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Denver City Council “Swallows the Kool Aid” – It Approves a $1.8 Billion Public-Private Partnership Agreement at Denver International Airport With Ferrovial, S. A.

August 15, 2017

From left to right – Councilperson Stacy Gilmore (abstained), Rafael Espinosa (opposed), Mary Beth Susman (supported), Jolon Clark (supported) voting on D.I.A. contract with Ferrovial S. A.

Last night, at a meeting which began on August 14, 2017 but ended on August 15 at 1:15 am in the morning, the Denver City Council approved a $1.8 billion renovation project the contract of which will span over 34 years to reorganize the security system at Denver International Airport (D.I.A.). The proposal was essentially strong-armed by Mayor Hancock and his staff through a mostly pliant city council. The council, excluded from the negotiations, was given a week to read a 15,000 page contract before being forced to vote on it.

The management for the project, as well as a good deal of authority of the D.I.A administration, was handed over to a consortium of businesses, the main participant of which is Ferrovial S.A, a Spanish corporation whose bread and butter has been airport construction and administration. Ferrovial has an 80% share in the arrangement.

In the end, despite long-winded and generally boring rationalizations that went on ad nauseum until after 1 a.m. in the morning, the vote wasn’t even close. In its overwhelming majority, the Denver City Council had swallowed the Kool aid of what is referred to as “public-private partnerships. In a vote in which the council sold off what little is left of its soul, it voted 10-2 for the project with one abstention. Only council persons Rafael Espinoza and Debbie Ortega voting and speaking clearly against the project. Others, among the generally more liberal (or thought to be) members of the council,who for one given reason or another voted in favor of the proposal included Paul Lopez, Paul Kashmann, Robin Kniech. Stacy Gilmore, who claimed a possible personal conflict of interest concerning a brother-in-law, abstained. Read more…

Mushrooming on Shrine Pass

August 12, 2017

August 11, 2017 – first mushroom harvest. Shrine Pass (near Vail), Colorado

It is a little (a week or so) early to look for mushrooms in the Colorado mountains but given the recent cooler weather and a series of rains providing needed moisture, we (Nancy and me) figured we’d give it a try. But with global warming and drought filled years here in the Southwest, there have been slim pickings. I have gone up every year, but these past three or four years have come back empty-handed or almost. Still every summer about this time we are driven up to the high mountains by some force larger than ourselves to hunt for mushrooms. Friends often ask stupid questions or make like-minded comments – “Did you find any psychedelics?” No, frankly we wouldn’t even recognize them. As we did thirty years ago, when Jukka and Paivi Kairkkainen first took us on our first mushroom hunt a bit north of Helsinki (Finland), we continue with the tradition of searching for edibles. Read more…

Denver City Council – Did Superfly Super Screw Denver?

August 1, 2017

The one entrance – just off of South Sante Fe Blvd – leading to the Overland Golf Course club house. Is this the road that 50,000 to 75,000 people will travel to get to the concert?

Last night (July 31, 2017) I had the dubious pleasure of attending a Denver City Council meeting.

The last time I visited these sacred chambers was some years ago. My friend Paula Van Dusen, me and a couple of others organized a grass roots campaign to get the city council to pass a resolution against  the U.S. led war in Iraq. Our little group did good grass roots door-to-door work that resulted in hundreds if not thousands of phone calls to the then city council members, who were not happy campers to hear from their constituents, despite often parroting how lovely-dovely they are with each other.

Our informal survey – taken from our brief discussion with neighbors – suggested that the good people of Denver opposed the war somewhere between 20-1 to 30-1. It was a close vote, with then District One city councilman Dennis Gallagher casting the decisive vote for the resolution, this as I recall, after being hounded by the good nuns of the Sisters of Loretto and a couple of peace types like myself.  The next day it made page 1 news in the now defunct Rocky Mountain News. The article was accompanied by a major editorial of the day, in the Rocky, slamming the council for voting for peace…even if was only a symbolic gesture.

Ah but that was yesterday and yesterday’s gone as is the Rocky, which a good friend referred to in an email as “The Rocky Mountain Snooze.” 

Actually yesterday, I attended the council meeting to watchdog a neighborhood zoning change but the main item on the agenda was the final vote on Superfly Production’s proposal to organize a super music festival in southwest Denver at the city owned, Overland Park Golf Course. As reported in the Denver Post(Aug. 1, 2017) “The Denver contract allows for a three-day weekend festival each September on Overland Park Golf Course, with each event staged the second or third weekend of that month beginning in 2018.”

The promoters are predicting anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 will be in attendance. Just another example of the privatization of everything, of the private sector stealing public assets (in this case, cheap infra-structure). We’re not talking about a run-of-the-mill concert but a massive three-day “Woodstock” like affair, and like Woodstock (that this blogger attended with a sister and her best friend) it has all the makings of a logistical nightmare for the city.

In fact, essentially what Superfly has done is to package Woodstock in yet another case of coopting the heritage of the 1960s. Cited in the city council meeting, but left out of the Post article, are the fees to be charged to the public, $677.80 for a day pass, but only $1659.80 for the entire three days. I mean, how could anyone pass up such a neat deal. The entry costs appear prohibitive, but these prices didn’t seem to phase the city council members at all. Read more…

Threat To Free Speech: S.720/H.R. 1697 – The Israel Anti-Boycott Act by Ron Forthofer

July 29, 2017

Palestinians in the West Bank demonstrating to improve conditions of Palestinians in Israeli prisons. About 1,500 Palestinians went on a forty day hunger strike which ended in late May, 2017.

Threat to free speech

by Ron Forthofer

There is a Senate bill, along with a companion bill in the House, working its way through Congress with strong bipartisan support, that poses a significant danger to free speech. One would think this bill would be a big deal but, surprisingly, the bill has not received much coverage in the mainstream media.

Fortunately the American Civil Liberties Union is alert to efforts undermining free speech. Thus, in a July 20th article on the ACLU website about S. 720/H.R. 1697, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, Bryan Hauss, Staff Attorney, wrote:

“The bill would amend existing law to prohibit people in the United States from supporting boycotts targeting Israel — making it a felony to choose not to engage in commerce with companies doing business in Israel and its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Violations would be punishable by a civil penalty that could reach $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.” Read more…

After Mosul…What Next For Syria and Iraq?

July 26, 2017

Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi (C) declaring Mosul’s liberation from Islamic state control in central Mosul city, northern Iraq, on July 10, 2017

KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. July 25, 2017. R. Prince. Notes. KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. July 25, 2017. R. Prince. Notes. 

Sitting in a Middle Eastern restaurant, not far from the University of Denver in 2013, a former colleague, who had “drunk the cool aid of humanitarian intervention” (and still imbibes), pontificated how Assad’s Syria would fall in a month, just like Khadaffi did in Libya. Didn’t happen. This year (2017) alone, already, first Aleppo, in western Syria, is liberated from ISIL-al Nusra, seven months later, Mosul in Western Iraq follows suit. As in such urban fighting, the damage is horrendous, but this is war and these are VICTORIES, not defeats for progressive forces, as Washington’s plans of partition for both Syria and Iraq continue to dissolve. 

Intro Remarks: 

As we have done in past shows over seven years, our goal tonight is to deconstruct  mainstream narratives and then actually discern what is actually transpiring with U.S. Middle East policy.

We want to begin with discussing some aspects of the recent Aspen Security Forum that was just completed (July 19-22, 2017) as they relate to developments in the Middle East, especially Iraq and Syria. This is a follow-up on another important annual gathering of “strategic thinkers” – the Herzliya Conference in Israel (which took place June 20-22, 2017

Then we want to discuss the liberation of Mosul, Iraq from ISIL that was completed earlier this month (July, 2017) and how it shifted the balance of power in the region, its implications for Iraq, Syria, ISIL and U.S. policy. ISIL, al Nusra are little other than the mechanisms used to partition the region by global (U.S., UK, France) and regional (Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia) hegemons. Partitioning (what were) strong centralized states (Libya, Iraq, Syria) into smaller units makes them more manageable for energy consortiums, and core-economy governments.

U.S. plans to partition both Syria and Iraq are in disarray, given the gains made on the ground (Aleppo) by the Syrian military and the liberation of Mosul by Iraqi forces. Read more…

U.S. Senate to Tunisia: If You Want Foreign Aid, Support Israel At The United Nations.

July 14, 2017

Amilcar Tile Work

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee to Tunisia: Want Aid? Soften Criticism of Israel.

The U.S. has Tunisia in a bind…again: support U.S. Middle East political initiatives  and allies or else the aid  or face serious reductions in military and economic aid. No mystery where that could lead. What choice does Tunisia have…having already dug its hole so deep. Although much has been made of the fact that Tunisia has not been plunged into the chaotic political maelstrom of Libya or Syria, the continued chronic economic and social crisis that has gripped the country places Tunisia in a vulnerable position where it is difficult to go against the wishes of Washington (or Paris).

It’s an old story, actually.

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed came to Washington recently (July 10-12, 2017) to plead his country’s case against the Trump Administration’s plan to cut its aid package to the North African country from $141 million (2016) to $54.6 million in (2018). In a meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chahed was presented with a list of eleven “concerns,” one of which was a request (demand?) that, in exchange for maintaining the aid package at the 2016 levels that Tunisia support U.S. efforts to stifle efforts in different United Nations organizations critical of Israel.

Having the US pressure Tunisia to side with Israel at the United Nations (or elsewhere) undoubtedly creates tension between the Tunisian people and government undermining the stability that the US claims it is pursuing in the Maghreb. It is a case of typical U.S. political blackmail in which the influence of  the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and like organizations is more than likely. The threat is not especially subtle: if Tunisia wants to continue to receive U.S. economic and military aid it must follow “the rules of the game,” be a part of the team…and to play the role it has long played under Bourguiba – to push the Arab/Islamic world to normalize its ties with Israel in exchange from political and economic support from Washington.

Let’s be frank though, Tunisia’s weight in all this is so little that it doesn’t have much to lose by accepting these terms. No one in the Arab world listens to it – be it Bourguiba or Beji-Caid Essebsi-Ghannouchi – who is voicing such a policy. In exchange for badly needed economic and security aid, Essebsi will probably be willing to swallow his national pride without much hesitation, mind you, and cave to such pressures. Read more…

Earth Flatteners and Hobby-Lobby Iraqi Artifact Theft – 2. Hobby-Lobby Fined $3 million and Forced to Return 5,500 Stolen Iraqi Artifacts

July 8, 2017

This box of artifacts was on sale in a Baghdad market. Iraq National Museum identification numbers are visible on many cylinder seals inside the box.

A New York Times July 5, 2017 news story details how the toy manufacturer, Hobby Lobby, was taken to a federal court in Brooklyn for having knowingly bought 5,500 cultural artifacts stolen from the National Museum of Iraq during the March-April, 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The stolen items, purchased for $1.6 million from an unnamed antiquities dealer had been among the estimated 130,000 items looted from Iraq as a whole in the midst of the U.S.-led storming of Baghdad in which hundreds of looters in three waves savaged one of the world’s greatest archaeological collections.

The mostly U.S. led (or encouraged) wars which have wreaked havoc on Iraq since 1980 have not only done near-irreparable damage to Iraqi infrastructure, resulting, easily, not only in the death of a million people, but millions of people, the overwhelming majority of them civilian casualties. They have also produced an antiquities trafficking bonanza of unprecedented size and scope. In the vacuum created by war zone situations, looting – highly organized and targeted – has also resulted with pretty much everyone getting into the act, including ISIS, Daesh types who as part of their effort to purge the Middle East of all non-Salafist representations of religion have not only destroyed precious religious and other cultural artifacts, but have also sold tons of them on the black market to raise money for arms and other equipment. So ISIS, Daesh are not just destroying ancient artifacts, they are selling them! Strange as it seems, in its rush to buy up whatever antiquities it can get its hands on, Hobby Lobby is doing business – knowingly or not – with ISIS and like organizations.

As one researcher noted, it was not only the National Museum that was targeted. Other looted Iraqi cultural institutions included the National Library, the National Academy of Arts, institutes of music, dance, and art, and universities in Baghdad and elsewhere. Likewise, organized looting of archaeological sites, which had begun during the mid 1990s in the south of Iraq, resumed at a greatly increased rate while the invasion was taking place, and it continues unabated Read more…