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

August 31st, 2009 1 comment

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, “WolfeNotes.com” .

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 kid 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.

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
http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

Vacationing close to home – camping in public parks

(warning – graphic images on the flip)

Read more…

Art and Freedom

September 12th, 2008 1 comment

“He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”
Ben Franklin http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin
As a poet, I would have to say that 9/11 changed the language itself … 9/11 is a big abstraction. … In the name of 9/11 and in the name of the war on terror, phrases like “weapons of mass destruction” and “enhanced interrogation” have entered our political vocabulary. These phrases, for me, divorce language from meaning, and thus divorce action from consequence. If you’re engaged in enhanced interrogation you’re not engaged in torture, and thus, we in society come to embrace torture in the name of security. I think we have to do whatever we can to combat this tendency in the language. The fact is that this language is used to foster a culture of fear so that in turn people will act against their own interests. And that’s why we’re now embroiled in two wars
Martin Espada. Poet and Professor, University of Massachusetts
PBS Newhour – 9/11/08 MP3 http://www-tc.pbs.org/newshour/rss/media/2008/09/11/20080911_sevenyears28.mp3
Espada’s website:http://www.martinespada.net/
“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
http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm
On the shoulders of these giants, I share my pedestrian experience.
Yesterday, I went to US District Court in Newark to listen to oral argument in a case filed by Edison Wetlands Association seeking to force a toxic polluter to stop discharging toxic chemicals to the Raritan River. A long and disgraceful story.
But, as I approached the Federal Square complex, a beautiful piece of sculpture caught my eye. Of course – since a core part of my mission is amateur photojournalism – I moved to take a picture.

In response, US Federal marshall Gerald Mauriello aggressively swooped in, sternly advised that I was on “federal property”, and “taking pictures of federal buildings is prohibited”. He demanded personal identification. I asked on what legal basis he did so, under the impression that we have both Constitutional and inalienable rights, and there is no US citizen identification card (at least not yet).
To which he angrily replied: “Don’t you know what f-cking day it is!”

US Marshall Mauriello rushes to avert terrorism because – as the Leader and Decider has repeated – the terrorists hate our freedom.

Feel safer now?

Thomas Paine – patriot and truth teller
“Don’t tread on Me”

Hey Mr. US Marshall Mauriello – is it now illegal to photo these federal buildings? Just askin’.

US Supreme Court – note the couple kneeling in prayer on the steps

DEP losing money on State land leases

August 3rd, 2008 4 comments

Oil & gas companies, luxury boats/Marina’s subsidized while Park Visitor Fees Increase

Today’s Asbury Park Press and Morris Daily Record are reporting that the Department of Environmental Protection’s management of leases, easements, and concessions is in disarray, and losing lots of money.
This news comes after Governor Corzine threatened to close state parks and raise parking and entrance fees:
State loses money on leasesDEP’s lease program disorganized — but at what cost?
BY MICHAEL RISPOLI • GANNETT STATE BUREAU • AUGUST 3, 2008
Tenants know how it works: Rent goes up every year, and if it’s not paid they get evicted.
But for years when lessees did not pay New Jersey for using the state’s parklands, they didn’t even get a slap on the wrist. As the value of the land they occupied went up, some kept paying the same rate.

The DEP has 232 leases currently on file — which include family homes, education centers and utility lines — but no complete list is available. Staffers currently are combing through state park files to find the total number, which they estimate to be upward of 300. A review of records from the State House Commission, the state panel that oversees such agreements, shows at least 10 agreements approved since 2006 that are not included on the list.
…Raising park user fees may wind up plugging the park’s budget hole, but Wolfe says the state is going after the wrong people.
“(Gov.) Corzine’s willing to raise park user fees, but he’s not willing to say the corporations who are using these lands have to pay up,” Wolfe said
.
http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080803/NEWS/808030434
Look DEP – in case you can’t find it in your files. This is an easement – Texas Eastern Pipeline across D&R Canal State Park

Texas Eastern Gas Pipeline crosses D&R Canal State Park just north of Lambertville

A Generational Challenge to Repower America

July 20th, 2008 9 comments

“We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that’s got to change.”
Ladies and gentlemen:
There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger. In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes. Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment. The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk. And even more – if more should be required – the future of human civilization is at stake….
…Many Americans have begun to wonder whether or not we’ve simply lost our appetite for bold policy solutions. And folks who claim to know how our system works these days have told us we might as well forget about our political system doing anything bold, especially if it is contrary to the wishes of special interests. And I’ve got to admit, that sure seems to be the way things have been going. But I’ve begun to hear different voices in this country from people who are not only tired of baby steps and special interest politics, but are hungry for a new, different and bold approach.

Al Gore
Link to text of speech and to view video:
http://www.wecansolveit.org/content/pages/304/

Fifty Cents Per Month?

July 11th, 2008 2 comments

Trenton Politicians are Not Serious about Global Warming

[Update: 7/20/08 – “Of course the greatest obstacle to meeting the challenge of 100 percent renewable electricity in 10 years may be the deep dysfunction of our politics and our self-governing system as it exists today. In recent years, our politics has tended toward incremental proposals made up of small policies designed to avoid offending special interests, alternating with occasional baby steps in the right direction. Our democracy has become sclerotic at a time when these crises require boldness.”
Al Gore
http://www.wecansolveit.org/content/pages/304/
I wrote on Wednesday about DEP’s proposed new rules to create a pollution trading scheme under “RGGI” (the northeast state’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative):
Global Warming rhetoric meets reality
http://blog.nj.com/njv_bill_wolfe/2008/07/global_warming_rhetoric_meets.html
Based on the comments, it is obvious that we have a “failure to communicate” (Cool Hand Luke).
So let me take another stab at one key point – ideally, this could be the question of the day for the site. I throw down that challenge to site editors. I dare you to ask this question of Star Ledger readers (or better yet, conduct a formal poll of NJ residents on it)
Are you willing to pay more than 50 cents per month to prevent global warming?
[Note - good suggestion that the word "prevent" should instead be "reduce" or "mitigate". Global warming is already happening now and can not be prevented.]
Governor Corzine and the NJ Legislature say the answer is NO.
They enacted a law that lets polluters off the hook for paying pollution fees that might cost any more than 50 cents per month in the average homeowners electric bill.
That alone is an outrage.
The fact that the proposal allows a 9% INCREASE in CO2 emissions, when for YEARS it has been sold to the public as an emission REDUCTIONS plan, just adds insult to injury. (as we all know due to the extensive PR, that the Global Warming Response Act mandates a 20% reduction by 20202, and 80% by 2050)
Have I made myself clear?
(technical note: the DEP rule stated that the RGGI proposal allows for a 4% increase in average missions from 2002 – 2004 across the 10 state RGGI region. This downplays the fact that it allows for a LARGER 9% increase in NJ emissions. How this data was reported reveals DEP’s attempt to mislead.
Additional bonus point observation for those that really get down in the weeds: DEP adds further misleading analysis by comparing RGGI pollution allowances with PROJECTED emissions under what is an assumed “Business as Usual” scenario (BAU). Again, this grossly misleads, because the BAU scenario assumes an incredible growth of electric demand (27%) by the year 2020. So, instead of the real emissions REDUCTIONS mandated by law, RGGI merely SLOWS THE RATE OF INCREASE in the growth of emissions. Comparing RGGI pollution allowances with a Projected BAU scenario is the same methodology that the Bush Administration’s Department of Energy has been severely criticized for by national environmental groups. Yet that same method applied in NJ by DEP has been praised by environmental groups. Go figure.).