Don Coulson

Neutralization vs Annihilation

The frustration and futility of Israel ever finding a lasting peace with their Palestinian neighbors is once again on display. Eleven cease-fires, eleven failures. Just why intelligent Palestinians would support Hamas- a militant group with but one strategy – blindly firing rockets into (mostly) Israel dung piles and fields, is a wonderment indeed. Regardless, Hamas fires rockets, Israel’s “Dome” brings the majority down and gives Israel an excuse to once again  bomb and blow up that sorry place called The Gaza Strip.

Given that Hamas appears to be led by a collection of intellectual anvils and given that Israel PM Netanyahu‘s approach to diplomacy is hardball writ large, there should be no argument that this war is a loss-loss for all parties. If the loss of Palestinian children is not sufficient reason to wonder at Israel’s strategy, add to the carnage the generations of hatred now seeded in the souls of the survivors.

One answer to this mess might lie in an effort to neutralize Hamas – not by force but by their abandonment by Palestinians who see a better way – one which offers opportunity, security  and room to once again dream. I have been pushing a concept for at least 20 years without success, mainly because I’ve never managed to reach anyone with the clout to bring the concept to anyone with political clout. So here it is- one more time; hold onto your seat and before you say “It will never work”, at least read to the end.

If you want to step outside the box you might start thinking about the reality of Gaza – too many people, too little land and zero hope for a better life. There’s a Nobel Peace Prize just waiting to be shared by PM Netanyahu and Egyptian President Sisi if they are willing to break through generations of hatred and begin to think outside the boxes they are in. Here’s the idea: Egypt cedes Sinai land south of the existing Gaza border (say- 200 kilometers) with an eastern border continuing Gaza’s present border.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia-The Free Encyclopedia

Occupied Palestinian Territories

Imagine;  the desert would bloom along a coastline of resorts and commercial development, seaports and desalination facilities. Thousands of jobs would be created, the economies of the region (particularly Egypt’s) would take off and a “New Gaza” would be born. A declaration of a Swiss-style neutrality would further geld Hamas and with time and demographic shifts it would become a bad memory.

What would it take to bring this about? Guts and dreams. Political courage. The recognition that neither side will ever prevail and live in peaceful harmony. Egypt’s President  Sisi would see the disintegration of the despised Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza and  just possibly stand beside Mr. Netanyahu in Oslo.

Crazy? Got a better idea? Please pass this along to anyone who might have some clout. Give hope a chance.

NRA Cynicism Leads to Murders

It always hits a little harder when tragedy strikes a familiar place, and so it is as we learn of the latest massacre, this time in Isla Vista where our son lived for several years before graduating from UC Santa Barbara. Three stabbed to death, three shot and killed, six wounded and unfortunately a seventh dead- the killer.

Unfortunate because had he lived we might have learned much more beyond his suicide video; much more of what in God’s name could drive a young man to exact such punishment on so many, most of whom were unknown to him.

The NRA will of course be blamed and they will of course place the blame squarely on the barren field of mental health in America, and they are correct. Had this boy received better treatment, had authorities been empowered to vigorously intervene; well yes, this might not have happened.  Instead, sheriff’s deputies were sent to interview him to determine if he posed a threat to society.  Since when were deputies trained in psychology and the nuances of mental health? These actions do  not suggest a broken system; they suggest there is no functional system to repair.

All of which avoids introspection, any sniff of analysis and no scintilla of NRA guilt. Because of watered-down  background checks and the lack of a meaningful data base to track weapon sales- all fostered by and paid for by the NRA, the boy had no difficulty in purchasing three high powered handguns, and off he went on his rampage.

It makes little difference how the guns were obtained, for if not legally purchased, guns are never far away.  A closet, a deal on a corner, a mail order unknown or a  gun show- it hardly matters. What does matter is that anyone in this country can somehow manage to get his (mostly “his”) hands on a weapon. Rifle, shotgun, pistol, military  caliber weapons- it matters not, and the NRA is almost solely responsible for this accessibility. “Almost” because without the assistance of a corrupt Congress they would have never achieved  their perverted goal of arming America.

Fear and slick TV commercials are the driving forces in today’s culture. Despite years of statistical evidence that a gun in the home is far more dangerous to the family than any intruder, the NRA continues to preach the lie that we are all threatened. Despite the utter stupidity of imagining a citizenry armed with handguns and AK-47’s defending against the US military, the NRA wraps itself in the flag and calls for even greater access to weapons. The rationale for  this philosophy beggars the imagination and can only be understood by understanding the NRA.

I have written before, and state it again: The NRA is a lobbying group put together and funded by arms manufacturers. The folks who make guns wanted access to our elected representatives and poured money into the trough to which so many of our honorable members of congress find nourishment. As time went by, the evidence of fear as a factor in successful campaigns became more evident and the NRA jumped in.

Suddenly fear, God, flag and country became synonymous with the NRA and today we see the result of their efforts. Three more beautiful innocents dead and several injured by bullets fired from an NRA approved weapon.

It’s difficult to imagine what might someday break our culture of guns. Yes, the state of mental health facilities in the US is shameful. So too is the acceptance of the NRA into our daily lives. Answers are not far away.

  1. Get  the gun(s) out of your home. Don’t sell it – hand it over to the police to dispose of and forget how much it cost you. Check the stats and you’ll discover the odds are you’ve saved at least one life which is far more valuable than any weapon.
  2. Let your reps at every level of elected office know that if they support the NRA in any way, they’ll lose your vote.
  3. Demand the improvement and quality of personnel in the mental health field and be prepared to pay a little more in taxes. Ask yourself if the NRA should not be required to help pay the bill- after all, they are singularly responsible for the continuing carnage of gun violence in America which now demands greater social services. If the NRA gave a damn for America it would by now have started funding mental health care. But it hasn’t of course and probably never will. Hope burns eternal  which I pray the grand kids will someday appreciate.
  4. Understand the cynicism of the NRA and the way in which the American public has been manipulated by these puppets of the gun industry. I’ll continue to write; let’s all quietly tell the NRA to go to hell.

Last Refuge

One year ago, incensed and insulted by the culture of guns in this nation which found every possible excuse to rationalize the murders in Newtown, I wrote of the obscenity of the NRA and what it has wrought on behalf of its benefactors, the gun industry. Today, little  if anything has changed as once again the NRA manages to muzzle its opponents.

At one point I considered the option of ceding  the battle to the NRA and opting for a far greater emphasis on intervention from mental health experts. I still believe in this approach, but now as I watch the developing story of yet another schoolboy shoot-up – (Arrapahoe HS in Colorado), my outrage returns again to the culture; the how and why this nation finds itself -alone in the world of developed countries, gripped in the steel hands of a lobbying group, and how fear-mongering, money, lies and outright propaganda have brought us to this shameful state.

The 2nd Amendment has been argued in courts and town meetings, bars and kitchens  for decades. The definition of “Militia” is battered about but finds resolution in the minds of those already decided. Missing in most of these debates are the qualifiers; “Well regulated”. The NRA is MIA in this forum, for what sane person would ever believe that the 300 million or so firearms wandering around are in the hands of any entity reasonably considered “Well regulated”?

It’s time I believe to challenge the NRA. Remembering the words of Samuel Johnson; “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”,  I would argue that by wrapping itself in Old Glory the NRA- along with millions of dollars from the gun industry, has shaped the debate. If any evidence to this claim is needed, recall the words of a mother whose child recently killed himself with a family revolver; “We are proud  gun owners”.  To which I add; “Of a dead child”- a cruel addition which needs to be said, for I am beyond euphemisms.

That many in this country can be easily persuaded (if not brain washed) through the medium of TV is a known fact to those whose task it is to manipulate public opinion. The hundreds of millions spent on TV ads during political campaigns provides ample proof that money can change minds.

The NRA is nothing more and nothing less than a lobbying group. If guns in  America suddenly disappeared, they could as easily turn to supporting the ketchup industry. Their tugs at the heart-strings of those who believe that freedom is protected by a Bushmaster in the hands of a little old lady are obscene lies. If any sober citizen believes that he or she can protect against “Them” coming to take away their weapon, or that their weapon can defend the nation, they should go visit a military base to determine just how much protection that Bushmaster might provide.

One hundred and ninety seven children have been shot and killed since Newtown, most of them with weapons inside the houses of proud gun owners. Perhaps had they been slaughtered en masse a point might have been made and just possibly the NRA might have been gelded. But such was not the case and as the months go by more innocent blood will drip as proud gun owners mourn.

At what point – and how high the count – do proud gun owners realize they are victims of what is probably the most successful scam in this nation’s history? In a Stars and Stripes bedecked NRA convention in 2000, Charlton (Moses) Heston’s famous cry resounded; “They would have to pry it from my cold dead hands”. All very stirring – and equally ludicrous, but a culture shaped by a lobbying group bought it, echoed it, and proclaimed a new mantra. By the way, “They” were never identified,

It’s time for responsible citizens to take back their own security and the safety of their children. Reign in the NRA, demand stiff background checks, limit magazine size and ban assault weapons.

Reflect on Sam Johnson’s words, look into your heart and begin to realize what’s happening to this country we all so dearly love.

Leaders we can trust

Our ballots arrived today and will likely be back in the mailbox tomorrow; it’s election time again and here in lovely Longmont the contest between incumbent mayor Dennis Coombs and ex mayor Brian Baum is heating up. Mr. Baum is placing a lot of stock in the settling of several lawsuits during his tenure, while Mayor Coombs is running on his record which is exemplary, especially during our unforgettable flood.

It occurred to me that just about every politician in America would have you believe he or she was a “Proven Leader” which in some cases means they led their constituency down the road to hell and despair as we’ve seen in Detroit. Other proven leaders have never proven much of anything but I guess if you were elected mayor at some point you get bragging rights. “Proven Leader” ranks right up there with “Lowest Prices” and an offer to sell a bridge.

Real leadership shows up when a crisis never before experienced strikes. That’s when someone steps up, takes charge, stays calm and, well- leads. Rather like Mayor Coombs during the flood, come to think of it.

Mark Udall and Dennis Coombs, Longmont 2013

Mark Udall and Dennis Coombs, Longmont 2013

While Mayor Coombs quietly went about his business in the face of our recent disaster, he had little time for grandstanding and media posturing. I  suspect most citizens have little time to watch reassuring TV clips while undergoing evacuation as their homes are being destroyed; nonetheless I did read a criticism from a blog supporter of Mr. Baum, who felt our mayor should have had a larger profile during the crisis.

Perhaps had he been seen on TV desperately hanging on to a lamp post in the midst of debris and downpour this critic might have been satisfied. Mayor Coombs however is not a reporter for a local TV station, and thank God for that.

Meanwhile, I’ve been recalling certain events from  last October. A petition to ban fracking had been handily approved with over 7500 signatures. Question 300 was on the November ballot and would be approved by over 60% of voters- and more Yes votes than the total cast for both Coombs and Baum. Longmont had spoken.

How many recall last October 2 when a full color ad sponsored by the Colorado Oil & Gas Association  appeared featuring seven ex-mayors including Brian Baum? This was followed by a mailer echoing the ad. The only thing these ex’s had in common was that six of them were one-term mayors. So much for the rewards of proven leadership.

Remember this mailing? Check out the bottom left corner - see anyone you know?

Remember this mailing? Check out the bottom left corner – see anyone you know?

No one in Longmont had ever heard so much as a syllable about fracking pass their lips while they were in office, but now, on a sunny day in October, they’ve become experts. They assured us our water was safe, the environment pure (except around places like Trail Ridge Middle School) and that a ban on fracking within city limits was just plain foolish.

Were these seven paid for their appearances? One presumes so. Are they still in the warm embrace of the Oil & Gas Association? I don’t know, but some cynics might assume they are. However, nothing on that issue but deep silence comes from Mr. Baum’s camp. Not a peep unless you happen upon the end of an interview on his web site in which Mr. Baum states that he would defend the ban “As such” – whatever that means- but settle- and drop the part of the case which challenges present state regulations.

If this makes you comfortable, cast your vote for Mr. Baum, who may well be joined with incumbents Santos, Sammoury and Finley. That’s all Longmont needs- another 4-3 split council promising weak- if any- defense of last November’s vote.

On the other hand, Mayor Coombs will push the will of his citizens and the voices raised last November against fracking, will vigorously defend Longmont’s best interests and will continue the calm leadership which marked his first term.

Longmont spoke last November. This time around let’s give Mayor Coombs an overwhelming victory- one which tells Colorado we have not only spoken but are now shouting; I urge you to support and re-elect Mayor Coombs.

Coombs. Accountius, Christensen. Three we can trust.

Doing The Math

 

Seven council members. Seven votes. 4-3 splits mean the oil companies have a majority.

Two letters in support of Polly Christensen (T-C, Oct. 11), candidate for Councilor-At-Large, fired up a few neurons on the left side of my brain. I started doing a little math and came up with a total which is upsetting if not downright scary.

If elected, Brian Baum, Gabe Santos, Alex Sammoury along with incumbent Bonnie Finley (who voted consistently with the oil and gas interests) would form a 4-3 majority in a new and presumedly squabbling council, a la 2010-2012. We know where Mr. Baum stands on the issue of fracking (see below); the positions of Mr. Santos and Mr. Sammoury are less clear but still troublesome.

For the 60% of us who voted in support of Question 300 and want no part of fracking in or around Longmont, this quartet could pose a formidable threat to that which we fought so hard to achieve last year.

Each of these three candidates have web sites but you’ll find precious little comment or opinion on where they stand on the fracking issue.

Out of sight, out of mind I guess, for you’ll not find the words “Energy”, “Fracking”, “Oil” or “Gas” on the web sites of either Gabe Santos or Alex Sammoury. The absence of any reference to one of the most vital issues- and one very much still alive in the courts-  is troubling indeed. Granted they did vote for the ban in a 5-2 decision, but I recall no great enthusiasm or passion on their parts in the discussion leading up to the vote. Where they stand today is an open question.

Mr. Baum’s site mentions the issue once only in response to a T-C interview in which he states; (re. Q.300) “… was the will of the voters and must be vigorously defended as such”. Note the qualification; “as such”.  Regarding that part of the lawsuit dealing with regulations, he then states; “The regulations can be re-addressed by the council to fit with the state regulations and allow the suit to be dropped”.

Heaven help the children  attending Trail Ridge Middle School, situated just inside city boundaries. Help from above might also be needed for the many residents living just beyond as they watch a state-friendly well rising into the sky 750 feet away and the value of their properties plummeting.

Anti-300 (Longmont Fracking Ban) Mailer

Click for full size

Anti-300 (Longmont Fracking Ban) Mailer

Click for full size

 

Mr. Baum threw his hat into the oil & gas ring last year when he showed up in a full color ad paid for by the Colorado Oil & Gas Association. For his appearance in that ad- reprinted at least twice,  Mr. Baum presumably received remuneration or benefit for his support. Today, I heartily question Mr. Baum’s definition of “vigorous defense”. Heading up a 4-3 majority, I also question the will of council to defend any portion of the lawsuits looming in court.

So what to do? Because of his open support of oil & gas interests, I believe that Brian  Baum should be rejected and the incumbent, Dennis Coombs re-elected. A resounding victory for Mayor Coombs would temper the enthusiasm of others on council who might otherwise support  Mr. Baum. Under Mayor Coombs leadership we can be assured of a council dedicated to protecting Longmont and defending against the oil and gas industry.

Which brings me back to Polly Christensen, the only challenger to incumbents Santos and Sammoury who openly and enthusiastically supports Q. 300 and the ban on fracking. Her election would not only bring in a breath  of fresh air to council but a guaranteed (and vigorous) defense against fracking interests.

I suggest all who support Mayor Coombs and Q.300 take a long look at the field, do the math and support Polly Christensen. Longmont voters spoke last November; let’s speak again.

Bending vs Defending

brianbaum.jpg Brian BaumOn October 02, 2012, ex-mayor Bryan Baum appeared in a full color, full page ad extolling the honesty and integrity of the oil and gas industry. He was a “concerned citizen” and a supposedly credible spokesman for the frackers who stood at the city gates, salivating as they waited for permits which would allow them to stuff drills into Longmont.

Mr. Baum’s previous lack of demonstrated knowledge or understanding of the fracking industry might lead a cynic to presume that he received some benefit for his prescience, but I doubt we’ll ever know. On the presumption however that some fee or honorarium was paid, he now faces a much larger question – that of conflict of interest.

Citizen Baum aligned himself with the same energy interests that are suing the city. Nothing wrong with that, but mayoral candidate Baum, if successful, might well have placed himself in a very difficult position. There will be Council debates and votes on issues arising from the affirmative vote on Question 300 and the lawsuit now under way. Because of his support from the energy interests, would a Mayor Baum recuse himself from these debates and if he did, who would lead, support and defend the majority which voted against the energy industry?

It’s interesting to note that on Mr. Baum’s election web site, you will find no reference to fracking, drilling, petition drive, vote or pending law suits. It’s as though the most contentious and important issue in recent Longmont history had never happened. “Poof!” . What petition? What vote?

Beyond this of course is the future of the city as determined by a court. Sixty percent of us voted to deny fracking yet still we find ourselves on trial. The court’s decision will likely be appealed and possibly even moved to the US Supreme Court. Whomever sits in the mayor’s chair will make a considerable difference; this election bears mightily on where we go from here to life after the final decision. This election is far more than a personality contest between a bristle and a smile- it’s a battle between one who might have to bend and one who will defend.

The issues of exactly where Mr. Baum stands on the matter of fracking and the vote we cast last November are prime. Thus far we are left with many questions, no answers, a full page ad and the possibility of conflict of interest.

On the other hand, Dennis Coombs holds an MS in Engineering and understands both the technicalities and the politics of fracking. He has demonstrated a quiet leadership which has brought collegiality and positive results to Council, all invaluable attributes which will serve him well as he guides Longmont in the difficult coming years.

Dennis Coombs

Dennis Coombs

I believe Mayor Coombs has earned the trust and the votes of this community. Regardless of where we find ourselves once the lawyers and courts have spoken, this city will still need a wise and determined hand. The oil and gas folks are unlikely to quietly fold their tents and disappear; we need leadership that understands the issues, the wishes of the majority and a mayor who will step up to defend our city with energy and determination.

I urge you to vote. Last November a mere 33% of registered voters cast a ballot which, although not unusual for a municipal vote is frankly rather shameful. Call me a scold or the pejorative of your choosing, then mark your ballot and get it into the mail.

Need vs Greed

In Greed We TrustLet us assume that Mr. Pedro Gonzalez, an average employee at McDonalds works a 40 hour week, 50 weeks per year for a total of 2000 hours. At $8.00 per hour his gross pay is $16,000.00 per year.

Meanwhile, his ultimate boss, the CEO, is paid somewhere around $10 Million per year, or $5000.00 for each of those same 2000 hours. But let’s recognize reality- most CEO’s work long hours some of the time, so let’s assume Mr. CEO puts in an additional 5-600 hours per year doing other stuff. He’s still up over $4000.00 per hour no matter how you cut it. If he worked 4000 hours a year, he’d still be making around $2500. per hour.

Mr. Gonzales and his fellow workers in the fast-food industry are organizing around the idea that they should be paid $15.00 per hour, an income that would allow them to enter the middle class – the backbone of any successful economy.

The fast-food execs are screaming that such a wage increase would mark the end of their business models, eviscerate the market and probably collapse world-wide economies. Indeed, it seems the sky would fall.

Let’s think about all this for a moment. Is there a soul on this earth worth $5000 per hour? Exactly where did this obscenity in remuneration come from? I recall an old expression; “There’s need and there’s greed”. Was this ever more true?

Let me suggest that if Mr. Gonzalez was paid $15.00 per hour and Mr. CEO took a cut all the way down to (say) $3000.00 per hour and then raised the price of a hamburger by 25 cents, the corporation would survive and indeed flourish. Thousands more middle-class families would be spreading their incomes over a wider market, millions more hamburgers would be sold, Mr. CEO would likely get his salary cut back in the form of a bonus and just possibly realize he had helped his country begin to renew itself.

Sounds like a win-win to me. But then I remember the need-greed mantra; given past performance I’m guessing that greed will trump need, and the hell to Mr. Gonzalez.

It’s An Obscenity

Photo courtesy of sxc.hu

How much? How long?

What happened on December 14, 2012 in the small town of Newtown Connecticut where 20 (and counting) children and at least six adults were shot to death has been variously described as a tragedy, a horror, or a calamity. It was all of these; it was also an obscenity.

It is an obscenity when a country can be so influenced by money, by fear, by political manipulation, by lobbyists that it allows virtually anyone to buy a weapon meant but for one purpose only- kill another human being on a field of battle.

Surely the word obscenity is insufficient when one considers the power over this nation’s culture and the resulting mayhem when anyone can buy an AK47 or a pistol with “extended” clip hold ing 30 or more bullets.

It’s an obscenity when, on PBS, three eminent social “experts” opined on how, in a dream-world Utopia, all persons of violent nature could be intercepted, counseled, quieted, calmed and returned to a compassionate society. But not one damned time was the phrase “Gun control” uttered. Perhaps in their Utopia guns don’t exist.

It’s an obscenity when one PBS expert opined that “objectively” schools were safe. By that I assume he meant that statistically, schools were safe. After all, only 20 children were shot dead- and there are thousands of schools which have never experienced such an act. Tell that to the parents of the dead from the carnage of Newtown or Columbine.

Your school is probably not safe. Read those words again and then ask yourself a few questions and the answer will be clear.

Is your school completely enclosed by a high chain link fence?

Are there armed guards monitoring metal detectors at the entrances through the fence and into the property and well away from the actual school?

If there is a breach of security can the school be alerted and all doors locked before an assailant can gain entry?

If the answer to any of these questions is “No”, your school may be statistically safe but also vulnerable, for as long as a mentally disturbed person can buy weapons meant to do nothing else but kill, no school, no theatre, no campus can ever be considered safe.

So the larger question is there; How long are you, as a citizen of this nation prepared to indulge this culture of swagger and “open carry”? Guns on campus, guns in bars, guns strolling down Main Street? How long are you prepared to tolerate the NRA and the choke-hold it has on reasonable gun control?

How long before this all happens again? How long will we continue to tolerate the obscene stupidity we practice every day in allowing the NRA, the weapons industry and the corrupt politicians they bought and paid for to shape our culture and abuse the underlying premise of the 2nd Amendment?

Perhaps the parents of those tiny dead bodies in Newtown could provide an answer.

Oath of Office

Their only oath is to the American People. They cannot serve two masters – that’s treason.

Members of Congress, before taking their seats, swear the following Oath of Office:

I (name) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

With little exception, every Republican (and a handful of Democrats) in congress signed a conflicting pledge before taking the oath of office, this one to the so-called “Americans For Tax Reform”, a creation of lobbyist Grover Nordquist and a bunch of right-wing corporations.

Taxpayer Protection Pledge:

I (name) pledge to the taxpayers of the state of (name) and to the American people that I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and: TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson succinctly described this pledge; “No new taxes even if your country goes to hell.”, And therein lies the conflict because depending on circumstances, new taxes may be required and old ones raised in order to defend the nation.

Revenue from taxes underpins the essential strength of the nation. No taxes, no army, no navy, no air force, no marines. No taxes, no support for anyone, no infrastructure, no health care, no nuthin’. How can elected officials, sworn to; “Defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” simultaneously support a pledge which forbids that exact activity?

Exactly where does their allegiance lie- to the nation they swore to defend or to a power-hungry lobbyist who has no interest in supporting; “True faith and allegiance.” A refusal to even consider the need for new or adjusted taxes under the circumstances of economic crisis or war in my view constitutes treason to say nothing of a conflict of interest.

Through his extensive network of corporations and private wealth, Nordquist controls the political fate of the vast majority of Republicans aspiring to office. Sign his pledge and receive support; walk away and see your opponent suddenly receive unlimited campaign funds. Revolt while in office and see your opportunities for advancement shrivel, wither and die. This is blackmail pure and simple. Even worse it corrupts and perverts the entire concept of open and free elections, to say nothing of its influences on the conduct and decisions of Representatives and Senators.

So what to do? I’m going to copy and paste this article into a letter to my members of Congress, with another to the White House. I have no problem raising a little hell- after all, it’s my government and my country which is being corrupted. It’s yours too, so think about what you can do to bring an end to this obvious insult to our precious democracy.

Rape

There’s no joy in rape for the victim.

Iʼm continually amazed by the number of women who, in voting the Republican ticket have potentially tossed away their rights as the female of the species and casually handed them over to a bunch of arrogant, self-righteous and (apparently) intellectually challenged males. I also would not be surprised how many of these same women will look in the mirror one day and realize the staggering mistake they have made in their voting selection.

I wonder how many of these women voters will be faced with an unwanted pregnancy. Not theirs – their daughterʼs. How many will face the agony of holding a child who has been raped and with a growing fetus, now face the abhorrence of future offspring by an unknown rapist or perhaps a known relative? Will there be joy in that embrace?

The Romney/Ryan ticket has of late softened its absolutist position on the abortion of rape and incest victims, but beneath the veneer of concern for the victim lies the absolute probability that a Romney administration will have the opportunity to appoint at least two supreme court justices. With those appointments, the nation can say goodbye to Roe v Wade. Mission accomplished and itʼs; “Hey – we didnʼt do it”. But of course they did; thatʼs politics for you.

No one knows just how far the court might go. No abortion, regardless of cause or even the health of the mother? Who knows? A more compassionate view protecting the life of the mother but otherwise prohibiting the procedure regardless the raper? Perhaps. Nice to realize that your daughter bears the child of good olʼ Uncle Joe or brother Billy or- well, you really donʼt want to go there, do you? At what point does anger spring into action?

A female is raped and her life is changed forever- a memory she will carry to her grave and a pregnancy adds to the agony. I wonder if R&R have spent much time thinking about what goes through a victimʼs mind once sheʼs dismissed from the hospital with her baby cooing as she make their way home. Very little I suspect.

The births of R&R’s lovely children were intended and filled with joy. What about the others- the victims, the innocents, the scarred? Your child is in your arms. She may be 11 or 16 or 26. She is in emotional and physical pain. If very young she may have no understanding of what has just occurred. As you comfort her, do you think of what to tell her a few months along; that she is pregnant and will soon be a mother- and nothing legally can be done to change that fact? Or is it impossible for you to even imagine such an event in your family? Unimaginable! No way – not in my family! Well, if your luck holds, that may be a fact.

But what if and what about that mother down the street clutching her raped and pregnant daughter? I wonder who she voted for and exactly why some ignorant male politician is making decisions for her. Then again, – it may be you, alone and with no arms to hold you.

And his eyes- are they as filled with tears as yours or your daughterʼs? Not likely- theirs will burn with zeal and the certainty of whatʼs good for you – and them. Mostly them at the polling booth.

People sacrificed to profit by O & G

By now you likely have received your ballots for the November election. If you have yet to fill it in or intend to vote on Nov. 6 at a voting station, please consider these facts.

As you probably know from ads and fliers, seven former mayors suddenly have the wisdom and insight to recommend that you oppose Ballot Question 300. What makes them such experts? Not one of these seven ever presided over a council considering the issue of fracking. Like virtually all of us, they had likely never heard of “fracking” before November 2011, when the issue first arose on Mayor Coombs’ watch. The seven aren’t experts — they are shills for the oil and gas industry, paid to pose and opine. In my world, paid-for opinions are worth less than the paper they are printed on and belong in but one place: the recycling bin.

Why in the world would a heavy industry such as oil and gas even think of drilling within sight or sound of a municipality?

And why the desire to drill so closely to a school or a park? Here’s a number to think about– $75. That’s the estimated cost per horizontal foot of drilling. The drill has to go straight down about 4,000 feet before it curves to the horizontal. That’s a fixed cost. But once it curves, every foot to reach the payload is $75. One hundred feet equals $7,500; 750 feet costs $56,250. Suddenly small change turns to serious money and all else is secondary to the bottom line, so the hell with you, the hell with me and the hell with Longmont.

The regulations currently governing the O&G industry were formulated around 1985. At that time no one had likely ever considered drilling and fracking operations anywhere near a city or town. Does anyone seriously believe that if these same regulations were under consideration today they would pass? That a drilling pad could be set up within 350 feet of a school or a home? That the millions of gallons of contaminated water returned to the surface could be stored in open pits within a residential area?

How many of you remember that in 2005 Vice President Dick Cheney strong-armed Congress into passing the “Halliburton loophole,” which exempted fracking operations from some of the protections of the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Air acts? Think about that — a retired CEO of a company (Halliburton) that pioneered fracking technology persuades Congress to exempt the industry from such bothersome regulations because fracking was “safe, harmless and benign.” If the operation was so squeaky clean, why were these exemptions requested? Aside from the methane that leaks from every single drill site, is there another odor wafting about?

The O&G folks will tell you that fracking has been around for 60 or so years, but what they won’t volunteer is that fracking today ain’t your grandpa’s fracking. Back then, the water injected was just that — water. Today it’s a rich stew of chemicals so complex that each company considers their mix a trade secret and they fought to keep it that way, hidden from competitors, regulatory agencies, monitors, cities, towns and you — the folks whose lives may be the most violated.

Back then, the pressure of the water/sand mix exploded far below in the horizontal pipes was perhaps 9,000 to 10,000 psi. Today it’s pushing 14,000 psi. Back then it didn’t matter because no community was within sight or sound of a drill site. Today, if the industry had its way it could occur around the second hole at Sunset Golf Course or in the middle of the cemetery. And today, as back then, no one has a clue as to just what the long-term effects of all this activity might be on the water or air our grandkids drink and breath.

These are not — or at least should not be — partisan issues; a Republican household will be affected by the stench, noise and loss of property values every bit as much as will a Democratic household. We’re in this together, like it or not.

Longmont, let’s overwhelmingly vote for this proposal. Let’s see what 25,000 or 30,000 votes can do to enlarge and influence the conversation. Vote “yes” on 300 to ensure the message is delivered and that future generations will want to stay, live and grow in our city.

Fracking effects are not partisan

By now you will have received your ballots for the November vote. If you have yet to fill it in or intend to vote on Nov. 6 at a voting station, please consider these facts.

As you probably know from ads and flyers, seven ex-mayors suddenly have the wisdom and insight to recommend that you oppose “Yes On 300”. What makes them such experts? Not one of these seven ever presided over a council considering the issue of fracking. Like virtually all of us, they had likely never heard of “Fracking” before November 2011 when the issue first arose on Mayor Coomb’s watch. This gang of seven aren’t experts- they are shills for the Oil & Gas industry, paid to pose and opine. In my world, paid-for opinions are worth less than the paper they are printed on and belong in but one place- the recycling bin.

More Q’s: Why in the world would a heavy industry such as oil and gas even think of drilling within sight or sound of a municipality?

And why the desire to drill so closely to a school or a park? Here’s a number to think about- $75.00. That’s the estimated cost per horizontal foot of drilling. The drill has to go straight down about 4000 feet before it curves to the horizontal. That’s a fixed cost. But once it curves, every foot to reach the payload is $75.00. One hundred feet- $7500. 750 feet- $56,250. Suddenly small change turns to serious money and all else is secondary to the bottom line, so the hell to you, the hell to me and the hell to Longmont.

The regulations currently governing the O&G industry were formulated around 1985. At that time no one had likely ever considered drilling and fracking operations anywhere near a city or town. Does anyone seriously believe that if these same regulations were under consideration today they would pass? That a drilling pad could be set up within 350 feet of a school or a home? That the millions of gallons of contaminated water returned to the surface could be stored in open pits within a residential area?

How many of you remember that in 2005 then Vice President Dick Cheney strong-armed Congress into passing the “Haliburton loop-hole” which exempted all fracking operations from the protections of the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Air Acts? Think about that – a retired CEO of a company (Halliburton) which pioneered fracking technology persuades Congress to exempt the industry from such bothersome regulations because fracking was “Safe, harmless and benign”. If the operation was so squeaky clean, why were these exemptions requested? Aside from the methane that leaks from every single drill site, is there another odor wafting about?

The O&G folks will tell you that fracking has been around for 60 or so years, but what they won’t volunteer is that fracking today ain’t your Grampa’s fracking. Back then, the water injected was just that – water. Today it’s a rich stew of chemicals so complex that each company considers their mix a trade secret and they’re fighting to keep it that way – hidden from competitors, regulatory agencies, monitors, cities, towns and you- the folks whose lives may be the most violated.

Back then, the pressure of the water/sand mix exploded far below in the horizontal pipes was perhaps 9,000 to 10,000 PSI. Today it’s pushing 14,000 PSI. Back then it didn’t matter because no community was within sight or sound of a drill site. Today, if the industry had its way it could occur around the 2nd hole at Sunset Golf Course or in the middle of the cemetery. And today, as back then, no one has a clue as to just what the long-term effects of all this activity might be on the water or air our grand-kids drink or breath.

These are not – or at least should not be- a partisan issues; a Republican household will be affected by the stench, noise and loss of property values every bit as much as will a Democratic household. We’re in this together, like it or not.

Longmont- let’s overwhelmingly vote for this proposal. Let’s see what 25 or 30 thousand votes can do to enlarge and influence the conversation. Vote YES on 300 to ensure the message is delivered and that future generations will want to stay, live and grow in our city.

Get out of the fracking foxhole

Where's council?

Where’s council?

Just as there are no atheists in a foxhole, so neither Republican nor Democrat is likely to be found. When under fire, there is but one common thought: survival. That and perhaps “Love thy neighbor.” Hold that thought.

Longmont is under siege and, without being overly dramatic, it is obvious to most concerned residents that in fact our city is in a foxhole and under fire from the state and oil and gas industry regulations. At the moment and under current regulations, a fracking well could be sited on a Longmont golf course, a cemetery, a park or within easy breathing distance of a school — and the city cannot at this point do one damned thing about it. Is there room here for partisan politics? I think not, but it is widely assumed to be so.

I care that the Republican, Democratic and independent voters out around Union Reservoir are already seeing their property values slowly circling the drain because the city cannot at this point do one damned thing to protect them. I care that a block or two south of First Avenue there may be open tanks filled with poisonous fluids. I care that no industry will want to be anywhere near these foul pits, thus limiting our city’s ability to attract new enterprise — and I’m enraged that the city cannot at this point do one damned thing about it.

I care that the laws that are now being forced down our throats were promulgated back in the ’80s when no one outside of the oil and gas industry had ever heard of fracking, and that this multibillion-dollar industry wrote its own rules, which were passed by a state Legislature where many (if not all) were bought and paid for by the rule writers. Is there anyone in state or civic government today who believes these extraordinary laws, which pre-empt county, city and local ordinances, would pass today? Would any sane politician under the golden dome even suggest such laws? And what can the city do about it? See above.

Let me be clear. I do not want to ban fracking or oil and gas drilling in Colorado or anywhere else. But think: If laws that would allow an industry to set up shop 150 or 350 feet away from a home or a school or a church were not born in a cesspool of corruption, perhaps we need a new definition of corruption. Ponder that, fellow golfers — a short wedge shot from your backyard lies a drill pad, all brought to you in the 1980s by folks in Denver now likely buried deep in some corporation’s mineral estate.

Back to the foxhole and the siege. Council has proven thus far to be woefully inadequate in defense of this city. It is palpably obvious that certain council members have abandoned their lofty ideals, which originally gave us a 7-0 vote in favor of new regulations and now, in a bizarre dance of twisted logic, they attempt to justify their new rationale to kill the strengthened regs and negotiate under the old and weak. Here, on an issue likely larger than any ever brought before council in modern times, some have caved in and embraced the enemy.

Absent the protection of council, a new movement has grown and is seeking an ordinance that would ban oil, gas and fracking operations from all city property. Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont is gathering signatures on a petition to ban these operations from within city limits. If successful, the issue would be placed on the November ballot for all Longmont residents to vote. I certainly don’t speak for this group, but firmly applaud their cause — not because I’m a Democrat or a Republican, but because I’m a Longmont resident who wants desperately to protect our values, our safety and the health of our treasured children.

You will see Our Longmont volunteers all over the city — at the library, shopping plazas, restaurants and walking down Main. Please take a moment to sign up in defense of Longmont. We are under siege and there is no room for politics of any hue. We either put aside our political differences or we will all suffer the consequences.

Let’s join hands to bring this petition to a vote in November. There is just over a month to gather 5,800 signatures and one final opportunity to get out of that foxhole.

FSSW Stand Up For BO&G

The laugh's on US

The laugh's on US

It’s hard to see how the City Council acted to ensure the safety and health of Longmont’s residents from fracking threats as described in last Saturday’s editorial, “Drilling rules show city puts residents first.” Big Oil & Gas finally showed its cards and in no time Councilors Finley, Sammoury, Santos and Witt (FSSW) folded, abandoning the new regulations which at their request had been painstakingly produced by city staff. Now why on earth, I wondered, would they do that?

A few months ago, the vote to craft new regulations was 7-0. All hands were gung-ho to beef up the old 2000 regulations in order to protect the well-being, health and safety of Longmont and its beloved residents. Go, team, go!

But slowly, things became weird.

Councilor Katie Witt, in a convoluted mush of logic turned upside down, having earlier announced she was balancing her duty to protect Longmont against her political future (shouldn’t these be one and the same?), proceeded to vote against the new regulations. So much for protecting Longmont; so much (one hopes) for her political future.

Declaring great optimism, hope and faith that TOP Drilling along with BO&G would negotiate, moderate, mediate and in general do a host of nice things they heretofore had never before done anywhere or for anyone, Ms. Witt demonstrated a novel approach to negotiations: cede everything first, then expect one’s opponents to hand back over whatever is requested.

Councilwoman Finley : limit public's time to thirty minutes

Councilwoman Finley : Frack my constituents!

Councilor Bonnie Finley’s approach was more rational, at least on the surface. She objected to the new regulations because they might bring a lawsuit, despite being told by the legal suits that the regulations were defensible, until finally faulting the preamble as a cover for her “no” vote. Councilor Bagley advised her on at least two occasions that the preamble had no effect in law, offering at one point to shorten it to a brief paragraph, but to no avail. Ms. Finley had her talking points and stuck to them, absurd as they were.

Alex Sammoury, on the team

Councilors Santos and Sammoury, to this point having supported the regulations, had remained quiet as the debate raged around the chamber, until Councilor Sammoury gently opined that an extension to the existing moratorium would give them a chance to try again for cooperation from the quaintly named Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission. Despite being reminded that earlier efforts to negotiate had been rebuffed and then rewarded with threats of lawsuits from the state attorney general’s office, the motion passed. These, by the way, are the nice folks who Ms. Witt is confident will bend and bestow great favors if only asked politely.

Gabe Santos, big money's inside man

So where are we? It’s ugly. The revised regulations are tabled. A vote at the next council meeting approving the new 45-day moratorium will be held under “emergency rules,” which requires at least six “aye” votes to pass. If it does, we have more than 45 days to negotiate with TOP and the COGCC (but still under the old regulations). If two councilors — say, Finley and Witt— vote “no,” the moratorium passes but won’t go into effect until three days after the current moratorium ends.

That would leave a gap for TOP to apply for permits to drill under the old regulations — and you can bet they will not be negotiating.

In the end, the stench of BO&G permeates the chamber; in the next election, we may or may not remember this disgraceful chapter in council’s history, but by then, most or all of the players will have moved on — far and away from the drilling rigs, methane gas and gutted property values. There will be no shortage of alibis and excuses, none of which will matter a damn.

Mayor Coombs and Councilors Bagley and Levison held their heads above the stench and may yet prevail in seeing the new regulations passed into law. FSSW (remember them?) have done everything possible to ensure that the safety and health of Longmont and its residents are left in the hands of BO&G. Shame on them.

An open letter to the Longmont City Council

Where's council?

Where's council? Might as well not be there.

Mayor Coombs and fellow Councillors:

Council, you (with the notable exception of Sarah Levinson) have lost my trust. I doubt that I’m alone in suggesting that you have betrayed your fellow citizens with your pusillanimous decision to follow a staff recommendation offering compromise and “Fast Track” permits to the oil and gas boys instead of approving an extended 6 month moratorium.

Week after week your Tuesday chamber was filled with your constituents pleading for time. How many from without the industry appeared before you in support of OCGCC regulations? None that I saw or heard.

Did those who appeared before you represent a majority of your constituents? Yes. Did you respond to their passions? No. You told them to go to hell, just as the COGCC told you a week ago when rejecting your proffers of appeasement.

Ex-City Manager Pedrow, once out of office, suggested you take a stand and fight. Instead you have chosen what you thought to be a compromise and have been solidly kicked in the butt.

Big Oil & Gas has threatened you with virtual bankruptcy if you choose to fight what at best was a modest proposal for modification of existing OCGCC standards. Offering such insulting defenses as “the state’s robust regulatory framework”- (a damned lie if ever there was one) their intention is obvious: Kill any and every effort of modification lest it spread to other communities.

You’ve been told to be good boys and girls or else; so exactly what do you now propose? More conciliation? More tinkering around the edges?

Will you forgive and offer a permit to that paragon of corporate citizenry TOP drilling which has been and still is “remediating” the benzene problem at Trail Ridge school whilst ignoring the robust discipline of the COGCC since 2009? Does their application for more drilling permits not concern you? Exactly what in hell does it take to persuade you that you are on the wrong track?

I have a suggestion. How about taking a step back and re-visiting the proposal to extend the moratorium for another 6 months? Much is happening at every level of government and within that time frame anything decided today may well appear foolish tomorrow.

It takes gonads to admit error and great political courage to stand for your constituents against the pressure of campaign dollars from entities such as Big Oil & Gas. The accusation that some of you have been so influenced has been made; please show us that those accusations are incorrect.

Why not begin a robust campaign to enlist all Front Range communities from Trinidad to Fort Collins in a concentrated effort to change state law? It may take one year or ten but this issue will never be decided at the municipal level, so face reality and work to undo what was undoubtedly a corrupt process.

Ask yourselves how it came to be that an entity such as the COGCC was given the right to tell a municipality that their regulations could be pre-empted and then answer the question without thinking of campaign dollars. The deal stank then and continues to stink- and you know it.

Thus far, Council, you appear weak, fragile and timid. For God’s sake step up to the plate and start batting! You were elected to lead, so start leading.

Fracking within our community is likely the biggest and most dominant issue you as council will ever face; that is until you are up for re-election. What you do in the coming weeks will be long remembered. To paraphrase JFK: “Think not what you can do for your political future but what you can do for Longmont”.