NJ State Officials Knew For Years That A Pandemic Would Cause Healthcare System To Collapse And 50,000 Residents Would Die

March 17th, 2020 No comments

State Officials Were Ill-Prepared And Delayed Appropriate Response

NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan And Pandemic Influenza Plan Largely Ignored

Plan Calls Pandemic A “Looming Threat” & “Inevitable”, Yet Little Real Preparation

Bosch  (1450 - 1516)

Bosch (1450 – 1516)

In an interview with CNN Sunday, Harvard University epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch said the coronavirus crisis “was foreseeable, and foreseen, weeks and months ago.”

“Only now is the White House coming out of denial,” said Lipsitch, “and heading straight into saying it could not have been foreseen.” ~~~ Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

[Update 3/19/20 – The NY Times writes a devastating story, similar to NJ failures, at the national level:

Trump is not the only one who is failing.

There has been intense and valid media and public criticism of how the Trump administration has responded to the Coronavirus Pandemic, from delays in testingto suppression and misrepresentation of science, to budget cuts and dismantling the government’s response capabilities:

The Trump administration has come under criticism for its proposed cuts to overall health funding in 2018. Cuts to CDC slashed 80% of its global disease outbreak program,[103][104] forcing the four-year-old program to reduce operations from 49 countries to 10. In its fiscal 2020 budget, the Trump administration proposed eliminating funding for epidemiology and laboratory capacity at state and local levels.[105][106][103] A $30 million Complex Crises Fund had also been cut entirely, which would have allowed the State Department to fund deployment of disease experts in the event of outbreaks.[107] In May 2018, Trump’s then-national security advisor John Bolton disbanded a National Security Council global health security team set up to lead the American response to a pandemic.[108]

While the CDC has announced plans to screen people for the coronavirus, only three of the 100 public health labs were reported to be fitted for that role even after delays, which has been attributed to the agency’s funding cuts.[109]Trump has been further criticized for proposing further cuts to the CDC and Health Department budgets, of the amounts of 16% and 10%, respectively, in budget requests submitted to Congress on 10 February. The proposed budget also called for a $65 million cut to the US’ contribution to funding for the WHO.[110]

But, NJ State officials have independent legal authority and responsibility to plan for, respond to and otherwise manage pandemics that has gotten little if any scrutiny.

The NJ Emergency Health Powers Act (EHPA), signed into law September 14, 2005 (P.L. 2005, c.222), grants certain powers to state and local public health authorities to ensure effective planning and response to public health emergencies.

Thus spake the NJ Department of Health’s Pandemic Influenza Plan:

The Looming Threat:

History tells us that Influenza pandemics are inevitable but unpredictable and arrive with very little warning. Should an influenza pandemic virus again appear that behaves as the 1918 strain, the results could be catastrophic, even when taking into account the remarkable advances in medicine. Air travel could hasten the spread of a new virus, and decrease the time available for implementing interventions. Outbreaks would most likely occur simultaneously throughout much of the U.S., preventing shifts in human and material resources that usually occur in response to other disasters. The effect of influenza on individual communities will be relatively prolonged (weeks to months) in comparison to other types of disasters. Healthcare systems could be rapidly overburdened, economies strained, and social order disrupted. […]

If a severe (1918-like) pandemic hits NJ, the impact on the healthcare system and the number of deaths is estimated as follows:

Deaths                                                5,000 (2% of ill)

But the NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan’s Pandemic Chapter estimates 10 TIMES more deaths:

Three major influenza pandemics affected areas across the globe in the 20th century, causing millions of deaths. New Jersey saw the impacts of these pandemics. If a new influenza virus were to begin spreading throughout the world, New Jersey could experience more than 50,000 deaths, more than 275,000 people hospitalized, and more than 2.5 million people ill (NJDOH, 2012). Table 5.21-3 provides details on pandemic events that have impacted New Jersey.

In addition to a huge order of magnitude conflict in the projected number of deaths, the NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan (“will be”) is also far more blunt, honest and certain than the DoH Pandemic Plan (“could be“) about the totally inadequate capacity and likely collapse of the healthcare system:

The healthcare system will be severely taxed, if not overwhelmed, from the large number of illnesses and complications from influenza requiring hospitalization and critical care. CDC models estimate increases in hospitalization and intensive care unit demand of more than 25%. Ventilators will be the most critical shortage if a pandemic were to occur (Global Security, 2011).

What did NJ State officials do with this knowledge?

Knowing of this shortfall, did they procure and stockpile an adequate number of ventilators? Test kits? Hospital capacity? Face masks? Budget sufficient resources? Staff state DoH offices with qualified experts?

I found nothing about any of this in the FY’20 budget testimony of Gov. Murphy’s Commissioner of the Department of Health or on the OLS analysis of the DoH proposed FY’20 budget.

Why did they wait on the failed Trump administration response?

Is anyone asking Gov. Murphy and the State Department of Health these questions?

Gaps and lack of resources are no secret. As Robert Reich writes:

Local and state health departments are already barebones, having lost nearly a quarter of their workforce since 2008, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Healthcare in America is delivered mainly by private for-profit corporations which, unlike financial institutions, are not required to maintain reserve capacity. As a result, the nation’s supply of ventilators isn’t nearly large enough to care for projected numbers of critically ill coronavirus victims unable to breathe for themselves. Its 45,000 intensive care unit beds fall woefully short of the 2.9 million that are likely to be needed.

Despite a dire lack of resources, the NJ State Hazard Mitigation Plan Pandemic element abdicates State leadership and shifts the burden to local government – and inappropriately relies on police to respond to what is a public health emergency:

In New Jersey, a municipality in which a pandemic occurs bears the first and primary responsibility to control the epidemic. Pandemics that remain uncontrolled warrant local mutual aid from neighboring municipal and/or county and state resources. If the epidemic remains beyond the capabilities of local law enforcement agencies alone, limited State Police assistance may be requested. If the restoration of public health is beyond local, county, and state abilities, the Governor may declare a State of Emergency calling on federal and worldwide support.

We saw the same fatal abdication in the response to Superstorm Sandy, which was exacerbated by Gov. Christie’s “unfunded mandates” “State Mandate/State Pay” policy under Executive Order #4. Gov. Murphy has not repealed Ex. Order #4 and has retained the same State abdication.

Finally, Gov. Murphy has championed climate change, so he and DEP Commissioner McCabe should be asked about this finding in the Hazard Mitigation Plan:

Climate change has the potential to increase the probability of pandemic occurring. While the relationship between climate change and increase in virus susceptibility is difficult to predict with certainty, there are scientific linkages between the two.

[Update: 3/25/20this writer expands upon my point and connects the dots between nature and Coronavirus. ~~~ end update]

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides the global pandemic response management framework for all nations and states to follow.

I urge readers & intrepid journalists to read The WHO 2013 updated Pandemic Guidance.

Then compare the WHO Guidance to NJ Gov. Murphy’s Hazard Mitigation Plan – Pandemics

The WHO 2013 Guidance is is FAR more detailed than the NJ plan, because the Murphy 2019 Plan relies on an outdate WHO 2009 framework, not the 2013 update.

The 2013 WHO update includes a major new section on “Risk Management”.

NJ’s pandemic planning and response strategies are way behind the scientific curve.

Validating Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All, WHO also recommends FREE healthcare – see WHO Guidance (@ p.31):

Explore ways to provide drugs and medical care free of charge (or cover by insurance) to encourage prompt reporting and treatment of human cases caused by a non-seasonal influenza virus or virus with pandemic potential.”

I assume that politically powerful NJ based Big Pharma and healthcare insurance industries kept that policy out of NJ’s policy planning.

Trump is not the only one who is failing.

original

[End Note: Once again, the historical and artistic context is stunningly apt:

In the Garden of Earthly Delights and elsewhere Bosch distinctly personalizes his indictments, by extending his warnings about human evil to encompass even his noble patrons, in this case the counts of Nassau. Bosch was extremely class-conscious, as the centerpiece of the Haywain triptych (fig. 17) reveals, with its mounted noble riders, literally chevaliers, lording their position of patrician privilege above the struggling pedestrian plebeians. In similar fashion, the sin of Luxuria, enacted in the central panel of his Garden of Earthly Delights, connects to the aristocratic tradition of courtly love gardens, which would have been an indulgence available chiefly to the wealthy, like his workshop’s depiction of Luxuria in the Seven Deadly Sins tabletop.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 10.52.09 AM

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Note To a Friend

March 15th, 2020 No comments

NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF

Scene from "The Crucible", a play by Arthur Miller

Scene from “The Crucible”, a play by Arthur Miller

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance….

…rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing.

Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.  ~~~ FDR, First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1933)

Hey XXXXX – just checking in – how’s it going in your neck of the woods?

I’m astounded by virtually everything I read lately, so I’m trying my best to stay away from the news, but it is almost impossible.

I read that Camus is on the best seller list. But the literature for the day is not Camus’ The Plague, but rather Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. 

[Update: 3/23/20Edward Curtin finds Camus relevant at a very deep level, but notes the irrational panic dynamics at work that Miller illustrates.  ~~~ end update]

It’s important to recall why Arthur Miller wrote that play (in his words):

McCarthy’s power to stir fears of creeping Communism was not entirely based on illusion, of course; the paranoid, real or pretended, always secretes its pearl around a grain of fact. From being our wartime ally, the Soviet Union rapidly became an expanding empire. In 1949, Mao Zedong took power in China. Western Europe also seemed ready to become Red—especially Italy, where the Communist Party was the largest outside Russia, and was growing. Capitalism, in the opinion of many, myself included, had nothing more to say, its final poisoned bloom having been Italian and German Fascism. McCarthy—brash and ill-mannered but to many authentic and true—boiled it all down to what anyone could understand: we had “lost China” and would soon lose Europe as well, because the State Department—staffed, of course, under Democratic Presidents—was full of treasonous pro-Soviet intellectuals. It was as simple as that. […]

The more I read into the Salem panic, the more it touched off corresponding images of common experiences in the fifties: the old friend of a blacklisted person crossing the street to avoid being seen talking to him; the overnight conversions of former leftists into born-again patriots; and so on. Apparently, certain processes are universal. […]

I am not sure what “The Crucible” is telling people now, but I know that its paranoid center is still pumping out the same darkly attractive warning that it did in the fifties. For some, the play seems to be about the dilemma of relying on the testimony of small children accusing adults of sexual abuse, something I’d not have dreamed of forty years ago. For others, it may simply be a fascination with the outbreak of paranoia that suffuses the play—the blind panic that, in our age, often seems to sit at the dim edges of consciousness. Certainly its political implications are the central issue for many people; the Salem interrogations turn out to be eerily exact models of those yet to come in Stalin’s Russia, Pinochet’s Chile, Mao’s China, and other regimes.

Nothing to fear, but fear itself, indeed! (in politics, economics, ecology, and public health)

The Coronavirus has exposed a badly broken, dysfunctional, privatized, and deregulated corporate “public health system”, what the NY Times today has cast not as an ideological and political construct, but as an essential feature of  “the American tradition” of rugged individualism (“individual rights and limited federal power”), voluntary association, community response, and localism (“decentralized“), all of which they portray as far preferable to “centralized” “command and control” (surprised they didn’t find a way to insert “Soviet” or “Cuban”, given their Sanders smears):

“You can be too centralized, and a lot of the problems in China reflected an excessive use of the command-and-control model, in which everything had to run through Beijing for approval,” said Robert Dingwall, a British sociologist who has studied responses to pandemics.

But what that “American tradition” amounts to is: you’re on your own in a Neoliberal Nightmare:

Without clear guidance from the government, “it feels like we’ve been left on our own to decide what would be best,”

The obvious and blatant ideology in that NYT story is remarkable – propaganda beyond Orwell and Manufacturing Consent.

[Update: 3/23/20this author sees similar propaganda, manipulation, and opportunism. ~~~ end update]

And they put that totally political and ideological claim in the mouth of an academic (a British sociologist, no less) as if it were objective and rigorous. Of course, there was no mention of the fact that China was able to build hospitals in 10 days, test millions of people, and apparently contained the spread of the virus – while the US can’t even seem to test people in timely way with functioning tests methods.

And they write this story AFTER the Trump administration testified to Congress that they expect to rely primarily on “market forces” and the private sector. The best analysis of all this I’ve heard was by Jeff Sachs of Columbia, in a podcast interview of The Intercept.

In other frustrations, I sense that Bernie Sanders’ is going to fold tonight against Biden.

First, he telegraphed his “questions” days in advance, giving the Biden spinmeisters ample opportunity. But the larger problem is that Bernie seems unwilling to go on offense, against his “friend” Joe Biden. Ironic in how Bernie echoes Biden’s “friendships” with racist southern senators and vile Republicans, like Dick Cheney.

Because “electability” has gotten Biden this far, the debate tonight should be about Sanders criticizing Biden’s awful corporate warmongering Neoliberal record, not asking him softball questions about how to solve problems.

On top of all that, the debate is likely to be dominated by virus panic issues, which will divert from Biden’ record and vulnerabilities in terms of “electability”.

The chain of events and conspiracy – yes, there was a vast Neoliberal DNC, corporate, media and elites conspiracy to take down Bernie Sanders, beyond what we saw in 2016 – that have produced Biden’s lead is even more galling – and events keep breaking in his favor.

On a personal note, I left the Sonoran desert on Wednesday and am now in the mountains of Coronado National Forest, just outside a small town, Patagonia. It’s about 100 miles east of where I was in Ajo and 20 miles north of Nogales Mexico, elevation 4,300 feet, so it’s been pretty cold. Had 4 days of rain during travel, which has kept me on paved roads. Take a look:

_DSC6116

I’m reconsidering my plans to come back east in light of the virus, and expect to stay as remote as possible in the mountains for the summer.

_DSC6125

The poor dog is still lame – it breaks my heart to see him limp on 3 legs, given how incredibly strong and vibrant he was. But, it doesn’t seem like he’s in constant pain and I’m still giving him the painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs the vet gave me.

On, literally, the bright side – the sun just emerged from a bank of clouds on a cold morning – all for now.

Hope you are doing OK.

ps – Want to avoid anti-science denialism, but I’m thinking that this “pandemic” is grossly exaggerated and the response driven by hysteria and opportunism.

In all the “data” and modeling about rates of transmission, incidence of cases, and deaths, a statistic I have NOT seen is how the number of Coronavirus deaths compare with the “background” mortality rate. If this virus is killing a lot of people, that would show up as excess mortality. Another key data I’ve not seen reported in the hospital admission numbers, including cases in ICU.

The absence of any mention of excess mortality may be premature, but I still find it odd given all the attention to excess mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, where “heart disease” was the number one cause of excess deaths:

Methods. We obtained monthly vital statistics data on all deaths from January 2008 through October 2017. We conducted a time-series analysis to estimate excess mortality in September and October 2017 overall and by age, sex, and cause of death.

[Update: 3/23/20this expert made the same point on the importance of “excess mortality”:

Thus the most important indicator for judging the danger of the disease is not the frequently reported number of positively-tested persons and deaths, but the number of persons actually and unexpectedly developing or dying from pneumonia (so-called excess mortality).  ~~~ end update]

And on top of the gaps, all this “data” are highly uncertain, because we have so little hard data based on testing of the population (and reliance on China’s statistics may not be reliable).

[Update: 3/23/20 this author makes the same points about uncertainty, lack of data, and the questionable reliability of data. ~~~ end update]

Of course precaution is wise, but hysteria is not. Time will tell. I hope I’m right.

pps- I just came across this grave – let’s hope it’s not a metaphor of things to come:

Roy W. Young -  1929  2010

Roy W. Young –
1929 – 2010

_DSC6120

Wolfe

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Despite Gov. Murphy’s Climate Commitments, The Murphy DEP Continues To Log NJ Highlands Forests

March 9th, 2020 No comments

Forests Store Carbon – So Why Is The Murphy DEP Logging Them?

What Ever Became Of The DEP “Policy Review” On Forest Management?

Source: NJ DEP GHG Emissions Inventory (2018)

Source: NJ DEP GHG Emissions Inventory (2018)

In disgust, I recently pledged to no longer write about NJ environmental issues, see:

But it’s the so called leaders who are co-opted, collaborators, and compromised, not their members and local activists.

Proving that point, my friends from Sparta Mountain just reached out, sent me some photos, and urged that I write about the outrageous DEP logging now underway on Sparta Mountain, a core Highlands Preservation Area and designated “High Conservation Value” forest. Look:

Large ruts in DEP Sparta Mountain forest logging roads (Source: Friends of Sparta Mt. - Stop The Chop - NJ Forest Watch)

Large ruts in DEP Sparta Mountain forest logging roads (Source: Friends of Sparta Mt. – Stop The Chop – NJ Forest Watch)

Perhaps you might recall that, upon assuming office and pending Senate confirmation, Murphy DEP Acting Commissioner McCabe publicly announced a “pause” in Christie DEP logging projects in Highlands forests. see:

The Sparta Independent reported:

The state Department of Environmental Protection announced last week that the Sparta Mountain forest management plan has been halted pending a review from the new commissioner.

Forestry activities at two different sites on the Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area were set to begin in February and end in April, but new Acting Commissioner Catherine McCabe wants to review the project before it proceeds any further.

“We’re going through a change of administrations,” said NJDEP Spokesperson Larry Hajna. “We have a new acting commissioner and so she is getting up to speed on various issues across the state and this is one that she wants to review. So we’ve decided just to hit the pause button and allow her to review the plan and then we’ll take it from there.”

This “pause” concession by McCabe was made in response to huge criticism by local residents, regional conservation groups, scientists, and State environmental groups of DEP’s logging on Sparta Mountain.

Before Murphy was elected, that DEP logging even prompted legislative oversight and legislation by former longtime Senate leader Senator Lesniak (D) to stop DEP logging of all public lands, see:

So, what ever became of DEP Commissioner McCabe’s “policy review” of DEP’s logging and forest management practices? Were public hearings ever held? Was a Technical Report ever issued? Were policy reforms publicly announced? Were rules ever proposed? What ever became of the Lesniak bill? Has some other brave Senator sponsored it? Is there no NJ legislator willing to conduct oversight and hold DEP accountable for how they mismanage public lands?

How can DEP resume logging after McCabe’s “pause” without having listened to the public, fully considered current science, especially climate science, provided a public justification for logging, and adopted new rules to close current loopholes and govern logging practices?

McCabe has repeatedly pledged to make policy decisions based on science and law, and DEP’s logging projects are an example of bad public policy that contradicts science, ignores climate change, and exploits egregious legal and regulatory loopholes.

In addition to all those flaws, DEP’s logging partner, NJ Audubon, is notoriously corrupted.

NJ Audubon was paid over $140,000 by Wall Street billionaire Peter Kellogg to develop the Sparta Mountain logging plan. Worse, NJA entered into a partnership with another billionaire – Donald Trump! – on a sham “corporate stewardship” golf course project. I guess NJA CEO Eric Stiles needs to raise a lot of money to pay his 6 figure salary!

NJ Audubon has misrepresented basic data, DEP regulations, and science. Under the guise of “stewardship”, NJ Audubon has mis-stated the science and ignored negative environmental impacts of logging, including on interior forest birds, water quality and climate! Their mismanagement was so bad that they were rebuked and humiliated by losing certification by the Forest Stewardship Council. (Note: and even from a very narrow single bird species conservation perspective (i.e. Golden Wing Warbler, the original main justification for the logging), the NJ Audubon logging scheme is fatally flawed. Check this out: DEP’s Sparta Mountain Logging Scheme Conflicts With Golden Wing Warbler Recovery Plan It Allegedly Is Based On

Recently, the local press outlet – The NJ Herald – has been writing a series of stories that amount to DEP propaganda. I’ve commented on them about their flaws and biases and even written to the reporter, Bruce Scruton, but to no avail. Local residents share similar frustrations.

Hi Bruce – I read your story today on Sparta Mt. WMA logging and was disappointed by how one sided it was. It read like a DEP promotion. DEP continues to ignore the forestry and related objectives of the Highlands Act, which are scientifically and policy-wise directly relevant to the logging scheme.

The Highlands Act was based on a 2002 US Forest Service Report, which highlighted the threats to and loss of intact forest and canopy. DEP is also ignoring the issue of climate change, both in terms of sequestration of carbon and climate changes that impact forest health and habitat (e.g. golden wing warbler habitat is migrating  north and will no longer be present on Sparta Mt. in the near future. As creation go GWW habitat was NJ Audubon and DEP’s primary objective of the “young forest” habitat creation, the fact that DEP is ignoring climate undermines the entire rational for the logging there.) 

Did DEP ever produce a report or analysis about the policy review that they suggested was going to happen as part of the “halt” last year? I had hope that that could be the forum for all these forestry issues to be discussed publicly based on real science.

[PS Bruce -Here is the relevant US Forest Service Highlands Report “Stewardship Goal”:

Conserve contiguous forests using management practices that are consistent with private property rights and regional resources;

Here is the US Forest Service key finding that contradicts NJ Audubon & DEP claims about a lack of diversity and habitat due to “single age class forests” and the need to log to create “young forest habitat” – all while ignoring the needs of interior forest species (see p.78):

  • The Highlands support a diverse ecological system that is still largely intact and is home to a number of endangered and threatened animal and plant species. Large tracts of contiguous forests and accompanying wetland systems support a number of forest interior dependent species.

So, without rehashing all the details of all that is so wrong with DEP’s forest management and climate policies and Sparta Mountain logging operations – something I’ve written about many, many times (e.g. see part 8 of a series, which includes links to pars 1-7)) – let me put those critiques in context in the Cours of making two larger political points.

In contrast to the constant drumbeat of favorable press about Gov. Murphy’s various climate  commitments, his Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is not only making very little progress on the regulatory front to actually implement the Gov.’s Executive Order, and is, as I wrote, “Already Running Away From Climate Regulations“.

Recently, they’ve taken two huge steps backwards that actually make the current situation even worse.

Incredibly, this backtracking comes at a time when DEP is holding meetings – mandated by Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order #100 – to seek public input on specifically how DEP should strengthen their current regulations to produce deep and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

So, in the first example of climate backtracking, why is the Murphy DEP logging forests and actually reducing the ability of NJ forest to store carbon?

The second example I offer as evidence that demonstrates this backtracking was the recent DEP adoption of a regulatory proposal on stormwater that not only ignored climate change and missed huge opportunities to strengthen current rules, it actually weakened and rolled back existing standards.

This rule proposal was so bad, it was not only condemned by virtually all environmental groups – a difficult task in these days of the co-opted and compromised Green Mafia – but it prompted public opposition by the Trump Federal Emergency Management Agency, see:

So, particularly in light of Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order #100, why in hell did DEP adopt this fatally flawed proposal, instead of simply letting it expire?

The adoption of that proposal by McCabe exposes the fraud of the Murphy climate commitments – lots of nice rhetoric and no follow through.

Since I’m out west, let me close by saying: The Gov. is all hat and not cattle.

[End Note: In case folks want to press the Gov. and DEP, here’s an email I sent to the Gov.’s Office of Constituent Relations back on March 4, with a copy to sponsors of the Highlands Act, including Senators Smith, Senator Greenstein, Senator Bateman, and Assemblyman McKeon:

Dear Gov. Murphy: Your DEP is abusing public lands by logging them. You must stop this destruction, which is happening right now on Sparta Mountain and involves other State owned public lands in the Highlands (that DEP classifies as “Wildlife management Areas”).

DEP’s logging contradicts your commitments to a serious climate change program, because it’s rationale ignores climate science (e.g. the “young forest”habitat DEP claims to be creating is for a single bird species that will no longer be there due to climate change), because it ignores the carbon sequestration forests provide, and because it will increase carbon emissions.

DEP’s logging contradicts the fundamental objectives of the Highlands Act, which were to preserve large blocks of intact forest, maximize canopy cover, minimize disturbance of forest soils and vegetation, and protect water quality.

This logging is exempt from DEP regulations, so natural resources, water quality and flood protects are absent from the DEP’s logging scheme.

These abuses must stop!

Bill Wolfe

A 13 year career DEP policy analyst, which included drafting the introduced version of the Highlands Act (i.e. Senate bill #1, sponsored by Senator Smith)

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Dr. King Was Right About Liberals

March 4th, 2020 No comments

Super-Tuesday Shows How Liberal Fear Dominates Hope and Vision

Corporate Democrat and Media Sabotage of Sanders Will Backfire

[Updates below]

In his famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail”, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., among many other things, expressed frustration and a clear understanding of white liberals. King wrote:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

The abject Liberal fear behind the cowardly Super Tuesday support of Joe Biden is sickening:

the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice;

In that sense, after an unprecedented sustained assault and smear campaign against Sanders, the corporate media’s 24/7 exaggeration of the new Coronavirus threat greatly magnified the pre-existing fear of 4 more years of Trump. Heckofajob media!

[Update 3/18/20 – Looks like we were out front on highlighting the role of the virus:

Why is Joe Biden enjoying such tremendous, consistent success against Bernie Sanders after spending the entire race up to South Carolina as a third-place laggard? […]

I suspect, however, that COVID-19 stands as the most plausible explanation. ~~~ End Update]

In a cruel irony, the liberal corporate Clinton-Obama Democrats – in their fearful and self interested sabotage of Bernie Sanders – have virtually assured a Trump second term, exactly the thing they claim to have been so fearful of.

But while the rank and file liberal was driven by fear, the DNC and media leadership were corruptly stoking and manipulating this fear to protect their power, privilege, and wealth. They actually would prefer 4 more years of Trump to a Sanders Presidency and Sanders controlled Democratic Party.

I fully understand the liberal cowardice and corruption and lack of vision at play because I’ve worked with these people for decades.

But what I do not understand is the strong support of Biden by black voters, given Biden’s awful record on core black issues and Sanders longtime leadership on civil rights, including putting his own ass on the line as a college student. My guess is that is a cultural and political amalgam of what Glen Ford termed “the black mis-leadership class”; exploitation by heretical “Prosperity Gospel” hustlers and ideologues; manipulation by Neoliberal corporate Democrats and their Foundation friends (that’s where we got politicians like Cory Booker and the charter school project, a faux “community driven” scam created by right wing billionaire’s and their Foundations); and, because the black community has the most to lose from 4 more years of Trump, a fearful conservatism that rejects Bernie and embraces a “vote blue no matter who” mindset.

[Update: Adolph Reed schools me on “the mystique of the black vote”

The black political class, to put it bluntly, uses the status of “representing” black people to accrue benefits for themselves and elite strata among black Americans. In pursuing such interests, it is not unusual for them to advocate anti-democratic positions. […]

Since 2016 the black punditry has converged around a narrative that Sanders has difficulty appealing to black voters, even as polls have shown repeatedly that his program is more popular among black Americans than any other group. This effort recently hit a comic plateau when the The Root produced a report purporting to evaluate the Democratic candidates in relation to a “Black Agenda.” The report, based on criteria crafted by anonymous “experts,” ranked Warren first with Biden, Buttigieg, and Steyer also ahead of Sanders. Tellingly, Buttigieg and Steyer offered decidedly class-skewed racial programs centering on entrepreneurship and business development, and Sanders was graded down for having had the temerity to consider mobilizing a primary challenge to “the first black president.” 

Another facet of this black politics is that, in reducing all of black Americans’ concerns to race, it undermines our abilities to organize the majoritarian social movement response we need to combat the ever more naked assertion of ruling-class power against all working people in the United States. ~~~ end update]

Biden’s longtime anti-black record includes, and this list is off the top of my head, without research:

1) support of legislation that expanded corporate/banking/credit card/financial abuses that effectively echo racist policies like “red lining” (they go way beyond pay day loans, limits on consumer protections, and making it harder to declare bankruptcy);

2) the Obama-Biden 2008 Wall Street bank bailout that ignored people and Main Street and disproportionately devastated the black community and black home ownership and equity;

3) the New Jim Crow prison industrial complex criminal justice policies that are just as racist as Hillary Clinton’s “super-predator” and Bloomberg’s Stop & Frisk;

4) his political exploitation of suburban white racist fears of bussing and school integration;

5) his use of his Senate power in support for wars and the military industrial complex budgets that drain resources from domestic social programs;

6) his Senate role in the confirmation of right wing judges (and who can forget the dissing of Anita Hill?);

7) his embrace of notoriously racist republican southern senators;

8) Biden’s Neoliberal austerity ideology that threatened social security and Medicare and starved domestic social programs (remember it was Bill Clinton who cynically “ended welfare as we know it”, greatly expanded the racist war on drugs and prison industry complex that has destroyed millions of black lives, and deregulated Wall Street that led to the 2008 financial crash); and

9) Biden’s outright fabrication of multiple lies about his alleged personal involvement as a civil rights activist (the lie on getting arrested while visiting Mandela is just the tip of a large iceberg of lies – read THIS for Biden’s remarkable pattern of deceit:

How could a black voter vote for a man who looked them in the eye and lied like this?

Sanders supporters can see exactly what is going on and – as Glen Greenwald recently brilliantly wrote, read “Democrats Craving A Brokered Convention” – it replicates the corruption of Chicago ’68 and will produce similar results.

There are tectonic forces gathering and they need a time and place to discharge the energy generated by the DNC & media’s betrayal.

I’m sure that the National Security State apparatus fully understands this and is already gearing up for “The Mugging In Milwaukee” – preparing their pre-Convention surveillance of progressives and left individuals and groups, planting spies and agents provocateur, and planning a military lockdown of the city, a project which is sure to make Bloomberg’s police state tactics in the 2004 Republican Convention in NY City look like a Boy Scout camp.

The only good that can come of this is the decline – or death – of the Democratic Party and the emergence of a true alternative left – labor – climate – progressive – democratic Socialist – “Green New Deal” party.

As Adolph Reed writes:

However, the South Carolina results, as well as those of several—e.g., Virginia, where Biden bested Sanders  53-23, and 53% of voters indicated preference for Medicare for All—of the Super Tuesday states, underscore the need to dig in and build on the potential the Sanders moment has provided us to take up the slow, unglamorous work of building organically rooted working-class politics around issues that connect directly with people’s lives and concerns all over the United States.

Amen, Bro!

[Update: 3/7/20 – based on Biden’s record, – which is hidden in plain sight – Norman Solomon  and several others are right about Joe Biden:

Bernie should have been beating the shit out of Biden for MONTHS about all this. It will be very difficult to make this argument now, from Sanders’ position off weakness.

Political lies kill – just look what Obama and Clinton did under the lie of liberal progressive democrats.

The US media has been lying about “lunch bucket Joe” Biden’s record for decades. Those lies are coming home to roost right now.  ~~~ end update]

 [Update: 3/9/20 – Chris Hedges – a real writer (something I do not even prentend to be) – in his Truthdig column today makes exactly the same points as I, but of course it is written a lot better:

The feckless liberal class, easily frightened, is already abandoning Sanders, castigating his supporters with their nauseating self-righteousness and championing Biden as a political savior.

Biden represents the old neoliberal order. He personifies the betrayal by the Democratic Party of working men and women that sparked the deep hatred of the ruling elites across the political spectrum. He is a gift to a demagogue and con artist like Trump, who at least understands that these elites are detested. Biden cannot plausibly offer change. He can only offer more of the same. And most Americans do not want more of the same. The country’s largest voting-age bloc, the 100 million-plus citizens who out of apathy or disgust do not vote, will once again stay home. This demoralization of the electorate is by design. It will, I expect, give Trump another term in office.

[Update: 3/9/20 – We’re on a roll! Another of my favorite writers, Paul Street at Counterpunch opens with an honest assessment of the black vote for Biden:

I suppose the politically correct thing is to pretend that corporate-imperialist Joe Biden winning the Black vote isn’t like the late Jeffrey Epstein being hailed as a mentor of teenage girls.

[Update 3/10/20 – the Joe beatdown goes on!

end updates]

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South Carolina’s Political Culture Is Tame – Biden’s Win Means Nothing

March 1st, 2020 No comments

South Carolina’s Black Leaders Couldn’t Even Stand Up To Steve Bannon

Local black minister bows to pressure from Citadel PR hack - agrees to move his protest far away from Bannon speech (11/10/17)

Local black minister bows to pressure from Citadel PR hack – agrees to move his protest far away from the building housing Bannon’s speech, the media tent, and the cameras and reporters (11/10/17)

I make no pretense of knowledge or understanding of southern and South Carolina culture and politics.

But, I did have one engagement with it and came away baffled by the accommodationist, lame, and anti-conflictual political culture and the failure of leadership in the black community. Let me explain.

I was in Charleston SC in November of 2017. It just so happened that Steve Bannon was speaking at the Citadel there on 11/10/17, so of course I showed up for the protest.

The local black leadership who organized the protest event at The Citadel was extremely deferential to officials from The Citadel, who was sponsoring Bannon’s speech.

Those same leaders, at the request of Citadel officials,  not only actively led their people away from a location where they could be seen and heard by and thereby shame the attendees of Bannon’s speech, but they discouraged any such “aggressive” or “disrespectful” or “rude” behavior (as if protest was an aggressive or rude form of disrespect and as if Bannon deserved respect).

I found the failure of black leadership and their Citadel ass kissing so lame that I actually got into a heated argument with the local black minister who organized the event.  See the below excerpt of that encounter – and you can read my full report and photos on that here).

We also toured lovely cities – like Charleston South Carolina – where architectural beauty and history stood side by side with the ugliest forms of ignorance and hatred imaginable (e.g. Steve Bannon’s speech at The Citadel, where, in the wake of Dylann Roof, he was warmly welcomed by virtually the entire South Carolina political establishment and lots of the young men and women training at The Citadel for US military leadership positions who “whooped and hollered” their support. See if you can read this lede from the local page 1 coverage without vomiting:

Steve Bannon tells Republicans in South Carolina: ‘It’s time for us to get angry again’

When former White House adviser Steve Bannon walked onstage Friday night to address a sold-out crowd at the Citadel Republican Society’s annual Patriot Dinner, he was welcomed like a rock-star.

Cadets whooped and hollered in their woolen dress uniforms. A man wearing a coat and tie pulled out a red towel, waving it high in the air. Even the three Republicans in the room who are hoping to be the next governor of South Carolina tripped over themselves to align their campaigns with Bannon and his populist message that propelled Donald Trump into the White House.

I stood with a disappointingly small group of protesters:

Protest against Steve Bannon's speech at The Citadel (Charleston, SC) (11/10/17)

Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC

 

The Citadel Bannon protesters were manipulated and poorly led by a local black minister – the epitome of what Glen Ford calls “the black misleadership class”.

The minister voluntarily agreed to a protest permit that located the event in a parking lot a few hundred yards away from the building where Bannon spoke and the press tent was located, thereby further marginalizing his own protesters in a classic “protest zone”.

When protesters arrived early – the police had closed all the roads in an approximately 1 square mile perimeter, making it very difficult to even get there – they all converged on what was obviously  the most strategic and effective location – at the barricades directly across the street from the building where Bannon was speaking and the press tent stood.

They began chants and had creative and highly visible signs.  They were in a place to directly confront and shame Bannon and the attendees as they arrived at the event. The press began to take note.

Almost immediately, a PR official from The Citadel and the local black minister arrived.Look at the photo, as the minister tells the Citadel’s PR flack that he’s moving his people away:

_DSC4649

The minister directed his protesters to move away from that prime location and relocate 300 yards away at his small stage.

I loudly urged protesters to stay where they were and the minister immediately got in my face – chest to chest – and told me to shut up and get my own protest if I didn’t like his. I got into a shouting match with him and yelled that he was being manipulated and was weak.

Afterwards, a few protesters came over to talk and agreed with me, attributing the problem to a conservative southern political culture that avoids overt conflicts with power and aggressive “rude” tactics.

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