Private Gain at the Public Expense

We should be on the Appalachian Trail today, but the threat of thunderstorms persuaded me that this week was not the time for a first backpacking trip with the No. 1 and No. 2 Sons. So of course it’s been wet without any actual lightning. NWS, please indicate a 60% probability of no lightning instead of a 40% probability of storms, kthxbye. Such is the toss of the dice.

Yesterday a contributor for Forbes online, which is not the same as the magazine, wrote (since revised) that libraries should be replaced by Amazon. In summary, Author is upset he pays taxes to support the library, suggests that Amazon and Starbucks are sufficient. Outrage ensued.

It’s hard to tell these days if people are serious (Bannon et al.) or if they are simply being outrageous to drive ad revenue (everyone on YouTube), or both (cha-ching!). Nonetheless, the responses I’ve seen to the suggestion, on Twitter obviously, have been from writers sympathetic to and with fond memories of libraries. I’m one. We’re upset that someone would even suggest taking away something that’s so much more than Amazon could ever be.

But let’s consider seriously the suggestion. Amazon provides books. Starbucks provides coffee, a place to sit, free WiFi, and a toilet, provided you buy coffee and aren’t black in Philadelphia. These services are provided to each customer as used, unlike the public library’s services, which, usually, are paid for from taxation of property owners, which will necessarily include taxing those who do not use the library. Some might consider that unfair. Taxes are, roughly speaking, merely theft, sometimes in a pretty guise, papered over with implicit consent.

So for Panos Mourdoukoutas to pay $495* a year for something he doesn’t use is just not right, but that’s not the argument he makes: he argues that the value provided is less than the amount paid, and that Amazon could do better at less cost.

The other day, out of the blue, No. 2 Son (10) offered that he thought libraries should have public showers, so that people without homes could have some place to bathe. I averred that was a swell idea, and remarked that some people use the showers at sports clubs and the YMCA in that fashion. (What’s the YMCA, he asked, which opened up a whole ‘nother line of investigation. Where is the YMCA these days?) I might have mentioned public baths, whether of New York or Rome.

These are two quite different conceptions of the public good. The one is concerned only with what affects the individual directly, and, leaving aside the matter of theft for the moment, sees any expense for which one is not receiving an immediate benefit as frivolity and waste, if not outright harm. The other is concerned with what is offered to one’s fellow man, regardless of one’s immediate needs. Is there a way to reconcile these two?

Charity has been that way. We depend on the largesse of those better off to pay voluntarily for the support of those less fortunate. We do so because our success is due to the grace of heaven and luck. As a corollary, we shame, or did, those who do not as miserly. And shame those who receive aid as free riders and parasites. But are not misers also parasites? Do they not benefit from a society to which they care to contribute naught? One may take all one can, as long as one cares for those one has impoverished. Should one? That’s a different question.

Is there a way to provide public services on a subscription basis where the service is actually public not private? Where the res publica can be maintained in the face of the res idiotica? The Library Company of Philadelphia is, or was, organized on that fashion, as a subscription service.

Let’s pause for a moment. Does one seriously believe that Amazon and Starbucks would replace the existing library? Or would it be be more likely that funds for the library would be redirected to Amazon, thus again using the public purse to enrich private interests?

This is what Mr. Mourdoukoutas suggests:

Amazon should open their own bookstores in all local communities.  [emphasis mine] They can replace local libraries and save taxpayers lots of money, while enhancing the value of their stock.

That is, let Amazon destroy Barnes & Noble (not a local bookstore, by any stretch of the imagination) as well as that labor of love on the corner, erect some imitation in its place, and then destroy the public equivalent. Give the public’s money, those stolen taxes, to someone who can then charge the people again. Is this not the American Way?

If one were to embrace the miserly parasite’s conception of society, would we not but find a war of all against all? How is this different, except the masses have no hope of winning?


*My landlord would pay $103 if he paid his taxes. Mr. Mourdoukoutas’s property must be a big more luxurious than average.

Business Ethics

One of the products I worked on at Prodigy was ProdigyBiz, since expired. ProdigyBiz basically sold brochure-ware. You too can have a presence on the Internet! Some of the businesses which bought the product used it. By “use” I mean updated the website with their telephone number and a blurb about their business. But the vast majority didn’t. All they did was pay the monthly charges. I don’t remember exactly when I found this, probably during planning for the termination of the service, but I do remember being shocked and speaking about it to one of the employees from the BizOnThe.Net acquisition. The low usage rate was expected: they sold the product to people they knew wouldn’t use it (which makes this cautionary article somewhat ironic).

But why? Why would you intentionally sell someone something they are never going to use in the first place, at rates that are higher than everywhere else?

Because they could.

They took advantage of ignorance to make the sale, much like Rachel from Card Services, The National Enquirer, or pretty much any nondescript direct mail marketing piece targeted at the elderly. The ProdigyBiz telemarketing effort was not unlike a boiler room, except they did deliver what was promised. So what was wrong with that? It wasn’t Nigerian princes bilking the little old lady from Pasadena out of her life’s savings.

Can I? May I? Must I?

Should I?

Some people are only interested in what they can do, and never ask if they should. Caveat emptorBuyer beware.

A Plague of Locusts

The absurd contempt for life expressed in the apparent lack of concern for the necessities of survival — air, water, food — by the powerful drives me to despair. Either these folks are exceptionally ignorant and obtuse, to think that they are unaffected by poison, or they simply have no thought for the future. To them any really big number is infinite, as if the Earth isn’t a closed system. If there are no immediate consequences for their actions, there are no consequences at all. They do not care.

Who else but alien lizard overlords would place resource extraction above life? Who else would consume everything? Who else would shit where they eat?

We do.

We are the agents of our own demise.

Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of Wild Things” describes a temporary solace. The first line calls out my pain. I can almost join him in the peace of wild things when I look out the window.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

a view of the snow from my house

Life has a different solution to this problem of reckless endangerment: Death.

Science Fiction was never entirely about The Future

I’ve been reading stories from the November/December 2017 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine that I picked up at Barnes & Noble before Christmas. They seem so immediate. The first I read, “I Met a Traveler in an Antique Land,” by Connie Willis, was a pleasant tale of a new media guru encountering an archive of vanished books. It brought to mind the contrary impulse, regarding the second book of Aristole’s Poetics, in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. The second, “The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine,” by Greg Egan, about replacement of people by computers, was more difficult. Because everyone’s only purpose is a job. Not work to do something, not to create anything, not to solve curious puzzles, but a job to be employed by at the will of a mysterious Other, doing things that perhaps shouldn’t be done, occupation for idle hands, without meaning, only for money. Because without money we can’t buy; we can’t live.

Exploring this relationship between man and his work, between humanity and its creations, has been a common thread of inquiry for a long time now: Daedalus and Icarus; FrankensteinR.U.R.; I, Robot; The Silver Metal Lover.

I did finish the story. The solution it suggests is only slightly better than the Matrix.

We Have No Choice

I read Underground Airlines yesterday. It’s fresh in my memory. This morning browsing through Edible Santa Fe I ran across an advertisement for work the Quivera Coalition is doing with the Southwest Grassfed Alliance. And a sense of why some arguments bother me congealed.

We have no choice. This is the only way we can [fill in the blank].

If you haven’t read Underground Airlines do so. It’s a quick read, a well done alternate history set in the present day whose initial conceit is that Lincoln was assassinated on his way from Springfield to Washington, D. C., which led to the passage of the Crittenden Compromise. At the time of the novel, slavery remains only in four states, though its presence, not unlike apartheid in South Africa, has tainted the economic relations of the United States with the rest of the world: The North is impoverished due to the high cost of its labor and the embargo, while the South maintains a veneer of prosperity because exploiting slave labor is cheap.

Handily enough the state conventions on secession published the causes of their course of action. First among them was that abolishing slavery would destroy the South’s way of life. What was meant was not a vague Heritage or Rightful Order of Things, but the economic underpinnings of the dominant industry. King Cotton was impossible without slave labor. As Mississippi forthrightly stated,

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.

The South argued that without slavery the looms of Manchester would fall silent. They didn’t. Cotton was imported from Egypt instead. Which begs the question, who performed that labor?

Hand-in-hand with “this is way we’ve always done it” is “this is the only way we can do it.” Whatever it is.

I’m thinking at the moment of agriculture, but those twin arguments show up in disparate circumstances. You may have noticed some extremity in online rhetoric recently, often a holy war variety that will brook no disputation, only the flinging of insults which the other side wears as badges of honor. Yet even in those forums where an attempt is made at reasoned discussion, a few souls insist there’s nothing to talk about. It’s not unlike the proverbial Thanksgiving dinner of Hollywood legend. I lurk in a group of this nature which purports to discuss the hot button topics afflicting agriculture: to whit, conventional versus organic farming methods. Aside from all of the woo-slinging that results, someone usually brings up the Green Revolution and needing to feed the world. At which point they say, emphatically, we have to produce more! The only way to feed the burgeoning population, then, is to further intensify agricultural production by doing exactly the same thing we did yesterday.

The problem with this is that in many cases famine is as often a political and economic failure as one of environmental conditions: the Great Famine of Ireland between 1845 and 1849, the Great Soviet Famine of 1932-1933, and the Bengal Famine of 1943 come particularly to mind. That is, famine is not entirely a production problem but one of distribution and logistics, so why do we continue to focus on the production aspect of the problem, particularly when that aspect appears to be, in effect, eating the seed corn of future generations? There’s no other option, apparently.

It’s all quite beyond our control.

Transitioning to a Post-Westphalia World

What prevents the signatories of the TPP or TTIP, and their ilk, from just saying no when the investor-state dispute settlement provisions don’t go the way they’d want? That is, if the state still has a monopoly on the use of force, can’t they just kill the investors?

Or, to put it another way, isn’t binding arbitration only binding if one feels bound by it?

Take some time to read this overview of the system [full series] from Buzzfeed for more detail.

Cul de sac

I have to say that I was way ahead of the prediction curve on this, partly through desire and partly because it’s pretty fucking obvious just from looking at commute times that the ever-expanding suburb is an evolutionary dead-end. It will become a city or the people will move out. The people moving out is happening faster.

I’d been remarking on this verbally since at least 2001, but wrote it down in 2006. Meanwhile, I listened to my wife’s heart’s desire and bought this house instead.*

However, one must note that a finer analysis of the data needs to be done to see if there’s a comparable shuffle along the suburban-exurban-rural gradient toward locally urban areas, not just the larger cities. I suspect there is.

So, you ask, where do I recommend anyone buy in Dutchess County? Well, first I recommend you buy *my* house, but if you’re not that kind of buyer, look at the following, depending on where you work.

  • Beacon, city of
  • Poughkeepsie, city of
  • Pawling, village of
  • Rhinebeck/Rhinecliff, villages of
  • Millbrook, village of
  • Millerton, village of

There are other rather compact villages, but they don’t offer the amenities of those. You’ll have to travel a bit to find some items, or have them shipped to you. But if you don’t mind, try in no particular order

  • Amenia
  • Dover Plains
  • Tivoli
  • Red Hook
  • Staatsburg
  • Hyde Park

Unfortunately, new housing stock is still being built in wide-open green spaces, and turnover in the smaller villages is slight. Best bets are Beacon and Poughkeepsie. Not only are there more properties for sale in those cities, but the prices there are lower due to racial and wealth discrimination, and “concerns” about the school systems.

Continue reading “Cul de sac”

Against Full-Day Kindergarten

The Common Core State Standards website asks,

Q: Why do we need educational standards?

A: We need standards to ensure that all students, no matter where they live, are prepared for success in postsecondary education and the workforce.

Let’s assume for a moment that that is the goal of primary and secondary education. (Let’s also ignore the missing hyphen between post and secondary.) Will full-day Kindergarten help in achieving this goal?

No.

Why not?

Because extreme differences in academic ability collapse by the fourth grade. All of us, including children, learn at different rates. In general, those differences disappear on average by the time we are about ten years old, or fourth grade. I understand the difficulty of scientific experiments on humans, but we do what we can; and what we can do shows that there’s no evidence that learning a subject earlier makes a difference.

So, what exactly is the point of full-day Kindergarten?

On the Arlington Central School District Budget (2012-2013)

Arlington Central School District budget planning for FY 2012-2013 has resulted in a fairly good budget. I particularly like the appendices that are included for the first time in this year’s budget book.

Budget creation is a bit of a balancing act. This year our district has done well in limiting the increase in costs — unlike the adjacent Wappingers Central School District which has chosen to add a potential long-term increase in costs in order to secure a one-time grant — so I will vote to approve the spending plan.

Late last year the Poughkeepsie Journal relayed the news that the district wanted public input prior to planning the 2012-2013 budget. I e-mailed the following:

By the time the budget discussions arrive, the costs are fixed in contracts, so staff reductions are the only option. It’s during contract negotiations that the board needs to consider the effect on the budget. If the budget is capped at a 2% annual increase, then don’t agree to contracts that will result in a 4.29% increase.

I should have written the costs the district controls are fixed in contracts. There are other costs imposed by the United States and New York State which can change the budget numbers significantly. These include, among other things, required administrative reporting changes, curriculum changes, and, most predictably, contributions to the pension funds. The U.S. and New York typically pass these costs on to the localities. It is reasonable for localities to support the cost of public education, but not when they have not been party to the decisions that have increased those costs.

But, as in previous years, Arlington has not yet confronted the need to project long-term budget impacts during contract negotiations, and will, once again, need to discover $4,000,000 in reserve funds, operating cost reductions, and a tax increase to cover an increase in labor costs. The district’s costs are primarily labor-related, so any persistent reduction in cost must consider labor. And if the district cannot reduce labor costs caused by Washington and Albany, then it must address those it can.

More information on the Arlington budget can be found at the district’s web site.

Ink

I just spent $80 on ink cartridges for my printer. The lad at CVS had to get a key from a locked drawer behind the counter in order to release them for me. I’ve had an easier time purchasing cigarettes.

Theft is a risk because there is excess demand unmet at the price asked.* Counterfeit goods are a risk for the same reason, and because the cost of manufacture and distribution is so much lower than the price asked that even at cheap street prices the product is still profitable.

The same applies to Coach bags, Guggi purses, Ford auto parts, and Rihanna’s latest hit single. It might apply to the Apple iPhone, but Samsung prices the Nexus as a premium product.

* if demand exceeds supply at the price offered, then there is unmet demand, and thus lost profit. Lower the price, let the supply meet the demand, and reap the benefits.

Negative Feedback Loop?

I’m a little puzzled by one of the statements in David Hackett Fischer‘s conclusion to his The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History. On p. 249, he writes,

In a free market, individual responses to inflation commonly cause more inflation. Individual defenses against economic instability cause an economy to become more unstable.

This process might be called the irrationality of the market. It is so in the sense that it converts rational individual choices into collective results that are profoundly irrational. Far from being a benign or beneficent force, the market when left to itself is an unstable system that has repeatedly caused the disruption of social and economic systems in the past eight hundred years.

In a heavily footnoted text, this statement has no supporting citation, so it must be part of the common wisdom. But I must have missed that part of Econ 101.

Is this statement supportable? Is there evidence that this is the case? Or has every instance of “market instability” resulted in an over-correction by forces “outside” (or dominant players inside) the market?

Hasta la Vista, Baby

We’re cancelling DirecTV service.

It’s been about a year since purchasing the HDTV and the associated DirecTV package. Meanwhile, our viewing of “normal” television fare has been steadily declining. We hardly ever watch anything live: we have other things to do with our time. And more often than not, the children are selecting shows from Netflix, YouTube, or the producer themselves, instead of from the previously recorded episodes of Sesame Street, Jake and the (cute little) Never Land Pirates, Little Bear, Wizards of Waverly Place, or whatnot.

In the interest of completeness, I’ve compiled a list of what we normally watch with any regularity, and where it can be found now that we’ve cut the downlink. The challenge now will be getting some of them off the Internet and on the big screen. Apple TV, perhaps? Boxee?

Did I mention it’s cheaper when you’re not paying for the umpteen channels of shit on the TV you don’t watch? People don’t care about “channels.” They care about shows.

Dear Amtrak: Learn How to Price Your Service

Apparently you neglected to read my last letter, but with the fast approach of National Train Day and the increase in oil prices making your services slightly more competitive, I thought it might be helpful to bring up the topic again.

Your pricing skills suck. Are you intentionally trying to lose money and ridership?

Suppose that a family of four — or six — wanted to travel to Disney World from New York. This is a not uncommon occurrence, and provides the basis for over 250 flights per day by many airlines from more than five airports in the New York metropolitan area. The cost of air travel is currently going up, up, up due to some small upset over in the oil-producing regions, so where a seat on JetBlue from JFK to MCO would once have cost $50, it’s now between $100 and $150. This is an opportunity! And you’re missing it!

And you’re missing it in a big way. Look, I understand that it takes capital to improve infrastructure, and that you’re hobbled by riding on tracks owned by others, but it’s almost like you’ve intentionally set your prices to encourage folks to drive. For me to take a family of six to Disney World by plane costs almost as much as staying in one of Disney’s “moderate” resorts and going to all of the parks every day of my visit, so I, and many others, might be looking for a slightly less wallet-reducing option. And the first thing that comes to mind is driving. But who wants to drive the first 24 hours of their vacation? Or, who wants to spend three days driving, two days there, and three days driving back? No one. But the other option is too expensive. Buses? Ha! That’s worse than driving, especially with little kids. How about the train?

This is where you’re completely missing the opportunity. The cost per seat from, for example, New York Penn Station to Orlando is $106 per person for a 21 hour trip. That’s slightly cheaper than the more expensive JetBlue seat, but you forget the time differential. Time is, after all, money, which is why travelers choose to fly on JetBlue for 2 hours for $150 instead of suffer on Amtrak for 21 hours for $106. You need to take your utter inability to get anywhere fast into account when pricing your service. And when you’re more expensive, even if only by $7, than the cheapest option, you completely lose. No one wants to pay more money for the privilege of getting somewhere slower.

Yet the cost of airfare gets worse as one moves away from hub airports. This is where you have an advantage. It costs less to feed from Poughkeepsie to New York and thence to Orlando than it does for JetBlue to fly direct from Newburgh to Orlando. In terms of convenience for me, I’d much rather leave from Poughkeepsie than from JFK. If you can get your prices down to something approaching the cost of gasoline plus a hotel room, you might have a fighting chance in earning my dollar. But then you totally destroy any opportunity you had with the sleeper options. $358 for a room for two people? $658 for a slightly larger one? What? You think you’re a hotel on Times Square? I’m just looking for a contained, flat place for my kids to lie down so that they don’t spend the night in the bar car.

You have two options: lower your prices, or build faster trains. Because we’re sure as Hell not going to pay $658 for two cots or $640 for uncomfortable seats when we could pay less than that on gas and a swank room at the Holiday Inn Express.

Whose Benefit?

The medical benefit plan I have requires payment of a certain sum before it begins paying a high percentage of the cost of prescriptions. This sum is called the deductible; it’s a sum uncovered by the insurance, deducted from the total expenses before consideration of payment. The policy term is one year, so the value resets every year.

The other day I had to purchase a prescribed drug. The pharmacy had a simple question for me: Did I want them to bill through the insurance company, or did I want to pay cash? If they billed through the insurance company, then the cost of the prescription would be applied to the deductible amount. If I paid cash, then the insurance company, not knowing of the cost, would not apply it to the deductible. One supposes that there’s a third option: to pay cash and then report the expense to the insurer.

This question came up because of a difference in the prices between the two methods: $300 more to bill the expense through the insurance company.

No, thank you. I’ll pay cash.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Drink Cocktails

J. T. Dobbs at American Drink asks,

Is it a coincidence that on the heels of one of the worst economic crises since The Depression, artisan cocktails began making a huge comeback?

Actually, no, it’s not. It’s typical.

In The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History, David Hackett-Fischer observes that when the going gets tough, the tough get to drinking. Figure 4.24 on page 227 shows a remarkable correspondence between the rate of inflation and consumption of distilled liquor. As Mr. Hackett-Fischer notes in the caption,

[L]iquor consumption and drug use peaked when real incomes were falling rapidly, prices were surging and unemployment was increasing. A comparable surge in drinking (to the highest recorded levels in American history) occurred in similar circumstances during the climactic years of the eighteenth century price revolution. A long decline in alcohol consumption coincided with the Victorian equilibrium.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes data on expenditures on alcoholic beverages, and the Centers for Disease Control do the same for alcohol consumption. Historical data on alcohol consumption is a little harder to locate at the CDC than it is at the OECD. Both data sets lag by a few years.

Expenditures and consumption are not the same things, since price per unit of alcohol varies. Strangely, expenditures are falling, and have been. Consumption in the United States was decreasing from 1983 to 2000, but since 2001 is back on the increase. Since I’ve not noticed the prices dropping, purchasers are likely shifting consumption to cheaper products without reducing overall consumption. This could be either a switch from Dogfish Head to Budweiser, which I doubt, or from beer to distilled liquor, and, thus, cocktails.

Replacing the Oxygen Sensor on a 2002 Honda CR-V

In order to pass the New York State vehicle inspection, all emissions control components must work. For example, if the oxygen sensors fail, they must be replaced. If you ever need to replace an oxygen sensor, these instructions from the CR-V Owner’s Club help.

I bought the DENSO part 2349005 {#36531PLE003} OE-TYPE OXYGEN SENSOR from Rock Auto, after pricing the same part elsewhere. Denso is the original equipment manufacturer, so this is the same part you’ll get from Honda, for $150 to $300 less. The Honda dealer who read the code from the on-board computer wanted an arm and a leg for the part, $450, plus another $80 to change it.

However, the sensor was in so tight, and I was unable to get any leverage on it, that I ended up taking it to a shop just to get the old one removed. The mechanic there had it out, and replaced, in a jiffy, for only $25.

Google Travel

Apparently Google wants to purchase a travel data company, but the existing flight comparison websites don’t want them to. I can see why they wouldn’t: they’re all slow, unusable masses of advertisements for unwanted products that make it faster for me to call a travel agent when I want to plan a trip for a family of six. (And, yeah, I know the fire code says the hotel can only put four in a room. That simply means I won’t stay at that hotel.) Hell, it’s even faster for me to call an agent than it is to book directly through Disney.

Part of the problem with the current players is that their customers are the hotels, airlines and advertisers, not the purchasers of the product they’re selling. If they don’t think they can stand the competition, perhaps they should look at improving their product.

By the way, does anyone still use MapQuest?

Why I Cancelled My Newspaper Subscription

I’ve maintained a subscription to the deadtree edition of my local newspapers since I was old enough to pay my own bills. I’ve continued to subscribe even though the newspaper has grown less and less interesting, because I have found some things of value in it. But those things have steadily grown fewer and fewer, until all that is left are the comics. Oh, and newsprint does still come in handy when starting a fire.

That’s not worth the subscription price.

I’ve always read the paper for local news, not national. I don’t expect the newspaper to be broad in scope, but to focus on those things that others do not cover. It might still do this, but the news needs to be current as well as local. I have no desire to read the day after about an event that I would have attended if I had known about it the day before. I have no desire to read election results two days after the election, when the on-line edition of the same newspaper published those results the night of the election. I certainly have no desire to read last week’s baseball scores. Perhaps the newspaper is no longer printed locally and the press deadline is too early to allow printing current news. If that’s so, perhaps that was a bad decision. Perhaps one needs to abandon currency entirely and become a weekly opinion piece. Or abandon the pretense of being a news paper.

It didn’t have to be this way. But the choices y’all are making are driving your business into the ground.

Now where will my children learn to love the comics?

Frak That

There’s some discussion up in Albany of permitting the use of hydraulic fracturing to remove natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation upstate. In the industry this is colloquially called “fracking” because afterward you’re pretty much fucked.

The problem with fracking, as with other environmental issues, is one of negative externalities. That is, the company extracting the resource does not bear the full costs of its operations, and certainly not the full costs of its failures. This creates a moral hazard, both at the extraction company, which cares nothing for the people who can no longer drink their water, and in the government, which aligns itself with the corporation rather than the citizens, as in Pennsylvania.

Beyond that, I fail to understand why an industry that burns off natural gas from oil wells as waste would be granted the privilege to extract natural gas in a manner that most likely has adverse effects.

Why I Continue to Subscribe to the Local Newspaper

I continue to subscribe to the local newspaper for a handful of reasons.

  • general coverage of national politics
  • excellent coverage of local politics
  • high-quality investigative journalism
  • cogent and thoughtful editorials
  • amusing letters to the editor
  • yesterday’s sports scores and the current standings
  • the comics

I think I’ll cancel my subscription.