Archive for April, 2014

Life on the Pequod

April 22nd, 2014 No comments

An Earth Day Message

The Voyage of Life - Thomas Cole

The Voyage of Life – Part III, Manhood – Thomas Cole (1840)

Chris Hedges is perhaps America’s most profound and prescient public intellectual and advocate for human dignity and social justice.

On Earth Day, we must heed his wise but painful words:

The most prescient portrait of the American character and our ultimate fate as a species is found in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Melville makes our murderous obsessions, our hubris, violent impulses, moral weakness and inevitable self-destruction visible in his chronicle of a whaling voyage. He is our foremost oracle. He is to us what William Shakespeare was to Elizabethan England or Fyodor Dostoyevsky to czarist Russia.

Our country is given shape in the form of the ship, the Pequod, named after the Indian tribe exterminated in 1638 by the Puritans and their Native American allies. The ship’s 30-man crew—there were 30 states in the Union when Melville wrote the novel—is a mixture of races and creeds. The object of the hunt is a massive white whale, Moby Dick, which in a previous encounter maimed the ship’s captain, Ahab, by dismembering one of his legs. The self-destructive fury of the quest, much like that of the one we are on, assures the Pequod’s destruction. And those on the ship, on some level, know they are doomed—just as many of us know that a consumer culture based on corporate profit, limitless exploitation and the continued extraction of fossil fuels is doomed.

“If I had been downright honest with myself,” Ishmael admits, “I would have seen very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think nothing.”

Watch the video or read the whole speech: The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies

The Course of Empire - Thomas Cole

The Course of Empire – Part IV, Destruction – Thomas Cole (1833-1836)

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According TO US EPA Report, NJ Has the Worst Water Quality in the Country – Over 90% of Rivers, Lakes, Streams, Bays, and Ocean Are Polluted, Unhealthy, and Fail to Meet Clean Water Act Standards

April 20th, 2014 No comments

Christie Administration’s Deregulation and Disinvestment Bring Dirty Water

NJ Waters Fail to Meet Standards and DEP Cleanup Plans Are Ineffective

All While US EPA Lamely Asks:  How’s My Waterway?

Source: US EPA

Source: US EPA

Last week, we wrote about how the Christie Administration’s austerity policy was accelerating the deficit in clean water infrastructure – both wastewater treatment and drinking water systems, see:

We also posted a few pictures of one stream negatively impacted by the Fenimore landfill, see:

Of course, the “insidious ecological decline” of Barnegat Bay is another example of Clean Water Act impairment we’ve written in some detail about.

And for years, we have written about Gov. Christie’s deregulation and privatization policies.

So today, we put it all in context, based upon the data in US EPA’s new “enhanced version of “How’s My Waterway” app and website initiative.

We thought we’d outline some of the consequences off that set of Christie policies, in terms of clean water in NJ. (hit link for complete picture).

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an enhanced version of “How’s My Waterway,” an app and website to help people find information on the condition of thousands of lakes, rivers and streams across the United States from their smart phone, tablet or desktop computer.

The How’s My Waterway app and website,, uses GPS technology or a user-entered zip code or city name to provide information about the quality of local water bodies. The new version of the site includes data on local drinking water sources, watersheds and efforts to protect waterways, as well as a map-oriented version of “How’s My Waterway” designed for museum kiosks, displays and touch screens, available at:

“Communities and neighborhoods across the U.S. want to know that their local lakes, rivers and streams are healthy and safe to enjoy with their families, and providing that information is a priority for EPA,” said acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water Nancy Stoner. “The enhanced version of ‘How’s My Waterway’ provides easy, user-friendly access to the health of the places we swim, fish and boat, where we get our drinking water, and what is being done to curb water pollution. People can get this information whether researching at a desktop or standing streamside looking at a smart phone.”

Take a look at some of the “NJ highlights”  – I wish EPA made strict enforcement of the Clean Water Act as high a priority as providing information via websites and trendy user friendly app’s.



















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This is What Sea Level Rise Might Look Like

April 19th, 2014 No comments

High Tide After Full Moon on Delaware River In Bordentown, NJ

Bordentown Beach (4/17/14)

Bordentown Beach (4/17/14)

Walking the dog late Thursday afternoon and noticed high tide had submerged benches and picnic tables.

We had rain Tuesday, the river was flowing high, and a full moon, so the tide was as high as I’ve seen it.

Saw a couple taking photos, and thought these might be good images for showing what the effects of sea level rise might look like – which is an abstraction for most folks.

Stopped to talk with them, and met Eva and Rodney Hargis, who graciously agreed – here are their shots.

I don’t think most folks understand what projected 3 feet of sea level rise by 2050 or permanent inundation would mean – barrier islands submerged – but people can relate to pictures of submerged park benches and do understand the tides.

For those interested in reading an excellent report on climate impacts on the Delaware River Basin, see this University of Pennsylvania study (2008).



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Vapid Sound Bites Proliferate As We Surrender Democracy To Corporate Oligarchs

April 18th, 2014 No comments

Princeton Research Concludes that US is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

Governor Christie Provides A Road Map To How Oligarchs Rule

NJ Media Ignores the Issue

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism. ~~~ Princeton University Professor Martin Gilens

[Update: 4/21/14 – Kudos to NJ Spotlight for publishing a list of NJ’s oligarchs: NJ’s 10 Highest Paid CEO’s].

We’ll get to the boxed quote above in a minute.

For those that don’t get into the weeds to follow the internal workings of government – or are too lazy to file an OPRA public records request and conduct a file review – the Mastro interview summaries provide a revealing Cliff Notes glimpse into how the Christie government operates.

I’m an in the weeds guy, so I stayed up practically all night reading the DEP summaries –

One would assume that everyone would question why 11 of the 75 interviews were of NJ environmental officials (including 1 former DEP manager now in the Gov.’s Office) – and what role DEP played in the Rockefeller development controversy at the heart of the most potentially criminal part of the scandal.

Do reporters think it is appropriate and standard operating procedure for the Gov. to have his political arm (Office of Intergovernmental Affairs) arrange a series of private Commissioner and high level DEP meetings with a major corporation like the Rockefeller Development Group to discuss DEP regulatory approvals for a billion dollar development project?

So, over the last few days, I’ve been reaching out to reporters covering the various Christie scandals to try to explain what the Mastro interview summaries reveal about how Governor Christie governs.

Or more specifically, how corrupt and beholden to corporate economic interests and the Gov.’s political agenda the DEP has become.

Let’s just say reporters have no interest in any of that.

For the most part, they prefer to focus on the scandal aspects – as opposed to the governing or policy aspects – of the story, and lazily write the Mastro cover story, e.g. Most of Hoboken Sandy Energy Grants not scored due to errors, memo’s show

Or write vapid bullshit like this:

(and Matt Katz is one of the better reporters now working at the best media outlet, in terms of serious coverage of public policy issues.)

Which brings us to the boxed quote above.

This morning, I came across that finding from a research paper published by a Princeton University professor – in straight forward statistical regression analysis, the paper demonstrates that the US is an Oligarchy, not a democracy or representative democracy.

Professor  Gilens’ paper confirms the prior theoretical work of another Princeton professor, Sheldon Wolin, laid out in his masterpiece book: Democracy Incorporated – Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism

[Robert Reich dubs it “The New Gilded Age” – while Mat Taibbi writes of  American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap]

One would think that Princeton study a rather newsworthy finding, no?

One would think it is not hard to use the Rockefeller influence on Gov. Christie and DEP as a perfect illustration of that research.

So, why isn’t that story being written? Especially after the NY Times opened the door in a scathing expose, see

The Mastro DEP summaries lay the story out on a silver platter.

But instead of serious reporting about how the Rockefeller Development Group got Gov. Christie’s support and a series of closed door meetings with the DEP on regulatory approvals – and what kind of reforms must be enacted to end those abuses –  we get more vapid blather from the press corps.

No wonder we’ve surrendered democracy to the corporate Oligarchs.

They’ve got the best media money can buy.

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Congrats To Union College Hockey On National Championship

April 16th, 2014 No comments

Cornell Knocked out of ECAC & NCAA Tournament By Eventual National Champion

Congratulations are in order for Union College, who won their first national championship on Saturday in Philadelphia, at the NCAA Frozen Four.

Just remember Union fans that – with  a few breaks – it could have been very different – photos of Union v. Cornell ECAC semifinal game in Lake Placid NY on March 21, where Cornell was eliminated.

first period

open net!



point blank shot from the slot


good chance

good chance for deflection





crashing the net

Union defenders blocked lots of shots










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