Friday, December 09, 2016
Monday, May 02, 2016
In our contemporary world elected representatives generally fail to see any further down the road than their next reelection campaigns. Business leaders and Wall Street investors think in terms of riding bubbles for a year or two and then cashing in before the bubble bursts. There are few visionaries in the realms of politics or economics who have the courage to take a long-term, multi-generational view of things. We are a generation who've been trained to expect and require immediate, instant results. We "zap" our microwaved lunches in three minutes and web pages are loaded onto our monitors from halfway across the world in mere seconds. The concept of deferred gratification seems like some musty left-over from our puritanical past. And the idea of making present sacrifices for the sake of future generations strains the limits of our imaginations.
But people like Danial Berrigan remind us that there are realities that transcend our brief, ephemeral moment of incarnation. Danial lived his life in the larger dimensions of an evolutionary process which his fellow Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin called "cosmogenisis."
Saturday, February 06, 2016
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Five-star general and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower tried to warn us in his final words upon leaving office. He said, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
Thursday, December 01, 2011
It would be great if Fort Lyons could become a place of healing for traumatized returning vets, as Governor Hickenlooper's Chief of Staff, Roxane White has suggested. But that historic facility should not be used as a bargaining chip to buy support for the expansion of Pinon Canyon as the Governor seems to be implying.
Fort Lyons is important to our region, both economically and because of its historical significance. It started out as an operations center to facilitate the removal of the native population from their land. It would be a bitter irony if it were used as a means to remove the current population.
Another historic irony; Kit Carson breathed his last at Fort Lyons. Carson was a "good soldier" who obeyed orders without question. That included an order to forcibly remove 8,000 Navajo people from there homes in Canyon De Chelly. According to Army documents, the expansion of Pinon Canyon would involve the forced removal of 17,000 people from their homes by the good soldiers of the fort that's named in honor of Kit Carson.
The removal of the Navajos from their traditional homeland was accomplished by enlisting the support of another Native American group, the Utes who helped Carson get the job done. It's the old, "divide and conquer" strategy. But I don't believe that the people of Southeastern Colorado can be set against one another. I believe that we will hang together in our desire to see Fort Lyons utilized for some good purpose, and in our resolve to stand against the expansion of Pinon Canyon.
I would urge that leaders in Bent County make it crystal clear to the Governor and to the Army that any use of Fort Lyons by the military would not alter their opposition to Pinon Canyon Expansion. It's possible that Governor Hickenlooper did not mean to suggest that the Army's use of Fort Lyons would buy his support for an expansion of Pinon Canyon. If that's the case, I urge him to clarify the matter and state clearly that the two issues are unrelated.
Monday, November 14, 2011
The traditional understanding of "the commons" refers to forests, rivers, grazing lands and such that are shared, used and enjoyed by all. The commons is another word for the "public square," a place that is open and accessible to all. The Occupy Wall Street movement is literally and figuratively reclaiming this old understanding of "the commons."
There are a number of related words in our language like "community," "commune," and even "communism." During the Middle Ages 1% of the population were nobles, while 99% were "commoners." In the formation of the British system of government a "House of Commons" was established as a counter- balance to the "House of Lords." Other old words and concepts that come from the same "common" root include "communication," the "common good," "commonwealth," which derived from "common weal" or "well-being."
The Occupy Wall Street movement is bringing all of these old words and concepts back into our awareness and our vocabulary. By establishing common ground upon which we can all come together and enter into dialogue with one another, we are making important connections, we are weaving together a populist tapestry, a matrix of alternative consciousness which will develop into the social fabric of a new order. We are creating an alternative to the elitist, trickle-down, societal infrastructure in which wealth is supposedly materialized out of thin air by "job creators," magician-marketers who seduce us into measuring our happiness in term of our ability to feed artificial appetites; an alternative to "voodoo economics" in which speculative bubbles blown up and popped leaving our nest eggs and pensions in shreds; and alternative to the old infrastructure that irrationally requires ever-expanding growth in a world of increasing scarcity; an alternative to an economy which is overseen by those who look down upon the masses from on high, while the commoners place their hopes in the over-flowing excess of the 1%; a hope that some of that excess will descend to the 99% in sufficient dribs and drabs. We will create a new counter-cultural infrastructure in which we generate wealth among ourselves, spreading it out in an ever-widening pool of plenty, a new order in which the common weal will be sustained and shared within our common humanity for the common good.
This is happening because we have reached the tipping point. We are in crisis and it has become clear that our survival depends upon creating a new system. Necessity is the mother of invention, and change has become a necessity. The occupy wall street is not happening because of a lofty philosophical awakening. It has come about because our survival instincts are kicking in. We are faced with a choice between continuing to trust the 1% , or to take matters into our own hands and begin crafting a new social order which will give us a chance to survive the impending collapse of the false economy.
This transformation will happen because it must happen, and because it can happen. The people who are coming together in the commons have skill sets from the counter-culture of the 60s, merging with the tech-savvy, network-conscious new generation which lives within a new egalitarian paradigm. We have come to a point in our evolution where elections, majority-rule and representative governments are becoming secondary to inclusive dialogue, direct democracy and consensus decision-making are technologically and psychologically possible.
As we come together in the commons we will be making critical connections among the thousands of isolated groups which have been keeping the flames of democracy alive over these decades of decline. As we occupy the commons all of the small, under-funded, struggling groups that have, for half a century been doing all sorts of good things, will discover one-another in common cause and become forged into a united front.
Instead of accepting the false dilemma of our two-party system, choosing between the Democratic and Republican political parties, we will come together around common values, things like equal opportunity for all; things like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; things like the common welfare of all in health care, food, shelter and education. Instead of being driven into opposing camps by ideology we will rediscover one another in the urgency of our common concerns. We have all been driven into the same common situation by ever-widening economic disparity as the
As we listen to each other, carefully communicating of our common concerns, we will formulate our common goals. We will emerge speaking with a common voice that will to be heard above the sponsored talking heads of the main stream media. We will become a human megaphone, amplifying our shared concerns until our voices penetrate the halls of power and are heard by our elected representative who are barraged by the reality that "money talks." By speaking in unison the volume of our small voices will rise to counter the influence of the big money that has, for too long drowned out the "voice of the people."
We will increasing reclaim ownership as the common stewards of our resources, the care-takers of the blessings which have been bestowed upon us by our creator, to be shared and enjoyed in common. We will reinvent the commons by crafting together a transformative process which is decentralized, horizontal; not vertical; not trickling down, but a rising tide which becomes increasingly strong and wide and inclusive.
As we take time to have an authentic dialogue together we will develop a common process; not an agenda that is set by a self-appointed elite or a purchased inner-circle, but an inclusive process from which a common agenda emerges; an agenda that is not hurried, but is cultured and aged until ripe.
We will move forward as a new society of common purpose; not the polarized old order of opposing extremes. The 99% are somewhere between the extreme poles. We will develop a way of being together in common cause that honors the formative process of dynamic tensions and synergy.
Friday, October 07, 2011
It is a mistake to assume that the motive driving efforts to expand the 238,000 acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site to as much as 6.9 million acres is military necessity. America’s military-industrial complex does not function in such a way that defense contractors simply meet the needs of the military. It is often the other way around, with the military serving the needs of defense industry.
The acquisition of more land by the Department of Defense is completely unnecessary in military terms. The DoD is already a huge bureaucracy. It’s vast holdings include 6,000 bases in the U.S. and its territories, and 30 million acres of real estate in the continental United States and even more around the world; 702 bases in 130 in foreign countries. Every one of these bases is a conduit, moving half of our national budget from our households, through our tax system, to Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. In the name of "national security" we dutifully fill and refill the troughs at which defense-contractors feed. Some are excited young wieners squealing at the prospect of federal contracts. Others are huge old swine with a dozen little wannabe sub-contractor piglets hanging from their tits. But all of them grow fat at the same federal trough.
One of the reasons why China is overtaking the U.S. economically is that the Chinese are not expending as much of their national treasure trying to match our military power. Instead, they are investing in their infrastructure, thus creating jobs. China, with a population of 1.3 billion people spends a little over 100 billion annually on defense. The U.S. with 1/4 of China's population spends seven times as much on defense. Where does all of that money go? It goes to corporations which manufacture weapons and since 9/11 to a huge and growing, mostly secret, for-private security industry, and to their Wall Street investors.
The defense and security sectors have become such a huge part of our economy that unending wars have become necessary in order to justify their growth. The invisible fat cats behind the defense industry need the military because it is the justification by with wealth is transferred from our pockets to theirs.
The State of Colorado has become dangerously dependent upon the military-industrial complex. As the state's second largest employer Fort Carson in Colorado Springs wields a lot of power with elected officials, and elected officials, doing the bidding of the corporate contributors whose campaign contributions got them elected, wield a lot of power over the military. They work hard to get more money for bases in Colorado and more money for defense contracts in our state. As a result, while many areas of the state endure economic stagnation, there are islands of prosperity like Fort Carson, a beneficiary of a bloated federal military budget. At the same time that the private sector is shrinking, Fort Caron is expanding. With recently addition of a Combat Aviation Brigade the base will grow by 2700 troops who'll be flying 100 helicopters.
Efforts to expand Piñon Canyon have less to do with the Army’s need for more training lands than with defense contractors need to build more helicopters and make more profits. While ordinary people struggle, the corporations which make these helicopters are getting rich.
Tony Magliano of the Catholic News Service observes that "Weapon-producing corporations such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics are reaping huge wartime profits at the expense of the poor and war-torn. And with their expensive campaign contributions, these corporations are lobbying politicians in Washington to keep America’s war machine rolling on and on!"
Too much of our national treasure goes to paying for wars. Not wars to defend U.S. citizens but wars to sustain U.S. defense industry. Three of the top beneficiaries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing, corporations with have operations in Aurora, Colorado.
Many of us scratched our heads when Representative Mike Coffman jumped into the Piñon Canyon controversy, arguing for expansion, and even accusing former Governor Bill Ritter of being a "terrorist sympathizer" because he signed a law which protects property owners around Piñon Canyon. Coffman was simply working for the people who got him elected. His 6th Congressional District is the home of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing. These corporations are involved with the development of drones, the expensive new robotic weapons of the new "chAir Force" and they foresee the future need for a big, easy to access testing range; an expanded Piñon Canyon. They view Southeastern Colorado as a convenient sandbox.
But the takeover of Southeastern Colorado by Wall Street corporations, through their military partners comes at the expense of the people who live there. While military contractors in Colorado Springs and Aurora benefit from the federalization of the region, it is at the expense of the poorer and politically less connected people who live there. Piñon Canyon has been an economic black hole for three decades now, and its expansion would suck what's left of the regional economy into the abyss.
When Piñon Canyon was first established in the early 80s approximately 3000 cattle were removed from the economic equation of the region. Over the course of decades that adds up to millions of dollars of lost revenue. The ranchers who used to live on the land paid property taxes and spent money at businesses in towns like Trinidad and La Junta. The Army does neither.
Southeastern Colorado also lost a lot in terms of potential tourism. Before the Army took the land the Department of the Interior was poised to designate the canyon lands of the region as a National Natural Landmark. The land is an archaeological treasure trove which according to the Army holds 4,100 prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, 524 of which have been determined to be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. An additional 239 sites are still being evaluated. But all of this is off limits to the public and excluded from regional heritage tourism efforts.
There are also potentially valuable mineral resources at Piñon Canyon. Within the maneuver site is the Model Dome, a very rare geologic formation which has trapped a large reserve of helium. The national helium reserve at the Bush Dome near Amarillo, Texas is almost gone and prices for the gas have been rising dramatically. Ironically, the Army is having a hard procuring enough helium for their fleet of spy balloons.
Wind energy projects have considered but rejected sites near Piñon Canyon for wind farms. Once they learn that the area is threatened by expansion they are unwilling to invest. An added deterrent is the fact that the military doesn’t like wind farms in general. They have pressured the Federal Aviation Administration to disapprove wind farms in other parts of the country because they interfere with military radar.
Piñon Canyon is enriching military contractors at the expense of people, who for four and five generations have worked hard to sustain themselves on the land that they love. It is a sobering example of how the unholy alliance between Wall Street corporations, compromised legislators and an over-grown military is impoverishing American.