Archive for March, 2011

We’ve Lost Our Way

March 26th, 2011 No comments

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Martin Luther King, Jr. “Beyond Vietnam – A Time To Break Silence

Below is the kind of superb social and economic justice writing the NY Times should have been doing for the last 30 years, ever since deindustrialization, free trade, and “the Reagan revolution” – and the predictable devastation of our communities and our schools. 

Unfortunately it’s NY Times columnist Bob Herbert’s last column – reprinted in toto without permission. So sue me for infringement of intellectual property rights NY Times! (I doubt Bob Herbert would mind – or maybe I could claim that the Times stole my May 26, 2008 headline of  this Star Ledger piece: We have lost our way – “corporate makeover of politics struggling to be democratic”

Losing Our Way


So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Americans behave as if this is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldn’t be, and didn’t used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now.

The current maldistribution of wealth is also scandalous. In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. The overwhelming majority, the bottom 80 percent, collectively held just 12.8 percent.

This inequality, in which an enormous segment of the population struggles while the fortunate few ride the gravy train, is a world-class recipe for social unrest. Downward mobility is an ever-shortening fuse leading to profound consequences.

A stark example of the fundamental unfairness that is now so widespread was in The New York Times on Friday under the headline: “G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether.” Despite profits of $14.2 billion — $5.1 billion from its operations in the United States — General Electric did not have to pay any U.S. taxes last year.

As The Times’s David Kocieniewski reported, “Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”

G.E. is the nation’s largest corporation. Its chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, is the leader of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. You can understand how ordinary workers might look at this cozy corporate-government arrangement and conclude that it is not fully committed to the best interests of working people.

Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.

New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.


This is my last column for The New York Times after an exhilarating, nearly 18-year run. I’m off to write a book and expand my efforts on behalf of working people, the poor and others who are struggling in our society. My thanks to all the readers who have been so kind to me over the years. I can be reached going forward at

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Dupont and the “Compact Majority” in Pompton Lakes – Where Life Imitates Art

March 24th, 2011 20 comments

Last night, the Pompton Lakes Council passed a Resolution opposing the listing of the Dupont toxic plume as a federal EPA lead Superfund site (read last week’s Bergen Record setup story: A Superfund is no consideration for some in Pompton Lakes ).

Remarkably, it is the first case in NJ that I am aware of where elected local officials rejected an opportunity to secure additional federal resources and federal oversight to cleanup their community and hold a major corporate toxic polluter accountable.

Whose side are these people on?

With very few exceptions, for 25 years, local officials in Pompton Lakes either have had their heads in the sand or have overtly supported Dupont and DEP (a Councilman’s wife works at DEP).

The exceptions to Dupont dominance and DEP control are former Mayor Jack Sinsimer, who created a program that required Dupont to compensate homeowners for reduced property values (for which he received death threats).

The other exceptions are outspoken former Council members Ed Meakem and Lisa Riggiola – both of whom were promptly unelected shortly after challenging Dupont.

I’m well aware of the politics of company towns, where local jobs and business tax ratables often dominate environmental concerns.

But Dupont shut down the plant 17 years ago and left behind massive pollution that is poisoning people in over 450 homes![Note: prior litigation settlement documents are secret. Did Dupont knowingly get liabilty releases from vapor intrusion in those deals?]

Dupont has destroyed not only the health of many residents, but depressed property values and wiped out two thirds of the equity in most resident’s only asset: their homes.

Despite that devastation and betrayal, there has not been one official act by Council (e.g. a Resolution or local ordinance) seeking justice for the people hurt by Dupont, criticizing DEP for lax oversight of Dupont, or regulating Dupont and demanding that they cleanup the site.

Worse, the Pompton Lakes’ environmental coordinator who was responsible for monitoring the Dupont cleanup and informing citizens of cleanup activities was on Dupont’s payroll and lacked scientific training for the job.

But let me get back to last night’s travesty.

We arrived early for a 7 pm press conference and rally in front of the municipal building. It had begun to sleet pretty hard, so we asked to hold the press event in the municipal building, not only to get in out of the weather, but because the stairs were icy and dangerous for the residents to navigate.

Starting the night off on a bad note, our request was denied by the Town Business Administrator. His bad faith denial was not based on any formal policy or justified in any way, other than his own arbitrary authority. Welcome to Pompton Lakes!

As the Council hearing began, the authoritarian, manipulative, smarmy demeanor of Mayor Cole reminded me of Nurse Ratched, in “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest“.

But, as the night wore on and residents concerned with public health testified in more than 2-1 opposition to the Resolution (support was expressed by a “compact majority” of self interested real eastate, developers, and business people interested solely in making money from real estate or downtown redevelopment), a more fitting dramatic theme emerged: Ibsen’s play “An Enemy of the People”!

Similarities in the plot, characters, and themes are remarkably stunning:

  • The public health issues raised by science.
  • The political move to downplay the significance and then supress the science by corrupt local officials.
  • The economically motivated reaction of the “compact majority”.
  • The realities and compromises by “the liberal minded independent press”.
  • The integrity of the individual who refuses to bow to corruption and greed.
  • The threats, intimidation, and retaliation – including destruction of career and personal reputation
  • The lies and smears against those with integrity and courage to speak truth to power 

But, the realities of Dupont Pompton Lakes pollution are perhaps worse than Ibsen’s fictitous small town. Let’s take a peak and see.

In Ibsen’s famous play (read it here), a scientist, Dr. Stockman (the Mayor’s brother) discovers that the town’s economic lifeblood – “the baths” – are poisoned by pollution.

The first inkling we get of the huge conflict soon to explode is during this Act I conversation between the Dr. and the controlling and officious Mayor Peter Stockman:

Peter Stockmann. By the way, Hovstad [newspaper editor] was telling me he was going to print another article of yours.

Dr. Stockmann. An article of mine?

Peter Stockmann. Yes, about the Baths. An article you wrote in the winter.

Dr. Stockmann. Oh, that one! No, I don’t intend that to appear just for the present.

Peter Stockmann. Why not? It seems to me that this would be the most opportune moment.

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, very likely—under normal conditions. (Crosses the room.)

Peter Stockmann (following him with his eyes). Is there anything abnormal about the present conditions?

Dr. Stockmann (standing still). To tell you the truth, Peter, I can’t say just at this moment ”at all events not tonight. There may be much that is very abnormal about the present conditions”and it is possible there may be nothing abnormal about them at all. It is quite possible it may be merely my imagination.

Peter Stockmann. I must say it all sounds most mysterious. Is there something going on that I am to be kept in ignorance of? I should have imagined that I, as Chairman of the governing body of the Baths—

Dr. Stockmann. And I should have imagined that I”. Oh, come, don’t let us fly out at one another, Peter.

Peter Stockmann. Heaven forbid! I am not in the habit of flying out at people, as you call it. But I am entitled to request most emphatically that all arrangements shall be made in a businesslike manner, through the proper channels, and shall be dealt with by the legally constituted authorities. I can allow no going behind our backs by any roundabout means.

Dr. Stockmann. Have I ever at any time tried to go behind your backs?

Peter Stockmann. You have an ingrained tendency to take your own way, at all events; and, that is almost equally inadmissible in a well ordered community, The individual ought undoubtedly to acquiesce in subordinating himself to the community—or, to speak more accurately, to the authorities who have the care of the community’s welfare.

The battle lines are drawn after Dr. Stockman takes water samples and sends them to an indepedent University lab (something we don’t have in Pompton Lakes, because Dupont controls the sampling effort):Â

Dr. Stockmann (waving the letter). Well, now the town will have something new to talk about, I can tell you!

Billing. Something new?

Mrs. Stockmann. What is this?

Dr. Stockmann. A great discovery, Katherine.

Hovstad. Really?

Mrs. Stockmann. A discovery of yours?

Dr. Stockmann. A discovery of mine. (Walks up and down.) Just let them come saying, as usual, that it is all fancy and a crazy man’s imagination! But they will be careful what they say this time, I can tell you!

Petra. But, father, tell us what it is.

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, yes only give me time, and you shall know all about it. If only I had Peter here now! It just shows how we men can go about forming our judgments, when in reality we are as blind as any moles”

Hovstad. What are you driving at, Doctor?

Dr. Stockmann (standing still by the table). Isn’t it the universal opinion that our town is a healthy spot?

Hovstad. Certainly.

Dr. Stockmann. Quite an unusually healthy spot, in fact -a place that deserves to be recommended in the warmest possible manner either for invalids or for people who are well”

Mrs. Stockmann. Yes, but my dear Thomas”

Dr. Stockmann. And we have been recommending it and praising it ”I have written and written, both in the “Messenger” and in pamphlets…

Hovstad. Well, what then?

Dr. Stockmann. And the Bath’s – we have called them the “main artery of the town’s life-blood,” the “nerve-centre of our town,” and the devil knows what else”

Billing. “The town’s pulsating heart” was the expression I once used on an important occasion.

Dr. Stockmann. Quite so. Well, do you know what they really are, these great, splendid, much praised Baths, that have cost so much money”do you know what they are?

Hovstad. No, what are they?

Mrs. Stockmann. Yes, what are they?

Dr. Stockmann. The whole place is a pest-house!

Petra. The Baths, father?

Mrs. Stockmann (at the same time), Our Baths?

Hovstad. But, Doctor

Billing. Absolutely incredible!

Dr. Stockmann. The whole Bath establishment is a whited, poisoned sepulchre, I tell you the gravest possible danger to the public health! All the nastiness up at Molledal, all that stinking filth, is infecting the water in the conduit-pipes leading to the reservoir; and the same cursed, filthy poison oozes out on the shore too

Horster. Where the bathing-place is?

Dr. Stockmann. Just there.

Hovstad. How do you come to be so certain of all this, Doctor?

Dr. Stockman explains that his suspicions arose out of his diagnosis of unusual diseases associated with pollution, a suspicion he investigates and confirms via scientific methods (again, this has an echo in the epidemiological study in Pompton Lakes which found elevated cancer rates associated with Dupont pollution):

Dr. Stockmann. I have investigated the matter most conscientiously. For a long time past I have suspected something of the kind. Last year we had some very strange cases of illness among the visitors’ typhoid cases, and cases of gastric fever

Mrs. Stockmann. Yes, that is quite true.

Dr. Stockmann. At the time, we supposed the visitors had been infected before they came; but later on, in the winter, I began to have a different opinion; and so I set myself to examine the water, as well as I could.

Mrs. Stockmann. Then that is what you have been so busy with?

Dr. Stockmann. Indeed I have been busy, Katherine. But here I had none of the necessary scientific apparatus; so I sent samples, both of the drinking-water and of the sea-water, up to the University, to have an accurate analysis made by a chemist.

Hovstad. And have you got that?

Dr. Stockmann (showing him the letter). Here it is! It proves the presence of decomposing organic matter in the water—it is full of infusoria. The water is absolutely dangerous to use, either internally or externally.

Dr. Stockman receives assurances of support for his work by “the liberal minded independent press” and “the compact majority”.

But, later, in Act II, in an explosive scene, we see exactly how the world of science, pollution, and local politics works.

But please don’t think these dynamics are limited to local government. They operate at EPA and NJ DEP – just change the names to fit the characters in Pompton Lakes:

Peter Stockmann (comes in from the hall). Good morning.

Dr. Stockmann. Glad to see you, Peter!

Mrs. Stockmann. Good morning, Peter, How are you?

Peter Stockmann. So so, thank you. (To DR. STOCKMANN.) I received from you yesterday, after office hours, a report dealing with the condition of the water at the Baths.

Dr. Stockmann. Yes. Have you read it?

Peter Stockmann. Yes, I have,

Dr. Stockmann. And what have you to say to it?

Peter Stockmann (with a sidelong glance). Hm!

Mrs. Stockmann. Come along, Petra. (She and PETRA go into the room on the left.)

Peter Stockmann (after a pause). Was it necessary to make all these investigations behind my back?

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, because until I was absolutely certain about if

Peter Stockmann. Then you mean that you are absolutely certain now?

Dr. Stockmann. Surely you are convinced of that.

Peter Stockmann. Is it your intention to bring this document before the Baths Committee as a sort of official communication?

Dr. Stockmann. Certainly. Something must be done in the matter”and that quickly.

Peter Stockmann. As usual, you employ violent expressions in your report. You say, amongst other things, that what we offer visitors in our Baths is a permanent supply of poison.

Dr. Stockmann. Well, can you describe it any other way, Peter? Just think – water that is poisonous, whether you drink it or bathe in it! And this we offer to the poor sick folk who come to us trustfully and pay us at an exorbitant rate to be made well again!

Peter Stockmann. And your reasoning leads you to this conclusion, that we must build a sewer to draw off the alleged impurities from Molledal and must relay the water conduits.

Dr. Stockmann. Yes. Do you see any other way out of it? I don’t.

Peter Stockmann. I made a pretext this morning to go and see the town engineer, and, as if only half seriously, broached the subject of these proposals as a thing we might perhaps have to take under consideration some time later on.

Dr. Stockmann. Some time later on!

Peter Stockmann. He smiled at what he considered to be my extravagance, naturally. Have you taken the trouble to consider what your proposed alterations would cost? According to the information I obtained, the expenses would probably mount up to fifteen or twenty thousand pounds.

Dr. Stockmann. Would it cost so much?

Peter Stockmann. Yes; and the worst part of it would be that the work would take at least two years.

Dr. Stockmann. Two years? Two whole years?

Peter Stockmann. At least. And what are we to do with the Baths in the meantime? Close them? Indeed we should be obliged to. And do you suppose anyone would come near the place after it had got out that the water was dangerous?

Dr. Stockmann. Yes but, Peter, that is what it is.

Peter Stockmann. And all this at this juncture—just as the Baths are beginning to be known. There are other towns in the neighbourhood with qualifications to attract visitors for bathing purposes. Don’t you suppose they would immediately strain every nerve to divert the entire stream of strangers to themselves? Unquestionably they would; and then where should we be? We should probably have to abandon the whole thing, which has cost us so much money-and then you would have ruined your native town.

Dr. Stockmann. I should have ruined!

Peter Stockmann. It is simply and solely through the Baths that the town has before it any future worth mentioning. You know that just as well as I.

Dr. Stockmann. But what do you think ought to be done, then?

Peter Stockmann. Your report has not convinced me that the condition of the water at the Baths is as bad as you represent it to be.

Dr. Stockmann. I tell you it is even worse! – or at all events it will be in summer, when the warm weather comes.

Peter Stockmann. As I said, I believe you exaggerate the matter considerably. A capable physician ought to know what measures to take he ought to be capable of preventing injurious influences or of remedying them if they become obviously persistent.

Dr. Stockmann. Well? What more?

Peter Stockmann. The water supply for the Baths is now an established fact, and in consequence must be treated as such. But probably the Committee, at its discretion, will not be disinclined to consider the question of how far it might be possible to introduce certain improvements consistently with a reasonable expenditure.

Dr. Stockmann. And do you suppose that I will have anything to do with such a piece of trickery as that?

Peter Stockmann. Trickery!!

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, it would be a trick – a fraud, a lie, a downright crime towards the public, towards the whole community!

Peter Stockmann. I have not, as I remarked before, been able to convince myself that there is actually any imminent danger.

Dr. Stockmann. You have! It is impossible that you should not be convinced. I know I have represented the facts absolutely truthfully and fairly. And you know it very well, Peter, only you won’t acknowledge it. It was owing to your action that both the Baths and the water conduits were built where they are; and that is what you won’t acknowledge -that damnable blunder of yours. Pooh!—do you suppose I don’t see through you?

Peter Stockmann. And even if that were true? If I perhaps guard my reputation somewhat anxiously, it is in the interests of the town. Without moral authority I am powerless to direct public affairs as seems, to my judgment, to be best for the common good. And on that account—and for various other reasons too – it appears to me to be a matter of importance that your report should not be delivered to the Committee. In the interests of the public, you must withhold it. Then, later on, I will raise the question and we will do our best, privately; but, nothing of this unfortunate affair not a single word of it—must come to the ears of the public.

Dr. Stockmann. I am afraid you will not be able to prevent that now, my dear Peter.

Peter Stockmann. It must and shall be prevented.

Dr. Stockmann. It is no use, I tell you. There are too many people that know about it.

Peter Stockmann. That know about it? Who? Surely you don’t mean those fellows on the “People’s Messenger“?

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, they know. The liberal-minded independent press is going to see that you do your duty.

Peter Stockmann (after a short pause). You are an extraordinarily independent man, Thomas. Have you given no thought to the consequences this may have for yourself?

Dr. Stockmann. Consequences – for me?

Peter Stockmann. For you and yours, yes.

Dr. Stockmann. What the deuce do you mean?

Peter Stockmann. I believe I have always behaved in a brotherly way to you—haven’t I always been ready to oblige or to help you?

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, you have, and I am grateful to you for it.

Peter Stockmann. There is no need. Indeed, to some extent I was forced to do so – for my own sake. I always hoped that, if I helped to improve your financial position, I should be able to keep some check on you.

Dr. Stockmann. What! Then it was only for your own sake!

Peter Stockmann. Up to a certain point, yes. It is painful for a man in an official position to have his nearest relative compromising himself time after time.

Dr. Stockmann. And do you consider that I do that?

Peter Stockmann. Yes, unfortunately, you do, without even being aware of it. You have a restless, pugnacious, rebellious disposition. And then there is that disastrous propensity of yours to want to write about every sort of possible and impossible thing. The moment an idea comes into your head, you must needs go and write a newspaper article or a whole pamphlet about it.

Dr. Stockmann. Well, but is it not the duty of a citizen to let the public share in any new ideas he may have?

Peter Stockmann. Oh, the public doesn’t require any new ideas. The public is best served by the good, old established ideas it already has.

Dr. Stockmann. And that is your honest opinion?

Peter Stockmann. Yes, and for once I must talk frankly to you. Hitherto I have tried to avoid doing so, because I know how irritable you are; but now I must tell you the truth, Thomas. You have no conception what an amount of harm you do yourself by your impetuosity. You complain of the authorities, you even complain of the government – you are always pulling them to pieces; you insist that you have been neglected and persecuted. But what else can such a cantankerous man as you expect?

Dr. Stockmann. What next! Cantankerous, am I?

Peter Stockmann. Yes, Thomas, you are an extremely cantankerous man to work with—I know that to my cost. You disregard everything that you ought to have consideration for. You seem completely to forget that it is me you have to thank for your appointment here as medical officer to the Baths.

Dr. Stockmann. I was entitled to it as a matter of course!—I and nobody else! I was the first person to see that the town could be made into a flourishing watering-place, and I was the only one who saw it at that time. I had to fight single-handed in support of the idea for many years; and I wrote and wrote—

Peter Stockmann. Undoubtedly. But things were not ripe for the scheme then -though, of course, you could not judge of that in your out-of-the-way corner up north. But as soon as the opportune moment came I – and the others – took the matter into our hands.

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, and made this mess of all my beautiful plan. It is pretty obvious now what clever fellows you were!

Peter Stockmann. To my mind the whole thing only seems to mean that you are seeking another outlet for your combativeness. You want to pick a quarrel with your superiors – an old habit of yours. You cannot put up with any authority over you. You look askance at anyone who occupies a superior official position; you regard him as a personal enemy, and then any stick is good enough to beat him with. But now I have called your attention to the fact that the town’s interests are at stake -and, incidentally, my own too. And therefore, I must tell you, Thomas, that you will find me inexorable with regard to what I am about to require you to do.

Dr. Stockmann. And what is that?

Peter Stockmann. As you have been so indiscreet as to speak of this delicate matter to outsiders, despite the fact that you ought to have treated it as entirely official and confidential, it is obviously impossible to hush it up now. All sorts of rumours will get about directly, and everybody who has a grudge against us will take care to embellish these rumours. So it will be necessary for you to refute them publicly.

Dr. Stockmann. I! How? I don’t understand.

Peter Stockmann. What we shall expect is that, after making further investigations, you will come to the conclusion that the matter is not by any means as dangerous or as critical as you imagined in the first instance.

Dr. Stockmann. Oho! – so that is what you expect!

Peter Stockmann. And, what is more, we shall expect you to make public profession of your confidence in the Committee and in their readiness to consider fully and conscientiously what steps may be necessary to remedy any possible defects.

Dr. Stockmann. But you will never be able to do that by patching and tinkering at it – never! Take my word for it, Peter; I mean what I say, as deliberately and emphatically as possible.

Peter Stockmann. As an officer under the Committee, you have no right to any individual opinion.

Dr. Stockmann (amazed). No right?

Peter Stockmann. In your official capacity, no. As a private person, it is quite another matter. But as a subordinate member of the staff of the Baths, you have no right to express any opinion which runs contrary to that of your superiors.

Dr. Stockmann. This is too much! I, a doctor, a man of science, have no right to!

Peter Stockmann. The matter in hand is not simply a scientific one. It is a complicated matter, and has its economic as well as its technical side.

Dr. Stockmann. I don’t care what it is! I intend to be free to express my opinion on any subject under the sun.

Peter Stockmann. As you please – but not on any subject concerning the Baths. That we forbid.

Dr. Stockmann (shouting). You forbid! You! A pack of

Peter Stockmann. I forbid it –I, your chief; and if I forbid it, you have to obey.

Dr. Stockmann (controlling himself). Peter – if you were not my brother

Petra (throwing open the door). Father, you shan’t stand this!

Mrs. Stockmann (coming in after her). Petra, Petra!

Peter Stockmann. Oh, so you have been eavesdropping.

Mrs. Stockmann. You were talking so loud, we couldn’t help it!

Petra. Yes, I was listening.

Peter Stockmann. Well, after all, I am very glad—

Dr. Stockmann (going up to him). You were saying something about forbidding and obeying?

Peter Stockmann. You obliged me to take that tone with you.

Dr. Stockmann. And so I am to give myself the lie, publicly?

Peter Stockmann. We consider it absolutely necessary that you should make some such public statement as I have asked for.

Dr. Stockmann. And if I do not obey?

Peter Stockmann. Then we shall publish a statement ourselves to reassure the public.

Dr. Stockmann. Very well; but in that case I shall use my pen against you. I stick to what I have said; I will show that I am right and that you are wrong. And what will you do then?

Peter Stockmann. Then I shall not be able to prevent your being dismissed.

Dr. Stockmann. What?

Petra. Father – dismissed!

Mrs. Stockmann. Dismissed!

Peter Stockmann. Dismissed from the staff of the Baths. I shall be obliged to propose that you shall immediately be given notice, and shall not be allowed any further participation in the Baths’ affairs.

Dr. Stockmann. You would dare to do that!

Peter Stockmann. It is you that are playing the daring game.

Petra. Uncle, that is a shameful way to treat a man like father!

Mrs. Stockmann. Do hold your tongue, Petra!

Peter Stockmann (looking at PETRA). Oh, so we volunteer our opinions already, do we? Of course. (To MRS. STOCKMANN.) Katherine, I imagine you are the most sensible person in this house. Use any influence you may have over your husband, and make him see what this will entail for his family as well as

Dr. Stockmann. My family is my own concern and nobody else’s!

Peter Stockmann.  – for his own family, as I was saying, as well as for the town he lives in.

Dr. Stockmann. It is I who have the real good of the town at heart! I want to lay bare the defects that sooner or later must come to the light of day. I will show whether I love my native town.

Peter Stockmann. You, who in your blind obstinacy want to cut off the most important source of the town’s welfare?

Dr. Stockmann. The source is poisoned, man! Are you mad? We are making our living by retailing filth and corruption! The whole of our flourishing municipal life derives its sustenance from a lie!

Peter Stockmann. All imagination – or something even worse. The man who can throw out such offensive insinuations about his native town must be an enemy to our community.

Dr. Stockmann (going up to him). Do you dare to!

Mrs. Stockmann (throwing herself between them). Thomas!

Petra (catching her father by the arm). Don’t lose your temper, father!

Peter Stockmann. I will not expose myself to violence. Now you have had a warning; so reflect on what you owe to yourself and your family. Goodbye. (Goes out.)

Dr. Stockmann (walking up and down). Am I to put up with such treatment as this? In my own house, Katherine! What do you think of that!

Mrs. Stockmann. Indeed it is both shameful and absurd, Thomas

Petra. If only I could give uncle a piece of my mind

Dr. Stockmann. It is my own fault. I ought to have flown out at him long ago! – shown my teeth – bitten! To hear him call me an enemy to our community! Me! I shall not take that lying down, upon my soul!

Mrs. Stockmann. But, dear Thomas, your brother has power on his side.

Dr. Stockmann. Yes, but I have right on mine, I tell you.

Mrs. Stockmann. Oh yes, right – right. What is the use of having right on your side if you have not got might?

Petra. Oh, mother! – how can you say such a thing!

Dr. Stockmann. Do you imagine that in a free country it is no use having right on your side? You are absurd, Katherine. Besides, haven’t I got the liberal-minded, independent press to lead the way, and the compact majority behind me? That is might enough, I should think!

Mrs. Stockmann. But, good heavens, Thomas, you don’t mean to?

Dr. Stockmann. Don’t mean to what?

Mrs. Stockmann. To set yourself up in opposition to your brother.

Dr. Stockmann. In God’s name, what else do you suppose I should do but take my stand on right and truth?

Petra. Yes, I was just going to say that.

Mrs. Stockmann. But it won’t do you any earthly good. If they won’t do it, they won’t.

Dr. Stockmann. Oho, Katherine! Just give me time, and you will see how I will carry the war into their camp.

Mrs. Stockmann. Yes, you carry the war into their camp, and you get your dismissal – that is what you will do.

Dr. Stockmann. In any case I shall have done my duty towards the public – towards the community, I, who am called its enemy!

Mrs. Stockmann. But towards your family, Thomas? Towards your own home! Do you think that is doing your duty towards those you have to provide for?

Petra. Ah, don’t think always first of us, mother.

Mrs. Stockmann. Oh, it is easy for you to talk; you are able to shift for yourself, if need be. But remember the boys, Thomas; and think a little of yourself too, and of me

Dr. Stockmann. I think you are out of your senses, Katherine! If I were to be such a miserable coward as to go on my knees to Peter and his damned crew, do you suppose I should ever know an hour’s peace of mind all my life afterwards?

Mrs. Stockmann. I don’t know anything about that; but God preserve us from the peace of mind we shall have, all the same, if you go on defying him! You will find yourself again without the means of subsistence, with no income to count upon. I should think we had had enough of that in the old days. Remember that, Thomas; think what that means.

Dr. Stockmann (collecting himself with a struggle and clenching his fists). And this is what this slavery can bring upon a free, honourable man! Isn’t it horrible, Katherine?

Mrs. Stockmann. Yes, it is sinful to treat you so, it is perfectly true. But, good heavens, one has to put up with so much injustice in this world. There are the boys, Thomas! Look at them! What is to become of them? Oh, no, no, you can never have the heart—. (EJLIF and MORTEN have come in, while she was speaking, with their school books in their hands.)

Dr. Stockmann. The boys— I (Recovers himself suddenly.) No, even if the whole world goes to pieces, I will never bow my neck to this yokel (Goes towards his room.)

Mrs. Stockmann (following him). Thomas – what are you going to do!

Dr. Stockmann (at his door). I mean to have the right to look my sons in the face when they are grown men. (Goes into his room.)

Mrs. Stockmann (bursting into tears). God help us all!

Petra. Father is splendid! He will not give in.

(The boys look on in amazement; PETRA signs to them not to speak.)

Read the rest of the play and see how it all turns out!

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Christie DEP Limits Public Access to Urban Rivers and Shore

March 23rd, 2011 No comments
Raritan River striped bass

Raritan River striped bass

The Bergen Record Urban waterway access a concern in New Jersey  and Star Ledger are running a good AP story:  New N.J. beach access rules to impact urban and industrialized areas, enviornmentalists say

Those stories prompt me to repost some photos of the benefits of NJ’s urban waterways, in light of the Christie DEP efforts to restrict public access – take a look at some of our wonderful urban waterways and the people who enjoy them:

NOAA scientist w/kids at Sandy Hook

NOAA scientist w/kids at Sandy Hook



Belford, NJ

Belford, NJ


Salem River

Salem River



Judith Enck, EPA Region II Regional Administrator shows fish consumption warning of PCB toxic contamination of fish in Bound Brook

Judith Enck, EPA Region II Regional Administrator shows fish consumption warning of PCB toxic contamination of fish in Bound Brook

Raritan Bay

Raritan Bay

Atlantic City

Atlantic City

Raritan Bay, Keyport. Too polluted for fish, shellfish, people and other living things

Raritan Bay, Keyport. Too polluted for fish, shellfish, people and other living things

view of lower Manhattan from Liberty State Park

Birds eye view of lower Manhattan from Liberty State Park

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Pesticide Spray at Lunch Sparks Complaint

March 23rd, 2011 No comments

Ask pesticide applicators for the MSDS and labels for the toxic crap they are spraying

Sometimes it seems difficult to go out of the house without running into an environmental abuse.

Yesterday afternoon, while eating lunch at my local deli, I was sprayed by a pesticide applicator! (not direct contact, but within 10 feet).

The good news is that the DEP Hotline and Pesticide Program Enforcement programs worked well.  Here’s the story.

While sitting at the corner table eating my lunch, an Ehrlich pesticide applicator approached while spraying the floor perimeter.

As he crossed the doorway, I made hostile eye contact, so he avoided the corner I was in. But he moved on and circled back through an adjacent aisle and began spraying about 10 feet behind me.

I then trashed my lunch and asked him what pesticide he was spraying, whether he was spraying it consistent with the label, and for a MSDS for it. 

He gave me a BS story about a patented “micro-encapsulation” safety process that made human exposure impossible because only insects could puncture the capsule.

I warned him to stop lying to me and followed him out to his truck to demand that he provide the paperwork (i.e. the label and MSDS).

He fumbled around while calling his boss to ask for the MSDS.  He finally found a label, but then proceeded to try to mislead me about what it said.

When I disagreed and read it myself, I noted that it expressly prohibited what he was doing. The applicable portions of the label read:

Directions for Use

It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.

Application within Food Serving Areas (facilities where fooods are served, such as dining rooms)

… Do not apply when [food] facility is in operation or when foods are exposed. Food must be covered or removed in area being treated.

Let Treated Surfaces Dry Before Allowing Humans And Pets To Contact Surfaces 

Do not apply this product in any room being used as living, eating, sleeping, or recovery area.

Do not apply to institutions … in the immediate area where occupants are present. 

The insecticide he was spraying is “demandEZ” (EPA Registration No. 100-1232).  Here is the MSDS.The MSDS warns: 

 Prevent eating, drinking, tobacco use, and cosmetic application in areas where there is a potential for exposure to the material.

So after reading the label and advising the applicator of his violations of federal law, NJ DEP regulations, and his DEP pesticide applicators license, I called the Ehrlich Flemington Office to speak with the manager. I then called the DEP Hotline and the Hunterdon County Health Department and filed complaints.

A few hours later, I got a series of return calls.

The DEP Pesticide enforcement office called to get details. They were thorough and responsive and will likely take some form of enforcement action.

I then got a call from the Ehrlich Flemington office manager. He immediately admitted the mistake, apologized for it, pledged it would not happen again, and stated that he would conduct additional training with this applicator and all other applicators in his office. Very professional response.

I then got a call from NJ State Police, who had been called by DEP. They took my statement and told me they had gone to the scene to interview the Deli staff. 

So, while the the risks were minor, I was pleased to see that both DEP and Ehrlich responded appropriately. We’ll report back on DEP and Hunterdon Co. enforcement response.

Moral of the story: ask pesticide applicators for the MSDS and labels for the toxic crap they are spraying! Verify yourself that they are doing it consistent with the label.

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World Water Day – “Water for Life, Not for Profit”

March 22nd, 2011 1 comment

World Water Day NJ American Water protest (3/22/11)
World Water Day NJ American Water protest (3/22/11)

In light of World Water Day, the NJ Coalition on Privatization held a rally today opposing privatization of public drinking water systems.

The 2011 World Water Day theme is “Water for Cities – Responding to the Urban Challenge

The rally was held at the NJ American Water Headquarters in Voorhees, NJ.

NJ PEER sees access to clean, plentiful, and affordable water as a fundamental human right and ecological necessity.

As competition for increasingly scarce clean water increases, we are concerned about both the human and ecological worlds.

We oppose profiteering private corporations gaining even more control over this vital resource and critical infrastructure – and the economic ripoffs of monopoly control of consumers and workers that are likely to follow. 

We we fear a lack of adequate clean water to sustain ecological functions, resulting from pollution and the diversion of an increasing share of available water to human uses.

These conflicts (AKA “water wars“) will only increase as 1) global warming increases the frequency and severity of droughts, 2) as the natural water cycle is modified by increasing land development/landscape change, and 3) as population increases and water demand grows.

And we are concerned that private corporations will pursue profits over costly treatment required to provide safe and healthy water to people.

For these reasons, we are a member of the Coalition and an opponent of privatization of essential public services.

So we went to Voorheese today to support our coalition partners, especially our friends at Utilities Local Union of America 395 out of Shrewsbury, who are engaged in a contract dispute with NJ American Water.

Here are some photos of the event.





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