Soap Box

BLM wants to liquidate your lands

To the editor,

The Bureau of Land Management manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any federal agency. This land is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. Over 64 million Americans – more than one in six – live within 100 miles of public lands managed by BLM. These lands provide outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hunting, angling, camping, hiking, climbing, wildlife viewing and many other activities. Colorado has 8.3 million acres of BLM public lands.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration appears to be putting the BLM public lands that hunters, anglers and others rely on for outdoor recreation at risk. Recently, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed an order naming William Perry Pendley – a lawyer with a long history of opposition to public lands – acting director of the Bureau of Land Management. This order puts him at the top of the agency, but without a Senate confirmation process.

“William Pendley has made a name for himself by relentlessly and brazenly attacking our American system of public lands and waters and advocating for the sale of this priceless American legacy,” Backcountry Horsemen and Anglers President Land Tawney said. “Mr. Pendley is not someone who should be entrusted with the management of our public estate. The fox has taken control of the hen house, and he is poised to systematically dismantle the very resources he is charged with overseeing.”

Pendley is the former president and founder of the pro-development law firm Mountain States Legal Foundation. He has ties to a number of notorious anti-public land groups, including the American Lands Council. He argued in a 2016 National Review article that the “Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold.”

Pendley is, in a nutshell, an extremist nut and an outright enemy of America’s great public lands hunting-angling heritage. “Holy smoking bombshells. People better wake up,” Hal Herring, Field & Stream contributing editor wrote. “We’re not making ourselves heard, and we’re about to hit a tipping point of real loss. One of the most prominent firebrand voices for divesting public lands is now the head of the BLM.”

Kayje Booker, policy and advocacy director at Montana Wilderness Association, stated in a press release, “It’s hard to imagine anyone in this position more dangerous than William Perry Pendley.” U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., issued a statement calling Pendley’s BLM leadership “a grave threat to the future of public lands.”

Today, the No. 1 threat to the future of hunting and fishing is loss of access to quality habitat. America’s public lands are critical if we are to maintain our hunting and fishing traditions and freedoms. Mr. Pendley has made it clear that he plans to do everything in his power to liquidate America’s great public lands estate.

We need you to contact your senators and voice your opposition to this appointment. Our public lands and waters are a foundational part of this country – we need to ensure that they rest in good hands. For additional information and to take action visit: www.backcountry

– David A. Lien, Co-Chairman, Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

Paying for Mr. Trump's golf habit

To the editor,

For all who voted for Trump, so far he has lied to the American Public over 10,000 times. One of the big lies was when he said he would work in the White House and wouldn’t have much time for golf like Obama did. Well, the count is 187 days of golf for Trump at his own golf courses to the tune of $102 million of your money. You the taxpayer has paid this much.

Oh, you say Obama golfed, so what did he cost you?  Well $12.7 million for the eight years, and mostly at military bases.

Trump spent 252 days at his properties like Mar a Lago and Trump Bedminster in New Jersey. This is your tax money going into his pocket. What a deal for him.

Remember, he has security that stays with him on his property, and you pay for it. If you think this is right call your representative or senator as maybe you can get invited for a round of golf on your dime.

– Bob Battani, Dura

Stop for-profit health care insanity

To the editor,

All but a handful of Americans currently have high premiums, high deductibles and poor coverage – or no coverage at all. Despite the fact that so many of us are un-or under-insured, our average health care costs per person are the highest in the world, by far. We all know someone who is struggling with a choice between health and financial solvency. If it costs $1,000 to take your kid to the ER, you are faced with a deadly choice. That’s insane.

National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) would cover every American from conception to death very well – with comprehensive benefits, no questions about coverage or benefits, and no co-pays or deductibles. That means no insane choices between rent money and health care. Costs for covering every one of us would be far cheaper per person than what we pay now.

As with Medicare, a NIMA system would mean that we have one funding source – “single-payer” – that pays for all medical care provided by any provider. As with Medicare, providers, hospitals and clinics are privately run.

So “universal, single-payer health care” does NOT equal “government-run health care,” as insurance lobbyists want you to think. It means efficient, excellent care, as recorded year after year by the World Health Organization which rates NIMA-type systems as the most effective in the world. No wonder 70 percent of Americans favor a shift to NIMA.

Our American system is chaotic – it’s not designed for patients, but for profit. A friend’s twin granddaughters were born premature, their lungs undeveloped at 7 months. They, and their very stressed parents, rotated in and out of the hospital to address breathing issues. Recently, one twin was admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit closest to their parents’ residence. Shortly after, their mother realized that the other twin was also suffering respiratory distress, but her spouse had the car, so she had to rely on an ambulance to reach the ER. As frequently happens with for-profit health care, the ambulance company only served one hospital – the hospital across town, not the parents’ preferred provider. So the twins were split up across town from each other, which required separate visits from their parents. More stress for everyone, and worse care for the patient.

This sort of insanity would not happen in any other developed country. Why? In all other developed countries care is centered on the needs of each patient, not on the competing claims of provider clinics in their effort to stay afloat. In those countries all citizens can go to any provider. Because all records are available in one database, administrative costs are dramatically cut. Compare Medicare’s administrative costs (2-3 percent) to those of our current, fractured for-profit system – 18 percent.

Get in the game – call your representative, write a letter and come to the local presentations of Healthcare Durango. Talk about it with folks you know. Enough nonsense! Let’s vote for National Improved Medicare for All.

– Kirby MacLaurin, Durango

Trump lets racism rear its head

To the editor,

I have to admit, I feel like a cock-eyed optimist when, after the historic election of Barack Obama, I really thought we were on our way to a post-racial America. Ha! I have never been so wrong. In fact, Obama’s election woke an ugly white sleeping giant.

Obviously, America has a long history of racist actions and policies.

Back in the beginning, white Americans were given legally and socially sanctioned privileges and rights while these same rights were denied to other races and minorities. Affluent white Anglo-Saxon Protestants enjoyed exclusive privileges in education, immigration, voting, citizenship, land acquisition and criminal procedure throughout our history. Not much has changed.

Major racially and ethnically structured institutions include slavery, segregation, Native American reservations and boarding schools, naturalization laws, and internment camps. It’s an ugly history no one but a bonafide racist should be proud of. Formal discrimination was largely banned in the mid-20th century, and it came to be perceived as being socially and morally unacceptable. Until now.

Obama’s election was the tipping point for the large number of Americans who hold racist views. Donald Trump is the face of that reaction. The Trump family has a long history of racism that goes back decades. Donald’s father, Fred, at age 21, was arrested “on a charge of refusing to disperse from a parade when ordered to do so” at a Ku Klux Klan rally/riot in Brooklyn. Fred continued his racist housing policies for several years after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 made discrimination in housing illegal. When Donald took over the family business, the discriminatory policies continued. The Trump Management Corp. was sued by the federal government in 1973 for refusing to rent to African Americans. In 1983, the New York State Division of Housing found that two “Trump Village” residences were 95 percent white.

Trump’s statements and behavior speak for themselves. He placed ads calling for the execution of five young black and Latino men accused of rape, who were later shown to be innocent and when he and Ivana came to the Trump Casino, bosses ordered all the black people off the floor. Trump’s “birtherism” (the false charge that Barack Obama was not born in the United States) conspiracy theory was just what conservatives, Republicans, white nationalists and everyday racists wanted to hear.

His campaign caught on like wildfire and even today his support among Americans is about 45 percent and nearly 90 percent among Republicans. That’s depressing.

Some of your co-workers, family and maybe even friends support Trump and therefore his words and deeds. Even worse, many people out there will publicly rebuke him but secretly he’s their guy. Cowards.

So today, Donald Trump is president of the United States. “How does that make you feel?” asks the therapist. It makes ME pissed, and disgusted and depressed. Like it or not, on the world stage, Trump represents the American people. His words and actions are viewed as OUR words and actions. We elected him. We haven’t arrested or impeached him.

But it’s not just Trump. The entire Republican leadership and nearly all of the GOP either support Trump’s racist words, policies and actions or at best, remain silent. These chicken shits privately may condemn him but publicly? Crickets. After Trump’s most recent racist outburst, telling four brown and black duly elected female members of Congress to “go back where they came from” Senate Majority Leader Turtle neck McConnell told reporters “Trump’s not a racist.” Based on what? Where’s the evidence to back up that BS?

So the 2020 election season is upon us. Trump is clearly using racism and bigoted remarks as a campaign strategy. That’s the feature not the flaw. And it appears to be working! Trump’s favorability has gone up since his racist outburst. The poor saps that pulled the lever for Trump in 2016 can be forgiven (I guess) for wanting to stir things up and take a chance on someone totally outside of Washington.

Plus, Hillary was a deeply flawed candidate. I get it. But now that we’ve seen his policies, cruelty, countless lies, corrupt administration and incompetence, we have a chance to undo some of that damage. The world is watching. Are you racist, America?

– Bill Vana, Durango

The space program's golden years

To the editor,

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 astronauts landing on the moon brings back memories of my involvement in our space program.

I served a two-year tour as the meteorology/assistant intelligence officer on an amphibious group staff. Our primary mission was to transport and land marines and army personnel on foreign beaches in support of military operations. I was responsible for forecasting the weather for the transit of the naval task force and the weather in the landing zone and on the beaches.

Additionally, the naval amphibious groups shared responsibilities with naval aviation units for recovering spacecraft and astronauts involved in the manned space flight programs of the 1960s.

I was the recovery area meteorologist on the Gemini 8 spacecraft recovery ship USS Boxer, which was deployed in the Atlantic in March 1966 to retrieve the astronauts. Due to flight problems the spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific.

Once again, I was the meteorologist on the recovery ship for a Gemini space flight – Gemini 10, which successfully completed its mission to conduct rendezvous and docking tests with a target vehicle in space from July 18-20, 1966. My ship, the USS Guadalcanal, almost missed out recovering the astronauts when NASA decided the Atlantic recovery site was too rough and switched the recovery to the Pacific. Admiral William P. Mack, recovery area commander, called me up to the flag bridge and put me in direct communications with NASA Houston, and as the recovery area meteorologist I convinced NASA Houston the weather and sea conditions were within recovery specifications. The spacecraft landed in the Atlantic without any problems and the astronauts were picked up by a  helicopter and taken back to the USS Guadalcanal within a half hour of splashdown July 21, 1966.

– Donald Moskowitz, Londonderry, N.H., via email