Historical

Historic Roosevelt Organ Undergoes Restoration

Boulder, Colorado – First United Methodist Church of Boulder (FUMC) is the proud home to a unique pipe organ, built in 1888 by Frank Roosevelt at the Roosevelt Organ Company in New York City. This year this special instrument, which is cited on the Organ Historical Society’s list, celebrates its 125th anniversary, and at the same time will undergo a major restoration and renovation that will take 18 months, beginning on Monday, February 25th.

The restoration work, which will be performed off site by Denver organ builders, Morel and Associates, includes cleaning and inspecting the 2114 pipes and replacing thousands of small leather and wooden parts and 1,860 pneumatic motors, requires disassembling the organ. Full renovation will take 18 months and is made possible by a generous gift from the Hoover family in honor of their mother Virginia Anderson.

The FUMC organ (Roosevelt‘s Opus 382) was originally built for Grace Methodist Episcopal Church in Denver. It was reinstalled in the First United Methodist Church of Boulder in 1960, having spent some years in storage. Grace’s was one of two Roosevelt organs installed in 1888, the other at Trinity United Methodist in Denver where it is still in use. Pre-electricity, the innovative Roosevelt design utilized electro-pneumatic action with a water wheel providing power to a generator connected to the console. Slightly different from a tracker organ design, when one presses a note on the Roosevelt keyboard, a wooden pin moves upward contacting a rocker arm which opens a valve allowing air to escape from a small pneumatic bellows which pulls open the valve under the pipe, allowing wind to enter and causing it to speak.  
Very few of Roosevelt’s instruments remain intact today, and almost none of those that survive are in original condition. The beautifully maintained Boulder Roosevelt still uses the original console and, besides updating to electric power, has had little other modernization. It even maintains its 19th-century pitch, just under modern day A=440 Hz, adding to its historic value but bringing challenges when accompanying brass or hand bells. It is a valuable example of American Victorian organ building: elegant, full-voiced, and constructed of the finest materials available. In choice of stops and overall tonal design, the organ is an assimilation of American, English, and French Romantic styles as well as more traditional, classic German influences. FUMC’s Roosevelt has 39 ranks, 34 stops, and 2114 pipes.

FUMC’s Director of Music, Evanne Browne, says, “Hearing this fabulous pipe organ played is an inspiring part of our weekly worship. It will be very missed for the next 18 months, but we will adjust to congregational singing accompanied by piano. Doing without the organ will only increase our appreciation of the instrument when it returns.”

The church is planning celebratory organ recitals when the work is completed. 

To learn more about the history of the Frank Roosevelt organ and see photos go to the FUMC website: http://fumcboulder.org/worship-and-music/music/organ.

First United Methodist Church of Boulder is an affirming and welcoming, vibrant church family that truly loves God by loving others. We affirm that the most profound life-changing realities are characterized by words like these: kindness, acceptance, justice, compassion, forgiveness, purpose, generosity and love. We joyfully welcome all people of any race, gender, sexual orientation, and faith traditions

What does it mean to ‘rethink church’? Come and see for yourself.

Birtherism is bull

From Lowering the Bar – Legal humor. Seriously.

UPDATE: Birthers’ Record Is Worse Than I Thought

by Kevin Underhill

Last week I mentioned that the lawsuit (if you can call it that) filed against me, the President of the United States, and a number of other dignitaries by birther/dentist/lawyer Dr. Orly Taitz had been dismissed. I also mentioned having seen a chart purporting to list every court ruling in the many cases that have challenged Obama’s claim to be a “natural born citizen,” and based on that I suggested that Taitz’s record in court on these cases was 0-158. I heard from the person who compiles that chart, who kindly gave me permission to link to it, and after reviewing it again I need to make a couple of corrections.

First, it may not be correct to ascribe all these losses to Orly Taitz. Certainly there are other people involved in filing these things, including Keith Judd, who I mentioned here in a slightly different context, although a context that also involved him being in prison, and also Philip Berg, who I mentioned here. None of these people have ever won a single victory in their “birther” lawsuits, nor has anyone else, and it’s also entirely possible that Taitz is involved in some or all of these other cases behind the scenes. But to be strictly accurate, while Taitz is zero-and-something, it may not be zero-and-158.

Second, the overall record is significantly worse than I thought, according to the “Birther Scorecard.”

This chart, which is currently 70 pages long and lists 175 cases, includes short summaries and also links to almost all the cited orders, where they are available online. It’s an impressive piece of work, created by Tesibria at What’s Your Evidence? According to the Scorecard (last updated October 18), of the 175 cases she thinks can be fairly classified as “birther” cases, birthers have lost 166 and the remaining nine are still pending.

If you add up all the individual rulings, including those in appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, the birther’s arguments have been rejected (or appeals denied) at least 258 times.

As a bonus for me personally, I think I’ve also gotten at least one new entry for the Comical Case Names page from this, because one of these people apparently insists on filing cases as “Annamarie Last Name Uncertain.” Not “Annamarie Doe” or something like that—as this court noted, “In her pleadings, Plaintiff indicates that her first name is Annamarie and that her last name is uncertain.” But the captions actually read Annamarie Last Name Uncertain vs. [Whoever]. Nicely done, Ms. LNU.

In general I support the rights of the uncertain, but nobody seems able to even figure out what this person wants.


Kevin Underhill

Kevin Underhill

(excerpted from “About the Author” at Lowering the Bar)

Kevin Underhill is a partner in the San Francisco office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, and to the surprise of many, himself included, has been with the firm for over 17 years.  He was a summer associate in 1992 and began his career in the firm’s Kansas City office in 1993.

Kevin’s essay series, “If Great Literary Works Had Been Written by Lawyers,” was published in The Green Bag law journal, and was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal and on National Public Radio, among other places. Kevin has also occasionally been heard on NPR himself, has been blogging and otherwise writing for years, and started this blog, “Lowering the Bar,” in 2006 or thereabouts. He has given presentations on a variety of topics, but all drawing from the stories he posts here, for law firms and legal departments across the country.

Vote YES on on 300

There have been many claims that the dangers of fracking have been overstated. Much of this debate has been confusing to the average citizen. A new study published in Scientific American helps explain how the confusion came about and why it continues. The study’s authors analyzed 194,000 inspection records of “Class 2” wells, also called “injection” wells, which are used to dispose of fracking waste. They also provide a brief history of the regulations guiding these inspections.

A lack of adequate oversight for Class 2 wells was written into successive legislative acts. This was a tale of two political parties, who played their parts counter to type. The original Safe Drinking Water Act was passed in 1974, during the Nixon/Ford era of Republican presidents. In 1980, Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, a liberal, sponsored legislation that allowed the oil and gas industry to bypass provisions of the Safe Water Act by choosing to be regulated by state oil and gas boards that were more lax. The EPA then attempted to bar underground dumping (injection wells) unless companies proved beforehand that their actions would not be a health threat. In response, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, a Democrat, led the fight against the EPA’s hazardous waste regulation. Congress redefined any waste that resulted from oil and gas drilling as “non-hazardous.” Voila. Injection wells became safe. From then on, benzene from the fertilizer industry was a hazardous threat to health and water supplies, but the same chemical in the oil and gas drilling process was not hazardous! This is why so many reports on injection wells say that nothing hazardous was injected into the well.

Had enough of legislative double talk? Vote yes on Ballot Question 300 to ban fracking in Longmont. Our health and our future depend on it.

Rocky Flats and the Jefferson Parkway

First posted on The Blue Line.

By

The June-July Arvada Report carried an unsigned article titled “Rocky Flats and the Jefferson Parkway ­ Is it safe?” The article says, yes, it’s “safe.” But “safe” for whom? Certainly not for the most vulnerable among us for at least three big reasons: 1) the danger of plutonium, 2) the inadequacy of official standards for permissible exposure, and 3) uncertainties about environmental conditions at Rocky Flats.

The danger of plutonium

The principal contaminant of concern at Rocky Flats is plutonium. An unknown quantity of plutonium in the form of minute particles remains in the environment at the site. The determining factor in whether to build the Jefferson Parkway along the edge of the Rocky Flats site should be the plutonium that is known to be there. Scientists from the Atomic Energy Commission (predecessor to the Department of Energy) produced the map below in 1970. It shows where plutonium released from Rocky Flats up to that time was deposited on and off the site. The proposed Jefferson Parkway, indicated as a dotted red line, would pass through the heart of the contaminated area.

In September 2011, independent scientist Marco Kaltofen of the Boston Chemical Data Corp. sampled soil along the route of the proposed highway. He found that the plutonium contamination in this area now is roughly equivalent to what it was in 1970. (See http://www.boulderblueline.org/2012/02/04/plutonium-the-jefferson-parkway-report-on-recent-soil-sampling-at-rocky-flats/ and http://www.boulderblueline.org/2011/12/23/plutonium-and-the-jefferson-parkway-another-look/ )

Plutonium’s half-life of 24,000 years means that after 24,000 years its radioactivity will have been reduced by half, each additional 24,000 years reducing it by yet another half. From a human perspective plutonium thus remains radioactive essentially forever. If a particle too small to see is inhaled or otherwise internalized, it can lodge in a lung or elsewhere in the organism. For as long as it resides in the body, very likely for the remainder of one’s life, it continually irradiates surrounding tissue. The star formation in the picture below is a magnified image of alpha rays emanating from a single particle of plutonium in the lung tissue of an ape over 48 hours. The alpha rays do not travel very far, but once inside the body they can penetrate more than 10,000 cells within their range. The eventual result of this constant irradiation could be cancer or some other ailment. (Photograph by Robert Del Tredici, At Work in the Fields of the Bomb, 1987)

Read the rest at The Blue Line.

American Exceptionalism?

Signing the Declaration of Independence

Government, of by and for the people.

In the late 19th Century, there was a Frenchman (who may or may not have actually lived) named Nicolas Chauvin, a zealous nationalist who believed everything French was superior, merely by virtue of it being French. From his name, was derived the word chauvinism. When I hear conservative talkers and Fox News anchors drone on about “American Exceptionalism,” it makes me cringe. They are the modern-day Nicolas Chauvins, only they aren’t French, they’re Americans. And as was Chauvin, they’re wrong. Dead wrong.

A few months ago, I met with some friends over dinner at an extremely busy restaurant. The place is always packed, with a line of people lined up outside, waiting to get in. In my party of 9, was a couple from Wales, here visiting friends and touring the states from coast to coast. After we finished our dinner, we all walked outside to say our goodbyes, where I spotted a man sitting in a concrete divider in the middle of the street. He only had one leg. Laying beside him was a pair of crutches, and he was muttering to himself incoherently. He was obviously mentally troubled, and the people milling about in front of the restaurant completely ignored this derelict of a human being wasting away before them, as if he were part of the landscape.

And indeed, he was. For me personally, this was mortifying. As for my friends visiting from Wales, it was embarrassing enough to me that they witnessed it, but to have them also see how unremarkable it seemed to the passersby, the shame of it all seared into my brain. I’ve been to Europe several times, and with the exception of the more third-world ex-communist bloc countries, you rarely see beggars anymore, and you never witness a disabled person discarded like a piece of trash. If someone in France, England or Germany has problems as horrendous as this guy apparently did, they’re generally scooped up by social services, and given the appropriate help. This guy could have keeled over and died there that night, and nobody would have known about it until the vultures started circling.

So when I hear this term; American Exceptionalism, being bandied about by the right-wing (and in truth, by some on the left who are too cowardly to refute it and call it what it is: patriotism on steroids), it boils my blood. In truth, the term is a thinly disguised euphemism for American superiority. This is all part of the flotsam and jetsam leftover from the 2000 election, and the hubris that emerged from the neocons after 9/11. That period when “Freedom Fries” replaced French fries, when restauranteurs all across the country were pouring Bordeaux wines into gutters, to protest that nation’s refusal to participate in our little Iraqi adventure, and as a way of poking our collective finger in the eyes of all the other countries who doubted America’s military and political hegemony.

The truth is, American superiority is 100% pure, 24 karat bullshit.

Is America exceptional in many ways? Absolutely. Our national parks, our beautiful coastlines, our rivers, our mountains, the Bill of Rights… I could go on for hours. But could anybody say that our national parks are more beautiful than those of say, Canada? Our coastlines are more beautiful than those of Brazil, Italy or Turkey? Our mountains are more beautiful than the Swiss Alps or the Andes? The Bill of Rights is superior to the Magna Carta? No. Every nation on the planet can in some small way claim to be exceptional. Even the most poverty-stricken nations of the third world have at least one or two unique bragging rights, and NONE of them suggest superiority over all others. Only Americans do that. We just love to remind everyone that we have the most powerful armed forces and the biggest arsenal ever known to man. Yet in all our boasting, we’re quick to skirt such stories such as how our military was misused by its civilian leadership to invade and utterly destroy a nation of 25 million people who posed no threat to us. And, in all our “superiority,” we brush aside as unimportant, the fact that we allow disabled, mentally disturbed citizens to rot in the gutters of otherwise pristine cities.

A truly enlightened nation would have very different priorities. The feeding of our poor and infirm should be at the top of that list. Healthcare for citizens lying in the street, should come before tax breaks for billionaires and subsidies for oil companies. Universally available and affordable education for our children shouldn’t come at the expense of a fleet of stealth aircraft that will (hopefully) never be used. And, perhaps unique amongst us, any truly exceptional nation would NEVER have adopted an electoral process that relies so heavily on electronic voting machines provided by partisan corporate interests!

The fact is, this country now has the highest healthcare costs, the highest infant mortality rate, the worst gender inequality, the highest murder rate and the highest incarceration rate of any developed nation on the planet. Exceptional, indeed. Where do these defenders of American superiority stand on that?

At one time or another, many empires, monarchies and nations have laid claim as the most powerful on Earth. Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome, France, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Holland, and probably a half-dozen others whose names are lost to history. And the one thing they all had in common, is that not a single one of them could ever conceive of a time when they weren’t the most powerful, or they didn’t have the biggest armies, or their armadas didn’t rule the Seven Seas. Yet, their power did indeed wane, as will ours. I would argue that the process has already begun, but the folks on the wacky right who measure America’s strength via military prowess, aren’t looking at the big picture. They’re only looking at who has the most muscle, while ignoring — or indeed, causing — our withering backbone.

No nation can survive with an undereducated populace, or with a two-class system; the haves and the have nots… or by spending nearly 60% of its discretionary budget on military hardware. As surely as Rome fell, so too will we one day. And for those who yammer on about American Exceptionalism, in this case, I would tend to agree; we’re exceptional amongst the nations today due to our path of self-annihilation. And I find it ironic beyond words that the right mistakes such obvious weaknesses as strengths.

I love this country, warts and all. But when these faux patriots boast of our power and pressure our politicians to co-opt their talking points, it shames me to have to acknowledge them as compatriots. Is America great? Yes, it is. Are we exceptional? Yes we are, in many ways — as is Guatemala, Bhutan, Gabon, Peru and Laos. But are we superior to any other country on the planet, by any sense of the word? No. And it’s high time we call out this American Exceptionalism meme for what it is; a pompous, overbearing display of nationalistic arrogance, bordering on fascism. American Exceptionalism as defined by the right is a bald-faced lie.

One person, one vote

Open, transparent, fair and just Elections?

Voter suppression always hurts those that need the vote the most.

One person, one vote. We all learned that in school. Then we learned that initially it applied only to white male landowners. It took amendments to the Constitution to get non-whites and women the right to vote. Those rights took years and much effort to secure. Now some in this country are trying to limit these rights, claiming they are combating voter fraud. Laws have been passed in many states that require picture IDs to vote. Study after study in state after state has failed to identify a significant number of cases of voter fraud. Instead, large numbers of legitimate voters will be disenfranchised.

These laws have a consequence. People of color, the elderly and poor, especially rural poor, are less likely to be able to obtain picture IDs because they cannot get or have difficulty getting birth certificates or other documents. Courts have ruled these voter suppression efforts to be illegal because they disproportionately affect minorities.

People are losing a right that we hold so dear, a right protected by the many who have served in the military, many of whom lost their lives. Take the case of Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old U.S. citizen who has voted in nearly every election since 1960. She lost her birth certificate and Social Security card when her purse was stolen. A new law in Pennsylvania denied her right to vote. She has filed a lawsuit, which is pending. She finally received a replacement birth certificate but will need to visit a Social Security office in her wheelchair. Not everyone who is denied their right to vote will be able to obtain the needed documents. Many were not issued a state birth certificate, including those born at home with the assistance of a midwife.

Certainly many will be discouraged and not willing to make the extra effort. But is this unfortunate consequence of disenfranchising these particular groups of underserved people an accident? I don’t believe so. These laws are introduced by Republican legislators and passed by Republican-controlled legislatures. The affected people are less likely to vote for Republicans.

One person, one vote. Should it not mean that we all have the same ability to influence who is elected and what laws are passed? We are rapidly moving away from anything that looks like this.

Money plays a large role in elections. Every campaign for public office takes increasingly large amounts of money. While the best-funded campaign does not always win, having a large campaign treasure chest is a huge advantage.

It is bad enough that individual candidate supporters can contribute large amounts to campaigns, because these large donations are likely to influence how winning candidates vote on legislation. Minimally, they provide great access.

It is abundantly clear that large investments in candidates by interest groups influence legislation. Now, thanks to the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, corporations have the same rights as citizens to contribute to PACs that support or oppose candidates. Corporations can spend huge amounts of money and gain huge amounts of influence. These donations are not required to be made public. Stockholders don’t have the right to know how their money is being spent.

Now we have two problems: disenfranchised voters and unequal opportunity to influence laws. Republicans support the Citizen United decision. Why? It appears to be because corporations largely support Republican candidates who are then expected to vote “correctly.” Many Democrats also benefit from PACs.

Should we care? Damn right! Republicans have consistently opposed regulation of business. While it is true that overregulation can be bad for business, and thus the economy and the rest of us, lack of appropriate regulation has led to scandals at the large banks, insurance companies, mortgage companies and Wall Street companies. Abuses have hurt all of us. The real estate, banking and Wall Street crises are the prime reasons for the recession. Even after those debacles we still have the greedy and loosely regulated fools behaving badly.

Publicly funded state and local elections have worked well in a few states. It is time to take personal and corporate money out of the process of electing those who are supposed to represent us and make laws in the public interest.

Michael Caddell: Shameless

STOP ROMNEY!

Romney’s just another elephant fart salesman.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach recently declared to the press that lawyers were ‘shameless’ in requesting fees in excess of $675,000 from the federal judges who drew up the redistricting maps that Gov. Brownback and the state legislature could not produce on time.

I would like to remind readers of the more than $640,000 in lawyers fees to defend the unconstitutional and draconian abortion clinic regulations passed by our “free market” loving lawmakers in 2011.

We should not forget the final bill yet to come for Dear Old Phill Kline and his the revolving door of lawyers that is piling up in his defense as former attorney general. The great defender of the “preborn” has been throwing Kansas taxpayers money to his cronies toward keeping his lapsed Kansas law license. The bill isn’t in yet, but coupled with the millions he expended while in office to persecute women and their doctors for legal abortions it promises to be sizable. A fact most Kansas reporters have yet to get paid to find out the figure.

Paraphrasing Donald “Rummy” Rumsfeld we do have a “known unknown.” That is the $75,000 to Art Laffer for his layover in the flyover zone of Topeka. Good Old Boy Art on his way to Tennessee declared Gov. Sam a genius in cutting state jobs, eliminating income taxes, etc. Bush #41 called Laffer’s methods ‘voodoo economics.’ Art declared victory and announced to the country that Kansas is having a “revolution in a corn field.”

Then there is the $31 million Gov. Sam sent back to DC over the health insurance exchange program, and the million or so lost from matching grants for the arts, a small matter for people who only see golf courses. He informs all that the future of the Supreme Court tested Affordable Care Act hinges on the November election and running out of office what many Kansans call “that n-word socialist in the White House.”

Now with 60 and more Kansas counties declared drought disasters there will be lines of heavily subsidized livestock feed farmers with their hands out for federal loans and crop insurance claims. Hateful of the federal government this somehow rings of hollow hypocrisy.

Then our Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a plastic surgeon, travels to DC to testify, at taxpayer’s expense, against “Obamacare” before a partisan stacked committee in the House of Representatives. He won’t benefit from “Obamacare”, not one cent as a cosmetic surgeon. What does he care if the poor get health care?

Then he returns with Sam who is fresh from the air fair in Great Britain to crank out a press release, lauding the virtues of K. U. Med becoming a national cancer research flagship, as a “job creator” of all things. Of course, they forget to mention just how much hated federal money is pumped each year into the place.

And they want us to vote for that Bozo with the car elevator in one of his mansions? I smell a big, stinking elephant fart coming our way from Topeka again, and we must pay for it.


Michael Caddell is a writer living in Nortonville, KS who runs Fightin’ Cock Flyer.

Falling Through the Cracks

STOP ROMNEY!

The 1% are the real poor – spiritually bankrupt.

From my years of work in providing care for disabled people. I am well aware of the number of people who “fall through the cracks” of our vaunted welfare system. When one is disabled and cannot work, for whatever reason, it is “the Christian thing to do” for society to help them avoid the inevitable ruin for them and their families. However, for many the system as it currently exists falls far short of that target.

One family man of my acquaintance has fallen through that proverbial crack and, as the result his very life and the continuation of his whole family is endangered. As the result of construction work injuries that broke his back, coupled with the extreme hard physical effort expended in working as a roustabout in the gas fields, he could no longer do that kind of work and had to give it up.

As a man who was only in his thirties, he determined to make a living by doing odd jobs, which he did for a period of years as his health continued to decline. As the recession crept up, it was harder to make enough money to support his family so his wife of twenty years began working in the office of a provider of services for the disabled and, for a few years, made enough money to sustain the family while he played “Mr. Mom” for their two sons and worked part time at any odd jobs he could get.

They managed quite well for a few years but, eventually, the strain began its own vengeance and he developed ulcers which sometimes caused him intense pain. The recession deepened and his odd jobs became harder to find and ceased. His wife’s employer, a contractor for the state, began to be squeezed by state budget cuts until they were forced to cut the salaries of their employees. She helped her husband apply for his Social Security disabilty benefits. His application was denied because he had not been working under “covered” employment for too long. Then application was made through the Social and Rehabiliation offices. There they were told that the wife’s income alone would only allow them to receive food stamps.

Then their oldest son turned eighteen, graduated from high school and then left home. With one less person in the house, the food stamps disappeared! This year, the younger son turned eighteen and then graduated from high school. Now he can’t even qualify as a dependent for tax purposes unless he goes to college, which he would love to do. However, in the process of evaluation, it was learned that this proud graduate of the special education classes of our school system failed the entrance examinations because of a “reading comprehension problem.” Sorry, but the scholarships and additional fees paid by his parents are non-refundable!

As problems are wont to do, they keep getting worse. Two days after he finally received a diagnosis of duodenal ulcers, the kind that are prone to rupture and cause one to bleed to death internally, he was moving a very heavy object in his own yard and caused a groin rupture. So, here they are with no medical insurance coverage, a gross family income which cannot pay all their expenses, and the threat of death hanging over them. Unless they take the option offered by the Republican politicians by showing up in a hospital emergency room and “free-loading” the necessary treatment, proving that it is no answer at all, the man is simply living on borrowed time. They know that the collection agency will hound them until hell freezes over in their efforts to collect every single dime. The irony of this situation is that, except for the fact that our Governor has stated that he would not accept the offer made by “Obomneycare” to increase the levels of poverty in Medicaid adjudications, they could, at least, receive the needed medical care under its provisions.

Is it the prevailing theory of the Republicans that this is the way our America should run? Should we give tax breaks to the filthy rich and let the poor just die because they are not able to do sufficient work to maintain life? Is this what the many generations of my family, including five of my brothers, fought and many died, to preserve for posterity? Is this the society we want to leave for our own descendents? If this is not a nightmare, I never want to wake up.

This writer is an octogenarian who has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own working-class family. She spends her “Sunset Years” in writing and struggling with The System.

Doug Graham: What’s the connection?

Rightwing loonies attack anything in sightI think it’s terribly cute how the Times-Call tries to pretend it’s a real newspaper then turns around and publishes attack articles about Free Range Longmont. The most recent screed by Doug Graham pretty much calls out by name the entire Progressive community in Longmont and tries to claim FRL is some sort of nefarious ringleader. Hey, I’m delighted to be associated with Progressives – FRL is a progressive publication. And should we play a leading role in things progressive, local or beyond, we wear that badge with great honor and satisfaction. Free Range Longmont was born of the need to counter heavily biased reporting of the Times-Call as well as the Times-Call’s failures to cover information that was not in line with its right-wing agenda.

So sure, FRL is Progressive and we’re PROUD OF IT. Our masthead proclaims it clearly: Progressively Better News.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Graham gets a bit crumbly as he whines about FRL’s moderation policies:

They “nuke” what they don’t like but otherwise reuse, edit and republish your comments as they please, then throw the T-C under the bus implying it encourages libel, which is ironic considering how often members of the “team” submit opinions to the T-C.

Right there, in one line is classic TC distortion. FRL doesn’t “nuke” things “we don’t like” we delete comments that come from fake email addresses, attack our authors or use hate speech of any kind. The Times-Call could benefit from such a policy since their comments are routinely full of anonymous hatred, bile and sometimes just plain incomprehensible lunacy – some of which could be Mr. Graham (wearing a stylish mask provided by TC’s own IT team). Oh, and how dare any of FRL writers use their First Amendment rights to send LTEs to the newspaper. The temerity!!

Free Range Longmont’s ‘ends’ are quite simple: we want to give Longmont the information the T-C tries (and routinely fails *arf*arf*) to suppress and allow the Progressive community in Longmont to have a clear voice in the public square. We want citizens to be able to speak out against the extreme right-wing power base that’s slowly but surely wrecking our home. Lastly we intend to provide that forum without the barrage of lies and libels routinely seen among the T-C comments. Let the rabid right seek and destroy elsewhere.

Doug Graham, VP of IT at MediaNews GroupFree Range Longmont is here and here to stay. Newspapers loss of influence is already well-documented and it’s time for the fishwrap factories and their corporate owners to wake up and realize the game has changed.

There is a “Doug Graham” listed on LinkedIn but he claims he’s ‘never read the Times-Call’ – which is odd since he was IT VP for their parent company. I leave that conundrum for the reader to solve.

Setting history straight

Jerry Day accused Tom Lopez of rewriting history for criticizing Republicans and went on to accuse five Democratic presidents of starting wars. Such nonsense must be answered. World War I started in Austria in 1914 with an assassination. The U.S. entered in 1915 after German submarines sank unarmed passenger ships, primarily the Lusitania, with Americans on board. Woodrow Wilson did not start the war.

We owe to the victims to get the story straight.

World War II started with the invasion of Poland by Germany in 1939. The bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and invasion of the Philippines with the loss of thousands of Americans brought us into the war. The total was much greater than on 9/11. Franklin Roosevelt did not start the war.

North Korea invaded the South in 1950, threatening to drive American and South Korean troops into the sea. Harry Truman did not start the war.

John Kennedy was considering withdrawal from Vietnam when he was assassinated. I will pass on the rest of this one, including Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia.

The Bosnian War started in 1992. Clinton did not get involved with the NATO bombing campaign until 1995. Clinton did not start the war.

Daddy Bush invaded Kuwait and Iraq in 1990 to save American oil interests from Saddam, who had invaded Kuwait, but failed to completely crush his war machine, allowing him to fully recover and slaughter thousands of his people after Daddy Bush urged them to revolt in 1991, and they did. They were hung out to dry.

Junior finished the job, at horrendous cost, by invading Iraq in 2002. It was justified by claiming Saddam was involved in 9/11 and possessing WMDs. Both have been proven to be lies.

Indeed, Mr. Day, some people do try to rewrite history.

45 years of occupation with no end in sight

The Israeli attack on Egypt that began the Six-Day War occurred 45 years ago on June 5, 1967. This attack was followed by an Israeli attack on Syria and fighting with Jordan. As a result of its attack, Israel took control of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, part of the Golan Heights in Syria, and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.

Some supporters of Israel claim that the attack was necessary. However, leading Israeli leaders clearly reject that claim. For example, former Israeli Prime Minister Begin admitted: “In June, 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

In 1968, Yitzak Rabin, chief of staff of the Israeli military in 1967, said: “I do not think Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent to the Sinai in May [1967] would not have been sufficient to launch an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it.”

In a 1972 interview, Mordechai Bentov, a former member of the Israeli ruling coalition during the June war, said: “This whole story about the threat of extermination was totally contrived and then elaborated on afterwards to justify the annexation of new Arab territories.”

As a price for peace with Egypt, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula. However, Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights continues to this day. Some may claim that Gaza is no longer occupied, but the U.N. and the U.S. still recognize Gaza as being an occupied territory.

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank has increased in brutality and harshness over time. Palestinians rights are constantly violated. Living conditions in the West Bank are horrible and are even worse in Gaza, particularly due to the ongoing siege by Israel. For more on this siege, see http://imeu.net/news/article0019152.shtml.

Israel continues its theft of Palestinian lands and places illegal settlements throughout the West Bank including East Jerusalem. As of December 2010, there were an estimated 520,000 Israeli settlers living illegally in the West Bank including East Jerusalem.

Israeli expansion and construction of settlements has essentially eliminated the two-state option for a just peace. Israel must now choose between apartheid and democracy.

Memorial Day 2012 – A three star family’s tribute

Three stars in our window

Three stars in our window

I was born in 1957 in San Diego, California. My father, George Wray had served in the Armed Forces as did numerous relatives. The Korean war had been over for four years, the Vietnam War was three years away. Eisenhower was President and America was catching her breath and leaning into the race to the future. John F. Kennedy was eyeing the White House.

My childhood memories start when I was four, that’s the earliest I can recall clearly. The town I grew up in, Apollo, was deep in rural Pennsylvania northeast of Pittsburgh; squarely in the middle of the Rust Belt. Allegheny Ludlum’s Vandergrift steel manufacturing plant was still running and nightly ‘slag dumps’ into the Kiskiminetas River were still popular evening entertainment. Cautionary tales by relatives in the steel industry made it clear that men were ‘consumables’ and only the vigiliant and the lucky survived unscathed. At age six I was quite familiar with amputation scars and missing limbs – most of the adults I knew had one or the other. Coal and cargo trains ran regularly and I walked railroad tracks virtually every time my friends and I went hiking. The sound, smell and feeling of huge trains rumbling or roaring by fill my memories of that time. When I saw the movie Stand by Me I could empathize closely with the boys as they crossed a railroad bridge. Memories of the smell and feel of wood, creosote and hot metal come back sharply.

My memories of childhood are also littered with the jingo and propaganda of the Cold War. We heard in school what monsters the Communists were and television brought images of nuclear bomb tests – horrifying that our enemies had such things. More horrifying was the fact that such things existed at all. I was a smart kid (or so my teachers kept telling me); I understood what “10,000,000 degrees Fahrenheit” meant. Hot as the surface of the sun, literally ‘hell on Earth.’ Even as a boy I realized no human being should wield such force and knew without a doubt that if we ever actually used them in earnest, we’d strip this beautiful world down to naked molten rock – a giant slag dump. So I grew up living in fear that one day the madmen ‘running the world’ would go wild and kill us all. I still remember the ‘duck and cover’ drills that I knew abundantly well meant absolutely nothing – there’s no escape from an atomic attack.

My brother in law David Hill served in the Vietnam war. I remember his visits when he finished basic training and before he left to go overseas. When he came home he dealt with PTSD (usually during thunderstorms) and the depression that accompanies it. He died recently of cancer induced by exposure to Agent Orange.

In recent years I lost my wife Marilyn to lymphoma as well as my parents to aneurism and heart failure. Things weren’t going well at all. Then I met my future wife and life started getting better again.

My fiance had four children and had lost her husband to a heart attack triggered by a congenital condition likely caused by prenatal prescription drugs whose effects on mothers and children were not yet known. So death-by-industry was a very personal experience for us both.

When we decided to live together, one of the items she brought with her was a Service Flag with three stars on it- one for each family member serving. It hangs in our front window, slightly lower than our American flag as per tradition. There is no question in our home about ‘honoring the troops’ – those ‘troops’ are our family members.

To all the families in Longmont, Colorado and the rest of the United States who have family serving in the Armed Forces, you have our tribute and our comradeship. When our government decides to send troops or bring them home, we feel as you do – grief or relief since it could mean the loss or rescue of our dearest hearts.

On this day I pay homage to all my family and friends that have served our Nation – as well as the millions of servicemembers and their families. We remember you every day but most especially today – when the United States stops briefly to bow its collective head and say a prayer for the lost and those in harm’s way.

God bless the service families today, we stand with you.

May they all come home soon and may we ‘study war no more.’

You Might be a Conservative If — 2012 Edition

  1. You think that if the government is forced into another shutdown scenario this summer — again — it’ll be the fault of the president — again — and not due to John Boehner and Eric Cantor playing the same game they played last year which resulted in the nation’s credit rating being reduced. And you believe this, in spite of the evidence, because Sean Hannity said so last week — again.
  2. You believe President Obama’s support for gay marriage will weaken the sanctity of your own marriage. And the two babes you’re banging on the side down at Bubba’s Busty Bistro both agree with you.
  3. In the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case, you immediately took the side of Zimmerman, because Martin was wearing a hoody and had no business being out at night in a gated community. But you still insist your position has nothing to do with race.
  4. You bristle whenever someone reminds you that today’s recession began during the George W Bush administration, and have even developed a talking point to combat it; “Bush is gone, It’s Obama’s presidency now!” Except of course, when president Obama killed Osama bin Laden, then suddenly Bush did it.
  5. 2012 is already trending to be the warmest year in recorded meteorological history, followed by 2011, 2010, 2005, 1998, 2003, 2002, 2009, 2006, 2007, 2004 and 2001. But because 2008 didn’t make the grade, you’re quite certain climate change is bullshit.
  6. You’re convinced that there’s massive voter fraud going on in the African/American community, because you saw 13 “New Black Panthers” looking mighty intimidating at a polling station on Fox News once. Even though, those 13 jokers make up the entirety of the New Black Panthers, and Fox News played that footage more times than they played the Rev. Wright tape. Oh, but don’t you assume from this that Fox is appealing to racist voters.
  7. You take Mitt Romney at his word when he said “Of course I would have given the order [to go after bin Laden in Pakistan], even Jimmy Carter would have.” Even though Mitt Romney previously said “Osama bin Laden is not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch. I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours.” But hey, this is all academic anyway, because everyone knows President Obama was only following Bush’s strategeiry.
  8. You think the recall movement going on in Wisconsin is un-American, and Scott Walker is only doing what the voters of his state demand. And that recording of Walker taking a phone call from a bogus David Koch was overblown… He just thought it was a courtesy call to discuss their mutual love of cheese.
  9. You think Romney will be a better president than Obama, because he’s made it crystal clear that he wants nothing to do with those creepy gays. Well, except for that one time, when he was running for governor of Massachusetts (link).
  10. You believe the debt is at $15 trillion today, primarily due to Barack Obama’s failed policies, even though it was at $11 trillion when he was inaugurated, and the tax cuts and wars had yet to be factored in during the Bush years. You also believe George Bush’s role in doubling it was necessary, because he had to combat a Democratic-controlled congress… the very Democrats that voted 126 to 81 against the Iraq War. And the two tax cuts became law by Bush using reconciliation, against the will of the Majority. Together, these made up the bulk of Bush’s spending spree, because after all; “Deficits don’t matter.” ~ Dick Cheney
  11. You tout the concept of “American Exceptionalism,” because America’s the bomb! We’ve done it all, we do it right every time (unless a Democrat’s in power) and those stupid European socialist twits would have been lost decades ago, if not for us. And anybody who says our claims of American Exceptionalism are really just arrogant boasts of “American Superiority,” is just jealous, because they know we’re the best. Booyah!
  12. Even though Rush Limbaugh called a young birth control activist a slut and nobody within the GOP condemned him for it, the Komen Foundation was infiltrated by a mole whose intent was to defund Planned Parenthood, the governor of the state of Virginia proposed a bill that would have required a trans-vaginal probe against her will before being permitted to have an abortion, Planned Parenthood itself has been under attack by Boehner’s congress, and most Republicans voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Law, a bill guaranteeing equal pay for women — you still deny that there’s any sort of “War on Women,” because Gretchen Carlson said so on Fox & Friends. And she’s a woman, so case closed!
  13. You think Mitt Romney would make a better president than Barack Obama, because he’s had hands-on experience in the business world. And who was the last president who ran on his record of business experience? George W. Bush. So there.
  14. You think Barack Obama broke the law by backing the NATO mission to support the Libyan rebellion, which ultimately toppled a true supporter of international terrorism, but Bush’s invasion of Iraq … which wasn’t condoned by NATO or the United Nations, was just swell.
  15. You believe teachers, firemen and cops are overpaid, and that’s a better place to make budget cuts than asking millionaires and billionaires to pay the same tax rate they did under Clinton… when times were good, and the budget was balanced.
  16. You’re a big supporter of Free Speech, but nothing ruins your day more than when some immigrant says Sarah Palin was dumb. How dare they? If that’s what they think, then they should go back to Russia. Then Sarah can wave at them from her porch.
  17. You think Citizens United was the best thing to happen to Democracy since Glenn Beck, because finally, those poor downtrodden corporatists will have a say in who represents their interests… just as poor Siemens, Mengele GmbH, IG Farben and Bayer were finally permitted to do what they do best, once freed of those pesky, restrictive regulations. Because nothing says “Freedom,” better than a government kept in check by industry!
  18. You were shocked, SHOCKED when the Romney campaign suggested Barack Obama might try to use Romney’s Mormon faith as a wedge issue in the coming months, even though there are no such plans to do so. What sort of sick, anti-American commie party would ever use religion to divide America? After all, who’s ever done that?

Afghanis and Americans deserve better

Pentagon Releases Photos Showing U.S. Casualties

The price of Afghanistan

Lt. Colonel Daniel L. Davis wrote an article, “Truth, lies and Afghanistan: How military leaders have let us down“, in a recent issue of the Armed Forces Journal. The article summarized some material from a longer classified report he provided to several members of Congress.

Davis’ article is incredibly important as it sets the record straight on the ongoing disaster in Afghanistan as well as pointing out the huge disinformation campaign being waged by the military, politicians and the corporate-dominated media.

According to his article, Davis interviewed or had conversations with more than 250 soldiers in the field, from the lowest-ranking 19-year-old private to division commanders and staff members at every echelon. He also said he spoke at length with Afghan security officials, Afghan civilians and a few village elders. These conversations took place over a twelve-month period, mostly in 2011, during which Davis traveled over 9000 miles throughout Afghanistan.

Davis said that what he saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground. Instead, he said he witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.

Davis concluded his article by saying:

“When it comes to deciding what matters are worth plunging our nation into war and which are not, our senior leaders owe it to the nation and to the uniformed members to be candid — graphically, if necessary — in telling them what’s at stake and how expensive potential success is likely to be. U.S. citizens and their elected representatives can decide if the risk to blood and treasure is worth it.

“Likewise when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price, our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose. That is the very essence of civilian control of the military. The American people deserve better than what they’ve gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years. Simply telling the truth would be a good start.”

For another vital but seldom-heard perspective on the impacts of the failed U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan, visit http://vcnv.org/afghan-screams-aren-t-heard. This link provides information about the impacts of war from the perspective of Afghani civilians.

Republicans & Their Caterpillar Problem

First seen at Discomfit Magazine.

Caterpillars turn into lovely butterflies

When asked about the problem of women leaving the Republican Party in large numbers, Reinse Preiebus, the executive director of the party, said that, given enough press, the Democrats could accuse them of having a “caterpillar problem,”thus minimizing the idea that they even have a problem.  They do have a problem and he may find that he chose an appropriate simile in his comparison.

For over a century, women could rightly feel like caterpillars, living perpetually in the cocoon of a home and family without being offered any choice in their lives.  They did as they were told by a man who, they were told, has superior capacity for understanding things in business and politics.  Until after the turn of the last century, they were denied even a right to vote, much less the right to accumulate anything of worth in their own right.  They were required to sit, smiling as their husbands might nudge a neighbor as he made fun of wives and women in general.

The funniest new joke  in the thirties was to ask, “Have you heard the definition of a wife?”  The punch line was, “It’s a new appliance that you screw on the bed and it does all the house work.”  Hilarious!

But, due to the efforts of a lot of long-suffering sisters who braved beatings and forced feedings, they did earn women’s suffrage.  They could vote and they did!

In response to the interminable sufferings of poverty, they mostly and largely secretly, helped to elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  The one thing that did the most to free the “little ladies” from this literal slavery was the onset of World War II.  Every able-bodied man was needed in the war and there was a huge problem in manufacturing the arms and armaments which our nation so sorely lacked.  It was decided that, perhaps, women could learn to do the work that was once reserved for men.

Young women turned out in droves for training in the operations of welders, rivet guns, and heavy manufacturing machinery.  Children met “baby-sitter” for the first time as older women and young girls took over the child-rearing chores and none of them suffered any lasting negative effects.  Soon we had the mightiest military machine in the world, the wars were won, and the men came home.  For a time, women happily went back into the ever-more-expensive cocoons with an even-greater list of responsibilities.

Their daughters, however, had an entirely different outlook.  No cocoon for them!  They were aware of their capabilities and they wanted to fulfill them!  Offices became full of secretaries and hospitals adequately staffed with nurses; schools were staffed with teachers, and there were other challenges to conquer.

Soon, they were writing for newspapers, writing for, and even publishing their own papers and magazines.  Despite the fears of the old men, marriages still took place and the population continued to grow as women dropped out of working or took sabbaticals to rear young families.

But they had seen the world and they liked it!  They chose to limit the size of their families so they could return to their respective professions.  This, however was difficult and accidents did happen.  Then the choice was dire; to again give up their dreams or to risk being butchered by an illegal back-alley abortionist.

This gave life to the pro-choice movement which took a couple of decades to accomplish.  This movement also inspired the free-enterprise pharmaceuticals firms to develop other birth-control measures and they were a startling success.  Some two generations of women relied upon these measures, from the messy diaphragm to the pills and the hormone shots, to allow them to juggle careers and child-bearing.

This is the real problem with caterpillars which the Republicans do not appear to understand.  Caterpillars have a way of turning into butterflies!  They flutter about, spreading pollen for the flowers and making the world a more beautiful place, at the same time, creating more caterpillars to carry on their work.

These butterflies cannot and will not return to their cocoons and no sane person would expect them to do so.  You may stick pins through their heads and hang them on your walls but you can’t put them back in the cocoon once they have felt freedom and spread their wings.

Mr. Priebus was right.  When the Republicans want to destroy women’s access to reproductive care and remove the availability of controlling their own fertility, then they may find that they have a “caterpillar problem.”