Printed letters, August 27, 2013

After 9/11, the timber industry was asked to be very vigilant, since terrorists could start forest fires to consume first-responder resources, to cause economic damage and/or to cover or enable other dangerous activities.

So far this year, about 32,000 wildland fires have burned 3.4 million acres, and “fire season” is not nearly over. Lightning did not start all of these fires.

Firefighting costs for the U.S. Forest Service alone are now at a billion dollars this year. About 600 homes (and irreplaceable memorabilia) have been destroyed; 19 firefighters have been killed; massive evacuation, relocation and health costs (from smoke) have impacted thousands of people; incalculable wages and commerce have been lost; and huge resources of timber, grasslands and animal habitat have been destroyed. How’s that for economic damage?

No matter who or what started the fires, you can thank radical environmentalists and many elected officials for creating the conditions that resulted in forests stuffed full of dead, tinder-dry trees. Thank them also for kicking cows off some grazing lands, letting grasses grow too thick and high. Thank them again for getting some firebreaks banned because they might impact some critter’s habitat. Now we have crispy critters and no habitat.

Speak up! Tell Congress we want our forests managed to improve habitat instead of destroying it, to minimize catastrophic wildfires instead of fueling them and to provide the wood products we all use and the jobs we need. Help prevent forest fires.



Use of temp agencies is 
harming the middle class

After reading many articles, each of them pointing fingers at the cause of low wages, I thought it time for me to point a finger.

It isn’t the immigrants who work for lower wages whom the critics say keep jobs from our citizens, or small businesses that traditionally pay lower wages. The blame goes to corporate America. In concert with it are the growing numbers of temporary employment agencies springing up on street corners everywhere.

Corporations have discovered using temporary workers can save millions of dollars by paying an employment agency to do the work previously done by their human resources department. The job interview process, drug testing and background-check costs have been passed to the employment agencies. Employment agencies hired by corporations to provide them temporary employees take their fees off the top and then in turn “contract out” their employees, who are paid lower wages to the corporations.

Using employment agencies, corporations don’t have the overhead created by permanent employees: health or retirement benefits, workers’ compensation, or social security. Those expenses are now the responsibility of the employment agencies.

Corporations are “downsizing,” “restructuring” and “realigning job classifications.” By eliminating employees who are at the top of their pay scale for the reasons just mentioned and then rehiring them as temporary employees through employment agencies, corporations maintain the quality of their workforce and decrease their cost of doing business, while corporate officers and stockholders win financially.

Large companies have discovered a cash cow using temporary employment agencies and aren’t about to change any time soon. As for the temp workers as they have now become, they have no choice if they want a job. They are at the mercy of the employment agencies and must accept the lower wages, with little or no benefits, if they want to continue in the workforce.

Middle America will become less middle class and more lower class if this trend of doing away with full-time employees, replacing them with temporary workers continues.




Sentinel photogs capture 
quiet West Slope moments

I especially liked two photos in the Aug. 22 edition of The Daily Sentinel. One was “Page Turners,” on Page 3A, by Sentinel photographer Gretel Daugherty. It captured three young children sitting in the grass reading books they had just chosen from a Lions Club free book giveaway at Eagle Rim Park.

The other was “Golden Eye,” on Page 2A by Sentinel photographer Christopher Tomlinson. It shows wild sunflowers along Red Rock Lake at James M. Robb-Colorado River State Park. Colorado National Monument is reflected in the lake. Just stunning.

These pictures made me pause and appreciate some of the quiet moments of life on the Western Slope. Thank you.




Marcus failed to justify 
Obama’s abuse of power

Ruth Marcus’ column trying to justify Obama’s dictatorial actions skirting the law of the land and Congress was a far jump from saying anything that justifies King Obama’s actions.

He is trying to leave us with only two divisions of government, not the three that work best.


Grand Junction


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Ron Sherman’s letter in today’s Sentinel – “Marcus failed to justify Obama’s abuse of power” – aptly illustrates the depth of ill-informed ignorance that pervades local right-wing anti-Obama “believers”.

Thus, first, in her Sunday column – “New court documents show NSA lied even to those overseeing the agency” – Ruth Marcus “failed to justify” President Obama’s purported “abuses of power” for the simple reason that there were none.

Rather, the “NSA lies” cited by Marcus and noted by FISA court Judge Bates occurred under the “royal” auspices of George Bush – not under “King Obama”, as Sherman implies.  By contrast, “President Obama has proposed additional oversight mechanisms”.

Second, Sherman seems as clueless as Louisiana Repugnicans – 28% of whom reportedly believe that President Obama was responsible for the inept federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (when Obama was the new junior Senator from Illinois), while only 27% know that “Shrub” was actually President then.

Third, General Clapper’s admitted dissembling in response to Senator Wyden’s public questioning was arguably justified by his oath to protect the secrecy of what were then – and still are – classified (albeit no longer “secret”) NSA surveillance programs.

Perhaps Sherman can be forgiven for his noxious anti-Obama prejudice because – as Bob Dylan presciently wrote in 1963 – “He’s only a pawn in their game”.

Thus, the real culprits are irresponsible Repugnican and “Tea Party” politicos and rabid right-wing media demagogues who propagate evidence-free mythologies questioning President Obama’s legitimacy – frequently fueled by thinly veiled appeals to racism.

The Daily Sentinel also shares some responsibility – for failing to adequately fact-check and critically chronicle the false right-wing propaganda being propounded on its pages.

Remarkably, Sherman also seems entirely unaware that President Obama is being forced to exercise unilateral executive powers by what 90% of Americans recognize as the most dysfunctional (“works best”?) Congress in our history.

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