Guest

Portrait of a Traitor

by James Dunlap

Donald John Trump – Soon to be tried for treason

Ok, so I’ve actually sat down and read the entire 29 page Mueller indictment against the 12 Russian intelligence officers, and it is totally insane. I literally can’t believe the scope of this thing. I’m making this status public (i.e., shareable), because people need to know about this shit. There is no way you can read the actual indictment and not conclude that 1) there WAS a RUSSIAN conspiracy, 2) that the scope of that conspiracy was GARGANTUAN, 3) that it was organized BY THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT [i.e., there’s no way Putin didn’t know about this], 4) That people connected to the Trump campaign [and, shockingly, other U.S. Gov’t officials] WERE INVOLVED, and 5) this is just the beginning. If Mueller has already uncovered this amount of information with such specificity regarding the goings-on in far-away Russia, there’s NO WAY some serious shit isn’t going to hit the fan going forward right here in the U.S.

So, without further ado, here are the highlights:

Article 1 of the indictment states that the Russian government actively set up multiple intelligence units (known as the GRU) with the sole aim of interfering with the 2016 election. Two of these units, 26165, and 74455, were specifically tasked with acquiring and releasing stolen documents via hacking.

Article 2 specifically calls this a “conspiracy” and states that the 12 indicted Russians had contacts with “persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury.”

Article 3: The aforementioned Russian intelligence units deliberately targeted the Clinton campaign.

Article 4: They deliberately targeted the DNC as a whole.

Article 6: In June of 2016, they released TENS OF THOUSANDS of hacked documents using fictitious online personas.

Article 10: One of the intelligence officers, Boris Antonov, oversaw a department within 26165 tasked with hacking the U.S. military, governmental (i.e., political) and non-governmental organizations. [i.e., they were spying on every level of our gov’t].

Articles 12-18: The Russian hackers often used various online aliases, both male and female, such as (but not limited to) “Kate Milton,” “James McMorgans,” and “Karen Millen.” Sergey Morgachev, another Russian hacker, was a Lt. Colonel in the Russian military. He created the hacking malware used by dept. 26165, known as “X-Agent.” Another hacker named in the indictment, Nikolay Kozachek, was a Lt. Captain in the Russian military. Artem Malyshev (also named in the indictment) was a Second Lieutenant in the Russian military. Aleksandr Osadchuk (also named in the indictment) is a Colonel in the Russian Military. He oversaw the creation and dissemination of anti-Clinton material online.

Article 19: Russian Military Officer Aleksey Potemkin, assigned to 74455, supervised the creation of fake social media accounts used (among other things) in the release of DNC documents.

Article 21: Over 300 individuals affiliated with the DNC were SUCCESSFULLY targeted. (Article 21 is lengthy, and includes a detailed, play-by-play account of how 26165 and 74455 achieved their aims. Spoiler alert: It’s crazy).

Article 24, subsection B: The Russian’s hacking of the DNC was so advanced that they were able to monitor individual computers in real time. Subsection C states that their malware sent actual screenshots of DNC computer activity to a server in Arizona that the Russians had access to. They were also able to capture keystrokes entered by DCCC employees.

Article 24, subsection D: They monitored individual DNC / DCCC employees for hours on end, and obtained information about DNC fundraising plans and even banking information (as well as other personal information).

Article 26 subsection A: By June 2016 the Russians had complete access to 33 DNC computers, totally and completely.

Article 27: The GRU gained access to information regarding DNC opposition research, field operation plans, and the Benghazi operation.

Article 28, subsection B: Aside from the server in Arizona, the GRU also stored data to a server in Illinois, to which they filtered large gigabytes of stolen information via a program they developed known as “X-Tunnel.”

Article 32: The DNC became aware of Russian attempts to hack their servers and hired a security firm to identify the extent of the intrusions. The security firm (identified in the indictment only as “company 1”) also put in place measures to halt GRU access to DNC computers, but, despite this, the GRU was so efficient that they continued to maintain access via “X-Agent” well through October of 2016.

Article 33: The GRU immediately became aware of “company 1’s” (referring here to the security firm that the DNC hired) efforts, and took countermeasures in response. This included investigating / hacking “company 1” itself, and later, apparently as a retaliatory measure against the DNC, setting up a wesbsite that redirected from a DNC online political donations website, to another website set up by the GRU (in other words, the GRU took funds from DNC donors, using the pretext of a false DNC donations website).

Articles 35-36: The GRU set up another website, the sole purpose of which was to release stolen DNC documents. They created fake social media accounts that falsely attributed this website’s creation to a group of “American hacktivists.” It received over 1 million hits.

Article 37: The GRU has also released stolen documents dating back to 2015 (i.e., they’ve been up to this for quite a while).

Article 40: The notion of a “lone Romanian hacker” being responsible for the DNC leaks was a fiction deliberately created by the GRU and disseminated via fake social media accounts.

Article 42: Using a popular blogging site, the GRU set up a blog that used the most “searched for” keywords by conspiracy theorists, (e.g., “Illuminati,” “Worldwide,” “Conspiracy,” et. al.), -and used this website to further disseminate the “lone Romanian hacker” conspiracy theory. (Article 46 of the indictment further states that later entries on this blog site posted articles positing that the released, stolen documents had “nothing to do with Russia.”)

Article 43, Subsection A: An individual the indictment identifies only as “a known member of congress” contacted an online GRU dummy persona, (“Guccifer 2.0”) and requested stolen documents related to their political opponent, and the GRU / “Guccifer” responded by giving said member of congress access to the stolen data they were requesting.

Article 43, Subsection B: The GRU released stolen documents to what the indictment identifies as “a lobbyist and online source of political news.”

Subsection C: “Guccifer” / The GRU sent stolen documents pertaining to the “Black Lives Matter” movement to a reporter (unidentified in the indictment), to which the reporter not only responded, but offered to write an article using said information.

Article 44: The GRU, posing as “Guccifer 2.0” wrote to a person who was in regular contact with SENIOR MEMBERS OF THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN. (The indictment includes direct quotes of their online conversation, and this is CLEARLY referring to Roger Stone).

Article 45, subsection B: The GRU, using an alias, contacted a U.S. reporter (unnamed in the indictment) and ultimately gave them access to stolen DNC data.

Articles 47-49: Here the indictment refers to an organization, identified only as “Organization 1,” [I’m thinking, Wikileaks] -which actually reached out to the GRU aliases seeking the stolen emails / data. “Organization 1” is directly quoted by the indictment as having communicated to “Guccifer,” that they should “send [Organization 1] any new material [i.e., stolen data] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.” Organization 1 was given, and later released, said data, approximately 3 days before the Democratic National Convention. In total, between October and November of 2016, over 50,000 stolen documents were released.

Articles 50-79 : Lists the counts against the 11 Russian Military Personnel, which include charges of 1) Conspiracy to Commit Offenses Against The United States, 2) Aggravated Identity Theft, 3) Conspiracy to Launder Money [according to the indictment, over 95,000 USD$ was laundered], i.e. using cryptocurrency, that was then use to register domain names, set up websites, create server infrastructure, et. al.,3) The Use of Transferred Money To Commit Crimes Against The United States, 4) General Unlawful Conspiracy [It should be noted that many of these counts have sub-crimes attached to them, such as unlawful hacking, etc.].

So, there it is folks. This WAS A RUSSIAN CONSPIRACY, massive in scope, directly linked to the Trump campaign, the sole aim of which was to subvert Democracy. There is no way around it.

Here’s Mueller’s evidence against Paul Manafort.

Racism against Native Americans persists

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you’d like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at betsym@hcn.org.

Evelyn Red LodgeEvelyn Red Lodge is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News. A writer in Rapid City, South Dakota, she is a correspondent for Native Sun News Today and member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

During my 13 years in Rapid City, South Dakota, I’ve learned that racism and ignorance almost always go hand-in-hand. The West was “won,” many people learn in school, but what did westward expansion mean for the Native people who were already living on the land?

The lure of gold brought explorers, miners and then homesteaders to South Dakota during the 19th and early 20th centuries. I imagine that most of those “invaders” — from my point of view — didn’t think twice about booting the local people out of the way. But that was then. The question today is why racism persists when America prides itself on tolerance and respecting diversity.

Here are examples from my life that reveal the kind of blatant racism I’ve experienced, as well as some of the unconscious racism that is sometimes almost comical.

I go to a Rapid City council meeting where a white local suggests placing statues of Native Americans in Founders Park, rather than in the proposed First Nations Sculpture Gallery in Halley Park. As Native author Elizabeth Cook-Lynn put it, the suggestion was made “without a hint of irony.” After all, who were the original founders if not Native people?

I go to the veterans’ parade where the 7th United States Cavalry, formed in 1866 to protect homesteaders and raid Native villages, is still honored. These days, of course, more Natives serve in the military per capita than any other ethnic group, according to the director of the National Museum of the American Indian. But few Natives march with the veterans in the parade.

I find a Black Hills trail guide listing the 7th Cavalry Trail as if it’s fun for people to follow the trail of mass murderers who killed anywhere from 75 to 125 babies, children and women at Wounded Knee in 1890.

Members of the 7th Cavalry Drum and Bugle Corps perform in a parade in downtown Rapid City, S.D., Nov. 11, 2007. Rapid City hosted the parade to honor those who have served and are currently serving in the U.S. military. The 7th Cavalry Corps is a volunteer marching band that dresses in authentic 19th century costume during parades in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller) (Released)

I buy a Happy Meal for my daughter only to find a 7th Cavalry Custer doll inside. She gets upset when I try to explain why I think it belongs in the trash.

In a jewelry shop along Mount Rushmore Road, I look at the gold for which my grandparents’ territory was invaded and spot a wine-bottle holder depicting a Native chief chugging a bottle of wine. Old stereotypes die hard. According to a recent study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Drug Dependence, alcohol consumption by Natives is shown to be generally less than that of Caucasians in the United States.

Just walking downtown in Rapid City, the so-called City of Presidents, I spot the stores along the way that used to sport signs saying “No Indians or Dogs Allowed.” I go to He Sapa — the Black Mountains — where I look upon the faces of past U.S. presidents who helped wipe out so many Indigenous peoples. I remember that Natives were only declared to be citizens by the United States Congress less than 100 years ago.

In 2015, I feared to go to any sporting event after a drunk beer salesman poured beer on Native students at a hockey game and shouted, “Go back to the reservation!” Within days, dumping beer on Natives had become a common occurrence at other venues.

I picked up the local newspaper four days after the drunk hockey fan did his business, and the question was raised on the front page: Had the Native students who were attacked stood for the national anthem? (Not that it should make any difference, but it was reported that the students did stand.)

I feared to walk on the north side of Rapid City in 2009 and 2010, after at least two Native families with children were egged while racial slurs were hurled at them. “Go back to where you came from!” is a laughable favorite. One Native woman, who was disabled, was run off the road while driving her car. Urine in bottles was thrown on other Natives. Some Natives were shot with pellet guns.

At the same time — and I am glad to report this — many of the attackers were held accountable after much public outcry:

The jewelry store owner removed the wine holder featuring a drunken Native from her window after local media asked why she’d given it prominence.

The newspaper removed its victim-blaming story from its Internet site.

Two 21-year-old women were arrested in the incident involving the disabled woman, becoming the first in the state to be charged with its new hate-crime law, “malicious intimidation or harassment.”

As for failures in the quest for justice, the drunk hockey fan was eventually acquitted of his one and only charge of disorderly conduct. And I am unaware of any charges brought against anyone for the attacks involving egg and urine throwing and pellet guns.

Racism persists, I am sorry to report. I still feel it every day.

Full disclosure: I am a Facebook friend to Evelyn Red Lodge – FRL – Thanks to High Country News!

The GOP and the Tall Tree

From Shareblue Media:

Missouri state Rep. Warren Love said on Facebook that he hoped Confederate statue vandals are lynched.

Missouri state Rep. Warren Love

Ever since the deadly neo-Nazi riot in Charlottesville, which centered on a condemned statue of Robert E. Lee, efforts to remove Confederate monuments have intensified.

But the statues, many of which were erected by white supremacist groups explicitly to protest Black civil rights, still have defenders.

Several Republicans, including Donald Trump and Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, insist the statues are necessary to honor Southern history, even as they hypocritically allow Black heroes of the Civil War era to go unhonored and forgotten.

On Thursday, Missouri state Rep. Warren Love took his defense of Confederate statues to a violent extreme.

After a Confederate monument in Springfield National Cemetery was vandalized, Love took to Facebook to write, “This is totally against the law. I hope they are found & hung from a tall tree with a long rope.”

The idea of an elected lawmaker calling for people who defaced a statue to be lynched is horrifying. Love is explicitly invoking a terrorist act historically used by the KKK and white supremacist mobs.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, Black men were lynched for everything from trying to register to vote, to looking the wrong way at a white woman. Whites who were too outspoken in sympathy for Black rights were also targeted. People seen as a threat to the white social order were randomly made examples of, to terrify the rest into compliance.

Love’s post was met with immediate outrage. State House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty thundered that Love “invoked a form of political violence used throughout the South to keep African-Americans subjugated for generations following the fall of the Confederacy.” Missouri Democratic Party chair Stephen Webber demanded his resignation. Sen. Claire McCaskill agreed, calling his comments “unacceptable.”

Amazingly, Love is not even the first Republican lawmaker this week to threaten racial violence.

On Tuesday, Georgia state Rep. Jason Spencer warned former Black Democratic lawmaker LaDawn Jones that if she keeps criticizing Confederate statues, “I can guarantee you won’t be met with torches but something a lot more definitive. People in South Georgia are people of action, not drama.” He added that people who do not watch what they say “will go missing in the Okefenokee. Too many necks they are red around here.”

Republicans insist their support of Confederate statues has nothing to do with white supremacy. But their impulse to echo the threat of white terror betrays their motives.


Author

Freelance Political Writer

Matthew Chapman

Video game designer and science fiction author from Texas. Can be found on Twitter @fawfulfan.

Merciful God

Saw this on Facebook from Joel Tooley, Lead Pastor at Melbourne First Church of the Nazarene.

What I am about to write and what you are about to read may make some people very uncomfortable, if not angry.

That is not my intention nor is it okay with me to cause anyone to stumble. That being said, what I experienced tonight was so dramatic that I cannot help but reflect on it and share what I experienced.

A few days ago, people across the United States heard the news that our newly elected President would be visiting Melbourne, Florida – our hometown. It is no surprise to many that I do not support many of the objectives and “campaignisms” of Donald Trump. I know many people who voted for him – friends, family, church people who all voted for their own reasons. The point of this experience is not to relay all of the reasons why I think he should not be the president. Those points are moot – he IS our President.

Now, I am enough of a sentimentalist that when I found out THEEEE President was coming to town, I got online quickly and reserved two tickets.

The tickets were being given away by the Trump-Pence campaign; I found it odd that the tickets indicated that this was not a government/White House event & that this was a campaign event. I have, of course, posted a joking post about that earlier. What I discovered was that by hosting this as a campaign event, Mr. Trump could determine who was and was not allowed in the venue. If he came on an official visit, they could not prohibit anyone from entering and he couldn’t sell his campaign merchandise.

So, in essence, he was only allowing his supporters in the room. Well, with a few exceptions…

I talked my 11-year-old daughter into coming with me. After all, how many times do you get to see the President of the United States in person – let alone in your hometown? I was eager for her to have this experience. It has to be a pretty cool thing, as a kid to see Air Force One, the President and the First Lady.

The event started at 5 PM; we got in line at the venue shortly after 2 PM and the line was already pretty long. There are several mini stories to be told about that experience but don’t need to be told for this post. Suffice it to say, it is always an intriguing sociological experience to be surrounded by people in line for something for which they are fanatics – whether it is for a movie premier, a live concert, the release of the latest beanie baby or Cabbage Patch kid. Fanatic people are fascinating to me.

While I am not a fan of Trump, I certainly did not want to come across as a vigilante protester while standing amongst some of his most adoring fans. I truly wanted to see if what I was going to witness in person was any different than what I had observed on TV.

The entry into the event was very impressive. I have always admired the professional posturing of the Secret Service, including those from our own local law-enforcement who were on duty serving in this capacity. These are women and men who should be highly commended for placing their lives on the line.

We entered the venue at 3 PM, two hours before the event started. As we entered, everyone was being handed pom-poms and Trump campaign signs. The hosts made sure everyone had a sign in their hand. Someone shoved one into my hand and gave pom-poms to my daughter.

I felt like a sheep in wolves clothing.

Music was playing loudly throughout the venue as it filled up with hundreds of people. I would guess there were eventually at least 3000 people in the room. It was nowhere near full, but there certainly were a lot of people there. From my view, the crowd was 99.9% white folk. I did see a row of about 10-12 supporters who were black, wearing T-shirts that said, “Trump and Republicans are not racist” – they were positioned in the seating area directly behind the podium.

We were about three rows of people from the very front and had a very good position to view the President and the platform. As people were coming in, there was a lot of excitement and a strong sense of patriotism. Approximately every 15 minutes, the music would be a little more enthusiastic and party-like. I posted my play-by-play feedback of “God bless the USA!” in an earlier post…it was almost church-like. People sang along, raising their hands and were emotionally moved by this anthem. It was intriguing to watch.

People were being ushered into a deeply religious experience…and it made me completely uncomfortable.

I love my country; I honor those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom and I respect our history and what we stand for, but what I experienced in that moment sent shivers down my spine. I felt like people were here to worship an ideology along with the man who was leading it. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the song per se – it was this inexplicable movement that was happening in the room. It was a religious zeal.

You might liken it to the experience fans would have after their favorite team won the Super Bowl – faces painted, banners flying, confetti in the air and celebrating.

But this – this was deeper.

A couple of local politicians got up to bring greetings followed by state representative, followed by one of our Congress representatives. A soloist sang, “God bless America” and there was a strong sense of patriotism in the room. A pastor got up to pray and repeatedly prayed throughout his prayer, “Thank you for making this the greatest nation on earth…in Jesus’ name.”

Uh-uh. No. No way, josé.

Pastor, this is not the greatest nation on earth. The greatest nation on earth does not exist. Are we a great nation? Definitely. But there are many other great nations as well. Pastor, you have your eyes on a different kind of “greatness” and certainly a different kind of kingdom. Shame on you for praying those words in Jesus’ name!

Suddenly, the music changed from the pep rally theme to something that seemed more Star Wars themed. The crowd went crazy and turned towards the opening of the airplane hangar that was the venue, just as Air Force One pulled up.

What a magnificent sight! That enormous airliner is absolutely breathtaking. The crowd was going wild; signs waving in the air, people cheering, and every cell phone was positioned to take photos and video. As the First Lady and the President emerged at the top of the stairs, the air was electric! It really is a magnificent image to see in person!

As they entered the venue and walked to the platform, there was terrific celebration. I have been in the room when other Presidents were in a similar mode – it is always such a meaningful experience to be that close to them, regardless of whether or not you view them with adoration. Theeeee President of the USA!

The First Lady approached the platform and in her rich accent, began to recite the Lord’s prayer.

I can’t explain it, but I felt sick. This wasn’t a prayer beseeching the presence of Almighty God, it felt theatrical and manipulative.

People across the room were reciting it as if it were a pep squad cheer. At the close of the prayer, the room erupted in cheering. It was so uncomfortable. I observed that Mr. Trump did not recite the prayer until the very last line, “be the glory forever and ever, amen!” As he raised his hands in the air, evoking a cheer from the crowd, “USA! USA! USA!”

Just as the President begin to speak, a short grandmotherly lady in front of us asked me if I would help hold her walker – the kind that has a seat built into it. She said, “I need to climb up on it and hold something up.” Such an odd request at such an odd place at such an odd time. So, I helped her.

She held a pillowcase that had something written on the front of it, words I could not see. She climbed up onto the seat, wobbly-legged and held the sign up above her head. People in front of her turned around and started jeering and yelling at her. After holding her sign up for about 10 seconds, she climbed back down and thanked me. I asked her what her sign said – it read, “You had your chance, now resign!”

The very first words out of the President’s mouth were the words of a bully. That is not simply one person’s perspective, it is factual. He immediately began badgering and criticizing the media; like a bully inciting a crowd.

Now, do I think the media needs to be held to a high standard and be able to be held accountable? Absolutely! The media as a whole has become sadly non-journalistic and more entertainment, in my opinion.

Call it what you will, but I was completely dumbfounded as the most powerful leader in the world began his speech by badgering the media. The crowd began screaming angrily at the entire press corps that was present.

He could have said something inspiring and worthy of a Tweet or Facebook post, instead he emerged as an overly powerful bully. Literally, everything that he began speaking about evoked this angry response from the crowd. Immediately following the words of prayer that Jesus taught his followers…

It was then that I heard two ladies off to my left chanting, not yelling or screaming but chanting, “T-R….U-M-P; that’s how you spell – bigotry!” They repeated the rhyme over and over.

Two ladies in front of them began seething and screaming in their face while shaking their Trump signs at them. Another couple standing behind them started screaming at them as well. One of the chanting ladies had her eight-year-old daughter on her back; the other had a severely disabled child in a wheelchair in front of her. As they continued chanting, the people around them became violently enraged. One angry man grabbed the lady’s arm – that’s when I went into action. I barged through the crowd and yelled at them to back off. My heart wasn’t racing; I just instinctively became a protector.

I didn’t actually want a Trump sign, but one of the volunteers had shoved it into my hands as I walked through the door earlier; “Make America Great Again!” That sign probably saved someone from getting hurt. I held the sign close to my chest as I positioned myself between the chanting protesters and the angry mob. My 11-year-old daughter was clinging to my arm, sobbing in fear.

The two angry, screaming ladies looked at me, both of them raised their middle finger at me in my face and repeatedly yelled, “F*#% YOU!” Repeatedly.

I calmly responded, “No thank you, I’m happily married.” Their faces and their voices were filled with demonic anger.

I have been in places and experiences before where demonic activity was palpable. The power of the Holy Spirit of God was protecting me in those moments and was once again protecting me and my daughter in this moment.

I raised my voice and calmly said, “These ladies have the right to do what they are doing and they are harming no one; this is America and they a right to express themselves in this way. They are harming no one.” A couple of other people around me stepped in and supported me in protecting them as a barrier, as well.

My daughter was shaking in fear as she clung to me. The one man behind the protesters shoved himself forward, grabbed the lady by the arm and screamed with multiple expletives, “I’m going to take you out! This is my president and nobody has the right to disrespect him and nobody has the right to keep me from hearing him!”

I wish I could have captured the expressions of that man on camera. I will never forget him.

The little girl on her mother’s back was crying, completely frightened. I leaned forward and reassured her in her ear, “Your mommy is being brave and we will not let these people hurt you. You are afraid because these are angry, awful people. We will not let them hurt you or your mommy. You are being so brave and your mommy is doing something very brave.”

That’s when another lady screamed in my face that what I was doing was un-American. I just chuckled and responded, “What I am doing is completely American – I’m standing up for people who are being bullied – it doesn’t matter if I agree with them or not. You came here to see the President, now ignore these ladies, turn around and enjoy the show.” Without explanation, they calm down and turned around to hear what Trump had to say.

The two protesters then moved towards the back and left the building. I got a couple of high-fives and “thanks for stepping up for them” from bystanders . I wanted to say, “Thanks. Where were you when the the demons were screaming and fists were getting ready to start swinging?”

Once again, the environment reminded me of some church experiences I’ve had. Bystanders.

I have no clue what Trump was saying at that point – draining the swamp, vetting refugees, and other things. Oh yeah, I heard people chanting, “Build that wall, build that wall!”

I realized then that we were not listening to someone presidential, we were listening to someone terribly powerful.

My kid was shaken – she had just seen some of the worst of humanity. We edged ourselves away from the front of the room to the opening of the hangar so we could get a clearer picture of Air Force One. I wanted to give her at least one positive presidential memory.

The crowd was much thinner at the back of the room, people were leaving by the hundreds. Outside, there were two jumbotrons set up for a potential overflow – there really wasn’t a need for them. There were maybe a couple of hundred people outside watching on the big screens.

Not too far behind that group was a large group of protesters.

Inside, Trump had rallied the group by giving a little bit of attention to the “paid protesters outside.” Now, I can’t speak for all of them, but I asked a few where they were from and why they were there – every single one of them were from different cities in Florida and could quickly articulate why they were there. They were not paid protesters – not the ones I spoke with.

I’m trying to separate how I actually feel about this man and his campaignisms. I know why people voted for him; I know why people voted against his opponent. But, at the end of the day, what I felt from his leadership in this experience was actually horrifying. There was palpable fear in the room. There was thick anger and vengeance. He was counting on it. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that it would not have taken very much for him to have called this group of people into some kind of riotous reaction.

Now, not everyone in the room was a part of the angry mob mentality – I looked around the room and saw many people who could quite easily be folks from my neighborhood, folks from my church, folks who were planning to go grab a bite to eat at Cracker Barrel afterwards. Folks who truly wanted to see America “great.” The people who support the Republican Party want to see some needed changes in the government – the people that were there for that reason, are by and large good folks. But those are not the people the President was inciting – they are not the people he was leading. He was rallying the angry, vigilant ones.

As we began to leave, I knew my daughter could not possibly care less about Air Force One or the fact that she saw the President of the United States and his wife, in the flesh. I truly had hoped that she could have had that sentimental experience.

What she WILL remember is the angry, violent man screaming demonic vitriol at a child and her mother. She will remember the two ladies screaming at her Dad, her pastor – flipping the middle finger and using the F word repeatedly.

Now, I know there are people who are convinced that I am jaded and cannot fairly give this man a fair chance. Perhaps that’s true. But please remember, especially those of you who know me well, I am a student of culture and human behavior. I am not a stubborn, close minded individual who likes to stick to the status quo. I know there are people who long for me to see the good things about this President and to talk about THOSE things. I know there are people who want me to realize that not everything he is doing is bad and that every President has their strengths and weaknesses and…

I know there are people who, when they see these words and hear my thoughts will feel badly because perhaps they can’t like me as much as they once did because they don’t agree with me. They want me to like the President that they like – they want me to see him the way they see him.

I’m sorry. I cannot. You see, the angry, F-word-spewing man is what has been depended on throughout this campaign and is the one who is still being counted on to sustain the message. I tried.

As we left the room, these words were echoing in my mind, “Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”

At the end of the day, I’m a citizen of a nation – I have a leader who God is very aware and who has tremendous responsibilities. I MUST and will pray for him. I’m a citizen of this world and I must continue to see beyond my own limited world view to seek ways to obediently serve Christ. But greater still, I am a citizen of a different kind of Kingdom – the Kingdom that strives for peace, mercy, kindness and a love-relationship with the King of kings.

May God have mercy on me.

Littwin: Gigantic, enormous, colossal, unpresidented women’s march drives Trump mad

From the Colorado Independent:

These are, as they say, early days. And as the nascent Trump era progresses — if that’s the right word — we will continue to see things we’ve never seen or heard before.

For starters, we’ve never heard an inaugural speech like Trump’s American carnage address.

We’ve never seen a counter-inaugural demonstration drawing an astonishing 3 million across the country, many of the protesters wearing pussy hats and many carrying signs about a president keeping his tiny hands off the First Amendment. If you think you were stunned by the turnout — the 100,ooo-marchers-strong aerial shot of Civic Center is a remarkable testament to those Coloradans trying to take their country back — imagine how Trump felt.

We’ve never seen a press secretary, on his first day, ordered by the president to read out a pack of lies about, of all things, crowd size and insist they were true – period. Or see a presidential counselor say the lies were actually “alternative facts.” Or see Orwell cited quite so accurately quite so early in a president’s tenure.

We have seen Trump embarrass himself many times, but never quite as he did, as president, at the CIA, standing in front of the wall honoring the CIA dead, using the occasion to accuse the press of willfully deflating his inauguration numbers and of falsely creating a rift between him and the intelligence agencies that he had compared to Nazis.

We’ve never seen a president, in his first days, hold a meet-and-greet with congressional leaders and tell them the already clearly debunked lie that he had lost the popular vote only because 3 to 5 million illegal immigrants voted for Clinton, who apparently was not smart enough, as several observers have pointed out, to wield these voters in, say, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

He can’t let go — of anything. He can’t move on — from anything. Getting elected isn’t enough. It has to be the greatest election. The most colossal crowds. A global movement. And still that won’t satisfy. We can only imagine what the GOP congressional leaders were thinking – that they have to pretend for four years that this is remotely normal. Remarkably, in the face of Trump’s allegation of massive voter fraud, no one called for an investigation. A better response, of course, would be to call for an intervention.

Read the rest at the Colorado Indpependent.

Don’t take the bait

By Joel Dyer at The Boulder Weekly

Longmont Council member Bonnie Finley - with a surprising motion that should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention.

Longmont Council member Bonnie Finley – with a surprising motion that should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention.

It was a nearly packed house Tuesday, Aug. 26, in the Longmont City Council chambers as citizens who believe that local communities should have the final say over fracking in their neighborhoods turned up in good numbers.

The Council was voting on whether the city should continue its support of the fracking ban that Longmont voters placed into their city charter via the ballot box in 2012.

You may recall that Tuesday’s vote was necessitated by Boulder County District Court Judge D.D. Mallard’s ruling in July that found Longmont didn’t have the authority to ban hydraulic fracturing within its city limits because the state was in charge of regulating the practice and a precedent had been set in 1992 when Greeley tried to ban drilling within its city limits only to lose that right in court after being sued.

Public comment went as expected with one speaker after another imploring council to appeal Mallard’s decision. Many reminded the seven-member council that 60 percent of Longmont voters supported the fracking ban and that those citizens expect council to fight for their ban as long and as far as possible. In some instances that reminder sounded like a plea and in others a threat.

And then something a bit unusual happened. After virtually no discussion, pro-oil and gas industry Councilwoman Bonnie Finley, the same Bonnie Finley who has fought for years now to allow the industry to drill and frack Longmont at will, opened her mouth and said she wanted to make a motion that was going to surprise people.

“There’s a need for clarity on the issue,” she said. “That’s why I am supporting this [appeal], and that’s why I believe we should go all the way.”

And then she said one more thing.

“And I also believe we should invite other communities with similar interests to join our case.”

The crowd went wild. The other members of council, both those who were recently voted in by the antifracking crowd and those who are more industry-friendly, quickly echoed Finley’s sentiments. They all agreed with great enthusiasm that all the other communities along with Boulder County that have fracking bans or moratoriums should hitch their antifracking wagons to Longmont’s appeal.

Translation: Look at this really great giant horse Finley is offering to us as a gift. Let’s take it inside the fort, celebrate our victory and get a good night’s sleep.

For those unfamiliar with Longmont City Council, for more than a decade Finley has been employed by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry a.k.a. the Colorado Chamber of Commerce. Her job at the state level is government affairs and membership retention. So who are some of the members that she is working to retain? How about trade groups like the Colorado Petroleum Association, Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and the American Chemical Industry, all groups whose profits are increased by way of drilling and fracking. COGA is even one of the organizations who is suing Longmont over its ban.

The fact that Finley has not recused herself from votes on issues like fracking — an issue wherein her employer has a stated position and is actively trying to sway public opinion and lobbying to create a more oil-andgas -friendly regulatory environment at the state and local level — is an appalling abuse of Longmont’s democratic process. It’s like giving the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry a proxy vote at the center of one of the most important issues in Colorado history. It is also an incredible oversight by her council peers that they have not demanded that she recuse herself in light of this clear and substantial conflict of interest.

So why the sudden change of heart by Finley at Tuesday’s council meeting? First, I think that everyone on council knew that the city was going to appeal, so one dissenting vote wouldn’t have mattered.

Second Finley’s or her boss’s or COGA’s, however you want to interpret who controls this council seat, suggestion that all the communities with bans and moratoriums join Longmont’s appeal is pretty shrewd. After all, even the anti-frackers applauded the suggestion. But it may well be a Trojan horse of sorts.

The oil and gas industry is certain that it will eventually prevail in defeating the Longmont ban. They may yet be wrong, but truth be told, they think they will win sooner than later as the courts seem to be rushing through the fracking cases these days.

After the great Jared Polis debacle left the industry with a two-year drilling window before the next attempt can be made by citizens to create a constitutional amendment that can protect communities from the dangers of drilling and fracking, getting the rigs going in Boulder County potentially has a 24-month timeline.

So getting Lafayette, Boulder, Broomfield and Boulder County all into one court case wherein their concerns and legal arguments could all be dismissed at the same time would really help the industry exploit this small window of opportunity to drill up Boulder County . If each of the towns and the county fight their lawsuits and presumed-to eventually-be-filed lawsuits individually, it will no doubt drag things out much longer, regardless of the final outcomes, quite likely well past the Polis/industry created twoyear drilling window.

So thanks for your motion Bonnie Finley and thanks for your vote to appeal. But as for your invitation to get all the governmental entities to join Longmont’s appeal, I think that the elected officials getting your invitation will see it for what it is, an attempt to get the rigs drilling more quickly in Boulder County. Thanks but no thanks.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

A Call for More Balance at Vance Brand

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving's Twin Otter skydiving planes.

Mi-Hile Skydiving’s Twin Otter skydiving plane.

I write to express a moderate opinion regarding the current conflict between many county residents and Mile High Skydiving. We live a few miles west of the Vance Brand Airport and plainly hear the excessive and rather continuous noise from the jump planes as they climb at maximum rate, then descends under 75 percent power to expedite their subsequent loads to altitude, often within minutes of each other. It is onerous and unfortunate.

Mile-Hi Skydiving is operating within the limits of a federal law which doesn’t restrict aircraft noise or frequency of operation. The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) reserves the exclusive control of the skies throughout the U.S., and restricts local control of the airway system so that free, unimpeded air traffic can be unencumbered by a myriad of local regulation. This concept makes sense for air transportation of people and goods between airports.

The logic of this system breaks down, in my opinion, when those FAA regulations are used to allow a very noisy operation such as Mile-Hi Skydiving, to operate from, and back to, the same airport on a continuous basis, climbing and descending over the same areas of the county at full power settings. That doesn’t seem to me to be the intent of the FAA purpose for exclusive control of the airspace.

Tim Barth, the airport manager, has correctly used this argument in the past, stating that he has little control over activities that are regulated by the FAA. However, there have been several instances where local municipalities have successfully enacted noise control regulations at their airports. I believe that the City of Longmont does have the authority, if it so chooses, to control operations at its airport, including limiting excessive noise from planes, their hours and frequency of operation, hangar activities, etc.

The pressures to enact such control seem to come from a small part of the populous, many of whom are not city residents. So, from legislators’ “re-election perspective”, there’s little incentive to respond to complaints. Like me, there are probably many who are offended by the noise, but see little benefit of complaining to the deaf ears of the airport. Although Mile-Hi Skydiving provides little to the city in the way of taxes (it even purchases its own wholesale fuel rather than supporting the newly christened Elite Aviation) its activity does increase the utilization of the airport which probably aids in justifying federal funding.

However, the life of a small airport is fragile. Each year many across the country close due to inactivity, citizen mandate, or development pressures. Vance Brand has, so far, been relatively successful in maintaining a good support base of both the aircraft owners and the citizenry. But most of the airport tenants and pilots (I’m one) do not appreciate Mile-Hi Skydiving’s hazard to flying and their noisy activities. And more and more local citizens don’t either, resulting in deteriorated relations between the airport and the voters. Eventually there may be enough pressure from such sources to encourage a decision from legislators to move or close the airport.

Those feelings are progressing now. Many will tell you how beneficial the skydiving operation is to the airport. But many more will tell you that it is having a far more deleterious effect.

Gary Rubin lives in Longmont.

Littwin: Mr. Attorney General, the gay marriage ship has sailed

From the Colorado Independent.

ping_missing_the_boat

In case you missed it, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Yes, it’s big news, but it’s not exactly groundbreaking news. Not any more. Maybe not ever again.

According to NPR’s Nina Totenberg, that makes 29 consecutive rulings in favor of same-sex marriage. I don’t know what the record is — but I wonder if the Supreme Court would really be willing to snap the streak.

The rulings began a year ago after the Supreme Court shot down key sections of the Defense of Marriage Act. Every ruling since has determined that marriage is a fundamental right. Once you get into fundamental rights, that’s pretty much the beginning and end of the story.

We’ve heard the same stories from judges appointed by Obama, by both Bushes, by Clinton, by Reagan. This is about as bipartisan as you can get in modern-day America.

Suthers’s ongoing losing legal battle feeds directly into the contention that the state’s Republicans have a 21st-century social-issues problem, beginning with personhood and following all the way to same-sex marriage.

Mark Herring, Virginia’s attorney general, put it this way: “Sometimes battles have been fought in the legislature, sometimes in the courtroom, sometimes even in the streets, but inevitably no effort to restrict the rights or limit the opportunities of our fellow Americans has ever succeeded in the long term.”

But no civil rights issue has moved so quickly through the courts — or so nearly unanimously. The point of the Virginia ruling was duly noted in bordering North Carolina, where the real news of the day happened. North Carolina is also covered by the 4th Circuit and has a same-sex-marriage ban similar to the one in Virginia. And so, seeing the ruling, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper held a news conference to say his state was throwing in the towel on same-sex marriage. You know, before someone gets hurt.

Cooper explained that attorneys general across the country have made “almost every possible legal argument” in dozens of cases and that the courts “have rejected them each and every time.”

“So,” he concluded, “it’s time for North Carolina to stop making them.”

If you heard the news conference, you may have had the same question I had: If this is so clear to Cooper — that there are no new arguments to make — then what in the name of fundamental rights is our attorney general, John Suthers, thinking?

The 10th Circuit in Denver was the first U.S. Appeals Court to uphold a ruling that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. That case was about Utah’s ban, but the 10th Circuit also covers Colorado and its ban. Maybe you can see a pattern. But Suthers apparently does not. He is not simply continuing the fight against same-sex marriage. He’s taking on all comers and, if necessary, all of them at once. I don’t know how big his staff is, but if there’s a courtroom anywhere in Colorado, Suthers is probably there.

Of course, all hell broke loose here when Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall started issuing marriage licenses in Boulder County. By the time Denver began issuing them, chaos had set in. Two courts ruled Boulder could continue to issue licenses. The state Supreme Court ruled Denver should not. Yes, there was chaos, but what civil rights action doesn’t include at least a touch of pandemonium? And now Suthers is back trying to stop Hall again.

Suthers says it’s clear-cut. He says it’s his job to defend the Colorado law until the end, and that he thinks, despite all the rulings, that the law is constitutional. He’s ready to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will, of course, get the last word. And probably as soon as next year.

There’s cost, of course, and not just in court costs. It has been suggested that Suthers — who has never said publicly how he feels about same-sex marriage — might be running for another office (mayor of Colorado Springs, anyone?). And that as a Republican, it would help him to make this case. But I doubt very much it’s as simple as that.

This very public case can’t be very good for Colorado Republicans. In fact, it feeds directly into the Democratic contention — available in a campaign ad on a big-screen TV near you — that the state’s Republicans have a 21st-century social-issues problem, beginning with personhood and following all the way to same-sex marriage.

You can’t entirely avoid the politics in this, even if the judges seem to. The Virginia attorney general, who refused to defend his state’s law, is a Democrat. North Carolina’s Cooper is a Democrat. The South Carolina attorney general, a Republican, said he would continue to defend his state’s ban on same-sex marriage. There’s a pattern there, too.

But if you read the 4th Circuit ruling, a 2-1 decision, the judges made the Virginia case particularly hard to defend. It took us back to the days of racial segregation and back to the 1967 Loving v. Virginia ruling, in which the Supreme Court upended Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage.

In his opinion, Judge Henry Floyd said it was no different today for gay couples who wish to marry.

“Denying same-sex couples this choice,” Floyd wrote, “prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.”

It’s a difficult argument to defeat. Which is how you get 29 wins in a row.

[ Top image of Ping, missing the boat. ]

Pro-fracking group books TV ads before November election

Ad financiers: Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Noble Energy

TV ad, Pro-Fracking expenditure, CO IndpendentSandra Fish
Oil and gas interests are planning ahead, even though a ballot initiative isn’t likely to be finalized until summer.

A pro-fracking issue group has reserved 323 TV ad spots at a cost of more than $299,000 for the nine weeks leading up to the November election – and that’s at just one Denver station.

Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence is an issue committee formed in January “to oppose anti-fracking ballot measures and to support pro-fracking ballot measures,” said Jon Haubert, spokesman for Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, a pro-fracking nonprofit backed by the oil-and-gas industry.

At least two ballot initiatives are being proposed that would allow communities to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.  No pro-fracking initiatives have been formally organized, but Haubert didn’t rule out the possibility.

In an order placed on Feb. 11, a California company, Sadler Strategic Media, scheduled the ads to run in September, October and early November on KMGH Channel 7.The ad buy includes spots on news programs as well as popular ABC prime-time shows such as “Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Nashville.”

The company has also sought information about ad rates from KUSA Channel 9, according to a document filed with the Federal Communication Commission.  Typically, campaigns buy time on most network affiliates in major markets such as Denver.

Stations in the top 50 television markets are required to report information about political ad buys to the FCC.  That means Denver stations must file, but stations in Colorado Springs and Grand Junction don’t have to. They keep paper files available for inspection at their stations.

It could be early August before signatures are due to qualify initiatives — either pro- or anti-fracking — for the November ballot.

Haubert said the industry is “preparing in case they need to run advertising.”

“It seems that elections are year-round these days.”

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Noble Energy created the nonprofit Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development after several communities approved fracking bans in the November 2013 elections.

On Sunday, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission approved new rules targeting methane and other chemicals released in oil and gas exploration. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper recommended the rule changes with support from Anadarko, Noble and some other companies.

Still, fracking remains highly controversial and industry is prepping to convince Colorado voters to protect its ability to drill throughout the state.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association is suing some communities over their fracking prohibitions, and Hickenlooper has said property rights guarantees in the state Constitution should override such bans.  The state has signed on as a plaintiff in some of the lawsuits.

Coloradans can expect a deluge of political ads this fall because of a U.S. Senate race and one of the hottest congressional races in the country in the state’s 6th District, where GOP incumbent Mike Coffman is facing Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff.  In 2010, outside groups spent some $30 million on Colorado’s U.S. Senate race, much of it on TV advertising.

Katy Atkinson, a Republican political consultant, said reserving ad time now makes sense, even if it’s unclear whether industry will be on the offense or defense of a ballot issue.

“It is always smart in a ballot issue to buy early when you can,” she said.

Atkinson recalled a ballot issue she worked on that couldn’t place an order until they had money to go on TV. By that time, she said, “there was nothing available. We had to buy the Golf Channel.”

Advocates of an initiative to allow local governments to limit oil and gas development told The Colorado Independent that they plan a grassroots campaign heavy on social media and door-to-door work.

Some ballot campaigns have succeeded by spending little on TV ads. In 2012, the successful campaign to approve medical marijuana spent about $170,000 on 154 ads in the Denver market.  Last year, backers of a tax increase for schools spent more than $11 million total, including millions on TV ads. Voters overwhelmingly rejected that initiative.Pro-fracking group books at least $299K in TV ads before November election

 

Cliff Smedley – Alan Rosenfeld for County Commissioner

Alan Rosenfeld

Alan Rosenfeld

I support Alan Rosenfeld to replace Cindy Domenico as our County Commissioner. It is time for a change. Let me discuss a few of Cindy’s questionable policy positions here. Of the 3 current Commissioners, Cindy has been the most tolerant of the fracking industry because she is fearful that the County will be sued by the industry. In a separate issue, Cindy has continued the wrong-headed choice to neglect county roads. Her solution, along with the other 2 current Commissioners, is to to impose a user tax in order to maintain roads in subdivisions of unincorporated Boulder County. Guess what! Over 100 citizens have now sued the County because of this wrong-headed user tax. Why is it that Cindy is afraid of a lawsuit by the Fracking industry but she is not afraid of a lawsuit from citizens? The Commissioners, including Cindy, have been provided legal opinions from environmental attorneys indicating that the County can also be sued by citizens over Fracking if they don’t protect our rights to clean air and water. Cindy’s questionable policy choices make me want to vote for someone else in this year’s Commissioner race. That someone else is Alan Rosenfeld. The first step in supporting Alan is to show up at the Democratic Party Caucuses on the evening of March 4th. Please show up and help Alan to win this race!

Cliff Smedley
Lafayette, CO

Christians Must Embrace Truth

clark_aricby Aric Clark

This opinion column first appeared at The Fort Morgan Times.

On Tuesday evening there was a public debate held on the subject of evolution vs. creationism. Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis an organization dedicated to promoting the idea that the Earth is 6,000 years old, faced off against an icon from my childhood: Bill Nye “the Science Guy”. It was billed as Religion vs. Science, Bible vs. Evolution, Christians vs. Atheists, but it was really a publicity stunt for Ken Ham’s business that Bill Nye unfortunately fell into. We have been baited into the trap as well if we accept that Ken Ham represents the Biblical or Christian perspective on this subject.

Millions of Christians like myself do not subscribe to a forced literal reading of scripture that supposes the earth to be very young, flying in the face of overwhelming evidence from every field of science. In fact, the perspective Ham proposes is a relatively modern innovation born out of Fundamentalist-Modernist controversies of the 19th and 20th centuries that needlessly set religion and science up as enemies. Early Christians read the Bible allegorically. The 2nd century Church Father Origen of Alexandria famously wrote:

“For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life?… I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally.”

The creation narratives of the book of Genesis are works of poetry. Even when they were written they were not understood in the literal way that Ham wants us to read them. They were composed partly as a challenge to similar Babylonian myths that portray humanity as slaves to powerful but uncaring gods. By contrast the Hebrew story of creation portrays God as caring, creating us in God’s own image to hold a special place of esteem. The point of the story is not whether it took six days, but that the God of Israel is powerful and compassionate.

To take allegorical and poetic works of ancient priests and turn them into a forensic laboratory for theories of human origin unsupported by a single shred of corresponding evidence from the natural world is extremely ham-handed. The biblical city of Jericho is over 11,000 years old for goodness sakes.

Christians do not need to believe that humans and dinosaurs coexisted in order to be faithful to scripture, but we do need to be lovers of the truth to be faithful followers of Jesus of Nazareth. When Ken Ham and Bill Nye were asked what it would take to persuade them to change their minds they responded, “nothing,” and “evidence,” respectively. Nye’s answer is the more Christian answer. It requires humility to be willing to listen to the evidence and accept where it leads rather than to cling dogmatically to unfounded opinions.

Rev. Aric Clark is the pastor of United Presbyterian Church of Fort Morgan. Read more of his writing on his blog at http://twofriarsandafool.com

The Slow Motion Lynching of President Barack Obama

This article first appeared on Patheos.com

by Frank Schaeffer

President Obama

I’ve watched liberal and right wing commentators alike blame the president for being lynched. They say “he’s not reaching out enough” or “he’s too cold.” It’s the equivalent of assuming that the black man being beaten by a couple of thug cops must have “done something.”

I am a white privileged well off sixty-one-year-old former Republican religious right wing activist who changed his mind about religion and politics long ago.  The New York Times profiled my change of heart saying that to my former friends I’m considered a “traitorous prince” since my religious right family was once thought of as “evangelical royalty.”

I’ve just spent the last 7 years writing over 200,000 words in blogs and articles in support of President Obama. My blogs on the Huffington Post alone would add up to a book in support of the President of over 300 pages. Weirdly, I just realized that through all my writing, this has been the first time in my life I’ve personally gone to bat for a black man. It just happens that he’s a president. But my emotional stake in his life is now personal.

So I’ve changed from a white guy who used to read news about some black man getting shot or beaten by cops or stand-your-ground types who assumed that the black man must have “done something,” to a white guy who figures that the black man was probably getting lynched. I’ve changed ideology but I’ve also changed my gut intuitive reactions.

I’ve changed because if this country will lynch a brilliant, civil, kind, humble, compassionate, moderate, articulate, black intellectual we’re lucky enough to have in the White House, we’ll lynch anyone. What chance does an anonymous black man pulled over in a traffic stop have of fair treatment when the former editor of the Harvard Law Review is being lynched?

One famous liberal commentator wrote a book on how Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil could disagree and still be friends. Why, he asked on many a TV show promoting his book, couldn’t President Obama be like that? Because, I yelled at the screen, those two men were white Irish Americans and part of a ruling white oligarchy.

Because, I yelled, you might as well ask why Nelson Mandela didn’t talk his jailers in South Africa into seeing reason.

Because, I yelled, the President is black and anytime he’s reached out he’s pulled back a bloody stump.

Because, I yelled, liberal white commentators have been as bothered by a black man in the White House, who’s smarter than they are as much as right wing bigots have been bothered.

Because, I yelled, President Obama has been lied about, attacked, vilified, and disrespected since Day One.

Because, I yelled, this country may have passed laws so blacks can vote and eat in a white man’s world, but in our hearts are stuck in a place more like 1952 than 2013.

We’ve been watching a slow motion lynching of a moderate brilliant family man, a father, and faithful loving husband. The Republicans in Congress are so dedicated to lynching the President they’ve been willing to shut down our government and risk the future of our economy.

Evangelical “Christians” have been so stuck on putting a rope around this black man’s neck they have denied their faith and been the backbone of the lying Tea Party who spawned the so-called “birthers” and the rest of the white people driving our news cycle.

Roman Catholic bishops have denied their tradition of helping the poor and been so eager to destroy this president they aligned themselves with white Evangelical bigots and tried to stop health care reform, all because the President wants to give women a fair shake. The bishops even called him “anti-religious” because the president wants insurers to pay for contraception.

This is a slow motion lynching of a black man who is so moderate and centrist that he favored Wall Street enough so that the Left is all over his case. He’s so “radical” and “leftist” and “hates America” so much, and “coddles our enemies” so much, that he killed bin Laden and used drones to kill our enemies. He’s such a “socialist” that he presided over the revival of our economy from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and led us to the present day stock market boom. President Obama is such a “Marxist” that he tried to give insurance – not socialized medicine – to all Americans.

President Obama never answered back to the disgusting southern right wing rubes from the former slave states that have tried to belittle, mock and stymie his presidency shouting “You lie” in a million ways, while actually meaning “You lie, nigger!”

And did the “enlightened” Left have President Obama’s back? No. They carp about his “failure” because a website was slow to get running! The white privileged “progressive” few were too busy blaming him for getting lynched and telling him how to craft policy while a rope was put around his neck again and again and tightened with each filibuster, each lie told on the radio, each self-defeating scorched earth action to stop him from succeeding, even if it meant taking us all down too.

We don’t like to admit who we really are. So we make excuses and blame the victim. I’m ashamed for our country, a country my Marine son fought for in two stupid wars this president has been working to end. And I’m still rooting for the best, smartest and most decent man who has been president in my lifetime. I pray for his health care reform to succeed. I pray for his immigration reform to succeed. I’m amazed he’s gotten anything done, but he has, even while the lynch mob gathers again and again to laugh, lie and spit and claim he’s “failed” while “liberal” commentators nod sagely and talk about his “mistakes” as if President Obama has been playing on a level playing field.

We have a lot to do to heal this country of the damage done by the right wing Obama-haters and the Left wing know-it-all pundits who did not have his back because they don’t have the honesty to admit that we still live in a backward racist swamp of prejudice. Maybe in 50 years our country will be worthy of someone of President Obama’s forbearance again. For now we can just hope that the hatred of the Republican Party for our first black president doesn’t drive us to the brink of ruin again as they strip food from the mouths of the poor, and try to get people to not sign up for health care, just to get even with the black man they swore to destroy from the day that “uppity” black who is smarter than all of them put together took the oath of office.

God bless you Mr. President. I’m praying for you. I am so very sorry. But take heart, in the long reach of history the door you opened will stay open for the millions of Americans of all colors, genders and beliefs who will follow you. They will bless your name. So will history.

Follow Frank Schaeffer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/frank_schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book — And God Said, “Billy! exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality, is on Kindle, iBook and NOOK for $3.99, and in paperback.

Who is getting the free lunch exactly?

How many Americans have to starve before we develop some compassion?

How many Americans have to starve before we develop some compassion?

I spend Wednesday afternoons volunteering at the food pantry run by Caring Ministries. Each week I fill carts for about a dozen families with nutritious food that is a combination of staples provided by The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and donations from local churches and individuals. As I load another round of groceries into another trunk I reflect on the aphorism in our culture that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

What we mean by “no free lunch” is that everything has a cost somewhere to someone, and implied in this is that you should work hard and pay for your own lunch. It is an affirmation of the rugged individualism, the bootstrap mentality, we are so proud of in America – particularly here in the west. Unfortunately, the noble ideal of independence and diligence when allied with the status quo of profound economic inequality causes us to make the wrong assumptions. We tend to assume that anyone who can pay for their own lunch has earned that ability, and those who can’t pay for their own lunch are corrupt or lazy.

The caricature of those who receive SNAP (food stamps), or the families who I meet on Wednesdays at the food pantry is of lazy individuals taking advantage of the system. The facts simply do not bear this stereotype out. Four out of 5 recipients of SNAP are employed. Those who are not employed are usually disabled or seniors. In fact 76 percent of all households that receive SNAP include a child, a senior, or a disabled person and these households receive 83 percent of all benefits distributed. Over 90 percent of SNAP recipients are well below the poverty line. In other words, the people who are receiving this help genuinely need it and not because they are lazy. Those that can work, do work.

What’s more, these programs have incredibly low rates of fraud. You and I as tax-payers are not getting taken for a ride by food stamp recipients. SNAP had one of the lowest rates of fraud of any government program last year (under 3 percent) and most of that fraud was actually mistakes by caseworkers that resulted in recipients being underpaid, not overpaid. The rest of the fraud was by retailers taking advantage of SNAP recipients.

SNAP recipients do not receive more than they need. 90 percent of benefits are entirely used up by the third week of the month – I know, that is when I see them coming in greater numbers to the food pantry. If you’re not sure about this I encourage you to take the SNAP challenge: try feeding yourself for a week on less than $4.50 per day, which is roughly the amount you would receive in food stamps.

Something unfair is indeed going on when so many people are in need of support just so they can eat. Someone is receiving a free lunch in our society, but it isn’t the people coming to the food pantry. As wages continue to stagnate while profits continue to rise we will only see more and more people unable to buy groceries at the end of the month. Most of these people will work low wage jobs at employers like Walmart, where over 80 percent of workers receive SNAP benefits. For a long time now we have been subsidizing corporate greed by refusing to hold employers accountable for providing a living wage. The person who has been going to lunch on your dime is probably your boss.

Read the facts, not fiction, at feedingamerica.org

Rev. Aric Clark is the pastor of United Presbyterian Church of Fort Morgan. Read more of his writing on his blog at http://twofriarsandafool.com

Reports Expose Extreme Pressure Groups Masquerading as Think Tanks

Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now Reports Show Expansive Reach Of State Policy Network

WASHINGTON – November 13 – Twelve new reports released today expose the State Policy Network (SPN), an $83 million web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country. Although SPN’s member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, an in-depth investigation reveals that SPN and its state affiliates are major drivers of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders. The reports show how these groups masquerade as “think tanks,” and describe how some of them may be skirting tax laws while really orchestrating extensive lobbying and political operations to peddle their legislative agenda to state legislators, all while reporting little or no lobbying activities.

“The ‘experts’ of State Policy Network groups get quoted on TV, in the papers, or in the legislature as if they were nonpartisan, objective scholars on issues of public policy,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). “But in reality, SPN is a front for corporate interests with an extreme national policy agenda tied to some of the most retrograde special interests in the country, including the billionaire Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Coors family.”

Denise Cardinal, executive director of Progress Now, added, “The bottom line is these organizations of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich are representing themselves as groups that are looking out for the best interests of everyday, working class Americans and it’s just a blatant lie. What we’re doing is trying to bring some transparency to the damaging work they’re doing on a daily basis. From policies that promote polluting the air and water to the destruction of our public education system and a tax system that benefits their rich donors, what these organizations are doing is shameful and it’s time that someone brought this to light.”

You can see the reports — a nationally-focused report written by CMD and eleven state-focused reports written by Progress Now member groups and CMD — at www.StinkTanks.org as well as detailed information documented at SourceWatch.org.

Key findings of the report include:

  • While it has become an $83 million dollar right-wing empire, SPN and most of its affiliates do not post their major donors on their websites. The identities of the donors we have discovered reveal that SPN is largely funded by global corporations — such as Reynolds American, Altria, the e-cigarette company NJOY, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, Facebook, the for-profit online education company K12 Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft Foods, Express Scripts, Comcast, Time Warner, and the Koch- and Tea Party-connected DCI Group lobbying and PR firm — that stand to benefit from SPN’s destructive agenda, as well as out-of-state special interests like the billionaire Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Coors family — who are underwriting an extreme legislative agenda that undermines the traditional rights of modern Americans.
  • Although SPN’s affiliates are registered as educational nonprofits, several appear to orchestrate extensive lobbying and political operations to peddle their legislative agenda to state legislators, despite the IRS’s regulations on nonprofit political and lobbying activities.
  • SPN and its affiliates push an extreme right-wing agenda that aims to privatize education, block healthcare reform, restrict workers’ rights, roll back environmental protections, and create a tax system that benefits most those at the very top level of income.
  • SPN and many of its affiliates are some of the most active members and largest sponsors of the controversial ALEC, where special interest groups and state politicians vote behind closed doors on “model” legislation to change Americans’ rights, through ALEC’s task forces. SPN has close ties to, and works with, other national right-wing organizations like the Franklin Center and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity.

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The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is a non-profit investigative reporting group. Our reporting and analysis focus on exposing corporate spin and government propaganda. We publish PRWatchSourceWatch, and BanksterUSA. Our newest major investigation is available at ALECexposed.org.

We accept no funding from for-profit corporations or the government. If you would like to make a financial contribution to support our work, please click here.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2013/11/13-1

Eyes of the Nation on Colorado Towns’ Fracking Fight

Published on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 by Common Dreams

‘Industry across the nation is looking to see what Colorado voters are going to do.’

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Coloradoans picket frack-friendly Governor John Hickenlooper in Longmont, Colorado. (Photo: FreeRangeLongmont.com/ cc/ Flickr)

Coloradoans picket frack-friendly Governor John Hickenlooper in Longmont, Colorado. (Photo: FreeRangeLongmont.com/ cc/ Flickr)

In what many are calling the new “ground zero” in the national fight against fracking, the toxic gas and oil extracting process is on the ballot in four Colorado towns where citizens are taking on the heavyweights of the fossil fuel industry.

Following the example of Longmont, which last year became the first Colorado city to ban fracking, next Wednesday, voters in Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette and Fort Collins will have the opportunity to choose whether or not they support the controversial extraction method of shale oil and gas in their communities.

The Denver Business Journal provides this rundown of the four ballot measures:

  • Broomfield: Question 300 would impose a five-year prohibition on all fracking.
  • Fort Collins: Its measure would create a five-year moratorium on fracking and storage of waste products related to the oil and gas industry in town.
  • City of Boulder: 2H proposes a five-year moratorium on oil and gas exploration.
  • Lafayette: Question No. 300 would ban new oil and gas wells in town. [As well as] prohibit “depositing, storing or transporting within city limits any water, brine, chemical or by-products used in or that result from extraction of oil and gas.”

Though local ballot initiatives, these are no small-town battles. According to reports, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) has poured over $600,000 into campaigns against the moratoriums.

“The oil and gas industry is trying to intimidate voters by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy this election,” Laura Fronckiewicz, campaign manager for the pro-moratorium group Our Broomfield, told Denver Westword.

Among those industry insiders who are concerned that the success of these local initiatives could spell trouble for the future of fracking in the west, Tim Wigley, president of oil and gas trade group Western Energy Alliance, said, “I’ve really beat the drum with our members […] across the West about how dangerous a precedent these could be if they become law.”

“The whole country is looking at Colorado as ground zero.” The state, he added, “has been traditionally a big-time [energy] producer, and the industry across the nation is looking to see what Colorado voters are going to do.”

Three of the four initiatives propose a temporary ban on the process which, according to Fronckiewicz, will allow researchers more time to determine fracking’s “true effects” on residents’ health and the environment.

Colorado’s history as an energy-producing state where landowners’ mineral rights are often owned by commercial entities compound the challenges faced by these grassroots initiatives.

The City of Longmont—where last November nearly 60 percent of voters approved an amendment that prohibited fracking and the disposal of fracking waste products within city limits—is currently facing suits by both the COGA and the state.

Those suits, however, have not succeeded in deterring others from taking up their own fight against Big Oil and Gas.

“People on Colorado’s Front Range enjoy their quality of life and this industry represents an immediate threat to public health and that quality of life,” Cliff Willmeng of the activist group East Boulder County United told the Denver Post. “People see that the question of the environment is not an abstraction—it’s something we’re living through now.”