In Which I Get Public Fan Mail

A pair of Middlebury students – Anna Shireman-Grabowski ‘15.5 and Cailey Cron ‘13.5 – took the time this week to write a personal letter attempting to refute my analysis of the VT Gas pipeline project in the pages of The Campus. While I appreciate the gesture, they missed the larger point of my piece: that the pipeline will help real people and that benefits of this pipeline are greater than the cost. Unfortunately, they mostly ignored these larger issues and spent much of their piece instead accusing me of journalistic malpractice. The great thing about having a blog is that I can go through their letter point-by-point and defend myself while pointing out the serious holes in their logic. So get comfortable; here we go:

We wish to address serious factual inaccuracies in Zach Drennen’s April 25 column “Middlebury Finds a New Pipeline to Protest.” First, a clarification of terms: Zach, you mislead readers by describing the product transported by this pipeline as “natural gas.” Conventionally drilled natural gas is not without its own problems, but fracked gas, which this pipeline will carry, poses even more serious concerns.

I do not mislead my readers because the pipeline will, in fact carry natural gas. They’re taking a calculated gamble here by pretending that they support real natural gas but are most concerned about fracking – and that you will be too. But here’s why you shouldn’t: fracking is not nearly as bad as innacurate but powerful portrayals like Josh Fox’s Gasland might lead you to believe. And even if you do believe Fox’s perspective, it’s better than the mountain top removal used for coal mining, and the final product is both cleaner and cheaper than coal. Continue reading

The math keeping the Obama campaign up at night

President Obama’s electoral college “firewall” is a paper tiger. Even without Ohio and Pennsylvania, the Republicans have several clear paths to victory. A change of a point or two in the polls – caused by the hurricane, a slip up, a bad jobs report, or simply the passions of the moment, could mean waving goodbye to a second Obama term.

The average of popular vote polls has Governor Romney leading by one percentage point. For better or for worse – that’ll be an issue for after the election – that number doesn’t matter more than symbolically. The electoral college, the collection of 51 winner-takes-all (except in Nebraska and Maine) popular vote competitions, tells a different story. As of now, Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight predicts that President Obama will win 295.5 electoral votes and the election by a reasonably comfortable margin. Drew Linzer of Votamatic is even more bullish. He predicts that the President will win 332 electoral votes, including those of Florida and Virginia. With little over a week left until the Presidential Election, it’s impossible not to obsess over the possible electoral college scenarios. 


At this point in the race, polls have stabilized significantly. The Obama campaign has dedicated a huge proportion of its resources on Ohio and it seems to be working. Barring some huge shift before election day, it seems as if the President will carry both Ohio and Pennsylvania. Even with these states, though, there are a number of paths to a Romney victory that some recent polls have hinted at. Florida seems to have sunk into the Republican column, and Virginia – never a considered swing state before 2008 – is close to going that way as well.

Continue reading