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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

Jail time for Dirty Dirt – who’s next?

July 28th, 2008 3 comments

How many communities have to be poisoned and criminal convictions have to occur before common sense prevails?

In a little noticed but what could be a major story, on Friday the Trenton Times reported that:
“A contractor who dumped more than 400 loads of contaminated soil from Trenton at a farm in Moorestown and tried to conceal the disposal with false documents was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison.”
Man gets jail time for dumping tainted soil
Friday, July 25, 2008
BY LINDA STEIN
http://www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-14/1216958750310050.xml&coll=5
A key fact buried in the story is that neither DEP nor State DOT detected the crime:
A tip made to the Burlington County Health Department prompted the investigation.
We have written about significant problems due to lax State oversight of the illegal disposal of toxic contaminated soils, most recently in a Bergen Record Op-Ed:
Playing with dirty dirt.

Contractors imported thousands of cubic yards of toxic sludge, contaminated soil and highly questionable “recyclable materials” that were used as clean fill or landfill-capping material. This made existing toxic problems at the site far worse. Press reports disclosed that DEP lacked even a basic ability to monitor contaminated materials imported to the site.

A similar lack of DEP oversight at the cleanup of the Ford plant in Edison resulted in PCB-contaminated soils and demolition debris being used as clean fill at 19 housing projects in central New Jersey.

These same practices not only continue across our state; they are encouraged and subsidized by DEP.
We are spending millions of dollars to clean up toxic soils, only to allow scam operators to “launder” and dump them in someone else’s backyard. This is insane. These materials require strict management to ensure they are safely handled.”

Recapping a fiasco
http://www.northjersey.com/opinion/moreviews/Wolfe_Recapping_a_fiasco.html

Lax oversight of contaminated toxic soils has cost taxpayers millions in the Encap fiasco, where the Star Ledger reported that funds from a DEP $212 million loan were used to purchase contaminated soils that may have been part of a mafia kickback scheme. See:
Mob taint suspected in EnCap project
http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2008/07/mob_taint_suspected_in_encap_p.html

Martin Luther King, Jr. School site in Trenton (this is old school, not new construction that was demolished).

Importation of toxic soils forced demolition of the partially built Martin Luther King, Jr. elementary school in Trenton, at a $27 million loss to taxpayers.
Similarly, PCB contaminated soil from a DEP “supervised” cleanup at the Ford plant in Edison was used as “clean fill” at 19 residential construction sites in central NJ. The PCB tainted soil had to be excavated and properly disposed at a cost of millions. This fiasco triggered legislative oversight hearings, where we warned DEP and legislators of the need to “impose cradle-to-grave management requirements for contaminated soils and demolition waste“. (See:
LEGISLATURE TO PROBE TOXIC COLLAPSE IN NEW JERSEY — Series of Cleanup Fiascoes Have Communities Feeling Betrayed and Vulnerable
http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=694

Hackensack River operation

Yet despite the loss of millions of taxpayer dollars, significant risks to health and the environment, and a widespread ongoing pattern of fraud and abuse that is enabled by lax DEP regulatory oversight, DEP and Legislature have done NOTHING to tighten oversight, monitoring or enforcement to fix the problems that have been exposed.
Worse, the Corzine Administration, backed by democratic legislators, is seeking to privatize toxic site cleanup, which would further weaken already lax DEP oversight and lead to even more serious scandals. See:
NEW JERSEY MODEL FOR PRIVATIZED TOXIC CLEAN-UPS FAILS AUDITS — Serious Violations Found in More than Two-Thirds of Audited Massachusetts Sites
http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=1034
How many communities have to be poisoned and criminal convictions have to occur before common sense prevails?

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.).