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National Park System History “Not a Bed of Roses” – A “Bitter Struggle” Against “Private Exploitation At The Hands Of The Selfish Few”

August 24th, 2016 No comments

Can we re-imagine and replicate a Green New Deal?

History provides a political and programmatic roadmap

CCC camp in the Tennessee Valley

CCC camp in the Tennessee Valley (Source: The Federal Art Project)

As we celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service (NPS) – the government agency, not the national parks there are many lessons directly relevant to today’s emerging and inter-related climate and economic catastrophes. Perhaps the first and foremost lessons are political.

The key political lessons that reverberate today are the need for an expansive role of government: 1) to plan for the future and the benefit of the public, objectives not served by private “free market” values and institutions; 2) to check the greed and power of narrow private commercial interests who exploit both man and nature for short term selfish profit; and 3) to create a massive jobs program that is driven by environmental goals.

A largely forgotten chapter in the history of our national parks and the NPS was the New Deal era, the leadership of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), and the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was one of the most popular New Deal programs, an idea which originated in State programs in California and New York.

A marvelous brief history of the role of the CCC in the national parks is “The Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service, 1933 – 1942″.

President Roosevelt’s primary goal for the program was to take unemployed youths out of the cities and build up their health and morale while contributing to the economic recovery of the country. Not only would they receive wages for their work, but money would also be sent to their dependents so that the program would provide benefits to the greatest number of people. The work was to restore the enrollees to physical health and increase their confidence in themselves and the nation. A secondary goal of the program was to effect needed conservation measures on forest, park, and farm lands. A related goal was to provide the nation with increased recreational opportunities. The Park Service saw the program as a way to accomplish conservation and development within the national parks and to assist in the creation and enlargement of a nationwide state parks system. [1]

The first accomplishment of the CCC was having 250,000 young men working within three months of its establishment–the greatest peacetime mobilization of American youth. The next major accomplishment came in the coordination and development of a nationwide state parks program, one that was instrumental in establishing the first state parks for Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi, and New Mexico. In 1934, Oklahoma and Montana designated their first parklands. New parks were added or existing parks were expanded in 17 other states, including New York, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, California, and Michigan, as a direct result of the program. The state parks program also gave the Park Service an opportunity to set standards for park development and planning throughout the nation. Concerning national parks and monuments, the Park Service asserted that during the first few months of operation the ECW [CCC] advanced the cause of forestry work dramatically. It was estimated that millions of dollars of annual losses caused by forest fires, tree diseases, insects, rodent infestation, and soil erosion were prevented by this conservation effort. [2] [ …]

By the time the CCC was terminated in 1942 a total of 2 million enrollees had performed work in 198 CCC camps in 94 national park and monument areas and 697 camps in 881 state, county, and municipal areas. Through the CCC program 711 state parks had been established. …

Today, people look back on the Civilian Conservation Corps as one of the most successful New Deal programs…. In almost every presidential campaign, one candidate or another proposes to inaugurate a new CCC program. In less than 10 years the CCC left a lasting legacy for America and the National Park Service. The extensive development and park expansion made possible by the CCC was in large part responsible for the modern national and state park systems.

FDR aggressively promoted both the national park system and the CCC and – like Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein today – FDR championed a strong role for government and called out what we now refer to as the 1% and lambasted their selfishness and shortsighted greed.

Here’s an example of FDR’s leadership and rhetoric – a Radio Address from Two Medicine Chalet, Glacier National Park, delivered  on August 5, 1934

We should remember that the development of our national park system over a period of many years has not been a simple bed of roses. As is the case in the long fight for the preservation of national forests and water power and mineral deposits and other national possessions, it has been a long and fierce fight against many private interests which were entrenched in political and economic power. So, too, it has been a constant struggle to continue to protect the public interest, once it was saved from private exploitation at the hands of the selfish few.

It took a bitter struggle to teach the country at large that our national resources are not inexhaustible and that, when public domain is stolen, a twofold injury is done, for it is a theft of the treasure of the present and at the same time bars the road of opportunity to the future.

We have won the greater part of the fight to obtain and to retain these great public park properties for the benefit of the public. We are at the threshold of an even more important battle to save our resources of agriculture and industry from the selfishness of individuals.

Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein is calling for a Green New Deal to respond to the joint climate and jobs crises, but her campaign platform has yet to flesh that proposal out:

Create millions of jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture, and conservation.

In addition to lacking substance to support her wonderful idea, Stein also has missed the opportunity presented by the highly visible national celebration of 100th anniversary of the NPS to link that call to the original New Deal and the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in our National Parks.

Like I said, history provides a political and programmatic roadmap.

Will we, as Paulo Freire said, make that road by walking?

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Protesters Denounce Christie’s “Apartheid” School Funding Plan

August 23rd, 2016 No comments

Bordentown Mayor Joe Mallone Praises Christie’s Divisive Attack on Public Education

Christie vomits up assaults on affordable housing and the independence of the judiciary

Bordentown NJ (8/23/16)

Bordentown NJ (8/23/16)

Gov. Christie was literally in my backyard this morning, just a block away at the Bordentown Hope Hose Firehouse, so I figured I’d check out the show.

Supporters of public education were out early and in numbers to protest the Governor’s plan, which would slash aid to NJ’s 31 “Abbott” school districts – mostly poor and black – and reallocate State funds to more wealthy and white suburban towns.

The Gov.’s plan for “equal” per pupil state aid is a retrograde and racist throwback to the days of separate but equal, with a toxic mix of blame the victim and anti-tax, anti-government, anti-intellectual sentiment.

It is designed to play upon the worst motives and resentments that wealthy white suburbs have for the redistribution of State funding to poor and black cities.

Christie’s policy “solutions” to urban poverty, educational disadvantage, housing, jobs, economic and social injustice, and appalling de facto segregation was the Neoliberal playbook: eliminate local school boards and democratic impediments to corporate “management”; provide labor “flexibility:”, (e.g. attack teachers unions and union rules, seniority, tenure, mandate a longer school year and school day, etc); more privatization & Charter schools; more corporate subsidies to relocate suburban jobs to places like Camden – policies, all of which, even if they work, provide no educational benefits to the kids and the people who live there and just stimulate gentrification, perpetuate segregation and social injustice, and generate windfall profits to real estate speculators and developers and nothing for existing communities.

Paging George Norcross!

(in fairness, the Gov. did say ONE good thing in response to a mom who lost a child to drug addiction & overdose: a change in policy favoring drug treatment over incarceration and the need to shut down prisons and convert them to treatment centers. Don’t know if that was just rhetoric or whether its actually happening though.)

I stayed for the Governor’s presentation and 15 minutes or so of questions from the audience, but had to leave, a little disoriented and sick to my stomach from the ugly assault I heard by the Governor.

Aside from the the Governor’s warped views on education, race, and urban issues, perhaps the lowest point was when Christie demagogued the “legislators in black robes” in an open attack on the Constitutional role of the judicial branch and judicial independence.

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Christie is no scholar, but as a trained lawyer and a man that swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, his attack on the Court and individual judges was shameful and unforgivable.

And shame on Mayor Joe Mallone for praising the Governor for speaking out on the issue.

Some pics:

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PS – after last night’s near riot at the DEP hearing – where I was physically thrown out of my seat by a big union guy I got a kick out of being asked by a State Policeman to enforce the reserved seat next to me – here’s his SP colleague – sitting in the right place! Surely just a coincidence!

source: Agnes Marsalla, People Over Pipelines (8/23/16)

source: Agnes Marsala, People Over Pipelines (8/23/16)

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Hundreds of Pipeline Opponents Force DEP To Cancel Public Hearing On Controversial Compressor Station Wetlands Permit and Clean Water Act Certificate

August 22nd, 2016 No comments
street scene outside Ramada in on Rt. 205, 15 minutes before hearing. Significant traffic jam and safety issues as pedestrians tried to cross bust Rt. 206.

street scene outside Ramada Inn on Rt. 206 in Bordentown, 15 minutes before hearing. Police had to manage a traffic jam and safety issues as pedestrians tried to walk on shoulder and cross busy Rt. 206, a 4 lane highway at that location

[Update: 8/24/16 – NJ.Com has a good story, with a video of some of the chaos:

[Revised]

The DEP was force to cancel – at the public hearing – the hearing on a highly controversial DEP wetlands permit and federal Clean Water Act Water Quality Certificate .

Whoever selected the public hearing location KNEW it was totally unacceptable and was designed to frustrate and limit public participation and enable them to stack the hearing with a hundred intimidating union members.

Transco and DEP KNEW of the huge public and local government opposition to their project because of the huge turnout at a prior DEP permit hearing on the detewatering permit for the compressor station.

That prior DEP public hearing was held in a public building (the Chesterfield Elementary school). It was in a driver and pedestrian safe location, with reasonable parking, reasonable public access, and plenty of seating capacity to accommodate the large crowd that attended. Hundreds of people attended. So DEP and Transco KNEW a large crowd would be there tonight.

In contrast, the Ramada Inn venue was exactly the opposite or all that and selected to frustrate public participation, the first that would focus on the Clean Water Act WQC issue.

This was DEP’s hearing. Would whomever selected the location please raise your hand?

It was in a horrible location as a private facility. It lacked adequate parking. The highway location and lack of adequate parking forced scores of people to park far away and walk to the building. The Ramada location is on Rt. 206, a 4 lane State highway with a 50 mph speed limit. All those attributes put many pedestrians at risk in walking on the shoulders and crossing a 4 lane 50 mph State highway to get to the public hearing. All of this forced a huge police presence to manage the traffic and pedestrians.

Worst of all, the hearing room lacked adequate seating capacity and violated all kinds of fire safety codes (and likely electric codes as well).

Hundreds of people could not fit in the tiny room at the Ramada Inn. Scores more could not even enter the room to sign up to testify.

The hearing room’s fire code capacity was 180 people, forcing well over 200 people to jam that room. A few hundred more packed the Ramada lobby and could not enter the room. Scores were being turned away.

large crowd in lobby blocked from entering hearing room

large crowd in lobby blocked from entering hearing room

The proposed compressor station has long been opposed by local governments and hundreds of residents and environmental activists.

Prior to the hearing, many people warned DEP that the venue for the hearing – the Ramada Inn – was poor because it lacked sufficient capacity to accommodate the large crowds of people who opposed the pipeline and were certain to turn out in large numbers.

DEP failed to heed those warnings or reschedule the hearing. They asked for the chaos that ensued tonight.

The chaos that ensued tonight illustrates the abdication by DEP of their responsibility to assure that the public is afforded basic due process protections and an ability to participate in decisions affecting their lives.

What went down tonight

As I arrived, I noticed a table set up by union officials just outside the entrance – they were handing out pizza and soft drinks to union members.

I made my way through the crowd in the lobby and entered the hearing room about 10 minutes prior to the scheduled 6 pm start (see clock in photo above). I was pissed off but not surprised to see half the seats and standing room already taken by LiUna union members – Hillary just loves to build fossil infrastructure, you Go Girl! Maybe you can frack more gas and build more miles of pipeline than Obama!-  while over 100 people could not even enter the room:

Liunna union member pack the hearing room - that's a union organizer with a clipboard on the left

LiUna union members pack the hearing room – that’s a union organizer with a clipboard on the left

I began shouting, asking all the union guys that are paid to attend to raise their hands (several actually did!)

DEP Assistant Commissioner Kopkash then threatened to eject me from the hearing.

I told her she had no authority to do so before the hearing began and that if she proceeded to hold the hearing that DEP would have a lawsuit on their hands due to gross due process violations.

She ignored me and I struggled through the crowd to the sign up table to sign in to speak.

I began shaming and taunting the union guys, asking them – in a loud voice for the crowd  – why they let themselves be used and paid by corporate energy giants to frustrate democracy.

Those were not the kind of values and labor and working class solidarity that my union family inculcated in me.

ramada4

Not willing to be intimidated, I found one of the only seats left and sat down in the midst of the sea of orange union shirts.

It got ugly fast – one large union guy put his hands on me (twice) and forcibly ejected me from my seat, prompting me to shout for police.

Others began shouting about the fire code violations, complaining about all the hundreds of people who could not even get in, and demanded that the hearing be shut down. It was chaos and very close to violence.

The DEP hearing officer then timidly tried to begin the hearing – she was repeatedly shouted down, including from me.

As soon as she finished her opening statement, I raised a point of order and objected – on the record – to the gross due process violations and demanded that they shut it down.

All hell began to break lose and DEP finally was forced to shut it down.

The DEP will reschedule the public hearing – we’ll keep you posted.

The next hearing for DEP permits and WQC for the NJ Natural Gas pipeline is scheduled for September 7 in the same location – I assume that hearing also will be rescheduled to another more appropriate venue.

DEP Hearing Office tried to speak and was shouted down

DEP Hearing Office tried to speak and was shouted down – interesting electrical system on the floor, no? Do you think a licensed union electrician laid those wires and signed off on that?

End note – I just read the Burlington County Times story – Public hearing on compressor station postponed due to large crowd and want to throw up.

Mayor Jill Popko is the only one with the courage to get it right:

“It was a boondoggle from the get go, just like the pipeline and compressor station,” Bordentown Township Mayor Jill Popko said. “They had no business scheduling (the hearing) in a room that only holds 200 people.”

Worse is that PennEast NJCF people who have done jack shit nothing on the WQC issue or to support local activists got quoted Tom Gilbert and Ms. Cronheim. And their quotes showed deference to DEP, who allowed this farce to proceed, despite warnings and pleadings form local officials and activists.

Gilbert and Cronheim risked NOTHING – they were silent spectators.

While I and several others led the charge, aggressively took on the DEP and the union crowd – literally risking bodily harm and assault to protect people’s rights and shut the thing down.

When you put your ass literally on the line and chumps like Gilbert and Cronheim get the quotes, something is seriously wrong.

Same for O’Malley who praised DEP for canceling instead of condemned them, who cowered before the union guys and DEP, but managed to find the press.

Note to friends – Mr. Douglass was not referring to a soundbite:

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. 

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Dave Levinski crossed Rt. 206 to interview me as I was leaving and the dust was settling. Scores of union thugs were threatening me, driving by, giving me the finger, honking their horns  and yelling out the window that I’d get my ass kicked at the next hearing – I assume his editors cut out my hard hitting criticisms of DEP for the location, problems decribed in his story as mere “gripes”.

I got news for you folks, constitutional due process is NOT A GRIPE.

Here is the Burclo Times photo – I’m shooting a pic:

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Climate Science Trumps Political Science

August 22nd, 2016 No comments

Bad News for All Those Hillary Supporters Out There

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park (summer 2007)

Another devastating monthly report on climate chaos from Truthout reporter Dahr Jamail – shocking science news that is rarely reported by mainstream corporate press:

I was struck by the contrast between the science and what’s called “mainstream” politics – not the first time – (more photos of Glacier NP here).

If this is not a sufficient basis to vote for Jill Stein/Green Party – the only political party that comes even close to advocating for the “the abrupt, mandatory, wide-scale emergency actions necessary to cease most CO2 emissions immediately” required to dampen climate catastrophe – I don’t know what is:

As far as the US election goes, Donald Trump’s ACD denial has reached new heights, even for the Republican Party.

Not only does he call ACD a “hoax,” he has gone on to state he will rescind President Obama’s ACD rules, pull the US out of the climate accords agreed upon in Paris last December, call for more drilling of fossil fuels and, of course, implement fewer environmental regulations, if he is elected president.

Although his opponent, Hillary Clinton, acknowledges the reality of ACD and has incorporated some of the rhetoric of the Bernie Sanders campaign into her platform, she is calling for the building of more roads and airports, which would, of course, only set the stage for even greater amounts of CO2 to be emitted. This is in addition to the fact that she chose Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate.

Kaine supports offshore drilling, as well as the fast-tracking of natural gas export terminals. While he was governor of Virginia, he supported one of the last coal plantsthat was built in the US.

Even if Clinton is elected, the abrupt, mandatory, wide-scale emergency actions necessary to cease most CO2 emissions immediately — a vital first step towards attempting to mitigate ACD — are simply not on the table.

Meanwhile, recent polls indicate that a growing majority (66 percent) of US citizens believe ACD is real. At the same time, the number of people polled who believe there is no solid evidence of ACD is now at a record low of 15 percent, down from 24 percent just one year ago, according to recent polling.

glacier np1

glacier np3

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The Weight of the Flag

August 21st, 2016 No comments

Once in awhile, the AP gets it right

Buried in another AP story about the US “Ugly American” Olympic scandal, the AP inadvertently deployed a powerful metaphor:

Phelps carried the flag into the opening of what he says will be his final games, and now the bearer role — as well as maybe the role of being the face of the U.S. Olympic team — belongs to Biles.

“It’s a huge honor,” said the 4-foot-8 Biles, though she noted she’s a bit worried about handling the weight of the flag.

Yes, the US flag is quite heavy – it’s loaded with baggage – 400 years worth:

Mexico City: Tommie Smith and John Carlos mad ea protest in 1968 on the podium

Mexico City: Tommie Smith and John Carlos protest in 1968 on the podium

What explains the current lack of visible Black Lives Matter protests?

I only watched a few games of US women’s soccer – did I just miss it?

Corporate endorsements?

That seems to be the biggest problem US media found with Lochte’s lie – that he would lose millions in corporate endorsements.

Oh, how far we’ve fallen into the Neoliberal culture of me, my, mine corporate values.

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