Amazon: Stay out of Colorado for your headquarters

Editor’s Note: Amazon is looking for a site in either the U.S. or Canada to build a second headquarters. The list of potential locations has been narrowed from 238 to 20 cities, including Denver.

The letter’s author: Alan Apt is a modest person who downplays his many accomplishments as a writer, environmentalist, politician, and volunteer. Learn more about Alan…

The Amazon site will offer employment to as many as 50,000 workers. There likely will be a great population surge into whichever state is chosen, heightening pressure on infrastructures, natural resources, civic institutions, and public spending.

Not every Coloradan supports the idea of Denver as the Amazon city since a large population influx could negatively impact Front Range communities from Colorado Springs south of Denver to Fort Collins north of the metropolitan area.

The following letter states reasons why Colorado should not be seen as a good location.


To Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon Corporation

Dear Mr. Bezos,

Speaking as a former Fort Collins City Councilperson, current member of the Nederland Board of trustees (in Nederland, Colo.), and a longtime Colorado resident, I understand your interest in potentially opening a facility in beautiful, sunny, mile-high Colorado, home to many outstanding communities. For various good reasons, 90,000 good people relocate to Colorado every year. Nevertheless, fiscal and social prudence would have you also consider:

  • Many, probably most, new-to-Colorado residents will locate and send their children to school in very close proximity to toxic industrial sites as fracking escalates the degradation of our state. The traditional zoning laws that separate toxic industrial sites from homes and schools have been set aside in Colorado by legislative and executive branches of government heavily influenced by oil and gas money.
  • Out-of-control growth has created gridlock on our highways. Our state wants to create more lanes rather than focus on mass transit and innovative solutions. Funding for essential needs has fallen far behind due to gridlock in the state capitol.
  • Colorado is mediocre, at best, in its support of el/hi public education. We rank near the bottom in per capita spending on students—in spite of voters’ attempts to correct this under-investment. Class sizes continue to increase.
  • Our state is choking on growth.
    • As housing prices and rents have soared, there is no affordable housing along the Front Range. The number of homeless children is increasing as a result.
    • Water, already a scarce resource, is becoming even scarcer as our population increases and the essential snowpack, our only water source, is decreasing as a result of global warming. Massive dams that will choke our rivers are being planned.
    • Too many vehicles and, as well, methane emissions from fracking make it risky to exercise outside most summer afternoons because of ozone pollution.
    • Inadequate environmental regulations are not protecting public health and safety.

You have a reputation as a caring and responsible person. I urge you to turn down all tax incentives being offered since our state and especially our struggling local community needs exceed yours. Please seek a location where your business would be a boon, rather than a burden, to the people of the state.

Sincerely yours,

Alan Apt


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Little Plays in Four Acts

By John Gascoyne

You’ve settled down with your spouse and the kidlets to eat popcorn and watch a bit of after-dinner TV. The program, only so-so, invites lassitude, but the commercial jolts you into wide-eyed, amazed alertness.

John Gascoyne is a writer and lawyer living in Fort Collins, Colo. Learn more about John…

The ad is a cartoon representation of Joe’s gastrointestinal tract. There is blockage in the tract and we get to view cartoon doo-doo. You’re not comfortable with this and sideways glances reveal that the kids, also not comfortable, are looking at you, searching for a parental explanation of relevance and okay-ness. You have no idea of how to respond, so you sit there ignoring your parental obligation. Your spouse does likewise.

Back to the program and, too soon, to the next medical commercial.

What you are watching is an almost purely American phenomenon – the hawking of prescription medications over your TV set. New Zealand also allows such ads; no other country does.

Few, perhaps none, of these commercials are more than a minute in length. Nonetheless, almost all are carefully contrived plays, each with four discernible acts:

  • Act One – the bad thing – designed to scare the hell out of you. Depending upon the drug being peddled, it can be, among other things, an obstructed gut, serious skin problems, a heart that’s ready to blow, or a brain that’s about to fail you big time.

    Viagra is advertised on TV and in print. This advertisement is from 1970. Source:

  • Act Twohelp is on the way. If you will just invest in our product, you can be saved from the bad thing. This promise is underscored by fluffy depictions of people learning to smile again, going for walks in grassy meadows, or tossing their grandkids up in the air.
  • Act Threedon’t say we didn’t warn you. This contains a litany of at least some of the truly negative things that have happened to some of the folks who invested their retirement savings in our product. The litany runs the gamut – from itchy scalp to bloating, to worsening of the condition we want to save you from, to premature death.
  • Act Four – really upbeat again, striving to induce gauzy forgetfulness over the scares induced in Act Three. Trust us, just trust us. More kids being tossed into the air.

The sales pitch often includes weasel words, subtle exculpation. Listen for the words “have happened.” This is a smoothing over of the scary language used in Act Three. E.g. “Incidents of uncontrollable itching, horrible heartburn, and early death have happened.” No ad cops to the reality that the cure is sometimes worse than the malady.

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Remember this advertisement? “Lady, Your Anxiety Is Showing,” Ad for Triavil, a tranquilizer antidepressant in 1970. Source:

An honest statement would be more like: “In some instances, use of our product has produced negative results, sometimes serious ones, such as…… Nonetheless, you may benefit from our product and the odds are in your favor that there will be no downsides.”

Another part of the hype is, “Ask your doctor to prescribe….” Let’s examine this. You cannot, of course, obtain controlled medicines without a prescription. Consider that your doctor is hammered by clever salespeople touting their product, offering inducements to prescribe.

A 2016 New York Times opinion column said the drug industry, which annually spends over $5 billion on TV ads, spends about seven times more than that trying to induce doctors to prescribe their product. The OxyContin fiasco could not have gotten to epidemic status without many doctors over-prescribing it.

Long before television: Medical drug advertising in 1885 relied on printed materials. Source:

The American Medical Association once favored the airing of these ads. In more recent times, however, the AMA has come out against them. No one is listening.

Ask yourself why these ads are swarming your TV. Simple – it’s all about a money transfer – your money becoming the drug industry’s money – there is no stronger motivator. Yes, some or many of these products may produce some or all of the hoped-for relief. Don’t consider that as the main reason why you are looking at Joe’s gut.

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Why is your TV swarming with ads about prescription drugs?

Trump and Africa: Has he done us in?

By Pete Simon

The great American undoing could have started foolishly enough with Donald Trump’s “S—hole” comment on January 12. He spoke it with all of the grace of a drunken redneck sailor while stumbling down an alley in Mombasa in a forgotten decade when our C.I.A. still controlled everything across Africa.

Just eight days later, during a meeting with the chairman of the African Union, Trump had the chance to make amends, but he said nothing.

During his career, Pete Simon was a reporter and producer for public radio news departments in Colorado and Philadelphia. From 1998 to 2017, he worked in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Golden Field Office for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.  Now retired, he is a writer living in Arvada, Colo, where he volunteers in the local arts community and public radio. Learn more about Pete…

Then, during his State of the Union speech, he didn’t mention Africa at all.

Leaving aside basic human respect and dignity, which seems beyond him, the need for Trump to extend an olive branch to African nations goes directly to our own economic survival. In just three weeks he placed into jeopardy the free-flowing of countless natural resources that our country must have from Africa in order to survive; a fact most of us here do not realize.

Consider: The next time you flip on a light switch, drive your car, or eat some chocolate, think about where the cocoa, copper, or other metals come from to make those items. These are critical resources affecting our entire country, including, for example, the extractive and renewable energy industries doing business in Colorado. But we take for granted the cocoa and vanilla beans, copper, titanium, chromium, palladium, and other precious minerals that come from the African treasure house.


Those resources were a safe bet for us for so long because of the work over the decades by our diplomats and C.I.A. They ensured African markets stayed open to keep us in this secure bubble. Two things radically change that now: China’s involvement in Africa and Donald Trump.

Extreme theatrics and bombast may have worked for Trump to get him elected. But on a world stage of securing essential trade agreements for our financial security, racist locker room banter is the last thing we need.

Chinese influences: Today, Africa is filled with children learning Mandarin. Gone are the days when European colonizers and the U.S. controlled everything. Now, China has a lot more to say about what goes on in South African, Congolese, and Zambian mines.

Having already spent tens of billions of dollars across Sub-Saharan Africa, China is planning to spend another $75 billion there and $1 trillion on its “Belt and Road” initiative, a jaw-dropping system of roads and infrastructure that will connect African cities to places across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. That is seven times the amount of money the U.S. spent in 1947 on The Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.

The Chinese have been winning on the public relations front in Africa since the 1960s and 70s, when they funded and built the TanZam Railway, giving land-locked Zambia a transportation outlet to Dar Es Salaam so Zambia could ship its copper reserves to world markets without having to send it through Apartheid South African ports. (It was China’s funding of the TanZam which caused African nations in 1971 to vote for China’s seating at the U.N.; the event that threw anti-U.N. sentiment here on steroids.) This important history hasn’t been lost on Africans.

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Apology needed: If anyone is left in the pared-down Trump State Department who specializes in African affairs, perhaps they can explain to Mr. Trump why he must apologize immediately for his inflammatory comments, if only for our industries, economy, and future that he always insists is his top priority.

While Donald Trump uses profanity that widens the gulf between the U.S. and Africa, China is spending nearly a trillion dollars to develop the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) designed to link China to Europe, the Mideast, and two African hubs: Kenya and Egypt. Other Chinese-funded rail systems are linking Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Rwanda with the BRI. Photo: A cargo train is launched to operate on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line constructed by the China Road and Bridge Corporation and financed by the Chinese government in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa, May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer.

Our only hope…

In 1958, my Methodist Sunday School teacher told our class to celebrate newly-independent nations, like Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal. It contrasted well alongside images of Tarzan movies I watched on Saturday afternoons.  As luck would have it, the Navy destroyer on which I was stationed in 1969 was sent to Africa, where my appreciation of various peoples and cultures grew exponentially.

The disrespect shown toward Africans by some of my shipmates seemed anti-American to me. It is one thing for a few racist sailors in African ports to beat-up people they call “gooks”; but quite another for our Head-of-State to verbally trash the continent from which we have taken so much to fortify and maintain what we have. The Chinese must be smiling at the fool in the White House.

The only hope this country has now rests with the intelligence of African people. They know Donald Trump does not speak for most Americans; he did not win the popular vote and the 2016 election is still under review for tampering.

U.S. links: Our country has an obvious historical linkage with Africa. Today, hard-working African immigrants here live the American dream and send some of their hard-earned money back home to their families. Hopefully, this rock-solid relationship will not be shaken by an unstable President. Perhaps an apology shouldn’t be expected, but it sure would be nice to hear him say for once: “I’m sorry.”

Shirley Temple Black’s observations still true today

If we are lucky, this all may sort out for the best. But there remains a bittersweet irony to Trump’s use of vile language—an irony that reflects a spot-on observation made by Shirley Temple Black when she was Ambassador to Ghana during the Ford administration from December 1974 to July 1976.

In his book In Search of Enemies – A C.I.A. Story (p. 174-75), former C.I.A. Angola Task Force Chief John Stockwell wrote of Black:

During a trip from Ghana to Washington in October 1975, Black had lunch in the C.I.A. Executive Dining Room with top agency officials overseeing the (then) Angola crisis. She complained that “No one seemed to be coordinating America’s overall policy in African Affairs, no one was considering what the Angola program (the C.I.A. was orchestrating at the time) might do to our relations with Ghana, or other countries like Nigeria and Tanzania.”

She pointed out the Soviets’ national sport is chess and their foreign policy reflects an effort at the long-range planning of coordinated, integrated moves, although they often play the game badly and are given to serious blunders.”

Black continued: “THE CHINESE are notorious for planning their foreign policy carefully, with moves designed to reach fruition even years beyond lifetimes of present leaders.”

By contrast, Ambassador Black observed, “The United States is a poker player. It looks the world over, picks up whatever cards it is dealt, and plays, raising the stakes as more cards are dealt, until the hand is won or lost. Then, after a drag on a cigarette and another sip of whiskey, it looks around for the next hand to be played.”

Little did Shirley Temple Black know 43 ago that she was describing perfectly what is taking place right now on the African continent between China and Donald Trump’s America.  Can you bare to watch the rest of this reckless behavior?

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Here’s the Real Story Behind Gluten Intolerance

By Janet Duvall

(This article was published originally on Feb. 2, 2018. It was updated with new information on May 3, 2018.)

How come so many of us—who used to eat bread and other grain-based foods without a problem—are now experiencing ill effects when we eat wheat and find ourselves prowling the grocery aisles for gluten-free foods?

We call it gluten intolerance, but this name is misleading and hides the ugly truth. Gluten is not the problem for many people; it’s the poisonous herbicide glyphosate sprayed on food crops that is making us sick.

Janet Duvall holds a master’s degree in ecology/zoology. She has been a writer and editor for three decades. Her writing focuses on social and environmental issues, along with mystery, true crime, and politics. She lives near Fort Collins, Colo. Learn more about Janet…

A review of glyphosate research, compiled by Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff, was published in 2013 in Interdisciplinary Toxicology. Examining the results of 271 scientific studies, Samsel and Seneff reported:

“Celiac disease, and, more generally, gluten intolerance, is a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe, where an estimated 5% of the population now suffers from it. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, macrocytic anemia and depression. It is a multifactorial disease associated with numerous nutritional deficiencies as well as reproductive issues and increased risk to thyroid disease, kidney failure and cancer. Here, we propose that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup, is the most important causal factor in this epidemic.”

Monsanto started marketing Roundup (a glyphosate herbicide) in 1974, but Roundup kills every plant that it touches, so it had limited agricultural application. Determined to sell more of their virulent herbicide, Monsanto chemists used genetic engineering (GE) in the late 1990s to create seeds that could tolerate high doses of Roundup.

After planting Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds, many farmers began freely spraying Roundup on their genetically modified (GMO) corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets, and alfalfa crops. The weeds died, and the GMO crops survived.

Then, in addition to pushing Roundup for weed control, Monsanto’s “Preharvest Staging Guide” encourages farmers to spray Roundup, as a slow-acting desiccant, just before harvest to accelerate the drying and maturation of their crops.  The Guide recommends the application of Roundup when crops — including non-GMO crops such as wheat, barley, oats, canola, flax, peas, lentils, soybeans, and dry beans — are at the end of the growing season and ready for harvest.  The crop plant is killed by the Roundup, along with any surrounding weeds, but the seeds (the peas, the beans, the kernels) are theorized to be protected from glyphosate as they remain inside their pods. The pods are then harvested, and we get to eat their contents.

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According to Monsanto, “When it comes to safety assessments, no other pesticide has been more extensively tested than glyphosate. In evaluations spanning four decades, the overwhelming conclusion of experts worldwide, including the EPA, has been that glyphosate can be used safely according to label instructions.”

Evidently, Roundup is deemed safe for the sprayer who follows label instructions, but what about the people and animals that innocently consume the grains contaminated by this powerful herbicide?

Can anybody believe that the poison is not carried on the grain as it is harvested, ground into flour and used in food and other products too numerous to mention?  EcoWatch, in “15 Health Problems Linked to Monsanto’s Roundup,” tells us: “In the nearly 20 years of intensifying exposure, scientists have been documenting the health consequences of Roundup and glyphosate in our food, in the water we drink, in the air we breathe and where our children play.” The 15 health problems attributed to exposure to Roundup or glyphosate, are listed and explained in EcoWatch’s article, including celiac disease and gluten intolerance.

In the 2013 opinion of researchers Samsel and Seneff: “The monitoring of glyphosate levels in food and in human urine and blood has been inadequate. The common practice of desiccation and/or ripening with glyphosate right before the harvest ensures that glyphosate residues are present in our food supply. It is plausible that the recent sharp increase of kidney failure in agricultural workers is tied to glyphosate exposure. We urge governments globally to reexamine their policy towards glyphosate and to introduce new legislation that would restrict its usage.”

As if in response to Samels and Seneff, a research team tested glyphosate residues in the urine of animals and humans and reported results in Environmental and Analytical Toxicology (2014). They found that “chronically ill humans showed significantly higher glyphosate residues in urine than healthy population[s]. The presence of glyphosate residues in both humans and animals could haul the entire population towards numerous health hazards; studying the impact of glyphosate residues on health is warranted and the global regulations for the use of glyphosate may have to be re-evaluated.”

The responsibility for this gluten-intolerance epidemic must be placed directly on the doorstep of Monsanto, the creator and pusher of Roundup. Those of us who are suffering from celiac disease and/or who are now considered gluten intolerant can help accelerate legislation to restrict the use of Roundup and glyphosate by refusing to play the duplicitous word game. Call “gluten intolerance” by its true name: MONSANTO HERBICIDE INTOLERANCE.

Good advice:

If people who are “gluten intolerant” are actually “Monsanto Roundup intolerant,” it may be most important to search for food products that have not been sprayed with the poisonous herbicide.  That means eating only “USDA organic” or “certified organic” products — both certifications indicating that the grain has not been sprayed with herbicide.  If a product labeled “gluten-free” contains GMO corn, for example, it is likely that the corn would have been sprayed with Roundup and, thus, cause a negative reaction to the Monsanto Roundup intolerant person.

Furthermore, due to possible preharvest application of Roundup on non-GMO crops, people who are intolerant of Monsanto Roundup should consider whether the pod is protection against glyphosate and may need to avoid even non-GMO wheat, barley, oats, canola, flax, peas, lentils, soybeans, and dry beans.

Hospital discharge diagnosis (any) of celiac disease ICD-9 579 and glyphosate applications to wheat (R=0.9759, p≤1.862e-06). Sources: USDA:NASS; CDC. (Figure courtesy of Nancy Swanson) as published by Samsel and Seneff in Interdisciplinary Toxicology, 2013 Dec. 6(4): 159 – 184.

David Adamson, a writer in Oregon, points out, “One of the leading national voices about wheat is Dr. William Davis, a preventative cardiologist. He is famous for the “Wheat Belly” series. His contention, backed by lots of clinical data, is that celiac disease is actually caused by a protein called gliadin. He would fully agree that wheat has become so adulterated by Monsanto and others it no longer resembles the wholesome grain from biblical times.”

Some people are unable to eat any grain for best health. According to Davis, “The few foods that increase blood sugar higher than even wheat include rice flour, cornstarch, tapioca starch, and potato flour–the most common ingredients used in glutenfree foods. A glutenfree whole grain bread, for instance, is usually made with a combination of brown rice, potato, and tapioca starches.”

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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

By David Adamson

The term “global warming” sounded benign when first introduced in the 1970’s, conjuring a fantasy in which the earth would gently transform to a pleasant 75 degrees F from pole to pole. Everywhere, life would be a beach.

However, climate change scientists warned it would not be like that. Left unchecked, in the long run global warming would create a lethal combination of deforestation, acidification, pollution, starvation, infection, radiation, eutrophication, desertification, and, ultimately, extinction.

David Adamson worked in high technology and health care. He’s the author of Walking the High Tech High Wire and The Wellness Club. He’s written hundreds of blogs on politics and fitness. Learn more about David...

Luckily, the projected timeframes were vague and distant, at least a few generations, leaving plenty of time for mankind to pull off a miracle with heroic technologies like carbon capture. No worries. In the meantime, recycle, keep car tires properly inflated, plant trees, eat fewer flatulent bovines, caulk the windows, install energy-efficient light bulbs, join the Sierra Club.

In the short run, though, adverse death events were inevitable. They would be more frequent, extreme, unpredictable, long-lasting, record-setting and destructive. The particulars would depend on variables such as the latitude and topology of where you lived.

Especially ominous was their prediction that the western US, where my family lived, was doomed to severe droughts, maybe not as dramatic as hurricanes and tornados, but equally concerning because they would lead to uncontrollable wildfires.

Our beaches were the high country. Over decades skiing, hiking and trail running up there, I had noticed subtle, yet unmistakable, changes underway. Snows fell later in the fall, melted earlier in the spring. More aspen were blighted, bogs dried up, wildflowers fewer, trails dustier, streamflows weaker, reservoirs lower. Not everywhere in every year, but in more places, more years.

A large part of Oregon was engulfed in wild fires in the summer of 2017, as shown in the areas highlighted in reds and pinks on this map.

In 2002 my wife and I lived in a mountain cabin, surrounded by forest. That summer a jilted wife started the largest wildfire in Colorado history. The Front Range trees were so dry that mountain dwellers were advised to have valuables packed and be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Also, we were instructed to create “defensible space” by removing trees within 50 feet of houses, like the trees right outside our windows where we enjoyed watching camp robbers, juncos and chickadees dart among the branches.

One afternoon, an ear-splitting crack and instant flash from lightening shook the windows. I grabbed a shovel and ambled down a steep slope to find a fire spreading in a tangle of fallen beetle-killed lodgepole at the edge of a clearing. I was frantically tamping flames when a forest service tanker truck came bouncing across the field. Four wildland firefighters, a team of several patrolling along mountain highways for just such events, jumped out, deployed a hose, and snuffed it.

From then on, fire and smoke entwined with our lives like sun, wind, rain, and snow. Global warming was no longer a threat unique to remote places life the Great Barrier Reef or Arctic.

A year later, my job took us across the Continental Divide to an area in western Colorado where occurred many of the worst fires in state history, including the deadliest – the South Canyon (aka Storm King) Fire in 1994, which killed 12 hot shots and two heli-crew. Storm King Mountain was just a few miles from where we lived. Each day driving to work, I passed the nondescript low ridge where the lightning ignited it. Several times I trekked up the steep, switch-backed trail to the blackened expanse where white crosses dot the mountainside, marking where each fire fighter perished in flames so hot rocks cracked.

When we drove out of Colorado in June 2012, two fires were burning nearby. As we drove along under smoke spread far into Utah from those fires, I felt a sense of relief. We were moving to Oregon to be closer to our family, and eagerly anticipated the lush green of the Pacific Northwest. Colorado seemed to be drying out and burning up. In short span of time between Storm King and the day we departed, Colorado had endured 30 of the largest fires in its history.

View from their car as this article’s author and his wife passed by the fire on Santiam Pass in Oregon. Photo by Cynda Adamson.

As if arranged by the chamber of commerce, we rolled into Bend mid-morning in a light, refreshing rain. By afternoon the clouds broke and moved away, exposing the ragged, glaciered, volcanic peaks of the Cascades gleaming under a bluebird sky.

However, within a month of our arrival, fires burned across Oregon, too. Some were controlled burns, some caused by lightning. Most were unintentionally started by humans being careless with vehicles, machines, firearms, fireworks, cigarettes, and campfires.

Last summer set new records for fire in parts of the West. The frequency of fires was not unusual. But due to the extremely low humidity and high temperatures day after day, once a fire started, it seemed impossible to extinguish. Long-time Oregonians said they had never seen a fire season like it. But the danger with fires is not just the flames.

Due to our latitude and topology, smoke flowed in from Oregon fires, as well as those in British Columbia, Washington, and California. Instead of dissipating after a few days, the smoke pooled low and thickened. No more breath-taking views of the Cascades. The sun glowed dully behind strange hues of grey, brown, salmon, and orange. The rank smell of smoke was omnipresent, whether outside or in. Local TV broadcasts opened with fire reports and satellite images of smoke converging on the region.

At first the smoke was just a stinky annoyance, but after a couple weeks, it morphed into a serious health threat, bringing normal life to a halt across halt in the western two-thirds of Oregon. Air quality warnings vacillated between “Unhealthy” and “Very Unhealthy.” Wood smoke is heavy with toxic particulates and carcinogens like benzene and formaldehyde. It burned our nasal passages, throats, and upper chests. Some friends had to seek medical attention. For those not well or older, prolonged exposure can be life-threatening, inducing asthma and heart irregularities.

As conditions worsened, health authorities warned everyone, including children, to remain indoors. All outdoor activities were canceled. Sidewalks and parks emptied. People wore N94 masks like you see in the most polluted cities in Asia.

A place for relief from the 2017 Oregon fires: Haystack Rock on the Oregon coast, a beautiful setting reminiscent of thoughts in the 1970s when people erroneously believed a new concept called “global warming” would bring about a milder and more enjoyable climate, resulting in, “Everywhere, life would be a beach.”

With no relief in sight, we longed to escape, even if only for a few days. We fled over Santiam Pass in a long 15 mph procession behind a pilot car that lead us through miles of fire. We passed groups of blackened firefighters, gulping water, sharpening chains saws, grabbing a few minutes of rest before going back onto the fire lines above. Tanker trucks inched along in the opposite lane, dousing flames approaching the highway.

Within a half hour after leaving that fire, we skirted another near Detroit Lake, a beautiful reservoir usually populated with boats, was almost hidden in the smoky murk. Descending into the Willamette Valley, we headed northwest for a couple hours through more smoke, hanging ghostlike between the rows in orchards and vineyards.

At last, as we neared the coast, the smoke vanished. We had driven hundreds of miles to the Pacific Ocean for a breath of fresh air. The rolling waves glistened under a clear, sunny, blue sky. The temperature was a pleasant 75 degrees. Life was a beach.

Constitution for Sale – Contact Your Congress

By John Gascoyne

On March 31 of this year, an ugly blot was spread across the United States Constitution. Or so it would appear.

On that day, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced S. 720, (a/k/a Senate Bill 720), an act which is cited as the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act.”

John Gascoyne is a writer and lawyer living in Fort Collins, Colo. Learn more about him…

The intent of the act is to make criminal boycotts carried out in the U.S. by international governmental organizations against Israel. And the penalties for violating the act are severe.

The law focuses in part on the United Nations Human Rights Council which, according to a purported finding of Congress, “…has long targeted Israel with systematic, politically motivated, assaults on its legitimacy designed to stigmatize and isolate Israel internationally.”

The proposal also targets organizations which are members or supporters of the BDS movement. This effort advocates boycotts and divestment in regard to Israel and sanctions against that country based upon its dealings with Palestine.

Among the signatories to the act are 14 Democratic senators, notably its initiating sponsor Benjamin Cardin of Maryland and including co-sponsors Michael Bennet and Cory Gardener of Colorado, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Chuck Schumer of New York. Thirty Republican senators have signed on as co-sponsors.

The other New York Senator, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, endorsed the act on May 9 but withdrew her name on August 8—in response to strong objections from many of her constituents.

In the House, a similar measure gained, at last count, 63 Democratic and 174 Republican co-sponsors. A number of generally forward-thinking House members, including Adam Schiff (D-CA), and second-ranking House Democrat, Steny Hoyer (D-MD), have signed on to the House version.

Our United States Congress.

Potential penalties for persons or organizations found to be in violation of S.720 derive from the Import Administration Act of 1970. These penalties can range from a civil penalty ranging from $250,000 to $1,000,000 and criminal penalties netting up to 20 years in prison.

Since the bill was introduced in March numerous entities—individuals, organizations, and print media—have weighed in with a wide range of interpretations and positions.

In what would become a catalyst to the publication of numerous other opinions, the ACLU on July 17 issued a letter very critical of the proposal and urging senators to abandon their support of it.

The letter, authored by National Political Director Faiz Shakir, said the bill “would impose civil and criminal punishment on individuals solely because of their political beliefs about Israel and its policies.” Seeing the issue as a First Amendment concern, ACLU said it was not taking a position, for or against, the effort to boycott Israel or any other country.

The fuse had been lit.

On the heels of the ACLU letter, The Intercept, on July 19 stated “The criminalization of political speech and activism has become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the West.”

On July 25 another Intercept article said some signatories to S.720 were open to re-drafting the wording of the proposed legislation. To date, there have been no amendments to the original proposal.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has been reporting on news and events of concern to Jewish citizens for the past 100 years. On July 29, the Agency declared that S.720 “poses a significant danger to free speech”. The JTA also stated that the bill “was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. (AIPAC).” AIPAC lobbies U.S. lawmakers and generally espouses center-right Israel policies.

Not everyone agreed with the ACLU.

The Daily Beast, on July 21, stated, “The “ACLU misread the law…”

On August 17, The New York Times ran an editorial headline suggesting that the ACLU needed to “rethink free speech”. In the opinion piece, by attorney K-Sue Park, it was noted that the ACLU has defended First Amendment issues on the far left and far right. Park took issue with the notion that all free speech issues need to be defended with equal vigor. She criticized the ACLU for successfully suing Charlottesville, VA “on behalf of a white supremacist rally organizer.”

Although there has been little apparent television consideration of the issue, Amy Goodman has covered it on a Democracy Now broadcast. In an interview with Rabbi Joseph Berman of Jewish Voice for Peace, the rabbi said that while AIPAC, “might have a lot of influence…they’re not representative of American Jews.”

So, where do we go from here?

It feels imminently predictable that, short of a loud public outcry, S.720 and its henchman legislation in the House are destined to become law. If there is to be public input, there first needs to be more public awareness. Rachael Maddow and Joe Scarborough need to talk about it, a lot, on MSNBC; Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper can cover it on CNN. Forget Fox News.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the storm-battered city of Dickinson, Texas, recently tried to tie hurricane relief funds to a promise that recipients will not boycott Israel, a requirement the ACLU labeled as unconstitutional. On October 24, the city council voted to remove the requirement.

How Dracula and Trump use horror to scare the “ever-livin’ giblets” out of us

By Gary Kimsey

In 1972, I waited hours on a blustery afternoon to vote in the presidential election. Hundreds of people were ahead of me on the tree-lined sidewalk. As the dead leaves of fall swirled around us, most people grumbled about the long, cold wait.

By contrast, I was immersed in a novel about horror, and even now, 45 years later, I remember the tingling of my imagination from fearful words and suspenseful images.

I was taking a college class on the literature of horror. We studied Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft’s works, and, among others, Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This was before Stephen King’s time, or I’m sure he would have been on the reading list.

Gary Kimsey is a writer who lives part of the year in Independence, Mo., and the rest near Fort Collins, Colo. Learn more about him…

The current reading assignment: Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Most people have seen Dracula movies, but few have read the novel. Take my word, the novel is scarier.

A gloomy night had fallen by the time I voted and walked home, frequently glancing back to see if vampires followed. My old house had huge windows with nothing to view outside but darkness. Wait just a Frankenstein moment, did I just see evil red eyes glaring through the black night?

I rushed to close the curtains. I switched on every light and situated myself in a corner chair where no vampire could approach unseen. I read on. I didn’t sleep that night. I was too jittery of things that might go bump.

Richard Nixon won the election. On went the Watergate scandal, dirty tricks, threats, lies, and nasty pronouncements. News commentators observed, “This is like a horror story.”

I thought about it. Yes, indeedy, Nixon’s actions exhibited all the elements of literary horror that I studied in my class.

The quintessential Dracula: Bela Lugosi.

Decades passed. I forgot all about similarities between a crooked president and literary horror—that is, until I saw Donald Trump’s attack on Myeshia Johnson, pregnant Gold Star widow of La David Johnson. Trump’s shameful actions were horrific in their own right, but the issue brought back memories of how a president’s tactics can reflect the elements of literary horror.

Five elements exist. Here is how each relates to the current president’s recent antics—please note that each example is just one of many that I could cite.

Dracula vs. Trump: What do you think? Take a short poll at the end of this article.

One horror element is foreshadowing, the strategic placement of scary tidbits that alert the reader that something bad will come. A recent Trumpian tidbit was dribbled about when the president told the media that his meeting with military leaders was “the calm before the storm.” Nobody knew then or even now what he was talking about. Yet, people began worrying. It could be, of course, that he was merely talking to hear himself talk, yet once again.

Kate Beckinsale as Selene, vampire warrior in the  Underworld film series.

Fear is a critical element. As horror literary expert Amanda Headlee points out, fear is used to scare the “ever livin’ giblets” out of us. Trump leverages fear by demonizing Muslims, Blacks, Congress, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and, among others, the media. The result: Many Americans have gained an uncalled-for fear of those groups and persons.

Another horror element—suspense—keeps us worrying about monsters under the bed. Trump is a master of monsters.  Remember his threat to “reign fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea, a chilling statement that evoked the horror of a nuclear exchange? Since then, we’ve heard more of his threats—verbal slashes that some people worry could bring about World War III.

Mystery is a horror element that keeps us wondering if what we know is really true. In Trump’s case, consider health care. At some moments during the long Trump/congressional healthcare debacle, we thought we understood what was going on but then realized time and again that we knew nothing. Everything was a mystery that created unnecessary suspense and fear in many Americans.

Trump is a user of the most impactful element of horror: Imagination. As horror writer C.M. Humphries explains, “The cool thing about horror…is that you can toy with someone’s imagination. You paint a picture in such a way that the reader’s mind can become lost in thought the same way we might think there’s a ghost in the house during the thirteenth hour.”

As a way to inflame our collective imagination, Trump concocts wild, brash, scary statements—like the “fire and fury” and “calm before the storm” threats—and then leaves it up to the imagination of Americans and the entire world to conjure up terrifying visions.

Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Van Helsing in the 1992 gothic horror film Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

The Dracula novel, which I’ve re-read now and then since that night of the ’72 election, uses horror elements to move the story forward. Count Dracula is a monster who does monstrous things. It’s something he cannot help; evil is his primal nature. By the novel’s conclusion, when he is killed by a band of fearless companions led by Dr. Van Helsing, Dracula has almost become a pitiful character because it’s clear he had no choice over the horror he committed.

On the other hand, Trump is supposedly a human and therefore should be able to make decisions between right and wrong, and good and evil. Why does he use elements of horror? It is not to move our nation, our lives, forward.

The original movie vampire in the 1922 Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror.

He often uses horror elements to divert the public’s attention from issues that are damaging to him—the Trump-Russia Investigation, for example. Sometimes he solely uses elements like fear and mystery to draw attention to himself as the savior—the Dr. Van Helsing—that he so incorrectly perceives himself to be. And frequently, as we’ve seen in his Twitter attacks, Trump relies on elements of horror because, I suspect, he has a mean-spirited nature.

Americans don’t deserve a president who spends time scaring the “ever livin’ giblets” out of us. Unfortunately, what we have in the White House is an author writing his own personal horror novel which the rest of us are forced to endure. Rather than close curtains to keep him out, it’s time for Americans to grasp the metaphorical stake and blazing torch, and chase him out of the village.


Learn more about literary horror:

Core Elements of a Horror Story by Amanda Headlee.

5 Elements of a Good Horror Story by C.M. Humphries.