As a strengthening Hurricane Isaac takes aim on The Big Easy, seven years to the day of Katrina’s catastrophic devastation, an even bigger bag of wind is set to be unleashed tonight in Tampa as NJ Governor Chris Christie takes the podium as the GOP’s Presidential Convention keynote speaker.
For the past week Chris Christie has been the topic du jour of all the news shows. Morning Joe, Good Morning America, News 12 New Jersey and the front pages of the local press have paraded and fawned over the GOP’s ascending star as if he were the second coming of Abraham Lincoln.
Journalists ask Christie if he intends to unleash his “fire and brimstone” Jersey hubris during his keynote speech. His tough talking, take no prisoners’ attitude seems to be all the rage in Republican Party circles these days. When GMA host George Stephanopoulos asked Christie if he represented the GOP mainstream Christie answered, “I’ve been to over thirty states since my election as Governor and everyone has welcomed me with open arms. With me you know who you’re buying.” Indeed Christie’s value as a political celebrity is rising. In his brief tenure as Governor he spends a lot of time jetting about the country, politicking for himself and the GOP. He’s been out raising funds for his reelection campaign and his coffers are overflowing with out of state money from his well heeled big time 1% contributors. Mr. Christie’s discerning buyers know what they are purchasing. His hubris is a nice word for his arrogance and opacity that are the hallmark of the political deals he’s cutting for his out of state friends when he arrives back home in the Garden State.
Christie’s supporters love his tough talking style but his tough talk is nothing more than the arrogance of power, the political and economic elites employ to cover their back room deals. Christie’s tough talk is nothing more than a front to deflect. When a reporter asked Christie about failing water delivery infrastructure and its impact on public health, the tough talking Governor answered “Did I say on topic? Are you stupid? On topic, on topic. Next question,” Christie said to the reporter. “Thank you all very much and I’m sorry for the idiot over there.” Christie also scored big with anti-union and privatization of education supporters by calling public school teachers, “drug mules”. Its a denigration unworthy of a governor and a damaging characterization of professionals working within a systemically challenged public school system.
Yeah Christie’s a real bad ass tough guy. When a Navy veteran asked for more details from Christie about the proposed merger between Rutgers Camden and Rowan University, he called the gentleman an idiot and used the power of his pulpit to brow beat and insult the man; who had every right as a citizen and taxpayer to receive a respectful reply to his question. This week Christie is crowing that he finally closed the Rutgers/Rowan deal with the bipartisan help of his lap dog democrat friends; as details concerning the financing and costs of the project remain obscure. It will be left to vigilant citizens to follow the money and see where and how state funds will flow into which private hands.
Yes Christie and his GOP supporters may love his tough talking but I suspect they pay a premium for the Christie brand because he knows when to keep his fat mouth shut. Sure their thankful when Christie refuses to shed any light on his business dealings and political moves. Christie’s less then transparent appointments of commissioners to the NJ Highland Commission allowed the governor to pack the oversight board with pro-development interests. The NJ Highlands is a sensitive watershed region for millions of state citizens. In a densely populated state like New Jersey, protection of water resources and environmental conservation should be priorities but out of state El Paso Corp has eminent domain to dramatically expand its pipeline through the ecologically sensitive area to deliver natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale deposit. Is this the fruit of Mr. Christie’s cross country road show to interested buyers? Christie’s short term profit is New Jersey’s long term problem.
In another strange case of the bloviating governor going mute is his refusal to provide insights into his interests and practices in a privately run prison halfway house business that regularly receives state funded taxpayer money. Governor Christie, “the entrepreneur” catches a bad case of laryngitis when asked to provide insights into his cashing in on the privatization of the prison system and the rent seeking practice of his company using government funds to provide substandard service.
Yeah they’ll be a big wind blowing through Tampa tonight that will rival anything Isaac can throw at New Orleans. Christie will crow about the New Jersey miracle since his governorship began but statistics show that the state is lagging its Mid-Atlantic rivals. Facts and politicians seem to be two mutually exclusive matters so it shouldn’t present an obstacle for Christie to say or claim anything the tough talking Jersey Dough-boy claims as truth.
This is particularly true of a fact based, reality challenged Republican Party that believes there is no science to support climate change, the idea that public schools are a liberal conceit, the notion that women rape victims can’t get pregnant, progressives are enemies of the state and to preserve the constitution we must withhold the rights of some citizens. If you think that this is an unfair shot at the GOP mindset, did you see the GOP California poster of Chris Christie riding a surfboard? Talk about a problem with the concept of reality.
Music Selection: Beach Boys, Surfin Safari
Risk: truth, transparency, civil discourse, consensus
Locked and loaded their going for bear in New Jersey’s Highland Region. The Highlands is one of the states last stand of expansive underdeveloped woodlands and critical watershed that provides drinking water to over two million state residents. The Highlands is also the preferred habitat and home to most of the states black bears. But starting Monday, the Highlands will become a deadly killing ground for the lovable species as the state appeals court threw out a suit brought by two animal rights groups to halt a six day bear hunt.
Environmental Commissioner Bob Martin signed off on this year’s hunt, saying it’s needed to help control a growing black bear population. The agency estimates the state’s black bear population at 3,400, up from 500 bears in 1992.
“The Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy is full of scientific flaws and outright fabrications,” APL contends. “In their zeal to hold a recreational trophy hunt, the council has slapped together a scientifically sloppy, self-contradictory document that pretends the hunt is necessary when in fact, the science does not support a hunt.”
The suit filed by the Animal Protection League (APL) contends that the scientific assessment of the bear population and its environmental impact is flawed and its findings are biased. The suit also alleges that proponents of the hunt, The New Jersey Outdoor Alliance made illegal contributions to Gov. Chris Christie’s election campaign. The New Jersey Outdoor Alliance disputes the claims made by the APL and issued a response that appears on the Ammoland website.
During public hearings comments ran 3 to 1 against the bear hunt. Public opposition to the hunt has been vocal and considerable. If the voice of the public counts for nothing why go through the charade of soliciting public comments? A recent public hearing on the expansion of the El Paso Corp gas pipeline through the Highland region had a similar tenor to it. Of the twenty of so citizens and groups who spoke at the meeting not one supported the expansion of the pipeline. Local residents and groups affected by the El Paso expansion initiative are concerned that their opposition to the project is falling on deaf ears of regulators and government officials responsible for green lighting the project. If the project is a fait accompli regardless of public criticism why solicit public comment and go through the motions of participatory democracy?
The Highlands Commission was formed to determine how the resources of the region are managed and how the area will be developed. The Highland region is a critical watershed area and a vital open recreational space for an overwhelmingly urban state. The Highlands Commission is the stewardship body chartered to reconcile the competing interests of a complex community of stakeholders. The immediate needs of wildlife preservation, smart development and long term sustainability of an environmentally stressed ecosystem will require effective engagement of all Highland Community stakeholders. Governor Christie’s slate of nominees to to the Highland Council is being criticized as too pro development. This may auger well for stakeholders like El Paso Corp but it may have deadly consequences for endangered bears and other species struggling to hang on in an increasingly hostile environment.
You Tube Video: Junglebook, Bare Necessities
Risk: environment, bears, sustainability, water, open spaces, democracy
“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