Archive for July, 2017

Cascades Wilderness Fire – Ironic Cold War Link (think Strangelove)

July 31st, 2017 No comments

A Visual Evocation Of Cold War Madness


[Update – scroll to bottom, below photos]

The photo above is the Diamond Creek fire (taken on 7/27/17) I took on the border of the Pasayten Wilderness, seen from Hart’s Pass in spectacular Okanogan National Forest. Started by a campfire!

[Update: for a disturbing analysis of fire, climate change, and forests, read “The Late Great Whitebark Pine”. I’ve seen all this happening now in many western forests, and conditions now are drier, not wetter as projected, so actual conditions may be worse then predicted.]

I watched for hours as the fire generated an enormous mushroom cloud – I thought this might look like a miniature version of what a nuclear bomb would create. Here’s a broader view:


Then I read the interpretive sign: the Slate Peak Lookout tower on the top of the mountain was intended to be an Air Force radar station.

During the Cold War hysteria – currently being revived – the US Air Force wanted to monitor for invading Soviet bombers.  They actually blew off the top of the mountain – take a look, Dr. Strangelove!


The military also built the road to the top – here is USFS description of the history “A Little Off The Top” (is it legible?) And the USAF radar station was never built.


Aside from the evocative Cold War irony, read this assessment of that road, from “Dangerous roads – the worlds’s most spectacular roads”. Having driven that road, I completely agree.


We spent the day engrossed in the fire cloud and camped up top.


It got colder and windier as sundown approached. I had to put on winter hat and coat.

We hiked up to the lookout tower at sunrise.



It felt like treading on the edge of the earth – with the wind gusting, I felt like I might just blow away. It was an unsettling landscape, to say the least.

Despite the spectacular beauty, we began the white knuckle drive down as soon as we got back – I didn’t even make coffee.  Take a look:

[Creepy End Note: I brought some books along. I just re-read “On The Road” – and in checking Kerouac’s biography this morning from the fine Carnegie Library here in Port Townsend, Washington, I noted that he spent a few months as a fire lookout on “Desolation Peak”, which is nearby to where the photos were taken.










[Update – Kerouac let his “beat” mask slip exactly once in “On The Road”, in a serious passage that is highly revealing as to the underlying reality that heavily influenced the “beat” alienation and rejection of social values.

And that reality is the bomb.

Here’s the passage, in the final chapter, where the road takes them to Mexico. It explains everything: (emphasis mine)

… They [the Sierra Madre Oriental] had come down from the back mountains and higher places to hold forth their hands for something they thought civilization could offer, and they never dreamed the sadness and poor broken delusion of it. They didn’t know that a bomb had come that could crack all our bridges and roads and reduce them to jumbles, and we would be as poor as they someday, and stretching out our hands in the same, same way.

Update #2 – 8/5/17 – here’s a good essay that makes the same point: “On The Beach”

(note: that book and “On The Road” were both published in 1957, the year I was born.)

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The View From Pringle Park

July 26th, 2017 No comments

Can’t Get Away from NJ Bullshit

Lake Pend Oreille (Idaho)

Lake Pend Oreille (Idaho)

I had to stop along lovely Lake Pend Oreille when I saw the sign for “Pringle Park”!


As I was having a yogurt snack, another coal train roared by:


How many folks reading that fish consumption advisory sign connect the problem with that coal train?


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Greetings From Libby Montana!

July 26th, 2017 No comments

Hard Times

Down and Out at the (closed) Libby Hotel

Down and Out at the (closed) Libby Hotel

Ironically, the main drag through Libby Montana is named “Mineral Avenue” –

A very sad place, but I felt compelled to visit.

The above photo captures the essence of a devastated downtown, a place that Chris Hedges has called a “sacrifice zone”.

NJ angles on the asbestos disaster in Libby can be found here and here.

Not much more to say.

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A Carbon Bomb Train Runs Through It

July 18th, 2017 No comments

Glaciers Melting – Fires Raging – Tourist Hordes Destroying

Bold And Severe Restrictions Must Be Imposed Immediately

US Border Agent: “You have no Constitutional rights”

Bomb train at base of mountains that form boundary of Glacier National Park

Bomb train at base of mountains that form boundary of Glacier National Park

I’ve visited and written and posted photos about Glacier National Park and the disappearing glaciers before, so won’t repeat or waste your time with more pretty landscape photos (see this and this).

In my view, Glacier is by far the most spectacular and significant National Park.

Apparently, many other folks feel the same way, as I was disgusted to learn last week.

First, the coal trains and carbon bomb trains – I can think of no more tragic juxtaposition, given the melting and projected  elimination of the glaciers in the Park by 2030 (here’s another broader shot. Location of train is literally straddling the Great Divide. On the right (not shown) is where Lewis and Clark National Forest meets Flathead National Forest):


My prior visit in 2007 was soon after a huge 2003 fire in Flathead National Forest on the western edge of the park. That fire burnt 136,000 acres in the park. I was pleased to see the healthy forest recovery underway there.

But, there was also another huge fire in 2015 on the eastern side of the park that still looks really bad. Both fires were caused by humans.

Worse, last week, the tourist hordes were so massive, I simply drove right through the Park without stopping, not even for a photo.

Instead I camped on the shore of Lower St. Mary’s Lake, just a few miles north of the eastern park entrance/exit (take a look – how’s that for a campsite? No fees, no rules, no rangers, no noisy neighbors):


After 3 nights there, I drove up to the Canadian side of the International Peace Park and spent some time in lovely Waterton, Alberta (photos – notice how the Canadians emphasize the international aspects and the “Peace Park”! Sadly, that’s something you don’t see on the US “National” side):

Waterton Lake, Alberta Canada

Waterton Lake, Alberta Canada

entering Waterton International Peace Park, Alberta, Canada

entering Waterton International Peace Park, Alberta, Canada



We don't need no stinking "Peace Park"! We're #1! USA! USA! USA!

We don’t need no stinking “Peace Park”! We’re #1! USA! USA! USA!

Crossing the border into Canada was a pleasant experience. The officer was courteous and friendly and asked relevant questions (any guns or explosives?, etc). In comparison, on re-entry, the US Border official was a total asshole.

We rolled up for inspection on the passenger side. I had the passenger side window half rolled up to keep the dog from jumping out and to protect the officer.

But before even asking any questions, he immediately demanded that I roll the window all the way down and as I was attempting to do so he opened the door.

I objected, grabbed the door to shut it, and said he should ask permission. He tussled with me and the door and said he could do whatever he wanted without permission because he was conducting an inspection.

I told him I was a US citizen with Constitutional rights – including privacy – and that I had a dog I was trying to protect him from. I said “You don’t just go and open people’s doors without asking”.

But, after briefly acknowledging my valid point about the dog, he railed on. Instead of the usual appropriate questions, he instead first asked if I was working (because I have a work van?). I replied that I was retired. He then demanded to know “from what?”. I told him that that was an irrelevant question and that I had Constitutional and privacy rights that he was violating.

I was absolutely stunned by his reply – which he repeated 3 times: “No you don’t. You have no rights. You are trying to enter the US. I can do anything I want, including inspecting your vehicle without permission and asking any questions I want. You must comply and answer if you want to enter the Country.

Fuck that. I turned the engine off and told him he was wrong – that I had rights and that anything he did must respect them and must have a reasonable basis and that my prior employment was not relevant and private information.

He replied that I might be a retired nuclear physicist trying to smuggle nuclear material!

I told him to X-ray the van!

He said “I’m not going to argue with you” and then walked around back, got my plate number, and began a computer check of me and my visa. A few minutes later I was on my way.

The damn fool didn’t ask me if I had guns! Could the NRA Gun Nuts have made such questions taboo? (similar to the terror watch list and gun purchase screening issues, which do not consider gun ownership questions). How could my employment status be more important than whether I had guns?

But, aside from the US border excess, given the existential and immediate nature of the climate change threat to the Park – compounded by fire and way too many tourists – I write this open letter to park Superintendent Mow to remind him of his moral duty to act in light of the nature and gravity of the threats and the overwhelming science on climate change.

Mow has high profile political experience to understand how to make this happen, see his Bio:

Jeff has served on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and with the NPS Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs. His additional experiences have included: 1) DOI Incident Commander on the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, 2) investigator on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in Alaska, and 3) Policy Advisor to the fledgling NPS Climate Change Response Program.


Dear Park Superintendent Mow:

I am writing regarding existential threats to Glacier NP and your moral and professional duties to act, based on consensus science, the immediacy and magnitude of the threats, and the mission of the Park Service.

According to NPS visitors literature, there will be no glaciers in Glacier National Park by 2030!

The current joint NPS – US EPA national “Climate Friendly Parks Policy”  and the timid Glacier NP “Action Plan are woefully deficient and a prescription for the literal death of Glacier NP!

The climate change threats alone demand immediate and bold actions – but the gross excedance of the park’s ecological and cultural carrying capacity by hordes of tourists driving in cars is of a similar magnitude.

So here’s a few suggestions to illustrate what I’m driving at:

1. Impose an immediate ban on all motorized vehicles entering the park (except electric powered vehicles and bona fide emergency fire, police and rescue service vehicles).

2. Revoke all vendor service and concession contracts and renew them with a contractual demand that all shuttles, vans and bus fleets be limited to electric vehicles and all buildings be zero carbon by 2023.

3. Order all park employees to commute to work by foot, bicycle, or horseback.

4. Order that all buildings in the park become zero or negative carbon emitters by 2023, via energy conservation measures and on-site generation of non-carbon based renewable energy technologies.

5. Rescind the current ban on bicycles between 11 am and 4 pm! It is absurd!

6. convert current NPS vehicle fleet to electric vehicles.

Glacier National Park is internationally recognized and the existential threat of loss of the park’s namesake glaciers due to climate change demands bold action.

I suggest that you write a policy decision memorandum to your boss in Washington -based on the above list and more! – and copy all Park Superintendents, the Congress and news media.

All you have to lose is your job. And just think of the leadership and public education and parallel actions such bold action on your part would generate!

And you can sleep at night knowing that you did all you could do.


Bill Wolfe

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Free NJ Weedman

July 18th, 2017 No comments

Demand That Trumped Up Charges Be Dismissed and Abuses of Power Investigated

Here is the latest in the outrageous abuse of police and prosecutorial power in Trenton NJ and the unjust prosecution and persecution of “NJ Weedman”, written as a LTE by my good friend Steve Fenichel, MD.

I urge readers to pressure the NJ Attorney General and the local prosecutor to dismiss the charges and demand an investigation into Trenton Police tactics and gross abuses of power:


Dear Editor,

Yesterday I attended the Bail Request hearing of Ed Forchion, aka NJ Weedman. His words were as inspiring to me as if I witnessed Patrick Henry’s famous statement: “Give me Liberty or Give Me Death”!

Forchion was targeted by the Trenton Police because of his refusal to comply with the Pot Prohibition. The cops forced someone desperate for a “deal” to become their Confidential Informant (CI). The CI was then assigned to entrap Forchion by getting him to sell him Cannabis.

Forchion being indigent was without the tax generated resources of the Prosecutor. His Public Defender advised him to appeal to the Public for help in identifying and understanding all the legal issues which made the CI vulnerable to Police pressure. The public’s response was overwhelming and soon the identity of a troubled individual in major legal difficulties emerged.

Mr. Forchion then made a widely viewed video clip in which he revealed the identity of the CI. In it he requested that his supporters not threaten or intimidate this person. Also, he revealed his legal strategy of forcing the CI to be a witness in his trial. He believed it would prove that he was being targeted and entrapped by the Police which is illegal.

The Prosecutor got the Grand Jury to indict Mr. Forchion for the sale of Cannabis . Then the Prosecutor went further- he got the Judge to add charges of witness tampering by claiming that threats were being used to force the CI to give false testimony. Then as the coup de grace the Prosecutor got the Judge to deny Mr. Forchion his Constitutional Right to bail. All this based on intentional distortion as the Prosecutor was in possession of Mr. Forchion’s clearly laid out strategy video.

So after more than 4 months in Mercer County Judge Massi held a hearing on 7/12/17 to reconsider Mr. Forchion’s bail request. The Judge promised to view the video clip and give an expedited decision early next week after more than 4 months in the jail.

It is hard to imagine a more Kafkaesque incident where a falsely accused person sits in a cell for months while a cynical prosecutor hides the truth of their innocence- but in the USA, regrettably, this is not unusual. When will dishonest Prosecutors be held accountable?

Steven Fenichel, MD

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