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Archive for December, 2011

” … and the Painted Ponies Go Up and Down”

December 31st, 2011 No comments

ponies

Circle Game (Listen) (~~~ Joni Mitchell, 1970)

Yesterday, a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Then, the child moved ten times ’round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, “When you’re older”, must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams

And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town
And they tell him, “Take your time. It won’t be long now.
‘Til you drag your feet to slow the circles down”

And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.

And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and ’round and ’round
In the circle game
And go ’round and ’round and ’round in the circle game.

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(the painted ponies go up and down in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, near Margaret’s Place)
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Point Taken

December 30th, 2011 No comments

pmFor the penultimate day of the year, I went back and found Point Mountain in the Hunterdon County Musconetcong River Reservation.

I parked at the trail head off Point Mountain Road. The climb started after a few hundred feet, and would have been a rock scramble if not for the series of well crafted rock steps.

After taking in the views from the Point, we enjoyed a series of interesting rock formations. The ridge trail wound around and down the back side of the mountain, along the edge of a farm field, and finished along the banks of the majestic Musconetcong River, which was flowing quick, clear, and cold. The hike provided a diverse mix of rocks, forest, scenic views, farm fields, and river bank trail scenes. Highly recommended, pics below. Happy New Year, folks!

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DEP Wins Press Prize

December 29th, 2011 No comments

Breaks Record for Press Releases Issued – New Roles

The “Do Less With Less” DEP Does More Media

I’m still working on The Year in Rebuke – (Part 3 – Issues), but in my research for writing that piece came across some facts I wanted to share independent of that analysis.

I didn’t think it was possible, but Bob Martin’s DEP has issued significantly more press releases in the first 2 years than former Commissioner Brad Campbell did (see data below).

Recall that this is the Christie “Do Less With Less” DEP.

Campbell was well known for his media savvy and efforts to drum up favorable press.

Campbell broke new ground at the DEP Press Office, and not only in terms the number of press releases issued.

Campbell issued a regulation that revised the DEP Press Office’s function and role. (see NJAC 7:1, To his credit, this has since been revised by Martin’s Administrative Order, quietly published in the NJ Register without public comment on 9/20/2010).

Under Campbell, for the first time, the press office’s role was to support the Commissioner’s policy initiatives, not necessary to provide accurate information to the public and media in accordance with professional journalistic standards.

Campbell was deeply involved in shaping the Press Office’s work. He reviewed and approved all press releases and often personally called reporters and worked the media to promote his initiatives and put the most favorable light on the news coverage.

DEP staffers were restricted from speaking with press and told to direct reporters to him for comment. In the event that staff expertise were required to respond to a press inquiry, a DEP press officer was always present or on the phone line when the staffer spoke to the reporter (this practice also has since been revised, which is a good thing)

[update: I’m getting feedback from frustrated reporters that DEP is not responsive  and management restricts access to professional staff, so I overstated the relaxation of this restriction. This jibes with my experience as persona non grata at DEP, where Martin only speaks to me through the State Police].

Several times, Campbell was able to derail investigative efforts of reporters before bad news stories were even written, and do damage control in stories that were critical of DEP.

Campbell used the DEP Press Office effectively to promote policy, but, he often did so in ways that earned him a reputation for self aggrandizement and what many found to be over the top spin.

[full disclosure - I worked for Campbell and often with him and the press office.]

So, I never thought that Campbell’s media initiative would be topped.

In fact, Campbell’s successor, Lisa Jackson, greatly reduced the number of press releases issued by the Press Office and had nowhere near the emphasis on media.

But I was wrong about surpassing Campbell.

Here are the data for press releases issued in the first two years of Campbell, Jackson and Martin (hit the links to access each release, by  year):

Campbell

Jackson

Martin

In addition to breaking the record for total press releases issued in the first two years, the Christie/Martin media initiative is very different than its predecessors.

Following the aggressive, bullying spin of the Governor, the tone of the DEP press message  has changed.

Even more important is the fact that press spin has been injected into official regulatory documents in extraordinary and unprecedented ways. Examples:

So, not only has Bob Martin broken the numerical record, he has transformed DEP’s approach to media.

While, to his credit, he has eliminated Campbell’s policy with respect to the role of the press office and relaxed restrictions on technical staff talking to press, overall, the negatives far outweigh the positives.

The net effect is to further erode the independence and reduce the credibility of the DEP as an institution.

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Urban Development Funds Slashed, as Billions Spent on Militarized Police

December 27th, 2011 No comments

NJ Spent Over $1.6 Billion – Ranked Fourth in the Nation in Homeland Security Spending

Last week, I was disturbed by a page one NY Times story that reported that at a time US cities are suffering economic devastation, federal aid is being slashed:

Source: NY TImes

Cities Face Tough Choices as U.S. Slashes Block Grants Program

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — It is no secret that these are hard times for cities, with tax collections down, state aid dwindling, unemployment high and foreclosures pitting many blocks. So, as he sat in his office here, Mayor Ed Pawlowski of Allentown echoed the question mayors around the country are asking: Why has Washington cut one of the main federal programs for cities by a quarter in the last couple of years?

“It’s just insane,” an exasperated-sounding Mayor Pawlowski said.

The shrinking federal program, called Community Development Block Grants, was devised by the Nixon administration to bypass state governments and send money directly to big cities, which were given broad leeway to decide how to spend it. This year the federal government is giving out just $2.9 billion — a billion dollars less than it gave two years ago, and even less than it gave during the Carter administration, when the money went much further.[...]

So mayors were furious when Congress cut the grants program last month to $2.9 billion, a cut of 25 percent over two years. President Obama had sought to reduce the program, too, but by less: his budget proposal had called for a 7.5 percent cut. “This is a tough choice that balances the need to decrease the budget deficit with the tough fiscal conditions confronting state and local governments,” the proposal said.

NJ has some of the poorest cities in the nation – Camden, Trenton, Newark, Patterson – so cuts to these federal funds are particularly hurtful here.

Few NJ residents or Americans realize that these effective and vitally needed urban development funds have been so deeply slashed since the 1970′s, when they provided more than $10 billion in assistance to US cities during the  Carter Administration.

Fewer still understand that the bloated  and perpetually growing $700 billion/year imperial Pentagon budget - not counting trillion dollar illegal and immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – divert scarce funds from domestic needs, and hurt millions of poor people living in devastated US cities.

And virtually no one is aware of how much money is being lavishly doled out to local police departments to buy military equipment for the local cops!

Maybe this can change, in light of a recent Report by The Center for Investigative Reporting. That report found:

States spend billions on local homeland security

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan represent only a fraction of the billions spent to battle terrorists since Sept. 11, 2001. Lawmakers in Washington have shelled out some $34 billion over the last 10 years to state and local law enforcement.

Much of this money is totally wasted in equipping local police forces with totally inappropriate military gear:

Local police stockpile high-tech combat ready gear

If terrorists ever target Fargo, N.D., the local police will be ready.

In recent years, they have bought bomb-detection robots, digital communications equipment and Kevlar helmets, like those used by soldiers in foreign wars. For local siege situations requiring real firepower, police there can use a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret. Until that day, however, the menacing truck is mostly used for training runs and appearances at the annual Fargo picnic, where it’s been displayed near a children’s bounce house.

Thus stuff makes me absolutely sick. And I’ve been on the receiving end of it.

So, I looked at some of the data in the Report – I wanted to compare the lavish Homeland Security funding with austerity cuts to UDAG urban funds, but was unable to quickly find data on NJ UDAG federal funds.

But I did note that NJ spent over $1.6 BILLION on Homeland Security since 2002.

That ranks #4 in the Country.

Most of the federal grant money in NJ went to port security and what was called the “Urban Areas Security Initiative“. Here’s all I could find about that initiative from the FEMA website:

Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI)

Total Funding Available in FY 2011:  $662,622,100

Purpose: The UASI Program provides funding to address the unique planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density urban areas, and assists them in building an enhanced and sustainable capacity to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism.  Per the 9/11 Act, states are required to ensure that at least 25 percent (25%) of UASI appropriated funds are dedicated towards law enforcement terrorism prevention activities.

So, let’s see if I got this right:

while the cops get ever more sophisticated and deadly military technology and expand even more repressive surveillance and methods of social control and suppression of dissent that threaten our fundamental Constitutional rights, our cities starve.

We need a “revolution in values” – as Dr. King said:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

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

And maybe an intrepid reporter out there night want to examine just how NJ officials spent that $1.6 BILLION.

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The Year in Rebuke – Part 2

December 27th, 2011 No comments

(continuing from yesterday, here are photos from July – December):

July

Animal Rescue Operation Brings a New Friend

Note the white chest mark - it looks exactly like the Abu Ghraib torture picture

Note the white chest mark - it looks exactly like the Abu Ghraib torture picture

A Friendly Reminder From DEP: Don’t Eat Toxic Crabs

Raritan Bay warning

Raritan Bay warning

Where the Frack is the DEP Water Supply Master Plan Update?

heron doesn't have a lot of water to wade in. Alexauken Creek, West Amwell (July 11, 2010).

heron doesn't have a lot of water to wade in. Alexauken Creek, West Amwell (July 11, 2010).

Sunrise

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Local Republicans Turn Out to Support Christie Oyster Creek Nuke Water Permit Deal

Back in the Day - when technology was cutting edge and safe

Back in the Day - when technology was cutting edge and safe

Spill the Wine

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August

Some Delaware Scenes From Irene

Lambertville - (South Union Street). Boat washed up in road, over bridge across Swan Creek, in background

Lambertville - (South Union Street). Boat washed up in road, over bridge across Swan Creek, in background

Dirty Water Deal Derailed in Hopewell

Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority Pennington plant

Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority Pennington plant

Another Friday Night Massacre: Christie Vetoes RGGI and Stormwater Bills

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Source: NOAA

Source: NOAA

September
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Edmund Pettus Bridge - Selma, Alabama - scene of "Bloody Sunday"

Edmund Pettus Bridge - Selma, Alabama - scene of "Bloody Sunday"

Lambertville - New Hope bridge
Lambertville – New Hope bridge
Bridge over tranquil waters - Stone Arch Bridge, Callicoon Creek, NY
Bridge over tranquil waters – Stone Arch Bridge, Callicoon Creek, NY
Upper Delaware, at confluence of Lackawaxen River
Upper Delaware, at confluence of Lackawaxen River
“Sweet 14″ Fire House at 14 East 18th Street, Manhattan NYC

“Sweet 14″ Fire House at 14 East 18th Street, Manhattan NYC

October
DEP data show a direct relationship between pollution impacts and race and income.
DEP data show a direct relationship between pollution impacts and race and income.

Liberty Plaza - Occupy Wall Street (10/7/11)

Liberty Plaza - Occupy Wall Street (10/7/11)

November
Collaborator Dave Pringle, NJEF (R) shares deep thoughts with DEP Commissioner Bob Martin (L).
Collaborator Dave Pringle, NJEF (R) shares deep thoughts with DEP Commissioner Bob Martin (L).

OWS-JC

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protesters rallied at the Trenton War Memorial - an apt site, as this is a war.
protesters rallied at the Trenton War Memorial – an apt site, as this is a war.
December
Manning Support March - Ft. Meade (Maryland) 12/17/11
Manning Support March – Ft. Meade (Maryland) 12/17/11
A full moon rising over Osgood Pond near Paul Smiths, N.Y - Adirondack spruce forests and bogs will be destroyed as NY climate and growing season become like Georgia due to global warming. Credit Ruth Fremson, NY Times.

A full moon rising over Osgood Pond near Paul Smiths, N.Y - Adirondack spruce forests and bogs will be destroyed as NY climate and growing season become like Georgia due to global warming. Credit Ruth Fremson, NY Times.

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