Historical

The “n-word” is offensive and reeks of disrespect

One day when I was 4 years old, I ran to answer the knock on our front door. My goal was to get there before Tessie, our black maid and my day-care provider. It was 1945 in my hometown of Martinsville, Va., close to the North Carolina state line.

What happened next is burned into my memory. I opened the door to face a snarly white man who towered above me. “Whar’s your folks, boy?” he growled. Tessie got there to save me and pushed me behind her.

“They’re not here,” she answered.

“Wasn’t talking to you, n-,” and out spilled that vile and vicious word, dripping with so much hate it scared me. Tessie slammed the door in his face and went into the living room, where she sat and cried.

I was shocked and completely confused about how that one word could so upset my best pal, the woman who cared for me, who loved me. So I asked her what it meant.

“Don’t ever say it,” she said. “It’s what mean people say when they want to hurt us colored folks.”

And so it remains. Over the last eight years or so, I have been reminded that angry, ignorant white people and even some African-Americans continue to toss that word around like a hand grenade. It is the ultimate degradation to a race of people. How do I know this? I saw it on Tessie’s face in 1945. I saw her reduced to miserable tears. And I get an occasional message from an old friend back in Virginia who just doesn’t think our African-American president is real — code for less than human.

I admit I used to feel superior to the typical bigots down South, those uneducated folks stereotyped as automatically prejudiced just because of their accent and useless arguments bemoaning the “lost cause” of the Civil War. But then I discovered an ancestor in North Carolina in the 1700s who had slaves. It was clearly there in his will that charged his son to sell some land to buy a slave to care for his wife after his death.

Yet here we are, 250 years later, still without a clue. As an almost fanatically religious country, too many of us do not live our values and follow the golden rule to treat people like we want to be treated. Shamefully, we don’t even see a connection between going to church and practicing brotherly love the other six days of the week.

My Latino friend, Dan, reminded me the other day that the Army teaches equal rights. All soldiers depend on everyone. There is no place for racial, religious, and sexual orientation prejudice in the military. So maybe the solution is to put everyone through basic training.

Better, though, is for everyone to stand up for speaking with respect. Next time somebody throws out that word, call time out. Correct them. Let them know it is offensive to all of us because the word reeks of disrespect. My friend Dan knows that today that word and the bigotry it holds disrespects African-Americans, the next day Latinos, and then on to women, gays and lesbians, and everyone else.

I must add this: The maddest I ever saw my mother was when President Clinton’s political nominees were being disqualified because they hadn’t paid Social Security taxes for their nannies. “Did you pay Tessie’s?” I stupidly inquired.

“I certainly did,” she answered in a huff, and gave me one of those withering looks that showed she doubted I had a grain of sense. I’d forgotten the day she took me to visit Tessie after I’d graduated from college. Mom’s reason: “She thinks you’re as much hers as I think you’re mine.”

Bill Ellis (contact@billelliswrites.com) lives in Longmont.

The ‘Serious’ Generation

Bill Ellis

Bill Ellis – billelliswrites.com

Over tea and conversation at Ziggi’s on Francis Street, my friend, Bob Dacey, proposed a re-branding of our generation from “Silent” to “Serious.”

And why not? There are now more branded generations than could possibly fit in a century: The Greatest, Multitasking, Millennial, X and Boomer, Silver Tsunami. But none of those fit Bob and me. Together we have more years, over 150, than hair. And neither of us is silent. We have been writing and speaking out for a long time, as have others in our generation.

The problem is with those who should be listening. Here’s an example: To us, the “nuclear option” does not mean changing the rules of the U.S. Senate to a simple majority vote for approval. Members of the Serious Generation recall the Cold War days when choosing the nuclear option meant mutually assured destruction (MAD). Returning to a simple majority rule vote means getting back to mutual respect in Congress where both the majority and minority parties can cooperate to conduct the business of governing. The overwhelming need for changing rules was angrily acknowledged by Republican Speaker of the House Boehner when he finally blew up at the Tea Party. Reason? Those representatives had already denounced a bipartisan budget proposal without even reading the bill.

Realize the Tea Party’s goal has been lucid from the start: block governing; do not cooperate. Thus, there are no members of this loud minority in our recently re-branded Serious Generation. Speaker Boehner is hoist on his own petard.

It was just fine for the minority members of his faction-bound party to block governing as long as the result was perceived as damaging Democrats. But now the blowback threatens Republicans in the run-up to next year’s election. So Speaker Boehner does not qualify for membership in our Serious Generation either, as long as he sticks to his own failed strategy now belching backfires.

Here’s the truth: Generation S respects the ebb and flow of power from one party to the other. We know that’s how our system is supposed to work. That’s healthier than absolute power controlled by one faction for too long, and we’ve been around long enough to see it. Here’s the awful truth: While our generation is criticized for hogging resources — the euphemism is entitlements — like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the governing class (generation “G”?) has captured benefits for itself and is aligned with big money to ensure its continuation in power. The bottom line: The evidence is overwhelming. There is no sharing in our economy, only the continuing rise of profits and wealth to the top.

The shame in our economic system is this: When citizens seek their fair share they are immediately branded as liberals demanding redistribution of wealth. It is the vilest conundrum spun by lobbyists to define sharing wealth as socialism.

As the great leader, Mandela, is lauded for his reconciliation and forgiveness, snapshots of poverty in South Africa continue to remain solely of black settlements. As conservative columnists continue to deprecate proposals to raise the minimum wage, more and more Americans fall below the poverty line. Why? Because interrupting the flow of money to the top is anathema to our profit-centered economy.

I’ll let Bob explain it: “It is inevitable that all community values will be tested and measured in economic terms and in a business-like way. However, not all human qualities and personal values have a dollar sign attached to them. Sometimes the right action is not the most cost-effective. Sometimes the smartest choice does not have a price tag. We devalue the human spirit when every human transaction is reduced to a business contract.” — Robert Dacey.

Longmont resident Bill Ellis is the author of “Paradigm Shift.”

reply to contact@billelliswrites.com

Monkeywrenching Elections

Recalls solely because of votes on one issue are an abuse of the system. We have elections to reject candidates that we do not agree with. Almost every legislator has voted against majority public opinion at least once. Gun legislation is supported by the majority of the public nationwide as reported in Monday’s Times-Call and a poll by the conservative Wall Street Journal.

The writer claims that he wants legislators to vote their constituents’ point of view. If this is what the recall supporters wanted, they would not have gone to court to eliminate mail-in ballots. If mail-in ballots were used, the turnout would not have been greater and the outcome likely would have been different. To have public views dominate, you must have as many voters participate as possible.

The writer complained about outside money from Michael Bloomberg. To be fair, he should have recognized the money from the NRA, which can in large part be traced back to gun manufacturers and NRA members from around the country. A visit to Pueblo would have shown trucks with enormous amount of anti-gun law materials, camped in front of big box stores.

The discussion over gun control and gun rights needs to be balanced. I admit that my thinking is somewhat biased because my cousin was murdered by a person with a handgun. As the parent of a deceased son, I am torn with every death of a child.

In the past, the NRA has supported background checks. Why laws that require background checks at stores but not at gun shows? That combination is worse than useless, as it gives the impression that something has been done.

Responsible gun advocates, of whom there are many, talk about keeping guns away from the mentally ill and convicted criminals. How do you do this without background checks that are effective?

There are many responsible gun owners. Their cause can be helped by increasing efforts to have other gun owners train for safety and keep their firearms where children and unstable individuals cannot access them.

I discount claims that gun owners will have their guns taken away even if the carnage continues to increase. Most law enforcement personnel would not participate. Despite my angst around the proliferation of guns that seem to serve little purpose for community members, I do not support taking legitimate guns away from individuals other than from those who commit crimes using a firearm.

As far as promoting recalls for legislators who vote in opposition to their constituents, I assume that is for issues where the majority of constituents have views, if not strongly held convictions, in opposition to a legislator’s vote on any given issue. That will often lead to a situation where the legislator has voted at times with public opinion and times against.

If we want to recall elected legislators, we can start with Rep. Cory Gardner. Cory voted to shut down the government a few months back. He just this month voted against the strongly supported budget compromise. These are not widely popular votes, especially for those who were financially hurt by the shutdown. To quote House Speaker John Boehner, whose remarks were aimed at tea party congressmen such as Mr. Gardner: “Are you kidding me?”

It appears that Mr. Gardner is also opposed to a path to citizenship for undocumented residents, which the majority of U.S. voters support. We are not sure, because he and his staff are not providing definitive answers and he has not been consistent about his position.

If, as I surmise, Colorado voters are more worried about disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters in order to find a handful of people voting when they are not entitled to (extremely small examples of voter fraud have been documented in all states that have passed or tried to pass voter suppression laws), then should Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler be recalled?

What about hydraulic fracturing? Should an elected official be recalled if she/he votes in opposition to public desires? Of course that depends on which city or county you live in or whether wells are located close to your home. This could lead to some legislators being recalled for supporting fracking bans and other for opposing fracking bans. In any case, I would be more apt to recall legislators who are not being truthful about this or any other issue.

Local Pastors, Boulder Church Choose Love Over Church Law

Rev. Frank Schaefer - 2013

Rev. Frank Schaefer – 2013

Between us we have over 70 years of ordained ministry within the United Methodist Church. We have faced our share of challenges but have known still more joys within our congregations and communities. Our social justice involvements have been as near as sleeping outdoors in support of homeless youth next door, as far away as fighting apartheid in South Africa, and in many, many struggles for justice and liberation in places in between. During the recent floods in Colorado, we personally felt the concrete blessing of being part of a connectional church that reaches out to support one another and the community. We treasure the power of compassion when 12 million United Methodists worldwide unite to carry the love of God into the world.

At the same time nothing has saddened, embarrassed and angered us more than witnessing United Methodist institutional leaders fall horribly short of implementing Jesus’ call to radical inclusion and love when it comes to our LGBTQ sisters and the brothers. A story recently printed in the Daily Camera (“Church defrocks Methodist pastor for officiating gay son’s wedding” December 19, 2013) provided an accurate account of the painful decades long internal struggle that deeply divides our international church. We are on the side that affirms God loves us all and that we love God best by loving others. Along with hundreds of other clergy and congregations in the United States, we have worked in many ways to help our denomination recognize and correct the sin of its institutional bigotry. We will continue that internal denominational campaign to move from excluding some on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identification to cherishing each and every one of us as beloved children of God. This is the work of reconciliation. It is important.

To us, and the members and friends of First United Methodist Church of Boulder, what is even more important than the internal institutional struggles of our denomination, is our commitment to continue living in faithful obedience to the Biblical story of God’s unconditional love for all. Together with our congregation we will do this within the Boulder community and beyond.

This means, first and foremost, that we will continue declaring God’s acceptance of and delight in all of God’s children. It means we hope and expect that the most recent commitment service between two loving women that our congregation blessed this fall will continue in the line of many such celebrations. It means we will continue to open our doors and arms, our hearts and communion table to LGBTQ individuals in just the same way we do to all others. You can count on it.

Undeniably, this is a challenging time for the United Methodist institution. But for First United Methodist Church of Boulder, and for hundreds of clergy and congregations across the United States, we feel anchored in following the path of Jesus, which informs and dictates our actions. Our commitment to living out God’s love in the world blazes as strong as ever.

Rev. Pat Bruns and Rev. Joe Agne
First United Methodist Church of Boulder

Last Refuge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give Peace a Chance


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The U.S. has often resorted to military means as a way of settling disputes with far weaker nations during the last fifty years. Frequently these attacks have been unwarranted as well as violations of international law. U.S. attacks on Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Serbia and Iraq (2003) are a few examples of these illegal conflicts.

We are currently fighting in Afghanistan and illegally using drones to kill in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. After long years of fighting and losing wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. public is fed up with senseless conflicts. This point was made clear recently by the huge public outcry against illegally bombing Syria.

Besides the millions it killed and the incredible destruction it wreaked on far weaker nations, the U.S. has incurred costs as well. Tens of thousands of U.S, soldiers were killed and hundreds of thousands more were wounded. The families of these physically and/or mentally/emotionally wounded veterans continue to pay an enormous and incalculable  price. These unnecessary campaigns cost trillions of dollars, money that could have been far better used domestically to improve the real security of our people. The bottom line is that these wars have been counterproductive, increasing the hatred towards the U.S. and decreasing ours and the world’s security.

Thus it is not surprising at all that there was tremendous public relief here at home and worldwide about the interim agreement negotiated in Geneva and signed on November 24th between Iran and the P5+1 nations (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). This agreement essentially calls for a short-term freeze on some of Iran’s nuclear enrichment programs in exchange for some very limited relief from economic sanctions, including allowing Iran access to a pittance of its own money held in other countries. The goal is a permanent agreement that will greatly reduce the threat to world peace.

Despite widespread relief and praise for the deal, unsurprisingly, there are some hardliners in Iran, the U.S. and Israel who expressed opposition. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was particularly vociferous in his condemnation of the deal, and Israeli officials did not rule out an illegal Israeli attack on Iran during the next six months. Interestingly, Israeli President Peres had a somewhat different reaction. According to a CNN article, Peres said: “This is an interim deal. The success or failure of the deal will be judged by results, not by words.”

Netanyahu and his U.S. Congressional supporters continue to hammer on the disputed idea of an existential threat to Israel of an Iranian nuclear weapon. They somehow manage to ignore assessments by U.S., Israeli and British intelligence agencies that Iran currently does not have a nuclear weapons program. This has been the conclusion of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate since 2007 and was reiterated in testimony to Congress in 2011 and 2012. The Estimate said that Iran stopped it nuclear weapons program in 2003.

The assessment added that Iran has the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon eventually, making the central issue the political will to do so. Regarding the political will, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa saying the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons was forbidden under Islam.

Numerous U.S. and Israeli military and political leaders think that a military attack on Iran would be unsuccessful and would drive Iran to build nuclear weapons to defend itself. The Friends Committee on National Legislation has compiled many quotes on this point and the insanity of an attack at http://fcnl.org.

One quote from the above site by Meir Dagan, former head of Israel’s Mossad, captures the sense of these officials. In a 2011 article he said: “[Attacking Iran is] ‘the stupidest thing I have ever heard…It will be followed by a war with Iran. It is the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end.”

If we want to stop another insane, counterproductive, illegal, unwarranted and costly conflict, tell Congress that it must not enact more sanctions on Iran, sanctions that would suggest the U.S. is not negotiating in good faith. Continuing Congressional support of Netanyahu harms U.S. interests.

In the Days Before – Part 4

Mary Pitt

Mary Pitt – age 30

It is easy to recall my days in school as a halcyon time, though the happiness was not, of course, unstained by some coarser events. But that is childhood, is it not? Mother delayed my entry into formal school by a year because, she said, I was ill with some sort of respiratory disease, but I have no memory of being ill. In later days, I teased her, saying that she had had a baby in the house for so many years that she delayed the “empty nest syndrome” as long as possible. This is not to say that I learned nothing in the pre-school years!

My youngest brother started to school when I was only in the toddler stage and, from that time was, like the other boys, spent either in school or working at tasks assigned by my father. This left Mother home alone all day, every day. And she was a garrulous talker, spinning our her stream-of-consciousness verbally in order to banish her own boredom and loneliness. And I had nothing to do but to listen and to absorb her life into my own memory.

I heard tales of adventure as her grandfather strode the decks of a freighter plying the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Hudson River as it made its way even deeper into the New World, bringing trade goods to the Indians and returning loaded with valuable furs as the result. He was following his father in the endeavor as did his many brothers and, between them, they established permanent residences and families ashore all along the boundary of what became Canada and the United States.

I heard tales of hardship as her mother accompanied her own husband, first to a logging camp in what would become the state of Washington and then to Oklahoma after the Land Rush where they lived in a “dugout” cabin on the arid plains and where my mother lived her own childhood. She, herself, had known both cowboys and Indians and shared her many memories of her daily life and that of her mother and her older sisters. Every tale was an entertaining movie in my over-active imagination and one which would be acted out in my out-of-door play in the summer.

When the day was over, the door would open and in would troop an assortment of brothers, eager to change out of their school clothes and go outside to do their assigned chores. Later, they would all return, accompanied by Father, to line the long kitchen table and eagerly fill plates with the result of Mother’s afternoon work at the wood-burning cook stove. Mother baked twelve loaves of homemade bread every other day and, on fresh-bread day the aroma would be a great appetite-inducer. There may have been no meat on the table but there would be Navy beans and home-canned vegetables, usually potatoes and, always, white gravy. Gravy was a staple in our diet since Father insisted on it, three meals a day, every day, while praising its “stick-to-the-ribs” qualities.

I do wish I could recall verbatim some of those dinner-table conversations but, fortunately, only snippets remain. If I had ever written anything like them, I would likely have been arrested for writing obscenities. But Mother listened carefully to learn of weather conditions, neighborly chit-chat, and political doings. She, too, was a farmer, being in charge of the gardening, chickens, and turkeys as well as attending to the milk, cream, and eggs that were produced to provide food for the brood.

After supper, all moved about the house, getting settled for homework time. This was my first school! I would move from brother to brother, asking questions and getting answers.

“What are you reading? What does it mean? How do you do that? Show me!” And, bless their hearts, I got real answers! I was shown unfamiliar words, told what they mean, and encouraged to study the letters therein. With my little slate and a short, grubby piece of chalk, I would approach a boy who was working on arithmetic and repeat the demand, “Show me!”

On occasional Saturday nights, our neighbors would show up and get set for a night of card playing. First, I was allowed to keep score for their games of Pitch. That was easy and already within my range of abilities but I yearned to also learn to keep score for Rummy, which required a good deal of multiplication as well as simple addition. I put the heat on my brothers, who obediantly taught me to multiply through the number thirteen!

At that time the school systems were set up according to “townships.” The State was divided by counties which were, in turn, divided into townships and each township maintained a school. These were simple one-room buildings containing desks, a wood-fired heating stove, and either a bell tower or a little hand bell, according to what the district could afford. The first school I attended was in a larger township and had a two-room schoolhouse.

Teachers were hired on a room, board, and tiny salary basis. Almost all were young women and a new teacher created a bit of excitement among the young men of a community! The room-and board were usually contributed by a local taxpayer who had an extra bedroom. Only a dedicated person would have dared accept such an offer but these were hard times and jobs were scarce. During the coldest winters, the teacher was at the school early so that the fire in the big stove would be rekindled the little fingers could be warmed in its glow as the children arrived by whatever mode of transportation was available to them. Sometimes the aroma of a pot of hot soup simmering on the stove would make a warm and welcome addition to the cold sandwiches which were taken from the lunch boxes.

We must remember that, “In the Days Before”, each school was funded only by the property taxes paid by the farmers in that township with no State or Federal assistance whatever. Each autumn, a teacher was confronted with a deluge of children of varying ages and abilities, some prim and proper while others were as wild as little mavericks. She was charged with the task of turning them all into literate young people who would be able to make their way in the world. The miracle was that they were usually successful. Not only did they teach the academics but also congributed some small knowledge of whatever talent they possessed. One teacher might play the piano, another a guitar, and still another would teach awkward little girls to tap-dance!

In short, these miracle-workers brought a finer example of civilization to small offspring of unlearned and largely rough-hewn humanity to the status of up-standing citizens who could function to further build a growing nation into a united entity which could exert great influence on the world. They were over-worked and underpaid and, unfortunately, they still are. We entered our school years as blank slates and departed from them as literate and understanding individuals with a mission to make ourselves and our nation capable of bequeathing to our progeny a better life than we had experienced,

Many of these children would find their education cut short after less than a high school diploma and those early years must of necessity cram a lot of learning into the very young. Many young men were required to assist their parents on the farm and girls could expect to be married by the end if their teens. Few women worked outside the home and those who did not marry young were condemned to clerical work or to teaching, so the small proportion who were able to extend their education became teachers until marriage, so most of the teachers were young. The amazement was that so many of them were excellent, considering that the work was only a stop-gap to support themselves until marriage.

But that was a long time ago. Post World War II, the baby boom brought ever-larger schools and population growth in communities that could not afford to support them all. More Federal aid was channeled to the States as were funds for things like welfare and Medic-Aid for families in need. The nation grew and, of necessity, the government grew to deal with the ever-increasing population. New schools were built and buses provided for the transportation of the children to ever-larger schools. The percentage of high school graduates grew as did that of post-high-school education in the rising number of colleges. We became the best-educated population in the world!

Now we find ourselves governed by those with the money to exert undue influence on our representatives to government. Their battle cry is, “Stop spending! Cut taxes!” The nation is as split as any time since the Civil War as half the States are pursuing those same policies. Schools are being closed, free lunches and food stanmps are cut for hungry children, and the law-makers are talking about the Good Old Days but few of them were yet alive during the conditions that existed before the institution of the very programs that they choose to cut. Our expensive infrastructure is collapsing from neglect while the nation becomes more like “Les Miserable.” Soon, it will be divided between the huge cities with the financial concentration on assuring the super-rich that their lifestyle will not be threatened, and the rest of the country where children, old people, the infirm, and the will serve their local masters until blessed with the delivery of death.

Did the thousands of young men who were my brothers sacrifice their “lives and fortunes” in order to establish this kind of uncaring society. I think not! Will we dishonor The Greatest Generation by turning our national back on those sacrifices as well as those of all the other great patriots in our history to satisfy the desires of those for whom “All” is never “Enough?” That remains to be seen and depends entirely on the degree of sacrifice and dedication that is offered by today’s patriots.

We who remember “The Days Before” are now old, weak, and few. And so, the decision is up to you, the readers, to decide and to do whatever is necessary to stop it!

Stand up and fight, Colorado!

No-fracking-logoOur founders stressed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in their Declaration of Independence. A recent survey found the happiest Americans live in Hawaii. Coloradans are second! The unhappiest people live in West Virginia. I think I know why: degradation of the environment and poor health.

I grew up in the 1940s and ’50s in Nitro, W.Va., in the Kanawha River Valley, home to a huge chemical industry. Cancer rates were high, particularly liver and lung cancer. The chemical plants sat outside our city limits, so there was no local control over what they did to our environment. The paint on our houses and cars faded from the chemicals in the air, the water stank and was unpalatable.

West Virginia coal mining mountaintop removal Courtesy EcoWatch

West Virginia coal mining mountaintop removal
Courtesy EcoWatch

Alternatives for West Virginia workers included working in the coal mines. Explosions, collapses and “black lung” took their toll. The coal industry has mined the coal easiest to reach, so they’ve begun blowing up the beautiful West Virginia hills to get at the coal. They let what’s left roll down into the streams, fouling the water, killing the fish and causing landslides onto private property.

Why are West Virginians the unhappiest Americans? Their land, air and water have been degraded by corporations seeking profits without regard to the health and safety of their workers and other citizens.

I hope more Colorado residents will join Longmont and Fort Collins in drawing the line in the sand between us and the oil and gas industry: You cannot ruin our beautiful state, destroy our precious, scarce water resources, pollute our formerly pristine air for your profit. You have a right to extract the minerals you have purchased, but not at the expense of the health and safety of present and future Coloradans. Stand up and fight, Colorado!

In The Days Before – Part 3

Mary Pitt at age 14

Mary Pitt at age 14

On a warm early spring, while I was outside playing, Mother called me back to the front porch where she told me that Father had passed away. She told me that there would be a number of people going in and out of the house and she would like me to stay out of the way until she called me in. As was (and is) my wont, I had no reaction except obedience. I walked up the sidewalk into the next block where I met a slightly smaller boy who, upon seeing me, picked up a rock and threw it with great accuracy right into my forehead. I fell to the ground and lay there weeping long after the bleeding stopped. I knew no emotional ties to this fearsome man but I suppose I knew that this would make new and terrible changes to my life.

And those changes were certainly unwelcome. There was a funeral in this little town where we had taken residence, followed by another in the town where my parents had lived for years. There were many strangers to meet and sort as to their relationship, a solemn visit with the one brother who had been able to obtain a “compassionate” leave for the occasion, and much confusion as to where life would take us next.

Mother decided to stay in the house until “things were settled” and then to take the remaining family back to the town where she had friends and relatives. At the funeral, friends and relatives had given her small donations which she carefully hoarded for moving expenses, and she rented two adjoining rooms upstairs to a newlywed couple who were diligent about paying their $10 a month rent so that, by the time the renter had to report to service, she said that she had enough to move. The oldest brother who remained at home had a birthday and he announced that he was enlisting in the Air Force but would wait until he had helped her move.

Life was again uprooted and my mother and two youngest brothers would undergo another settling-in with nothing but faith and optimism. The following year the next oldest brother enlisted and left, being followed the next year by the next younger brother, leaving only the youngest brother, who joined the Navy at only 17. Mother was left alone with only an adolescent daughter to care for and only minimal means of support.

war-ration-book-1_600
We continued, the two of us, living in the house with the five-star flag in the window and endured the rigors of living, not only in extreme poverty but with the added challenges of the war-time restrictions of food and ordinary daily needs. We were getting a reduced allotment from more than one brother in order to lessen the burden on each of them. I still wore second-hand and hand-me-down clothing, as did she. I vividly recall the time she decided that we could afford a rare visit to the cheapest movie house in town. The tickets cost eleven cents each and it was a rare and treasured event.

As we were leaving the movie, she paused in the midst of the pushing crowd, and all eyes searching her for the reason for the delay. There she stood with her under-drawers crumpled up around her ankles. I was feeling humiliated when she kicked them the rest of the way off, put them in her purse, and announced, “Darn that old Hitler! You can’t even get good elastic any more.” We continued proudly out the door to the sound of applause.

My brothers, as young men do, met lovely young women and got married. In turn, each asked Mother to forgo her allotment from him, to which Mother gladly agreed. Each time, we had to move to smaller and less expensive living quarters. Only one time did either of us have a serious illness and it was a trial. She became ill and the doctor told her that she had an obscure disease which he did not know how to treat. Being poor, hospital treatment was out of the question. She took to her bed and remained there for several weeks with no care other than what I could provide under the direction of the doctor who would stop in to check on her and to give me instructions

I gave up the upstairs bedroom and slept in the living room so I could hear her at night, eventually, staying home from school to care for her. She became delirious from the fever and required constant attention.

Finally, thinking Mother was dying, one of the brothers got a leave and came home to see her “one last time.” It was not the help I needed. He took me to task because the house was not adequately maintained and provided even more tasks, as I was also charged with cooking for him and his small family. His emergency leave ran out and they departed, so I continued caring for Mother until the morning she woke up lucid and demanding breakfast!

As time went on, older members of the family would turn to Mother for help. Because they were working on farms where a house was given as part of the wages, when they lost their jobs, they would have to live elsewhere. While with us, they would take any temporary employment they could find, but it was never enough. But Mother would pinch every dollar even harder and managed to keep children and grandchildren fed. First my sister and then a brother brought their child to us for them to attend school because, living in the country — before there were school buses — the walk was too far for a six-year-old to navigate alone.

The last of these events was when we were living in a one-bedroom house and another brother decided it was necessary to “come home.” Unfortunately, he brought his wife and four kids! Mother slept on the couch so that they and their youngest could have the bedroom. The rest of us slept on pallets of folded bedding on the floor.

My brother was still recuperating from the diphtheria that had cost him his job and it was a long time before he could find work that he could do. After a while, it seemed as though we were living with them! Mother finally informed them that the rent on the house was $15 per month and she had found us a one-bedroom apartment above a store downtown. We moved out and left them there. It was nice to have a bed again.

As more brothers married and cut off the allotments to Mother, money became more scarce than ever. Mother got a part-time job, altering clothes for a women’s store. She made a dime for measuring and sewing a hem, maybe twenty-five cents for alterations, etc., certainly not enough to live on but still welcome in her budget. I also got a job, washing dishes on weekend evenings in a tiny cafe downstairs from our apartment. I was allowed to keep the quarter I was paid each week for mad money!

I shall never forget my fifteenth birthday. Birthdays had never been celebrated in our home, just sort of a family reunion in July near Father’s birthday when we were on the farm. Mother would kill and dress a couple of young chickens to fry, and mix up milk and eggs for a freezer full of home-made ice cream. I recall it as the epitome of our familial happiness. This birthday, however, was an awesome surprise. Mother took me downtown to buy me a pair of shoes, not to the usual second-hand store but to J.C. Penney’s! To my delight, she allowed me to choose a pair of white gillie-tie shoes with the toes out! Then she said that we needed to go to the dress shop where she worked. I floated down the street in my beautiful shoes and into the door of the shop. There, she presented me with a new two-piece blue dress in the height of fashion! This was the first “store-bought-just-for-me” dress I had ever owned in my entire life!

Only over these many years have I really appreciated that gift as I came to understand the horrendous sacrifices and scrimping she had undergone to provide it to me. How many hems she had to stitch, how many seams she had to take in or let out and what she had done without in order to save that much money! It took many years of experience in scrimping and saving for something special for me to really appreciate her heroic efforts.

Today’s people may read of the circumstances of those days but they cannot be expected to truly understand them. It is possible to survive without welfare, Social Security, and medic-aid, but to those forced to live without them, there is a whole lot of miserable existence which only the heroic among us can survive. I lived in “The Days Before” and I know whereof I speak. I can recall as a small child asking my mother, “Why can’t we live in the days of fairy tales? Princesses lived in castles with beautiful things and had servants to do all the work.”

Mother’s reply was succinct and spoken with the wisdom of the ages, “What makes you think that, if you had lived in those days, YOU would be the princess and not the servant?”

America is Dying (But don’t blame me, I’m just the messenger)

SamSkull“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” ~~Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 – 1968), Strength to Love, 1963

Over the years I have written many articles about issues I felt are prevalent. For damn good reasons I have sounded the alarm bell for most of my life. And, for those who have paid attention and have answered the call to action while others have not, our country truly thanks you. For the rest of you, at least we have the satisfaction of knowing that in your absence, we have given it our best and we’ll continue to do so, regardless of your silent ineptness, but don’t blame me when I say our country is dying. I’m only the messenger, not the culprit.

Many of my essays on a variety of topics are published at OpEd News. All I can suggest for those who keep their heads buried in FOX News sand — either get wise, get active, or get busy digging a big grave for our national corpse.

If you want a great example of what it means to selflessly give part of yourself to society, a few years ago I wrote an essay honoring my parents, both whom were mavericks for hope and change. This tribute piece was the hardest thing I will ever attempt to write in my lifetime. When I submitted it to Consortium News back in 2008, editor-in-chief Robert Parry wrote a sobering introduction to the article — one that I consider a prime example of where I came from in the activist role-model department:

“Editor’s Note: One of the cruelest acts ever inflicted by the U.S government on its own servicemen was a 1946 experiment that put 42,000 sailors in close proximity to the detonation of two atom bombs to test the effects on humans.”The experiment, called Operation Crossroads, harmed the health of many sailors. It also was a turning point in the life of one, Anthony Guarisco, who dedicated his life — working with his wife Mary — to address the threat of nuclear weapons. In this guest essay, their son, Vincent, pays tribute to his parents and what they gave to him and to the world.

Moreover, I want to take a moment to share the value I place on being a worthy parent. It is after all our job to raise our children — the next generation — the best we can to ensure they have enough knowledge at their disposal to thrive in a world that although it offers much joy and beauty, is often laced with danger at every twist and turn. Their success (and survival) of our children is much greater if we adequately prepare them now for the road ahead.
At the starting gate, I guess I was luckier than most. I had an advantage at birth. I was lucky enough to have wise and loving parents. Looking back, I now know they were my lighthouse, my trusty compass … because they were always there to provide us kids with the essential knowledge and wisdom that gave us safe passage in a vast sea filled with many ripples with each crashing wave.

I wish I could say their life experience ended on a perfect note, but that would be untrue. My parents knew a terrible storm was gathering on the national horizon — much like the one that is building up today. They often spoke of this pending disaster that lay in wait (in the shadows) for just the right time to unleash its hell with ramifications in line with George Orwell’s 1984.Who can blame them for being skeptical of what the future had in store? Especially when we consider that both of them grew up during the great depression, both witnessed the attack of Pearl Harbor, WWII with atom bombs bursting in air and two Presidential assassinations as their horrid history lessons.
I guess my parents found other clues, having devoted most of their time studying history, current events and actively performing social activism that took them around the globe. They say some wounds cut deepest when they’re personal. For them, it was heartbreaking to accept that, while they worked overtime to help the sick and vulnerable in our society, most folks sat on the sidelines doing nothing.

Therefore, a question begs an answer — why do so many do-nothing squatters think “freedom” is free? As history has taught us many times over, tyrants will always try to dominate society in every aspect imaginable, and without hesitation, will always slap a “price tag” on it. If you think otherwise, quickly slap yourself in the face and wake the hell up!

It takes a lot of hard work and courage to step up to the plate and get the job done. With love, intuition and a little weariness, my parents did their best to prepare my sister and I for the many challenges that lie ahead. They knew empty minds are easily manipulated, so they taught us history and pushed education, which they believed was the foundation for creating a better, peaceful society and nation.

They did their best to prepare us for the many obstacles that life can surely put in front of us, and they also included some useful survival techniques to help us avoid many nefarious pitfalls often created by psychopathic individuals working in unison for the global elites. They held nothing back; they told us everything good or bad that we may have to face in life … and I must admit I learned my lessons well. Because, when the inside job of 9/11 occurred and afterward when the same hateful neocons fabricated the bogus War on Terror, I was neither surprised nor fooled; even when many other terrible events later reared their ugly heads for all the world to see.

Early on, I was made aware that most politicians will eagerly kiss your baby at any election photo Op, but afterward … will throw the little tot in the fire of hell (as they steal their future) to serve their own selfish goals. Being armed with the truth is not always pleasant, but I was taught to be a critical thinker and read between the lines so I would not be fooled or manipulated into doing anything that I knew in my heart was against the high principles of my beliefs. In addition, I was taught to redirect my energy and knowledge into positive ways to create a meaningful life not only for myself, but for those around me. However, my father also warned me that if I ever found myself boxed into a corner in harm’s way with no peaceful way out, to be a fierce fighter and defeat my opponent(s) at all cost. Words to live by…

Fast forwarding to today, I know the hard knocks of life are getting tougher with each passing day. Indeed, it’s not getting any easier to decipher truth from lies nor is this heavy burden getting any lighter to carry as we try to keep our heads above the waterline. I understand many folks are woefully confused as to what exactly is going down here, so let me clarify the severity of the situation by offering my synopsis. For those who do not pay attention, It’s a bleak version of the worst-case scenario. Sorry, If you want it candy-coated, go elsewhere…

Listen up. While most of us were fast asleep, the nature of mankind has become disproportionately twisted and has immorally ordered its political sentinels to serve only a select few at the top 1% of the food chain. Thus, a primary method of control has been achieved through violence, oppression, murder and genocide. This applies both at home and abroad. Indeed, other nations the world over are paying the price whenever our leaders desire to crush them for this or that.

Thus, at home we are thoroughly being groomed, brainwashed and inseminated with a barrage of psychological head trips, vicious physical assaults with a mixture of false-flag terrorist acts, including but not limited to, soft-kill tactics in all sectors of psy-Op covert action deployment. Eventually, if we do not stop it, we’ll all become sick, docile and compliant as they would love to reduce our living standards to those comparable to a large third-world prison. It’s the same life-diminishing trick our CIA has been doing to the other nations for decades.

Do the math. Seven billion souls on the planet has been deemed “far too many,” so the elites want to drastically reduce this number to a more manageable amount (perhaps a few hundred million). The hard kill plan is already in motion in most third world countries, and like a thief in the night, it will eventually land here in the U.S. For now though, they’re still using the “soft kill” approach by adding fluoride to our already polluted water supply which already contains mercury, lead and a host of chemicals, all of which are carcinogenic killers from all the fracking. Plus, we are also being fed harmful Genetically Modified Food (GMO) in virtually every food product we consume. Unless of course you have the money to buy all organic.

And don’t forget, we are still receiving our daily dose of radiation exposure from all the fallout drifting over from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. Yes, even though that little goodie fell off the news media map, we are still getting exposed every minute of every day. Quick pop quiz: Raise both hands high in the air if you know someone who is dying of cancer? Golly gee, so many hands extended my way! Now bow your head with your hands extended. Wow! Am I a God or what? Just kidding…

After that, it only gets worse: After the great culling, the rich 1% elites will completely enslave those of us who survive to a life of hard labor factories, and we’ll be worked to the bone until our bodies eventually give out. Thus, we’ll all be slaves to the grave within the construct of our own mundane borders … unless of course some of us are deemed “enemy combatants.” In that case, we will be quickly black-bagged and hauled off to Guantanamo (or imprisoned elsewhere via their extraordinary rendition policy) and forced to dance on a crate with wires attached to our teeth and testicles while some picture-taking gulag goon slowly cranks the handle on a generator just for shits and giggles.

Or — best case scenario — we will simply be placed in cages to rot … or if any of you desire, you can participate in one of the many hunger strikes that are always ongoing. Then, you get to watch your body slowly feed on your own flesh and organs until you eventually perish as a razor-thin skeletal corpse with little meat remaining. Nice, huh?

Yes, we’re in serious trouble! We’re not quite there yet, but all the preparations are almost in place … In fact, when we consider how our lives have drastically changed in just the last 13 years, we will soon realize how intense control-freak obsession can be: to track, monitor and record virtually everything we do.

I mean seriously, are we that damn stupid to merrily get into cars equipped with automated license-plate readers that track where we go? Do you think it’s A-OK that we have smart meters tracking our electrical use or that we walk the streets with a vast network of security cameras and “smart street lights” constantly watching our every step? Do you blindly accept tens of thousands of drones patrolling the air space, spying on us? Think about it — those same drones can zero in on a gnat’s ass and are highly equipped to kill in a variety of ways.

Will you comply when the TSA sets up “internal checkpoints” all over the nation, comparable to what the Soviet Union did during the Soviet Block? Do you accept Homeland Security encouraging all of us to report any (loosely defined) “suspicious activity” on our neighbors so the federal government can flag us as “potential terrorists” if we display a hint of nervousness? I would also mention this is happening at a time when all of us “should be very nervous.”

Will you quietly let the U.S. Military kick down your neighbors’ doors and shove black bags over their heads and indefinitely detain them without ever charging them of a crime whatsoever? To know they will never be afforded due process of law in order to defend themselves against some non-existence crimes they supposedly committed?

What happened? I thought this was the home of the brave and land of the free! Why do we seem content to roll over for this crap? For some time now, I have seen this fundamental shift quickly escalate. I have watched my fellow citizens eagerly give-up huge swaths of liberty and freedom in exchange for vague promises of increased security. Why? Have we lost all common sense along with our druthers?

If we don’t break away from the shackles of corporate fascism and state-sponsored intrusion, that big country-size prison I mentioned earlier will materialize. Thus, like any prison, capital punishment is a reality. A noose can easily be applied, the lever pulled, and a free-fall will commence for that final snap and jerk.

The primary objective of any tyrannical government is to exercise absolute control — to conquer the subjugated populace. For now, it’s mostly about keeping the revenue stream generated by lop-sided trade agreements and myriad forms of taxes imposed on individuals with the Internal Revenue Service collecting the wares for their foreign investors. The Federal Reserve will keep everyone in debt with their worthless fiat money and conduct on-demand inflation until they’re given the green light to crash the system.

Welcome to the “Big Brother” Orwellian prison matrix, a Homeland Security, CIA, NSA, FBI prison playground, where jackboots rule the nest. Truth is, were already walking the green mile. It’s just that far too many of us are too dumbed-down to know it.

This is the truth my parents could not bring themselves to tell their children. Deep down, they hoped we could stop them. But that hope is quickly dwindling away. I guess that is why my mother (before she died) often told me to cherish each moment. Unfortunately, as bad as I think it is now, in reality, these are the good days…

Author’s Bio:

Vincent L. Guarisco is a freelance writer from Arizona, a contributing writer for many web sites, and a lifetime founding member of the Alliance of Atomic Veterans. The 21st century, once so full of shining promise, now threatens to force countless millions of us at home and abroad into a dark abyss of languishing poverty and silent servitude; a lowly prodigy of painful struggle and suffering that could stream for generations to come. I’m wishing for a miracle, before it is too late, the masses will figure it out and will stand as one and roar. So, pass the word — it’s past time to take back what is ours — the American Dream where the pursuit of happiness, the ability to live in a free and peaceful nation is a reality. We bought it, and we paid for it. It’s time to take it back. For replies, contact: vincespainting1@hotmail.com

Pawns Are Always Expendable When Played

“You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to
pick up the piece and move it. But what Chess teaches you is that
you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really
a good idea and whether there are other
better ideas.”~~Stanley Kubrick

Chess is a crafty old game — one that’s been played throughout the ages. When I was a young lad in my Junior year of High School, I was quite good at it. In fact, I became my school champion. Indeed, I wanted to be the next grand-master like my mentor, “Bobby Fischer.”

In 1974, Fischer’s match against the Russian Spassky was seen as the Match of the Century — East v. West. Soon after, Fisher resigned from chess after a bout with the body politic. It was then that I realized a simple game that I adored could be exploited for political reasons. In 1992, Bobby came out of exile to replay Spassky in Yugoslavia. This outraged some Americans (but not me) as it was declared a breach of a bogus UN embargo. Evading arrest, in July 2004, he successfully got political asylum in Iceland. He remained there until his death in 2008. May the champ rest in peace…

Whew, youthful days can be so innocent, but soon we realize the world operates in nefarious ways…

Chess was first invented in India during the 6th Century, and has since been played around the world over. It’s safe to say that, although the concept of this complex game is a metaphor for various situations, no one can deny that the object of the game — in terms of winning — is to take out the opponent’s “king” at the expense of all other pieces placed on its checkered layout. In essence, it’s a military game. And, as I later learned in life — and I’m sure Fischer would agree if he was with us today — it’s a shrewd game at best.

Since its invention, game pieces have assumed many colors, shapes and sizes and it’s startling to say, chess pieces take on actual human form. It’s not my intention to be cynical in making this comparison but, in lieu of all the present-day wars being fought, and when we consider the many Generals who callously move their battle lines from side to side in the war room (on a big grand chessboard), I think it’s only fitting that we place a real human face on each one of those lively figurines made of flesh, blood and bone.

Indeed, our military-industrial complex has some very busy players. Aside from all the carnage we have done in Afghanistan and Iraq, in 2002, Washington approved and supported a coup against the Venezuelan government which continued non-stop until Hugo Chavez died of cancer in 2013. Who can blame him for noting on his deathbed that he believed he was infected with cancer cells by U.S. Special Ops?

In April 2008, the United States collaborated with Israel to attempt a coup on Hamas in Palestine, even though Hamas was dully elected by the people in a fair democratic election process that was closely monitored. And, although the United States has had an ongoing interest in Somalia for decades, in early 2006 the CIA was sent back in for a fresh round of more covert actions.

In 2005, then President George W. Bush authorized the CIA to undertake black operations against Iran in an effort to destabilize the Iranian government. This covert policy continues unabated today under the directives of the Obama Administration.

In 2011, Obama issued covert action that authorized the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and support to the Libyan opposition. Muammar Gaddafi was ultimately overthrown in the Libyan civil war, which we started and supported. And, In 2012, President Barack Obama authorized U.S. government agencies to support forced regime change in Syria. This covert action is ongoing, with Israel conducting fresh bombing campaigns daily.

In fact, with all the hostility we seem to love to create, I can honestly say that this ancient game that I call “chess for keeps”… is reason enough for me to exercise my God-given right to make a symbolic request for all those poor souls who were duped into war and have been destroyed. If I could ask the Highest Deity for one small favor, one simple concession — it would be that all politicians who support or voted in favor of going to war — including the Generals who think it’s cool to play God with human lives on their chessboard of death via covert action or otherwise — that they attend each soldier’s funeral and look into the eyes of each family member and explain to them why their loved ones are dead! I say let them experience the pain and suffering of having your life ripped apart forever.

Remember when I mentioned earlier it would be fitting to place a real human face on those lively figurines made of flesh and bone? Well, here’s one worth mentioning. In his own words, here is an excerpt from a sobering letter written by Mr. Tomas Young:

The Last Letter
“A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran

“To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

“From: Tomas Young

“I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

“I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all–the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.”

Young went on to say…

“You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans — my fellow veterans — whose future you stole.”

To read Young’s letter in its entirety, click here.

Yes, chess and war are both strati-graphic and strategic, but the end result of war is no game. It’s f*cking deadly — cut and dried. Pawns and People are one and the same, and both are considered expendable. Thus, only a king will survive unscathed… and the only ones who benefit are the shrewd patent holders selling their heartless war game (along with their investors) who always seem to cash in at the expense of everyone else.

Sadly, war will always be big business to those soulless bastards we often write songs about. In fact, here’s classic by Black Sabbath, “War Pigs.”

Let’s do a “Sing-A-Long,” shall we? Here’s the lyrics:

Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
Evil minds that plot destruction
Sorcerers of death’s construction

In the fields the bodies burning
As the war machine keeps turning
Death and hatred to mankind
Poisoning their brainwashed minds
Oh lord yeah!

Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor
Time will tell on their power minds
Making war just for fun
Treating people just like pawns in chess
Wait ’til their judgment day comes
Yeah!

Now in darkness world stops turning
Ashes where the bodies burning
No more war pigs have the power
Hand of God has struck the hour
Day of judgment, God is calling
On their knees the war pig’s crawling
Begging mercy for their sins
Satan laughing spreads his wings
Oh lord yeah!

Author’s Bio:

Vincent L. Guarisco is a freelance writer from Arizona, a contributing writer for many web sites, and a lifetime founding member of the Alliance of Atomic Veterans. The 21st century, once so full of shining promise, now threatens to force countless millions of us at home and abroad into a dark abyss of languishing poverty and silent servitude; a lowly prodigy of painful struggle and suffering that could stream for generations to come. I’m wishing for a miracle, before it is too late, the masses will figure it out and will stand as one and roar. So, pass the word — it’s past time to take back what is ours — the American Dream where the pursuit of happiness, the ability to live in a free and peaceful nation is a reality. We bought it, and we paid for it. It’s time to take it back.

In the Days Before – Part 2

farmgirl_mary_pittLeaving the farm, for an eleven-yer-old girl who was accustomed to leaving the house at will and roaming the pastures and fields in the company of a pair of vigilant collie dogs, was not an easy transition. After the one-room schoolhouse, the school was huge and strange. There were more children in my classroom than had been in our entire school in the country. And they were all strangers! But I was a child and was maleable as children are known to be. I could endure the strange looks as the other girls looked carefully over my home-made and hand-me-down clothes since I had become accustomed to that and I soon developed my own life around the constraints of living so closely with other people.

It was much less easy for my poor mother. She had no help except for what the children could provide. Granted, she had running water and the old wood-fired cook stove was replaced by a “modern” gas range. The washing machine was now powered by electricity instead a gasoline engine, but the clothes still had to be hung on the lines outdoors. Our father had up taken residence in the downstairs bedroom and demanded many trips a day to provide for his needs. Yet she managed and the meals always appeared on the old kitchen table at the right time.

Mother found a neighbor who came and plowed the garden which the boys then worked with rakes and shovels to create arable soil so she could plant the garden and she continued with the unending work schedule that she had known all her life. Father’s condition continued to deteriorate but Mother found that a doctor who lived in the neighborhood would look in on him to guide her in his care.

Eventually, the doctor began providing medications in order to keep Father sedated in his moments of forgetful delusion. Then he started asking to be paid and Mother had no money! I recall going with her to talk to a man about “getting on the county”, which is what welfare was called in those days. There was a “county farm” but it was only for old folks who worked in large gardens and cared for animals in return for their “keep,” but there was no accomodation for families with children.

We walked downtown to the “land office” where we were ushered into a back office occupied by a man such as I had never seen. He was grossly fat, wearing a white shirt and three-piece brown suit with the vest stretched tightly across his opulent belly and decorated with a shiny gold watch chain. This man acted as if it were his own money for which we were begging. I could sense Mother’s humiliation but she bore up under his condemning gaze and he finally agreed to provide a few dollars to pay the doctor so that he would continue to assist in Father’s care. But we were to meet that man again!

Yet, there were incidents when the medications were insufficient. I remember being wakened in the middle of one night to the sound of a loud ruckus taking place downstairs. I crept cautiously down the stairs with visions of robbers and thieves invading us. As I opened the stair door and peeked out the panorama spread before me was even worse than I expected. There was Father, in the middle of a delusion, standing at the front door and trying to open it. (I had never known that Mother had previously locked the door with a key in case of just such an event.) Three of the boys were trying to help her to control him when she asked, “What were you trying to do?”

His response was firm and commanding. “I’m going to run up and down the street naked and show the neighbors what a crazy man can do!”

This was the state of the family when the next crisis fell. My youngest brother, then no more than sixteen, came home with a bad stomach ache which grew worse all night and required Mother to sit with him all night to soothe him when the pain grew unbearable. The next morning, she called our neighbor/doctor who came by for an examination and declared that it was a severely inflamed appendicitis which should be taken to surgery on an emergency basis.

Mother put on her Sunday hat and we once again walked downtown to apply for country assistance. The fat man listened very briefly before explaining that he could not pay for the work to be done in the hospital which was “only” twenty miles away and would require payment. However, they could pay for transportation to Kansas City where the State charity hospital was located.

We went home and Mother dressed my brother and had another brother drive the old car to take them to our local train station. They got the invalid onto the train and then she was on her own. They traveled sixty miles to the east where there was a railroad junction and she had to take a taxi through that town to the other station to wait for the Kansas City train. There was still almost a hundred miles to go with stops at every little town along the way. Other pasengers helped her by keeping her supplied with damp cloths with which to soothe his fever until the destination was reached the next morning.

I have no idea how this little lady was able to help this tall, gangly, helpless adolescent from the train to a taxi but they were brought to the admitting room of the hospital. A brief examination by an intern preceded a quick trip to surgery where they found a ruptured appendix with inflamation spread throughout the internal organs, all due to the delay in getting him to treatment. Mother received the news that her son would live but recuperation would be slow, beginning with a two-week stay in the hospital.

But this was in “the days before.” There was certainly no Ronald McDonald House and she had no money. She didn’t question it but she spent that two weeks sitting in a chair in a ward full of ailing teen-aged boys, ministering to them as needed until the nurses would arrive to attend to them. At last the two weeks were up and she was given instructions for home care and he was released. She had saved the last bit of cash that the fat man had given her, called a taxi, and repeated the return trip in the same way.

With the hindsight of many years, I can only imagine the strength it took for this aging farm lady to embark on such an ordeal. She, who had at times spent multiple years without ever seeing a town, much less a large city, finding the courage to begin such a trying hegira, not only alone, but with the life of one of her offspring hanging in the balance. But she got home, safely, and with her remaining brood around her. And so she changed Father’s bed and did the laundry before she went to bed!

This is the life that those who complain so loudly about “wasteful government spending” would impose on yet another generation of American citizens so that they can play the part of the fat man and make sure that nobody who suffers misfortune ever gets quite what they need. Returning to :”the days before” would not only be wrong; it would be both criminal and sinful.

In the Days Before

Sharecropper

Farmers paid $100 per year plus a share of the crop for the privilege of occupying the land.

History and legends are rife with tales of “Old Crones” who educated the people and the leaders of nations in their search for further civilization by telling them the stories of what had gone before in their history. This writer has reached that stage in life where I am ready and willing to accept the title of “Old Crone” and to try to educate our people of “the days before”, in this case specifically, of the days before many of the political and social programs which affect our lives today. Today, my story will be about what life was like for many in the days before some of taken-for-granted social programs of today.

I was born in 1930, during the administration of Herbert Hoover and in the early days of the famous Dust Bowl, to parents who were already elderly by the standards of the day. They already had eight children and had lost one in infancy. My father was a farmer and they reared their family on eighty acres of rented farmland as had their own families before them. I can remember the 1936 elections and my father’s ire at the successes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He hated government and resented any intrusion of said government into what he had considered the business of private persons.

Father paid $100 per year plus a share of the crop for the privilege of occupying the land. The money for the landlord had to be saved by pennies and nickels throughout the year to avoid having to move to another property the following year, so hard cash was very hard to come by. Therefore, all the household support was accomplished by my mother. She would plant huge gardens of vegetables which were canned in glass jars and stored in the storm cellar for use all year. Any patches of native fruits and berries were harvested and processed into the jars for winter consumption.

She kept chickens, laying hens that would provide the eggs which were carefully cleaned and boxed for transport to town to get enough cash to purchase the basic food which was our fare. A large box of eggs and a couple of gallons of cream from our cows would buy a huge box of oatmeal, a can of lard, and a 24-pound sack of flour for the bread which was our staple. On a good week, we could also afford a pound of oleomargarine, the kind that had to have the coloring removed from the packet and stirred into the glob of white goo which substituted for butter. Only occasionally was there a nickel left to buy a bit of sugar to sweeten the fruit or, wonder of wonders, to bake a cake.

When Roosevelt established the Work Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corp, we worried that Father would die of apoplexy! A married older brother with a family went to work for the WPA and another brother joined the CCC. At last, there was a bit of cash in the household. And then, to Father’s horror, the farm commodities began to be distributed, “forcing” the families of farmers to “eat from a tin can.”

In the summer, Father and the boys would contract to bale hay for farmers with larger acreage. Some of that work was for cash while some was for a share of the bales, which could be sold to accumulate cash toward the annual rent. In the hardest years, there would not be enough cash income from the contracting and the sale of other crops to cover the $100 rent. Fortunately, since Father was such a good farmer with so many mouths to feed, the landlord was often lenient and accepted only the share. It was hard, energy-sapping work and people just wore out at a much younger age than they do now.

When Father was only 60 years old, he began to suffer more from his chronic cough and there would be days that he would spend the day in the house, worrying aloud….very loud! On many occasions, due to the hard work and the vagaries of nature, he had suffered from severe pneumonia for extended periods and his cough had worsened each time. There were doctors at that time but even they were limited in what medicines or procedures were available. Even if the doctors had the capabilities and the knowledge of today, the poor had no money and would lie-in at home until nature took its course.

In 1940 another of the older brothers left home. Since there was no work locally, he joined the Navy, so he would not be available for the next haying season but, somehow, we made it through. Then Pearl Harbor happened and our whole world turned upside-down. The oldest brother who was left at home went to the county seat and enlisted in the Army. This left only three brothers at home, not enough to do all the work, much less to compensate for Father’s lessened abilities.

There was no choice but to sell out what we owned on the farm and move into town. Being still a child, I was more concerned with losing all the friends when the animals had to go to new homes, but there were more serious concerns than that. Later in life, in going through Mother’s papers, I came across the accounting from the auction of all my parents’ worldly goods. With the sale of every animal, every piece of farm equipment, and all the appurtenances that went with them, their “lifetime savings” amounted to slightly over $600!

My mother has always been my hero, and she proved it then. She rented a house in our small town and moved in with three almost-adult boys, an elementary-school daughter, and a dying husband and she made us a home! The brother who was in the Army arranged for her to be given $15 a month as a “family allotment.”  This amount covered the rent with nothing left for food. The brother in the Navy had married and his allotment was going to his wife. The two older sons who were at home did find part-time work around town, as helpers in various shops, and contributed their earnings to the family.

You may ask, “Why didn’t she go on welfare or apply for SSI for your father?” The answer is simple. That was in “The Days Before!” When you hear the politicians complain about needing to “reform entitlements,” and you know that their aim is merely to end them, be sure to watch for my next article about what life was like in the days when there were no entitlements or other assistance for the poor.

Celebrating Colorado Civil Unions!

First United Methodist Church of Boulder (FUMC) applauds Colorado’s new Civil Unions Act and alongside our longtime community partner, Out Boulder, will participate in the celebration, at midnight on May 1st. As part of the festivities, happening at the Boulder County Clerk’s office at 1750 33rd Street, FUMC will be offering blessings for interested couples and their families.

FUMC is a welcoming faith community dedicated to “honoring the sacred worth of every human being in a way that creates and sustains a Beloved Community.” Both the appointed pastors and the lay members of the congregation affirm that they are among the people following the path of Jesus and of Methodist founder John Wesley by welcoming everyone into their midst, stating that they are enriched, as individuals and as a community, when diversity is honored, welcomed and celebrated.

In the spring of 2012 Reverend Pat Bruns made news by declaring that he and the other pastors at First United Methodist Church of Boulder were prepared to offer church ceremonies for committed and consenting adult life partners, regardless of their gender. Referring to a broadly supported “Fuller Marriage Ministry” that offers ceremonies and holy unions for same-sex couples, the pastors and congregation notified their local Bishop of their intention to move forward in this ministry regardless of church policies to the contrary.

“I am simply delighted that our Colorado Legislature has approved Civil Unions,” say Bruns. “This is an important next step to full marriage equality in our beloved state. We have enough ways to kill, hurt and terrify people in our nation and in our world. Right now we need ways to love one another, to embrace each and every one of us as beloved children of God. All relationships anchored in love, loyalty and commitment need to be celebrated! Loving relationships are a gift to us all and to all creation.”

FUMC member, Melissa Preston Vaughn made this statement when asked what the new Civil Unions Act means to her and what it might mean to others:

“For the LGBT community, the idea of ‘marriage’ or anything that resembles a publicly and legally recognized affirmation of our love is something that is so foreign to us. Standing together, family and friends close by, hands held tightly, hearts pounding, lumps in the throat forming, and then signing both names to a piece of paper that will forever mark time and change lives is something we’ve only dreamed about. The emotion and experience will be nothing short of sacred. God, I’m sure, is pleased that we are finally figuring this out… that love is love.”

Boulder County couples are invited to contact FUMC Boulder prior to April 30th or simply introduce themselves during the festivities, if they feel inspired to have their union blessed.

Pastor Bruns is thrilled about the Out Boulder event saying, “I can hardly wait for midnight May 1st. The opportunity to bless Civil Unions and to consecrate these wonderful partnerships will be a marvelous privilege. I am certain that God smiles when we surround loving relationships with our own love, support, affirmation and welcome.”

Fracking: Colorado’s dystopian nightmare

Editor’s Note: Phillip Doe leaves no stone unturned in describing the dangers and destruction that arise from every aspect of horizontal fracking. It’s a must-read for anyone who truly wants to understand the devastation that the oil and gas industry is wreaking on the people and resources of Colorado with the collaboration and complicity of the state’s government.

I went to a meeting earlier this winter in the Colorado Governor’s Office. I’m not a regular. The Governor, John Hickenlooper, Hick to his friends, had called the meeting with Boulder County Commissioners to discuss the county’s draft regulations governing the recovery of oil and gas found in the county’s deep underground shale formations. The fact is that most of the state is underlain by these ancient and organically rich seabeds. All are ripe for exploitation through the use of the industry’s new mining technique called horizontal fracking.

Drilling activities along both sides of the Colorado River, Interstate 70, and the Amtrak rail lines in Garfield County, Colorado. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Drilling activities along both sides of the Colorado River, Interstate 70, and the Amtrak rail lines in Garfield County, Colorado. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

In his haste, the governor had apparently forgotten that such meetings require the public be notified at least 24 hours in advance so they can listen in on the public’s business. This law has been on the books since 1972 and is widely used, but imperfectly understood, apparently, by the governor and his lieutenants. Hick was a long-term mayor of Denver before becoming governor. Its use is commonplace in city government.

To an outsider this meeting might sound like a tempest in a teapot, but as in most states with oil and gas reservoirs made recoverable through fracking, the state government of Colorado has said that it, and it alone, has the authority to regulate the oil and gas industry . The counties and cities may write their own regulations, but they must be in “harmony” with the state’s, and can not add conditions or requirements that would harm the industry’s bottom line. They are “preempted” from doing so.

 One of several 400-bed housing complexes (man-camps) for gas field workers. This one is located on the top of Colorado’s Roan Plateau. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

One of several 400-bed housing complexes (man-camps) for gas field workers. This one is located on the top of Colorado’s Roan Plateau. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

With the Boulder contingent, Hick started out by telling them that as a businessman and brewpub owner he’d never been sued; that he’d always been able to broker a deal, that he hoped a deal could be made with Boulder County government.

He went on to say, obligatorily, that he thought public health had to be protected, but added quickly that the oil industry’s property rights must also be protected. To this observer most of what he asserted concerning protecting the public’s rights and investigating their concerns is contradicted by the facts.

For example, he said nothing about the fact that he had already sued the city of Longmont , a city of 86,000 within Boulder County, over its regulations. Longmont’s regulations, labored over by a cautious oil lawyer, but eminently decent man, did not ban fracking within the city, as many wanted, but did make residential neighborhoods, schoolyards and the city’s open spaces off-limits to drilling by the industry.

Hick had sued over these regulations for not being in harmony with the state’s, whose only spacing restriction is that wells must be at least 350 feet from any residence or building in urban areas. Rural restrictions are even more favorable to the industry. There, only a 150 feet setback is required. Some wag has observed that under state planning guidelines a rural folk is worth less than half a city folk, less even than the three-fifths slaves were worth in the “original” Constitution.

Fracturing operation on top of Colorado’s Roan Plateau. The green tanks (nearly 100 in this photo) hold the fluids for fracturing and then the fluids that return to the surface after fracturing. Note the tunnel in the upper left, built as a shortcut to a highway. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Fracturing operation on top of Colorado’s Roan Plateau. The green tanks (nearly 100 in this photo) hold the fluids for fracturing and then the fluids that return to the surface after fracturing. Note the tunnel in the upper left, built as a shortcut to a highway. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

In the old days, an oil rig stood 150 feet high, thus the rural setback of 150 feet might protect a house or barn if the rig were to topple. New rigs used in horizontal fracking are sometimes taller according to one retired oil field worker and bitter critic of the industry. The critics are legion. Still, many large, rent seeking ranchers and farmers support the looser rural restrictions.

In reaction to the state’s lawsuit against Longmont, citizens launched an initiative to ban fracking altogether within the city. Operating on a shoestring, and laboring against $500,000 the industry dumped on the city to defeat the initiative, the ban vote carried by a remarkable 60/40 margin, demonstrating, perhaps, the power of a well-organized citizenry over big money, even big-oil money.

On the day of this meeting, Hick had not sued over the ban, though he had threatened to do so. In the end, the industry did it for him, with his blessings and encouragement. Indeed as guest speaker at an oil and gas convention in Denver subsequent to the Boulder commissioners’ meeting, he told the assembled oil men that he would bring the full might of the state to bear on their behalf if the industry were to sue over Longmont’s ban. Some find this bully pulpit cheerleading incredible.

Still, on this day he was most keenly interested in seeing that Boulder County did not also author another ban on fracking or enact something more stringent than the state’s rules. He was not openly threatening, but everyone knew the Longmont background.

One of the county commissioners, Will Toor, told the governor that in his judgment a countywide ballot initiative banning fracking, if there were to be one, would pass on a 60/40 basis, just like in Longmont.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), a smart politician, added that he thought the state rules should be a floor, not a ceiling, that the local governments should have that prerogative under their charters. Hick, somewhat surprised if not openly flustered, shot back that they weren’t ready to talk about that. Polis said that he thought that was what they were there to talk about. Clearly, deal making was not really on the agenda.

Later, in the hallway outside the governor’s office, Polis told one of the mothers who had attended the meeting that if an oil well were to be drilled in his backyard he would move. Many would agree, but not many are multi-millionaires like Polis. The mass of humanity, if Hick has his way, will have to endure the toxic fume garden the industry is building in neighborhoods across the state.

Two drill rigs working on a pad where ten wells have been previously completed. In the bottom right you can see ten recovery water tanks. Note also the reserve pit by the drill rigs. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Two drill rigs working on a pad where ten wells have been previously completed. In the bottom right you can see ten recovery water tanks. Note also the reserve pit by the drill rigs. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

So what about the contentions of citizens that fracking is unsafe, despite the industry’s bemused denials to the contrary?

The 2005 Energy Act is a good starting point for this discussion. Written only two years after the first horizontally fracked well was successfully drilled, the act was widely reported to have been written by the industry in the comfort of Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, himself the former head of Halliburton Industries, one of the major providers of fracking fluids, an immensely profitable product according to industry observers.

The Act of 2005 is the culmination of a 40-year oil industry lobbying effort in Washington to exempt the industry from practically every foundational health and environmental law on the books. Not even the casino players on Wall Street have been as successful in creating a regulatory world to their liking. The bilking and mayhem are easy thereafter, as we’ve all seen.

Only one reasonable conclusion can be drawn from this sustained lobbying effort, the practice of horizontal fracking is most assuredly not safe. Otherwise there would have been no need to rip out more than 40 years of public health and environmental law from the pages of our civic history.

Drill rig working near Divide Creek in Western Colorado where methane bubbled into the creek during previous drilling activity. You can see two smaller reserve pits and a larger evaporation pit. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Drill rig working near Divide Creek in Western Colorado where methane bubbled into the creek during previous drilling activity. You can see two smaller reserve pits and a larger evaporation pit. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Notes on the air we breathe, and other acts of faith

Air and water quality issues are so ubiquitous in areas invaded by the industry that summarizing is difficult. Most astonishing, however, is that neither Colorado nor the U.S. has undertaken a systematic examination of the thousands of citizen complaints. With regards to air quality, these complaints run from skin rashes, to open sores, to nose bleeds, to stomach cramps, to loss of smell, to swollen and itching eyes, to despondency and depression, even death.

In this federal vacuum, several smaller-scale studies have been undertaken in Colorado.

The first in time was a health assessment commissioned by Garfield County, a west slope county home to roughly 10,000 oil and gas wells. The Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH) conducted it at the invitation of the county government. That same government curtailed it when the results were thought to be too alarming. Among the findings were high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, at and near well sites. In fact, the assessment states that even at distances of 2,700 feet from a well site, toxic chemicals were still detectable at levels that would increase the chance of developing cancer by 66 percent based on published health standards.

I asked the authors of this study if the governor or any members of his staff had contacted them to discuss the assessment. Remarkably, they said, no. Strange indeed, since this study figured prominently in Governor Cuomo’s announcement that New York State was placing an indefinite moratorium on fracking until the health and environmental impacts of fracking were better understood.

Only weeks old, a first-of-its-kind study from The Endocrine Disruption Exchange , TEDX, measured more than 44 hazardous pollutants at operating well sites, again in Garfield County. Many of them are known to impact the brain and nervous systems; some are even known to harm the hormonal system of unborn babies. The study found prevalence of the pollutants up to .7 of a mile from the well site.

The lead scientist and head of TEDX, Dr. Theo Colborn , an environmental health analyst, who happens to live in Paonia, Colorado, at the doorstep of drilling in Garfield County to the north, has called for the U.S. to make further studies of these chemicals and their impact on all life, right down to the molecular level. Dr. Colborn even sent a letter to the President Obama and First Lady. Here is a video of Dr. Colborn reading the letter she sent to the President Obama and First Lady:

Another peer reviewed 2012 study out of Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine supports Dr Colborn’s results. That study headed by a professor of molecular medicine, Robert Oswald, and veterinarian Michelle Bamberger found significant health links between fracking and livestock exposed to fracking’s air and water byproducts. These animals suffered neurological, reproductive and gastrointestinal disabilities.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has one of its high tech air monitoring towers located outside the small town of Erie, Colorado. There are five nationally. It recently released the results of long-term monitoring of air quality at Erie. The results are alarming and consistent with the TEDX and CSPH studies.

Perhaps the study’s most damning finding was that Erie, a bucolic town of roughly 18,000 folk, has air quality spikes, particularly methane and butane spikes, that exceed by 4 to 9 times those of Pasadena, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles, and Dallas, Texas, two cities with some of the worst, health threatening air in America.

NOAA reported that fully 4 percent of the methane gas produced in the Wattenberg field is leaked to the atmosphere and therefore never brought to market. The same NOAA team last year found that 9 percent of the produced gas was being leaked to the atmosphere in a large gas field on mostly Indian land in north central Utah. These percentages do not include gas that is intentionally burned off, called flared by the industry, as an operational prerogative open to the industry without regulatory penalty.

Natural gas processing plant in Ignacio, Colorado. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Natural gas processing plant in Ignacio, Colorado. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

That Erie should share this dubious unhealthy air honor with the likes of Pasadena and Ft Worth can only be explained by the fact that it sits at the western extreme of one of the largest gas fields in the U.S., the Wattenberg Field.

The industry has tried to finesse the NOAA findings by claiming the high readings are from auto emissions along the interstate west of the city. NOAA has correctly pointed out that methane and propane are not auto exhaust products. They are clearly indicators of the massive volume of volatile organic gases escaping from oil wells and pipelines in the Wattenberg.

Adding to the science, a recent article in the journal Environmental Science and Technology , concluded from examining the NOAA data that oil and gas activity in the Wattenberg field “contributed about 55 percent of the volatile organic compounds linked to unhealthy ground-level ozone.”

This field, home to about 20,000 wells, is in Weld County, which Erie straddles. It and Garfield County are the epicenters of drilling in Colorado, but the industry sensing Croesus-like riches is branching ever southward and westward from Weld toward Colorado’s population centers. Like Croesus, the industry may have crossed a river of growing discontent that will eventually prove its undoing.

Glycol dehydrators for five wells. These separation units remove water and noxious gases, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) from the natural gas. The tall pipe is for flaring the BTEX and other unwanted gaseous material. The water is then stored in tanks until it can be trucked to evaporation pits. Some dehydrators are connected to pipelines that carry the water directly to waste processing pits. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Glycol dehydrators for five wells. These separation units remove water and noxious gases, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) from the natural gas. The tall pipe is for flaring the BTEX and other unwanted gaseous material. The water is then stored in tanks until it can be trucked to evaporation pits. Some dehydrators are connected to pipelines that carry the water directly to waste processing pits. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Too little noted in the Colorado fracking saga is what the NOAA study underscores. Methane, a gas with 105 times the heat capturing capacity of CO2 over a 20-year time horizon, is escaping at alarming rates from oil and gas drilling sites and pipelines.

To even consider methane recovered through fracking as an effective transition fuel in the fight against climate change , natural gas releases would have to be at less than two percent of volume. Presently, scientists at Cornell University estimated releases of methane to be at 4 to 7 percent of product recovered, making it worse, over the critical short term, than coal for climate change. This is of course without regard to the huge quantity of gas that is flared to the atmosphere as CO2.

An effective zero emission standard for health threatening and climate warming volatile gasses such as methane is technologically reachable, but don’t expect it to be part of Colorado oil and gas rule making. Here, the “little guys” in the drilling business are sometimes given exemptions from even the most rudimentary health considerations such as requiring enclosed holding tanks for fracking return water, deceptively called, green completion. The state’s position is that these “small guys” are not technologically equipped to install these tanks, which, in reality, are only a halfway measure, but better than open pits. Such a requirement would put them out of business says the state’s regulatory agency, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). This agency has a dual charge. It is also charged with protecting public health.

One activist mother from Erie told me that the COGCC’s environmental exceptions for technologically challenged drillers is like arguing that a person who flunks out of medical school should still be allowed to perform brain surgery because that was his expectation and his monetary well being depends on it. Clearly, public health does not lead the list of governmental concerns at fracking discussions.

Compression station with separation unit. The separation units remove water from the gas as it comes into the facility and before it goes into the pipeline. For safety purposes, the gas must enter the pipeline at a pressure greater than that of the existing natural gas supply line. Huge diesel-driven fans cool the generators that create the pressure. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Compression station with separation unit. The separation units remove water from the gas as it comes into the facility and before it goes into the pipeline. For safety purposes, the gas must enter the pipeline at a pressure greater than that of the existing natural gas supply line. Huge diesel-driven fans cool the generators that create the pressure. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

So, despite all the compelling evidence to the contrary, we are still assured by the industry that all is well. Our air is safe. Hick, like them, is confident in the wisdom of not knowing, though just recently he did make a bow toward sanity by asking for a little over one million dollars for air quality studies. Dr. Colborn, operating on a very tight budget, spent more than $400,000 monitoring the air emissions from just one well in Garfield County.

The governor, however, is not alone in singing the virtues of ignorance. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inexplicably eliminated air quality impacts from its long awaited environmental study of fracking. A draft of this study will be released in 2014, with a final promised in 2015 after it has been peer reviewed by industry soldiers, sans air.

Insider review by the industry of its own operations has led my friend Wes Wilson, a retired EPA environmental engineer, to simply shake his head in disbelief. Undue industry influence is what caused him to blow the whistle on EPA’s Bush era white wash of fracking’s potential impact on public health back in 2004.

“We didn’t ask BP to participate in the evaluation of the DeepWater Horizon disaster in the Gulf. That would have caused howls of outrage from the public,” says Wilson. “We should feel the same outrage here, for, in truth, the impacts of fracking, as presently practiced, will have a much greater impact on public health and the environment than DeepWater.”

Three-tiered evaporation pit complex near Interstate 70 and the Colorado River. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Three-tiered evaporation pit complex near Interstate 70 and the Colorado River. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Notes on the water we drink, and some we shouldn’t

Water use has received more attention, perhaps, than air quality in the Colorado debate over fracking, for after all, you can see it, but still it is in the not-to-worry register of state politics. Water is said to be king in the west, but from a regulatory standpoint it is a true pauper.

In Colorado, water is owned by the public, so says the state’s constitution, but it is treated as private property, most of it controlled by big agriculture and ranching, many of the same rent seekers who champion the irrational 150 foot setback.

Some background information is necessary to understand the potential impact of fracking on Colorado’s water, which, as many know, is projected to be a dwindling resource in the West as a result of climate change.

A grassroots organization, Be the Change , of which I am a board member, has aggregated information from state and federal websites on land leased to the oil industry. Be the Change did this because neither the state nor feds would, though they’ve been asked to do so, repeatedly.

Their calculation shows that at the start of 2012 approximately 9,000 square miles of public land in Colorado had been leased to the industry. This is roughly 10 percent of the state. Private land leases are thought to be greater, realistically much greater since most of the land in the Wattenberg field and on Colorado’s eastern plains is private. Thus, conservatively, 20 percent of the state is effectively owned by the oil and gas industry. Mineral rights overwhelm the rights of surface owners. This, too, is a source of concern and outrage by urban dwellers who never, until now, thought they would have to deal with an oil well as a fire-belching, air-choking neighbor.

The public/private leases combined constitute a landmass greater than that of nine states and rivals the size of West Virginia, a truly unfortunate arithmetic coincidence. But West Virginia will soon be left in Colorado’s exhaust since approximately 70 percent of Colorado is underlain by these deep oil bearing shale formations, and new leasing is continual, perhaps in the 1,000 square mile range annually.

Three-tiered evaporation pit complex for processing water from gas wells. Trucks unload water at the upper tier, allowing it to evaporate as it falls. The white dots in the pits are ‘misters’ to enhance evaporation. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Three-tiered evaporation pit complex for processing water from gas wells. Trucks unload water at the upper tier, allowing it to evaporate as it falls. The white dots in the pits are ‘misters’ to enhance evaporation. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), for example, sold off about 69,000 acres on Feb. 14 of this year. About 25 percent of the parcels went for $2 an acre, a minimum rate established in 1922 and that hasn’t been adjusted since. A quarterly event, dependent primarily on the interest expressed by industry speculators who nominate the land, this sale was originally scheduled for roughly double the acreage, but objections were great from the public, with the result that considerable land was withdrawn, at least temporarily. The BLM, when assessing suitability for oil and gas leasing, is often operating from environmental documents that are more than 30 years old, well before horizontal fracking with its huge water requirements was even dreamt of. These leases are for 10 years. The state has a similar minimum, but its leases are for a shorter five years, with a one year option.

Surely, someone, maybe even the governor, should want to know how this staggering transfer of ownership, for that is effectively what an oil lease is, will impact the state’s land, water, wildlife and recreation base. This knowledge is particularly important if one is interested in the potential water demand of thousand of fracked wells on these ever growing 20,000 square miles of oil leases. By comparison, the Bakken oil field in North Dakota , the new darling of the industry, is thought to measure only about 15,000 square miles.

Governor Hickenlooper at a recent meeting of the big water users and developers in the state said, unremarkably, that water is our most important resource. One could hope he was channeling W.H. Auden who observed, “Thousands of people have lived without love, but no one has lived without water.”

Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that Hick’s recitation was one of those made-for-the-audience statements, containing not even the least notion of what it was going to take to protect Colorado’s water in the face of massive new industrial demands from fracking.

The estimates for the number of new wells in the state over the long term are dicey, at best. The state has made none and apparently has no plans to do so. Thus, a swipe-at-the-sky estimate using industry statements made in public forums must serve as the basis for an estimate. An industry hydrologist said at a public meeting in Castle Rock, CO, a couple of years ago that they expected 60,000 new wells in the state over the next 20 years. More recently an industry spokesperson said that there could be 100,000 new wells in the state in 30 years. These would be in addition to the industry’s 50,000 presently producing wells in the state. These projections are not out of line with the estimated acreage under lease to the industry.

The 100,000 new well projection also jibes with recent drilling permit data. Last year 3,770 drilling permits were approved. If this number were to be repeated annually over the next 30 years, we might expect at least 100,000 new wells. In 2007, before natural gas prices tumbled from the production glut, 8,000 new well permits were approved. So, a projection of 3,300 new wells a year, where oil is the prize, not gas, is well within historical bounds.

Private evaporation pit for a complex of wells owned by a single company. Notice the white water truck with a red cab, emptying into the pit. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Private evaporation pit for a complex of wells owned by a single company. Notice the white water truck with a red cab, emptying into the pit. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

A wild card factor in the estimate game is the rarely discussed possibility that many of these wells will be refitted to tap different shale formations both above and below the Niobrara formation which is currently the big play—apparently an ersatz gambling term the industry likes to use to describe its development activities. These formations number as many as eight in some parts of the state. Development of these other shale formations would also increase well and water demand numbers.

As a general rule a vertically fracked well, which almost all of the 50,000 presently producing wells are, requires about 250,000 gallons of water in the initial frack. They can be and often are fracked multiple times to keep the oil and gas moving to the surface.

The new horizontally fracked wells take much more water, approximately five million gallons per well for the initial frack. They, too, it is thought, will be refracked, but the frequency is unknown given the activity’s infancy. The head of technical development for Halliburton has said, however, that refracking will require marginally more water with each refrack to be affective.

For purposes of attempting to estimate the overall water demand from fracking over a 30 year planning horizon, we can posit that by the year 2043 about 80 percent of the 100,000 new wells would be horizontally drilled and that the remaining 20 percent would be vertically drilled. This extremely conservative configuration would result in a water demand of 13.4 billion gallons for new wells in that year, or in the language of water planning, 41,000 acre feet. (An acre-foot, af, is 326,000 gallons, the amount of water required to cover an acre of land to a depth of one foot).

It is extremely important to note that water use by the industry is like no other. When they use water, they destroy it for any other use. When cities and agriculture use it, about 50 percent of it is returned to sustain streams and be reused by those downstream. So, while 41,000 af would be enough water for the domestic needs of about 410,000 people only half of it is actually consumed, with the other half being available for, in this example, another 410,000 people downstream.

By comparison, when the industry uses 41,000 af of water it consumes it all; thus, in reality, it is using enough water for the domestic needs of more than 800 thousand people. This consumption calculation is usually overlooked or ignored by industry apologist, both inside and outside government.

And remember something approaching the 41,000 af of annual demand in the 30th year would have been necessary to the industry for many years prior. Indeed, such demand might continue on indefinitely into the future, depending on the industry’s level of success in mining the multiple shale formations that underlie much of the state.

Still, it’s when one attempts to add in the potential water demand from refracking existing wells that the gallons begin to resemble something even Henry Paulson would recognize as really big.

For example, if one fifth of all wells needed to be refracked every year to sustain some level of production in a population consisting of 80 thousand horizontally fracked wells and 70 thousand vertically fracked wells, the annual water requirement, in the 30th year, could exceed 270,000 af annually, or enough water for the domestic needs of over five million people since fracking’s demand is based on 100 percent consumption or destruction as explained above. And here again something resembling this water requirement for refracking would have been required for many years previous and many years following. By comparison Denver’s present annual water demand, both residential and industrial, is approximately 240,000 af, only half of which is actually consumed.

And even if only one tenth of all wells needed to be refracked annually, the demand, based on 100 percent consumption, when added to what is projected for new wells is still staggering. This is particularly so in light of the fact that all of Colorado’s rivers on the front range, generally the rivers draining the east side of the continental divide, are already over appropriated; that is, there are more people with water rights than there is water to satisfy those rights. In fact, the taxpayers of this state have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to neighboring states, either through cash penalties or other forms of compensation, for water the state’s agricultural users have stolen.

Cannons shooting water to increase evaporation at the Ignacio natural gas processing plant. Note the cracks in the dirt berm in the foreground. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Cannons shooting water to increase evaporation at the Ignacio natural gas processing plant. Note the cracks in the dirt berm in the foreground. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

A few years back, the U.S. Supreme Court in ruling against Colorado in the Arkansas River case said, condemningly, that Colorado knew or should have known that it was stealing water that belonged to Kansas. The taxpayers have always paid the costs of reparation, not the farmers who stole the water, but that is old news.

Add to this mix that climate change is predicted to reduce snow pack and runoff in the southern Rockies. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in a new study predicts the annual flow of the Colorado River will be reduced by nine percent because of future temperature increases caused by climate change. It did not look at additional decreases that might result if the snow pack were also diminished. But NOAA has added to the grimness of our water future in a new report that projects a 10 percent to 20 percent reduction in Colorado’s snow pack by 2100 if CO2 emissions continue to grow at a modest rate. Thus further diminishing spring runoff to the Colorado and other rivers heading in the state, as well. Always, the Colorado River has been the river the water tycoons have targeted when more is needed, and more is always needed as long as the public can be gulled into paying for development.

One could argue that using some portion of the public’s water for fracking couldn’t possibly be any worse than using it to raise corn which is then turned into ethanol. Ethanol is probably a net energy loser. Some may recall that Cornell’s Professor Pimentel, among others, argued back in 2003 that it took more energy to produce ethanol than it generated. In Colorado, about 86 percent of the public’s water is used by agriculture, much of it to grow corn. Nationally, about 40 percent of all corn is converted to ethanol.

Alas, science-based assertions that ethanol was just another chimera did not stop the U.S. from adding requirements that some portion of every gallon of gas sold in this country has to contain the stuff. This came to be in that glory of American law making, the aforementioned Energy Policy Act of 2005. The virtue of ethanol in our gas tanks was a favorite nostrum of then Senator Ken Salazar. He, advertising himself as the senator for rural America, said ethanol would save the country. Colorado, incidentally, is one of the most urbanized states in the union. Salazar will soon be returning to the state since his resignation as Interior Secretary. The Denver Post is already touting him as a gubernatorial candidate in 2016, presumably after Hick leaves to run for President, an idea floated most recently in a New York Times editorial. He should have the oil industry’s financial backing.

Still if the oil industry wants the public’s water in what, by any reasonable yardstick, will be significant quantities, there should be a wide ranging public discussion of our water dilemma and how best to guarantee a future that protects the public’s water resources and the natural splendors of the state. That discussion does not seem to be on the Governor’s radar. He, in fact, has said repeatedly that he hopes the concept of self-regulation can continue to form the underpinnings for the state’s relationship to the industry.

In Colorado, trucks haul fluids more than 100 miles one-way into Utah on Interstate 70 (where the speed limit is 75 mph) to a large open pit facility. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

In Colorado, trucks haul fluids more than 100 miles one-way into Utah on Interstate 70 (where the speed limit is 75 mph) to a large open pit facility. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Industry self-regulation is self-fulfilling in this instance since Colorado only has 16 inspectors to oversee the states 50,000 operating wells. These inspectors have responsibility over the state’s 80,000 non-operating wells, as well. Further complicating enforcement is the fact the state regulations disallow local environmental, health, and law enforcement staff any independent inspection or enforcement powers. It would seem that we have self-regulation by design.

The potential demands on Colorado’s fresh water should alarm every sentient being in the state. It’s too bad most of them have no recognized rights.

Equally disturbing is the way the industry is allowed to dispose of the polluted water that returns to the surface as part of the initial oil and gas production phase. Most of this flow-back water, as it is termed, is trucked off and reinjected into old wells that have been authorized for the purpose. Called Class II wells, about 200 of them are being used for fracking wastewater disposal , though the COGCC, recognizing the huge long-term demand, has recently drafted new regulations that would allow all nonproducing wells to become disposal wells. As I stated earlier, roughly 80,000 of these wells pock the state.

Some of course probably won’t be tapped, for some are within yards of schools and playgrounds and some others will be reopened given the new technology. Some others as Shane Davis of Fractivist has shown in his invaluable study of wells in Weld County actually are shallowly buried beneath new housing. Their reuse might prove difficult. Some sense of the magnitude of the potential waste-water disposal problem is gained by looking at the situation in Texas. There, according to state data, more than 50,000 disposal wells are used to service 216,000 active drilling wells.

It would be folly to deny, as one bobs down the vast river of deregulation big money and political mendacity have created under the guise of job creation, that the greed heads don’t rule the regulatory world in Colorado, if not the nation. In this regard Colorado looks a lot like Nigeria.

How much frack water is disposed of through the above described process? Well, from information gained from state studies done in North Dakota—there are no comparable studies available in Colorado—early returns of water from a newly fracked well vary from 11 percent to more than 50 percent of the injected water.

In addition to the early flow-back water, other water, called produced water, continues to be carried back to the surface over the operative life of the well, though in much reduced quantities. It too is destined for the reinjection graveyard. Information gathered in Texas, where disposal tracking is valued, suggests as much as 70 percent of the initial frack water volume, eventually, may have to be reinjected into disposal wells.

Although there is some reuse of frack water in the field, whatever is left is ultimately reinjected. Many alarms are being sounded about this practice. The former chief scientist in EPA’s Class II well permitting program has become suspicious of how the program is metastasizing well beyond its rather modest beginnings and has warned that all of these supposedly safe disposal wells will ultimately leak and, therefore, hold the fearful potential of infecting surrounding groundwater.

Mark Williams, a University of Colorado hydrologist studying western energy development is quoted in a recent ProPublica article as saying, “You are sacrificing these aquifers … By definition, you are putting pollution into them. … If you are looking 50 to 100 years down the road, this is not a good way to go.”

The seriousness of his assessment is given new meaning by the fact that in Mexico City deep aquifers, more than a mile deep, are being considered as a new long-term water supply as traditional sources dry up or become overtaxed.

Many other physical scientists have sounded the same alarm about production wells. Perhaps chief among them is Cornell Professor Anthony Ingraffea , himself a former industry scientist. It is his estimation that about seven percent of wells will leak almost immediately, 60 percent will leak in 30 years, and all will eventually leak. His concerns are more than borne out by a Duke University study in the Pennsylvania Marcellus showing remarkably high incidences of groundwater contamination associated with relatively new fracked wells. The industry has rolled up into its traditional pill-bug denial configuration, deflecting all charges.

Despite the industry’s trademark see-no-evil stance, some of the industry’s own studies relate the danger and substantiate Professor Ingraffea’s research. Schlumberger the industry’s clear leaders in fracking technology, along with Haliburton, said early on that under sustained well head pressure five percent of wells would fail within a year, 26 percent of wells at age four and 60 percent would fail at maturity, 32 years.

A 2009 study by members of the Society of Petroleum Engineers reached similar conclusions. Neither of these last two studies could be confused for the ranting of fire-breathing Jacobins.

In Colorado roughly 60 percent of the state’s water is groundwater. Much of it may be at risk if the production and injection free-for-all continues. And if that weren’t enough we can add that we don’t really understand the nature of the risk since we don’t know the chemistry of the water being injected. Yes, this water is largely unmeasured as to it constituents because it is exempt from the requirements of federal environmental law.

But consider this, in Douglas County south of Denver, one of the richest counties in the nation, ground water overdrafting is of epidemic proportions, having fallen more than 300 feet as a result thereof. It may be that in the future, a significant part of the supply for those inhabitants will have to come from even deeper aquifers. Will those aquifers be polluted and rendered unusable by our present shortsightedness?

The governor would do well to recognize that in storytelling the fellow who poisons the well is always the villain. Even the greater villain, in the modern day story, perhaps, is the overlord who accommodates it.

End Notes: Down a very deep rabbit hole

Not long ago a New York Times editorialist asked, given our plodding indifference to climate change, if we were going to be able to “avoid the greatest intergenerational environmental injustice of all time?” The fellow asking the question was Thomas Lovejoy, a professor of science at George Mason University and chairman at the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment.

His answer was muffled in doubt. In particular he wondered if we could act soon enough to limit heat-trapping gasses from exceeding the critical threshold of a 2 degrees C increase by 2100. True, many of us will be dead by 2100, I for sure. But my grandchildren and yours might not be if we act quickly to embrace a concept Nathaniel Hawthorne called the magnetic chain of humanity, but, of course, any variation on the notion that we-are-all-in-this-together will do.

Our link in this magnetic chain would be to simply insist that all venting and flaring of gasses at wellheads must cease except in the case of emergency.

As stated earlier, the technology is already developed to accomplish this. In addition, state law forbids waste in the production of natural resources. But that prohibition has probably gone the way of the constitutional prohibition against subsidizing private corporations. They have been overturned by the courts in whack-a-do rulings or simply ignored by the political ruling class armed with internal memos undoing the done.

All wells could not be converted at once, of course. So closures would have to be instituted until they could be. After all, waste of a natural resource, remember, has long been forbidden by our state law, and as the politicians are fond of saying, this is a nation of laws.

This prohibition would also apply to any new wells in that production could only commence once pipelines were in place to capture both the oil and gas. Oil can be stored on site, but gas cannot, at least not without substantial costs to the industry. This is the reason that in North Dakota the natural gas is simply flared and vented. The waste there was recently described as being great enough to power all the homes in Chicago and Washington, D.C. combined.

Norway, for instance, employees the waste-limiting regimen described above. They allow no production until the infrastructure is in place to capture both the oil and gas produced. Another big difference between Norway and the U.S. is that the resource is treated as a national resource, not one to be exploited by every character with an appetite for riches and who happens to own a checkbook, a drill bit, and a pickup. Denmark’s production is regulated as well to serve the national needs and accounts for over 25 percent of national revenues annually, though most goes into a rainy day trust fund for when the oil peters out.

Unlike Norway we continue down a path laid out by the industry. Waste, while illegal, is acceptable as long as it serves the industry’s bottom line. The true extent is unknown because it is unmeasured by the state. Thus, we are reduced once again to making our own calculations. So, if from four to seven percent of the 1,500 billion cubic feet of gas produced in Colorado in 2011 were lost through a leaky process as documented by NOAA and calculated by Ingraffea and others, we, in Colorado, would have wasted between 60 billion and 105 billion cubic feet of methane gas to the atmosphere. This is enough gas to heat between 750 thousand and 1.3 million Colorado homes. According to the census there are 2.2 million housing units in the state.

If we add in the amount of gas that is flared, which is almost certainly a greater amount, we can see that what is wasted in Colorado might not heat all the homes in Chicago and Washington D.C. combined, but is certainly enough to heat all the homes in Colorado.

For the public to regain control of the water it owns, several things need to be done? First, and most importantly, a serious water demand study with projections extending out at least 30 years must be conducted. Factored into these projections of demand must be a realistic examination of the sensitivity of our future water supply to climate change.

The reality of climate change has simply been ignored as the water buffaloes continue to look at the worn out solution of more dams financed by the public for the enrichment of the few, most recently the developers, but now, too, the oil industry. In this regard, know that we already have more than 2,000 reservoirs in this state, over half of them on the Front Range. Many often will not fill if climate change hits hard the southern Rockies as many climate scientists predict.

Water conservation, particularly in the agricultural sector which, as stated earlier, uses about 86 percent of the water, will almost certainly have to become more than a politician’s palliative if we are to realize a rational water future. Future conservation might even include the curtailment of corn-ethanol production, with its high demand for water and petrochemical fertilizers—but only if sanity reigns.

The result of the study will indicate where and how much water might be available to the industry. It is quite possible the study under certain climate change futures might indicate no safe availability. In which case, the industry would have to seek more expensive fracking mediums. In British Columbia, propane is reportedly being used successfully instead of water for fracking. Its use has the beauty of simplicity: gas in, gas out, thus, greatly reducing the wastewater disposal factor, though not the groundwater contamination threat.

Clearly, this sort of analysis needs to be done before more land is leased to the industry or more water destroyed. In a rational world, one in which the planet’s and public’s well being came first, this analysis would have been done already and the consequences understood.

Remember, too, that when the climate-change-denying, job-whores start their whine that jobs come before fustian concerns over our constitutional rights to “public peace, health, or safety,” remind them there will be a host of new jobs available in the oil patch. It will take a lot of people to install the controls needed to curb the huge waste of methane into the atmosphere at wellheads and along aging pipelines.

Because we really have no understanding of what we are doing in this dystopian nightmare of our own making, a moratorium on new leasing and horizontal fracking must be instituted. If Hick and his cohorts in the legislature cannot be made to understand our mutual responsibility in the climate change battle, or more personally our responsibility to the health of our fellows, human and otherwise, the folk will have to invoke its right to direct democracy through the initiative process, which our constitution describes as the “first power … reserved by the people.”

Commercial evaporation pits that accept fluids from independent truckers for a fee. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Commercial evaporation pits that accept fluids from independent truckers for a fee. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

The initiative process is hated by the political elite, but it is the grand gift to us from the writers of our constitution who understood the corrupting power concentrated wealth had in the 19th century over federal and state legislatures, particularly as used by the railroad barons. The oil industry is more than a worthy modern-day replacement.

If we assume that, in the near term, some water might be available to the industry as a result of the comprehensive water supply study, the present free-for-all, in which every petty water provider can sell to the industry on the spot market for a tidy profit, must be eliminated

First, speculation in water as a commodity is forbidden by our constitution. If anyone is to receive the benefit of a market sale it should be the public to which the water belongs constitutionally and, in many cases, has paid for through federal and state subsidized water development programs.

Perhaps no one would be surprised, given the lay of the land in Colorado, that even though the public owns the water, it has never received any monetary consideration for the “beneficial use” of that water. On the other hand, if the public ever needs its water back to satisfy a growing population or to restore a river or stream, it must pay a market rate to reacquire it. The state’s constitution says the right for the beneficial use of water shall never be denied, but it does not say that reasonable compensation cannot be built into the transaction.

Secondly, the oil industry, like every other developer in the state, must be made to demonstrate they have a reliable water supply and identify the source of that supply as part of the leasing and permitting process. Evasion of this requirement, as the BLM and the state have allowed, by pretending that there is no relationship between land leasing for oil development and cumulative water demand is nothing short of idiocy. If they lease, we must assume they intend to drill, at least exploratorily, and that water will be the fracking medium.

Moreover, saving any short-term, fresh-water surpluses by injecting them into our rapidly receding Front Range groundwater reservoirs should always be considered. This water-reserving approach would help provide a long-term insurance policy against an uncertain water future, particularly since underground reservoirs tend to collapse once stripped of the structural equilibrium the mined water provided.

A complication in reclaiming the public’s right to protect its water supply from destruction whether by fracking or any other use is contained in a law the legislature passed in 1979. This legislation took deep ground water out of the public estate and gave it to the state water engineer for his administration. This was done so that developers in Douglas County could continue to over appropriate the groundwater that was otherwise threatened by the constitutional requirement to appropriation, that is, you can’t appropriate something that is already used.

To accomplish this slight of hand, they created a new class of water, calling it non-tributary groundwater. Apparently, they would have us believe it came from the center of the earth, not from slow surface percolation into deep aquifers. The result of this misbegotten assault on the public’s estate is a 300-foot decline in the groundwater table, as mentioned earlier. Unwittingly their malfeasance has set the stage for a inevitable fight between the oil industry and the developers over who gets the rest, the stuff the legislature apparently thinks came from the center of the Earth.

In this regard, it should not go unnoticed that in the writing of the state’s constitution considerable debate surrounded who should be the owner of the water in Colorado, the state or the public. The Populists won the day, arguing that if they gave it to the state, the state would let the wealthy and the corporations steal it.

We need to take back what is ours, and, despite the framer’s best efforts, perhaps they knew, someday, we might have to seek our own remedies. Perhaps that’s why they reserved for us the “first right” of legislation, the right of direct democracy, the right of the initiative.

As for Hick, he probably doesn’t agree with any of this. Why only last week he was back in Washington regaling Senators with stories of his derring-do in drinking fracking fluid . If it didn’t hurt him, it must be ok, reasoned he. What he didn’t say was that the fracking fluid he was drinking is quite expensive and is not known to have been used anywhere in Colorado. Equally unclear is whether Hick shows any of the signs Dr. Colborn’s studies indicate are associated with breathing fracking chemicals. Among them are a loss of empathy, smaller head size, and reduced cognitive powers.

As an activist told me at a rally against fracking at the state capitol, he wanted Hick to drive up near Longmont, where a spill of more than 80,000 gallons of green fracking fluid occurred last week, and drink a dram or two of that stuff. He said to those gathered, “now folks, that would be an acid test.”

In the end, if Hick and his administration can’t be turned toward defending the public interest, the public will have to go it alone with the support of a growing number of legislators who know their political future may depend on joining this fight against unregulated fracking. In fact, many are beginning to realize it is not so much a question of political well being as being on the right side of history.

In the short term that means every like-minded community, grassroots and public interest group in the state should sign on to help Longmont in defending its right to ban, either materially, with amicus briefs, or simply in letters of open support.

Last month, the city council of Fort Collins , the state’s fourth most populous city, passed a preliminary ban on all drilling within city limits. It also issued a letter of support to the people of Longmont. Can other cities be far behind?

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

Wes Wilson contributed to this article.

This article has been reposted from EcoWatch.org with permission of Phillip Doe. – FRL