Our letters section and your opportunity to weigh in and be heard. Send us your thoughts and profundities. You can contact us here.

Taking the Telegraph literally

To the Editors:

I picked up your weekly paper while visiting in Durango this past week.

I noticed at the top of your front page this statement: "Proud Sponsors of the First Amendment." You might want to check your dictionary for the proper meaning of the word "sponsor." The word you should use is "supporter." The First Amendment has been in place for over 200 years. You support it and benefit by it as a publication. However, you do not sponsor it as it has been in effect a lot longer than you have been around (which means it doesn't need a sponsor). Check it out. As a publisher/publication, I am sure you want to be correct in your usage and meaning of words.

Mildred Winston
Prescott, Ariz.

(Editors' reply: The small statement above the flag of the Durango Telegraph is always tongue-in-cheek and never meant to be taken on a literal basis. Had Mildred been here during the week of June 17, she would have read "Run the Meat" in that section of the newspaper, and there's no telling what she may have written about the correct usage and meaning of that phrase.)

A little recommended reading

Dear Editors,

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and especially now, in the run-up to the November presidential election, it is increasingly difficult for U.S. citizens to judge what is fact and what is fiction (or political hyperbole) in regard to U.S. security, the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism. Everyone seems to be confused and unable to interpret what they have heard or seen on TV about the situation we are in, how we got there and what to do about it.

Despite my experience working in civil society development in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries impacted by conflict, I also have been confused and highly concerned by what I have seen on the ground, the reported actions taken and contentions made by our nation's elected and appointed leaders in the Bush Administration and Congress.Until recently, I was very frustrated also with my unsuccessful efforts to find out what principles, logic and processes have been driving our foreign and domestic anti-terrorism policies and dominating their very questionable implementation.

But in the last three months, I finally came across some excellent detailed information resources that have helped me to understand and appreciate what has been going on at the highest levels in our government, both since the first Gulf War and especially in the last three years. I think these resource books will be very useful and informative for readers who, as in my case, want to become better informed on these very serious and critically important issues for our country. The resources I am recommending are nonpartisan and seek to inform and point out both the errors of our recent past and present, and some specific constructive courses of action that we should implement to deal with these important and complex problems.

The two books I recommend are:

Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terrorism , by Richard Clarke, a Senior Executive Service civil servant for nearly 30 years, who worked for the current and last three presidents and who was the National Security Council's counterterrorism coordinator in the White House during the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Plan of Attack , by Bob Woodward, reporter and editor at the Washington Post for 33 years, and a nationally and internationally respected writer. Along with Carl Bernstein, he did the investigation and reportage that brought the facts of the Watergate affair to public attention and action.

Both Clarke and Woodward are highly respected and well known in their fields for their honesty and forthrightness in their work and their dealings. Neither of them is seeking public office nor is involved directly in political campaigns. Clearly, their books were written and published for the primary purpose of helping to enlighten Americans and to help us as citizens to better understand and make better choices in exercising our privileges and carrying out our responsibilities as citizens in the most advanced democracy in the world. They can be found in bookstores and also on the web in both text and audio format.

Most sincerely, John W. Barbee, via e-mail

Opening the Pandora's Box of democracy

Dear Editors,

This letter is inspired by the letter you printed in your July 1 number, by Mr. Nobman, on behalf of the Friends of the Animas Valley. There's little doubt that in your fresh-thinking paper, the call for a democratic revolution would find a place, and sympathy, among your readers.

The Friends of the Animas Valley (commandeering the high ground in their name, implicating their opponents as the enemies thereof) recently found some traction in their successful opposition to River Trails development. That development would have deprived most of the members of that group of the excellent vistas painted by guest artist Ms. Carolyn Dailey, imported and promoted by the "Friends" for the purpose of memorializing possibly sensationalizing the landscapes. I don't believe there is any dispute that River Trails would have provided homes for folks with moderate incomes, or families who are likely to consider biking to work, taking public transportation, buying an electric car. But that dream, and the consolidation of an urban, civilized Durango that went with it, is behind us. What is before us for River Trails is the execution of the current zoning, which will result in a few tens of houses priced around a million dollars (sitting on several acres each), no doubt with at least four holes for vehicles in their massive garages, two of which would likely house giant SUVs getting 15 miles to the gallon, or worse. No doubt the "Friends" prefer this company. And the vistas, which will be lost either way, have been preserved, in paint, at least.

Having steered one vote that satisfied their wishes, on the basis of "friendly" words which of course inure to their financial and aesthetic sensibilities, the "Friends" now propose to extend their anti-growth vision via a new democratization of city development approvals. According to the "Friends," in Mr. Nobman's words, representative government has failed us, and we must retake the power of the people.

That our federal government, which is mirrored in the government of the City of Durango, is not a democracy, may come as a surprise to some. To edify those, and to reassure others who already know, both governments are democracies within republics. They are that way because the political thinkers among the founding fathers sorry, no p.c. possible here evaluated the shortcomings and strengths of various forms of government and chose this one as the least troublesome. One of the things they rejected was a democracy.

Some definitions may be in order. Democracy is direct government by the people, via election, which is what the "Friends" propose to take over from our "failed" elected officials. Jefferson is perhaps the founding father most associated with democratic principals, so his definition of democracy might be useful here: "nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49."

So, the founding fathers placed the democracy "within" a republic. "Within," is what you have inside, when the lid is put on the jar. Or a box, like the one Pandora chose to open, the course the "Friends" have advocated here. There is a reason for the democracy to be "within," indeed perhaps hundreds of them. I refer the interested reader to the Federalist Papers for more detail than is possible here. Some of them are that mobs majorities make bad decisions regularly, are influenced by short-term objectives and have no accountability for the bad outcomes they direct.

If memory serves me around the time of the execution of the predecessor to the present Constitution, in 1778, I think, Ben Franklin congratulated the signers of the Articles by saying, "Gentlemen, you have your Republic, if you can keep it." I believe democracy was the fear that was implicit in Ben's statement. We in Durango have our Republican government, in the City Council, within the democracy that elected them and will re-elect them or decline to do so based on the totality of their performance in office.

Others have written, and will write, about the social and geographical implications of the "Friends'" present mission. The Aspenization of Durango, the formation of a landed, millionaire elite in the town that keeps all the "help" living a county away, the resultant long commutes for the middle-class, declining tax base for their schools, pollution, a sprawl of malls to meet their shopping needs in Ignacio, Bayfield, Mancos, wherever the middle class may flee to.

My point in this letter is to refresh the recollection, or impart the understanding, that a democracy within a republic offers the best balance to the preservation of individual interests and rights, and communal interests and rights. At least it was though, by folks better read and possibly smarter than us, to do so two and a quarter centuries ago when the political mechanism of this country was invented. If a representative or all of them in city government has failed us, vote them out of office.

Do not change the government. The rule of the majority is a form of tyranny which our forefathers sought to banish from this country. We are no smarter, or better, now, than they were there is reason to think the opposite.

But if the "Friends" initiative passes, they might as well call in artist Ms. Dailey again, this time to paint the neighboring counties, before they are despoiled by the consequences of the "Friends" success. And eventually to paint the gentrification of Durango.

As a taste of democratic things to come did you notice that the "Friends" letter began with an assault on the First-Amendment rights of the council members? There's little reason for the democratic majority to put up with what they don't want to hear from the minority.

Robert C. Evans,

via e-mail





News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index