Republicans are saying that if we raise the minimum wage, it will drive prices up. That’s only a valid argument if we were raising it dramatically. Fact of the matter is, it is only going up about a buck and a half (if we truly raised it to match the cost of living, it would have to go up closer to $21 to $27 dollars an hour).
Now, let’s remember another time when money was given to the poor souls of this country, when those stimulus checks were mailed out. Did that raise prices of products? It did not, in fact, most companies started having sales because they wanted their share of your money. There is NO evidence that prices have EVER gone up when the minimum wage was raised, not once in our history, so your fear is based on no facts, yet again.
Republicans argue that raising the minimum wage will discourage people from further education, by enticing them to entering the workforce with little skills. This is the same party who fights against school loans, education programs, restructuring school loans and affirmative action. So basically, you are saying you don’t want to raise the minimum wage because you want people to pursue a higher education, while at the same time, making a higher education virtually impossible. Thus, you have people who have neither education or decent pay, putting them on welfare programs, which you are also fighting to end.
Does anyone else notice that when you really look at what the Republican Party is doing from all their different angles, one would almost think they were trying to destroy entire communities?
Sometimes I can’t help but feel just a little sorry for the Republicans. It’s bad enough they had their lunch handed to them in last year’s elections. Despite an avalanche of soft money and an entire cable news channel at their disposal, Barack Obama easily bested Thurston Howell III and the Democrats actually increased their majority in the Senate.
But last night, after the President gave what many have now called his best speech ever, Marco Rubio had the “honor” of presenting the alternate reality that was the GOP response. When it rains, it pours. If this is how the Republicans plan on rebutting Obama in his second term, I’d stay out of Vegas for the foreseeable future if I were them. 2014 is already starting to look bleak.
The fact is, despite all the claims by Rubio and later Mitch McConnell, there wasn’t one single proposal laid out by Obama that wasn’t either practical or popular. The man spent just over an hour throwing down the gauntlet and setting the trap for his opponents. They, in turn, quickly did their best to fall into it. No wonder Rubio reached for a bottle of water. If you had to spit out that much bullshit in that short a time, you’d need a whole damn ocean to wet your whistle.
The major problem for the Republicans is two-fold: they are peddling a message that few outside the converted are buying and they are up against a president who has learned his lesson from his first term and plans on keeping the pressure on. He probably isn’t going to win every battle, but he will win a good chunk of them, and at the GOP’s expense.
Armed rebellion is a viable alternative to elections:”Our nation was founded on violence. The option is on the table. I don’t think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms.” —Tea Party-backed Texas GOP congressional candidate Stephen Broden, suggesting the violent overthrow of the U.S. government if Republicans don’t win at the ballot box, interview with Dallas’s WFAA-TV, Oct. 21, 2010
Banning abortions for high-risk pregnancies can be a positive experience for women: “I have been in the situation of counseling young girls… who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made WHAT WAS REALLY A LEMON SITUATION INTO LEMONADE.” — Sharron Angle on abortion
Bringing your gun to crowded public events is normal:“It’s not unusual in political rallies, it’s not unusual in parades, to see that type of thing.” — Joe Miller on guns at his rallies
Carbon Dioxide is safe:”Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.” —Rep. Michelle Bachmann
Climate change is a myth:“I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change. It’s not proven by any stretch of the imagination…It’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time. Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ‘gets sucked down by trees and helps the trees grow.”’ – Ron Johnson
Corporations are people:”Corporations are people, my friend… of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Human beings, my friend.” —GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney
Discrimination on the basis of race is desirable:“I don’t want to be associated with those people, but I also don’t want to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that’s one of the things freedom requires is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized, but that doesn’t mean we approve of it.” —Rand Paul, taking issue with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while arguing that government should not prevent private businesses from discriminating on the basis of race
Evolution is a myth:“You know what, evolution is a myth….Why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?” —Christine O’Donnell
Geography is not important:”I’m ready for the ‘gotcha’ questions and they’re already starting to come. And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I’m going to say, you know, I don’t know. Do you know?” —Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain
Government has no role in job creation:“People ask me, ‘What are you going to do to develop jobs in your state?’ Well, that’s not my job as a U.S. senator.” —Sharron Angle
Higher education is elitist:“President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob … Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.” –Rick Santorum
Hitler coined the phrase “separation of church and state”:“The exact phrase ‘separation of Church and State’ came out of Adolph HItler’s mouth, that’s where it comes from. So the next time your liberal friends talk about the separation of Church and State, ASK THEM WHY THEY’RE NAZIS.” — Glen Urquhart
Inciting violence is acceptable:“I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.” —Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle, floating the possibility of armed insurrection in a radio interview
Intelligent Design is a viable scientific theory:“There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design.” – Michele Bachmann
Lawyers are Un-American:“the ABA is about as far left as the Communist Party, so those who usually get those awards are lawyers committed to socialism, not freedom.” – Tea Party Nation Founder Judson Phillips
Marriage is related to national security:”Isn’t that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?” —Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), on congressional efforts to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (July 2004)
The media is a threat to national security:“The greatest threat to America is not necessarily a recession or even another terrorist attack. The greatest threat to America is a LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS.” — Lamar Smith
Minimum Wage created unemployment:“If we took away the minimum wage-if conceivably it was gone-we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.” —Michele Bachmann
Most Americans cannot accept gay marriage: “Gay marriage is probably the biggest issue that will impact our state and our nation in the next, at least, thirty years. I AM NOT UNDERSTATING THAT.” — Michelle Bachmann
Obama is the enemy:“He has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an ENEMY OF HUMANITY.” — Trent Franks on Obama
The rise of the Soviet Union is cause for concern among Americans: ”What people recognize is that there’s a fear that the United States is in an unstoppable decline. They see the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the Soviet Union and our loss militarily going forward.” —Michele Bachmann (R-MN), unaware that the Soviet Union collapsed more than two decades ago (August 2011)
Sexual Revolution created AIDS:“We had the 60s sexual revolution, and now people are dying of AIDS.” —Christine O’Donnell, Politically Incorrect. August 1998
Trees have a proper height: ”I love this state. The trees are the right height.” —Mitt Romney, campaigning in Michigan (February 2012)
We should use prisons for low-income housing:“THESE ARE BEAUTIFUL PROPERTIES with basketball courts, bathroom facilities, toilet facilities. Many young people would love to get the hell out of cities” — Carl Paladino on housing poor people in prisons
Women are disposable:”She’s not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a President. And besides, she has cancer.”’ —future House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), reportedly speaking to a friend in 1980 about why he was divorcing his first wife
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.
I 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.
ARLINGTON, VA – October 4, 2012 – We are very disappointed that PBS became a political target in the Presidential debate last night. Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation. We think it is important to set the record straight and let the facts speak for themselves.
The federal investment in public broadcasting equals about one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget. Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation’s debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating.
A national survey by the bipartisan research firms of Hart Research and American Viewpoint in 2011 found that over two-thirds of American voters (69%) oppose proposals to eliminate government funding of public broadcasting, with Americans across the political spectrum against such a cut.
As a stated supporter of education, Governor Romney should be a champion of public broadcasting, yet he is willing to wipe out services that reach the vast majority of Americans, including underserved audiences, such as children who cannot attend preschool and citizens living in rural areas.
For more than 40 years, Big Bird has embodied the public broadcasting mission – harnessing the power of media for the good of every citizen, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay. Our system serves as a universally accessible resource for education, history, science, arts and civil discourse.
Over the course of a year, 91% of all U.S. television households tune in to their local PBS station. In fact, our service is watched by 81% of all children between the ages of 2-8.
Each day, the American public receives an enduring and daily return on investment that is heard, seen, read and experienced in public media broadcasts, apps, podcasts and online – all for the cost of about $1.35 per person per year.
Earlier in 2012, a Harris Interactive poll confirmed that Americans consider PBS the most trusted public institution and the second most valuable use of public funds, behind only national defense, for the 9th consecutive year.
A key thing to remember is that public television and radio stations are locally owned and community focused and they are experts in working efficiently to make limited resources produce results. In fact, for every $1.00 of federal funding invested, they raise an additional $6.00 on their own – a highly effective public-private partnership.
Numerous studies — including one requested by Congress earlier this year — have stated categorically that while the federal investment in public broadcasting is relatively modest, the absence of this critical seed money would cripple the system and bring its services to an end.
Mike Soraghan is a reporter for Energy Wire, and division of E&E News. Free Range Longmont extends a heartfelt thanks for the gracious permission given to republish his article. Visit E&E News and Energy Wire for great coverage of both energy and the environment.
LONGMONT, Colo. — Kaye Fissinger can point to where every oil and gas well will be drilled around Union Reservoir. Not that she’s welcoming them.
As a breeze broke the stillness, lifted the branches of shade trees and pushed a small catamaran across the small lake on a Wednesday afternoon last month, she pointed to the one already there.
In the distance was a beige tank battery, the pipes, tanks and other equipment that remain after a well is drilled. It is the first of eight wells expected to be drilled at the city park around the lake under an agreement between the driller and the city government.
“Look at what it’s going to do — derricks, trucks, tank batteries …” said Fissinger, activist and campaign manager for a local anti-drilling effort called “Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont.”
A new wave of drilling, fueled by the practice some call “fracking,” is promising prosperity and energy security for the country. E&E investigates whether anyone is ensuring it’s done right. Click here to read the report.
The question of whether there will be more derricks, wells and tank batteries is the subject of a legal fight between that same city government and the state focused on who can regulate drilling. The City Council passed rules in July barring oil and gas wells from residential neighborhoods. Within days, the state sued to block it.
Longmont is where the spread of drilling on Colorado’s high plains, spurred by advances in hydraulic fracturing, is slamming into the sprawl of Denver suburbs along the state’s Front Range. It is not the first place where advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have pushed drilling deeper into suburban and even urban areas.
State officials have banded together with the oil and gas industry to head off regulation by both federal and local governments, arguing simultaneously against a federal “one size fits all” approach and the “patchwork” that would be created by giving cities and counties control over exploration and production.
In Pennsylvania, local governments sued the state after the Legislature passed a measure limiting local control over drilling. In New York, drilling companies such as Colorado-based Anschutz Exploration Corp. have been losing legal challenges to local bans.
But the Colorado suit is the first case in the nation’s current drilling boom in which a state agency has gone to court to prevent a local government from asserting jurisdiction over drilling. The city’s formal response is due by Friday.
The plaintiff in the suit is the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), a state body charged with policing and promoting development. But Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has led the charge against Longmont’s ordinance, calling Longmont’s rules “to a certain extent too forceful” in a recent speech and saying they would put “intense pressure” on other local governments to create a patchwork of different rules.
“I think there’s got to be a limit to it,” Hickenlooper said (EnergyWire, Aug. 16). “We literally begged Longmont not to go forward.”
Drilling in suburbia
Anti-drilling critics have taken to calling the popular governor “Frackenlooper.”
Those critics say exempting oil and gas from city zoning amounts to special treatment for a powerful industry that endangers people’s health.
City governments can generally decide where to allow factories, convenience stores, subdivisions and strip clubs. State governments such as those in Pennsylvania and Colorado are asserting that those city governments have no such say about oil and gas production.
“Name another industry to me that doesn’t have to comply with local, disparate zoning regulations,” said Michael Bellmont, another Our Longmont leader, sitting in his long-term care insurance office in Longmont’s trendy Prospect New Town district.
In Texas, where drilling is more entrenched in the culture, cities do have jurisdiction over oil and gas wells. Two years ago, the Texas Legislature rejected efforts to give the state’s oil and gas agency — called the Railroad Commission — authority over drilling in cities.
“The state has very minimal guidelines for where you can drill. What the cities have done is try to fill in the blanks,” said Terry Welch, a lawyer who represents cities in Texas. “The cities said, ‘Why should every city have the same rules?'”
But some local officials agree that rules should be uniform across the state.
“COGCC rules in Colorado work well for the industry,” said Bonnie Finley, a Longmont City Council member who opposed the zoning ordinance, “and I think that’s all we need.”
Driving north out of Denver on Interstate 25, sprawled-out townhouse complexes slowly give way to cows, hay farms and then pumpjacks, frozen in time. Just off the highway, one pumpjack gyrates slowly next to a line of frack trailers, looking like a cow chewing its cud next to the thoroughbred barn.
Four miles closer to the mountains, Longmont restores the suburban feel. But it is still a town of contradictions. It is a former farming town on the western edge of Colorado’s High Plains. But it is on the eastern edge of Boulder County, home to the University of Colorado and the famously liberal county seat of Boulder. The city has both the county fairgrounds and the “Anti-Corporate headquarters of Oskar Blues Brewery.”
Longmont does not have the history with extractive industries that some of its neighbors do. In the decades before Denver’s growth spilled into the area, pumpjacks were common to the east in Weld County. Not in Longmont, though, where the economy revolved around agriculture. People who moved there in the 1990s and early 2000s had little indication they might find themselves dealing with drilling.
“It’s a cultural divide,” said Sean Conway, chairman of the Board of Commissioners in neighboring Weld County. “They don’t have the benefit of experience and battles fought.”
Fissinger, the anti-drilling activist who moved here from California in 2006, wants Longmont to retain some of that unique identity. Driving through Firestone, the city to the east of Longmont in the more growth-friendly and agribusiness-oriented Weld County, she started pointing out each beige tank battery.
“There’s a tank battery. … There’s a battery,” she said. After just a few moments, it started to seem pointless, like pointing out burgundy cars on the interstate.
“That’s what I mean,” Fissinger said. “We don’t want Longmont to be another Firestone.”
And that is why her group is taking things a step further than zoning wells out of neighborhoods, pushing for a total ban on hydraulic fracturing with a proposal that will be on the city’s ballot in November (it would not cover drilling without fracturing). If it passes, it will likely be subject to the same legal challenges as the zoning ordinance.
Oil and gas drilling companies say Longmont and Firestone, and other areas of the state, should have the same rules. The industry says it needs a “predictable regulatory environment” and that allowing Firestone and Longmont to have different rules slows permit approvals. In comments sent to the city in February, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) noted that state officials process about 5,000 permits a year, which result in the drilling of about 2,000 wells each year in the state.
“If each well approved by the state is also forced into a months-long local permitting process, the number of wells annually drilled in Colorado would plummet, along with tax revenues, economic activity and jobs,” the industry association wrote in comments to the city.
Powerful forces are arrayed around this fight. Fissinger’s group is getting help from Food and Water Watch, a national environmental group that split off years ago from the Public Interest Research Group and now has an $8 million annual budget.
Longmont’s elections have been shaped by the American Tradition Partnership, a conservative group based inside the Washington, D.C., Beltway that has been active in state and local elections in Montana, Oklahoma and Virginia and pressed a pro-drilling agenda in Colorado’s Garfield County.
And Hickenlooper, a popular governor whom some envision as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, has come down firmly on the side of industry. Hickenlooper became prominent in Colorado as a brew-pub pioneer in Denver. But before that, he was a petroleum geologist.
Hickenlooper did a radio ad earlier this year for COGA, asserting the industry talking point that since rules were created in 2008, the state hadn’t “had one instance of groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing.”
But oil and gas commission spill records show 255 incidents in which groundwater was “impacted” during 2009, 2010 and 2011.
And before the new rules, Colorado was already the scene of a few of the nation’s highest-profile groundwater contamination cases.
‘Once they invade, they’re here’
Laura Amos of Silt, Colo., blamed hydraulic fracturing chemicals for the rare tumor she developed after a well near her home blew out in 2001 during the fracturing process. State regulators concluded fracturing was not to blame for the problems but fined the operator $99,400 because gas was found in her well.
Nearby in 2004, a drilling crew poured a faulty cement seal around another well in 2004 that allowed gas and benzene to seep into a nearby stream, called West Divide Creek. The state hit Encana Corp. with a fine and declared a drilling moratorium in the area for several years.
People complained in 2009 that gas was once again seeping into the creek, but the state rejected the claims. The residents’ complaints were detailed in the 2010 anti-drilling documentary “Gasland.”
In 2008, COGCC asked gas drilling companies to investigate whether they had contaminated the drinking water at Ned Prather’s hunting cabin near DeBeque, Colo. (Greenwire, Oct. 12, 2009). Tests showed the water had benzene and related chemicals at a concentration 20 times the safety limit. The companies determined they had not caused the contamination. The state went back, hired its own consultants and fined the lead company more than $400,000.
Through a spokesman, Hickenlooper declined to comment beyond what he’d already said publicly.
In Longmont, groundwater around a well 360 feet from a middle school has been contaminated with carcinogens such as benzene, which was measured at almost 100 times the state limit.
Underscoring some of the dangers of drilling, the same day Fissinger pointed out the tank batteries in Firestone, a well blew up and killed a 60-year-old well worker not far away in the Fort Lupton area of Weld County (Greenwire, Aug. 17).
State and industry officials say that Colorado has some of the most comprehensive state rules in the country. Even if that is true, state oil and gas regulation across the country is looser than regulation of other industries and is characterized by minimal fines and built-in conflicts of interest (Greenwire, Nov. 19, 2011).
Industry is guaranteed three seats on Colorado’s nine-member commission, down from five of seven in 2007 (Greenwire, Nov. 30, 2011). And its mission is to “foster” development while also protecting health. To Finley, whose day job is with the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, something of a state chamber of commerce, that makes sense.
“You want people who know what best practices and safe practices are, and those are the people from the industry,” she said.
But it leaves Fissinger and her colleagues with little faith that the state will protect residents from the ills of drilling. She and her fellow drilling opponents say the state agency is interfering with rights granted in the state constitution, including residents’ right of “seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.”
Camouflaged with beige paint against the arid, drought-darkened landscape, the tank batteries at Union Reservoir don’t leap out like a neon sign for a strip club or car wash. Even if they’re not that hard on the eyes, she said, they can still be rough on the lungs and the rest of the body.
She added that Colorado has only 17 full-time field inspectors; state officials note that an additional 20 people conduct oil and gas inspections as part of their work.
“Air pollution, fugitive gases, spills,” Fissinger said. “By the time they get around to looking at it, the damage is done. Once they invade, they’re here.”
The June-July Arvada Report carried an unsigned article titled “Rocky Flats and the Jefferson Parkway Is it safe?” The article says, yes, it’s “safe.” But “safe” for whom? Certainly not for the most vulnerable among us for at least three big reasons: 1) the danger of plutonium, 2) the inadequacy of official standards for permissible exposure, and 3) uncertainties about environmental conditions at Rocky Flats.
The danger of plutonium
The principal contaminant of concern at Rocky Flats is plutonium. An unknown quantity of plutonium in the form of minute particles remains in the environment at the site. The determining factor in whether to build the Jefferson Parkway along the edge of the Rocky Flats site should be the plutonium that is known to be there. Scientists from the Atomic Energy Commission (predecessor to the Department of Energy) produced the map below in 1970. It shows where plutonium released from Rocky Flats up to that time was deposited on and off the site. The proposed Jefferson Parkway, indicated as a dotted red line, would pass through the heart of the contaminated area.
Plutonium’s half-life of 24,000 years means that after 24,000 years its radioactivity will have been reduced by half, each additional 24,000 years reducing it by yet another half. From a human perspective plutonium thus remains radioactive essentially forever. If a particle too small to see is inhaled or otherwise internalized, it can lodge in a lung or elsewhere in the organism. For as long as it resides in the body, very likely for the remainder of one’s life, it continually irradiates surrounding tissue. The star formation in the picture below is a magnified image of alpha rays emanating from a single particle of plutonium in the lung tissue of an ape over 48 hours. The alpha rays do not travel very far, but once inside the body they can penetrate more than 10,000 cells within their range. The eventual result of this constant irradiation could be cancer or some other ailment. (Photograph by Robert Del Tredici, At Work in the Fields of the Bomb, 1987)
The following first appeared in Huffington Post and is reproduced here by permission of the author.
My son was spending the night in Aurora, Colo., when all hell broke loose just a few miles away. He wasn’t in the Century 16 theater. But he might have been; he loves those opening nights. And there wasn’t a thing I could do to protect him.
I’m a professor at the University of Colorado (though not on the campus where James Holmes studied). I’ve surely had quiet students who were deeply troubled but, like Holmes, drew no attention to themselves. So there wasn’t a thing I could do to help protect them.
The movie theater “was supposed to be a safe space,” as Monica Hesse wrote in The Washington Post. But now it feels like “no space is safe; maybe that’s what’s shocking.” Surely that’s what’s shocking, I’d say. Yet a moment’s reflection tells me we can never make our public or private spaces absolutely safe — neither for our children, our students, nor ourselves — no matter how desperately we want to.
We could make our spaces relatively safer by one simple political decision: No civilian should have military style weapons — AK-47s, semi-automatic rifles, or the Glock semi-automatic pistols so favored by mass killers.
There’s only one problem: Political reality. It isn’t just the clout of the National Rifle Association, which is real but over-rated. A bigger problem is that this is a democracy, and a majority of us do not want stricter gun control laws. The number of Americans favoring stricter gun laws has fallen by nearly half in the last half-century.
That shocking statistic reflects the long post-’60s rightward shift in the national mood. “Gun control” is widely seen as an idea by and for liberals. By now less than a quarter of us will wear that badge. It’s impressive that even 43 percent of us would support the liberal cause of “gun control.”
And the number who want guns laws eased has risen even more dramatically since 1990: from 2 to 11 percent. Yes, even in this conservative era a mere 11 percent of us want less regulation of guns.
What’s more, support for specific gun control measures — waiting periods and background checks for gun buyers (even at gun shows), banning assault weapons, registering all guns with local government — remains very high. A slim majority even support limits on the number of guns a person can own. (Most gun owners have several, and most mass killers are caught holding many guns.)
So here’s the real political problem: Ask people about specific, common-sense gun control measures and they strongly approve. Ask them about “gun control” in the abstract, and a growing majority says no, though almost half say yes. We, the people as a whole, want controls but we don’t want them.
When nations, like individuals, try to go in two directions at once they get paralyzed. That’s where we are on the politics of gun control.
Our national contradiction is an old story. On the one hand, we’ve got a tradition as old as the U.S. itself: If you want to be safe, get a gun; if you want to be absolutely safe, get a lot of guns. That’s why Americans once built forts and stockades and included the right to well-regulated militias in the Constitution.
Since World War II, we’ve made our quest for absolute safety our number one national priority by far, under the banner of “national security.” That’s why we built a nuclear “shield” of tens of thousands of bombs that can each destroy a whole city. It’s also why we have a military nearly as big as all the rest of the world’s militaries combined.
Now we call it “homeland security.” We’ve enshrined it as our sacred national myth. And that’s why, with the eager help of the military-industrial complex, we are awash in a sea of military weapons — a sea that on tragic occasions turns to blood in our own homeland.
Yet we also have another tradition as old as the nation itself, inscribed in the very first words of our constitution: to provide for the common defense, which most of us now take to mean absolute safety. The longing for absolute safety is certainly as strong, and probably stronger, among conservatives as it is among liberals. Across the political spectrum most of us want stricter specific gun control laws, which we expect will keep guns out of the hands of “evildoers” at home just as we hunt down and annihilate the “evildoers” abroad.
We’re caught in a crossfire of competing cultural traditions and beliefs that make it very difficult to mobilize the public in any clear direction when it comes to guns. Paralyzed by our ambivalence, we can’t mobilize for political change. So we leave it easy for anyone to get weapons of mass slaughter.
The result: a growing fear that no space is safe any more, that at any moment our longing for absolutely safety could be shot to pieces. Fear is even more paralyzing than ambivalence. When Americans do manage to act on their fear, their most common response is to chase the fantasy of safety by getting another gun, or at least allowing others to get more guns. Fear will override common sense most every time.
In the movies we see the most fantastic military-style weapons deal out measureless blood and gore. Audiences applaud it all, because they trust that the good guys on the screen will end up with their absolute safety restored. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in real life — not even in movie theaters.
The root of the problem is our dedication to the fantasy of absolute safety and security. The sooner we recognize that as our national fantasy and stop arming ourselves to the teeth in pursuit of it, the safer we all will be.
In the late 19th Century, there was a Frenchman (who may or may not have actually lived) named Nicolas Chauvin, a zealous nationalist who believed everything French was superior, merely by virtue of it being French. From his name, was derived the word chauvinism. When I hear conservative talkers and Fox News anchors drone on about “American Exceptionalism,” it makes me cringe. They are the modern-day Nicolas Chauvins, only they aren’t French, they’re Americans. And as was Chauvin, they’re wrong. Dead wrong.
A few months ago, I met with some friends over dinner at an extremely busy restaurant. The place is always packed, with a line of people lined up outside, waiting to get in. In my party of 9, was a couple from Wales, here visiting friends and touring the states from coast to coast. After we finished our dinner, we all walked outside to say our goodbyes, where I spotted a man sitting in a concrete divider in the middle of the street. He only had one leg. Laying beside him was a pair of crutches, and he was muttering to himself incoherently. He was obviously mentally troubled, and the people milling about in front of the restaurant completely ignored this derelict of a human being wasting away before them, as if he were part of the landscape.
And indeed, he was. For me personally, this was mortifying. As for my friends visiting from Wales, it was embarrassing enough to me that they witnessed it, but to have them also see how unremarkable it seemed to the passersby, the shame of it all seared into my brain. I’ve been to Europe several times, and with the exception of the more third-world ex-communist bloc countries, you rarely see beggars anymore, and you never witness a disabled person discarded like a piece of trash. If someone in France, England or Germany has problems as horrendous as this guy apparently did, they’re generally scooped up by social services, and given the appropriate help. This guy could have keeled over and died there that night, and nobody would have known about it until the vultures started circling.
So when I hear this term; American Exceptionalism, being bandied about by the right-wing (and in truth, by some on the left who are too cowardly to refute it and call it what it is: patriotism on steroids), it boils my blood. In truth, the term is a thinly disguised euphemism for American superiority. This is all part of the flotsam and jetsam leftover from the 2000 election, and the hubris that emerged from the neocons after 9/11. That period when “Freedom Fries” replaced French fries, when restauranteurs all across the country were pouring Bordeaux wines into gutters, to protest that nation’s refusal to participate in our little Iraqi adventure, and as a way of poking our collective finger in the eyes of all the other countries who doubted America’s military and political hegemony.
The truth is, American superiority is 100% pure, 24 karat bullshit.
Is America exceptional in many ways? Absolutely. Our national parks, our beautiful coastlines, our rivers, our mountains, the Bill of Rights… I could go on for hours. But could anybody say that our national parks are more beautiful than those of say, Canada? Our coastlines are more beautiful than those of Brazil, Italy or Turkey? Our mountains are more beautiful than the Swiss Alps or the Andes? The Bill of Rights is superior to the Magna Carta? No. Every nation on the planet can in some small way claim to be exceptional. Even the most poverty-stricken nations of the third world have at least one or two unique bragging rights, and NONE of them suggest superiority over all others. Only Americans do that. We just love to remind everyone that we have the most powerful armed forces and the biggest arsenal ever known to man. Yet in all our boasting, we’re quick to skirt such stories such as how our military was misused by its civilian leadership to invade and utterly destroy a nation of 25 million people who posed no threat to us. And, in all our “superiority,” we brush aside as unimportant, the fact that we allow disabled, mentally disturbed citizens to rot in the gutters of otherwise pristine cities.
A truly enlightened nation would have very different priorities. The feeding of our poor and infirm should be at the top of that list. Healthcare for citizens lying in the street, should come before tax breaks for billionaires and subsidies for oil companies. Universally available and affordable education for our children shouldn’t come at the expense of a fleet of stealth aircraft that will (hopefully) never be used. And, perhaps unique amongst us, any truly exceptional nation would NEVER have adopted an electoral process that relies so heavily on electronic voting machines provided by partisan corporate interests!
The fact is, this country now has the highest healthcare costs, the highest infant mortality rate, the worst gender inequality, the highest murder rate and the highest incarceration rate of any developed nation on the planet. Exceptional, indeed. Where do these defenders of American superiority stand on that?
At one time or another, many empires, monarchies and nations have laid claim as the most powerful on Earth. Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome, France, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Holland, and probably a half-dozen others whose names are lost to history. And the one thing they all had in common, is that not a single one of them could ever conceive of a time when they weren’t the most powerful, or they didn’t have the biggest armies, or their armadas didn’t rule the Seven Seas. Yet, their power did indeed wane, as will ours. I would argue that the process has already begun, but the folks on the wacky right who measure America’s strength via military prowess, aren’t looking at the big picture. They’re only looking at who has the most muscle, while ignoring — or indeed, causing — our withering backbone.
No nation can survive with an undereducated populace, or with a two-class system; the haves and the have nots… or by spending nearly 60% of its discretionary budget on military hardware. As surely as Rome fell, so too will we one day. And for those who yammer on about American Exceptionalism, in this case, I would tend to agree; we’re exceptional amongst the nations today due to our path of self-annihilation. And I find it ironic beyond words that the right mistakes such obvious weaknesses as strengths.
I love this country, warts and all. But when these faux patriots boast of our power and pressure our politicians to co-opt their talking points, it shames me to have to acknowledge them as compatriots. Is America great? Yes, it is. Are we exceptional? Yes we are, in many ways — as is Guatemala, Bhutan, Gabon, Peru and Laos. But are we superior to any other country on the planet, by any sense of the word? No. And it’s high time we call out this American Exceptionalism meme for what it is; a pompous, overbearing display of nationalistic arrogance, bordering on fascism. American Exceptionalism as defined by the right is a bald-faced lie.
You'd swear they were on acid they're so delusional
Accountability. Every so often the folks that need to be held accountable… are.
“I am astonished and appalled that someone has the right to view my organization’s private records and require my attendance at a deposition simply by filing a complaint.” – Sheldon Bloedorn
“This decision is simply about accountability.” – Mark Grueskin
And there it is; the Tea Party simply does not get it that in a nation where rule of law prevails you can be held to the law even if you stamp your foot and declare “I won’t!!”
This monumentally self-absorbed knucklehead cost his ‘party’ $20,000 – and if those damn libruls had wanted to they could have gotten $80,000.
I’d say the Tea Party got off easy this time – and there’s damn little their low pal in high places Mr. Gessler can do except give them more time to pay it – but pay it they will. Foot stomping notwithstanding.
Yesterday, right-wing news site Breitbart.com released a new video from conservative “gotcha” artist James O’Keefe, purportedly showing how easy it is for “non-citizens” to vote:
In the video, William Romero, an apparent non-citizen, is shown to be registered to vote in North Carolina. According to jury refusal records obtained by Project Veritas, Romero was recused for being a non-citizen. Yet when a researcher from Project Veritas went into the polling station, he found that not only was Romero still on the voting rolls but the poll workers were also more than willing to give him Romero’s ballot.The video finds that another alleged non-citizen in Durham County, North Carolina, was on the voter rolls–and apparently voted in 2008 and 2010–even though he had been categorized as “code 7” in jury recusal forms, which means he had been excused as a non-citizen.
In another crucial swing state, Florida, elections officials fear as many as 180,000 non-citizens may be registered to vote. In Colorado, during the 2010 midterm elections, 5,000 non-citizens may have voted…
As you know, we (and others) have repeatedly debunked this persistent claim that “5,000 noncitizens may have voted” in the 2010 elections in Colorado. The claim originates with Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who used this figure in congressional testimony, but it doesn’t stand up to even casual scrutiny. As we noted and local media outlets realized last year, over thirty thousand Colorado residents became citizens during the period Gessler “analyzed,” enough to easily account for the 5,000 “noncitizens” who “may” have voted in 2010.
As liberal blog Think Progressreports, O’Keefe appears to have made exactly the same error.
What is a “culture of life”? How do you define it? When someone speaks of a “culture of life” or “pro-life” agenda, it is usually assumed that abortion is the topic at hand. Abortion is not the only issue that pertains to the sanctity of life. If someone wants to literally be a pro-life voter, there are a wide variety of policies that that moniker supports.
How about starting with an easy one? The death penalty. Is there anything more clearly pro-death? There is no logic in calling yourself “pro-life” when you support the death penalty. If you support the death penalty you are saying that you are morally ok with not only killing people, but letting the (fallible) state decide which people to kill with your blessing. Perhaps someone has other moral reasons they can cite for supporting the death penalty, but they can’t still call themselves “pro-life” with any integrity.
Here’s another gimme – war. War = death, it’s kind of the modus operandi for winning a war. Aside from the direct killing of soldiers by soldiers, with war comes countless life altering tragedies and injuries. The pollution of war equals death to those living things around it. The corruption inside war equals death for those willing to take risks for money or power. The private contractors are let loose to roam lawlessly across the land, bringing violence and oppression. Living in an occupied land means living in fear; simply being alive is not the same as living. Please don’t call yourself pro-life if you support war, especially pre-emptive ones wars of aggression.
Is it part of a culture of life to allow corporations to pollute our water supplies, harm our animals, disrupt natural systems, and poison our food? Is it life giving to look away as humans are abused and exploited in the name of profit?All life relies on a certain level of purity to our air, land, and water, there is nothing – no industry, no product, no privilege – that makes it acceptable to poison us all. If you don’t believe in protecting the sanctity of nature and those natural systems that sustain life, you are not pro-life.
Universal health care is pro-life. We can live our lives when our basic health care needs are attended to. Unchecked pain, fear of debt, and exclusive access – hallmarks of a health care system that puts profits before patients – is not pro-life (it’s pro-profit). In fact, someone in a dismal health care situation is more likely to consider numbing pain or their reality in an unhealthy way.
Humans are not born to be slaves, we each want to carry on with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When corporations turn us into slaves, or indentured servants, or take away our dignity, or abuse us, or force us to work against our morals, we are alive, yet not. When a company sucks the life out of you so you have nothing for your family, no time for community, and no living wage, they are not working on a pro-life agenda. Like stories you can read from our own history of slavery, the plantation owners were all for more babies, they couldn’t wait for those babies to become commodities. In those stories you can read the anguish of the enslaved parents at bringing another life into the world under hellish conditions, knowing that their offspring will be treated like expendable chattle. An unregulated capitalist dynamic promotes death to humanity.
When asked about the problem of women leaving the Republican Party in large numbers, Reinse Preiebus, the executive director of the party, said that, given enough press, the Democrats could accuse them of having a “caterpillar problem,”thus minimizing the idea that they even have a problem. They do have a problem and he may find that he chose an appropriate simile in his comparison.
For over a century, women could rightly feel like caterpillars, living perpetually in the cocoon of a home and family without being offered any choice in their lives. They did as they were told by a man who, they were told, has superior capacity for understanding things in business and politics. Until after the turn of the last century, they were denied even a right to vote, much less the right to accumulate anything of worth in their own right. They were required to sit, smiling as their husbands might nudge a neighbor as he made fun of wives and women in general.
The funniest new joke in the thirties was to ask, “Have you heard the definition of a wife?” The punch line was, “It’s a new appliance that you screw on the bed and it does all the house work.” Hilarious!
But, due to the efforts of a lot of long-suffering sisters who braved beatings and forced feedings, they did earn women’s suffrage. They could vote and they did!
In response to the interminable sufferings of poverty, they mostly and largely secretly, helped to elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The one thing that did the most to free the “little ladies” from this literal slavery was the onset of World War II. Every able-bodied man was needed in the war and there was a huge problem in manufacturing the arms and armaments which our nation so sorely lacked. It was decided that, perhaps, women could learn to do the work that was once reserved for men.
Young women turned out in droves for training in the operations of welders, rivet guns, and heavy manufacturing machinery. Children met “baby-sitter” for the first time as older women and young girls took over the child-rearing chores and none of them suffered any lasting negative effects. Soon we had the mightiest military machine in the world, the wars were won, and the men came home. For a time, women happily went back into the ever-more-expensive cocoons with an even-greater list of responsibilities.
Their daughters, however, had an entirely different outlook. No cocoon for them! They were aware of their capabilities and they wanted to fulfill them! Offices became full of secretaries and hospitals adequately staffed with nurses; schools were staffed with teachers, and there were other challenges to conquer.
Soon, they were writing for newspapers, writing for, and even publishing their own papers and magazines. Despite the fears of the old men, marriages still took place and the population continued to grow as women dropped out of working or took sabbaticals to rear young families.
But they had seen the world and they liked it! They chose to limit the size of their families so they could return to their respective professions. This, however was difficult and accidents did happen. Then the choice was dire; to again give up their dreams or to risk being butchered by an illegal back-alley abortionist.
This gave life to the pro-choice movement which took a couple of decades to accomplish. This movement also inspired the free-enterprise pharmaceuticals firms to develop other birth-control measures and they were a startling success. Some two generations of women relied upon these measures, from the messy diaphragm to the pills and the hormone shots, to allow them to juggle careers and child-bearing.
This is the real problem with caterpillars which the Republicans do not appear to understand. Caterpillars have a way of turning into butterflies! They flutter about, spreading pollen for the flowers and making the world a more beautiful place, at the same time, creating more caterpillars to carry on their work.
These butterflies cannot and will not return to their cocoons and no sane person would expect them to do so. You may stick pins through their heads and hang them on your walls but you can’t put them back in the cocoon once they have felt freedom and spread their wings.
Mr. Priebus was right. When the Republicans want to destroy women’s access to reproductive care and remove the availability of controlling their own fertility, then they may find that they have a “caterpillar problem.”
After reading some comments and opinions from those who are disappointed in Niwot High School’s Diversity Day, I would like to applaud Niwot High School for it. The program schedule looked incredible – with discussions about living with cerebral palsy, the obesity epidemic, ageism, autism, and other discussions about religious, ethnic, cultural, and all kinds of other diversity. But two workshops of the forty-seven addressed sexual orientation and sexual identity, and those were the focus of the recent opinion letter under the headline “Niwot High Lost Trust With Diversity Day”. I would like to counter the disappointment expressed in that letter with my own gratitude.
Diversity Day programs in our schools are opportunities for students to learn about people who are not like the American majority. Our country is experienced very differently by religious, ethnic and racial minorities; by those who are economically disadvantaged or homeless; by those with physical or mental disabilities; and by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It can only benefit students to hear those perspectives, which is exactly what Niwot High School offered with its Diversity Day.
In 2010 the anonymous Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) let us know how badly we are failing our LGBT students right here in the St. Vrain district. Nearly 10% of the 3,210 high school students surveyed identified as gay or lesbian in the survey. Of the students who identified as lesbian or gay, 35% had seriously considered suicide in the past year, 29% had planned it, and 20% had attempted suicide in the past year (compared to 11%, 9% and 4%, respectively, for their straight counterparts). The survey also indicated LGBT students didn’t know where to turn for help. Clearly, avoiding the issue and pretending these students don’t exist is not working. In a climate where LGBT students need to be silent about who they are in order to simply survive school, think how amazing it must have felt to be a closeted gay student hearing their experience discussed and validated at Niwot High School’s Diversity Day.
In the “Niwot High Lost Trust” opinion letter, the academic and instructional value of the event was called into question. I’ve been a high school teacher for fourteen years. Teachers can tell you that if a student feels excluded or unsafe they will have less buy-in to the whole school experience. Lack of buy-in impacts attendance, homework completion, participation in clubs and activities, and other markers which promote academic success. Students without buy-in will drop out of school in higher rates. They will join gangs, turn to drugs and alcohol, practice unsafe sex, contract HIV/AIDS, and to become pregnant. ALL of these things affect student achievement, school success and future success, so educating our students about how to be inclusive of everyone is truly at the heart of academic performance and success in school and in life.
Niwot High is taking brave steps in educating our students and preparing them for a world that includes all kinds of people – including LGBT people. I hope the example set by Niwot High School reaches far and wide.
Governor Hickenlooper had a few particularly cozy days with the oil and gas industry the other week. First, he appeared in industry-funded ads in newspapers and on radio stations across the state, proclaiming that no water in Colorado had been contaminated by fracking. After being forced to issue a weak mea culpa amid cries of ethics violations over his unabashed hawking of the oil and gas industry, Hickenlooper then claimed that fracking fluids are edible: “You can eat this — the CEO of Halliburton took a big swig of this thing. And not to be outdone, I took a swig of it myself.”
Then, the governor issued an Executive Order to create an industry-dominated task force that will examine how to take local control away from communities across the state that don’t want drill rigs near homes or their children’s schools.
And now, satisfied with a job well done, Governor Hickenlooper jetted to Houston, Texas, to be the keynote speaker of an industry conference touting fracking.
If these antics have you thinking that Governor Hickenlooper no longer represents the people of Colorado and works full-time for the oil and gas industry, you’re not off base: Governor Hickenlooper took over $75,000 from the oil and gas industry for his gubernatorial campaign.
Even so, the grassroots movement that opposes fracking in Colorado is starting to win. Up and down the Front Range — from Colorado Springs to El Paso County, from Erie to Longmont to Boulder County — communities are standing up to pass moratoria on fracking. Why? Because their air quality is 10 times worse than Houston, Texas, as a result of oil and gas drilling. Or because there is a fracking well being planned 350 feet from their children’s elementary school. Or because their home values have plummeted due to proposed fracking in their neighborhood.
Grassroots, community rights organizations across the state are emerging. LongmontROAR, Erie Rising, What the Frack?! Arapahoe County and several others are talking to their neighbors, asking questions and pressing their city council members and county commissioners to say “no” to fracking. These aren’t dyed-in-the-wool activists, they are everyday Coloradans who love their families, their mountain air and their clean water. The mothers, insurance agents, pharmacists and retired people who don’t want a drill rig in their backyard or next to their child’s school are leading a fracking rebellion that is sweeping the state. And with some brass-nosed organizing, we are winning.
So when El Paso County and Boulder County — arguably the most conservative and progressive parts of the state, respectively — both pass moratoria to stop fracking in their communities, Governor Hickenlooper has a problem on his hands. A big problem that won’t make his oil and gas pals very happy.
And I make this prediction: industry-sponsored ads, slick oil and gas talking points, threatening letters from Attorney General John Suthers and the huff and puff of the oil and gas industry will not stop concerned citizens from demanding their rights to protect their children, homes and water from the harmful impacts of fracking and from organizing in a smart, strategic way to win. They will actually tick us off more and encourage us to fight harder.
The recent defeat of Senate Bill 88, which would have stripped communities of their local control to protect their water and citizens from fracking, is Exhibit A of this burgeoning grassroots movement. After generating thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls, dozens of regular citizens crammed into an obscure committee meeting on a Thursday afternoon to defeat this industry-sponsored bill.
Governor John Hickenlooper
So I encourage all Coloradans to get involved with this movement to ban fracking. For a first step, email Governor Hickenloopertoday and ask him to pull his misleading industry ads. He’s done enough for the industry. It’s time he sticks up for Coloradans for a change.
This article was first published in Huffington Post and is republished with the permission of the author.