Month: October 2017

Pave Paradise, Put Up A Parking Lot

Daniel, WY: A little corner of paradise.

Daniel, WY: A little corner of paradise.

How The Sierra Club Sold the US Environment Down the River For $100 Million

After reading this post, you could be forgiven for believing that I’m perpetually on the road, leading the Life of Riley.  And you won’t get much of an argument from me; this retired life is sweet.

My latest trip was what my wife describes as my “slow boat to China” drive to visit our daughter and her family in Spokane.  What a fabulous country we still have.  And I saw some of the best of it.

My advice to you?  Get out and see it for yourself before it’s overwhelmed by population growth.  Which is the highest of any of the advanced industrial countries.  And is driven primarily by immigration-both legal and illegal.  The mid-range estimate by the US Census Bureau for our 2100 population?  Nearly 600 million people.  And on the high side?  Well over a billion.

So, staying off interstate highways to the extent possible, I took about eight days to make the trip.

Going first over the spectacular Trail Ridge Road, I  spent a night at the venerable Grand Lake Lodge.

The next day, on to Steamboat Springs where I stopped into the  F.M. Light store and picked up a beautiful, western belt buckle to go with my Stetson.  Now, I can honestly claim to be a full fledged cowboy.  Except, of course, for the cow, the boy and the horse.

That night I stayed at the Little America motel, just west of Rock Springs, Wyoming.  Talk about a trip down memory lane.  When I was a kid, we made annual pilgrimages to Idaho to visit relatives.  Little America, with its innumerable road signs counting down the miles until we could get an ice cream cone, relieved what seemed to be an endless ride in a cramped back seat across those vast stretches of sage brush country.

As the sun crept over the eastern horizon the next morning, I left I-80 behind and went north to the hardscrabble town of Kemmerer.  In the heart of Wyoming energy country, it’s the improbable home of the J.C. Penny mother store.

North of Kemmerer, the country went from starkly beautiful to hauntingly lonely.  Nothing except antelope and snow fences for mile after mile.

Until, that is, I came to a slightly wider spot in the road called Daniel.  Its ramshackled structures are being slowly reclaimed by the harsh Wyoming winters.  For several years in the 1830’s, it was home to the legendary fur trappers’ rendezvous that highlighted the rough and ready lives of the mountain men who blazed the trial west for the homesteaders that followed.

Again.  It’s a paradise you need to see before it’s paved to accommodate the hordes of migrants that are making our country a world sacrifice zone.

But, in reality, it’s not the migrants’ fault.  They’re just doing what comes naturally.  That is, leaving the hell holes they’ve made of their own countries.  And rather than doing the hard work of fixing things there, taking the path of least resistance and moving to paradise.  In other words, the good old U.S. of A.  You know, Texas tea, swimming pools, movie stars.  Not to mention food stamps, welfare and Section 8 housing.

And, of course, you’re right.  Not all are coming here for welfare-many are coming for jobs.  But that doesn’t mean they’re having any less impact on our environment: the air, the water, and our wild lands.

But don’t tell me that they can’t fix their own countries.  I’m 66 years old.  Within my lifetime, China was an impoverished, murderous hellhole.  But now, by most measures, their economy is bigger than ours.  And all without a penny of US foreign aid.  Not to mention mass immigration.

And if you’re counting on organizations, like the Sierra Club, that you thought were devoted to protecting our environment to save us, you’re fooling yourself.  They won’t.  In fact, they were bought and paid for by the “more people is better” lobby years ago.

For me, this strange story begins when I was in the legislature and introduced a bill that would have required every employer in the state to use the federal E-Verify system.  E-Verify enables employers, with a high degree of reliability, to determine whether a person applying for a job is in the country is here legally and so eligible to work.  Since jobs are considered one of the leading “magnets” for illegal immigrants, effectively preventing them from working here would go a long way towards “demagnetizing” the US.

Naïvely assuming that environmental groups would want to limit the environmental damage caused by population growth, I spoke with a woman named Pam Kiely, who was the lobbyist for a coalition of environmental groups.   With the capital’s golden dome soaring far above our heads, I vividly remember our discussion over the hubbub of other lobbyists and legislators on the stairs just outside the Senate chamber.

Her response to mandatory E-Verify?  “Of course, we’re concerned about population growth,” she said.  “But only from the perspective of world wide population growth.  So,” she concluded, “we can’t support your bill.”

So, there you have it.   We tackle urban sprawl and traffic congestion on Colorado’s Front Range by reducing population growth in Mexico.  And Africa.  Sort of like boiling the ocean: good luck with that.  And in the mean time ignore immigration.

Of course, it wasn’t always like this for groups like the Sierra Club.  As recently as 1989, the Club’s position was that it should work to bring about population stabilization “first of the United States and then of the world.”

What caused the Sierra Club to do a 180 degree turn on The Population Bomb (a book the Club helped get published) with respect to America’s environment?  You guessed it:  money.

In the early 1990’s, California plutocrat, David Gelbaum, told then Club president Carl Pope that that if the Club ever came out anti-immigration “they would never get a dollar from me.”  Pope obediently complied; the Club changed it’s tune.  Gelbaum then ponied up a cool $100 million or so-the largest gift in Club history.

The issue has remained contentious in the Club.  Proponents of limiting immigration have been denounced as “racist;” the perfect tool for shutting down reasoned debate.

The controversy also has significant Colorado connections.  Former Governor, Richard Lamm, a Democrat, has been one of the activists fighting to bring the Club back to its immigration limitation roots.  He also joined in a recent law suit alleging that the federal Department of Homeland Security has failed in its obligation to enforce the Environment Protection Act by ignoring the impact of legal and illegal immigration on the environment.  Lamm charges that ignoring the impact of immigration is “environmental malpractice.”

The Sierra Club has a pretty website:  seals, polar bears, stunning vistas.  Very slick.  Very politically correct.  It hits all the right environmental notes.  Except, of course, on what immigration is doing to the American environment.

There’s a saying in politics that goes, “Money talks, bullsh*t walks.”  The Sierra Club, from first hand experience, knows a lot about how that works.

So the next time you’re enjoying a weekend at your favorite “secret” spot in the back country, remember this: with the waves of immigrants coming this way, it probably won’t be a secret for long.  You better get out and see it again before they pave it. And put up a parking lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation

national anthem at a football game

national anthem at a football game

The NFL.  Or, the National Felons League.

The Veterans Memorial Day Tribute is an organization run by and for the benefit of American patriots.  Although I can’t claim to know the entire story of how it began, I know for sure that Louetta Smith has spent countless hours well behind the scenes to make sure that it comes off flawlessly every year.  Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night has prevented Louetta and her small, but intrepid, band of volunteers from honoring Colorado veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice in our nation’s various wars.

When I first began attending the observance several years ago, it took place in Civic Center Park at the Veterans Monument just west of the state Capital.  Then, perhaps because of our unruly May weather, it was moved into the nearby Pillar of Fire Church on 13th and Sherman Street.

It’s a solemn, moving ceremony.  Accompanied by the slow tolling of a bell, the names and ranks of the fallen are read.  Then, family members are presented with an embroidered pennant recognizing their loss by a ramrod straight member of the armed services who moves through the sanctuary with measured, deliberate steps.

Now that the “War on Terror” has dragged on for more than 16 inconclusive years, some of the names, such as Navy Seal Danny Dietz’, have been read repeatedly.  Lamentably, new names are added with each passing year.  I’ve also noticed that Sergeants are disproportionately represented among the fallen, something that a cursory search of the internet seems to bear out.

This past Memorial Day, I happened to be sitting close enough to a family that was given a pennant so that I was able to overhear the service member lean forward and, in a hushed voice say, “On behalf of a grateful nation, we honor your family’s sacrifice.”

I can’t speak for other members of the audience, but if mine were a good measure, there were few dry eyes in sanctuary by the time the ceremony was over.  The mournful wail of the bagpipes closed the service.  When I emerged from the church, into the glare of a hot May afternoon, I was as emotionally wrung out as an old piece of drift wood.

And now we’re treated to the spectacle of our favorite faux warriors, NFL players, taking a knee during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner to protest racial injustice.

Like, I suppose, the injustice of the average salary of NFL players, about 70% of whom are black, being a cool $1.9 million.  And, yes, I’ll concede that NFL players suffer more than their share of the dings about which football fans endlessly hyperventilate. But their pay still compares pretty favorably to the average salary of something less than the $30,000 that a sergeant in the U.S. Army pulls down.  Especially given the risk those sergeants run of the “ding” that leaves them without one of their limbs.  Or, even worse, a wife without a husband. Or kids without a father.

But even the NFL’s spoiled knuckle draggers know that they aren’t underpaid.  No, these protests are about the alleged racial grievances of which we hear no end.  So, yes, let’s talk about those beefs.

How about police brutality against blacks?  If the somber, black faces on the Sunday TV screens are the measure, it must be horrific.

But what if I told you that that in 2015 a cop was 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male was to be killed by a police officer?  And that ratio has undoubtedly gotten worse given the 53% increase of gun murders of cops in 2016-committed overwhelmingly by blacks.

So, yes, read ’em and weep.  But not for the NFL phonies shedding crocodile tears for black criminals.   But for the shattered families and colleagues of the multitudes of police officers who have been cut down by those criminals.

But, at least these players know of what they speak.  While studies show that the NFL’s pampered millionaires aren’t committing property crimes at a rate higher than the population at large, when it comes to violent crime, they’re MVPs.  You know, the “little” things like murder, manslaughter, DUI manslaughter, robbery, aggravated assault, sexual assault, rape, battery, domestic violence, child abuse and kidnapping.

Some may be offended that I am even drawing attention to this information.  In their minds, this kind of data qualifies as “hatefacts.”  And anyone who unearths it in government crime statistics and points it out is guilty of the Orwellian thought crime of “noticing.”

I mentioned this post about the NFL controversy to my personal trainer, Mike, the other day.  He responded that another client “Predicted that the NFL will be gone in 10 years.”

“Really,” I answered, “why does he think that?”

“He believes nothing that can be done about the traumatic brain injuries caused by the game. It’s not the bit hits that do the damage, it’s the constant small ones.  And, yes,” he conceeded, “they’re constantly improving the helmets, but there’s really nothing they can do to prevent concussions when you have those huge men running into each other.”

You can probably imagine that it wouldn’t break my heart to see the NFL go the way of the dinosaur.  Or, for that matter, Division I college football.  What, after all, is big time college football other than a farm league for the NFL?  Both are profoundly corrupt.  And, as our equivalent of the Roman Empire’s bloodthirsty gladiatorial games, inure us to violence. And coarsen our culture.

Think about this for a moment.  Is it really the best use of your time to sit in front of the TV and watch a bunch of thugs knock each other down into the wee hours of Monday night? And Thursday night? And pretty much all day Sunday?

Just asking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Road. Again.

Downtown Denver

Downtown Denver

Denver. There’s no place like home.

Jack Kerouac’s novel, On the Road, was one of those books that captured the anarchic zeitgeist of the late ’60s as well as any.  Of course, I fell in love with it in high school.

The crazy hitchhiking around the “immense triangular arc from New York to Mexico City to San Francisco.”  The dope. The booze.  The sex-tame by today’s standards, true-but a revealing foretaste of the depths to which the culture could, and has, sunk.  But, I have to admit, the general cussedness of the book no doubt helped inspire what became the anti-war fervor of the hippies.

But the best part for me?  A good deal of the story was set in the dim, narrow alleys and dive bars of downtown Denver. Larimer Street.  Wazee Street. Kerouac was there long before the terms “gentrified” and “Lodo” had even been dreamed up.  And I knew, even if only from a safe, suburban distance, those spooky environs from the time I was a kid since Denver is my home town.  So, hey, even a cow town could turn out a famous writer.  Perhaps there was hope for me.

Our recent trip to Cape Cod and out to Province Town brought to memory the book that Kerouac had so famously written on a continuous scroll of paper.  I can hear you asking, “Fine.  But, what’s the connection?”

Good question.  Inspired by my then recent reading of Kerouac’s book, I got “on the road” myself during the last few weeks of the summer of 1970 and hitchhiked from Denver to Province Town, Massachusetts. And back.

In retrospect, one of the most remarkable things about the journey was that my mom volunteered to kick start the trip by driving me the first few miles out of town up I-76 toward the northeast corner of Colorado, where I planned to catch I-80 and go on to the east coast.  If my son had proposed such a scheme to my wife in this day of perceived murder and mayhem, she would have probably locked him in his room.  And fed him through the key hole for the duration of the summer.  But for my mom, a child of the Depression, hitchhiking was something she had probably done herself.

Going in, let’s understand, that I’m talking about a trip that happened 45 years ago.  And that I have gotten to the age where I can hide my own Easter eggs.  So, this account is, of necessity, impressionist.  Not a documentary.  Nonetheless, there are some things that stand out even at this distance.

Early on, I lucked out and got picked up by a heavy set, youngish traveling salesman who took me all the way to Chicago in a boxy Volvo station wagon.  It didn’t take much to impress me.  I’d never been east of Denver before, and I remember thinking to myself, “With every passing mile, I’m seeing something I’ve never seen before.”  Not exactly what you’d call “deep thinking.”

But corn fields that stretched to infinity and dingy gas station bathrooms at interstate off ramps had a short shelf life in the “romance of the road” department. Even for a rube like me.

Small towns used to punctuate and leaven long cross country drives on two lane highways like Route 66.  Their’s was a symbiotic relationship: the towns serviced the passing motorists with cafe food, gas and a place to rest at motels with flashing neon “vacancy” signs.   The passing motorists helped fuel small town economies where real life existed:  homes where kitchen windows glowed at night, schools, little parks, church steeples, small businesses on the main street that, at the city limits, morphed into the highway that led to the next town.

The Interstate system, in the relentless pursuit of speed, efficiency, and, I’ll grant you, safety, severed that connection.  Now, those small towns merit, at best, no more than an anonymous arrow at the end of an exit ramp.  One of them, “Honey Town,” for some reason, sticks in my memory from the trip; it’s probably shrunk to a shadow of its former self by now.  The Interstates did their damnedest to cut the heart out of rural America.

Late that first night, the Volvo pulled off I-80 at a rest stop.  “What’s up?” I asked the driver, surfacing from a profound slumber.  “Where are we?”

“Somewhere in Iowa,” he said, rubbing his neck.  “I need to take to get some sleep.”

Cicadas kept up a relentless din in the muggy air that wrapped me like a sodden blanket as I got out of the car and stretched.  “It gets cold in the Rockies when the sun goes down,” I thought to myself, “does it even cool off here when it gets dark?”  Big bugs flew lazy circles around the mercury vapor lights that burned overhead. They bleached the color from the few cars in the rest area. And cast stark shadows across the parking lot.  I slept on a concrete picnic table with nothing between me and it but my thin foam backpacking pad.

The next day we hit Chicago, where my driver lived with his mother.   He invited me to get cleaned up, have dinner, and spend the night.  I was grateful, but it must have been an awkward meal among strangers around that dinner table.  I wonder what the guy’s mom said when he told her a hitchhiker was going to be a guest in her home.

The next day, as we drove to his job in the Loop, he bought me a ticket to a matinee showing of Hair.  Of course, I’d heard of it-especially the notorious, 10 second nude scene.  So my prurient instincts were quivering as I walked under the gaudy marquee and into the old shoebox of a theater.  At that point in my life, I was an odd combination of prudish recklessness; when the lights went down, I watched with nervous anticipation.  But from my vantage point toward the back of the balcony, I only saw enough to know that that I could say “Yes” if someone asked me if I had seen the “nude scene.”

By the next evening, I made it to South Bend and an exit near Notre Dame University.  It was raining and the dark was closing in rapidly.  The traffic was sparse and what little there was was going by so fast that it must have been nearly impossible to see a huddled figure in a dark poncho with his thumb out by the side of the road.  I didn’t catch a ride till the next morning; talk about the longest night.

In Pennsylvania, I took a detour to visit the Gettysburg battle field.  I was fortunate to be picked up by a family of Southerners-although I didn’t appreciate it at the time.  From the perspective of the “Lost Cause,” a couple and their two young sons recounted the exploits of Picket’s Charge for me near where Confederate cannons were aimed at the Copse of Trees.  When I thought of the withering shell fire, the Copse looked infinitely far away.  For many of the young men who started across that field, it was.

This is yet another detour, but indulge me.  For a nation that takes such pride in our having seceded from the British Empire in our War of Independence, the Civil Was is a strange chapter in our history.  If it was a good thing for the 13 Colonies to strike out on their own, why is it a good thing that we fought a war that killed more Americans than all our other wars combined to prevent the 11 states of the Confederacy from doing the very same thing?

It was as if the South were an unhappy wife who sued for divorce.  In response, the North, her husband, beats her until she changes her mind.  The difference between the Revolutionary and Civil wars?  The wife, the Colonies, won the former conflict against her husband, the British Empire.  And the wife, the South, lost the latter.  It’s remarkable how much that can be forgotten about the course of human events in a mere four score and seven years.

Of course, the Civil War it is now popularly-and politically correctly-seen as a war to free the slaves.  But that is not how Abraham Lincoln saw it-at least until he needed something to rally a Union that was weary of loosing bloody battle after bloody battle to the Rebels.  Until then, it was strictly a conflict, in Lincoln’s words, “To save the Union.” Slavery was entirely secondary.

If you are interested in a bracing alternative to the monotonous fare of Lincoln hagiographies that publishers churn out, take a look at the The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War by Thomas DiLorenzo.  While DiLorenzo and his book have their critics, you should read it before the PC crowd consigns it to the memory hole.  Just as you should tour the Gettysburg battle field before the same crowd effaces the many Confederate monuments there.  But don’t wait too long-they’re trying, even as you read.

It was mid-afternoon by the time we were done reliving the scenes of those terrible few days.  I thanked my tour guides for their Southern hospitality, bid them a good evening and then took in the 360° painting of battle at the Cyclorama.  When I finished there, the sun was going down beyond the split rail fence that defined the edge of the battlefield.  No doubt in violation of many rules and regulations, I climbed over the fence when I judged no-one was looking and spread my bag in a patch of high grass.  And slept soundly with the ghosts that haunt the ground that was the high-water mark of the Confederacy.

Although the trip from there to Province Town is largely a blur, a few things stand out.  Mostly the generosity of strangers.  Another guy, in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, invited me sit down to dinner with his wife and kids.  Great, hospitable people.  I hope I had the presence of mind to tell them that I have ancestors that had a land grant from William Penn.

I next went to Princeton, New Jersey where I free loaded off a college friend named Ritchie and his family.  Free loaded so long, in fact, that Ritchie had to invite me to leave (at his parents’ urging, no doubt).  The romance of the road was wearing thin; a soft bed and clean sheets weren’t so bad after all.

My next stop was New York City where I got a room in a high rise YMCA.  Talk about spooky for a wet-behind-the-ears-kid from a one horse town like Denver.  I’m sure I was convinced that there was a mugger hiding in every dark corner of the stairwell I climbed to get to my room.  And a bed bug in every fold of the sheets.

From there it was north to Massachusetts and out to the end of the Cape Cod hook.  I craned my neck to see a Kennedy as we went by their compound in Hyannis Port; they must not have gotten the memo that I was there that day.

Fishing Port

Fishing Port

When I got to Province Town it was grey and drizzling.  I found a room to rent in a little house near, where else? The ocean.  After a bite to eat, I watched the gulls swarming the pier where the fishing boats came in, their black spars piercing the gathering gloom.  I spent some time in a small used book store where I picked up a well worn copy of one of Dostoyevsky’s novels; I think it was Crime and Punishment.  I began reading it that night, snuggly propped in bed as a wind whipped rain lashed my window.

When the sun rose the next morning in a thankfully clear sky, I had one thought: Denver.