Shocked and Persuaded

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Separating Fact From Fiction

The Curious Case of the Shrinking Utica Shale Play

So the Utica shale oil and gas field seems to be shrinking before our very eyes and we took a look at the data to separate Ohio Department of Natural Resources expectations from the reality on the ground.

Here is a link to that piece and various other efforts from my colleagues at FracTracker including our effort to map the complete inventory of oil & gas wells here in the US.

Needless to say our regulators are woefully behind the times in keeping tabs on oil & gas productivity and their efforts are more lagging than leading.

Not So Happy Valley

We are on the verge of finding out that one of the greatest and most disgusting coverups of all time was committed in State College, PA by none other than Joe Paterno and his minions and it will extend vertically and horizontally across the state. This is the case of a college football program ripping a page out of the playbook of The Vatican and they will come up similarly soiled. I strongly recommend everyone reading this read the Grand Jury account to see the extent of former Paterno assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s predation. Please consider reading the account of Sandusky-Grand-Jury-Presentment and then ask yourself if – and I stress if – this was relayed to Paterno then he needs to leave his position and Penn State has so much explaining to do that it should have started decades ago. I don’t usually find myself attracted to these kinds of stories but this one speaks to the loss of innocence, sports corruption, and administrative capture in supposedly above-reproach academic institutions. There is even the possibility that a murder or permanent relocation of Centre County, PA District Attorney was linked to his failure to prosecute Mr. Sandusky at a time that no doubt would have prevent some of Sandusky’s most horrific abuses of power.

This is  sad story because you have a man in Joe Paterno that presumably for many many years lived an exemplary life only to be swallowed up by the temptations of absolute power and the image he had commendably created. He had a predator in his midst that he felt should simply be relieved of his keys and access to the locker rooms. This is vintage Catholic Church stuff but in this case you have a legacy that will be remembered for facilitating countless acts of sexual molestation by Mr. Sandusky. I found the Grand Jury PDF extremely hard to read but more importantly found myself amazed that apparently Mr. Paterno read the same thing….AND DID NOTHING!

Mr. Paterno is probably the most important man in the history of the state of Pennsylvania and that is not an overstatement. He represented the right way to comport yourself as a coach and member of the community. Was it all a lie? Probably not but at the very least Mr. Paterno’s errors of omission proved equally perilous relative to Mr. Sandusky’s errors of commission. Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and vice president for business and finance Gary Schultz are being charged with perjure for their failure to report what they were told by a graduate assistant coach to the appropriate authorities. Immediately upon silencing himself the aforementioned GA was promoted again and again and again. I wonder why? Looks like a duck, walks like a duck…

Sadly Penn State students continue to chant “We Want Joe” and “Joe Pa-Ter-No” in support of their beloved coach. That is fine but I hope they understand this is not a game and very serious allegations are currently being investigated with the potential to render their support of Joe Pa looking childish at best and completely insensitive to the condition of the victims at worst. I would suggest they focus on their classes and hope that all of these horrible allegations are a bad dream. Innocent until proven guilty but the trend line is heading in the wrong direction.

Putting Solyndra In Perspective

Many on the right and the middle are whining and pointing fingers in every which way demanding scalps for the mess that is Solyndra. However, I would just like to put this manufacturer of thin-film solar cells in a bit of big federal government perspective with nothing but numbers.

1. $560.1 million – this represents the total handouts to Solyndra, with $535 from the Department of Energy and a $25.1 million tax break from the state of California…0.015% of Obama’s 2011 Federal Budget.

2. $700 billion – this represents the Bush-Paulson carried out and Obama-Geithner stewarded Troubled Asset Relief Program…18.97% of Obama’s 2011 Federal Budget

3. $1 trillion – unilaterally issued Federal Reserve program called the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) designed to infuse money into the pockets of already under water consumers with the aim of goosing consumption…27.00% of Obama’s 2011 Federal Budget

4. $144billion to $323 billion – the first number represents what the disastrous F35 was supposed to cost and the second what it will cost when it is completed…8.75% of Obam’s 2011 Federal Budget

5. $22 billion 30 people – the cost in dollars and deaths of the V-22 (aka Osprey) one of the Pentagon  and the Military Industrial Complex’s favorite cash cows along with the aforementioned F35. As NPR’s Graham Smith reported:

“In a nutshell, the story of the Osprey is it cost more in time, money and lives than anything else the Marine Corps ever bought”

 

Three major accidents gave the Osprey its bad reputation and earned it the nickname “The Widowmaker.”

 

The worst, in Arizona in 2000, killed 19 Marines.”

SO when considering who to pick on and who to hold accountable by any means necessary it is important to acknowledge that the folks at Solyndra are deserving of the criticism they are receiving for extorting money from the federal government, but it is way more important to address the Big Fish as it were feeding at the tit of the Pentagon. I can’t defend Solyndra’s actions but I hope that this brief post put them in perspective relative to a far more important and costly addiction to tools of war and the propping up of Wall Street. The Occupy Wall Street movement has brought attention to the crimes of Wall & Broad. An even greater level of extortion has been occurring in the parallel and opaque universe that revolves around the Pentagon.

At least Solyndra was an attempt to wean us off our addiction to hydrocarbons, while the Pentagon could be excused for being under the impression that it’s charter is solely to perpetuate and lubricate that addiction.

Concrete Suggestions for Occupy Wall Street

Excerpt from a project I am working on and a helpful blueprint for how to curb irresponsible activities throughout the financial services industry:

According to the FDIC you Mr. Big Banker (i.e., 109 banks with more than $10 billion in assets) have no qualms with giving depositors a measly 0.8% annually, while the country’s 7,651 local/smaller banks paid 1.29% vs. values of 0.49% and 0.69% in 2009 [275], respectively, even though it was you not them that we the taxpayer bailed out and we Generation X will continue to feel the austerity backlash of for years to come. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a fifth-grader for that matter much in the way of mental exertion to understand how easy it is to mint huge profits when you borrow money from The Fed or investors for the aforementioned paltry rates and lend it to private citizens or the Tim Geithner led Treasury at 3-4%, however, in doing so you Mr. Banker are failing to do what you most likely state in your charters “furnishing money to firms and funding capital investments.” [276] We need our banks to act as utilities not casinos. Banks must stop making in the words of the Bank of Engl Read the rest of this entry »

Missing Uncle Ronnie

Great job on this by Jon Stewart:

http://vimeo.com/27757870

I hear you on taxes. In Paul’s nirvana- roads, infrastructure, and the “instruments of interstate commerce” that do fall within Congress’s Constitutional purview would be paid with user fees, tolls and perhaps some targeted VAT’s (though admittedly he’s far less enthusiastic about that). He does not believe in the Department of Education and would like to see it de-funded. Poor results, a massive Congressional boondongle and virtually zero Constitutional support for its existence in his mind.

At any rate, what I will say for RP is that these are sincerely-held philosophical POV’s as opposed to actual policy initiatives. As a Constitutionalist- a “President” Paul would never attempt to use the Executive Office to directly repeal the 16th Amendment (Federal Income Tax) or think he had the power to interfere/obstruct Congress’s spending authority. He would undoubtedly submit budget proposals envisioning a dramitically smaller government and drastically reduced tax rates (across the board). That is certainly the “Buyer Beware” element of RP that any independent or liberal needs to take into account when considering a vote for him. On the bright side- the wars and torture would end and the Fed may finally get audited. Also, domestically you would know exactly where he stood- and there would likely be more than enough Democratic/Liberal and Non-Libertarian/non-Tea Party Republican Congressmen to check any “super extreme” initiatives/proposals coming from the White House.

Post-Unemployment Stress Disorder

Consider the real or fictitious call for austerity among DC, Wall Street, and Brookins/Cato/AEI elites one of my favorite radio personalities Tom Ashbrook presented one of the best shows on the subject of structural unemployment and the notion that – just like engaging in war – the rest of us are being asked to sacrifice for the whims and arrogance of  old white men.

I have pasted my response to the show below because while it deserves the attention it gets PTSD has a new cousin in The Great Recession Fallout which I simply describe as Post-Unemployment Stress Disorder. I should know I have it and have it bad on some days better on others………..even though I now have a job!

I would add that I recently ended a 9 month drought after having completed a Ph.D. here at the University of Vermont. It was brutal and the uncertainty (true uncertainty not the BS kind referred to on Wall Street or by big business) has delayed my marriage to my favorite human being and delayed us having children. I still suffer what I call post-unemployment stress disorder (PUSD) which manifests itself in me looking for better/more secure jobs even though I have one. I was right in doing so because I found out yesterday – thanks to my insistence as I have another great job offer – that my current employer who had already changed my contract from 2yrs to an 8mo probationary period that they were not going to guarantee me a contract extension. This was not the rough and tumble world of business but rather academia. I was told that if I hadn’t come to them with this other job offer and an ultimatum they might not have let me know of my status until the days prior to the contract’s expiration in October. This is no way to treat people even if you do have leverage! Employers are in the catbird seat and that is generally a good thing as it yields the best corporations or in this case academic institutions. However, there is a certain degree of decency that is missing from Main St, Wall St., and DC for how you treat your fellow man/woman especially in a jobs environment like the one we find ourselves in. That means giving people proper warning so they can prepare or improve their lot. That means understanding that when you do let someone go they are going to be fending for themselves for – chances are – quite some time and maybe even 2.5 years as one of the guests on Mr. Ashbrook’s show described. The UK prime minister David Cameron made a great point in the aftermath of the London Riots recently that decency is no where to be found in The City, Parliament, and at the country’s numerous Murdoch owned rags. So why when the “common man” sees this should they operate by a different set of rules? Leaders need to lead and not divide, condescend, or obfuscate. Like his opposite number in DC Mr. Cameron talks a big game but I would be willing to bet that the have nots of Tottenham like the have nots of Watts, Gary, Indiana, Detroit, etc. will suffer a more oppressive case of austerity than any of the latter offenders.
I am amazed at how callus people are in the face of having someone’s career in their hands. Such a flippant disregard for basic short- and medium-term needs is really not what this country is about….At least that is what I thought!
I will be fine and my fiance and I will have a wonderful marriage and an even more wonderful child but what I will never forget about this Great Depression is the rapidity with which people backed away from words like loyalty, respect, fairness, and transparency. I for one will always have the scars of the uncertainty and unknowns that soaked into my every fiber during this recession. They say that Depression children saved every nickle etc. Well I think my generation and those that were unemployed for a prolonged time will always have in the back of our minds when the next shoe is going to fall. Especially those of us not looking to get filthy rich but rather just teach or give back to the planet or our fellow man nothing gaudy or selfish but simply good work that doesn’t involve off-shoring or newfangled “financial products”. PUSD is real and I am sure I am not the only one that feels this way. I don’t know when this fear and anxiousness will go away but I hope soon because it really sucks! It is not made any better when we see the haves with such contempt for basic decency and empathy. The ovarian lottery has been cruel to some and unnecessarily generous to others, while others have fought out of the former to reach the latter economic prosperity, but that doesn’t mean we should paint such broad strokes on those that have not fought out of the cruelties of the lower quartile. Most likely it ain’t their fault and piling on while forcing them to eat spinach as the oligopoly eats cake is not what I think the phrase “American Exceptionalism” means! Warren Buffett seems to be coming around to this notion!

They Are Both Right

Well we finally had a higher up in the Obama administration rebut Hamid Karzai’s “occupier” accusations. The fact is that both sides in this little tiff are correct. We are occupiers and Karzai is nothing more or less than a well placed and insanely rich – and getting richer – heroine dealer if not addict. Read the rest of this entry »

Response to the Ice Queen

My response AND the data in response to Ms. Amity Shlaes attack on Paul Krugman and unions.

Ms. Schlaes
With all due respect your NLRB canard is beyond fiction. Haven’t we done enough to emasculate unions in this country all ready? Don’t MegaBanks and the biggest of the big multinationals already have politicians in their pocket? Doesn’t Scott Talbott’s consistent presence in DC on behalf of the Financial Services Roundtable mean there needs to be a yang to the lobbying yang of the aforementioned along with chronic lobbying criminals like the Koch Brothers? Would you be more content if to paraphrase Grover Nordquist we reduced the size of unions where we could drag them into a bathroom and drown them in the bathtub? It is true that the Big 3 automakers unions got drunk with power as do factions of the teacher’s unions but you are implying their elimination or castration are you not? All parties need to share in the austerity and haircuts but at this point it is only the “have very littles and “have nots” with the “haves” making out like the plutocracy that they strive to be and are at the present time. Please consider an empirical look at who is to blame besides Fannie/Freddie and the Unions because a crisis like that that has occurred most recently surely is not the fault of these two alone?
See graph below

The True Origin of Arizona’s Wildfires

I am currently working on a book geared towards teaching Generation X about the importance of volatility, participation, frankly debating the merits of laissez-faire capitalism, etc. It is a broadly defined objective but one of the topics deals with invasive species of the floral and fauna variety relative to our myopic infatuation with illegal immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere. Ground-Zero for invasive species and illegal immigration is Arizona. I have pasted below an excerpt from my book that deals with the primary cause of wildfire intensity, frequency, and spatial scale. It is a rambling excerpt at times but please consider the underlying premiss regarding invasive species and their chronic role in ecosystem degradation and eventually human fallout.

Governor Brewer and her henchman Mr. Pierce had the right idea with respect to “illegal invasion” and the fact that “it can’t be tolerated”, however, their scopes were aimed at the wrong target. As I noted before Latin-American migration to Arizona was, is, and never will be the problem for two very important reasons: 1) Arizona is the native land of many of the people being pushed out a/o excluded and 2) the export of jobs from the state not the import of people is Arizona’s problem. Job creation not Scarlet Letter divisiveness and profiling is the only way out of this quagmire for Arizona. Read the rest of this entry »

Really?

The last couple of days have revealed the feckless shell-game nature of society today. On the one hand along the left-hand coast of the Atlantic you have Barack (Hussein!) Obama having to acquiesce to the birthers and their patron saint Donald Trump in making a big show of his public presentation of a long-form birth certificate. And everywhere else you have the drooling nature of people’s incomprehensibly embarrassing infatuation with Kate and William’s wedding.

There are moments when you realize that for the most part we get what we pay for with respect to politics, fiscal/monetary policy, energy, agriculture, etc.

President Obama actually having to acknowledge the birthers and the silly nature of our obsession over the marriage of two excessively privileged and subsidized young people is one of those moments.

It is true that we need comedic distractions from all the bad news and for that I thank the Republicans for their many comical presidential candidates. But this short-term obsession with the unimportant is preventing us from debating and solving the long-term structural issues that will face our kids and our kid’s kids.

The US Fed’s chairman Ben Bernanke presided over the first press conference in Fed history answering some very probative questions. These are the types of questions our politicians should be asking of Dr. Bernanke. But they don’t because they know we are consumed with birth certificates and celebrity weddings.

As I noted in a post on The Times website:

“When the most “left” of senators Bernie Sanders and “right” of congressmen agree you know the only solution is to “End The Fed”. It is an opaque cabal that will not receive more sunlight by simply holding regular press conferences. Politicians do the same all the time and they are as crooked as the day is long. These 2 men are the most honest members of congress and take as little money as is possible from Wall Street and this country’s socially irresponsible corporations. They don’t trust The Fed and with men like Alan Greenspan running the show I don’t either. Ben Bernanke is a decent man and an extremely smart man but he took on the wrong job for such a man. End The Fed!”