Padma Wick

Oil and gas industry attacks democratic process

Lady Justice

Longmont is fighting back

Thanks to City Council for committing to a vigorous defense of the Longmont Public Health, Wellness and Safety Act.

This act was placed in the city charter by the will of Longmont voters who have a constitutional right to protect their health, safety and property values. Colorado oil and gas is attacking our democratic process by challenging the people’s vote and the Longmont charter in court. Their process is not safe and responsible. Their promises of revenue have not materialized in fracked communities. Roads have been damaged by heavy trucks, property values and municipal revenues have diminished, and the prospect for long-term, well-paying jobs has been lost.

There is much evidence of the horrors suffered in other communities subjected to today’s unconventional fracking. People are exposed to carcinogenic and other dangerous chemicals; methane gas is released into the air and water; water is poisoned by toxic chemicals; millions of gallons of water are used at each site and turned into toxic waste.

If you care about children or any human beings, pets and livestock, schools, your church, recreational facilities, the value of homes, parks, streets, our precious aquifer and long-term job growth, you will fight this attack by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

A vigorous legal defense of the Longmont Public Health, Wellness and Safety Act will ensure long-term economic growth and a viable future for all who live in Longmont.

An open letter to all politicians

Politicians have a difficult job representing a varied constituency. But you function under certain “givens” with which I cannot agree.

You tell us what “the American people” are thinking, and in the past we believed you. In public you swear to uphold the Constitution of Colorado or the Constitution of the United States. Privately, you acknowledge that you must bow to the “power structure” and “political realities.” These are just labels. We, the public, often accept them as real because you, the politicians in positions of power, say they are real. You say the public just does not understand “political realities” because we don’t deal with them every day.

What we deal with every day are the true realities, the realities of nature, such as the fires around Colorado that kill people and destroy property. We deal with terrible health problems, pollution of our air and water, and loss of property values that occur as a result of fracking for natural gas, which you say you must permit because “political realities” demand it. We deal with the consequences of a broken social contract.

Your “power structure” is a euphemism for multinational corporations and the .01% who pay for your campaigns and to whom you remain indebted. But there are other power structures. One power is the people, who are beginning to wake up and get their information from their actual experience instead of constant, force-fed propaganda. The Colorado Constitution confers on all individuals in the state certain inalienable rights, including “the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; and of seeking and obtaining happiness.” (Art II, Sec. 3) There is nothing “inalienable” about your “power structure” and your “political realities.” You could be indebted directly to the people’s vote and be free to work for the common good. Or you can continue, for a time, to rely on votes bought by devious means.

You dupe us by saying that everything is terribly complicated. But only falsehood is complicated! When you tell the people one thing and do something completely different to please corporate masters, you complicate the problem.

The solutions to our current problems are actually simple. Create jobs with investments in infrastructure and clean energy instead of promoting and subsidizing dirty fossil fuels. Fund education and support genuine learning instead of ineffective and dubious testing. Provide Medicare for all. End the wars for oil. And guarantee that our elections are clean and fair rather than sold to the highest bidder while voters are stripped of their rights. These things are actually simple and achievable. They are made difficult only because it is difficult to maintain a lie in the face of the truth.

In response to the fires behind his home and along the Front Range, a wise friend of mine said, “Nature is having her say.” Yes she is, and she is not bought by money or swayed by propaganda. Will you work with her or choose to work against her very real power?

Facing the truth will sustain the planet

The earth, all that sustains us, is in deep trouble. The soil, the air, the water, the creatures that sustain our ecosystem are crying out and we are afraid to hear them. Here is just one example that moved me to write today:

“In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted,” said Mario Salazar, an engineer who worked for 25 years as a technical expert with the EPA’s underground injection program in Washington. “A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die.” (propublica.org)

So how do we enjoy our lives and the gifts many of us have and at the same time we acknowledge such facts? Indeed, it is not healthy to dwell on a constant diet of terrible facts. So there are also the facts of human kindness, the companionship and wisdom of animals and plants, and the grandeur of nature around us. To acknowledge all of this makes us whole.

It is possible to acknowledge suffering caused by climate change “elsewhere” and to other people and species. Such suffering of “others” is our own future. Looking at that squarely allows us to use a great gift humans have been given: creativity. If we have lived long enough, we have all faced terrible personal problems and most likely endured and created a better future with the help of others. So it is possible now, as we and all we love face a terrible collective future, to support each other and call on our deeper honesty, speak the truth and be creative. Let’s admit that our air, water, soil and food are being spoiled for short-term profit. Let us admit that the gifts we older people had in our lifetime will be denied to our children and grandchildren. Let’s come together and be creative.

But first we have to stop lying to ourselves.

We have to admit that our natural resources are limited. We have to admit that our politics are broken. We have to admit that our political and economic systems are fixed and when something is fixed it cannot function naturally and freely. It eventually withers and dies. We have to admit that those politicians, regardless of “party,” who do not speak and act truthfully should not have our support. Let’s admit that our current economic austerity has been manufactured.

Let’s not be afraid. Let’s rejoice that “We all do better when we all do better.” Let’s call forth our human creativity in all of our individual ways and use it collectively to sustain life on our planet.

Hickenlooper thumbs nose at Coloradans fracking concerns

The Daily Camera ran an interesting article with staff comments from a report on the large infrastructure costs associated with fracking.

On the opposite page was an ad of Governor Hickenlooper touting the economic and environmental protections from the new disclosure rule. Interestingly, the fine print at the bottom is “This message is brought to you as a public service by Colorado Oil and Gas Association.” So that is who has Governor Hickenlooper’s ear. I have known that he is not listening to me, and probably not to most of the readers of this letter.

The public is learning about the environmental, health, and property damages wrought upon our neighbors in Weld County and other parts of Boulder County. We are not ignorant about this issue any more. The disclosure rule itself is a bit like the state preparing to kill an innocent prisoner, and saying “No worries, we’re going to disclose what’s in the lethal injection!” In fact all of the regulations touted by Governor Hickenlooper and Colorado Environmental Coalition are obviously ineffective. Not only do we have physical evidence of the damage they claim to avoid, but there are also only 17 Inspectors for the approximately 47,000 active and 82,073 abandoned wells in Colorado.

There are numerous reports found on COGCC’s website that report groundwater contamination, surface water contamination, and to even include, aquifer contamination. I am absolutely surprised by what appears to be an erroneous statement,when factual state information reports the opposite.

Progressivism: In pursuit of Justice

Lady Justice

Justice, both the scales and the sword.

“What is the current state of the Progressive Movement in America?” was the subject of a forum at the March Longmont Area Democrats meeting. The following are the especially heartfelt and honest prepared remarks by Padma Wick . Other forum members included Bob Kinsey, Strider Benston, Richard Juday, Rick Fitzgerald, and Jonathan Singer.


For many years I took part in various forms of activism to some degree. But I did not feel the ground under me cave until the 2000 election. Image a lake. Huge boulders have been thrown into the lake and those have produced movement. In my opinion the most profound movement has been the Occupy Movement, because it functions like moving water: fluid, organic and able to seep through and potentially break the wall sustained by corruption and violence. It will not be limited by the rules and demands of what Chris Hedges calls a dead system. Occupy has inserted into our language and press the grievances of the 99% (and perhaps more) of the people in the US and the world.

Of course, included in the 99% are Progressives, a term I often use and apply to myself. But I want to warn about labels. As soon as a label is applied that label can be usurped, distorted, dismissed and discredited. Sometimes we become attached to the label, rather than the fundamental cause which motivates us. For me the cause is the pursuit of justice: economic, political, social and environmental justice.

Some people remain loyal to a label, something like buying a brand, which has long since been bought out, outsourced and reduced in quality. As Democrats we need to be very wary of that. The temptation is to say, “I am a life long Democrat.” “My party right or wrong.” Certainly there are great members of the Democratic party, like many of you and our new State Representative, Jonathan Singer, who continue to fight the good fight. But I feel we should be vigilant and acknowledge that something has changed in the Democratic party. One of the skills of the Occupy movement is that it is vigilant and agile. It is not, as we have tried for so long, responding in the terms set down by Republicans and others in the ruling class.

With great respect for Jonathan, I say that I have no allegiance to any political candidate or elected official. My support depends on the degree to which they not only promise, but actually create (consummate with the power we assign them) economic, political, social and environmental justice. To quote T.S. Elliot, “affairs are now soul size.” At stake is not only the survival of our children and grandchildren, but of life on earth.

I have heard many people say, “I had no choice,” or “I have no choice but to vote for so-and so.” One ALWAYS has a choice! To my dying day I will have a choice. I may not make the right, courageous, or ultimately moral choice. God knows what I would do if the lives of my children or grandchildren were threatened. I do not judge the choices people make in extreme situations. Someone earns my respect for saying, I made this terrible choice because…….But I do not respect, “I had no choice.” As Strider BenstPon, has said, “If we say we have no choice, we are prisoners.”

Since Progressives value debate and differences of opinion, I will share with you the space I hold on the Progressive continuum. I will not vote for Obama, and certainly not for a Republican. Obama has said great things, both now and in ’08. But his actions don’t match his words. As a Constitutional Law Professor, who took a solemn oath, he has refused to use the legitimate powers of the President. He has not closed Guantanamo, ended rendition, torture, or insisted his cabinet pursue environmental and economic justice. Instead he has assumed unconstitutional powers for his and future Presidencies: the assassination of American citizens SUSPECTED of terrorist activities. And he has removed your primary Constitutional right of habeas corpus and made American citizens SUSPECTED of terrorist connections subject to military detentions without trial. The writ of Habeas Corpus called the “great order”, dates back to the Magna Carta in the 1200s, was lightly dismissed with the signing of NDAA. And there has been hardly mention of it in the press.

You will say I am unreasonable. At one time it was considered unreasonable to free slaves. Now it is considered reasonable to torture, unlawfully and indefinitely detain citizens, use drones against civilians, including Americans, and pollute our precious water supply for temporary gain. In such a situation I prefer to be unreasonable.

Our current situation is very difficult. I struggle all the time between acknowledging the gifts in my life and remaining informed and active. For balance I turn to these reminders:

Practice giving, but not so much that there is nothing left with which to work.

Observe precepts, but not so many that there is no freedom of choice.

Don’t confront what opposes, but find the place of least resistance.

Work hard, but not so hard that you don’t stop for tea.

Still the mind but not so much that it withers and dies.

So what can we, as individuals do? Break free of the bonds that have been created to keep our conscience subordinated to the will of a corrupt system. Do something that aligns with our true character. Remember that many forces are at work.

Whatever each of us does is a small part of a very large and complex flow that individually we can participate in, but not determine.

City Council refuses moratorium

Fairview @ SH 119

It is sad when the Longmont City Council, charged with deliberating complex issues that have huge and dangerous implications for Longmont, refuses to take proper time to study and deliberate an issue.

Colorado Springs and many other municipalities around the country have put a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas to study the body of information now available about the danger that extraction method poses to the aquifer, air, health, peace and property values of Longmont.

To threaten that just the suggestion of a moratorium would, in the words of Councilman Gabe Santos, “guarantee you that an application will come in tomorrow,” sounds like a form of blackmail.

The City Council should take the time needed to hear as many residents of Longmont as possible and study all the information at hand. Too much is at stake.

Cuts to Social Security: same as tax increase

Obama and Boehner repeatedly say they will not raise taxes, not even to return taxes on the wealthy to the levels of the Clinton or Reagan Eras. Instead, they propose cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.

It is important that all Americans look very closely at this “modest proposal.”

Social Security is a trust fund, INDEPENDENTLY FUNDED, with a $2.6 trillion surplus and will pay full benefits for the next 25 years. The government has repeatedly “borrowed” without repaying and actually owes a debt to the fund. Social Security did not cause the deficit. Some of the causes are the recent tax cuts for the wealthy, several wars, bailouts, loopholes and no taxes for the wealthiest big corporations.

For years, working Americans have paid into the Social Security trust, much as a person might pay into an annuity and expect to collect on retirement. To suddenly make cuts, overtly or covertly, to what people can collect means that effectively the contributions that the working poor and middle class Americans have made becomes a tax on them.

An analogy to the current proposal might be that two sons are each left a certain amount of money in a trust fund. The first son spends his money on cars, yachts, and other luxuries and goes broke. The other son is saving his trust for his retirement or for when he is no longer able to work. The first son, having become accustomed to an extravagant life style goes into debt, and borrows money from the second son. Finally, as debt becomes even greater the first son feels entitled to the second son’s reserves and pursues legal action to gradually take the money his brother has quietly set aside for old age or infirmity.

Think about it. If you do not receive your portion of the Social Security trust, all that you have paid, and will pay, into the trust is effectively a hidden tax on you, a working American.

These are terrible times

Photo by MD Wray

We need to wake up to the possibilities for Longmont

I am fortunate to have great personal happiness in my family and friends at this stage of life, but my heart aches with the unnecessary pain and suffering in our country and around the world. As a retired teacher, I face a very real threat of economic insecurity.

The issues that require the engagement of responsible, compassionate people are so many. I just don’t have the energy to fight on all fronts. Actually, the overarching strategy of those who are intentionally destroying our democracy and economy is: Surround the enemy and engage it on all fronts.

My personal response is a non-theistic prayer. In the Zen service they say, “Whenever this sincere invocation is sent forth, it is perceived and subtly answered.” At the first evening star and before going to sleep I say,” May Emerson (my beautiful, 9 month old grandson) grow up in a world that is more just, more peaceful, more sustainable, and more compassionate.” I don’t have any expectations that saying these words will “work”. It is just an expression from my heart. I feel it is an expression alive and dormant in many hearts.

Looking at things sequentially the situation is apocalyptic. But things don’t work sequentially. One does not know what the outcome of actions and events really will be. Perhaps we stand a chance.

For which actions to take, I search my heart and remember Bob Dylan’s words, “Just do what you think you should do.” There is an Indian story of a woman and a scorpion. The scorpion is drowning. So the woman reaches into the water to save it, but the scorpion stings her and falls back into the water. This occurs several times, until the scorpion says, “Why do you keep saving me when I keep stinging you?” The woman replies, “It is your duty to sting; it is mine to help you.”

Just do what you think you should do.

Longmont gives me much pain. Driving home from Zen practice in the morning I see such possibility in this town and I see it squelched in the same way that truth, intelligence, talent and creativity are being squelched everywhere in this country. We need the courage to manifest our intelligence , talent, creativity, and personal truth in these difficult times.

Let’s be clear.

Can they read?

Know what the power-mongers are REALLY saying

Let’s clarify a few terms that are being thrown around these days.

  1. Fiscal conservative – commonly used in the corporate media to describe those people who want to further enrich the top one percent. These people do not resemble the Republicans of my earlier days. At a fund raising dinner George Bush said, “You are my base: the haves and have-mores.” For all of Obama’s nice talk, evidence is that this is also Obama’s base. Under George Bush the US entered into very expensive wars, bailed out the financial industry with little benefit to the tax payers who bailed them out, instituted tax cuts only for the wealthy, and turned a federal surplus into a debt. President Obama has only furthered those same policies and that debt.
  2. Tax cuts – That sounds very appealing to those of us who work for a living and actually produce a service or goods. However those “tax cuts” are only for the wealthy and for large corporations. The ordinary person or small entrepreneur has not benefited from them. Indeed, we are burdened with hidden taxes. We entered into a social contract, an annuity, with the government in regard to Social Security, Medicare, and Public Pensions. The government has repeatedly borrowed from these sources, claiming them as a revenue source, without repaying. If your uncle repeatedly borrowed from your life savings without repaying, those savings would also dwindle, regardless of how much you had set aside or how sound your saving plan was. When we pay into Social Security and Medicare and can’t collect from it, we are being dealt hidden taxes. When we bail out corporations and banks with taxpayer money, both we and our children will be taxed for that.
  3. Tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs – If that is so, where are the jobs? This policy has been tried many times in the last 30+ years and never produced jobs.
  4. The best and the brightest – This is what they called the very people who created the financial crisis and cheated with ordinary people’s investments and with public funds. Yet we were asked to bail them out to the tune of $750 billion+ so that they would not leave their positions with banks and Wall Street firms. Perhaps the term is fitting only in that they are the best and brightest crooks.
  5. We have to tighten our belts – Only so that large corporations, CEOs, and banks can loosen theirs.
  6. Economic Stimulus – Several Nobel Laureate economists warned that Obama’s “stimulus” would fail because it was not large enough to create jobs that would bring much needed tax revenues and demand for goods and services. A small stimulus was worse than none, because it did not have a lasting effect and demonstrated that inadequate government stimulus to the economy does not work. What if you had a disease for which your doctor prescribed a certain medicine, but you only took a fraction of that medicine. Would that mean that you did not use the medicine appropriately or that the medicine does not work?
  7. Jobless Recovery – Now that is an oxymoron. There cannot be a jobless recovery. Ask someone whose income, Social Security or Pension is reduced to the point of not being able to meet basic human needs, or someone who lost their job due to down-sizing or outsourcing if there is a “recovery” in their jobless lives.

We need to be very vigilant and sensitive to the fact that corporate media is part of larger plan to misinform and redirect our democracy. Marketing strategies tell us that someone exposed to a slogan six times will believe it. The misuse of the above terms is much more frequent than that, and works with many people.

Image courtesy of SXC.hu

The rich get richer and the elderly and kids pay for it.

We also need to be careful not to fall prey to accusing our neighbor of not deserving just a little more than we have. That is a strategy meant to distract us from looking clearly at how this “crisis” was manufactured and who is benefiting hugely from it. The culprit is not the neighbor across the street who took a reduced salary in order to save a pension, or receives a meager Social Security benefit after years of paying into the system. Watch the movie Inside Job for a look at just one portion of the enormous robbery that has taken place.

And remember that we are our brother’s keeper. That is not only a moral injunction; it is also an economic one because:

“We all do better, when we all do better”.