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Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth, Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough. Some Thoughts

August 19, 2017

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, paintings by Denver artist Calvin Lee

The question now before the human species, therefore, is whether life or death will prevail on the earth. This is not metaphorical language but a literal description of the present state of affairs.

Jonathan Schell. The Fate of the Earth. p.113

Late last night I finished Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth. It had been among a carton of old books to be donated to a local library, but as an afterthought, I removed it and starting re-reading it. I had read it – or parts of it – just after was published, some 35 years past, in 1982. My dear and departed friend, Dr. Dick Ayre from Presque Isle Maine, held it in high esteem. Add to that, when I started my re-read, Hiroshima Day (August 6) and Nagasaki Day (August 9) were just around the corner. With his already legendary “subtlety,” Trumpty-Dumpty had jolted both the country and the world with his threat of a nuclear attack against North Korea. Reading Schell became irresistible.

I thought it might be interesting to read Schell in parallel with Naomi Klein’s recent small volume, No Is Not Enough, the choice of a book club I’ve been in for more than a decade. The Klein book, seemingly put together in a hurry, still, it presents some useful ideas as to how the country and the world got to this surrealistic moment as well as ideas concerning how to respond to the juggernaut of reaction and greed that is the Trumpty-Dumpty presidency. As usual, it is fine little volume. Klein writes with clarity and vision, her understanding of the danger of climate change, her path-breaking analysis of the use of “shock doctrines’ – a term I believe she first proposed – carefully, if briefly sketched out. If the “what to do” section at the end was a bit sketchy, still, the book as a whole contains many important and practical ideas.

Klein writes with clarity and vision, her understanding of the danger of climate change, her path-breaking analysis of the use of “shock doctrines’ – a term I believe she first proposed – carefully, if briefly sketched out. If the “what to do” section at the end was a bit sketchy, still, the book as a whole contains many important and practical ideas.  Read more…

14 Questions From A Local Trade Unionist Concerning the D.I.A. – Ferrovial Deal.

August 17, 2017

Heathrow Airport, December 2010. Airport was closed by Ferrovial 100% owned subsidiary, BAA causing airline delays, complications throughout Europe and beyond. So much for how “efficiently” Ferrovial runs Heathrow. As I recall, Denver does get more than five inches of snow each winter. 

As a trade union friend of mine noted concerning the Denver D.I.A. – Ferrovial contract – just noted “the horse has left the gate…but what the hell?”

A local trade unionist, he posses fourteen questions concerning the deal. Before posting them below, I thought the blog reading public might be interested in one particular article:

The essence of the piece: In December, 2010, the British government had to bring in the troops to clear five inches of snow from Heathrow Airport because Ferrovial, which manages the airport refused to do so, cheap so and so’s. So all this talk at the recent city council meeting in Denver about “how efficiently” Ferrovial subsiduary, BAA, runs Heathrow,  is a bunch of poppy cock?

So BAA didn’t have the will or the wear-with-all to clear five inches of snow from Heathrow…but they are going to all but manage D.I.A. for 34 years? How did all those well-informed politically astute members of the city council miss this? Here is another article on the subject:

Here the questions my trade union friend asked about the deal. Some have been answered, most not.

  1. Is this the largest privatization in the city’s history? (Winter Park?)
  2. Denver developed DIA and controlled its concessions without privatization, why is it necessary to privatize the Great Hall expansion?
  3. What research has been completed on Ferrovial? Was adequate due diligence applied? Who conducted the due diligence?  Were consultants used?  If so, who were they?
  4. Has the administration consulted closely with the three airports in the UK where Ferrovial has similar contracts? Is there a written comparison of the Denver contract with those in the UK? Wasn’t this a critical part of the necessary due diligence?
  5. Was the administration aware of Ferrovial’s complicity in the debacle that occurred at Heathrow airport which caused David Cameron, the UK prime minister to intervene?
  6. Most members of City Council likely have not carefully reviewed the proposed contract and conducted a full review which is understandable given the complexity of the contract, although the 150 page document should have been reviewed by all members.
  7. Does Ferrovial’s record of union busting, payoffs, and operating abusive detention centers, as reported in a recent Amnesty International report, raise concerns by this administration and City Council?

  1. Is the Council aware that Unite, the largest union in the United Kingdom, was forced to conduct a two-year campaign costing over $4 million, to stop Ferrovial’s union busting on a construction contract for the largest public works project in London for many decades.
  2. Our political system operates on the principle of separation of powers. Everything we have learned about the Ferrovial contract has come from the executive branch.  Why hasn’t the president of the City Council asked the city council staff (six member staff) to conduct its own review of the proposed contract in the manner that the Congressional Budget Office provides an independent review separate from the executive branch?
  3. Has Ferrovial agreed to sign a written neutrality agreement to ensure that its operations will not be adverse to the right of workers to unionize as determined by federal labor law and also to hold its concessionaires to it?
  4. The involvement of Saunders, a local construction company, appears to have good relations with construction unions, although questions have been raised about its close relationship to the administration in the awarding of the contract.
  5. What was learned about Ferrovial in the junkets taken to Ferrovial operations in Spain and the UK by both members of DIA, the city administration, and members of City Council?
  6. Was there true transparency in evaluating the various bids? Why hasn’t the City Council or citizenry been fully informed why Ferrovial was awarded the bid with all of its problem?
  7. What are Denver’s legal rights to end the proposed contract if the contact if is not fulfilled?

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…