Thursday, December 01, 2011

Fort Lyons Should Not Be a Pinon Canyon Bargaining Chip

Dear Editor,

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.

Doug Holdread
Trinidad, Colorado

Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is Reclaiming the Commons

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 United States finds itself with the highest poverty rate in 52 years.

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

The Pinon Canyon / Wall Street Connection

As we watch the "Occupation of Wall Street" on TV it would seen that the open ranges and isolated canyons of Southeastern Colorado are literally and figuratively thousands of miles away from the financial district in New York City. But the reality is that the tentacles of corporate power reach into every nook and cranny of America, including Colorado’s economy, and there is a strong connection between the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site and Wall Street’s plundering of America."

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.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Reboot The Troops

This is my letter to Senator Udall, as well as the other members of the Colorado Congressional Deligation:
Dear Senator Udall:
I urge you to support President Obama's proposal to create a reverse boot camp for service members mustering out of the military, for the purpose of helping them find employment in the civilian economy, by offering employers who hire them tax breaks. Right now he's talking about a paltry $120 million over two years. It should be a lot more! And it shouldn't just apply to disabled vets. This reverse boot camp should be part of the process for all military personel transitioning back into civilian life. Too many of them return to our communities with undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is just plain wrong.
We should significantly reduce the size and expense of our military, and create a major "reboot" program to train veterans for jobs in a demilitarized economy; jobs in alternative energy and in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.
A big part of our economic problems is caused by all of the money we've borrowed to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This has all been done in the name of "national security." But really, our national security depends, not on contolling oil resources in foreign lands, but upon developing alternative energy here in America. Our returning veterans are just the ones to help create this new economy. The most patriotic thing that they, and we all can do together is to break our dependence upon oil.
Doug Holdread

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Pinon Canyon: an Obsolete Extravogance

The Army's Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in Southeastern Colorado glaringly demonstrates everything that's wrong with our U. S. economy. It is an example of the obsolete, unnecessary, wasteful extravagance which typifies our bloated military-spending practices.

Military planners often make the mistake of training to fight the last war. In the case of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site it's not even the last war, nor the one before that. You have to go all the way back to World War II to find a war in which tanks were actually a significant factor. The Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site is predicated on an out-dated military doctrine; huge numbers of tanks and other armored vehicles arrayed against each other on a vast battlefield. It's true that billions of dollars were spent on bigger and better tanks during the Cold War, a boon to defense contractors, but of little actual military value. In this high-tech age of unmanned aerial vehicles, and robots, and lasers, tank warfare is an obsolete military doctrine.

The military refers to these old systems as their, "legacy " weapons. the term "legacy" brings to mind the big estates that have been left as a legacy to the decedents of European nobility. These high-maintenance estates are expensive, but the heirs feel obliged to hang on to them in memory of past glories. It's the same with tank warfare. It represents the romantic but expensive legacy of World War II battles in North Africa. An important difference between the heirs of European nobility and the Pentagon's legacy weapons is that the former is financed by private money, while the later is paid for with our tax dollars.

The advocates of continued funding for tank warfare have found creative ways to use tanks in the current wars in order to try and justify continuing the stream of funding to the corporations that they represent. In Afghanistan tanks have been used to shell the crops of villagers as a way to force them into the arms of the central Afghan government. Farmers can get reparations for their destroyed crops only by applying to the Karzai government. This dubious method of breaking the grip of the Taliban upon villagers is a pretty lame misuse of tanks, obsolete both in terms of military doctrine and economics.

The 238,000 acre Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site is unnecessary. The Department of Defense controls 32 million acres of land in the U.S. and even more around the world. Yet they say they need expand Pinon Canyon to as much as 6.9 million acres. This is all based upon a flawed method of calculating the land requirements for military bases. Instead of calculating the overall real estate holdings of all of the DoD's ranges and then coordinating the use of these ranges among the different service branches and bases, each individual base calculates its ideal amount of training land. All of these wish-lists are then added together to arrive at the total of the DoD's "land shortfall." It's like each and every household calculating its individually need for recreational land and then insisting that each household needs its own park, as if such facilities cannot be shared. Each and every Army base having its own huge training range is simply an unnecessary extravagance.

Meanwhile, valuable assets like the helium, uranium and natural gas underneath Pinon Canyon are being withheld from the regional Southeastern Colorado economy.

We can no longer afford to preserve our legacy weapon-systems like armored tanks. It's time to return Pinon Canyon to the public so that the Department of Defense can save some money, and the people of our region can make some.