My once unthinkable mantra


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  • MOVIE STILL by JOSH FOX



There’s a phrase that’s been bouncing around my cranium for weeks.

Maybe it started around the time of the conventions. Or maybe it’s just a revelation that occurs when you’ve reached the age you actually remember your parents being, and it hits you that all that time, they were making it up as they went along, too.

There is no grown-up in the room.

The volume got jacked up as I edited this story about antibiotic resistance (page 18). Worse than Zika, HIV or Ebola, super bacteria are the scariest thing coming down the pike. This is not news. The world just agreed on it at a UN Summit. Even McDonald’s has heard the rumblings and taken the antibiotics (the ones important to human medicine, at least) out of its chicken. Meanwhile the U.S. government stands by wagging its finger, putting Clipart skull-and-crossbones on the CDC website, while each year we continue to feed more antibiotics to the animals we eat. Naughty! You feds deserve a spanking. Oh gosh, all right, a time out, but don’t come out of the bathroom until you’ve thought long and hard about how undermining modern medicine’s primary tool could kill a good chunk of humanity.

There. Is. No. Grown. Up. In. The. Room.

Then I got made publisher of this magazine. Now there’s nobody to lie to about being in great shape to make deadline, nobody, for that matter, to make sure we’re not going bankrupt, no buffer between me and people who call me livid, disgusted — like after I put the guy on the composting toilet on the cover, remember? Will my skin be thick enough? My vision clear enough? It’s going to have to be because, you know, cue the chorus.

The genre went death metal when I got wind of Joe Percoco. Let me introduce you. Percoco, proud son of Rockland County, was Governor Andrew Cuomo’s right-hand man for three decades. Cuomo called him “my father’s third son,” and that status made Percoco, as the NY Times put it, “profoundly powerful.” But he also went broke. So Percoco shook down a couple companies that wanted to score lucrative contracts upstate. He greased the wheels in exchange for “ziti” — a reference to bribe money ripped from The Sopranos. The 79-page saga is here— justice.gov/usao-sdny/file/895036/download — for your reading pleasure.

One of those companies is Competitive Power Ventures, which is building the tenth-largest fracked gas power plant in the country in Wawayanda, NY. The power company allegedly funneled $7,500 a month to Percoco for a total of $287,000. In return, Percoco used his clout to push through a twentieth century power plant we don’t need (page 12), that will burn gas extracted by fracking, a process so harmful that NY banned it— all to keep the “ziti flowing.”

We all got sold out for $287,000.

Both the CPV lobbyist who paid him off and Percoco have been indicted on corruption charges. But while the investigation goes on, the plant keeps going up.

It might be entertaining if not for the fact that twin smokestacks are rising 275 feet into the sky. From the Hudson River to Milford, PA; from Ellenville, NY to West Milford, NJ, our kids will be more prone to autism, asthma, cancer.

The power company says not to worry. “Natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel in existence and significantly reduces CO2 emissions and particulate matter... as compared to coal fired power plants,” the website reassures. (We don’t want a coal fired power plant, either.)

It’s not right, or fair, or legal, but I guess it can happen because: THERE! IS! NO! GROWN! UP! IN! THE! ROOM!

There’s no authority on high to keep us from getting to the point where we wake up, stretch, and check an app to see whether to put on our air pollution masks, like they do in Beijing. Chances are the people we assumed were protecting our children are children themselves.

It’s a disturbing refrain, particularly for a goody two shoes who spent her formative years doing what she was told. But it has resolved into a steady drumbeat, my psych-up song, my mantra.

Say it with me. There is no grown-up in the room. There is no grown-up in the room.

Take it to the bridge.

As the Navajo medicine man says, or all the metalheads in the mosh pit: We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.




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