National

Agenda: wreck the train to narrow the tracks

Wreck the train to narrow the tracks.

Wreck the train to narrow the tracks.

In Latin “agenda” means things [to be, or being] done. So some of our elected representatives in Washington have an “agenda?” I don’t think so.

First, the zeal on the part of some extremists, especially on the House side of Capitol Hill, for shrinking government is said to constitute (oh, THAT word!) an agenda. It certainly does appear they would wreck the train in order to narrow the tracks. Imagine, no FAA to ground the new plastic airliner. Note: the biggest customer for the Boeing 787 is the Japanese, who will soon and again be the country’s biggest creditor. Maybe we can get them to bomb us again, or threaten to. Say, a small island in the Aleutians as a shot across the bow? Don’t miss a payment, and don’t mess with Mrs. Watanabe.

How about no FCC to make sure television commercials are no louder than the programming? I’m not the first to point out that hasn’t worked. Neither does the “no call” list, but that’s a story for another day. In either case, what’s the difference?

These legislators SAY they hate debt. How many of them have a mortgage? Ah, ah, ah, ah; you freaks can’t use a credit card, either. If you’re gonna talk the talk, then walk the walk. All that “debt” verbiage is just garbage designed to strike fear into you and me. I’ll show you fear, when the Social Security checks stop arriving. These “lawgivers” would blackmail and bankrupt us all to prove their point. And if the USA goes down, we’ll take the rest of the world with us. But don’t worry. Your congressperson or US senator will set up food lines, man the electric plants, run the water and sewage treatment facilities, fix the roads, protect our borders, in short fill in everywhere. They have our backs. So what’s the worry? After all, we elected them; didn’t we?

‘Seems Pogo must have been right after all.

Change: It comes from the bottom up

The deaths in Connecticut brought back the pain many of us have experienced after the death of a child. How much more is that pain when not only your child died but also the children of many of your friends and friends of your children? Those of us who have lost more than one relative to gun violence are sensitized to these violent events.

The responses to this and similar events have raised broader issues.

 

We the PeopleShould large corporations, organizations and people with large amounts of money be able to have more influence than individuals? Should partisan efforts be allowed to limit which U.S. citizens can actually vote? Can we get to the point where people with differing views stop talking past each other? Even within groups of largely like-minded individuals, there is too often disrespect for opposite views on specific issues.

The various responses to mass killings tell a lot about our society. I understand why many people want to own guns. The NRA’s callous response and the repetition of trite slogans have not helped at all. The NRA once supported a ban on assault weapons. Comments about not arming mental health patients, while appropriate, will not be effective. In Connecticut and New York, the weapons were bought by other people. There seems to be a fear that banning assault weapons or large magazines will be a step to ban all firearms. This is an unrealistic concern. The Arizona sheriff recruiting 500 armed volunteers to patrol around schools is much different from having trained and seasoned law enforcement officers, who have even recently killed bystanders. An effective solution requires listening to all positions.

As discussed in the Jan. 2 guest opinion by Gordon Pedrow, big money institutions have the ability to frequently negatively impact all of us, with practical impunity for those running these companies.

Several years ago the CEOs of the largest tobacco companies and large petroleum companies clearly lied to Congress. (Congress does, however, pursue athletes for lying.) Listen to the ads from the American Petroleum Institute and the natural gas industry. When they do not lie, they omit important information.

The banks and mortgage companies allowed home loans to be made that were guaranteed to fail then passed the cost on to others and eventually the taxpayers. Several banks have just agreed to pay billions of dollars for closing on homes that they did not hold the mortgage on or whose owners were not behind on payments.

Wall Street and insurance companies created risky investments whose risks were not always identified. Individual investors and taxpayers paid the cost. A few banks aided the drug cartels by laundering their illegally obtained money and indirectly supported numerous murders. No individuals or banks were charged with criminal behavior.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, large corporations, including those controlled from other countries including China, can now try to buy elections. Large corporations with lots of money, as well as very wealthy individuals, have entirely too much influence in Congress. It is hard to believe that votes that go against the interest of the residents of this country are not directly or indirectly influenced by big money interests.

How you steal and how much you steal is important. If you steal enough money you can afford the very best legal representation. As Mr. Pedrow so aptly pointed out, the very largest companies and their CEOs/board of directors cannot be punished enough to discourage bad behavior.

Try not fully paying your employees (an all-too-common practice) and you will not face any serious consequence other than paying the employee what they are owed, with a small penalty. However, the odds greatly favor that the result will be that the employee and her family will never see all or even any of what they worked for. (By the way, they will not be able to spend that missing money at local businesses including sales tax.)

These endemic problems are all too obvious. The solution is not. There are some things we can do. We can look at where candidates are getting their support from. We can learn who makes direct sizable donations and who is contributing to their PACs — oops, we cannot do that. Too bad. We can look at the behavior of the large banks and other companies to choose where we do business. If they have paid a fine, they are probably still behaving badly.

Collectively we can promote change.

Boenhner smoke

By Justin K. from Flickr

By Justin K. from Flickr

Mr. Chris Douse wrote a letter lambasting Senate leader Harry Reid for a pork-laden Sandy relief bill. I agree that there should be no pork in the relief bill. But let us take a closer look. Money appropriation bills like this are supposed to originate in the House. Speaker Boehner is led around by the nose by the tea party fanatics and did exactly nothing, leaving it to the Senate and Harry Reid to help the victims.

Reid can do nothing without the approval of Republican leader Mitch McConnell or he will be filibustered. McConnell filibustered 60 times in the 111th and 48 times in the 112th Congress. He even filibustered one of his own proposals when he proposed it and Reid then offered to vote on it. So the pork-laden bill had his full approval.

Reid was forced to buy the votes of some senators by their demands for a favorite pork project in order to get enough votes to pass the bill. Mr. Douse found a list of the pork projects, but failed to go further and obtain the names of the people who demanded the pork. If he had done so, I’ll wager that at least half were from Republican senators. In the meantime, Speaker Boehner fulminated and chain-smoked in the House instead of doing his job of helping the victims of Sandy.

Tell the truth, Wendy.

As a native of Boulder County, and as the son of a man who worked in the oil and gas industry for 35 years, I feel compelled to respond to the hyperbole and melodrama of Encana Oil and Gas’s Wendy Wiedenbeck’s guest editorial (“Anti-fracking activism,” Op/ed Dec. 29). And, as the Colorado director of the national group Food and Water Watch that Wiedenbeck smears, I feel compelled to set the record straight about my organization and the community members that Wiedenbeck depicts as “extremists.”

Being almost completely devoid of facts, Wiedenbeck’s article uses emotional pleas and exaggeration. But what about the peaceful, earnest community members who she derides as “fringe activists?” These are mothers, fathers, teachers and small business people who have, until now, had no say to whether or not the oil and gas industry can put our air, water, soil and property values at risk by dangerous drilling practices like fracking.

Wiedenbeck wants sympathy, but it’s our health, our families’ safety and our communities that are threatened. Let’s examine the factual record.

There are 45,000 fracked wells in Colorado. Increasingly, the oil and gas industry — with the blessing of Governor Hickenlooper — is drilling merely a stone’s throw from our homes, schools, public parks, rivers and streams.

Warning sign on oil and gas condensate tank near homes in Evans COFracking and its associated activities threaten our health. Nearly 25 percent of the chemicals used in fracking could cause cancer; 40 to 50 percent could affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular system; and more than 75 percent could affect the skin, eyes and respiratory system. With these scientifically documented dangers, why is Governor Hickenlooper’s state regulatory agency permitting companies like Encana to drill wells next to elementary schools in Erie, where data from a recent NOAA study found levels of propane ten times higher than in Los Angeles?

Fracking contaminates groundwater. According to an analysis done by the Denver Post of the state’s own regulator agency’s data, oil and gas has contaminated groundwater over 350 times in the past 5 years. On average, there is more than one spill a day across the state.

It takes 1-5 million gallons of water to frack a well. Each well can be fracked multiple times. Multiply that across the 45,000 wells in Colorado and you get a sense of the sheer volume of water that is being laced with thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals and pumped into the ground. In effect, this water is removed from the hydrological cycle forever. Having just experienced one of our state’s most severe droughts, when 62 out of 64 counties were declared in a state of disaster, it seems unconscionable to continue such wanton destruction of our precious water resources.

Fracking drives down property values. There have been reported cases of home values dropping up to 75 percent due to nearby fracking activity. Increasingly, banks are not granting mortgages to property owners whose land carry oil and gas leases.

Ban Fracking NowSadly, it’s not just Wiedenbeck who’s obedient to the business objectives of the oil and gas industry — Governor Hickenlooper is astonishingly out of touch with Coloradans on this issue too. He has refused multiple requests to meet with Coloradans who are concerned about fracking taking place near their homes and children’s elementary schools. He has locked citizens out of “public meetings” that he has convened to discuss the issue while gladly keynoting at the oil and gas industry’s annual summit, starring in pro-fracking advertisements, and to suing the citizens of Longmont for attempting to protect their health, safety and property from fracking.

Wiedenbeck’s attack should be seen for what it is: A desperate attempt to cover up the fact that Coloradans don’t want fracking. This was made clear when citizens in Longmont voted overwhelmingly to ban this dangerous, industrial activity next to their homes and schools last November. The vote was a resounding mandate. It was especially notable because the oil and gas industry raised over half-a-million dollars to defeat the measure, including $30,000 from Wiedenbeck’s employer.

It’s unfortunate that Wiedenbeck finds it necessary to defame Colorado citizens, but it’s understandable. It’s less understandable — deplorable actually — that Governor Hickenlooper continues to dismiss, discredit and even sue mothers, fathers, teachers, farmers, nurses, retirees and business owners in Colorado who do not want fracking next to their homes and schools. These are the voices of reason and common sense.

Sam Schabacker is the Mountain West Region Director for Food and Water Watch.

Some call them banks. We call them criminals.

Photo courtesy http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1136585In case you failed to notice, 2012 ended just like it began for many global too-big-to-fail banks: scandalously. Too-big-to-fail banks are those entities deemed so large that their failure could plunge the global economy into depression. Many of these players are the ones that allowed greed and compulsive gambling with borrowed money to nearly wreck the global financial system in 2008. Saving the system required U.S. taxpayers to bail out numerous big U.S. banks. Unfortunately, since the bailouts, these behemoths have become even larger, with more concentrated power over the global financial system. Therefore, too-big-to-fail banks are an even larger threat to international financial stability than in 2008. After you read the next paragraph, it will be clear that as they have become larger, the too-big-to-fail banks have also become too big to indict, even for the most egregious illegal and fraudulent behavior.

For those of you who have not followed the long parade of big banks that agreed to pay fines to avoid prosecution in 2012, here is a small sample of names, settlement amounts and offenses for which they settled. As you recognize these well-known names, remember, these are the large financial institutions on which the global financial system depends for economic growth and stability. The following are listed in the chronological order in which the settlements occurred: 1. Bank America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Bank ($26 billion), fraudulent foreclosure practices; 2. Citigroup ($158 million) and Bank of America ($1 billion), misleading the Department of Housing and Urban Development; 3. Deutsche Bank ($200 million), misleading HUD; 4. ING ($619 million), money laundering; 5. Barclays ($450 million), interest rate rigging; 6. Capital One ($210 million), deceptive marketing credit cards; 7. Standard Chartered Bank of England ($340 million), laundering money for Iran and lying to regulators; 8. Bank America ($2.43 billion), misleading investors; 9. Goldman Sachs ($12 million), a “pay to play” scheme with a public official; 10. JPMorgan and Credit Suisse ($417 million), bundling and selling troubled mortgages to investors; 11. HSBC ($1.9 billion), money laundering for drug traffickers and terrorist institutions; 12. Morgan Stanley ($5 million), violating securities laws; and 13. UBS ($1.5 billion), manipulating interest rates. Only UBS was forced to admit guilt as part of its settlement. Although the settlement agreement shielded its charter to operate, UBS admitted guilt for a single act of felony wire fraud on behalf of its Japanese subsidiary. The remaining offenders were allowed to settle without admission or denial of guilt. Many of these banks are recidivists.

Prosecutors in the Justice Department and other bank regulators chose to settle these cases instead of prosecuting for fear conviction might cause the banks to fail, thus triggering a collapse of the global financial system. Therefore, with a slap on the wrist, the too-big-to-fail banks were not held accountable for charges of fraud, misleading federal regulators, money laundering, interest rate manipulation, deceptive marketing, misleading investors and violating securities laws. With prosecution off the table, big banks have no incentive to change their behavior. Settlement payments are just another cost of doing business. The U.S. banks named above were all considered too big to fail in 2008, so they received billions of dollars in TARP bailout support. These same banks are now spending huge sums to ferociously resist reasonable regulation under the Dodd-Frank financial reform act.

Since the global financial system is so dependent on a small group of large, interconnected banks (oligopolists) that are too big to fail, indict or prosecute, these institutions have no fear of being held accountable for the most egregious acts of lawlessness and fraudulent behavior. Therefore, they are too big to exist in their current form and must be right-sized into smaller entities. A large number of right-sized banks will ensure a vigorous, competitive financial sector that can efficiently provide the wide range of financial products necessary to support business formation and job creation. Officials at the big banks claim their institutions must be gargantuan to efficiently finance the economy. Empirical data to support such claims is hard to find; however, proof that too-big-to-fail banks are detrimental to global financial stability is abundant. Numerous banks agreeing to pay millions or billions of dollars to settle charges of outrageous illegal behavior in 2012 alone is quite telling. Until we eliminate too-big-to-fail banks, the world will constantly be on the edge of the next greed-induced financial calamity like we experienced in 2008.

Encana propaganda as toxic as fracking

skull-crossbonesIn “Guest Opinion” pieces of corporate propaganda, such as Wendy Wiedenbeck’s the recent post in the Boulder Daily Camera, reality gets buried by twisting the facts with half truths, misrepresentations, innuendos, and claims of innocence and victimization, that in the end amount to lies. Let’s get real about this. Wendy Wiedenbeck’s job as “community relations adviser” is to create a positive image for one of the most ruthless industries on the planet, whose only consideration is maximum profit, regardless of any ill effects to local citizens.

The laws and “”regulations” have gradually evolved to allow corporations to “legally” degrade the health of our families and our ecosystem. We have tried in vain to be heard by our elected officials at all levels of government, yet the assault on our quality of life worsens by the hour. We have tried Wiedenbeck’s “civil discourse” and figured out that it is a sham. The public forums are almost all we have left, because we are not being represented in the back rooms and the boardrooms. Now grassroots groups around the U.S. and the world are finding creative ways to fight back.

And as for Wiedenbeck’s “silent majority”, they recently spoke loud and clear in Longmont, 60% to 40%, and said “NO”, you will not be allowed to wreak havoc on the health and welfare of our community with your fracking and waste.

Wiedenbeck’s Opinion is filled with half-truths.

Example:

“I’m also guessing that they don’t know that hydraulic fracturing has been taking place in Boulder since the 1950s.”

Current fracking methods have little or no resemblance to previous methods. When Dick Cheney exempted fracking from parts of the Clean Air and Water Acts the industry took pollution and contamination to new levels.

“But there have been no signs of regret from the activists, or from the out-of-state pressure groups — such as Food & Water Watch in Washington, D.C. — that encourage their behavior, train and fund them.”

Food & Water Watch did not “encourage” the behavior at the Commissioners meetings. The only “training” they have done is to show local concerned citizens how to best coordinate outreach to the community. And the only “funding” has been on an “in kind” basis. Wiedenbeck’s allegation is a thinly veiled attempt to discredit all of these concerned groups into one group, to make corporate thugs, like Encana, look good by contrast.

We’re on to you and your industry’s dirty tricks, Wendy. And that is your real concern. The citizenry has finally figured it out, and we are fighting back. Our only goal is to protect our families and communities.

Fracking protests: justified and necessary

Editor’s Note: The following OpEd, which appeared in the Longmont Times-Call on December 11, 2012, is reprinted with the author’s permission. In today’s Boulder Daily Camera, Wendy Wiedenbeck, “hired gun” spokesperson for Encana, offered the usual oil and gas industry falsehoods. However, she outdid herself with inflammatory accusations and hysteria. FRL has had several conversations with those who were in attendance at the Boulder County Commissioners’ meeting on December 4, 2012, participants and non-participants in the protest. Ms. Wiedenbeck has intentionally interpreted frustration, fear and anger at her company as a threat to her personal safety. This is propaganda of the worst sort. She has destroyed her credibility, if she had any, as well as Encana’s, if it had any, in one fell swoop. Expect a tsunami of propaganda in the months (perhaps years) to come as the industry fights for it’s state/nation-sponsored privilege to threaten the health of citizens, in Longmont, in Colorado, and around the nation.


1806885996_1d29879109I attended the Boulder County commissioners’ meeting last Tuesday at the Boulder County Courthouse. I was there to put pressure on the commissioners to strengthen the proposed new oil and gas regulations, extend the moratorium to allow time to adequately implement the new regulations, and to consider some way to enact a ban on fracking in our county. I was not, however, a part of the disruptive protests you may have read about or seen on the news.

I’d like to make a few comments about this, though, from the perspective of someone who has been learning about hydraulic fracturing and taking an active stance against it this past year.

First, while I don’t condone some of the hostile actions taken by a few of those involved on Dec. 4, I don’t condemn the intentions and the reasons behind such actions. While some of the disruptions came from people who are not very well informed about the work that has been done by the Planning Commission, the county commissioners and the county staff to try to lay the foundation for better regulations that might eventually help lead to a countywide ban, some of those involved were people who are deeply concerned about the health of their own families, and they are coming from a place of fear, anger and frustration. Fracking is a dangerous heavy industrial process where toxic spills and water contamination are frequent. And it uses vast quantities of water at a time when we are in a serious drought with no relief in sight.

If allowed to continue to steamroll its way through our county, our state and beyond, it will have such a serious impact on climate change that we will reach the tipping point where we can’t undo the damage to the planet within as little as 15 years. And yet our state laws make it nearly impossible for a local community to control whether, when, how or where it gets fracked. While Longmont’s residents were able to vote to ban fracking, that may still be challenged. Boulder County does not have the ability to vote on such a ban at this point.

So I share the frustration and anger about the state of the earth and the sad state of our government. And I recognize that these strong emotions and the passion behind them can and need to be expressed productively and can potentially effect great change. At the same time, there are instances when hostile behaviors and approaches can cause the intended message to get lost and the overall effectiveness of the movement to be undermined. Many of us are working on this issue from a variety of different angles, and most of us are doing it with civility and respect of our fellow citizens.

I encourage anyone who has up to this point remained uninvolved and uninformed to step up your awareness and involvement. There are many good references out there to help you understand the seriousness of this issue and how it will affect every one of us. For starters, if you haven’t already done so, watch the movie “Gasland.” Then, when it premiers later this month, go see Matt Damon’s “Promised Land.” Visit http://environmentcolorado.org/reports/coc/report-costs-fracking for a good overview of the costs of fracking and the environmental damage it is causing. The facts you will begin to uncover will help you understand the fear and frustration that is driving some of the behavior that may be hard to condone, but is based on a real threat to our community and our planet and certainly warrants such strong emotions and concern.

Let’s go make history together!

Editor’s Note: The following address was given before the Longmont City Council on December 18, 2012, following the lawsuit filed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association over Article XVI of the Longmont City Council.

Given our recent history some of us here may seem unlikely allies……but we are wise enough to look forward, not backward.  We now have a compelling common cause…to protect this community and its citizens from an oppressive lawsuit that would elevate the profits of a single, privileged industry over the health of our own people by granting that industry a godlike, dare I say, unconstitutional right to impose its inherently dangerous operations next to our homes, our schools, and our places of recreation.

There are those that would fatalistically parrot history and blandly proclaim that we are prisoners of this case law, or that judicial outcome.

Just so, many advised Abraham Lincoln that, based on history, it was impossible and untimely to free the slaves,…..there were many who discouraged General Eisenhower from the Normandy Invasion given the immense risk of challenging the massive blockade by the powerful German army; and there were, no doubt, multitudes around the world that laughed at the thought of 13 small audacious American Colonies challenging the Imperial English war machine……  Retrospectively knowing all those outcomes today we can easily lose sight of the risk involved in undertaking each of those historic missions.     We, like Lincoln, Eisenhower, and the fledgling America have chosen the higher road.  Not irresponsibly or unthinkingly choosing a path of great risk of a possible lawsuit that is now a reality…..but because we recognize the true risk…..a long-term threat to the health of the very families and children in this community.

We now face a lawsuit from COGA, a proxy for arguably the most powerful industry in the world.   But we are not motivated by fear,…rather we stand together as a threatened people with courage, determination, and resolve to uphold our inalienable right guaranteed by the constitution to health, safety, and wellness.

I end with a quote from the Supreme court in 1932 as follows……”Neither Property Rights, nor contract rights are absolute.  For government cannot exist if the citizen at will can use his property to the detriment of his fellos.”   So, you see…we DO have a case….. Now let’s go make history together!

It’s An Obscenity

Photo courtesy of sxc.hu

How much? How long?

What happened on December 14, 2012 in the small town of Newtown Connecticut where 20 (and counting) children and at least six adults were shot to death has been variously described as a tragedy, a horror, or a calamity. It was all of these; it was also an obscenity.

It is an obscenity when a country can be so influenced by money, by fear, by political manipulation, by lobbyists that it allows virtually anyone to buy a weapon meant but for one purpose only- kill another human being on a field of battle.

Surely the word obscenity is insufficient when one considers the power over this nation’s culture and the resulting mayhem when anyone can buy an AK47 or a pistol with “extended” clip hold ing 30 or more bullets.

It’s an obscenity when, on PBS, three eminent social “experts” opined on how, in a dream-world Utopia, all persons of violent nature could be intercepted, counseled, quieted, calmed and returned to a compassionate society. But not one damned time was the phrase “Gun control” uttered. Perhaps in their Utopia guns don’t exist.

It’s an obscenity when one PBS expert opined that “objectively” schools were safe. By that I assume he meant that statistically, schools were safe. After all, only 20 children were shot dead- and there are thousands of schools which have never experienced such an act. Tell that to the parents of the dead from the carnage of Newtown or Columbine.

Your school is probably not safe. Read those words again and then ask yourself a few questions and the answer will be clear.

Is your school completely enclosed by a high chain link fence?

Are there armed guards monitoring metal detectors at the entrances through the fence and into the property and well away from the actual school?

If there is a breach of security can the school be alerted and all doors locked before an assailant can gain entry?

If the answer to any of these questions is “No”, your school may be statistically safe but also vulnerable, for as long as a mentally disturbed person can buy weapons meant to do nothing else but kill, no school, no theatre, no campus can ever be considered safe.

So the larger question is there; How long are you, as a citizen of this nation prepared to indulge this culture of swagger and “open carry”? Guns on campus, guns in bars, guns strolling down Main Street? How long are you prepared to tolerate the NRA and the choke-hold it has on reasonable gun control?

How long before this all happens again? How long will we continue to tolerate the obscene stupidity we practice every day in allowing the NRA, the weapons industry and the corrupt politicians they bought and paid for to shape our culture and abuse the underlying premise of the 2nd Amendment?

Perhaps the parents of those tiny dead bodies in Newtown could provide an answer.

Our Longmont Condemns the Oil and Gas Industry’s Lawsuit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2012
Contact:  Michael Bellmont
(303) 678-9470

 

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont Condemns the Oil and Gas Industry’s Lawsuit against Longmont’s Charter Amendment

 

Before the ink was barely dry on the Longmont Charter Amendment, Article XVI, the Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act, that prohibits hydraulic fracturing next to homes and schools in Longmont, the oil and gas industry has filed a vicious lawsuit against the People of Longmont.  This suit was brought by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association—with brazen support from Governor Hickenlooper—to force the citizens of Longmont to allow a dangerous, industrial activity that threatens the health, safety and property of citizens in Longmont.

On November 6, 2012, over 25,000 people, 60 percent of Longmont voters, representing all demographics and all political philosophies spoke loud and clear that it is their intention to prohibit hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the disposal of attendant wastes within the city limits of Longmont.  The citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed rights to health, safety, and property shall not be infringed.

The legal assault by COGA is a blatant attempt to undermine the democratic process.  “It is unconscionable that the oil and gas industry has decided to sue the people of Longmont to recklessly endanger our health, safety and property,” said Michael Bellmont, a spokesperson for Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont (Our Longmont).

Our Longmont has assembled a legal team that will assist in a vigorous and unwavering defense of the charter amendment that it placed on the ballot with the concurrence of over 8200 Longmont voters who signed the petition to qualify the measure (nearly 45% more than required).   “We will not be bullied.  We will not permit Governor Hickenlooper, who has publicly stated he will support a lawsuit and the oil and gas industry to put this dangerous, industrial activity next to our homes, schools and public parks,” said Kaye Fissinger of Our Longmont.

Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper is equally culpable in this decision to sue the people of Longmont after publicly declaring he will support any oil and gas company that seeks to sue citizens who want to protect their health, safety and property from fracking.  Any action that he directs the State of Colorado to take against the City of Longmont and the citizens of Longmont will be received with immense animosity and will carry a heavy political price.  Hickenlooper took an oath to represent the people, NOT the oil and gas industry.

Past the point of survival?

earth_on_fire_1062515_63098996The International Energy Agency issued its annual World Energy Outlook on Nov. 12. The Paris-based agency has 28 member nations and is acclaimed worldwide by many government agencies. The World Energy Outlook stated that North America is leading a global energy shift that will make the United States almost energy self-sufficient by 2035!

Almost all of this projected energy growth in North America, and particularly in the United States, is based on increased use of hydraulic fracturing and more efficient use of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal). The report clearly states that although the renewable energy segment will continue to grow, the world will still rely heavily on fossil fuels to meet its ever-expanding energy needs into the foreseeable future.

This overriding projection by the IEA is supported by most of the developed nations and driven by purely economic reasons. The United States, China and India demand a cheap and reliable energy source to satisfy their insatiable appetite for energy. The undeniable fact is growth-based economies need a cheap energy supply to grow their economies and use job creation as a publicly accepted excuse. The hydrocarbon companies, which are truly worldwide in nature, are only too happy to support this data for profit motives.

Even the projected expansion of renewables is based on the continued and increased use of government subsidies to make them competitive with relatively cheap and available fossil fuels. The World Energy Outlook report doesn’t take into consideration many of the potentially devastating consequences of expanding fossil fuel usage.

The most important of these consequences is global warming, with all the environmental factors associated with increased usage of fossil fuels. Along with the contentious climate change issues, there are other related and overlapping issues that could affect this projected scenario: social discontent, general health issues, inadequate water supplies, lack of proactive government policies, etc.

Unfortunately, the human condition is to be reactive, not proactive. I am fairly certain that we will use every ounce of fossil fuels available unless the world condition forces us to put survival ahead of profit. Most of the world depends on growth to sustain economic viability. We are culturally and socially committed to an ever-expanding population, consumption of finite resources and a dependence on profit and material growth. If we continue on this shortsighted path we could very well see the end of growth as we know it. We are at a crossroads in our human development. The question is will we do the things necessary for our very survival and maybe of the survival of the earth itself? The human species is close to becoming a cancer upon the earth that could kill the host that we owe our very existence to!

I am not trying to take a purely environmentalist position or simply suggest a doomsday scenario. I am also certainly not speaking out of technical expertise. I am simply trying to express my opinion as an observer of reality and human nature. We live in a world society where cellphones and iPods have become more important than a sustainable ecosystem. I actually believe a compromise will be worked out that will pacify the public and allow the fossil fuel companies to extract their bounty. It would take a sea change in our collective attitude to wean us off fossil fuels and close to impossible from a pragmatic standpoint. The reality is our fate may already be sealed!

Good night and good luck, America

I had to say a few things before this election. As I write it isn’t over yet, but whoever wins, the entire campaign will leave a lot of bad taste in many mouths.

I keep wondering how it is that one candidate for President is able to quantify how many jobs he will supposedly “create” if elected. If he truly cared about the country he’d disclose just how, and yesterday. Truth is he hasn’t got any more ability to “create” jobs than your dog. Now just where did he get that number, 12 million?

What if, just suppose that the membership of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been intentionally holding back on hiring. Why would they do that? Perhaps they hate having an African-American Chief Executive. Or they simply want to be able to do whatever they like. Either way, from what I read, those who do have jobs aren’t getting raises and are just about to work themselves into the ground. Stress and burnout are really good for productivity.

Twelve million sounds like a lot. That requires growing the paycheck lines by about five per cent. Actually, I’m not an economist, but if maybe around eight million were hired in short order, making the “capitalist” candidate look pretty darned good, those mysterious “multipliers” could take care of the other four million.

I would not put it past them. The Chamber has made no secret of its disrespect for and dislike of the sitting President. And many on the “red” side of the aisle (I remember when that meant they’d be Communists) openly express their dislike for the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Prof. Ben Bernanke. What now?

Bernanke’s “quantitative easing” has meant a lot of companies were able to hold on when pure “market” economics would have meant doom. These moneyed conservatives hate that. They read Schumpeter. They salivate over buying up assets for pennies on the dollar. They haven’t had many opportunities to do that since 2007, and they’re unhappy. According to this way of thinking GM and Chrysler should have been on the block that way, but the Administration headed off the Indians at the pass. No wonder the candidate with Utah connections has been upset over the bailout of the car companies.

Likewise, the “failed” stimulus. Bull. Picture the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. When he grows tired or has to honor Nature’s call, he needs someone to stick his thumb in for him, or the Netherlands becomes the New Jersey shore last week. What if no one shows up? Would any Dutchman logically be unhappy if at the last minute some stranger shows up with a fresh thumb? Would anyone in Holland care very much who this new guy is? Truly, if no one fills the hole sooner or later those lowlands are gone. This is pretty much what happened starting in 2007, when that other rocket scientist from Texas sat in the White House. Was his policy misguided? No? You can’t have it both ways, pilgrim.

Onerous regulations are said to be the bane of American business now. If that were true, wouldn’t we expect to see dozens of lawsuits in federal district courts challenging every one of them? No, the Federal Register hasn’t hurt many. Businesses would apparently rather blame their own lack of innovation and creativity on the White House. If that fails, then there’s the Chinese at fault. Once in a while it might be labor unions. Or, if all else fails, there’s that tried-and-true bogeyman, the cost of money. Oops! Interest rates have been lower than a snake’s butt for so long it seems like forever. Corporations have been borrowing like crazy thanks to these tiny rates, trillions of dollars’ worth. Now, if government were run like a business, then they’d borrow and . . . Oh, fudge. There goes another mantra!

It’s sad to admit it, but the USA already has a health care system that rations service by income. Some want education to be the same. Where does that take us? Not to Canada, not to Norway, not even to Saudi Arabia. Try a place like Pakistan, or Niger. Some of these self-styled conservatives might envy Niger, because of their oil. Heck, I even see where some in Longmont have expressed envy over Firestone and Frederick. These people don’t get out much.

If voters want to buy a horse, they would almost always check its teeth. They should go a bit farther with their government. And if they are serious about having a government run like a business, they must ask themselves who benefits. If they have corporate experience, answering THAT question will be easy, and enlightening.

I wonder if Franklin Roosevelt wasn’t saved from assassination just before his first inauguration by the hand of divine intervention. FDR also avoided a coup from wealthy “businessmen” whose utterances would sound very familiar today. Then we were winners in World War II. It was fortunate for the nation that Hoover preceded FDR and not the other way round. A parallel is advocated by some today. If we get this wrong and elect a REAL non-Christian President, then what might befall us? Was Hurricane Sandy a warning? Or was it the wave one candidate needed?

Another contributor to this thread is fond of stating that the American public doesn’t like having a President smarter than they are. Well, in 2000 and 2004 they darn sure got exactly that. Now they’re uncertain, as they believe they have another one. I remember clearly during the GOP debate season (21 of them, I believe) that many “men on the street” claimed they wanted “somebody else” and not the man who was eventually nominated. Now in many cases that guy on the street is again saying, with regard to the incumbent President, I’d like to see “somebody else.” The electorate will never be happy. As for me, I am voting for the Presidential candidate who actually strikes me as having a bit of humility. This human quality will serve better than having a wallet at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In case you’re wondering, this candidate is the one with daughters and not sons.

Good luck, America.

Rape

There’s no joy in rape for the victim.

Iʼm continually amazed by the number of women who, in voting the Republican ticket have potentially tossed away their rights as the female of the species and casually handed them over to a bunch of arrogant, self-righteous and (apparently) intellectually challenged males. I also would not be surprised how many of these same women will look in the mirror one day and realize the staggering mistake they have made in their voting selection.

I wonder how many of these women voters will be faced with an unwanted pregnancy. Not theirs – their daughterʼs. How many will face the agony of holding a child who has been raped and with a growing fetus, now face the abhorrence of future offspring by an unknown rapist or perhaps a known relative? Will there be joy in that embrace?

The Romney/Ryan ticket has of late softened its absolutist position on the abortion of rape and incest victims, but beneath the veneer of concern for the victim lies the absolute probability that a Romney administration will have the opportunity to appoint at least two supreme court justices. With those appointments, the nation can say goodbye to Roe v Wade. Mission accomplished and itʼs; “Hey – we didnʼt do it”. But of course they did; thatʼs politics for you.

No one knows just how far the court might go. No abortion, regardless of cause or even the health of the mother? Who knows? A more compassionate view protecting the life of the mother but otherwise prohibiting the procedure regardless the raper? Perhaps. Nice to realize that your daughter bears the child of good olʼ Uncle Joe or brother Billy or- well, you really donʼt want to go there, do you? At what point does anger spring into action?

A female is raped and her life is changed forever- a memory she will carry to her grave and a pregnancy adds to the agony. I wonder if R&R have spent much time thinking about what goes through a victimʼs mind once sheʼs dismissed from the hospital with her baby cooing as she make their way home. Very little I suspect.

The births of R&R’s lovely children were intended and filled with joy. What about the others- the victims, the innocents, the scarred? Your child is in your arms. She may be 11 or 16 or 26. She is in emotional and physical pain. If very young she may have no understanding of what has just occurred. As you comfort her, do you think of what to tell her a few months along; that she is pregnant and will soon be a mother- and nothing legally can be done to change that fact? Or is it impossible for you to even imagine such an event in your family? Unimaginable! No way – not in my family! Well, if your luck holds, that may be a fact.

But what if and what about that mother down the street clutching her raped and pregnant daughter? I wonder who she voted for and exactly why some ignorant male politician is making decisions for her. Then again, – it may be you, alone and with no arms to hold you.

And his eyes- are they as filled with tears as yours or your daughterʼs? Not likely- theirs will burn with zeal and the certainty of whatʼs good for you – and them. Mostly them at the polling booth.

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.

Behind-the-scenes story of oil and gas in Longmont

Who's behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Who’s behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Once upon a time not too long ago, our terrific city was growing and evolving. Not in the usual sense of the words, but in forming a fresh identity that would lead us forwards in this new century. That is the best, most meaningful definition of “home rule,” albeit not the legal one.

And then along came the oil and gas industry. The behind-the-scenes story began in 2009 when Longmont first lost control of its elections to outside interests with big money to spend. An organization known then as Western Tradition Partnership, now American Tradition Partnership, slipped into Longmont elections more or less under the radar. It fully funded a political committee who attacked candidates that it perceived as being unreceptive to their intended future agenda.

WTP/ATP is an IRS 501c4. It doesn’t have to reveal its donors. But its mission makes it clear just who those donors are. ATP is funded by extraction industries and backers who support that agenda. What do I mean by “extraction industries”? In a nutshell – mineral extraction. And for the purposes of Longmont, that means oil and gas. And that means fracking.

WTP (ATP) funded a slate of candidates to redirect the vision for Longmont. Their motive, vague and blurred at the time, was to pave the way for oil and gas drilling by means of hydraulic fracturing inside Longmont; and in doing so, to transform our fair city into something we would not recognize or want.

Bryan Baum, a former mayor now serving as a proxy for the oil and gas industry, made his motives clear in early 2010 when he stated that he wanted the city to get into the oil and gas business by exploiting its own mineral rights. I watched for council agenda items on minerals. They did not appear. But they WERE there – hidden from view, without the knowledge or consent of the Longmont public, but as part of an ATP-sponsored and council majority endorsed trajectory to invite the oil and gas industry to bully its way into Longmont, leaving Longmont citizens and the city to pick up after them.

The oil and gas industry’s intention to drill in Longmont came out of hiding in an ATP election survey in October 2011. And with that, “all hell broke loose.” It was staff’s intent to bring a TOP Operating conditional use permit before the Planning and Zoning Commission in November 2011. That, as they say, would have been that. Longmont would have been fracked and we wouldn’t have known what hit us.

As the people of Longmont became aware of what was in store for their hometown, over and over they said, “Oh, no you don’t. This is OUR Longmont and we get to say whether or not we get fracked.”

Over 8200 people signed the petition sponsored by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont to place Question 300 that prohibits hydraulic fracking and fracking waste disposal inside Longmont city limits on our ballot. Now there are those with big, big industry money behind them who are trying to silence those voices and hand over the keys to this great town to the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas companies and their trade associations (28) from all over the country and even Canada have contributed nearly a half million dollars to defeat the will of the people of Longmont. How high will that total go? One million dollars? More?

You’ve seen their eight full-page ads with seven mayors pretending to care about the health and safety of Longmont, all the while shilling for the industry who would pollute our air and water and threaten our property values by using false and deceptive quotes from politicians they’ve never supported (and likely never will) to manipulate Longmont voters. They’ve spent or accrued almost $338,000, including television ads and eight mailers. They’re determined to stomp Longmont into submission.

In 2009 and 2011 another industry spent huge sums of money (over $600,000) to make Longmont believe that they cared about us. Longmont voters saw through that scheme and sent them packing.

Pay no attention to the “wizards” on this smokescreen. Tell the oil and gas industry and their local puppets, former or current, that you want them to go away and stay away. This is our Longmont that they are trying to destroy and we won’t allow that. Constitutional and moral rights are on our side.

Vote Yes on 300 to stop them from fracking Longmont.