Saturday, February 22, 2014

No, Exxon's CEO does not oppose fracking near his home

The links being passed around today about Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson trying to block fracking near his Texas ranch are wrong. People love a good hypocrisy story, but all the irony of the story is based on confusion stemming from purposely-vague headlines.

For example:

Exxon CEO Comes Out Against Fracking Project Because It Will Affect His Property Values

Exxon CEO Joins Suit Citing Fracking Concerns

The CEO of Exxon loves fracking, as long as it doesn't spoil his view

In reality, the lawsuit is about a proposed 160 foot water tower, which is the height of a 16-story building according to the court documents. Tillerson and his neighbors live in a residential zone that does not allow the construction of tall buildings, but the Bartonville Water Supply Corporation is considered a public utility and claims exemption from zoning restrictions in its attempt to build the water-collecting tower. They think it will spoil their view and want it stopped.

The poor logic here is that Hydraulic fracturing use water, and Tillerson and  his company support fracking, so therefor Tillerson is hypocritical to oppose any structure that collects water. That's a huge leap of faith.

A few places are claiming the well is intended for fracking, but those same sources have already demonstrated sloppy reporting standards and should be treated with suspicion. The HuffPo backed away from those claims with its story, which has the very mild title: Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson Sues To Block Water Tower That Might Supply Fracking Operations.


Tucked into the complaint are also concerns that the Bartonville Water Supply Corp. will sell some of the stored water to energy companies for hydraulic fracturing -- also known as fracking -- and hauling the water away will create a "noise nuisance and traffic hazards."

That's because it's water. It's just a normal water tower. There's nothing in the actual events about fracking occurring near the Tillerson ranch, or that the well is being built with the intention of supplying water to fracking operations. It just collects water, and his opposition is about zoning restrictions, not environmental concerns.

Would Tillerson also be a hypocrite  if it was revealed that at one time he drank a glass of Kool-Aid, which is made with water? Is someone a hypocrite if they support building a well but oppose nuclear power plants, which also use water?

This is a non-story that's being trumped up because of misinformation. The only hypocrites are the ones who are spreading this myth and consider themselves above creationists, flat-earthers and carnival fools.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Venezuela is not a democracy

Leftwing activist Mark Weisbrot penned a frustrating piece in The Guardian this week claiming that America should refrain from supporting the ongoing efforts to topple the regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela because he was elected democratically.

Weisbrot, who is co-director of the left wing think tank Center for Economic and Policy Research, cites his own pro-Chavez organization when he attempts to deflate arguments that the elections that kept Chavez and eventually Maduro in power were rigged. He claims the votes were counted fairly, thus proving Venezuela is a democracy.

That's dubious, but irrelevant even if it's true.

What Mark Weisbrot does not understand is that counting votes does not make an election a valid form of democracy. Political Scientist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita argues that to be considered a legitimate democracy, a nation must also have freedom of assembly and freedom of the press. Venezuela doesn't have either.

Those aren't elections in Venezela; they're a mummer's farce. Weisbrot's argument from democracy

It's also telling the way Weisbrot glosses over the authoritarian nature of Maduro's regime. The only reference to the brutal nature of Maduro and the struggle opposition leader Leopoldo López has endured was a weak throw away line that exists only to say that he acknowledged it.

Meanwhile, López is taunting Maduro on Twitter after the government made the mistake of threatening to arrest him: "Don't you have the guts to arrest me?" he tweeted on 14 February:

Made the mistake? It's as if Weisbrot thinks that was a simple, uncharacteristic accident.

An election does not make a bad idea good, and fake elections do not wash away blood. Weisbrot is a fanboy for authority, a Tom Parsons, and like Parsons he deserves to become a victim of the monster he loves.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Whose side are you on?

It's bad enough dealing with anti-video game hate from politicians and the general public without having to deal with strange criticisms from within.

A few people have written about how Denver Broncos player Nate Irving said told a Wall Street Journal reporter that he was going to play a Pokemon game on a handheld device in his hotel room the night before. Most of the articles I've seen have been about the quirkiness of Irving's past time, but enter Jason Johnson, a writer for Kill Screen, a website named after a video game concept:

As you know, the Denver Broncos just suffered one of the most humiliating defeats in Super Bowl history. Things turned ugly quickly and stayed that way. The Broncos couldn’t match the Seahawks’ intensity and didn’t seem particularly inspired to be playing in the biggest sports game of the year. One interesting story that came out of the game was Broncos linebacker Nate Irving playing Pokemon to get in the zone for the big game, which probably didn’t help. 
"I'm actually going to sit in my hotel room, play my Pokemon game," Irving told the Wall Street Journal last week. Instead of tearing the club up, or scowling at a poster of Russell Wilson, or going into a Cape Fear-style trance, or doing whatever it is pro footballers do, he was playing Pokemon. This may or may not explain why the Denver defense was helpless against the Seahawks’ rushing attack, who looked like the 400-pound juggernauts that SB Nation writer Jon Bois predicted out there. Videogames have great therapeutic benefits, such helping you concentrate, calming nerves, and managing stress, but wrapping up Marshawn Lynch is a lot tougher than catching Pikachu in a Pokeball

Jason, bro, what are you doing? "This may or may not explain..." Not only is this a silly suggestion, it's one that should only come from a clueless outsider. I'm a bit confused to what you were hoping to accomplish here.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sometimes, it is OK to blame the victim

This week free market video blogger and investor Peter Schiff went on the Daily Show to defend the minimum wage and gave them plenty of ammunition to mock "our side" with. As expected, they used editing tricks, anecdotal examples and a cherry-picked expert to argue against their point. They even included a passing reference that called important social safety net policies like the earned income tax credit "corporate welfare."

Well Peter, what did you think would happen? As Mike Munger wrote after viewing a different Daily Show  segment last month:

At this point, these are not ambush interviews, because it's obvious what is going to happen. If cannibals ask:  "Can you come to dinner?" it means YOU are going to be cooked. If Aasif Mandvi asks if you want to do an interview, it means YOU are going to be smoked and hung out to dry. 

I understand that we're not supposed to "blame the victim" but I don't care. Sometimes, the victim was being careless. This is another great example of Ken's Law, where the awfulness of one side does not mean the other side is forgiven for being awful as well.

Did Schiff need to increase his exposure to the world? He's found much more flattering venues before. On his blog he said he thought going to the show was a "risk" to help get his message out. No Peter, there was no risk here. It was a done-deal from the start.