Archive (2010)

Fracking Meeting

Rich the Retiree sends a flyer being distributed in Pulteney [pdf] in preparation for a fracking meeting February 7. This kind of local action in small towns often flies under the media radar, but Massa is going to be at this meeting, so presumably it will get some coverage.

SOTU Reaction

Here's Eric Massa's response to last night's State of the Union address, and here's Tom Reed's [pdf].

As usual, Massa has a list of specific likes and dislikes, and Reed's response is shorter, less specific and completely negative.


Reader Groundhum sends this item from the Penn Yan Chronicle-Express. The town of Jerusalem is going to expand an old ordinance to stop trucks carrying fracking water from driving through town. Apparently, towns in New York have wide latitude to decide what kind of traffic travels on their roads.

In somewhat related news, one of the two wind companies planning to build towers in Prattsburgh has pulled out. This follows the election in Prattsburgh, where an anti-wind town board was installed.

New York State is the land of NIMBY (not in my back yard). I'm sure we'll eventually have some kind of gas drilling in the Southern Tier, but the wastewater won't be jammed down some convenient well, or trucked to hell and back. Any energy company (and any candidate) who thinks they can jump in for a quick score doesn't understand the politics of the region or the state.

Reed Goes Retro

I used to think that redbaiting went out with cat eye glasses, poodle skirts and fins on cars. But Randy Kuhl cured me of that impression back in 2007, when he justified his flip-flop on the Employee Free Choice Act by saying that the Communist Party supported it.

Today, Tom Reed takes up where Randy Kuhl left off. After putting on his alpaca sweater and horn-rimmed glasses, Reed sat down at his Underwood portable, typed up a stencil, fired up the mimeo and cranked out this press release [pdf]. As you can see, Reed wants us all to know that the Communist Party approves of Massa's opposition to the Afghanistan War.

I can only guess what's next from the Reed campaign. A treatise on the evils of that new-fangled rock-and-roll? A debate over the relative merits of Brylcreem versus Murray's for the perfect D.A.? Tune in after Milton Berle to find out.

More Fracking Stories

In a comment on Thursday's fracking story, Rich the Retiree noted that the Dundee Observer covered the Pulteney meeting.

Reader Dan sends Wednesday's Massa op-ed in the Penn Yan Chronicle-Express.

As a side note, the Dundee Observer site says they also cover Penn Yan. The I didn't know that the Penn Yan area had two newspapers. It's like Chicago down there.

The Citizens United Decision

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case would seem to have a major impact in the 29th. By a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that limits on third-party advocacy in elections are unconstitutional.

This means two things. First, corporations are now free to sponsor political ads. Second, advocacy groups will no longer have to stop advertising 30 days prior to primaries, and 60 days prior to general elections.

There are all kinds of dire outcomes being predicted, mainly on the assumption that corporations will flood the market with advertising and "buy" candidates. This may happen, but I doubt it, for a few reasons.

First, corporations already get what they want from Congress, for the most part. They have a well-oiled machine working to get Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation favorable to their interests, often to the detriment of you and me. The recent banking crisis, which arose in most part from bi-partisan deregulation, and the lack of a serious legislative response, is a prime example.

Second, ads are a blunt instrument, often wielded clumsily and ineffectively. We've seen that in the 29th with ads from advocacy groups like Advocates are often so wrapped up in their little advocacy worlds that they miss the bigger picture, and produce ads that are shrill or grating. Perhaps corporations will be able to hire consultants to slip their message in without us stupid voters noticing, but if there's reasonable disclosure of sponsorship in advertising, many will be able to consider the source.

Finally, corporations tend to tread carefully when dealing with controversial political topics. Most hotly contested elections are decided by a few points. Do corporations really want to risk losing customers by alienating almost half of their customer base during an election? It's much better for them to use PAC contributions to influence legislation behind the scenes than to commit to a full-on PR campaign. (This point might be addressed in part by the use of third-party groups like the Chamber of Commerce to do corporate advertising, but consumers can still speak with their pocketbooks in a lot of cases.)

In addition to these considerations, there's a practical one in the 29th: we're already oversaturated with political ads in Rochester around election time. In the Massa/Reed race, if corporations come in on Reed's side, we can expect some serious expenditures from unions for Massa. There are only so many hours in the day for ads, and, more importantly, voters only have a very finite tolerance for political ads. We're going to reach a saturation point very quickly.

From the standpoint of principle, I don't know if it's healthy for us to treat corporations in the same way that we treat persons under the law. But I've always thought that campaign finance law was on the edge of a First Amendment violation, and I don't see how this ruling was completely out of line or unexpected. Transparency -- telling us quickly and accurately who's spending money to help whom -- is far more important than restricting spending.

In-Depth Fracking

Reader Groundhum sends the coverage of a Pulteney town hall meeting which covered the topic of a proposed wastewater disposal well which would be located in an abandoned gas well about a mile from Keuka Lake. The well would store over 600 million gallons of chemical slurry used in hydrofracking operations to mine gas from the Marcellus Shale.

The Penn Yan Chronicle-Express has meeting coverage and a backgrounder on the proposals. The Finger Lakes Times also has a story, which repeats Eric Massa's opposition to the well. It adds the Town of Syracuse as another opponent, because they are concerned about contamination of Syracuse's drinking water.

Groundhum also sent an announcement from the Keuka Lake association, which says "The proposed site is alarmingly close to Keuka Lake and we are horrified that it would even merit preliminary consideration."

One of the concerns mentioned in the stories is the tanker truck traffic along the Keuka Wine Trail. The disposal well is capable of handling 180,000 gallons of wastewater per day. Tankers carry between 5000-9000 gallons each, so this means at least 20 tanker truck runs per day, every day, for 10 years.

Serious Efforts

After a major letter writing campaign, local progressives cheered the addition of David Sirota to the Democrat and Chronicle's list of syndicated contributors. Rochesterturning has posted Sirota's take on last night's debacle and the future of the progressive agenda, and it contains this statement (emphasis mine):

But I don’t know if it will work this time, unless it is coupled with - finally - a serious effort by Democratic lawmakers to legislate their promises. And even then, I still don’t know if it will work.

I don't know how any sentient human being could survey the last year of sausage making and argue that there wasn't a whole hell of a lot of "serious effort" applied to the problem of healthcare reform. Harry Reid is probably going to lose his seat in the Senate because he became the point man on the suicide mission of trying to get the last few prima donnas to sign on to healthcare reform. Obama's presidency has taken a big hit because a year of watching the Senate and House bumble around has caused any reasonable person to be filled with disgust at the legislative process. Obama tried to get the clown posse that goes by the name of the Democratic caucus to pass a really watered-down healthcare bill, and he has so far failed to do so. The notion that "a serious effort" would somehow change that calculus is plain old horseshit.

Sirota's whiny piece also talks about the "humiliation" progressives have had to endure, in the following paragraph that sounds like an excerpt from the diary of a teenage girl (emphasis mine):

There is something deeply embarrassing about Democratic voters/groups having to fight with Democratic leaders to get those leaders to even seriously try (much less pass) even the smallest, most modest shreds of their promises. Having to do that evokes feelings of genuine shame - shame in front of the other voters we told to vote for Democrats because it supposedly "mattered," and shame when we look in the mirror at a self that may have allowed itself to be unnecessarily duped.

It wasn't the Democratic "leaders" who didn't "try" -- it was the Democrats like Lieberman and Nelson who didn't want to follow. Unfortunately, progressives didn't want to acknowledge that the real fight was between a few conservative members of the caucus and the leadership, because then they wouldn't be able to produce crybaby graphics like this one, which currently adorns the front page of Sirota's blog.

Somehow progressives who worked hard for Obama's election -- like millions of other Americans -- think they deserve special privileges that the rest of us don't get. Their agenda, much of which requires Congressional action, should have been instantly beamed into existence one year ago. Obama's inability to reach into his store of pixie dust and make it happen means that they've been completely abandoned by him.

I'd rather read Kathleen Parker every day, and Cal Thomas twice on Sundays, than David Sirota. At least those two conservative warhorses don't file columns spattered with bitter tears when they don't get exactly what they want.


One of the worst candidates in recent memory just lost a Senate race in Massachusetts. What does that tell us about November in the 29th?

About as much as the NY-23 race: which is to say, not very much.

Like NY-23, the old-guard machine candidate ran an uninspired campaign. Unlike NY-23, there was no spoiler candidate -- even the presence of a libertarian candidate with the name "Kennedy" couldn't keep Coakley from going down to a solid defeat. And, like NY-23, it's hard to connect the result to the general tendencies of the voters. NY-23 is a solid "red" district, and 53% of today's Massachusetts electorate approves of Obama.

The 29th election is going to be about GOTV (get out the vote), the quality of Tom Reed as a fundraiser and a candidate, and Eric Massa's continuing reputation as someone who delivers for his district. If you buy that, there are two things about Brown's victory that might be applicable to the 29th race:

First, Massachusetts' turnout tonight was about equal to the turnout for Ted Kennedy's 2006 election. That's huge for a special election. If Republicans can put their base into hyperdrive, Massa will have real issues getting re-elected.

Second, this puts the House in the driver's seat for healthcare reform. If they won't pass the Senate's bill as-is, reform is dead. If that happens, Eric Massa is going to be a member of a party that couldn't get even a modest reform bill passed, no matter what his personal position was. That stench of incompetence will be hard to Febreze away.

Leader Ed Board Story

Eric Massa met with the Corning Leader's editorial board, and Joe Dunning's story calls Massa a "maverick".

Ed Cox Wants to Frack

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader [pdf] (and jump [pdf]) detailing New York Republican Party Chair Ed Cox's visit to Corning.

Cox thinks that hydrofracking is being held up by Democrats in Albany "more concerned about regulation" than economic development. He also characterizes Massa as a "Washington insider".

Last year, Massa was a carpetbagger. Now he's a Washington insider. Stay tuned for his next transmogrification.

More Drilling Info

Reader Don sends some more information on the hydrofracking wastewater disposal issue. This ProPublica feature details the difficulties drillers have had in disposing of wastewater via municipal treatment plants. Most town wastewater plants run near capacity, and those that don't aren't thrilled about running chemical brine through plants made for regular sewage.

Don also sends this Wall Street Journal article, which details how a Chesapeake Energy wastewater storage well may have caused a number of small earthquakes in the Dallas, Texas area. Chesapeake has applied to use a depleted gas well in Steuben County as a wastewater disposal well. The application [giant pdf] includes a map that shows that the proposed well site is very close to Keuka Lake. Don notes that the site is also on the Keuka wine trail.

All this shows, as if it weren't obvious already, that there are significant risks associated with hydrofracking and associated waste.