Encomium To Coney (*or is that meconium?)

September 15th, 2021 No comments

A Treatise On Abortion

Main Street shop in Sackets Harbor, NY

Main Street, Sackets Harbor, NY

Supreme Court Justice Coney Barrett recently let this fly: (The Guardian)

Claiming the supreme court “is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks”, Amy Coney Barrett told an audience at a Kentucky center named for the Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell that “judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties”.

Remarkably, Coney Barrett offered this remark after an introduction by Senator Mitch McConnell at the 30th anniversary of the McConnnell School!

Another example of the right wing laughing at Democrats, as they “own the libs”. And the Democrats appear again to be too lame to fight back effectively.

[Update: 9/17/21 – speaking of lame, how’s this Justice Bryer’s comment – echoing Coney Barrett – that the decision was “not political” – and worse, Bryer relies on a straw man (i.e. no one said the “politics” claim was about vote trading on the Supreme Court):

Justice Stephen Breyer said Tuesday the Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 decision allowing Texas to effectively ban abortion across the state was “very bad” but not politically motivated.

“We don’t trade votes, and members of the court have different judicial philosophies,” Breyer, the court’s most senior liberal justice, told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” […]

The 83-year-old justice has published a new book — “The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics” — defending the Supreme Court as a nonpartisan institution whose power depends on credibility among Americans of all viewpoints. ~~~ end update]

Yes we, (and many others) told you this was coming:

If Democrats were serious, here’s what they’d do (in addition to abolishing the filibuster and adding DC and Puerto Rico as States):

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“The Plow That Broke The Plains”

September 14th, 2021 No comments

“Blown out, Baked Out, and Broke”

Paths From The New Deal To The Green New Deal

Screen Shot 2021-09-14 at 5.18.39 PM

At this time of despair, when even Bernie Sanders’ “Our Revolution” folks have thrown in the towel and abandoned the Green New Deal, I urge folks to watch this classic about the dustbowl and the New Deal:

This classic 1938 movie documents just a small portion of the damage we have done – we exterminated indigenous people, wiped out the buffalo, and destroyed millions of acres of prairie. We waged war on Mexico and stole their lands. We grossly exploited Chinese, Irish, Polish, German and other immigrant labor.

While skirting those issues, the movie does a very good job of showing how capitalism, technology and war combine to destroy the land and the people.

But the scale and success of the New Deal restoration – of the landscape and the people – is what we did to begin to make it right.

Similarly, the current record flooding in the northeast from the remnants of Hurricane Ida does not come close to the floods we’ve suffered on the Mississippi.

Watch another classic New Deal documentary to understand that history (yes, it skates over slavery and Jim Crow, but keep in mind when it was created and the flaws in the New Deal on racism):

After you watch these short films, tell me if what we are experiencing now comes even close to the human suffering and environmental devastation we saw in these two movies.

I provided a little more historical context about all that in this post, which I wrote in the despair that followed Superstorm Sandy:

We have far more wealth, institutional capacity, and scientific and technological know how than our New Deal predecessors who managed to respond at scale to these disasters and do so in a way that benefitted people, not corporations.

We’ve done it before and we can do it again – if we have the political will to do so.

Political will does not come down from on high – Biden’s “Build Back Better” surely won’t suffice.

History shows that political will is built by activists.

So, get off the couch – no selfies, hashtags  memes, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Substack, and Twitter – and get out in the streets! Make it happen.

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After Ida, It’s Still Business As Usual In Trenton

September 13th, 2021 No comments

No wakeup calls. No lessons learned. No real reforms.

The Worship of Mammon

The Worship of Mammon

After Ida – just like after Sandy – it’s business as usual in Trenton (see:

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No wakeup calls. No lessons learned. No real reforms.

I wrote a letter to Legislators I have worked with for years recommending real reforms, and they are so deep in denial that they don’t even give me the dignity of a response.

But lots of self serving press releases; “bold” tweets; empty platitudes paraded around in “serious” Op-Ed’s; window dressing gestures; and cheerleading by the usual Neoliberal sycophants.

Lots of diversionary press stories and apologetics (hey – one should never “cast aspersions”!) – with no focus on the root causes and real science based solutions.

Lots of human interest stories about heroic resilience, “NJ Strong”, and bold political leadership – voluntary private local efforts displace government responsibility.

Lots of scientists and “experts” downplaying problems and dancing gently around “policy issues” as they effectively unwittingly manufacture paralyzing uncertainty in their cowardly equivocations.

The land grant public universities abandon their independent, public interest, and critical role and instead promote toothless and knowingly failed voluntary local “solutions” that present absolutely no threat to the political status quo, corporate power, or development and financial interests.

Lots of government abdication.

(And we warned you: (NJ Spotlight)

Bill Wolfe, a retired DEP policy analyst and the current author of an environmental blog, said the comments “reflect an astonishing abdication of DEP’s regulatory responsibilities,” particularly coming from an administration that claims to be a leader in battling climate change.

“DEP must regulate to achieve deep emissions reductions and reduce risks as clearly reflected by an overwhelming scientific consensus,” Wolfe said. “Delay only makes matters worse.”

Lots of well fed Foundation and corporate funded faux “environmental leaders” and boutique activists providing political cover and lying to the public.

Lots of corporate spin and business community concerns about the costs of reforms and impacts on the economy.

And lots of NJ Spotlight stenography of those corporate lies.

Lots of opportunist media mouthpieces, who desperately seek their names in the paper at all costs, not matter what drivel they are spouting.

Lots of empty virtue signaling and identity politics, which intentionally divert from the substance to give politicians false praise and DEP a pass.

Lots of denial and flat out lies and propaganda.

We’re doomed and we really deserve it.

Diogenes

Diogenes

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Dying Jersey Guy Recalls Whitman’s 9-11 Remarks – “She’s a Liar”

September 11th, 2021 No comments

Whitman Never Clearly Admitted Error or Lies, Or Apologized

Failure To Hold Whitman Accountable Has Enabled Government Officials To Lie With Impunity

This is a repost of my September 11, 2009 post. 

I need to add a few thoughts today, upon reflection.

Since then, Whitman offered up an excuse for her lies and expressed regrets – but not an apology and not regrets for the huge loss of life and suffering she caused. Of course, the NJ hometown media mischaracterized it as an admission of error and an apology.

Whitman’s so called “apology” – where she actually doubled down on her lies – also was published internationally – here’s the Guardian of 9/10/16: note the big “IF”:

Speaking to the Guardian for a report on the growing health crisis to be published on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the attacks, Whitman made an unprecedented apology to those affected but denied she had ever lied about the air quality or known at the time it was dangerous.

“Whatever we got wrong, we should acknowledge and people should be helped,” she said, adding that she still “feels awful” about the tragedy and its aftermath.

“I’m very sorry that people are sick,” she said. “I’m very sorry that people are dying and if the EPA and I in any way contributed to that, I’m sorry. We did the very best we could at the time with the knowledge we had.”

“Whatever we got wrong”? IF? IF? IF? “Contributed in any way“?

“Did the best” “with the knowledge we had” is a another lie.

Since then, Whitman has shilled for the nuclear industry and taken steps to rehabilitate and distance herself from her role in 9/11. Of course, the corrupt corporate media has supported that effort.

I write this post for accountability. There can be no redemption without truth.

Very few recall the fact that a federal Judge found that Whitman’s knowing lies about the toxic risks of the post 9/11 air were so false and damaging to first responders and the public that they “shocked the conscience”. That is the legal phrase a federal Judge used. 

Here’s the text (boldface) of that judicial finding in the District Court decision (which was reversed on appeal on narrow technical legal grounds, not whether Whitman’s statements were knowingly and intentionally false):

In Benzman v. Whitman, No. 04 Civ. 1888, 2006 WL 250527 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 2, 2006), the district court considered substantive due process claims arising from the same press releases at issue in this case.   Citing Briscoe, Benzman held that if the reassuring statements made by EPA officials were made with knowledge of their falsehood, they were unquestionably conscience-shocking based on the nature of the EPA’s mandate:

The EPA is designated as the agency in our country to protect human health and the environment, and is mandated to work for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.   The agency enforces regulations regarding pollution in our environment and the presence of toxic and hazardous substances, and has endorsed and promulgated regulations for hazardous and toxic materials, such as asbestos and lead.   As head of the EPA, Whitman knew of this mandate and took part in and directed the regulatory activities of the agency.   Given this responsibility, the allegations in this case of Whitman’s reassuring and misleading statements of safety after the September 11, 2001 attacks are without question conscience-shocking.

As a matter of fact, the Appellate Court decision that reversed the District Court’s findings that Whitman’s behavior “without question” “shocked the conscience”, actually validated the finding that Whitman knowingly lied. The Appellate Court ruled:

Accepting as we must the allegation that the defendants made the wrong decision by disclosing information they knew to be inaccurate, and that this had tragic consequences for the plaintiffs, we conclude that a poor choice made by an executive official between or among the harms risked by the available options is not conscience-shocking merely because for some persons it resulted in grave consequences that a correct decision could have avoided.

Whitman should have been shamed and run out of public life.

Instead, the media gave her a pass.

Instead of sending a message of deterrence to government officials that lies about science that kill people will not be tolerated and will destroy your career, the pass gave a green light to allow public officials to lie with impunity.

And here we are. Bush WMD lies stacked on Climate lies stacked on COVID lies stacked on “Stop the Steal” lies. (CounterPunch)

In an October 17, 2004 New York Times Magazine article, Ron Suskind interviewed a Bush administration official who, with imperialistic hubris, referred to journalists as members of the “reality-based community” and declared, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too.” In 2005, Stephen Colbert coined the term “truthiness.” And now, we live in a world where Trump supporter Scottie Nell Hughes’ blithe declaration that “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, as facts” is less hollow than one might wish and where former Trump administration spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway referred on numerous occasions to “alternative facts.”

YEARS BEFORE WHITMAN’S 9/11 EPA lies, the media also gave Whitman a pass for the lies she told about the risks of eating toxic mercury laden fish in 1994 when she was Governor of NJ.

In that case, Whitman lied, distorted, and suppressed science that put people’s lives at risk and she did so knowingly and to protect her own personal political interests.

I blew the whistle on these abuses, and as a result, Whitman’s henchmen retaliated and  threatened me with criminal prosecution and ultimately forced me out of DEP.

Let me now name names:

These henchmen were DEP Commissioner Bob Shinn; Shinn’s Chief of Staff Mark Smith; (since deceased), Shinn’s legal Counselor  Mike Hogan (the notorious Judge in the corrupt Exxon billion dollar sellout); and Florio administration holdover, “liberal” Democrat DEP Assistant Commissioner Richard Sinding.

I have a transcript of Mr. Sinding’s sworn testimony during my administrative hearings where he admitted knowingly lying about the science, at the direction of Commissioner Shinn, in writing a corrupt strategy memo to Gov. Whitman. I have that memo as well.

I have press clips that have Whitman’s hand written notes directing Shinn to brief her on the issue, a request that the Sinding memo responded to.

Instead of being held accountable for those lies in 1994, Whitman evaded accountability and instead of being dismissed from public life she was rewarded and promoted.

I’ll be writing about this in detail in future posts.

Had the media taken my whistleblowing seriously back in 1994, Whitman would have been exposed as a liar in 1994 and would have been discredited, and perhaps never confirmed by the US Senate as George Bush’s EPA Administrator.

I alerted the US Senate Environment Committee and submitted written testimony, which was ignored (hard to make any headway when NJ’s Democratic Senators Torricelli and Corzine introduced Whitman to the Committee and supported Whitman’s nomination).

And that is a deeply disturbing counter-factual that troubles me to this day.

Dying Jersey Guy Recalls Whitman 9-11 Remarks – “She’s a Liar”

September 11th, 2009

Post 9/11 Lies About Public Health Risks Were Not Whitman’s First

Whitman Has No Regrets For Her Lies That People Died Following

Christie Whitman testifies before the House Judiciary Committee to defend  her post 9/11 EPA actionsremarks

As all the 9-11 memorial remembrances go down, I want to be sure that there is one story that is not forgotten. Thousands of workers who responded to Ground Zero are dying.

Here are the words of one hero, a Jersey Guy named Joe Picurro, from Toms River. Joe  worked on the pile and as a result has a fatal lung disease and not long to live:

I mean, we were there for them when they needed us. And, you know, they told us – Christine Whitman stood there, and I don’t care what she says about it. She said the pile was different. She’s a liar. I was standing there. She did not say that the air was different on the pile. She stood on the pile with her mask below her neck and talked to us and told us we were heroes and said the air was fine, and she put the mask back on, and she got back in her car, and she left, you know, and went back to New Jersey where it was safe. So she’s a liar, and that’s all she is.[full transcript of interview here]

Today’s “Democracy Now! covered the story:

AMY GOODMAN: Joe Picurro was one of thousands of men and women who showed up at Ground Zero on September 11th to help with the rescue and recovery efforts. He was thirty-four years old at the time.

Now Joe is dying. His doctor has told him he has the lungs of a ninety-five-year-old. His lungs are so inflamed from all the tiny particles of glass and even human bone fragments lodged in them that every breath produces excruciating pain. He’s been unable to work for the last five years and takes thirty-seven different medicines.

Christie Whitman was called before the House Judiciary Committee to defend her remarks post 9-11. I was at that hearing and spoke with several emergency responders. Here’s an excerpt of today’s interview with Joe that recall that hearing:

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I want to play a short excerpt from a 2007 congressional hearing when the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christie Todd Whitman, denied misleading the public over environmental dangers after 9/11. Whitman and John Henshaw, the former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, were questioned by Congressman Jerrold Nadler.

REP. JERROLD NADLER: In a series of EPA press releases beginning on September 13th, the following words were used to describe the air conditions: “good news,” “causes no concern”, “not detectable,” “no significant health risk”, and “safe to breathe”. Ms. Whitman, do these words and phrases convey a sense of danger or even of caution? Or do they, in fact, convey a sense of safety and security?

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN: Mr. Chairman, those words, to the best of my recollection, in every effort that I made at the time, were also added with the phrase, however, on the pile it is different.

REP. JERROLD NADLER: Well, we’ll get to that.

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN: And that – but there’s a significant difference. The readings we were getting of air quality at the time, general”

REP. JERROLD NADLER: Excuse me. We will get to that. Please. We only have a few minutes. Answer my questions. Do they convey a sense of safety and security or a sense of caution?

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN: They should – they convey exactly what they were meant to convey.

REP. JERROLD NADLER: OK.

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN: Those were the readings we were getting from the scientists.

REP. JERROLD NADLER: Do you regret your repeated assurances the air was safe to breathe?

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN: I do not regret repeating what the scientists said was appropriate.

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In Wake Of Repeated Catastrophic Flooding, Governor Murphy and NJ Legislators Urged To Close Loopholes And Strength Flood Protections

September 10th, 2021 No comments

After the dust settled on Hurricane Katrina’s deadly devastation of New Orleans, the news media disclosed the fact that the levees failed due, in part, to the fact that they were designed and constructed to meet lax standards by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

As a result of the public outrage that ensued, the USACoE levee standards were strengthened and upgraded to protect against a Category 3 storm.

That is not adequate, but it improved protections over the status quo.

We have a very similar situation now unfolding in the deadly Hurricane Ida flooding, which was exacerbated by historic failures of NJ’s flood protections laws and DEP regulations.

As a result of these flaws:

  • thousands of people live in dangerous flood hazard areas and don’t know it.
  • people are unknowingly buying homes in hazardous locations and putting their families and financial futures at risk.
  • billions of dollars of property located in dangerous flood hazard areas is not insured.
  • developers are being allowed to build in hazardous locations and pass the costs on to the public.
  • we are wasting billions of dollars on fatally flawed “resilience” projects that are “antiquated” and designed to fail because they are designed to meet “obsolete” DEP regulatory standards that do not reflect climate science.

The current DEP regulations do not consider climate change impacts and risks.

Gov. Murphy’s promised DEP climate regulations have been stalled for 4 years, despite the fact that DEP has “emergency rulemaking” powers and could adopt regulations immediately.

In response to this inaction, I fired off this request to legislators:

Dear Chairman Smith and Senators:

In light of the most recent round of catastrophic flooding, I strongly urge you to hold oversight hearings and enact legislation to address the following “significant deficiencies” in current NJ law and regulation:

1. Amend the following statutory law to eliminate the 100 year design flood and address climate science and projected storm intensity:

58:16A-55.2. Structure or alteration within area subject to inundation by 100 year design flood of nondelineated stream; approval; conditions 

2. Amend the following statutory law to eliminate the “right to rebuild”:

58:16A-55.1. Repair or rebuilding of lawful preexisting structure within flood hazard area

3. Amend the following statutory law to eliminate preference for private property rights over public safety and the public interests: (Flood Hazard Area Control Act):

“No such approval by the department shall impair or affect any property rights otherwise existing which might be invaded by the construction or maintenance of any such structure or alteration. “

4. Conduct oversight of DEP regulations to reform, at a minimum, the above regulatory provisions that implement the above statutory flaws and the following “significant deficiencies” identified by FEMA:

“To highlight, FEMA finds that the abandonment of the nonstructural stormwater management in design and the absence of restrictions in the increase in runoff volume post-development to be significant deficiencies.

FEMA is also concerned that the proposed rule does not consider future conditions of increasingly intense precipitation that is expected with climate change. 

The use of the term Green Infrastructure will not offset the proposed changes to the nonstructural stormwater management strategies and the multiple missed opportunities to reduce riverine and urban flooding impacts.”

I appreciate your prompt and favorable consideration of this request.

I am available to respond to any questions you may have.

Respectfully

Bill Wolfe

We’ll keep you posted on the response by Legislators – but I’m not holding my breath.

Ditto media coverage by NJ news media, especially NJ Spotlight.

And I didn’t even mention the need for a more aggressive and legislative mandate for “strategic retreat”.

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