A quarter of a century has now passed since I first set foot on the lush, rolling farmlands of a quaint little town called Gettysburg. My journey to this picaresque destination was not a bucolic rendezvous with nature but a pilgrimage into the vortex of history where a new nation was forged in blood and musket fire. Amid these fairest shades of earth a battle of monumental proportions was fought, an encounter that would decide the fate of a young Republic defined by the loftiest expressions of freedom, yet burdened by the existence of slavery.
I’m proud to represent an area of Long Island that has been the location for many famous movies and TV shows, including Citizen Kane, Annie Hall, and the hit television series Boardwalk Empire. It’s even the setting for The Great Gatsby. Shamefully, it’s also now the location for a show whose characters are disgraceful, misleading, and fuel anti-Semitic stereotypes: Princesses: Long Island.
Full disclosure: I kind of enjoy reality TV. Storage Wars and Pawn Stars are among my guilty pleasures. So the idea of watching a reality show taking place in my own backyard wasn’t so far-fetched. I knew little about the show before sitting down to watch the season premiere.
It is time to admit the painfully obvious: Things are a mess in the Middle East and half measures by the United States have only exacerbated the situation. What started as a local conflict in Syria has now become a multi-national bloodbath. We can no longer say that what’s happening there is a civil war. It is impossible to argue that the struggle there is now trans-national.
We now have Iran and Hezbollah fighting with Bashar al-Assad. These are not populations indigenous to Syria. Add to that fiery mix Russia, China and a host of other belligerents and you have a 21st-century version of the Spanish American War, which claimed nearly a million lives in the 1930s and was a precursor to the global conflagration we know as World War II. Everyone, until most recently, seems to be involved in the struggle over Syria except the United States who has a great deal to lose if either Assad or another one of the radical elements prevails.
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