Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Chris Christie Blows Into Tampa

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

August 28, 2012 Posted by | democrats, elections, labor, labor unions, republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chris Cristie’s NJ Energy Plan: Is A Small Business Job Killer that Favors Big Fossil Fuel Energy Interests

Risk Rap returns from its hiatus with a guest blogger Meaghan McCallum.  This is a testimony opposing the Governor Christie’s administration revised 2011 Energy Master Plan.  

Thank you for the opportunity to have my voice heard.  My Name is Meaghan McCallum.  I’ve received my undergraduate degree from Montclair State University, educated in the state public school system, and work in the education field in New Jersey. I am a New Jersey citizen concerned for the future.  With this proposed reduction of Renewable goals that the revised Energy Master Plan establishes, the people of our great state are in jeopardy.  We need to be setting goals that propel us toward a cleaner, brighter future.  We need to take action now in order to build NJ’s economy, quality of life and support our local environment.  Lowering the renewable energy goal to 22.5% and defunding Renewable Energy programs that provide assistance to the public and private sectors to engage with Fossil Fuel industry is not only archaic but criminal.

In 2020, when the lack of vision expressed in Governor Chris Christie’s proposed 2011 revised EMP becomes reality, all of us will have to face our children and try to explain the unexplainable.  Why their rivers are polluted to the point of no recognition, why the air is choked and more hazardous than ever, and why more people, everywhere, are struggling to pay their power bills and simply put food on the table.  Why, we will be living in a dirty state tomorrow when solar and wind are here now and able to rebuild our infrastructure today.

For example, solar energy provides peak power during peak energy hours, which means relief when the grid is most stressed.  Ultimately, the use of solar energy as a primary source of power in state, local, public and private industry will decrease demand and ultimately save the citizen’s power costs dollars on the dollar. Compared with a cheap and easy “fix”, Fossil Fuels will deteriorate the state infrastructure and even further destroy the local economy, by outsourcing fuel contracts and employment to Pennsylvania, the US Midwest, and stimulating foreign markets.

So I ask; are we going to address our children a decade from today in a classroom powered by Renewable, clean energy, in a state where a cleaner, smarter, more efficient future exists?  Because lowering the bar on the Renewable Energy goal to the lowest possible percentage allowed by NJ law and refuting financial subsidiaries for Renewable Energies for a focus on dirty fuel in the name of profits and convenience is not cost effective and will quickly deplete our, the citizens, quality of life and the environment that we depend on.

The 2008 EMP goal to generate 30% of NJ’s total power needs from Renewable Energy sources is responsible for the economic growth and clean energy job creation in the state.  Key legislation was passed and generated over 2,000 clean energy businesses and over 25,000 clean industries employees in New Jersey.  The revised proposal will lower the goal to 22.5% and discourage investors, renewable energy companies and vital renewable energy technology from continued growth in New Jersey.  The revised plan relies on outdated and inflated numbers, and simply disregards proven science and the NJ public’s well-being.  This plan impacts us and it is imperative to demand that the current administration change priorities and address inequities.

Please visit www.state.nj.us/emp/ for information about the EMP and submit testimony to the Board of Public Utilities by August 11 to oppose this dirty energy plan.

 UPCOMING HEARINGS:

 Trenton — Wednesday, August 3rd:

State House Annex
Committee Room 11
125 West State Street
Trenton, NJ Get a map!
1PM – 5PM

Pomona — Thursday, August 11th

Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
Campus Center
Vera King Farris Drive
Pomona, NJ Get a map!
1PM – 5PM

CONTACT:

Beyond Coal Campaign
Sierra Club

Risk: environment, economy, jobs, small business

July 29, 2011 Posted by | coal fired plants, ecological, energy, environment, republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hunting Bears with Radiohead

Some of fearless ones are fanning out into the woods.  Others are huddled in smartly constructed camouflaged blinds.  These self styled eco-warriors brave the cold and the discomforts of inclement weather.  They keep a watchful eye over the stale remains of Dunkin Donuts, bagels and bacon grease they cleverly scattered outside their deadly bivouac.  These bold ones eagerly finger the barrels of their high powered rifles palming the smooth wooden stocks with warm naked hands.  They itch to squeeze the trigger but discipline and fortitude inform the vigilance of these sentinels of sustainability.  They philosophically muse about restorative balance and the paradox of killing in order to survive.  Another day has broken over the New Jersey Highlands.  The hunt for bear is on.  Let the mammalian cleansing begin.

 

Risk: bears, environment

December 6, 2010 Posted by | death, ecological, environment, sustainability | , , , | Leave a comment

Baggin Bears in Jersey

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

December 3, 2010 Posted by | associations, democracy, ecological, environment, government, politics, regulatory, sustainability | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leaky Reactors, Cyber Terror and Police States

This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
The Hallow Men TS Elliot

A few interesting  news items recently passed without much notice.  Two nuclear reactors located in the Northeast had to be  brought offline due to operational failures.  The Vermont Yankee reactor sprang a leak and had to be shut down.  The other incident occurred at the thirty six year old Indian Point reactor located about twenty miles north of New York City.  The cause of the problem at Indian Point was a transformer fire.  Both reactors  are owned and operated by Entergy and mirror similar problems at the Excelon operated Oyster Creek reactor located in south central New Jersey.

These incidents are endemic to aging nuclear power facilities.  These plants came on line during the the 1970’s and are now approaching the half century mark of service.  When these plants were commissioned it was believed they would have a shelf life of 40 years.   As the expected useful life span of these facilities approach regulators routinely grant extensions to the operators.  Operating these facilities past that point heighten potential risk factors.  As nuclear reactors age, the stress on these complex systems and containment facilities raise risk factors heightening the potential of system failure that lead to catastrophic events.

Leaky plumbing at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant is the culprit in poisoning the Cohansey Aquifer with 180,000 gallons of tritium contaminated water.  Regulators and environmental officials assert that the level of radio active isotopes in the water supply that serves South Jersey and parts of Philadelphia is well within acceptable levels for human consumption.  I guess that all depends on your definition of human; but I and many others remain skeptical on the subject of drinking radioactive laced water.

The aging nuclear infrastructure of the United States is a growing cause for concern.  The nuclear power industry was halted in its tracks in the 1980’s by a strong No Nukes environmental movement.  At the time it was generally understood that the cost of catastrophic risk and the industries inability to solve the long term problem of disposal and management of nuclear waste turned the public against the industry.

The Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania and the disastrous meltdown at Chernobyl in the Russian Caucuses led to a moratorium on new plant construction in the United States leading to the actual abandonment of plant construction in the Washington and New York.  It created a capital market crisis as the fear of defaults on WPPSS  revenue bonds spread to cast long shadows on the entire Muni Bond market.  The state of  New York stepped in to purchase the facilities of Long Island Power in order to make bondholders of the closed facility whole with tax payer money.  It was kind of like socialism for investors.

While most of the world has continued to build nuclear plants to address growing energy needs; the United States has not built a nuclear plant since the 1980’s and has lagged the world in using nuclear power to address energy needs. Sentiment on the desirability of nuclear power is beginning to change.  The Pickens Plan, former VP Dick Cheney’s secret meetings to develop a national energy strategy, the Gulf Oil Spill, the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil and the growing acceptance that the burning of fossil fuels is slowly cooking the planet has placed nuclear power back on the table as a viable component of America’s energy portfolio.

China is committed to building 100 nuclear power plants to wean itself from its crippling dependence on coal.  The United States is charging hard to keep up with its fast growing Asian competitor in a 21st Century nuclear power race.  The aggressive pursuit of nuclear plant development will increase the power and control of corporate entities charged with their construction, management and on going administration.  To accomplish a dramatic build-out in nuclear infrastructure large areas of  land situated near a plentiful water supply will need to be secured.   Environmental impacts, regulatory oversight and public transparency will be sacrificed at the alter of cost efficiency, expedience in implementation and security to protect the vulnerable facilities against the pervasive armies of terrorists that lurk in the shadows near every nuclear plant.

The controversy surrounding the collusion of government and business to exploit the Marcellus Shale natural gas vein is an instructive model of what we can expect from the stakeholders pursuing an aggressive campaign to develop Americas nuclear power infrastructure.  The dismissal of regulatory controls, the eminent domain of corporate interests, the opaque wall that shrouds risks factors and hides the environmental degradation resulting from the practice of fracking and the sacrifice of watersheds and aquifers to the expeditious extraction of natural gas are some of the documented behaviors of  a wanton corporate will imposed on the body politic.  Tragically this near sighted perspective willfully sacrifices the sustainable ecology of communities to the sole purpose of the profitable extraction of resources to serve shareholders of private corporations.   The nature of the nuclear beast will require that its interests be enforced by courts of law guided by extreme prejudice and protected by police battalions, state  guard units and private security groups in the name of national security interests.

The recently discovered Stuxnet computer virus is an indication of how the stakes are being raised in the nuclear power shell game.  The launch of a successful cyber attack on a nuclear facility anywhere in the world is a real game changer.  Self deluded uber patriots act more  like real pinheads if they believe that the destruction of Iran’s nuclear power capability is a harbinger for Middle East peace or enhances the   security of either Israel or the United States.  A nuclear event in Iran or North Korea are real game changers for the course of human history and the well being of  humanity. A clandestine service that can take out Iranian nuclear reactors can also be deployed to take out a reactor that is twenty miles north of New York City.  Or consider the consequences of a summer heat wave ravaging the citizens Philadelphia dying of thirst because the water supply is contaminated with radiation.  The extent of civil unrest would be extreme overwhelming the local law enforcement and judicial capabilities.  If these bleak scenarios come to pass,  Americans will be pining away for the good old days when a quick feel up at the airport by a TSA gendarme is fondly recalled like a high school make out session.  The pernicious yoke of marshal law under the nuclear challenged corporate security state will be incessant in practice and swift, sure and dire in its execution.

You Tube music video: No Nukes Concert 1979: Doobie Brothers Taking it to The Streets

Risk: democracy, energy policy, nuclear power, civil liberties

 

November 22, 2010 Posted by | community, culture, democracy, disaster planning, ecological, energy, environment, government, military, nuclear, regulatory, risk management | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Puddenhead Wilson and the Jersey Doughboy

When Joe Wilson belched his infamous catcall “lair” during President Obama’s address to a joint session of the legislature, he revealed himself to be a poor example of a mature adult. Puddenhead Wilson’s emotional outburst may have played well with die hard Obama haters, indeed the next day his campaign war chest swelled by a million dollars; but it also sent a terrible message to America’s youth that its acceptable to disrespect your teachers, coaches, police officers or parents if you disagree with what they are saying. The fact that his campaign coffers swelled with contributions as a result of his offense compounded the power of the negative message it sent to youths and to the perpetrator himself. Awarding Puddenhead Wilson for his bad conduct only encourages him to repeat his offensive disrespectful behavior. It also sends a very poor message to America’s youth that bad behavior is OK and childish emotional outbursts may in fact find reward from enabling adults.

New Jersey Governor and emerging GOP superstar Chris Cristie, recently revealed himself to be a poor role model for the youth of America when he told a gathering of students that teachers greed was to blame for the lack of supplies and educational resources available for public schools.  The Governors injection of politics into his presentation to Trenton students is a bit ironic.  In his crusade against the teachers union, Christie  has charged educators with using school children as “drug mules” to carry the message about the danger of funding reductions for public education.   It would seem that the good Governor Christie needs to deliver a couple of kilos of his own to his adoring fans in the Tea Party and his financial backers in the GOP.

Putting partisan politics aside Christie’s message to public school students is extremely damaging.  The public schools are under incredible pressure.  All social institutions are engulfed in severe challenges and are fully engaged in crisis management mode.  America’s public schools are  not exempted from these pressures.  The complex confluence of political, cultural and economic factors plaguing society are acutely manifested and constantly working to undermine the public school system.  Governor Christie’s political rant to students throws gasoline on a combustible pile of institutional challenges confronting teachers and administrators.  Like Puddenhead Wilson, the Jersey Doughboy gives tacit approval and encouragement for students to question the authority and motives of their teachers.  Christie has just provided under-performing students a ready made excuse for failure and disruptive malcontents a lit match to throw onto a gasoline soaked pile of kindling encircling our public schools.

Christie’s partisanship places the context of his egregious mismanagement of the Race to the Top DOE grant in a new light.  Perhaps Christie’s $400 million blunder was an intentional action to reduce resources to the public schools to undermine greedy  teachers and their gluttonous union.  Why would Christie enable the funding of whip cracking greed driven drug mule drivers?  And like his killing of the DOT funded  ARC tunnel project, Christie enhances his conservative street cred by punching the construction unions in the nose and telling the socialist government in Washington to spend its money elsewhere.

Like Puddenhead Wilson,  Christie is cashing in on his actions and is building a nice portfolio of economic and political capital for himself.  His remarks about the greedy teachers provide a convenient cover and solemn absolution for the grand practitioners of greed and avarice that have led this country to the brink of fiscal insolvency, cultural destitution and political bankruptcy.  Christie’s narrative of blaming the needy plays well with large contributors who will be moved to put good 527 Corporation resources at his disposal to underwrite his political rise.

Christie’s midterm election barnstorming tour in service to the GOP booked him on a coast to coast tour that even his hero Bruce Springsteen would envy.  Though Christie’s mojo clearly failed in helping Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina win election,  the Jersey Doughboy’s political stock has risen so quickly that he felt compelled to send out a few tweets to deny he would run on a ticket with Sarah Palin for president in 2012.

So New Jersey is stuck with the doughy mess of big money winner take all partisan politics of Christie’s ideologically driven governorship for at least the next two years.  Enjoying popular support for now, Christie’s considerable body mass currently displaces enough water to ride the wave of Tea Party conservatism.  But if the fickle citizens of New Jersey make a slight left turn off Exit 16E on Thunder Road,  Christie’s fortunes will drop faster then a lead sinker placed into the rancid brew seeping to perfection in a gaudy Royal Dalton Tea Pot.

You Tube Music Video: Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run (Live Acoustic Version)

Risk: political, labor unions, public education, consensus

November 15, 2010 Posted by | conservatism, culture, democracy, economics, elections, government, institutional, labor unions, Obama, philosophy, politics, republicans, Tea Party, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Blog Action Day: The Jersey Tomato is Hurtin Too!

jersey tomatoThis summer Georgia and other southwestern states emerged from their prolonged drought by experiencing the nightmare of devastating floods.  It was shocking to see how volatile and changeable the climate of that region was becoming.  I counted my blessings that I lived in New Jersey because our moderate climate saved us from living through those types of extreme weather events.

During the summer my wife and I took a trip to Northern California.  We hiked through the dwindling Redwood forests and scaled peaks in Lassen Volcano National Park.   It’s beauty was at times overwhelming.  One afternoon we took a dip in the pristine Yuba River but we had to cut that short due to the raging 49er fire that destroyed over 50 homes and businesses.  We were happy to return home to New Jersey where the problems posed by wild fires and exceedingly dry climate are not that  great a threat.

In addition to a temperate climate another benefit New Jersey offers its residents is the famous Jersey Tomato.  Those with discerning pallets eagerly await the end of summer when farmers begin the harvest and bring to market the agricultural crown jewel of the Garden State, our beloved Jersey Tomato.  It is big, juicy and luscious.  It doesn’t require a sandwich or Hogi to sit upon.  Its is great with a touch of basil leaf or sitting a top a slice of fresh mootz, that Jersey slang for mozzarella cheese.  You can make an entire meal of it if you add some crusty Hoboken brick oven bread.  Yes, Jersey at its culinary lip smacking best.

One Saturday morning my wife returned from Abma’s Farm in Wycoff with the devastating news that their would be no Jersey Tomatoes this year.  Unusually excessive rainfall across the region had destroyed much of the crop.  We would have to do without our much looked forward to annual treat.  I was crushed.  I started to do a bit of research into this degustibus disaster.

I discovered that Jersey farmers are coping with heavy crop losses after steady summer rains saturated fields, creating an environment ripe for overgrown weeds, rot and disease.   The downpours damaged crops, from tomatoes, green bell peppers and corn, to barley, peaches and watermelon, decimating whole crops or severely reducing yield.

Wilfred Shamlin of The Courier Post reported on the economic impact the unusual weather had on some of the states farmers.  His report is an important anecdotal record of the economic distress changing weather patterns can cause.  The observations and quotes from farmers directly effected by this years extreme weather change is an important testimony on the risk of climate change and its impact on crop yields and economic solvency of small farmers agricultural businesses.

“The rains have just killed me this year,” said Tucker Gant, 51, a vegetable and fruit farmer in Elk, who estimates his total losses this year at nearly $220,000.

In Mullica Hill, Fred Grasso, 52, said late frost damaged his peaches and rot ran through his tomatoes, green bell peppers, zucchini and watermelon.  “Nobody has ever seen rain as drastic as this year, even talking to old-time farmers,” said Grasso, a third-generation farmer who estimates losses so far at roughly $50,000.

“Weeds are a big issue, especially in a wet year. When it’s time to cultivate, you can’t and when you finally get in there and cultivate, and it rains day after day, weeds set in and reroot because of the moisture,” Grasso said.  “Weeds steal nutrients from crops, grow tall and block out sunlight, and prevent plants from drying out after rainfall. And constant rain creates problem because the weeds grow faster and herbicides get washed away before they work.”

“It’s never been that bad as far as I can remember,” said Gant, pointing to water pooling in a field as he drove his pickup truck along a bumpy dirt trail toward 35 acres of barley overrun by tall weeds. “I have never seen water lay there more than two days. It should have been harvested, but you can’t harvest weeds taller than barley.”  Blueberry and peaches thrived in the wet weather but the same disease responsible for the Irish potato famine attacked South Jersey’s tomato crops.

“Farmers’ yields will be down this year because a lot of fruit out there wasn’t able to be marketed,” said Michelle Casella, an agricultural agent for Rutgers Cooperative Extension for Gloucester County.   Gov. Jon S. Corzine has requested that 15 counties be declared disaster areas by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture after rain, hail, wind and even a tornado caused crop and property damage across the state. The designation would allow farmers with severe weather-related losses to apply for emergency low-interest loans.

This year’s hay crop was such poor quality that Gant marked down the price for landscapers, making 25 cents profit per bale rather than $1.50.   Though struggling, Gant and Grasso are bent on persevering as operating costs continue to climb. Gant’s losses include $30,000 on bales of straw for mom-and-pop stores that order 15,000 bales and sell it as decoration during the holidays. He grew enough straw to make 10,000 bales but he had to buy the remaining 5,000 bales from a neighboring farmer. Crop losses have cut into profits that the Gant and the Grasso family normally would have invested back into the farm. “We have cut every corner we can without hurting the business itself,” Grasso said. “We’re at just about the limit where we can’t cut anymore. I’m trying to conserve.”

Gant said he has depleted his retirement savings and supplements his income by working three days a week repairing tractor-trailers. He often works 16-hour days on the farm. His wife also works full-time.  He has trimmed unnecessary expenses, postponed farm equipment upgrades, and criticizes the federal government for coming to the aid of car dealers and other big businesses, but not farmers.

“Where’s the bailout for farmers?” Gant asked.

“When everything went into the toilet, my costs didn’t go down one bit,” Gant said.

Gant said he would need a $250,000 loan to bail out his farm.

Gant remains optimistic that he can ride out the recession. He’s planting seeds now so he can get barley, rye and wheat next spring.

“We’ll get there. It’s just a matter of time,” he said. “I believe in the Lord. I know He’s going to take care of me. That’s one reason I’m confident we can come back.”

As all farmers know, we reap what we sow.  We trust that Mr. Gant’s optimism and faith will help to restore the good fortunes of farmers and the hungry citizens of New Jersey.   We should also view this as an opportunity to begin the sowing the seeds to address the problems of climate change.  Even in an area as blessed as New Jersey.  Farmers livelihoods and a significant portion of the economy of New Jersey depends on the economic viability of small farmers.  I also have a selfish reason to address the threat of climate change.  I continue to crave the  taste of the sweet fruits of our farmers  yields and pray that the Jersey Tomato makes a reappearance on our dinner plates next summer.

This article extensively used the report of Mr. Wilford S. Shamlin at The Courier Post.

To Reach Wilford S. Shamlin at (856) 486-2475 or wshamlin@courierpostonline.com

You Tube Video:  Billie Holiday,Lets Call the Whole Thing Off

Risk; small businesses, farmers, agriculture, climate, Jersey Tomato

Riskrapper is pleased to participate in this years Blog Action Day.  The subject is climate change.  We hope you enjoyed the post.

More than 7000 bloggers have registered to participate and thousands more will join in the next 24 hours. There’s already buzz growing across the blogosphere and on Twitter in anticipation, with updates from around the world every minute about the upcoming event.

October 15, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is This Treason?

Benedict Arnold’s Procession Wagon

Living my entire 52 years in New Jersey I am constantly reminded of our beloved state’s revolutionary heritage. Commemorative plaques and historical road markers are everywhere. New Jersey played a critical role in the American Revolution and almost every house that was around at the time has a plaque to attest that George Washington slept there. Old George slept around a lot in New Jersey. He couldn’t afford to linger long in anyone spot because the damn Redcoats were always close on his heels chasing him across the state. But it is heartening to know that so many of the long passed Jersey citizens supported the cause by giving the Continental Army’s General a bed for the night. Yes I am proud of my states contribution our country’s revolutionary cause. This pride continues to fuel my detest of the name and memory of Benedict Arnold. He was the guy who betrayed the confidence of General Washington by conspiring to deliver West Point into the hands of the British. For this dastardly deed Benedict Arnold’s name will forever more be synonymous with treason and traitor.

Treason is a pretty strong word. It conjures up depraved villains engaged in subterranean subterfuges employing Machiavellian machinations in unholy alliances with foreign subversives intent on bringing our great country to its knees. Lately the word traitor has been liberally bandied about by the likes of Ann Coulter and Michael Savage to describe anyone who’s vapid nationalism falls short of their fanatical obsessions. This summer Michele Bachmann the congresswomen from Minnesota gained some notoriety for stating that she believes that an anti American cabal exists in the legislative branch of our government. According to them treason is rampant and traitors in the guise of democrats, progressives and liberals are everywhere.

The word treason has now curiously surfaced again to describe the Republican Senators who are opposing government financial assistance to save US auto manufacturers. The Big Three auto makers, Chrysler, GM and Ford; desperately need a capital infusion to remain solvent. Southern states are home to foreign automakers. They located down south because these states offered generous tax incentives and the availability of cheap non-union labor. These Southern Senators have vigorously opposed the aid package insisting that the Big Three need more fiscal discipline. They point to the generous wage scales and benefit programs the UAW workers at the Big Three receive. To some observers it appears that these Senators are more intent on protecting the foreign auto companies located within their states. They seem willing to sacrifice millions of jobs and the manufacturing infrastructure of the United States. The southern based foreign owned manufacturers are a more important constituency for these Senators then their Big Three competitors. This is a striking example of the economic and political contradictions that globalization creates for nation states.

In and of itself I don’t believe that the southern Senators political position is evidence of treason. The accusation of treason is pretty serious stuff. I am disposed to accept the southern Senators protestations that their opposition to the Big Three aid package is based on firm ideological commitment to letting the free markets do its work. If a capitalist enterprise cannot sustain itself it deserves to fail. After all, they claim that fiscal responsibility is a true Republican virtue even if the evidence of record budget deficits during the past 8 years of the Bush administration belies that claim. But the surfacing of the Action Alert Memo circulated to Senate Republican’s prior to the vote of the rescue package in congress raises some serious doubt about their true motives in opposing aid to the Big Three.

If it is authentic, the memo advises Republicans to block the Big Three aid package as a weapon to bust the UAW to weaken their Democratic Party rivals. Gone are their concerns for free market capitalism. In its place is the attack politics that the Republican Party have perfected to cram their conservative agenda down America’s throat. We witnessed the hollow pronouncements of The Country Firsters during this years presidential election. Their patriotic posturing and love of country claims offered the country no vision or alternatives to the existing Bush agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy, continuation of aggressive foreign policy, pro business anti-labor industrial policy, social welfare cuts and an expansion of the culture war on all fronts. The Republican privatization practices of using tax receipts to enrich parasitic private sector profiteering was a center piece to their program. The Republican legislative agenda funded the creation of the private mercenary army Blackwater and a myriad collection of other service providers to address elections, education, prisons and homeland security.

Is it treason to create and fund corporate entities to serve and administer government functions that are corrupt, wasteful, ineffective and whose primary allegiance is to shareholders? Probably not, but using taxpayer money to finance a mercenary army whose primary allegiance is to its shareholders probably comes pretty close.

Since the Reagan Administration this conservative agenda has resulted in the dismantling of our manufacturing base and a corresponding erosion of union jobs. In 1980 20% of the workforce was engaged in manufacturing. Today the number of manufacturing jobs is less the 10%. Our free marketeers engaged in a concerted program to outsource our industries to lower cost ares of the globe to improve returns on capital allocations to the private benefit of shareholders. Billionaire Micheal Milken plundered the “rust belt” states by closing down outdated factories in need of retooling and moved them overseas. By doing so he enriched the shareholders of the companies, his investors and the national economy of the country where the factory relocated. Unfortunately the economy of the town and state where the factory moved from didn’t fare to well. Workers saw their quality of life deteriorate due to lower wages and the social and cultural decay that accompany a deteriorating economy. State and local governments also took hits in tax revenue and had to pony up extra dough to pay for unemployment benefits and expanded social services that economically depressed areas require.

When you do this to enough towns and states, pretty soon it has a negative effect on the nation. Is that treason? Probably not, but a concerted policy to enrich yourself by helping a foreign country benefit at the expense of yours gets pretty close to the definition of treason.

To fill the economic vacuum caused by the closure of our factories we built a service economy based on the unbridled expansion of our banking industry and the availability of cheap credit. This lead to speculative bubbles in the equity, real estate market and credit markets. These bubbles spawned a perverse credit culture that mortgaged our future and transferred enormous wealth to well heeled investors and speculators. Much of the wealth has been transferred to the sovereign wealth funds of foreign nation states. They now hold the mortgage on our country’s future. Benedict Arnold sold the plans to invade West Point for a Generals Commission in the British Army and the sum of 10,000 Pound Sterling. Vulture capitalists aided and abetted by an accommodating conservative political agenda and willing politicians plundered and exported Americas prized assets in allegiance only to their own self interest and economic benefit.

Is this treason?

You Tube Video: My Country Tis of Thee

Risk: labor unions, industrial policy, recession, privatization

December 12, 2008 Posted by | business, economics, politics, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Summer Solstice and Quadruple Witching

The northern hemispheres longest day of the year has arrived!

On this beautiful day in New Jersey, I detect warning clouds appearing on the horizon as the markets and world events serve up a witch’s brew of bad news. Terrible natural disasters in the United States and China have lead to widespread crop losses, asset destruction and diminished industrial capacity.

Inflationary pressures for basic foodstuffs continue to rise, creating unrest in the underdeveloped world and political divisiveness in western democratic states. G7 central bankers continue to wrestle with uncertain credit markets and second guess their schizophrenic two step Tango with inflation and interest rates.

Posses of FBI agents are rounding up white collar desperadoes holed up in Ft. Lee penthouses and Greenwich Connecticut country estates, forcing Armani attired hedge fund managers to do a “Perp Walk” for crimes against the capital markets. Rampaging gas prices are immobilizing America.

Suburban driveways resemble parking lots for grounded SUV’s, growing an ugly oil stain on last years newly laid Belgian block cobblestone.

And finally, as squadrons of Israeli fighter jets commence training for a sortie to “take out Iranian nuclear facilities”; the price of oil screams danger as speculators arbitrage the unthinkable consequences of ravaged communities and Persian outrage with the capital gains tax implications on their NYMEX Light Crude positions.

New Jersey’s longest day of 2008 has arrived. We must do our best. Stay in the day. Have faith in a higher power, ourselves and our fellowman that this too shall pass and we’ll make it through the day if we are kind, learn to trust and offer respect to one another.

A day like this needs two songs.

Be mindful of the beauty and gift of life that Shirley Horn sings about in “Here’s to Life”

Risk: Thinking you won’t make it through the day. Thanks Ray.

June 20, 2008 Posted by | jazz, risk management, seasons | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment