National

It’s not a wonderful life for many

Girl Working in Box Factory, Tampa, FL - 1909

Girl Working in Box Factory, Tampa, FL – 1909

Charles Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” is relevant these days with many in Congress playing the role of Scrooge before he was visited by the Christmas spirits. Dickens was greatly concerned about the plight of children forced to work under dreadful conditions and about the lives of the poor.

Pope Francis recently echoed these ideas when he expressed concern about unfettered capitalism. The Pope also called on world leaders to address poverty and growing inequality. Specifically, he said:

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.

“To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. …”

This description applies to many of us, particularly to many in Congress. For example, the recent budget compromise allows emergency unemployment benefits for 1.3 million to expire. Millions more will lose their federal or state unemployment benefits in 2014. Future pension benefits for federal workers and veterans will also be reduced.

In addition, in the new farm bill, Congress is likely to push for cuts in food stamps instead of reducing or eliminating tax subsidies to giant agricultural corporations.

Unsurprisingly, Congress is again targeting Social Security and Medicare for cuts. These successful programs have kept millions from falling into dire poverty. Perhaps surprising to some people, President Obama has expressed a willingness to accept cuts in these programs.

Congress has refused to raise the minimum wage, a wage that has failed to keep pace with inflation. Currently the national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Adjusted for inflation, this level is far below the minimum wage level of the late 1960s as well as being below the levels from 1956 to 1985. To be comparable to the level in the late 1960s, the minimum wage today would be close to $11 per hour.

Congress has also worked hard to restore the corporate welfare for the military-industrial complex. Congress throws money at this sector for weapons that are not needed or useful in dealing with non-state actors. Some of these tens to hundreds of billions in corporate welfare would be better spent by the badly under-funded Veterans Administration to help returning veterans prepare for reentry into society. Partly due to lack of extensive preparation, many veterans are, in effect, discarded by society. Many with PTSD and other problems are not adequately treated and join the ranks of the homeless and unemployed. We owe them so much more.

Note this budget compromise ignores the possibility of increasing revenue by closing corporate tax loopholes or by increasing the highest marginal tax rates. These higher rates would impact only the super wealthy, folks who would hardly notice these extra taxes. Instead, Congress chooses to cut incomes for the rest of us, incomes that are often already stretched beyond the breaking point for too many. Obama will likely go along with this mean and heartless approach.

Clearly, congressional and White House actions play a major role in increasing poverty and inequality. Contact your representatives and voice your opposition to cuts in these programs. I think Dickens and Pope Francis would say “bah, humbug” to these politicians.

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

The Slow Motion Lynching of President Barack Obama

This article first appeared on Patheos.com

by Frank Schaeffer

President Obama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Giant corporations and democracy

The trickle that wasn't

Corporations stand for abuse

During the colonial period and on into the early days of the nation, Americans wisely didn’t trust corporations. In particular, people remembered the abuses by the British East India Company. They were also concerned by the corruption of government associated with the grants of special privileges awarded to corporations.

Hence there were few corporations here when this country was founded. However growth in corporations accelerated in the early 19th century, but these corporations were still subject to some control by the governments that granted their charters. As time passed, more money changed hands and, eventually, giant corporations with seemingly unlimited power were created.

Several presidents, including Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower have expressed great concern about corporations. In addition, Thomas Jefferson said: “I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in it’s [sic] birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and to bid defiance to the laws of their country.”

Today, it is hard to realize that there was a time when giant corporations didn’t exercise a large degree of control over our lives. Unfortunately, these large transnational corporations, particularly in the financial sector, have used trade agreements, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to expand their power around the world.

The latest example is the little known Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that includes eleven nations around the Pacific Rim. Japan has also recently applied to be included. It is called ‘NAFTA on steroids’ and represents the latest power grab by transnational corporations.

Secret discussions have been going on since March 2010 and the 17th negotiating session will take place later this month in Peru. The agreement contains 26 chapters with only five of them concerning traditional trade issues. The corporate sector is involved and well informed, but the public and Congress are being kept in the dark.

Some key concerns about the TPP include the lack of transparency; the expansion of intellectual property rights beyond previous agreements; the ‘investor-state’ settlement system that gives corporations the right to sue governments and to override democratically enacted laws; and the elimination of more banking regulations and allowing capital to move in and out of nations without restriction.

Please contact your representative and senators and voice your opposition to this challenge to democracy. For more info, visit http://www.citizen.org/tppinvestment.

Eyes of the Nation on Colorado Towns’ Fracking Fight

Published on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 by Common Dreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shale Boom or Shale Bubble?

Come to a public discussion of fracking's false economic promise

Deborah Rogers, internationally renowned fracking economics expert,

to present and take questions

Deborah RogersDeborah will speak in three communities: Boulder, Broomfield & Fort Collins

As Front Range communities wrestle with hydraulic fracturing-enabled oil and gas development, residents should know the fracking boom may provide only a short period of oil and gas abundance before collapsing in an economic bust.

Analysis of more than 60,000 oil and gas wells shows:

  • Shale well production declines more rapidly than predicted.
  • The rate of drilling must increase to maintain current production.
  • Shale gas production has become uneconomical in many areas at current prices.
  • Wall Street has played a key behind-the-scenes role in hyping the fracking boom.
  • Industry is largely unwilling to invest in future shale development.

WHO:

Deborah Rogers, co-author of Shale Bubble reports, member of the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, advisor to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, former member of the Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and Earthworks board member.

WHAT:

An opportunity for the public to learn about and discuss the financial underpinnings of fracking-enabled shale development.

WHERE & WHEN:

Tuesday, October 22nd at 6:30 p.m.
Fort CollinsCouncil Tree Library, 2733 Council Tree Ave.

Wednesday, October 23rd at 6:30pm
BoulderColorado School of Law, Wolf Law Bldg, Rm 204, 2450 Kittredge Loop Rd

Thursday, October 24th at 7pm
BroomfieldLakeshore Room of the Broomfield Community Center, 280 Lamar St.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Contacts:

·         All events – Josh Joswick, Earthworks, at 970-903-0876, jjoswick@earthworksaction.org

·         Fort Collins – Kelly Giddens-Unuigbey, Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins at 503-866-5962, kellygiddens@mac.com

·         Boulder – Kate Johnson, Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights at 303-579-9537, katej2555@msn.com

·         Broomfield – Laura Fronckiewicz, Our Broomfield at 312-533-0525, ourbroomfield@gmail.com

Read the research at www.shalebubble.org

HOSTING ORGANIZATIONS:

Earthworks, Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights, and Our Broomfield with East Boulder County United, Erie Rising, Food & Water Watch, Frack Files of Weld County, Frack Free Colorado, Our Broomfield, Our Longmont, Plains Alliance for Clean Air & Water, Protect Our Colorado, Protect Our Loveland, Weld Air and Water, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Greeley Chapter, YES on 2H.

THE ORGANIZATIONS BEHIND THE SHALE BUBBLE RESEARCH:

The Energy Policy Forum addresses the serious long-term implications for U.S. energy consumers as America chooses course at the crossroads of potential energy futures.

The Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, environmental, and equity crises that define the 21st century. We envision a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds.

Need vs Greed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruised from Celebrating

YEE HAAAAA!!!!!!

Photo courtesy of tumblr

Gun crazies in Colorado are stroking themselves to the point of bruising after the success of their NRA-backed putsch.

I’ve read story after story crowing about how Morse and Giron reacted to their loss. The flapping-in-the-breeze lunatic fringe is blurring they’re so wound up with vengeful glee. Easy kids, you’ll wear a sore spot.

I’m surprised Greg Brophy isn’t walking around with ammo belts and a sombrero in the capitol building. No, really, wait for it. Sigh. Looking for the campaign gaffe of the decade? Keep your eyes on him. He’ll deliver in fine form when the chips are down.

And the stories keep rolling in: a young man shot without reason after a car accident, two road-ragers trade hot lead and end up cold meat, a sailor goes on a shooting spree, an 83 year old man shoots his wife for putting the lid on the ketchup too tight, etc, etc, etc!!

This is NOT a win for common sense or safety. The legislation limited the size of magazines. No more ‘mine’s bigger’ and I can imagine that upset a lot of folks. The NRA did a fine job of ginning up anger and ‘they’s a-gonna take yer gunz!!!!’ fear in the orange-vested hearts of rural Amurika.

So I’m guessing requiring real background checks is out of the question now that the NRA has two scalps dangling from it’s gore-dripping belt. Lovely. So we can expect more and worse incidents. Oh, and whatever you do don’t speak up and complain or ‘conservative watchdogs’* will track you down and see to it you’re out of your job. Yes, the ‘fear’ tactic is in clear use.

As one wit on Twitter quipped: “Clean kill on that one.”

Indeed. Sadly, common sense was also a casualty.

* Paid agents?

Cory Gardner: Fraud and Abuse

Cory Gardner, anti-environmentI see that Cory Gardner, along with his compassionate christian Colorado Republican buddies, has voted to cut the food stamp bill by 40 million, citing fraud and abuse among other things. This program has a fraud level of 1% while congress itself has a fraud level of 2%. So much for fraud and abuse.

The cuts will remove 3.8 million people from the food stamp rolls. Half of the people getting food stamps are children. Some of them go hungry part of the time. If Cory Gardner and his family were on food stamps, I wonder if it would bother him if his children went to bed hungry part of the time. Probably not. It certainly does’t bother him that other people’s children go hungry part of the time. What a caring compassionate Christian.

Doyle Myers
Longmont

Give ‘im hell, Grandma, Grandpa!

Colorado Grandparents Tell Governor Not to Frack Their Grandchildren’s Future

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, Sept. 9, 2013

Contact: Russell Mendell, 802-318-1135

Sam Schabacker, 720-295-1036

Colorado Grandparents Tell Governor Not to Frack
Their Grandchildren’s Future

Broomfield, Colo.—Today, concerned grandparents from across Colorado will deliver a letter to tell Governor Hickenlooper and other governors from across the country to say no to fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and yes to a renewable energy future in celebration of National Grandparents’ Day. The delivery is taking place before Governor Hickenlooper’s keynote address to the Western Governor’s Association Policy Forum on Shale Energy Development in Broomfield.

These grandparents will be voicing their concerns over the risks fracking, drilling and related activities pose to all Coloradans health, air, water, land, property values and their special concerns for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  They are also demanding that Governor Hickenlooper end his continued use of lawsuits to bully the people of Colorado to accept fracking next to their homes and schools.

“Yesterday I celebrated National Grandparents’ Day with my two grandchildren in Lafayette,” said Merrily Mazza, a retired corporate executive and current member of East Boulder County United. “Today, I’m here to tell Governor Hickenlooper to stop trying to force fracking next to our homes and schools with lawsuits.  My grandchildren deserve a safe, healthy future in Colorado.”

Grandparents representing the five communities (Broomfield, Fort Collins, Loveland, Lafayette and Boulder) who will be voting to protect themselves from fracking this November will be participating in the letter delivery, as well as grandparents from Longmont, who’s community is currently facing two lawsuits from Governor Hickenlooper in order to force fracking next to homes and schools in their city.  Despite gathering thousands of signatures to exercise their right to vote in each of these communities, Governor Hickenlooper has stated he will sue any community that protects themselves from fracking and has not spoken out against the attempts of the oil and gas industry to undermine Coloradans right to vote on fracking in these communities.

“Endangering the health of our grandchildren by contaminating air and water is unacceptable.  We want to work to protect our communities from this dangerous practice.  We are appalled by the lack of leadership in our state government,” said Joan Stern a grandmother with Our Broomfield.

The Western Governor’s Association Policy Forum on Shale Energy Development does not include one voice from residents who have been directly impacted by fracking or have been sued by either Governor Hickenlooper or the industry for exercising their democratic right to vote.  Instead, the Forum appears designed to coach governors and their staffs on how to deflect community concern effectively and use industry messaging to shut out any voices critical of fracking, drilling, wastewater disposal and its associated activities.

“This forum provides yet another disturbing example of how Governor Hickenlooper is the oil and gas industry’s leading cheerleader for fracking while he ignores the people who voted him into office in the first place,” said Kaye Fissinger, a great-grandparent, leading member of Our Longmont and a representative of Protect Our Colorado, the state coalition.

The organizations participating in today’s delivery are: Our Broomfield, Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, East Boulder County United, Protect Our Loveland, Frack Free Colorado, Our Longmont and Food & Water Watch.

Open Letter to American Business

It's no longer 'whatever floats your boat' but whether or not your boat FLOATS at all.

It’s no longer ‘whatever floats your boat’ but whether or not your boat FLOATS at all.

Dear American business sector:

Here’s how it is. We, the consumers who keep this country viable (at least we once did), are NOT going to buy your crap until and unless you –

  1. Reduce your incessant, blatant, mind-numbing ads everywhere. That means the ‘web, television, everything. Enough is enough.
  2. Stop calling us if we don’t want you to. The simple rule is, if we didn’t ask you to call, don’t. We usually have “Caller ID” these days, and if we’ve never heard of you, don’t be expecting anyone to pick up. This goes for your scammer friends, too. Especially them.
  3. Lower your prices. How unequivocal can THAT be? Since when is a 30% return really necessary?
  4. This one is critical, because without it, we are all headed for the dumper. HIRE MORE, much more, AND PAY BETTER. Provide benefits (you remember those; the execs have them), and you will gain a more loyal, dedicated, secure (and, therefore, STABLE) work force. Or is that what you really want? Oh, it’s a growing return for the shareholders (usually that includes management) that turns your head?

Well, unless you’ve forgotten BA 104 and Econ 102, if the common folk (the “rabble?”) don’t have the money, they won’t buy, because they CAN’T! What’s that you say? Foreigners will take up the slack? Did you just climb out from beneath a rock? Most of them don’t have much money, either. How about that 1% group? Just how many lunches can one man eat, anyway? Can anyone drive TWO Porsche’s at the same time? Try it.

Otherwise, just keep punishing and laying off your CUSTOMERS, and see where that gets you. A rising tide lifts all boats. All we ask is that you stop punching holes in them.

A bipartisan surveillance state

Too much security isn't a good thing, no matter which party's in charge.

Too much security isn’t a good thing, no matter which party’s in charge.

On Wednesday, July 24, the House of Representatives, in a surprisingly close vote, defeated an amendment that called for the defunding of the National Security Agency’s warrantless and bulk domestic spying program. I say surprisingly close because the White House and the leadership of both mainstream parties opposed the amendment. The House could have lived up to its responsibility to defend the Constitution but instead chose to continue being a party to the shredding of the Fourth Amendment.

President Obama and political leaders claim that it is necessary to sacrifice much of our privacy in order to keep the U.S. secure. Benjamin Franklin didn’t agree. He said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

As a reminder, the Fourth Amendment states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In June, after President Obama touted the key role of the NSA surveillance program in stopping terrorist plots, Sens. Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said they have seen no evidence that the NSA program “has actually provided any uniquely valuable intelligence.” They added: “As far as we can see, all of the useful information that it has provided appears to have also been available through other collection methods that do not violate the privacy of law-abiding Americans in the way that the Patriot Act collection does.”

On July 31, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis conceded that the claims about the usefulness of the program in preventing attacks had been overstated. Why then does the government continue to spend billions on a program that violates the Constitution and doesn’t deliver the goods?

Perhaps because the bulk collection of records may also allow the government to identify whistleblowers and sources used by investigative reporters. It appears the Obama administration is comfortable with leaks that portray it in a good light whereas it goes ballistic over leaks that report on its problematic actions.

The Obama administration, self-proclaimed as the most transparent in history, has indicted six former or current government employees who became whistleblowers, twice as many as all previous administrations combined. In a May 21 article in The Hill, James Bachman wrote: “These whistleblowers have revealed government waste, fraud and abuse, acts of aggression, torture and war crimes. Yet, it is those who have revealed the criminal activity that have suffered prosecution by the Obama administration while those who have actually committed the crimes have gone unpunished.”

On July 9, McClatchy News broke a story on the Insider Threat Program, enacted through a little-known executive order signed by President Obama in October 2011. This executive order requires government agencies to “implement an insider threat detection and prevention program” — in effect, ordering all government employees, regardless of security clearances or the sensitivity of their work, to police fellow workers as potential security threats, and report the suspicious behavior to superiors.

This program is not consistent with our values. If we become a nation where fellow employees and neighbors spy on one another, the social fabric of our nation would be destroyed. Indeed, this program sounds similar to things that the East German Stasi and the KGB of the Soviet Union did during the Cold War.

We must demand that Congress stop these violations by the NSA. Otherwise, in a few years we could be saying: First they came for the whistleblowers; then they came for the reporters; then they came for protestors; etc.

Current economy: unsustainable, unreasonable, unfair

Mind those teeth...

Mind those teeth…

To paraphrase: It is hard to drain the swamp when you are up to your waist in alligators. Much of what we try to address will not in the end be successful unless we deal with root causes. We need to beat off the alligators but this will never end unless we drain the swamp.

Income and wealth disparities have been growing at an alarming rate. Many, including some in Congress, speak out against food stamps and other assistance for the poor (Cory Gardner just voted to discontinue funding food stamps). If workers were paid a living wage, wages were not routinely stolen from workers and corporations would not trim costs by cutting workers, expecting remaining salaried workers to make up the slack, while paying hugely inappropriate salaries and bonuses to top management and board members, there would be less need for assistance.

Eventually, the huge and increasing disparity in earnings and wealth will come back to bite the corporations. Low pay results in less purchasing power for many millions. This reduces sales tax collection, also hurting local governments. Low pay leads to poverty and homelessness. It leads to discouraged portions of the populations. Unemployment among the young leads to crime.

The same people who voted down food stamps and other food assistance while funding large agriculture support tax breaks to big oil at a time when big oil is making incredible profits, while denying small incremental financial support for renewable energy, also brought us Citizens United. The same party continues, in the face of Supreme Court rulings to the contrary, with attempts to make it less likely that minorities, the elderly and some rural citizens will be able to vote (Scott Gessler continues to mislead us on the number of non-citizens voting while proposing to make it more difficult for thousands of citizens to vote.)

The Republican Party should be just as worried as the Democrat Party about Citizens United. Recently the Chinese government offered to buy a large U.S. food processing company. The press talks about worries that the Chinese will reduce food safety. The real concern is that as an owner of a U.S. corporation, the Chinese government will be able to support candidates of their choosing and influence elections and thus laws without having to disclose their hand in this misguided gift from the Bush court.

Historically the robber barons, mining companies, large manufactures, etc., mistreated employees and developed monopolies. Thanks to unions and an informed public, the worst of these abuses were stopped. Unfortunately, income and wage disparity has become a huge crisis. The very wealthy control too much of the wealth and thus power. Greed runs rampant. Every effort seems to be made to receive bigger and bigger portions of the pie at the expense of the many, first the poor and now the middle class. Even athletes and other entertainers fight for obscene salaries while educators, law enforcement and medical professions fall back in real buying power.

Gone are the days when a single salary could provide a comfortable lifestyle. It is not a bad thing that talented people can make more than an average earning, but when taken to an extreme this is not in the interest of collective society. Very high salaries come at the expense of poorly paid workers, workers who need two jobs even with a working spouse to make ends meet.

Too much money from relatively few sources influences elections in a way that defeats the concept of one person one vote. Politicians are frequently unduly influenced by large contributors and special interests group such as big oil, pharmaceuticals and the NRA. These groups spend huge amounts on lobbyists. We have legislators in Washington, D.C., who fight for weapons that the military says its doesn’t need and doesn’t want. We allow pharmaceutical companies to practice “Pay for Delay,” whereby they pay other companies to not produce and sell generics at a lower price. We pay, insurance companies pay and Medicare pays more. This also goes against the basic tenants of patent law.

This is not about a liberal agenda. This is about a better America. It is about living up to our values. It is about long-term sustainability of our economic system. Look around at the unrest in other countries. While there are several reasons for unrest, a good deal of the energy comes from disparity in wealth that leaves many with bare subsistence and little hope for anything better for them or their children.

Lawsuit Challenges Oil Shale, Tar Sands on Public Lands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 26, 2013
5:18 PM

CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity
Taylor McKinnon, Grand Canyon Trust, (801) 300-2414
John Weisheit, Living Rivers, (435) 259-1063
David Garbett, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 486-3161
Bill Snape, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 536-9351
Matt Sandler, Rocky Mountain Wild, (303) 546-0214
Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 225-9113 x 102

 

Lawsuit Challenges 800,000-acre Oil Shale, Tar Sands Plan Across Public Lands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

DENVER, Colo. – July 26 – A coalition of seven conservation groups sued the Bureau of Land Management on Thursday afternoon in federal district court in Colorado for allocating more than 800,000 acres of federal public land to climate-warming oil shale and tar sands development without undertaking formal consultation to protect endangered species.

The lands due to be mined are in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming within the Green River Formation, which the U.S. Geological Survey states contains between 353 billion and 1.146 trillion barrels of oil with “high potential for development,” — in fact, so high it holds 2 to 7 times as much as Alberta’s 170 billion barrels targeted by the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Vast mining, carbon emissions and water use will only worsen climate disruption and Colorado River drying,” said Taylor McKinnon, director of energy with the Grand Canyon Trust. “This plan opens the door to that kind of development, and it does so while ignoring the plight of the creatures most vulnerable to its many impacts.”

“This citizen intervention is necessary because the Department of Interior is sending mixed messages to the public. On one day, the administration issues a statement that the Colorado River’s critical water supply will be protected for people and habitat, and then on another day they announce the most carbon intensive mining practice on the planet can move forward,” said John Weisheit, conservation director with Living Rivers. “The two programs are not mutually beneficial. Interior has to protect the Colorado River, there is no other choice.”

In March the BLM amended 10 resource-management plans, making 687,600 acres available for oil shale leasing and 132,100 acres available for tar sands leasing. The agency refused to conduct formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect endangered species, as required by the Endangered Species Act, despite acknowledging likely impacts to those species.

“The Endangered Species Act requires agencies to consult with the experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service when they know listed species will be impacted,” said Matt Sandler, a staff attorney at Rocky Mountain Wild. “BLM has skipped this step, which will push these species closer to extinction.”

Mining for oil shale and tar sands would industrialize backcountry and destroy habitat, pollute and deplete water, and emit greenhouse gases. The allocated lands encompass habitat for several threatened and endangered species, including Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker, Mexican spotted owl and many other threatened and endangered species.

“Our public lands should be managed to protect our air, water and wildlife, not auctioned off for dirty and destructive fossil fuel development that will push us ever closer to climate disaster,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.

CBD lawsuit BLM 4-state map

Thursday’s lawsuit comes as atmospheric CO2 concentrations approach 400 parts per million, a milestone in human history. Making fuel from oil shale and tar sands is an energy-intensive process of mining, heating, chemical treatment and refining. Its greenhouse gas emissions would far exceed that of conventional oil. For example, emissions from Alberta’s tar sands development exceed that of conventional oil by several times.

“The BLM should be managing these wild areas for the rich wildlife diversity and recreational opportunities they provide,” said Dan Chu, director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, “not for dirty fuels development on a giant scale.”

The groups filing today’s lawsuit are Grand Canyon Trust, Living Rivers, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Rocky Mountain Wild, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club. Many of the same groups on Monday challenged a new oil refinery in Green River, Utah, that could process fuels derived from oil shale and tar sands mined in lands subject to this lawsuit.

To download a copy of Thursday’s lawsuit, click here.

To download maps of the refinery and state and federal leasable oil shale and tar sands land, click here (high resolution [6.7 MB] or low resolution [1.7 MB]) (for media use).

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.