Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

She’ll Be Comin Round the Mountain

John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
John Muir, The Yosemite

 

Last night I attended a public meeting in Ringwood on the proposed plan to upgrade the capacity of a natural gas pipeline through 16 miles of North Jersey’s pristine and endangered Highland woodlands. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. a subsidiary of El Paso Corp has filed a Letter of Intent with Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) to extend the swath of its pipeline grid with the Northeast Upgrade.  The meeting was chaired by FERC and its purpose was to solicit feedback on the pipeline upgrade known as the 300 Project.

A FERC representative declared the meeting open and outlined the purpose of the meeting and the process the agency will use to evaluate El Paso’s application to extend its footprint in the region.  The FERC representative then introduced an El Paso project engineer who took the audience through a brief power-point presentation on El Paso and the proposed pipeline upgrade project.  The meeting was then opened to comments from attendees.

Numerous people rose to speak.  Representatives from the Sierra Club, Ramapough Indian Tribe, local environmental groups, residents and public citizens voiced concerns about the 300 Project.  Not one spoke in defense of the project.

Many of the speakers raised the issue about the need to conduct a comprehensive environmental impact study.  The proposed pipeline extends way into western Pennsylvania and is key delivery platform for natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale region.  The Marcellus Shale project has recently gained some negative notoriety from the Josh Fox documentary Gasland and the use of the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Fracking involves the use of water mixed with chemicals, pumped underground into the shale formations to release the natural gas entrapped between the sedimentary layers.  Though the 300 Project does not involve natural gas extraction or the practice of fracking many speakers spoke about the lack of sufficient end to end regulatory oversight and the unsuitability of regulatory silos to effectively deal with the environmental, social, economic and cultural risks posed by the project.

The regulatory response to the risks posed by the pipeline goes to the heart of the many questions Americans are wrestling with at the polls in today’s Mid-Term Elections.  The Tea Party/GOP believes government is too big, regulation impedes economic growth and natural gas extraction is key to energy independence.  The progressive response is that corporations cannot indiscriminately impose their will on communities, regulatory safeguards align the interests of stakeholders, environmental stewardship is key to a sustainable future and non-fossil fuel based renewable energy sources need to be encouraged and promoted.

The speaker from the Sierra Club stated that his membership is not opposed to natural gas.  The Sierra Club views it as a key source of energy but also stated that the impact of its extraction and transport must be assessed within a larger context of risk factors confronting a complex ecosystem of community stakeholders.  He stated that the 300 Project posed unacceptable risks to the protected Sterling Forest Highlands watershed.  In the absence of a meaningful comprehensive Environmental Impact Study (remember BP’s Deepwater Horizon boilerplate EIS stated their environmental protection plan would carefully monitor the risk to a non-existing sea lion population)  the unknown dangers it posed to underwater aquifers supplying water to 4 million people remained unanswered.  He also spoke of the risks posed to the areas flora and fauna and the aesthetic degradation to The Appalachian Trail,  Monksville State Park, Ramapo Mountain State Forest and Ringwood Manor.

Coincidentally, much of the area El Paso chose for the proposed pipeline expansion is on public land.  The Highlands, Sterling Forest and Ringwood Manor comprise a portfolio of public land assets that are protected by a public trust.  Many people worked long and hard to protect these vital natural lands and El Paso is leasing them on the cheap.  The political disposition of New Jersey Governor Christie is an  ideal dance partner to enable El Paso’s unfettered access and use of these public lands.  I would not be surprised if Christie is in negotiations to sell these priceless assets to a private equity firm eager to mortgage the future of  these irreplaceable watershed resources.

As an avid hiker I am in love with the North Jersey Highlands. As a citizen of America’s most densely populated state the escape the woodlands offer is a most welcomed respite from the crushing confines of urbanity. Hiking the Appalachian Trail or bounding along the rocks of the Ramapoughs allows one to gets lost in thoughts and become thoroughly moved by an intimate unbreakable connection to the natural world.  When I mount a rise to be confronted by the clear cut of a gas pipeline “comin round the mountain” I’m reminded that the dear value of solace offered by nature is an endangered species.  I must pick up my step and heighten my resolve to protect the natural graces for succeeding generations.  Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir would expect nothing less.

When I am traversing through the woods I am anointed  with a spiritual grace Mother Nature freely offers and abundantly confers on any communicant.  As I cross the speaking streams and walk wooded paths carpeted with golden leaves the immediacy of being alive in a rich wellness and holy balance with nature alights our human divinity.  The Highlands is where we get our water to drink and fills our soul with a natural food vital for our survival as human beings.  The protection of the Highlands truly preserves our bread of life.

You Tube Music Video: Ramblin Tommy Scott, She’ll Be Comin Round the Mountain

Risk, environmental, regulatory, energy

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November 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We Deserve Better (2): The Damnation of the Democrats

A few days after President Obama took office I remember him emerging from a meeting at the Pentagon.  The summit was arranged to brief the Commander In Chief on the progress of the wars and to assure the nation that the new president was in-sync with his generals and admirals charged with running the war.  Emerging from the highly publicized meeting America’s new war time president stated “as long as the generals take care of what they have to do, we’ll take care of what we have to do.”  I found the statement to be unsettling.  It implied that  the new administration would not alter the course set by the previous administration insuring that the inertia of Bush’s policies and strategies would continue unabated.  On another level Obama’s statement also seemed to suggest an abdication.  I get nervous to think that the Commander in Chief  has ceded civilian control of the greatest military force the world has ever known.  The decision to pursue war or enjoy peace is too delicate a matter to be left to the decisions of an entrenched military-industrial bureaucracy.  The abdication of assertive control, weather its born from the desire to get along, build consensus or a deep seated need for acceptance has been a disturbing custom of Obama’s presidency and the prevailing characteristic of the Democratic Party.

Obama’s easy surrender to established protocols, processes, precedents has been a hallmark of his presidency.  It exemplifies the failure of the Democratic Party’s oppositional legacy to Republican rule during the two previous Bush Administrations.  At every turn, the Democrats gave in to the Republican conservative legislative agenda with little or no dissent.  The Patriot Act, the blind march to  two unnecessary wars, the dismantling of government oversight and regulatory controls on business, the slavish submission to Republican led expenditures or tax cuts in service to corporate welfare and the tepid lip service to the struggle for social justice made the democrats complicit accomplices in America’s dramatic conservative swing.

The democrats failure as an oppositional force to counter the reactionary juggernaut of neo-conservatism has emboldened the reactionary impulses of the ruthless power elites.  Threatened by economic distress and disintegration of our political institutions, Americas ruling  plutocracy has spawned a malevolent Tea Party movement to crush any progressive populism that may arise to counteract their social position, economic power and political sovereignty. The democrats adamant refusal to stand firmly against the destructive impulses of xenophobia and virulent nationalism has allowed an ugly chorus of fear to become our new national anthem.  The resentful voices of suspicion, intolerance and  exclusion grows ever louder each day as emboldened Falangists and neo-fascists take center stage on a surreal  commercial production of American political theater.

In defense of President Obama his presidential campaign and his administration have expressed a deep desire to pursue a political consensus.  This sentiment is admirable and the ability to form a consensus is an absolute and critical virtue to the health of a democratic society.  The freedom to express differing opinions, voice dissent, air grievances, petition, ability to listen, interest to hear, converse, change opinions and assimilate these competing impulses to form a consensus to express the common will are what makes democracies imperfect yet the fairest expression of governance.  Mr. Obama has sought to pursue and build consensus with an opposition Republican Party that has been nothing short of obstructionist since the democrats assumed control of the Executive office.  Rush “Country Firster” Limbaugh said it best “I hope he fails” set the tone and sealed the intractability of Republicans and any possibility of bipartisan cooperation to deal with the critical issues confronting the nation.

Last summers spectacle of town meetings designed to initiate a national conversation on Health Care Reform devolved into a partisan shouting match and an opportunity for the formation of the Tea Party galvanized by propaganda about a socialist takeover of the economy, death panels, and the idea that President Obama was a fascist dictator.  At this point President Obama still took the opportunity to sit down with the leadership of the GOP in a televised discussion to initiate a dialog.  The Consensus Builder in Chief was rebuffed again.  The democrats responded by killing single-payer and backing down on universal health coverage.  The watered down health care reform bill accomplished an extension of coverage for more, but not all Americans and eliminated preexisting conditions as a disqualification for coverage while also extending the power of insurance companies by making it mandatory that all tax payers purchase health insurance.

This reform is not a significant ground breaking legislative event.  President Obama and the democrats should have recognized early on the inability to work a compromise with the obstructionists in the Republican Party.  As is the case with Cap and Trade legislation, rescinding  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, ending the Iraq and Afghanistan war, financial services reform, TARP and the economic stimulus bill;  the GOP, “Party of No” has done everything in its power to derail the efforts of the democratic party to address the deep problems confronting America.  The Democratic Party should have leveraged its control of the legislative and executive branch of the Federal Government to push through a program for a new America.  The pressing circumstances of history required decisive leadership and bold ideas to address the complex problems confronting America.  FDR’s “New Deal” or Johnson’s “Great Society” were ideas accompanied by innovative legislation to solve systemic problems.  The democrats tepid response acquiesced to the conservative demands of the GOP.   The Blue Dog Democrats yelped and barked louder then any rabid GOP hound subverting a robust game changing legislative response to the problems confronting America.

The democrats would again demonstrate their timidity in how they responded to the Gulf Oil Spill.  If the free falling economy was the equivalent of economic Armageddon the Horizon Deep Water catastrophic oil spill was its environmental equivalent.  In each case President Obama fashioned piece meal responses designed not to offend “free market evangelists” for fear of being accused of over reaching.  Both instances provided opportunities to mobilize the nation and its significant resources in these titanic tests of national resolve.  In both instances the cojones challenged donkeys failed to seize the reins of state to wield its power.  I am still shocked by images of Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein pulling the strings on Timothy Geithner like a marionette to exact concessions during the banking crisis.  Or consider the high profile of BP CEO,  Tony “I want my life back” Hayward mounting a $50 million PR campaign to quell any concerns that the benevolence of corporate capitalism will eventually “set things right.”    The Republicans turned this into President Obama’s Katrina with Bobby “don’t spend no stim in Louisiana” Jindal taking the EPA to court for declaring a moratorium on deep water drilling.  And the fattest of fat cats Republican Mississippi Governor Haley “rebuild the casinos first” Barbour shaming Obama to spend a portion of his non- Martha Vineyard family vacation swimming in the pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  It was a PR disaster for President Obama because he failed to act with the resolve or manner of a strong decisive leader.

But now as the midterms approach the democrats must answer to a crumbling alliance of constituencies that they have taken for granted and failed to help.  They are unable to see  constituents as anything other then a demographic voting block devoid of a face, personality or soul.  The democrats see stereotypes not people.  Labor unions are blue collar voters that now approximate 7% of registered voters.  This year the democratic controlled legislature failed to act on Card Check legislation that would protect the right of labor unions to vote and organize non-union companies.  Another important constituency of the Democratic Party is the LGBT community.  The military said it would comply with the decision of a California District Court  that overturned Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Incredibly, President Obama’s Attorney General appealed the decision and asked the court to reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Teacher unions are also big supporters of the Democratic Party, but many democrats support school vouchers and Charter Schools and seem unconcerned that financial and institutional support of public schools continues to erode.  Working class families and woman  are under severe distress as unemployment rates approach 10%, home foreclosures rise , spiraling cost of living increases spike, the cost of sending kids to college slip out of reach and a marked erosion in quality of life and expectations for a secure future and comfortable retirement evaporate.    The democrats did little to solve these pressing problems save the offer of cheap lip service that they understand their pain.  Charlie Rangel secure in the refuge of his four rent controlled apartments will not feel the cold experienced by a homeless mother and her children this winter;  nor will Hillary Clinton lose any sleep worrying about  deploying Chelsea to fight an incomprehensible war in Afghanistan.

This mid term election democratic candidates are running away from their unpopular president.  They will run on a platform of tax cuts and appear as local election district manifestations of gun toting patriotic Christophanies.  The poverty of a party with no conviction of principle is made plain.  Having no principles, Democrats have not offered a true alternative to reactionary Republicanism.  Nearsightedness has robbed them of a vision for a new republic.  They offer no demarcation with the broken policies that preceded their rule.  The hallmark of their governance has been the complete compromise with an recalcitrant opposition; content to administer a broken and corrupt apparatus rather then chart a new path.  The democrats remain shining examples of self serving politicians retuning to office  on mythical inertia to secure rent controlled apartments while public housing remains an endangered and dear want for many.  They believe themselves to be righteously led by the presiding shame of a president made possible by an epic civil rights struggle who cannot muster the fortitude or conviction to extend the equal right of marriage for one of his liberal constituencies.

We deserve better.

You tube Music Video: Les McCann, Eddie Harris, Compared to What

Risk: democracy, two party political system, liberalism

 

October 28, 2010 Posted by | Bush, conservatism, culture, democracy, democrats, environment, labor, LGBT, Obama, politics, recession, republicans, social justice, TARP, taxation, Tea Party, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Drill Baby Drill: The Bill Comes Due

Louisiana has declared an emergency shrimping season for the off shore beds at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The emergency harvest of shrimp, oysters and stone crabs is a desperate attempt to grab a final yield from a once bountiful aquaculture that sustained and defined the regional Cajun identity for many generations. The spreading oil slick gushing from a toppled offshore oil platform threatens to bury that life as it covers the delicate ecology with a toxic cloak that may spell a death blow to a regions way of life.

It is estimated that 210,000 gallons of crude oil are gushing into the Gulf of Mexico every day following the explosion and collapse of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform that killed 11 workers. The Transocean rig was reportedly not equipped with a special safety devise that should have capped the well with the collapse of the oil platform. This assertion is being denied by Transocean stating that the well was equipped with the devise but unfortunately it failed to work. The use of the safety devise is a regulatory requirement for any offshore drill platforms in Europe but in the United States this safety devise is not required and is considered an optional operational risk devise. Like the recent coal miner disaster at Massey Mines, and word today that two more miners have died in Kentucky, occupational wages sometimes result in death. We need to understand that preservation of life and environmental safety are critical components of a cost of doing business that must be factored into ROI calculations and risk assessment scenarios.

The Coast Guard is in charge of emergency response to this growing disaster. The Coast Guard is skimming surface oil and using containment booms to control the growing oil slick. The Coast Guard is also considering igniting controlled burns of the surface oil which would release toxicity into the air. Another strategy being considered is the injection of chemicals into the spill to coagulate the oil. This strategy has never been attempted at such an extreme 5,000 foot depth and would also release additional toxins into the water. Technological solutions like the drilling of a relief well or the construction of a containment vessel would take months to accomplish. Man made solutions to cap the environmental disasters of their making always seem to pale in comparison to the scale and fury unleashed by the unrestrained power of nature.

This event marks yet another example of making an honest assessment of the true costs of our behavior and choices. Like the global economic meltdown that was the result of the unfettered credit orgy the bill for risky behavior always comes due. The continued focus on the exploitation and extraction of fossil fuels at the expense of alternative sources of energy comes at a great cost. This disaster may indeed be the death blow to an aqua industry that nurtured a region for many generations and informed a cuisine and culture respected and treasured by throughout  the world.   And like any excursion to a fine NOLA restaurant, someones always got to pick up the tab.

The bill always comes due. We want to gorge ourselves at the well of cheap energy only to discover how dear the price of this devil’s bargain really is. Environmental degradation is the most obvious tip of a precarious iceberg that threatens to tip as it melts into an ocean of unsustainability. A destroyed eco-culture of marshlands and animals, abandoned hamlets and townships no longer able to extract a living from the land are the immediate visible signs of the cost of this deal with the devil gone bad. We must begin to realize that the cost of cheap energy also requires our nation to continually engage in wars and military actions to protect this vital resource.

Cheap oil has badly skewed our economic infrastructure. It has encouraged our businesses to produce inefficient cars that led to the decline of a strategic industry and destruction of cities like Detroit and Gary Indiana. It caused the terrible moniker of rust belt cities to be pinned on a region of our country that was once the source of our nations wealth. Cheap energy help turn our prized manufacturing centers into economic anachronisms. Cheap oil has forestalled commitment to developing innovative green technologies that continues us to cede our position as a global manufacturing power. As we watch China and Brazil march forward with massive commitments to the development of energy innovation industries that will serve future needs of an energy dependent global economy, America is engaged in a bloody rear guard action to defend the ways of an old dying world too protect depleting trickles of oil.

Tonight as Americans go to sleep in their energy inefficient homes it is hoped that they may pause to consider that drill baby drill is a rallying cry for an unsustainable dying future. Think of the villages along the Louisiana bayous and how their way of life is coming to an end. Its time to consider the real costs of a Drill Baby Drill economy and begin to chart a course to a sustainable future.

You tube Music Video: Cajun Music: DL Menard and Louisiana Aces, Out My Backdoor

Risk: economic, environmental, culture

April 30, 2010 Posted by | culture, disaster planning, ecological, environment, politics, regulatory | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment