Inaugural Echoes

January 18th, 2017 No comments

Trump ramps up repression of dissent from checkpoints to “pre-emptive arrest”

We are by no means trying to “normalize” Trump, but as we – cough, cough, “lace up our boots” – for the trip to DC to protest the Trump Inaugural, we are hearing echoes of days gone by.

As we predicted, the militarized police will be harassing and suppressing protesters under the guise of security – but the “pre-emptive arrest” bullshit is new to me and obviously totally unconstitutional:

The protesters are being marginalized (protest zones, et al):

Trump is winning the visual propaganda war.

We hear these echoes of our quotes – from not one, but two page one NY Times stories on the second Bush inaugural (2005):

Bill Wolfe, 47, who made his way from Ringoes, N.J., to protest the inauguration, took one hour to go 50 feet in line, and when he got through expressed his anger with the entry procedures.

Holding a “War Mongers” sign, he yelled, to no one in particular, “You don’t need a ticket for democracy, folks.”

“They got us compartmentalized like rats in a cage,” he said, gesturing to the line of shoulder-to-shoulder police officers who far outnumbered the spectators at 11:00 am when thousands were still waiting to get through security.

“It’s overkill to the extreme,” he said. “I think it was designed specifically to suppress dissent and keep out protesters. They want to control the visual image, it’s part of a coordinated effort to mislead the American people about the level of opposition to this administration. They’re trying to make it a coronation and it’s not.”

Protesters lamented the restrictions.

“They got us compartmentalized like rats in a cage,” said Bill Wolfe, 47, who came from Ringoes, N.J., carrying a “War Mongers” sign. Mr. Wolfe looked at the shoulder-to-shoulder wall of police officers, blocking his way as he inched along. “You don’t need a ticket for democracy, folks,” he hollered, to no one in particular.

We are not afraid, but we would be foolish not to expect violence.

We strongly doubt we’ll get the money quotes again in 2 NY Times page one stories, but we’ll keep you posted.

[End note: we have room for 2-3 passengers, leaving Thursday morning from central NJ. Let me know if you’d like a ride – ask for help with gas and tolls, and must be able to tolerate my stinky dog!]

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Manning Is A Hero

January 18th, 2017 No comments

Obama listened to the many voices of conscience and commuted the 35 year sentence of Chelsea Manning to 7 years served. Great work by the thousands of people who made this happen.

Manning is a hero and person of highest integrity and courage. Although you are not likely to read about it in the mainstream media, let’s not forget exactly what he revealed – watch the video “Collateral Murder” to refresh your memory.

Manning engaged in classic whistleblowing of US war crimes and atrocities and should never have served a day in prison.

In celebration, we repost:

Free Bradley Manning

Manning Support March - Ft. Meade (Maryland)  12/17/11

[Update – Listen to the Music(video)! Graham Nash: Almost Gone (The Ballad Of Bradley Manning )

On Friday, the [Article 32] military trial of Bradley Manning began – he is the solider accused of blowing the whistle on US military war crimes (e.g. the video tape of the US helicopter slaughter in Iraq, infamously known as “Collateral Murder” – over 12 million hits).

brad9Manning also is accused of downloading and providing more than 200,000 other secret documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and State Department diplomatic cables to Wikileaks.

Manning has been held for 19 months, at times in solitary confinement and subject to psychological abuse, that some argue itself was a war crime.

From what I have read about the case, Manning is a classic whistleblower and hero. He was loyal to the truth and his sworn oath to uphold the Constitution, not obey and protect the military chain of command.

He upheld the highest ethical standards and honored the US military code of conduct.

When he witnessed evidence of war crimes and other wrongdoing, he acted to disclose it, at great risk to himself.

He is alleged to have supplied the information to Wikileaks, whose disclosures have changed the world. Famous Vietnam War Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg has praised Manning.

His case raises significant First Amendment issues (see this for excellent discussion).

He should get medals, not jail time.

I went down to Fort Meade (Maryland) to support Manning and attend a protest as the second day of the pre-trial hearings.

It was a brisk cloudy day – and the turnout was small, about 300. Unfortunately, two of my heroes, Daniel Ellsberg and Ray McGovern, could not make it. Although many people I talked to thought the police response was excessive, it was far less numerous and hostile that the response I’ve seen in NY at Occupy Wall Street.

Here’s some scenes from the day:

Retired Navy Commander

this is not Willie Nelson

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US Army Colonel Ann Wright (retired)

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An Appeal To Pinelands Commissioners Who May Support The Pipelines

January 6th, 2017 No comments

map22

New Jersey’s Pinelands Commission was once a respected, independent steward of a forest that filters the drinking water for millions in the region. But political manipulation has turned it into an ineffective agency that looks the other way when the preserve’s delicate balance is threatened.  ~~~ Philadelphia Inquirer editorial: “Christie bullied Pinelands panel to get his way (3/9/16)

[Update: 1/14/17 – Philadelphia Inquirer editorial weighs in again:

Today we do something different, and offer up an alternative – not a “compromise” – that could provide a credible justification for a “go slow” approach, designed to appeal to those Pinelands Commissioners that may even support the pipelines (or perhaps provide cover to support a “no” vote).

I oppose the proposed South Jersey Gas (SJG) and NJ Natural Gas (NJNG) pipelines through the Pinelands National Reserve.

I’ve strongly urged Pinelands Commissioners to deny pending approvals, based on science and public policy and the fact that they violate the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP). There also are legitimate historical reasons that reflect the original reasons for enactment of the federal law that established the Pinelands and compelling moral arguments, given the climate crisis, i.e. see Pope Francis’ encyclical “Care for Our Common Home”

There have been multiple egregious political and ethical abuses by Governor Christie, the Legislature, County Freeholders, and the Executive Director and Counsel:

“There was a degree of closeness between the applicant and staff that went beyond the neutrality appropriate to a review process,” said [Pinelands Commission Chairman] Lohbauer, a lawyer. ~~~ Philadelphia Inquirer (1/26/15)

There is no need to summarize the ugly tactics here. But I must note that they provide an additional line of evidence supporting denial of approvals, if only to preserve the independence and integrity of the Pinelands Commission.

However, I can count votes and realize that – based on the prior 7-7 tie vote on the SJG MOA – that several Commissioners support the pipelines or are very likely to do so.

This vote will be an ethical gut check for newly appointed Commissioners Bob Barr, Jane Jannarone and Giuseppe (Joe) Chila – and I would not want to be in replacement Commissioner “Zeke” Avery’s shoes.

Two former Commissioners (Jackson & Ficcaglia) that opposed the SJG MOA were replaced.

One current Commissioner (LLoyd) that opposed was forced to recuse for highly dubious conflicts of interest (see NY Times:  Fighting a Pipeline, but Feeling and Fearing Christie’s Influence (1/8/14)

The former federal appointee opposed, but his replacement, Frank Hayes of the National Park Service, now serves under the Trump administration.

So today, I’d like to appeal to those Commissioners who either support the pipeline or are undecided and want to make sound decisions based on credible data and objective analysis.

Those Commissioners should not support the pipelines, at a minimum, until the following questions are answered with independent scientific expertise:

1. Obtain independent expertise

The Commission has relied exclusively on data, analysis, and scientific and policy recommendations provided by Executive Director Wittenberg – who was appointed by Gov. Christie – and on regulatory and legal analysis provided by Counselor Roth.

The project review, analysis, findings, and recommendations of the Commission’s scientists that have been provided to the Commission have been shaped, controlled, and filtered by ED Wittenberg. The Commissioners have been provided only what Ms. Wittenberg finds appropriate, which is not necessarily the concerns or dissenting opinions of her scientific staff.

Much of the field data have been collected and analyzed by the applicant, South Jersey Gas. So too, the engineering and alleged energy justification.

There has been no independent verification, or expert analysis and recommendations provided to the Commissioners.

ED Wittenberg’s independence, judgement, and recommendations have been called into question by highly credible sources, including former Governors, major news outlets, the Commission’s own former Chairman Lohbauer, experts, the public, and – most importantly, the Appellate Division.

The Commission can have little confidence in Wittenberg’s recommendations and it is very likely that the Commission has NOT been provided a full and honest assessment by the Commission’s own scientists.

Given this situation – particularly given the history of the debate – the Commission should obtain independent environmental and engineering expertise.

2. Study the impacts of existing pipelines

SJG and NJNG experts argue that the pipelines are necessary and would have very little adverse impacts on the Pinelands resources.

Environmental experts and the public disagree and question the project’s need and magnitude of impacts.

Executive Director Wittenberg advised the Commission, back in July 2013, as follows: (listen to recording @ time 11:26):

I can get up there and tell you that there are places in the Pinelands where we have many, many, many, many, many, many, miles of natural gas pipeline that has been put in – and we can go out and look at what the effects were of those.

The SJG and NJNG pipelines would add to the “many, many, many, many, many, many, miles of natural gas pipeline that has been put in”.

So, if according to SJG and NJNG experts, pipelines have little or no impact, why not conduct a study that inventories and analyzes the impacts of all the “many miles” of existing pipeline and considers the cumulative impacts of the incremental addition of the miles of SJG and NJNG pipelines?

Such as study could assess:

  • disturbance, fragmentation, landscape, and effects on forest ecology
  • hydrological, water quality, and wetlands impacts
  • air quality, public health, climate change, and enery infrastructure impacts
  • visual and aesthetic impacts
  • leaks and safety (fires, explosions, emergency events)

The Commission should have a solid scientific baseline and independent and objective impact assessment before deciding whether to approve a potentially damaging major regional infrastructure project with a 40+ year design life.

3. Apply the Commission’s ecological science and results of the Kirkwood – Cohansey Study

The unique and irreplaceable water, forest, and ecological resources of the Pinelands deserve protections afforded by the best available science.

The proposed pipelines would disturb existing vegetation and soils, and thereby alter natural drainage and hydrology. Some of the hydrological impacts can be expected to be similar to diverting surface or groundwaters. These changes will impact forests, wetlands, surface and groundwater quality and quantity, and the ecosystems that rely on water.

The Pinelands Commission has conducted extensive scientific research regarding the effects of hydromodification on ecosystems by the diversion of groundwater, i.e The Kirkwood – Cohansey Project:

Scientists from the cooperating agencies and institutions completed a work plan for the Kirkwood Cohansey Project that underwent peer review.  The work plan, which was approved by the Commission in October 2003 following a public hearing, addressed two major research questions.  First, what are the probable hydrologic effects of groundwater diversions from the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer on stream flows and wetland water levels?  Second, what are the probable ecological effects of induced stream-flow and groundwater-level changes on aquatic and wetland communities?

Twelve separate studies were completed as part of the Kirkwood-Cohansey Project.   The results of some of the studies can be used to estimate the potential impacts of groundwater withdrawals on aquatic and wetland resources in the Pinelands, which can help provide the foundation for developing improved water-supply policies for the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer. Below is a brief summary of each study and links to the published reports and/or journal articles.

The Commission should require the pipeline applicant to conduct an assessment of impacts and risks, applying the scientific framework and methodology of the Kirkwood – Cohansey Project (KCP).

The KCP provides the scientific benchmark and sets a high standard for scientifically assessing ecological impacts of projects that create hydrological modifications.

Before any vote to approve these pipelines, the Commission should fully understand the impacts and risks, using the best available science. That burden has not been met by the current application, therefore the Commission should not vote to approve it until the scientific burden is met.

4. Conduct Required Antidegradation Review and Water Quality Studies

The Pinelands water resources are provided the highest level of protection under the Clean Water Act via federally enforceable NJ surface water quality standards. This is known as a “non-degradation” policy. NJAC 7: 9B-1.5(d) provides: (bold mine):

Antidegradation policies applicable to a waterbody are as follows:

i. The quality of nondegradation waters shall be maintained in their natural state (set aside for posterity) and shall not be subject to any manmade wastewater discharges. The Department shall not approve any activity which, alone or in combination with any other activities, might cause changes, other than toward natural water quality, in the existing surface water quality characteristics.

ii. For Pinelands waters, the Department shall not approve any activity which alone or in combination with any other activities, might cause changes, other than toward natural water quality, in the existing surface water quality characteristics. This policy shall apply as follows:

(1) This policy is not intended to interfere with water control in the operation of cranberry bogs or blueberry production.

(2) New or expanded discharges are not allowed, unless authorized by the Pinelands Commission in accordance with Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan, N.J.A.C. 7:50-4.61 through 4.70.

The construction and operation of the SJG pipeline will impact “Pinelands waters”, but SJG has not conducted any “water quality study” to characterize existing natural water quality or “antidegradation review” to determine the magnitude of these impacts or whether they would comply with the strict “non-degradation” policy established under the Clean Water Act.

In order to address these deficiencies, prior to considering whether to vote to approve the proposed pipelines, the Commission should require the applicants SJG and NJNG to conduct the following analysis:

  • characterize “existing water quality” and “natural water quality”(via a minimum of 4 quarters of statistically representative physical, chemical and biological data)
  • conduct an “antidegradation review” to determine water quality impacts, including cumulative impacts, of pipeline construction and operation
  • conduct a risk assessment of potential pipeline construction and operation accidents

A Commissioner owes a duty to make decisions based on the best available science – in its current form, the proposed projects do not meet that standard.

If you are going to vote in favor of these pipelines, please do so based on science, not politics.

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Pinelands Commission Pulls Bait and Switch On Pipeline Hearing Location

January 4th, 2017 No comments

Catholic Church Location Raises Separation of Church & State Issues

Source: Catholic Church website

Source: Saint Ann’s Catholic Church website

I just got an email from the Pinelands Commission advising of a change in location for the upcoming January 24, 2017 public hearing on the controversial South Jersey Gas pipeline. The email reads:

The New Jersey Pinelands Commission has rescheduled its next monthly meeting from January 13th to January 24th and will hold the meeting in the Parish Centre at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Pemberton Township, NJ. The changes in date and location were made in response to public comment asking for additional time and a larger meeting space.

Aside from throwing a monkey-wrench into the efforts of pipeline opponents to publicize and generate turnout for the hearing (e.g. printing fliers, postings and alerts to social media, etc about the prior location that all must now be corrected), the Commission’s change in venue raises at least two major concerns.

First, a Catholic Church is a totally inappropriate place to hold a public hearing.

A Church location is offensive to some – myself included – and it raises legal issues of an unconstitutional State endorsement of religion, in violation of the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I fired off the following note to the Commission:

Dear Pinelands Commission:

I just received your email advising me of a change in location for the scheduled Jan 24. public hearing on the SJG application.

I find it offensive to have to sit in pews and testify in a Catholic Church – as well as an inappropriate and unconstitutional state endorsement of a specific religion.

I demand that the Commission select a civic building with adequate capacity to allow meaningful comment.

Additionally, the change in location would require additional public notice.

Bill Wolfe

Second, the change in location requires a brand new formal public notice. (Update: disregard – apparently the Commission has issued another public notice).

Finally, the cancellation and rescheduling of the Commission’s regular January 13 meeting reduces the public’s opportunity to comment on the pipeline. The public would have had an opportunity to organize and comment at the Jan 13 meeting – that won’t happen now.

I urge others who share my concerns to contact the Commission and demand a civic location, i.e. public building, with adequate capacity, additional hearings, and a meeting time suitable to those who work (i.e. the 9 am time is also totally inappropriate).

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Vindication In The Pines

December 30th, 2016 No comments

We end the year with a smile on our face.

It’s rare to get vindicated so thoroughly and have your opponent eat their own backstabbing personal attack words.

Here is what Nancy Wittenberg, Executive Director of the Pinelands Commission was caught on tape saying to the Commission about me in July 2013, as the controversial debate on the South Jersey Gas pipeline took off:

But the thing that Bill [Wolfe] said that I wanted to remind you all of is that, Stacy [Roth], month after month after month, went on the record warning you: the pipeline project was coming. The public was here. We did not keep this a secret. It’s not my fault they missed it. But I really resented that and I resent Bill Wolfe saying it because he doesn’t know what we do. (listen, starts at time 2:30)

Let me repeat:

Bill Wolfe … doesn’t know what we do.

For more than 3 years, here is what I testified to the Commission and wrote, over and over and over again, about Ms. Wittenberg – valid substantive criticisms that were dismissed by the Commission as personal attacks:

The Executive Director of the Pinelands Commission, Nancy Wittenberg, has engaged in a pattern of conduct that makes a mockery of the Pinelands Commission, ignores the concerns of the public, and seriously impairs the integrity of the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP)

This conduct includes:

  • reversing a prior staff finding, backed by the Commission, that the South Jersey Gas (SJG) pipeline was inconsistent with the forest area standards of the CMP;
  • determining that a slightly revised SJG application should be considered “private development” and issued a “Certificate of Filing” under the CMP, bypassing the Commission and public review procedures;
  • misleading and manipulating the public and the Commission regarding various critical regulatory interpretations and alternatives and powers of the Commission;
  • providing undue and improper influence to SJG and engaging in extensive private email conversations with lawyers from SJG, including allowing SJG lawyers to review, and edit regulatory documents – including her own recommendations to the Commission and the Commission’s response to public comments – before those documents were shared with the Commission;
  • acting unilaterally and taking policy and regulatory positions on behalf of the Commission, without the knowledge or approval of the Commission or awareness of the public.

This pattern of conduct was repeated in the NJ Natural Gas pipeline controversy.

More specifically, I emphasized that Wittenberg abused her powers and violated the Pinelands Act on both the South Jersey Gas pipeline and the NJ Natural Gas “Southern Reliability Link” (SRL) pipeline:

3. [BPU President] Mroz stated that the pipeline was “approved by the Pinelands Commission” as consistent with the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP).

LET ME BE CLEAR: That is a LIE –

The Pinelands Commission NEVER VOTED TO APPROVE THE PIPELINE.

The so called approval and CMP consistently determination was issued unilaterally by Gov. Christie’s installed Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg – not the Commission – who was following Orders of the Governor’s Office, not the direction of the  Pinelands Commission or the requirements of the CMP.

Wittenberg also directly participated in the fabricated fraudulent military need justification to evade Pinelands regulations.

Well, here’s what the Appellate Division found on November 7, 2016:

the CMP does not confer on the Executive Director or the Commission’s staff the authority to render final decisions on CMP compliance in these circumstances. There also is no provision in the Pinelands Act that confers upon the Executive Director authority to render a final decision for the Commission in the coordinated permitting process.

Here, the Commission retains final decision-making authority as to whether SJG’s proposed pipeline is consistent with the minimum standards of CMP. Indeed, as we have pointed out, the CMP states, “the Commission bears the ultimate responsibility for implementing and enforcing the provisions” of the Pinelands Act and the CMP. N.J.A.C. 7:50-1.11. The Commission therefore retains “ultimate responsibility” under the CMP to review the proposed project and render a final decision on CMP compliance.(@ p.22)

The Court vindicated my criticism.

The Pinelands Commission just passed a Resolution recognizing the Court’s decision striking down Wittenberg’s actions with respect to the SJG pipeline and another Resolution PC 4-16-43 that legally consolidated both the SJG and NJNG projects, because they both relied on the same illegal Wittenberg review process:

Whereas the Commission staff utilized the same review process for both the South Jersey Gas Company’s and the New Jersey Natural Gas Company’s Pinelands Development Applications;

So, given the Appellate Division’s decision, I wonder if Ms. Wittenberg still believes that I  don’t know what the Commission does.

Happy New Year – and eat your words, Wittenberg!

(You can’t say I didn’t try to warn you and prevent this via an appeal to reason).

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