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The price of pork

Dear Editors,

TheDurango Telegraphhas reason to be concerned about the mountain of pork at the core of N. M. Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s “Wilderness Bill.” The Wilderness Act of 1964 states, “Wilderness is where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, and where man himself is only a visitor who does not remain.” Surely, wilderness is a priceless jewel – the source of our roots and our renewal. But the spirit of wilderness is completely incompatible with bricks and mortar and the narrow interests of developers and go-go growth advocates pushing the pork of S.22, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. The Bingaman “Wilderness Bill” is marred by the pricey Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, a measure that would force New Mexicans and Coloradoans to degrade our environment and sacrifice our precious water resources. Why can’t we enjoy our wilderness without having to pay the porker?

We find ourselves facing national insolvency and a Greater Depression when pork barrel spenders like New Mexico’s senior senator are so eager to slip in earmarks and have their way with federal taxpayers. Regrettably, Bingaman has taken a page from high-rolling Hank Paulsen’s book, believing that massive appropriations for his pipeline will result in another project that is too big to fail. Other large Bureau of Reclamation projects such as the Dolores and A-LP are notorious for tripling initial cost projections, so Navajo-Gallup would likely cost billions – money we do not have and an unconscionable burden for tapped-out federal and state taxpayers.

As the bill’s primary sponsor, Bingaman is greasing the skids to give away one third of New Mexico’s stream water to the Navajo Nation. There are no binding contracts, and there is no explanation of how the Tribe would use the 600,000 acre feet of water within New Mexico – except for more filthy coal-fired plants like Desert Rock.

The New Mexico State Engineer denies this water will be marketed out of state, but Bingaman and the Navajo refuse to support an amendment stating that, “All the water provided herein must be put to beneficial use within the State of New Mexico.” Oddly, many of the neediest Navajo in the Project area will be left high and dry with none of the lateral lines necessary to provide water to those who have traditionally hauled their own.

Bingaman’s drive for Navajo-Gallup is a strictly political decision – trumping all reason and devoid of common sense. Is this pipeline project feasible economically? No! Does the proposed Navajo settlement constitute a just and measured resolution to Navajo water claims? No! Would the settlement pass as a stand-alone bill without the cover of wilderness? Probably not, because it is unfair and imprudent to spend billions of dollars on this trans-basin diversion to Gallup and Arizona, when communities in the San Juan Basin have their own acute needs for water.

The Navajo are entitled to a fair share of New Mexico’s scarce surface water. But we must insist on an honest assessment on a level and legal playing field – not business as usual on a slab of pork. The technical component of a just settlement entails the answers to scientific questions such as: “How much water is available? How much water does the Tribe need? What are the bases for quantification of the tribe’s entitlement to water? While these questions have been asked directly and repeatedly, answers have yet to be provided.

Nothing has changed since top Interior Department officials testified against the pipeline settlement before Bingaman’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June of 2007. Simply put, Interior objects to the Navajo-Gallup proposal because it strikes at the heart of established federal policy for the negotiation of Indian water right settlements. This longstanding Policy [55Fed.Reg.9223 (1990)] requires an economic evaluation designed to protect the interests of the taxpaying public, while honoring the federal government’s trust obligations to the Navajo Tribe. Regulations in the policy represent a pivotal safeguard against fiscal waste and serve to guarantee the negotiation of a viable settlement.

Can New Mexicans and fellow Americans afford Sen. Bingaman’s pork laced “Wilderness Bill”? In a pig’s eye!

– Steve Cone, via e-mail


Criminal company

Dear Editors,

Last June, a much-awaited Senate committee report formally concluded that President Bush and members of his administration lied about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in order to build a public case for war.Bill Clinton lied about having sex with another consenting adult and was impeached for it. But, Pelosi and Reid are politicians – not leaders – ignoring the majority of our population’s wishes and doing nothing. Obama has enough problems dealing with the many disasters Bush has left him, so maybe he should look to the future and move on. Unfortunately, Bush cannot be charged as a war criminal because the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction here, so it would have to be in an American courtroom.

In the 1970s, Charles Manson was convicted for murder and he never physically harmed anyone himself. If a prosecutor can show that President Bush did not take the country to war in self-defense but instead under false pretenses, then wouldn’t all the killings that have taken place would be unlawful killings, and therefore murder?

On Oct. 7, 2002, in Cincinnati, Bush told us that Saddam Hussein was a great danger to  our nation, either by attacking us with WMDs, or by giving WMD to a terrorist group to do so. Bush said this attack could happen on “any given day,” meaning that the threat was imminent. Inconveniently, six days earlier, the CIA sent Bush its 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, a classified, top-secret  report, the consensus opinion of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. The report clearly states “that Hussein was not an imminent threat to the security of this country; that he would only be a threat to us if he feared that America was about to attack him.” Oops.

So, was Richard Nixon right when he said, “When the President does it, it’s not against the law?” That scumbag Bush took hundreds of billions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury and just handed it over to his corporate friends and supporters with no questions asked. No oversight, no accountability. Here ya go – free money!

Will we let these thugs get away with murder, too?

– Thanks, Bill Vana, Durango

On the edge of Durango

Dear Editors,

Isolation is an incredible thing, in that it can take on many personalities. For example, at the moment I have been hidden from the world in the outskirts of this snowglobe of a town Durango, Colo. With increasing technology, people move about in little capsules, feeding their brain with entertainment and vegetating on cyber people and cyber dreams. Even now, wow look at me, typing into an invisible location on a machine that stores invisible information that no doubt will be destroyed during Armageddon. No hard evidence of my existence. What we need are typewriters. But then I couldn’t listen to this dreamy Devendra Banhart who is speaking in some foreign tongue, Portuguese I think, oh well, I digress.

Typewriters, and this is my point, and notebooks may not survive eternal fire—maybe brimstone—but they will certainly survive the crash of technology as we know it. If anyone plans to ever record their most important thoughts or memories or dreams, than it is imperative that they do so as a hard copy; something you can touch, fly or burn. But why? Because this is how the great musical, artistic, and philosophical pieces of our human lives have survived. How our greatest accomplishments have weathered the times, except for the ones nestled next to volcanoes. Should we abandon ancient cultural devices like books, or portable tools like pencils and pens? Do we trade them in for plastic parts and microchips? (Don’t let the term “hard drive” fool you). Maybe someone will develop a program for painting a masterpiece on a laptop that you can email to your friends and edit if it doesn’t sell. Maybe someone already has.

I’m telling you folks, take heed to the saying “they don’t make ’em like they used to,” because when some super power like Russia or China decides that we’ve gone too far this time, the Technological Bat Cave is the first place they’re gonna’ strike. When all of our Homeland Security is flying through the air in little wireless pieces, it becomes incredibly vulnerable. Never mind the security programs for these building-size super computers because it is irrelevant. What’s the computer’s security protocol for being blown up? They don’t make ’em like they used to. Ice crushers that you operate by hand, telephones that are brain-cell-friendly, snow shovels made of steel.

Listen to my words fair citizens, and take caution when you plug in and turn on, as it were. There is a technological ice age that threatens our very existence as we know it. When GPS is stock on cell phones and iPods, will our children actually know how to read a map? Lighters make fire and so do thermostats, but how else can you keep warm in the winter at over 6,000 feet? Grocery stores sprout food and JC Penney knits sweaters, but where do you find capers and Kashmir in the woods? Under rocks? Maybe. Do your research, and distance yourself from the machines.

As a final thought, let me make clear that technology is the wheel, the car, and The Bomb. Pick and choose if you can. Take the wheel and leave the WOMD if you can. This could all be a bunch of hippie banter, and though I don’t claim to be a hippie, I won’t apologize for it. Why? Because I had an epiphany about our way of living. I was thinking of the first couple that got to know each other through pix and text messaging only, maybe they professed their love for each other before they even met. When and where was the first text message wedding proposal? I don’t want to know, I just know it’s coming if it hasn’t already, and it will be the beginning of the end. We are social creatures, and the moment that social contact is removed, we will begin to devolve into primitive creatures, immersed in a cyber culture.

Beware of bears and mountain lions because their diet hasn’t changed, don’t make too much noise.

– Alexander Marshall, Hesperus