Roar of the Crowd

Our October issue hit the newsstand three days before our third annual BBQ Festival, a five-hour-long eatathon featuring 21 of the 50 joints we picked for our last roundup of the state’s 50 best, in 2008. A crowd of three thousand intestinally fortified, rabidly hungry, and hopelessly devoted ’cue aficionados were in attendance, from as far away as Germany; judging purely from their tweets, the event was a success, though there were frequent reports of alarming maladies such as the “meat coma,” the “brisket hangover,” and the “meat sweats.” Tweeted one festival-goer: “Kinda wishing I had jeans with an elastic waist today.” (For a chance to win tickets to next year’s fest, participate in this month’s Contest.)

Well-Endowed

UT will manage just fine [ “Storming the Ivory Tower”]. Legislators will not dare betray the school. The UT System’s endowment as of March 2012 was $20.1 billion, the third-highest in the country. UT will always have strong support from alumni, private-sector entities, and federal grants. The only radical change will be increases in hybrid online courses and the consequences of that.
Ronald L. Trowbridge
Conroe

As analysts look at the “value” of our degrees, professors, and schools, they should keep in mind the character of the students. We are high-achieving, civically minded adults who study to gain knowledge and jobs. We’re aware that our “portfolio” of accomplishments matters more than our GPA. We measure success in dollars and personal fulfillment. We like winning just as much as we like giving, and we want our university to be of the highest quality too. Our support of tuition increases reflects our desire to better our school, whatever the cost.

Like Mr. Burka, I was fortunate enough to benefit from the wisdom of Paul Woodruff. In my opinion, he represents the ideal educator—pragmatic and philosophical, a researcher and an instructor. I feel surrounded by what he called the “largest concentration of smart young people in the world.” We’re lucky to be here, and we hope generations to come will say the same.
Maggie Gunn
Austin

Vive la Similarité

Kermit Oliver’s story is a memorable one [ “Portrait of the Artist as a Postman”]. Somehow, it seems so fitting for Texas and for Paris. And a lesson about how much we all have in common, no matter how different we may be.
Barbara Duvall Wesolek
Houston

Jason Sheeler was gracious in sharing Kermit’s story. This article leaves no doubt that art is life and life is art.
Julius Gordon
Chicago, Illinois

Jerry-Rigged

Thank you, Joe Nick Patoski, for reminding me why I became a fan of the Dallas Cowboys (Landry, Schramm, Murchison) [ “Turnover!”]. Thanks also for pointing out why I have never been a fan of Jerry Jones (greed, ego). Isn’t it ironic, as Patoski pointed out, that today’s Cowboys are more like the team in Schramm’s final years than Jones could have imagined? Makes you wonder what the next owner might be scheming. Whatever it is, I’m ready for it!
Scott Morgan
Sweetwater

Muddy Waters

The Associated Press recently reported that there’s a psychological process that sometimes blinds people to science. “You can literally put facts in front of people, and they will just ignore them,” said Mark Lubell, the director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior at the University of California, Davis. It’s alarming to see that phenomenon being tolerated in Nate Blakeslee’s “Fracked Into a Corner?”

Hydraulic fracturing was not “exempted” from the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2005. Congress determined when the act was passed in 1974 (a determination that the EPA and Congress have since reinforced) that hydraulic fracturing does not pose a threat to drinking water and the practice has never been covered under the act. The federal government does not need to regulate hydraulic fracturing because state regulators have safely regulated the practice for decades.

Perhaps most concerning is the columnist’s dismissive attitude regarding the facts about hydraulic fracturing. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson recently stated, “In no case have we made a definitive determination that [hydraulic fracturing] has caused chemicals to enter groundwater.”

It’s inaccurate to pin all risks associated with energy production to hydraulic fracturing, a single element in a highly engineered process. All of us, including journalists, have an obligation to tell the truth, even if that means taking the time to explain difficult subjects. While including the word “fracking” makes for a sensationalist headline, that sensationalism should never trump attention to detail.
Steve Everley
Energy In Depth
Washington, D.C.

Nate Blakeslee responds: Mr. Everley’s letter is a wonderful illustration of the phenomenon he describes in his first sentence. The fact that oil and gas industry spokespersons continue to assert that there have been no instances in which fracking “caused chemicals to enter groundwater” does not make it so, any more than Lisa Jackson’s asserting that her agency has never made such a determination. As I pointed out, the fact is that her agency has made such a determination, in a case in West Virginia in 1987. Few people were aware of that case until the New York Times unearthed it last year; now that we do know about it, I can’t think of any reason why Mr. Everley would still be insisting that there is no such case. As for the special dispensation that Congress made in 2005 with regard to fracking, it is hard to imagine that somebody in Mr. Everley’s position would be unfamiliar with the details of what occurred. In a carefully negotiated compromise between regulators and industry, the 2005 Energy Policy Act prohibited the regulation of fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act, though the EPA reserved the right to regulate the use of diesel fuel as a fracking agent. As Mr. Everley points out, fracking has never been regulated under that act; at issue in 2005 was whether that was a good idea. Mr. Everley says no federal oversight is needed, since the practice has been “safely regulated” for decades. But you don’t even need a permit to frack

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