Archive for August, 2021

The View From Bonners Ferry, Idaho – Boundary County

August 15th, 2021 No comments

They Must Have Interesting School Board Meetings

Boundary County Has No Boundaries


Historian Paul Street writes about why this is so dangerous and ongoing, see:

[Update: listen to this interview with Paul Mason (starts midway through podcast) on his new book: “How To Stop Fascism” for a fascinating analysis of the ideological, cultural, and psychological roots of fascism and how they are operating today with Trumpers. I found his invocation of Wilhelm Reich’s psychological and cultural work on 1930’s Germany incredibly apt for today’s conditions – including how the right is mobilizing fear of freedom. ]



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We managed to insinuate the Green New Deal skoolie between the warring ideological camps:


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August 14th, 2021 No comments

Amber Waves Of Greed

It was 100 degrees today across the northern Montana – US Canadian Border region. A couple I spoke with taking refuge in a bar in Culbertson Montana said they had lived there 11 years and never seen anything like these temperatures (the mid 50″s bartender, a lifetime local, nodded in agreement).

The forecast for heading east into northern North Dakota tomorrow – where I’m heading – is for more of the same, but even higher temperatures of 101 degrees. Extreme.

Sorry, I’ve got no pretty landscape photo of all those “amber waves of grain”.

As I drove across the Montana prairie today, what I saw was “amber waves of greed” and insanity, as coal trains and 2 mile long 8 Diesel engine powered fracked gas trains with hundreds of cars rumbled non-stop.

The trains and their ear splitting horns formed a sharp contrast, as they roared by homeless men sleeping on the ground in Wolf Point on the Fort Peck Reservation, compared to the well dressed rich white folks embarking at the Whitefish, Montana “depot” – perhaps headed for a local day visit to West Glacier and Glacier National Park.

The Montana rivers – once you leave the western mountain region – are bathtub warm eutrophic sewers that provide zero relief for my suffering old dog.

I would not even consider a swim in that toxic algae soup.

During the prior major “heat dome” event, we were holed up at over 4,000 feet in the Cascade mountains, just west of Mazama, Washington in the Okanogan-Wenachee National Forest, see:

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We suffered a high of 117 degrees, and 6 consecutive days over 100 (with nighttime lows of 75-80).

With No AC, living outside, and in a bus with a lot of windows that serve as magnifying glasses.

Luckily, we found a site next to an ice cold glacial and groundwater fed stream, where we both plunged every 15 minutes.

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Or else we might have died (as hundreds of others did across the Pacific Northwest).

So, our tolerance of all the failures to act, the excuses, and the failures to tell the truth about what’s really going on is long gone.

Because I limit my comments to stuff I know, I mean YOU NJ environmental groups and NJ media, especially NJ Spotlight who should know better.

You can all fuck off.

And so can your Foundation funders, corporate donors, wealthy members, political hacks, and media friends.

I’ve lived a long, good life and Death is a part of life – but the end of human civilization is not part of the bargain we all struck in being born.

[End Note: Ironically, as I was writing this and the coal and fracked gas trains rumbled by, my solar powered inverter over-heated and crashed.

Double irony: as I tried to figure out how to respond to my local power outage, a pathetically tiny Amtrak diesel powered train just went by – all of 7 passenger cars and a mail car. That’s telling, in light of the thousands of coal, gas, and Chinese consumer product import cars that have rolled by in just the last few hours.]

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Not Me Too

August 12th, 2021 No comments

Cultural Takedown, While Public Health & Corporate Crimes And Real Climate Progress Completely Ignored

"DON'T FRACK NY" Protest (8/7/12)

“DON’T FRACK NY” Protest (Albany, NY, 8/27/12)

[Update: 8/30/21 – I just read this from Jeffrey St. Clair at CounterPunch and print it verbatim, because it wipes out all the praise I had below for Cuomo on his fracking ban:

+ Under Andrew Cuomo’s leadership, the state of New York remains at only around 5% wind and solar on the power grid largely because Cuomo pushed fracked gas as a “bridge fuel.” As a result, renewable energy sources flatlined and 16 times more gas power plants were built as wind/solar in his decade in power.


[Update: 8/16/21 – I’ve not followed this issue or read the AG’s Report – but the WSWS has and makes the implications clear:

From Joe Biden on down, the Democrats are incapable of acting against a single one of the conspirators in the Trump administration and Congress who organized a coup attempt on January 6 aimed at establishing a dictatorship in the U.S. However, the opportunity to burnish their credentials in the “fight against sexual harassment” and, in the process, divert the public from the resurgence of the pandemic and other social disasters is an opportunity not be passed up. […]

The transfer of power in a palace coup through a degrading scandal drags political life as a whole further to the right, encouraging every reactionary political element. At the same time, the big questions of disease and poverty, the fascist threat, the danger of war, are deliberately pushed into the background and cheap, vicious middle class moralizing and gossip-mongering come to the fore.

The electoral process in the US, on the verge of collapse, is increasingly circumvented by various means–sex scandals, voter suppression, phony recounts, armed attacks and more. Only a break with the two-party system and the building of a mass socialist movement offers a way out of the present impasse.

[Update: 8/14/21 – This is exactly what we called out as enabling “Progressive Neoliberalism” (Jacobin):

Though Cuomo is pretending to be an unsophisticated knucklehead who doesn’t understand that times have changed, he’s long been a savvy exploiter of empty neoliberal feminism. Years ago, he started the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) — which the New York Times described as a “political shell company” — in order to defend himself from primary challenges from progressive women like Zephyr Teachout. ~~~ and update]

[Update: 8/14/21 – one of my favorite historians and writers (and fellow SUNY Binghamton Alum), Paul Street, agrees with me! In an aside note in his must read Aug 13 CounterPunch column, Street wrote:

 It’s nice that the sexual harasser Andrew Cuomo has been forced to resign. Let’s hope that his brother Chris (who counseled him to fight and blame “cancel culture”) can be forced off CNN. Still, it’s a shame that Governor Cuomo’s criminal treatment of nursing home residents early in the pandemic and his broader corporate corruption didn’t receive more attention in the drama over his removal. ~~~ end update]

Sorry folks, being on the road and in the national forests sometimes puts one a week or more behind the news. But as a New Yorker, I felt I had to weigh in on this.

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in nursing homes.

He denied responsibility for that, lied about the number of deaths, and covered up the information.

He then provided legal immunity for corporate owners of the same facilities for wrongful deaths, gross negligence, and abuse.

(NJ readers should know that Gov. Murphy and the Democratic legislature provided similar liability relief, and that too has gotten very little media play or howls of protest).

The NY State Attorney General issued a press release and wrote a detailed critical Report about all that.

All these serious crimes and corporate corruption got very little news coverage, especially the corporate liability relief.

In contrast to the neglect of these important stories, the media and political institutions were obsessed with Cuomo’s alleged sexual harassment – and relatively low level sexual harassment at that.

The NY Attorney General issued a press release and wrote a critical Report about that too.

But Gov. Cuomo also was responsible for major accomplishments, including killing proposed fossil pipelines and imposing a moratorium, or ban, on fracking.

These major accomplishments on the most serious issues of our time – just like his corporate crimes and corruption  –  got very little media attention.

While I never liked Andrew Cuomo (I did like his father, Gov. Mario Cuomo), I think this take down frenzy is absurd. It enables the Democrats and the media to continue the destructive “Progressive Neoliberalism” politics exposed by professor Nancy Fraser.

So sign me up for #Notmetoo.

looks like the guy with the "Never President" sign knew someething

looks like the guy with the “Never President” sign knew something

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The Cowardice Of The Planners

August 9th, 2021 No comments

NJ’s Tradition Of Regional Planning And Land Use Regulation Undermined, Not Promoted

The Worship of Mammon 1909 painting by Evelyn De Morgan

The Worship of Mammon 1909 painting by Evelyn De Morgan

Back in 1967, at the height of the Vietnam War, Professor Noam Chomsky wrote a powerful essay titled “The Responsibility of Intellectuals” (read the whole thing, it’s timeless).

After beginning his work by tracing a deeply disturbing history, Chomsky broadened the question:

With respect to the responsibility of intellectuals, there are still other, equally disturbing questions. Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western world, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us. The responsibilities of intellectuals, then, are much deeper than what Macdonald calls the “responsibility of people,” given the unique privileges that intellectuals enjoy.

Chomsky did not blink in clearly stating the “responsibility of intellectuals” and in assessing the situation:

IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies. This, at least, may seem enough of a truism to pass over without comment. Not so, however. For the modern intellectual, it is not at all obvious.

A context which takes us to the implications for today.

Professional planners have very similar responsibilities and are in similar positions to expose lies of government.

They have exactly the same responsibility to “speak the truth”.

The professional planners even have a formal code of ethics that outlines those lofty responsibilities.

Our primary obligation is to serve the public interest and we, therefore, owe our allegiance to a conscientiously attained concept of the public interest that is formulated through continuous and open debate

But just like their plans, those professional ethics are purely “aspirational” and toothless – mere cover for cowardice: (Code of Ethics)

Section A contains a statement of aspirational principles that constitute the ideals to which we are committed. We shall strive to act in accordance with our stated principles. However, an allegation that we failed to achieve our aspirational principles cannot be the subject of a misconduct charge or be a cause for disciplinary action.

This statement from today’s NJ Spotlight story does not satisfy even those aspirations, never mind Chomsky’s far more meaningful responsibilities:

But shifting power to state or regional authorities is a heavy lift, said Jim Gilbert, a former chairman of the State Planning Commission, because that body does not have control over warehouse siting and because any attempt to weaken municipal power will meet strong resistance from defenders of New Jersey’s home-rule tradition.

Worshipping home rule

“As soon as you start talking about comprehensive regional planning, the towns go crazy because they don’t understand that it’s really fundamentally in their interests,” said Gilbert, who advocates for broader authority over warehousing. “Home rule is a religion in New Jersey.”

Yes, some do worship home rule – just as some worship Mammon.

And this cowardly and irresponsible statement by Gilbert is a perfect echo of former Gov. Christie’s dismissal of climate as an “esoteric issue” that distracted from his primary day-to-day focus on Sandy recovery and rebuild: (NJ Spotlight)

“How do you tell [Gov.] Murphy when he’s day-to-day worrying about COVID-19 that he should take on a hornet’s nest like this?” he [Gilbert] asked.

Under exactly the same excuse Gilbert provided for Gov. Murphy, recall that former Gov. Christie said this:

 “Now, maybe in the subsequent months and years, after I get done with trying to rebuild the state and put people back in their homes, I will have the opportunity to ponder the esoteric question of the cause of this storm. …If you asked of these people in Union Beach, I don’t think they give a damn.” NJ Gov. Chris Christie, Feb. 5. 2013

We’ll post a substantive analysis of the issues raised by Gilbert in a future post when I have more time (I’m on the road right now).

For now, we’ll simply provide a few facts and some history that were ignored by NJ Spotlight and Mr. Gilbert: (and remarkably, for what can only be corruption at this point, NJ Spotlight again ignored: a) the regulatory powers of the DEP, b) the entire issue of climate emergency, c) the 6 WQMP’s now pending before DEP, d) NJ’s regional planning institutions (Highlands, HMC, and Pinelands), e) preservation of farms and forests, and f) gross abuse of NJ’s redevelopment law):

1. We’ve long been a critic of the toothless State Plan, a plan my good friend Bill Neil once long ago called “the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the people of NJ”.

But back in 1994 – as Mr. Gilbert knows – then NJ Gov. Jim Florio issued Executive Order #114 .

That Order directed DEP, among other State agencies, to integrate the State Plan in DEP plans, programs, permits, and regulations, thus giving the State Plan regulatory teeth. That Order was never implemented. It was opposed by professional planners, including some in DEP (last names: Schmidt, Whitney, Van Abs, Bierbaum, and Weingart – more to follow on that).

2. In 2002, Gov. McGreevey’s DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell sought to enforce environmentally based land use policies via the flawed and failed “Big Map” fiasco.

But that failure, as I advised him at the time, did provide cover for and help catalyze incredible progress on land use, specifically, passage of the Highlands Act and DEP’s Category One buffer regulations that protect over 2,200 stream miles and 175,000 acres of some of the most ecologically rich lands.

3. Gov. Byrne’s and Kean’s leadership and aggressive exercise of executive power gave us the Pinelands Act and the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act. Both those laws over-ride “Home Rule”.

4. “Home rule” may be worshipped, but professional planners know and are obligated to tell the public that it is a legal fiction.

Under the NJ Constitution, Municipalities are creatures of the Legislature. The land use powers of municipalities are delegated by the Legislature under the NJ Municipal Land Use Law. Those local land use powers were created by the Legislature and can be taken back by the Legislature. The legislature has done exactly that in numerous laws.

(For a lesson in hypocrisy: why didn’t those “home rule” worshipers and professional planner make a peep of protest when the Legislature pre-empted local land use and police powers to regulate logging of public lands?)

5.  Many shared the Jim Gilbert’s false, cowardly, and corrupt view of “home rule” and claimed that stronger regional planning and DEP regulation were not politically feasible.

Had we listened to them, we would not have the Pinelands Act, the Highlands Act, the Freshwater Wetlands Act, or the Category One stream buffers, among many others.

In more profiles in courage, we note (NJ Spotlight):

Murphy’s office did not respond to a request for comment on whether he favors broader oversight of warehouse-planning authority. Mike McGuinness, chief executive of the New Jersey branch of NAIOP, a commercial real estate trade group that represents developers, also did not respond to a request for comment. …

The New Jersey League of Municipalities did not respond to requests for comment.

The series of “no comment” from most of the players should tell you something: they are afraid, because they KNOW that they have no leg to stand on in defense of warehouses and the disgraceful loss of farmland and forests.

It’s time to go on offense and preserve what little farmland and forests that are left.

So, we’ll close with a quote from our good friend, Bill Neil, who previously was Director of Conservation back in the days when NJ Audubon had integrity:

a “little Caesar” in every one of the 560 munis.  It’s local democracy of course, but also a multiplication of the game “pay to play,” and don’t forget, next to the power of the  Federal Reserve over currency, the ability to zone in real estate is the power to create or take away wealth, and that’s the other hidden side of ‘home rule.”  Second only to the Fed. Reserve.”

[End Note: Thanks again to a knowledgeable reader, I was reminded that my take on Mr. Gilbert, NJ professional planners ,and the NJ State Plan go back almost 40 years, to the Hopewell Merrill Lynch development war in the late 1980’s.

Not only was the State Plan exposed as a toothless fraud by that debate, but Mr. Gilbert’s role was questioned because he retired from Merrill Lynch.

However, while I was the point of the spear in this Hopewell Merrill Lynch war, I was not aware that Mr. Gilbert now serves on the Boards of not only the private corporate planning group NJ Future, but also the NJ League of Conservation Voters, and the Highlands Coalition.

No wonder the environmental/conservation community, the Highland Coalition, and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance are so lame on these issues and has allowed NJ Future to frame the issues and limit the policy Reforma agenda.

More Green Mafia. You can’t make this shit up. I should have titled this “The Corruption of the Planners”.

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NJ Spotlight Prints Chemical Industry Lies On Drinking Water Standards – The Industry Cost Issue Now Expands Into Public Health Protections

August 6th, 2021 No comments

More Cheerleading, Despite Several Years Of DEP Delay In Setting Standards

Once Again, Over 500 Unregulated Chemicals In NJ Drinking Water Are Ignored

Once Again, Regulators And Polluting Industry Are Let Off The Hook

Here we go again.

NJ Spotlight published another story today about the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) and DEP efforts to set drinking water standards for the toxic and/or carcinogenic chemical known as “1,4 – dioxane”.

The story has major flaws and errors – by commission and omission all of which I’ve pointed out numerous times to reporter Jon Hurdle based on his prior reporting. And it seems like NJ Spotlight’s “business friendly” obsession with costs – especially to business and industry – is now creeping into their public health and environmental coverage.

So I must conclude that these repeated errors and omissions are knowing and in bad faith. I assume that this coverage is either designed intentionally to mislead readers, or reflects cowardice and the corrupt journalistic practice of bending the narrative and facts to fit the propaganda of powerful chemical industry interests. Or both.

I feel very strongly that the people deserve accurate information about what the environmental laws actually say; what all the relevant facts and science are; and whether government officials are doing all they can to protect our health or whether they are caving in to powerful industries or trading off public health protections for economic growth.

For context, we wrote about the chemical 1,4 – dioxane 5 years ago and discussed the issues it raised for setting drinking water standards (known as “Maximum Contaminant Limits” or MCL’s) for toxic chemicals and carcinogens, see:

I’ve also written about the issue of “unregulated contaminants” many times, so that too is no secret to DEP, environmental groups, Mr. Hurdle and his editors at NJ Spotlight, (see links below).

The NJ Spotlight story today is false and misleading for the following reasons:

1) The DWQI And DEP May Not Consider Costs In Setting Safe Drinking Water Standards

The 1983 amendments to the NJ Safe Drinking Water Act  are very clear about the specific factors that the Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) and the DEP shall consider as the basis for setting protective drinking water standards (MCL’s) for carcinogens and other toxic chemicals. (see:

Those 3 factors are prescribed in this legislative standard: “within the limits of medical scientific and technological feasibility”.

Those 3 factors do not authorize DEP to consider the costs of compliance.

The Legislature was explicit in the 1983 amendments in making NJ’s law more stringent than the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, which does allow considerations of “economic and technological feasibility” (the same standard adopted in NJ’s original 1977 State SDWA).

The NJ law also has a more stringent health standard, compared to the federal SDWA. NJ MCL’s must protect against individual excess lifetime cancer risks of 1 in a million.

For non-cancer health impacts, NJ’s law is also more specific and stringent than the federal law. The DWQI and NJ DEP may consider the following effects in setting MCL’s, for chemicals that may:

cause death, disease, behavioral abnormalities, cancer, genetic mutations, physiological malfunction (including malfunctions in reproduction), or physical deformity

DEP knows this. The members of the DWQI know this.

But apparently NJ environmental groups and NJ media do not know this and as a result the people of NJ don’t know this.

What you don’t know can kill you.

2) The Chemical Industry Is Lying

While NJ Spotlight repeatedly fails to inform readers of what the NJ law actually says, they print chemical industry lies.

This is a disgrace.

They printed this quote from Dennis Hart of the NJ Chemistry Council, followed by a boldface sub-headline, with no qualification or challenge, as if it were a fact: (my emphasis):

On Thursday, the Chemistry Council of New Jersey accused the panel of not providing the DEP with the full scientific information that it needs to decide whether to move forward with the recommended health limit.

The trade group also said the water quality institute had not fully considered the EPA’s conclusions that the chemical posed no unreasonable risk to consumers.

“The Chemistry Council of New Jersey has long advocated for greater transparency and public input with respect to DWQI’s activities,” its executive director, Dennis Hart, said in a statement. “Failure to do so is not in the best interest of our residents.”

Chemistry council predicts higher water bills

In a detailed response to the draft recommendation last year, the chemistry council predicted that New Jersey residents would be faced with higher water bills because of the costs that utilities will incur for installing technology to comply with the health limit if it is finally implemented.

That is lousy journalism, at best.

Dennis Hart is a former longtime DEP Manger. He once oversaw NJ’s drinking water program, so he knows what the law and the science are. Therefore, let me be clear: he is lying on behalf of the toxic chemical polluters who pay his salary. 

The chemical industry does not care about any increases in your water bills, they are worried about the HUGE multi- billion dollar liability they will suffer when regulatory standards are established for the chemicals they have manufactured and dumped everywhere: the air, land and water – that are poisoning our bodies, wildlife, and ecosystems.

The chemical industry doesn’t give a rats ass about “greater transparency and public input”.

The chemical industry does its lobbying in the dark, as we just learned from the statements of Exxon’s own lobbyist.

The public wants its health protected from chemical assault. The last thing the chemical industry wants is more public awareness of those chemical assaults and public involvement in government setting standards to protect them from those chemical assaults.

Yet, NJ Spotlight fails to provide accurate information about the science and the law (i.e. as set out above and below) that would contextualize and expose these chemical industry lies.

It does not print specific rebuttals calling out those lies.

It just prints a meek “he said she said” vague and defensive reply by the head of the DWQI.

That is, at best, a cowardly form of journalism.

3) Over 500 Chemicals Found In NJ Drinking Water Remain Unregulated

As I’ve written many times, NJ DEP knows that there are over 500 chemicals present in NJ drinking water. 

For the implications of this, keep in mind that the infamous childhood cancer cluster in Toms River NJ was caused by unregulated chemicals in drinking water.

Scientists also have documented serious ecological effects, like dual sexed fish.

Most recently, upon release of DEP’s Statewide Water Quality Report, I wrote: (DEP’s Report also was ignored by NJ Spotlight):

5. DEP Is Ignoring The Impacts Of Toxic Unregulated Chemicals, Like Pharmaceuticals and Endocrine Disruptors

Unfortunately, not everyone knows that DEP knows that there are over 500 unregulated chemicals present in NJ waters and that those chemicals have unknown toxic effects on ecosystems, fisheries, and human health. …

Two major categories of those unregulated chemicals include pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors.

For the implications of endocrine disruptors, see:

For the implications of pharmaceuticals, see:

Consider these important facts:

1. The DEP has admitted that there is no monitoring to understand how widespread the chemicals are or what concentrations they are in your tap water.

2. The DEP has admitted that there is no science and that they do not know what the public health and ecological effects of these chemicals are.

3. The DEP also has said that there are methods to treat and remove the chemicals from drinking water and that these treatment methods, such as granular activated carbon, are technologically available (i.e. not confined to a research lab, limited to bench studies or experimental pilot projects, but readily available).

4. Based on: a) the scientific uncertainty about health and ecological effects, b) the widespread public exposure, c) the availability of treatment to remove 99.99% of these chemicals from our drinking water, and d) the risks and delays of the current practice of setting individual MCL’s for each of these 500+ chemicals, the DEP recommended that they pursue a more effective and protective “treatment based approach”. For details, see:

Once again, all this is completely ignored, while NJ Spotlight tells its readers that your water is safe and DEP and the DWQI are doing just a swell job!

4) The DWQI And DEP Could Be Doing Far More – They Are Receiving False Praise

The DWQI and the DEP have abandoned the prior DEP recommendation to pursue a more effective and protective “treatment based approach”.

They are ignoring unknown and potentially significant risks of unregulated chemicals.

They have not moved forward on over a dozen prior recommended MCLs.

They move at a glacial pace, taking, in the case of 1,4 dioxane, almost a decade to act.

This performance does not warrant the kind of praise that is consistently heaped on them by NJ Spotlight, unfortunately including some environmental groups.

They can and must do much better.

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