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Letters to Editor

Why Wal-Mart?

Dear Editor:

For those whose blood pressures I have raised by the tag of this letter, forgive me. Rather, I would like to ask the question why Wal-Mart wants to build a store in Pagosa Springs? Data mining is a critical part of the answer to that question.

Stores like Wal-Mart, City Market and Lowes maintain huge databases of every transaction, including the name and address of the shoppers for credit card sales. They mine (analyze) the contents of these transactions to re-design stores, tailor local offerings, and to identify markets for new stores. Why Wal-Mart, because their analysis has shown thousands of transactions in their Alamosa, Durango, and Farmington locations by people who live in Pagosa Springs.

While carrying signs downtown tells your neighbors of your opposition, if you want to send Wal-Mart a message, then everyone in Archuleta County must immediately stop shopping at their other locations. If our neighbors continue to shop at other locations, then it is safe for Wal-Mart to assume that they will want to shop when a store opens here, signs or not!

As for me, I am neither pro nor con. Whatever occurs, I will continue doing business with my friends and neighbors here in town. If carrying signs was going to work, there would be hundreds fewer big box stores in rural America.

H. Pat Artis

Leaders

Dear Editor:

One of the things that being a part-time anti Wal-Mart activist has taught me is how often people sorta, kinda, wanna-be in touch with their own truth, but they aren’t quite there yet. Nobody is. So we stand up, then sit down, turn up, turn away, speak up, back down, beg off and wishy wash. We might fear reprisal or losing our jobs, our lifeline, our lives. But ultimately we just lose a chance to be honest. Sadly this also applies to our local political leaders. When we are too politically correct, we disguise the truth, which denies access to freedom. We’re all beholden. “Sooner or later you gotta serve somebody.” Truth is and always has been a matter of life and death.

We must be accountable to the truth of suffering and poverty within our own community. Recognizing and attending to the needs of others brings us home to neighborhood. As a society we create much of our own poverty by maintaining an inhumane regard for accumulation of wealth, and by supporting a system of wealth extraction which compels us to exchange our self-reliance for dependence on corporate-sponsored debt-based consumerism. Mostly we do this out of ignorance, and so we suffer.

Clearly there is a need to adapt the town charter to guarantee greater opportunities for input from county residents and interaction with county government in issues with important countywide effects. There is also a need for a vital old town business district with an affordable grocery store or coop.

A town store/coop, owned and operated by local residents and offering local products/services would encourage local patronage. As a community service it could be subsidized by taxes received from the corporate stores to provide vouchers for helping the poor. It would generate dollars that remain in town. Proceeds from a town store could go towards public works projects to create jobs.

We expect city and county leadership to be accountable to this broad-based community need and to summon the courage to help make it happen. It means doing the hard work of communicating, decision making, and making commitments. It might even mean changing the rules. Adapting the written rules, in order to legitimize the truthful responsibility to provide for people better is one of the jobs of political leaders.

Strong leaders consistently demonstrate the truth of their convictions. A strong leader knows a community’s needs and attends to them directly, outright. Second best leadership garners public input, learns what people need, inquires as to what steps are necessary to meet those needs, then develops and carries out a plan of action. Poor leadership ignores public opinion, defers decisionmaking, sells out its responsibilities to others, and seeks primarily to retain the privileges of power. If leaders truly care for the people, then they will be trusted. If leaders aren’t really trusted, but merely vested, then they are only props and democracy fails. Leaders must be accountable to the real needs of the people or we revise the leadership so it behaves “of and for the people.”

Barr Bentley

White post

Dear Editor:

Shouldn’t Republicans (the “establishment”) be thoughtful, compassionate, learned and conservative? Clearly the current GOP majority is the most “conservative” since 1879.

Since most everyone agrees the only constant is change, why would today’s conservative believe that if you leave something alone, it will never change. When in fact, the paradox of time is a white post will turn black (GK Chesterton, Catholic conservative).

If you doubt, then maybe you know whether our Founding Fathers envisaged today’s corporations as “super-citizens.” Interesting dilemma, if corporations should be allowed to fail/die (not be bailed out) why save the life of human “sub-citizen?” Or why Santorum most directly resonates in the states where government programs account for the largest share of personal income (21.2 percent) — Red States, precisely the states electing “severe conservatives.” A reasonable mind would research the trend indices and find that the proverbial “white post” visibly turned black following George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the one percent. So, why do the Red States that rely so heavily on the bad “safety net” and/or Tea Party members who deny benefiting from a government program (44-40 percent respectively receive Social Security and Medicare) elect politicians who want to tear down the “net?” History, schmistory, facts — they want the post to remain white!

These same groups endlessly froth at the mouth about personal “freedom,” but demand the government be involved in the privacy of your bedroom (even Newt admitted to some boo boos), or preventing the use of contraception, or gay rights (oops, seems a few wealthy “conservatives” are gay — now there’s a paradox). Oooh, prolix Santorum will you turn down “their” money. The post is getting blacker.

Still not convinced the post is black? Our economically sagacious “modern” conservatives say corporate taxes are bad (currently, after deductions, 12 percent for the Fortune 500). Fact: America has one of the lowest effective corporate tax rates in the world, yet conservatives say we “desperately” need to lower taxes for our major corporations (which are now sitting on about two trillion dollars in non-invested cash) so they can continue to export jobs. Conservative thinktank AEI says not to worry, this tax policy will “eventually” return jobs to the U.S. Reincarnation, anyone! Meanwhile (Tea Party members take heed) the national debt will balloon under proposed tax policies by three of the four major Republican candidates for president ($4.5 trillion under Santorum’s plan, Romney’s worse). The post is definitely black!

If you’re worried about the waning of America, you don’t have to look far. Most political parties tend to smell; one just resembles dead fish left over from the middle ages. So I ask you, which political party is generally attempting to rebuild America; and which is playing on our “fears and emotions” and bowing to their Super Pac billionaire donors (made possible by the Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” decision) all to preserve the temporal white post?

Dave Blake

Good luck

Dear Editor:

While I can sympathize with both sides of the argument, and I am personally fairly neutral, I can’t help weighing in re. the Wal-Mart debate.

First, regarding our local City Market: I think it is a myth that they are particularly high-priced. I have compared them to stores around the state and find them to be right in the same ballpark. While we may need another grocery store, we need it at the other end of town, not essentially in the same neighborhood. Upon Wal-Mart’s arrival, grocery prices will go down during the initial price war; after that they’ll settle back pretty much where they were before. If you think Wal-Mart is going to bring big-city prices permanently to Pagosa, that ain’t gonna happen. Contrary to what some people may think, both Wal-Mart and City Market have to make a profit.

Wal-Mart is intentionally predatory and they will not only hurt some local businesses, they will intentionally set out to hurt them. They will send “scouts” into local retailers to see what they have in stock and/or are emphasizing, then they will buy that same merchandise and blow it out, possibly even at less than their cost. Local retailers, I would suggest you start right now with a strategy of holding your cards close to the vest and keep the competition guessing.

The other side of the coin: Local retailers, what do you have to sell, really? It’s not price. It’s not selection. Pretty much the only things a small local independent store or service has to offer are friendly smiles, a pleasant atmosphere and attentive customer service. Instead, many of you act like the customer is doing you a favor when he/she walks into your business. For those of you who understand how to treat customers, I applaud you and I hope you survive and prosper. For those who don’t get it, I’m sorry, but it could be argued that you “had your chance.”

Good luck to everyone — the whole community!

Dave Brown

A mouse?

Dear Editor:

More years ago than I care to count there was a weekly PBS program named Wall Street Week where an elite clique of self-appointed financial titans discussed the market’s performance, tooted their own prowess and freely doled out tips for the uneducated. One program I’ll never forget was during an election year like this and the question was raised about one candidate: If he is elected, how will that affect the economy and the markets in general?

The response, they scoffed: It makes no difference who’s in the White House.

A few years earlier, Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson, former CEO of GM, made the comment on an issue: What’s good for America is good enough for GM. The press cynically twisted it to read the opposite direction, inferring that corporate America and its financial clout sets the rules. Right or wrong at that time, the Wall Street traders seemed to affirm what the press said.

Now, barely three weeks ago, in his address to his powerful conservative Republican think tank and lobby, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), Grover Norquist affirmed this stand in the following statement:

“All we have to do is replace Obama ... We are not auditioning for a fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction we go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget ... We just need a president to sign the stuff. We don’t need someone to think up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate.”

The fact that Norquist intends to reshape the government from the top down to a system operated by his own robots could not be more clearly seen than from this statement when coupled with the so-called Taxpayer Protection Pledge he foists on all Republican office holders, including those from Colorado who signed it and obey. Basically what this pledge says is that they will never vote for anything labeled a tax increase or the elimination or reduction of tax credits or deductions regardless of the economic conditions. Essentially, ATR already has the nation in its vice and only needs a puppet to sign on the line.

Now go one step further: What does this say about the four Republican candidates fighting it out for the presidential nomination of their party, supposedly wanting to become the leader of this nation, each claiming to be more conservative than the rest? The leader, or just a mouse?

And call this democracy because we can vote.

Henry Buslepp

MOP

Dear Editor:

With the increase in expensive ways to influence the public, more and more money is being spent by politicians to influence voters.

Recently, to make matters worse and to move politics and voting out of the control of the average voter. The majority of the Supreme Court voted to allow corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to candidates, just as if they were “people,” like you and me.

Many groups in the U.S. are organizing under the name, “Move to Amend” to try and reclaim the rights of citizens and voters. Our local group, “Money Out of Politics” (MOP), is working to inform people of what actions they can take to try and correct this problem.

Please consider involving yourself in this issue. E-mail movetoamend.pagosa@yahoo.com to be placed on their mailing list. Your phone number could also be helpful for short notices. Website and Facebook pages are in process.

MOP meets on the third Saturday of the month, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. See you there!

Phyl Daleske

Steel pens

Dear Editor:

Recently I read about a textile plant down in Georgia that is run by a man and a dog. The function of the dog is to keep the man away from the machine. In my view, the two events that transformed America (and the world) were the installation of the 15,000 hp, 85 ton, AC generators at Niagara Falls by the Westinghouse Company at the end of the nineteenth century and the invention of the Transistor at Bell Labs in the middle of the twentieth century.

Today, the average American uses about 10,000 watts of electricity. Now if a human were put in a squirrel cage that was hooked up to a generator, the human could generate sufficient electricity to power a 100 watt light bulb. Every American has 100 employees working for him/her around the clock every day of the month. Your electric garage door opener is roughly equivalent to having a horse in the barn. Speaking of horses, in the late 1800s before the age of electricity, there were 150,000 horses in New York City. Over a million pounds of manure had to be cleaned off the city streets every day.

Today, the average household with a couple of cars in the garage probably has about 100 billion transistors churning away in all those marvelous electronic gadgets. (And you ain’t seen nothing yet.) Serious computer designers believe that in a generation, computers will achieve the same computing power as the human brain. Already computers can whip the best human chess masters and the Jeopardy super stars. I am a user and admirer of twenty first century technology, but I also realize this technology is burdened with profound moral and ethical questions that regrettably go un-addressed.

Of course, I could be wrong, perhaps the demise of America is not due to electricity and transistors; perhaps it is due to Obama or more likely, steel pens. In the March 1882 issue of the Scientific American (reprinted in this month’s issue), it is written, “Has not the curse of steel pens swept over the land until decent hand writing is unknown? … Lord Palmerston was quite right — the handwriting of this generation is abominable; and as new improvements in steel pens go on, that of the next will be worse.”

No doubt Mr. Sawicki spent his youth, practicing push-pulls and constant ovals, as I did. What puzzles me is where Jim obtains his quills to write his letters.

Bob Dungan

Arboles

Small things

Dear Editor:

I have seen in writing that Wal-Mart has 400 empty stores. Another statistic I have read is the number of times Wal-Mart has been sued each hour of a day. Why do we need a business like that in this area?

It is so hard to keep feelings from becoming out of control when dealing with this volatile subject, but wasn’t June Marquez amazing with her grace and thoughtfulness as she calmed us all down at the meeting on Feb. 16. Another stunning action came at the beginning of the meeting when the young man (who was he?) interrupted to say, “We didn’t come to stand, we came to listen,” and we who were sitting, almost as one, got up and moved the rows of seats closer together so the people who were in the hall (and could not hear) could at least come into the room. It is the small things done that make the people of this community so precious and unique.

While I am at it, once again, I would like to publicly thank Carrie, Roy and other members of the crew in Aspen Springs who have done such a great job of plowing the roads. Because of their diligence, Ron (77) and I (76) can continue to live in our small cabin out here.

Cindy Gustafson

Good health

Dear Editor:

We all make daily choices about our health; yet we have no choice when it comes to the air we breathe, the water we bathe in nor the soil in which our food is grown. All are negatively affected by industry emissions. Coal-fired power is responsible for over 50 percent of air pollution in the US, causing respiratory ailments such as asthma in children. Two new studies indicate poor air quality raises the chance of a heart attack by 5 percent and stroke by 34 percent within a few hours of exposure. Just a teaspoon of mercury deposited annually can contaminate a 20-acre lake; over 1,100 pounds of the heavy metal are emitted in Colorado every year. Limits set by the EPA on amounts of toxic mercury, arsenic and other pollutants emitted into the atmosphere are necessary for the protection of public health.

Fortunately, new rules require power plants to capture 90 percent of their mercury emissions.

This is good news for those of us who live downwind from two of the dirtiest power plants in the nation. Claims have been that upgrades to them are too expensive. We suffer from their emissions, yet reap none of the benefits. These plants do not reside in our state nor does our electricity come from them. They aren’t the only ones who refuse to upgrade. Four out of 10 plants have no emission controls. It is clear the industry will never achieve self-regulation.

However, it takes more than EPA rules to address the threat. It takes leadership at every level starting with the board of directors and ending with the president. Vote for protections not profits. The time has come to stop subsidizing the coal industry. The huge externalized costs of cheap, dirty energy are passed on for all of us to bear including, but not limited to health costs. We must advance the transition from dirty coal to clean renewables because there is nothing is more valuable than good health. It should be protected at all cost.

Lissa Ray

Durango

Newt

Dear Editor:

The presidential candidates’ agenda have finally arrived at a positive, constructive state. The topic is energy with major repercussions on American’s greatest interests, employment, independence from foreign oil, low gas prices and getting our economy back on track.

Newt Gingrich, one of the most forceful debaters, and brilliant articulate, experienced and value-oriented candidates, is producing 30-minute (not 30-second) broadcasts filled with substance on the above issues. After the 2/22/12 debate and introduction of his plan, even the democratic political analyst Donna Brazile admitted, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Newt found his way back to be the frontrunner.”

The chief points of Newt’s plan, which should inspire the support of all Americans because it strikes at the heart of what they need, are:

1. Become energy independent for national security reasons.

2. Keep the gasoline price no higher than $2.50 per gallon. When Newt was speaker, the price was $1.13. When Obama took office, it was $1.89, now spiraling to $5.

3. New energy development here at home will create over a million high-paying jobs. Domestic oil production is lower now than it was in 1870, and during Obama’s term has decreased from 10 million barrels to 7 million, in some cases, 70 percent, despite his rhetoric.

4. Trillions of dollars in royalties would pay down the federal debt. A leading expert in North Dakota, which has the highest resource of natural gas in the world, announced, “that we might well have over the next generation $18 trillion in royalties we could gather for the federal government with no tax increases.”

Under Obama’s anti-American energy policy, which has nixed the Alaskan and Canadian pipelines proposals and much offshore drilling, we have had a 40 percent reduction in development of oil offshore and on federal lands. As Dr. Charles Krauthammer says, “We should not listen to what he says, but watch what he does.” He promised to buy oil from Brazil, has done nothing about the billions we spend overseas, shows no leadership on the mid-east crisis, and has not developed alternative energy resources.

Newt’s plan would place offshore drilling far enough out that it would not be visible and not a threat to tourism or the fisheries. It would develop federal lands that are appropriate. It is incredible that America has the largest energy resources in the world and still spends billions for foreign oil with the promise of more.

To learn more about or support Newt Gingrich’s plan and promote his candidacy, go to Jim Meyers at Newsmax, http://www.newsmax.com/Headline/gingrich-gas-drilling-oil/2012/02/23/id/4304.11?s=a/&.

Eugene Witkowski

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