Soap Box

Standing up for the CORE values

To the editor,

Tracy Chamberlin’s excellent article “Going Public – Support for public lands, voiced in new polls, comes to life in legislation” (Telegraph, Feb. 7) captures just how important protecting our public lands is to the public, and especially to those of us who live in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West. It is encouraging to see that our lawmakers are taking these voices to heart and championing legislation that would permanently protect many of our most cherished lands.

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act, which was recently introduced by Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse, is among the most broadly supported and significant efforts to protect and preserve Colorado public lands in a generation. As the owner of Mountain Trip, a mountain guiding service in Telluride, I am among the hundreds of Southwest Colorado business owners who ardently support passage of this bill. I’ve often of the wildest places on the planet. I am luckier still, that many of these special wild places are right in my Colorado back yard. I have been able to experience – and help others to experience – many of the spectacular places that the CORE Act will permanently protect. I am also keenly aware that this legislation could limit my ability to partake in some of my personal passions, such as riding dirt bikes on high country trails, but for the sake of my children and their future generations, I view that limitation as relatively minor when compared to the said that I am the luckiest person on the planet to have chosen a career as a mountain guide exploring some  prospective rewards of protecting these wild spaces.

In Southwest Colorado alone, the CORE Act will protect 61,000 acres of land in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, including two fourteeners, Mount Sneffels and Wilson Peak, that are popular with climbers from around the world. The bill adds thousands of acres to the Lizard Head Wilderness Area and designates nearly 8,900 acres surrounding McKenna Peak as a new wilderness area in San Miguel County. Between the towns of Ophir, where my family and I reside, and Silverton, the bill creates the 21,633-acre Sheep Mountain Special Management Area, and above Telluride it establishes the 792-acre Liberty Bell East Special Management Area. The Colorado Recreation & Economy Act is Colorado’s passport to a vibrant, ecologically and economically sustainable future in Southwest Colorado and throughout our state. I urge Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton to get onboard with the vast majority of Coloradans and support this vital legislation.

– Todd Rutledge, Ophir

Picking up on the green bag saga

To the editor,

I surely applaud all the dog owners who get outside and exercise their dogs along the public trails. I love seeing so many dogs enjoying Durango, either along the river or up on the hills.

However, seeing the little ubiquitous green bags dotting our landscape is not nice. Dog owners should not leave them! Take it with you! Perhaps we need more garbage receptacles on the trails, but it is your responsibility to not only pick up the poop but take it with you.

– Galen Carpenter, Durango

Do we really need billionaires?

To the editor,

In 2018, Forbes identified 2,208 billionaires from 72 countries and territories. Collectively, this group was worth $9.1 trillion, an increase of 18 percent since the preceding year. Americans led the way with a record 585 billionaires, followed by mainland China which had a record 373. According to a Yahoo Finance report in November 2018, the wealth of U.S. billionaires increased by 12 percent during 2017, while that of Chinese billionaires grew by 39 percent.

These vast fortunes were created much like those amassed by the robber barons of the 19th century. The Walton family’s $163 billion grew rapidly because Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States, paid its workers poverty-level wages. Jeff Bezos (whose fortune jumped by $78.5 billion in one year to $160 billion, making him the richest man in the world), paid pathetically low wages at Amazon for years until forced by strikes and public pressure to raise them. In mid-2017, Warren Buffett ($75 billion), then the world’s second richest man, noted that “the real problem” with the U.S. economy was that it was “disproportionately rewarding the people on top.”

The situation is much the same elsewhere. Since the 1980s, the share of national income going to workers has been dropping around the globe, exacerbating inequality in wealth. “The billionaire boom is ... a symptom of a failing economic system,” remarked Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International. “The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited.”

The concentration of wealth has produced rising levels of economic inequality around the globe. According to Oxfam, in 2017, some 3.7 billion people – about half the world’s population – experienced no increase in wealth. Instead, 82 percent of the global wealth generated went to the wealthiest 1 percent. In the United States, economic inequality continued to grow, with the share of the national income drawn by the poorest half of the population steadily declining. The situation was even starker in China. Here, despite two decades of spectacular growth, economic inequality rose at the fastest pace, making China one of the most unequal countries on the planet.

It’s hard to understand why billionaires think they need such vast amounts of money. After all, they can eat, drink and consume only so much. What more can they desire?

When it comes to desires, the answer is: plenty! That’s why they drive $4 million Lamborghinis, acquire mega-mansions, take $80,000 “safaris,” purchase gold toothpicks, create closets the size of homes, reside in $15,000-a-night penthouse hotel suites, install luxury showers for their dogs, cover their staircases in gold, and build luxury survival bunkers. Donald Trump maintains a penthouse in Trump Tower that is reportedly worth $57 million and is marbled in gold. Among his many possessions are two private airplanes, three helicopters, five private residences, and 17 golf courses across the United States, Scotland, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates.

In addition, billionaires devote enormous energy and money to controlling governments. “They don’t put their wealth underneath their mattresses,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “they use that wealth to perpetuate their power. So you have the Koch brothers and a handful of billionaires who pour hundreds of millions of dollars into elections.” During the 2018 midterms, America’s billionaires lavished vast amounts of money on electoral politics, becoming the dominant funders of numerous candidates.

This big money has a major impact on American politics. Three billionaire families – the Kochs, Mercers and Adelsons – played a central role in bankrolling the Republican Party’s shift to the far Right and its takeover of federal and state offices. Thus, although polls indicate that most Americans favor raising taxes on the rich, regulating corporations, fighting climate change and supporting labor unions, the Republican-dominated White House, Congress, Supreme Court and regulatory agencies have moved in the opposite direction.

With so much at stake, billionaires even took direct command of the world’s three major powers. Trump became the first billionaire to capture the U.S. presidency, joining Russia President Vladmir Putin (reputed to have wealth of at least $70 billion), and China President Xi Jinping (estimated to have a net worth of $1.51 billion). The three quickly developed a cozy relationship and shared a number of policy positions, including encouragement of wealth acquisition and discouragement of human rights.

Admittedly, some billionaires have signed a “Giving Pledge,” promising to devote most of their wealth to philanthropy. Nevertheless, plutocratic philanthropy means that the priorities of the super-rich (for example, funding of private schools), rather than the priorities of the general public (such as funding of public schools), get implemented. Moreover, these same billionaires are accumulating wealth much faster than they donate it. Philanthropist Bill Gates was worth $54 billion in 2010, the year the pledge was announced, and his wealth stands at $90 billion today.

Overall, as wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, most people around the world are clearly the losers.

– Lawrence Wittner, professor of history, SUNY/Albany, for Peace Voices

All not sunny with DMEA exit plan

To the editor,

As an electric “consumer-owner” of Delta-Montrose Electric Association I would like to comment on the situation between Tri-State and DMEA.

There are several factors the management and board of DMEA is withholding from the public and our elected officials.

Kit Carson Elec. is the only rural electric association to back out of their agreement since Tri-State acquired Colo-Ute in 1992, and then later Plains Electric in 2007. Shortly after Kit Carson exited the same agreement DMEA wants out of, Kit Carson had to file for, and received, a 21 percent increase in their rates. I understand Kit Carson is now in the process of filing for another 12 percent increase.

In 1992, in order for Tri-State to acquire the assets of the bankrupt Colo-Ute Elec. Assoc. and then again in 2007 to acquire the financially troubled Plains Elec., Tri-State was required to borrow millions of dollars. They needed a commitment from the member REAs’ in order to acquire these assets and provide reliable and affordable electricity. Hence the “contract.”

Guzman Energy is a power broker company. What they do is buy and sell power. My understanding is, they do not own one electric generating facility, either renewable or otherwise, and they do not own any power lines. While badmouthing Tri-State’s clean coal generation, Guzman will turn around and buy the cheapest electricity they can buy, and then resell it as renewable energy. Then the only way for DMEA to get power from Guzman will be to pay Tri-State to “wheel” the power over its transmission lines. Some of these power lines DMEA and several of the 44 co-ops turned over to Tri-State after the federal regulatory agency F.E.R.C. required that they be  maintained at a more reliable level in 2007. This is also an added cost and expense to Tri-State to maintain these high-voltage lines and large transformers that the REA’s did not want to take on. I know for a fact that Tri-State had to hire more people and purchase more equipment 

DMEA is falsely misleading people about renewable energy. I can’t help but wonder what will happen when we, as tax-paying citizens, stop subsidizing wind and solar generation at the rate of 50 percent or more.

DMEA has complained about Tri-State’s purchase of coal mines. Tri-State’s board, on which DMEA has a representative, decided to buy the Colo.-Wyo. mine solely to keep the cost of fuel constant and as low as possible for the long term. I hope these facts might help people to understand and maybe wonder like I do, why DMEA is the only REA out of 44 members that wants to back out of the contract they signed in 1992.

– Stan Hoover, Montrose, via e-mail


Trump is national security threat

To the editor,

As a former Navy enlisted man and an officer, I am concerned with the threat to national security posed by President Trump. His attacks on our intelligence agencies and cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin are un-American.

Recently, Trump dismissed the input of his intelligence chiefs about the threats posed by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and ISIS. Trump continues to question the assessment of our intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. Trump is in an ongoing trade war with China, which is adversely impacting the global and U.S. economies. He erroneously believes North Korea is not a nuclear threat to the U.S. And he is pulling our military out of Syria, which will allow ISIS to reconstitute itself and allow Turkey to attack our allies, the Kurds.

According to Rex Tillerson, former Secretary of State, Trump doesn’t like to read. According to John Kelly, former Chief of Staff, Trump shows impulsive decision making. According to White House sources it is difficult for Trump to comprehend and process complex information, e.g. intelligence reports, military scenarios. He does not concentrate well on matters. He is a threat to our national security and should be voted out of office.

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