Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

“This is Not A Trail”

October 14th, 2009 No comments


“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”  Robert Frost The Road Not Taken 

The boulders, trails, trees, and sky of Sourland Mountain Preserve, East Amwell, NJ






Categories: Family & kids, personal Tags:

Corzine applauds New Carbon Control Corporation – Cash for Clunkers at Home. Major Benefits for NJ

September 14th, 2009 1 comment

[Update: Intro warning: If it is not obvious, this is snark! That’s why the original piece closed with reference to Yesmen!)

Washington – Harkening back to President Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Obama administration today announced a new federal agency, the CCC – Carbon Control Corporation.

The new CCC was modeled on FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps and the Tennessee Valley Authority, depression era agencies that spurred employment, conservation of the nation’s natural resources, and brought affordable electric power to millions of homes.

Obama, joined by Treasury Secretary Geithner and Energy Czar Carol Browner, said the CCC would manage and finance energy and global warming policy goals, while spurring employment.

Headed jointly by internationally recognized Princeton Professors Cornel West, and Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, the $250 billion per year CCC program will make massive federal infrastructure investments and be funded by three major sources:

1) a surcharge on carbon intensive fuels – domestic coal and oil imports;

2) full refund of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout money; and

3) savings from phase out of the AfPak and Iraq wars and redeployment of 250,000 US troops stationed at over 725 foreign military bases in 120 countries, including Germany, Japan, and North Korea.

“Today, we take the first large step on the sustainable energy path, and call an end to US military empire” said Obama. “The CCC will restore US manufacturing sector jobs and jump-start a socially just and equitable jobs based economic recovery. The era of deindustrialization, deregulation, privatization, and finance based taxpayer subsidized speculative global trade schemes is over.”

“I have directed CCC head Cornel West to begin immediately with an expanded “cash for clunkers” program for refrigerators, hot water heaters, and furnaces and energy efficiency in America’s homes.

We will channel $30 billion to US consumers in the next 30 days. We will have 10,000 wind, solar, and mass transportation projects underway before the snow falls.

At the upcoming Copenhagen global warming conference, I will present a detailed plan to phase out the nation’s coal power plants over the next 10 years and construct a world class national inter-city rail and urban mass transit system.” he said.

Governor Corzine applauded the CCC, saying “Obama’s leadership will assure that NJ meets my global warming and energy efficiency and conservation goals, as well as avoid the need to finance implementation via a securitized gas tax revenue stream and expanded privatization initiatives,”the NJ Governor said, referring to his prior controversial proposals to increase tolls, privatize the NJ Turnpike, and failed plan to fully fund the Transportation Trust Fund .

“These are crucial positive developments in light of the upcoming election – I am so glad that we finally we can deploy NJ’s National Guard to serve our communities here at home, instead of killing innocent civilians in foreign lands” he concluded.

IMG_6106Corzine was joined by a PSEG spokesman, who announced that PSEG would immediately develop plans to close all 4 NJ coal plants; cancel midwestern coal power energy importation contracts; end export of power to the NY City market; abandon controversial new power lines through the NJ Highlands, and south jersey; increase commercial rates and decrease shareholder profits; and provide rebates to low and moderate income families.

“However, because of the ongoing environmental impacts of our power line operations and the way we corrupted and undermined trust in government, PSEG will continue the $18.6 million payment to the Highlands Council.” PSEG spokesman concluded.

In a statement, other major NJ energy providers echoed PSEG, and pledged to shutdown the aging Oyster Creek plant, and cancel a controversial Linden coal plant and offshore LNG. “We will redouble our wind, solar, and conservation efforts” the energy industry said.

Conservative Republican challenger Christie blasted the Obama CCC as a government takeover, and opposed the thousands of new jobs that would be created as “more bureaucracy“.

Independent challenger Daggettt urged Corzine to be “realistic” and repeated his claim that renewable energy is more expensive than coal.

The Obama move was applauded by NJ Environmental Czar Bill Wolfe, recently named to revitalize NJ’s hapless ENGO community. “Health, Beauty , Permanence, Jobs, Peace, and Social Justice are now guiding our government policies and programs, as well as our personal aspirations” said Wolfe.”Like we’ve been saying for 40 years: “Small is Beautiful” and there really are “Limits to Growth“.

This post was brought to you in the spirit of The Yesmen

“WolfeNotes” blog launched – We aim to hold corporate polluters and government accountable

August 31st, 2009 1 comment

*** Apologies – NJ.Com took down ALL the photos, which were originally published on my “NJ Voices” column at NJ.Com. I was able to save the text, but not the photos. What assholes.

Below is the post that got my blog banned by the Star Ledger on June 10, 2009.

So I thought it would be a good first post to use to launch my new blog, “” .

That banned post illustrates the reasons that I blog and some of what I hope to accomplish. I try to combine serious ideas, visual images, and analysis to call out the bullshit I see in government, politics, and media every day.

I will focus primarily on environmental issues, not only because I love the natural world, but because the same forces that are destroying the environment also are responsible for our current accelerating economic and political collapse.

Hopefully, I will remain too controversial for the Star Ledger. And perhaps someday we all will recall that I.F. Stone famously said, all governments lie. Yet our media institutions have lost touch with that fundamental truth and not only fail to hold government accountable, but often accept government spin at face value, which then becomes the dominant narrative (conventional wisdom, or propaganda) .

But, lets not blame government per se. Scratch the surface of almost any government lie and you find a cover for corporate power and economic interests.

As political scientist Sheldon Wolin wrote in “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism” (excellent review here), our democratic institutions have been hijacked by corporate interests and our Republic transformed to a global empire.

And there is little indication that the Obama “change”  is anything more than rhetoric.

According to an interview with Wolin in Chris Hedges’s new book “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (Hedges interview here):

The basic systems are going to stay in place; they are too powerful to be challenged.” Wolin to me when I asked him about the Obama administration. “This is shown by the financial bailout. It does not bother with the structure at all. I don’t think Obama can take on the kind of military establishment we have developed. This is not to say that I do not admire him. …I think he is well meaning, but he inherits a system of constraints that make it very difficult to take on these major power configurations. I do not think he has the appetite for it in any ideological sense. The corporate structure is not going to be challenged. There has not been a word from him that would suggest an attempt to rethink the American imperium.”

So, this is the frame of reference I will try to apply to the more circumscribed world of NJ environmental issues and politics.

Let me know what you think – one of my aims is to spur dialogue.

(below is the text of the post at NJ.Com that got me banned there – the photos below the captions are lost)

Thrifty Individual Reducing Carbon FootPrint

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

Vacationing close to home – camping in public parks

(warning – graphic images on the flip -)

“The Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act of 2009″

[Update: those Abu Ghraib images were what the Star Ledger editor refused to allow his readers to see.

Within 5 minutes of posting that link (with a graphic image warning to readers) the Editor called me at home and screamed at me, terminated my NJ Voices column, and took the post down.

So much for the so called “free press”.

Those images were published all over the world, but not in the US press.

Even worse, President Obama supported the bill sponsored by Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and loathsome Sen. Graham (SC)) to amend the Freedom of Information Act to exempt certain military images from FOIA public disclosure (targeting the Abu Ghraib images, of course).

I wrote to criticize that outrageous and unconstitutional legislation. So much for my so called intellectual freedom and political rights.

And people wonder why I am angry and bitter. ~~~ end update]


Read more…

New national mercury research confirms NJ’s experience – another nail in coal’s coffin?

August 30th, 2009 No comments
Pennsylvania coal power plant on the Delaware River

Pennsylvania coal power plant on the Delaware River

Think coal: Global warming. Mountaintop removal. Sludge impoundment blowouts. Poisoned waterways. Acid rain. Smog. Unsafe mines. Exploited workers. Devastated communities.

The most recent nail in coal’s coffin?

An important new study by the US Geological Survey was released this week. The study documents extensive mercury pollution due to coal power and provides a huge test of the Obama administration’s commitments to develop strict new mercury emissions controls at the nation’s dirty coal power plants. The key policy issues? The inside political history?

Will EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson propose the equivalent of NJ’s strict State emission standards on the nation’s coal power plants?

What was Christie Whitman’s role in the NJ mercury issue? How did it shape her response as EPA Administrator to accommodate energy and coal interests during the Bush years (recall the Orwellian “Clear Skies” that was slammed by NJ officials)?

Here’s the news coverage:


No fish can escape mercury pollution.  That’s the take-home message from a federal study of mercury contamination released Wednesday that tested fish from nearly 300 streams across the country.

The toxic substance was found in every fish sampled, a finding that underscores how widespread mercury pollution has become.

The study by the U.S. Geological Survey is the most comprehensive look to date at mercury in the nation’s streams. From 1998 to 2005, scientists collected and tested more than a thousand fish, including bass, trout and catfish, from 291 streams nationwide.

“This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation’s waterways, and protect the public from potential health dangers,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.

Mercury consumed by eating fish can damage the nervous system and cause learning disabilities in developing fetuses and young children. The main source of mercury to most of the streams tested, according to the researchers, is emissions from coal-fired power plants. The mercury released from smokestacks here and abroad rains down into waterways, where natural processes convert it into methylmercury — a form that allows the toxin to wind its way up the food chain into fish. (read full story here)

This USGS study also confirms scientific research and regulatory standards adopted in NJ over 15 years ago.

Few are aware of this history. It can provide important insights into the current national policy debate.

Fifteen years ago, former Bush EPA Adminsitrator Chritie Whitman had extensive direct involvement with mercury as NJ Governor. Whitman’s NJ role foreshadowed her actions as head of the Bush EPA, which delayed and then proposed a weak mercury emission rule that was overturned by the courts.

Current EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson served as NJ DEP Commissioner. Jackson was Assistant Commissioner for Land Use when her boss, Brad Campbell led NJ DEP to adopted a strict emission standard for coal plants in 2004.

Jackson’s EPA is now considering that same issue and developing a national proposal to regulate mercury emissions at the nation’s dirty coal plants.

So, with the former and current head of EPA both coming from NJ, I’m sure we will hear the standard line about NJ’s environmental leadership.

But instead of the press corps merely parroting this talking point on NJ’s leadership, the press and the public should be doing some digging and asking tough questions.

So, let’s take a closer look at the NJ history in light of the current debate.

The mercury issue first arose in NJ in the late 1980’s in the fight against garbage incinerators. In 1990, Governor Florio Administration issued an Executive Order that imposed a moratorium on garbage incinerators and created a Mercury Task Force.

In 1993, the Florio Task Force issued a 3 Volume Report that provided the public health and scientific bases for DEP to adopt what was then the strongest mercury air emissions standards for garbage incinerators in the world. While the initial focus was of the Task Force was on garbage incineration, the Report also announced plans to expand emission standards to coal fired power plants, another major mercury source. At the same time, DEP engaged the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences to study levels or mercury in freshwater fish across the state.

The Florio policy and plans to regulate coal plants were derailed in 1994 by the Whitman Administration and new DEP Commissioner Bob Shinn. Their actions set back NJ for over a decade. It took 10 more years before NJ got back on track and finally adopted standards on coal plants in 2004. Because of that Whitman/Shinn delay, we will be paying for that with our children’s neurological impairment as a result of mercury poisoning.

Shinn was a strong supporter of garbage incineration and personally reversed the Florio policy. Shinn was also close to the state’s recreational fishermen, who were hotly opposed to the fish studies. Whitman was “Open for Business” and politically sympathetic to PSEG and state power utilities that operated coal plans. A major new coal plant was proposed along the Delaware River (Crown Vista). Mercury was a fly in the Whitman/Shinn ointment.

In early 1994, at the start of Whitman/Shinn regime, a DEP study conducted by the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences was leaked to the media and reported widely.

The leaked study was page one news. The study documented statewide unsafe levels of toxic mercury in NJ freshwater fish.

Widespread press coverage cast DEP and the Whitman administration in a negative light. In response, Governor Whitman sought to downplay the risks of this study.

Environmentalists accused the state of ignoring its mercury problem, and the press blasted the Governor.

Whitman responded and compared the mercury in fish risks to the recent public reaction (“scare”) to media reports of the health risks of the pesticide alar on apples. The apple industry suffered huge economic losses as demand fell in response to the alar story. Whitman felt the public’s reaction was unwarranted, and unfair to the apple industry. Whitman sought to avoid a similar situation in NJ.

To do this, the Governor and DEP Commissioner came up with a plan to mislead the public by saying that the Philadelphia Academy study was preliminary and inconclusive. The Whitman scheme relied on a bogus and knowingly false claim that the form of mercury found in the fish was unknown and therefore required further research before taking any action. Whitman and Shinn did not make honest mistakes or minor misstatements.

Whitman’s public statements, extensively quoted in the press, were part of a strategy to falsely inject scientific uncertainty and minimize health risks in order to avoid taking regulatory against specific pollution sources of mercury (garbage incinerators and coal fired power plants).

Whitman was denounced by environmentalists in the press for this. When this scientific research was leaked and a coverup strategy memo were disclosed to the public by the press, Whitman not only repeated the lies but also retaliated against a career DEP employee who called her on those lies.

In addition to Whitman being scolded for her errors by academic scientists in the press, scientists in DEP called the Governor out on her lies – Here is the DEP memo:


March 28, 1994.


TO: Commissioner Robert Shinn.
THROUGH: Robert Tucker, Ph.D., Director.
FROM: Leslie McGeorge, Assistant Director.
SUBJECT: Information on Mercury in Fish.

Over the past several weeks, it has been observed that information attributed by the press to the Governor’s Office on the issue of mercury in fish has contained some technical inaccuracies. We offer the information in this memorandum for your consideration in providing the Governor’s Office with further clarification of this issue.

As was stated by the Governor’s Office, there are three forms of mercury:
* Elemental Mercury (metallic mercury). This is the type of mercury used in thermometers.
* Inorganic Mercury (mercury salts). An example is mercuric chloride.
* Organic Mercury. Methylmercury is the most important organic mercury compound in terms of environmental exposure.

Contrary to the statements reported in the press, all three forms of mercury are toxic to humans. Elemental mercury is volatile, and it is toxic when breathed from the air; exposure to elemental mercury can cause effects on the central nervous system.

The toxicity of the other two types of mercury (inorganic and organic) can occur through ingestion, which is the exposure route relevant to mercury in fish. Inorganic mercury is toxic to the kidney. Methylmercury, the organic mercury of primary concern, is toxic to the central nervous system. The most sensitive toxic effect of Methylmercury in non-pregnant adults is paresthesia (abnormal sensations in the skin). Methylmercury is also toxic to the developing fetus, and causes defects in the development of the nervous system. This developmental toxicity is the most sensitive effect of exposure to methylmercury.

Of the different forms of mercury, all scientific data indicate that essentially all of the mercury in fish is methylmercury. The most recent and reliable investigation into the occurrence of methylmercury in fish conducted under ultraclean laboratory conditions (Bloom, 1992) showed that almost all of the mercury in the edible portion of fish and shellfish (muscle tissue) is in the form of methylmercury. This study included multiple samples (at least 3) of 15 species. For all species, the average percentage of methylmercury was at least 91 percent of total mercury, and for all freshwater fish species, methylmercury was 96 percent or more of total mercury. These results are generalizable to all marine and freshwater fish.

Information attributed to the Governor by the press indicated that there may be a marked difference in the ease of metabolism of different forms of mercury, and that the toxicity of mercury is-dependent on whether it is released naturally or by man-made processes. Actually, the time required for the body to rid itself of a dose of mercury is generally similar for all three forms of mercury. Additionally, the toxicity of a given form of mercury is not dependent on whether it originated from natural or man-made processes. Any type of mercury released may undergo changes from one form to the other in the environment. The mercury in fish may have come from either source, but the origin of the mercury in the tissue is not relevant to the potential for toxicity to humans.

In summary, there are three forms of mercury. For all intents and purposes the only form of mercury found in fish is methylmercury. Exposure to methylmercury through fish ingestion can pose a significant potential for adverse human health effects.

Mercury in fish may originate from human or natural processes, but this distinction is not relevant from a human health perspective.
The Division of Science and Research has additional information on all of the points mentioned above. We would be happy to discuss these issues further with you at your convenience if you so desire. (1)” [end]

More Crazy Development in Parks – Washington Crossing State Park

August 21st, 2009 No comments
Pond at Washington Crossing State Park is unhealthy and in need of restoration

Pond at Washington Crossing State Park is unhealthy and in need of restoration

Last week, I wrote about destruction of Ken Lockwood Gorge by DEP (here) – so, my head again exploded to read about another mad development scheme yesterday.

Repeating that flawed land management policy, this time, DEP is planning on destroying forested portions of historic Washington Crossing State Park

Apparently, DEP wants to build a “30 bed cabin”  in “a deeply forrested” portion of the Park! And this is claimed to be a better alternative to the one vehemently opposed by neighbors!

The park is frequented by lots of day hikers.

The park is frequented by lots of day hikers.

There are plenty of alternatives and far better things to do with DEP money, especially in these times of austere budgets and a huge backlog in maintenance across the state park system.

At Washington Crossing, trails are in very bad shape.

Stream banks are eroding and badly in need of restoration.

A small pond is sedimented and eutrophic. Picnic areas need lots of work.

Historic structures are neglected.

structures are collapsing

structures are collapsing

The theater is falling apart and could use rehab work as well.



pinnic areas need lots of work

pinnic areas need lots of work

Habitat and forestry work has been neglected for years.



stream backs are eroding due to development surrounding park. More in park development will make current problems worse.

stream backs are eroding due to development surrounding park. More in park development will make current problems worse.



What the hell is going on in DEP?

Are the engineer lunatics running the show?

They need some adult supervision.