Friday, June 18, 2010

Biennial of the Americas

Boulder will get some competition from Denver this year in hosting its
renowned annual (happening once a year) International Affairs
Conference. The Boulder Conference was inspired by legendary Howard
Higman, who reminded folks he did not have a Ph.D. Howard's daughter,
Alice Reich, taught with me at Regis for many years. But this summer
Denver plays host to Biennial of the Americas, its own international
affairs conference.

Biennial should not be confused with biannual which means something
happening twice a year. Semiannual is a good synonym for biannual.
Biennial means something happening every second year. These words were
confused at a recent neighborhood meeting discussing this month long

The headquarters of the Biennial's central exhibits is in the McNichols
building on the north edge of Civic Center. I have fond memories of this
classical building because it housed the old Carnegie Library. I spent
my life there in high school. Like all Denverites, we relish the
magnificent Corinthian leafy Greek Columns adorning the edges of this
architectural treasure.

Planners have scheduled contemporary artists from Argentina, Brazil,
Chili, Mexico and Peru. The purpose of this celebration is to encourage
communication and collaboration of the 35 countries of the Americas.
The events will include workshops on art, dance and music of the
Americas, with concerts and performances all over our city by different
cultural groups based in the Americas. And finally there will be a
series of Roundtable and Summits designed to inform us about issues
facing people who live in the Americas. These events will be at the
Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

The events occur during the whole month of July. The website tells all:

I predict citizens will enjoy these mind-expanding events. Or you can
drop by the McNichols Building between 10am to 8 pm beginning July 1
through July 31 to find out all about it. There are monthly fees ($35)
and individual fees ($9), family fees ($20) and senior citizen fees ($5)
for various events.

I hope you will join me at some of the exciting events planned to
broaden our appreciation of the arts in our lives. And borrowing from
James Joyce who never traveled to the Americas, I hope this July we will
joyfully forge on the smithy of our souls the uncreated conscience of
our different tribes. And I know this event will be a success because
the city has brought in the capable and accountable Donna Good to
oversee the whole operation. For the older or old fashioned Americans
among us, the phone number for Biennial of the Americas is 303-892-1505.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Auditing the Fed

Aristotle tells us that change comes in small increments.

Recently the Senate showed some courage by unanimously approving a small
change with an amendment to their Wall Street Reform Bill to audit the
emergency spending at the Federal Reserve. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT
wanted a full blown and ongoing audit of the Fed, a big change, but
settled for this watered down version, a smaller change, with an audit
of just the emergency spending. The audit scope will cover the period
when the Fed used its resources to help prop up the already failing
financial institutions and megabanks.

Why is this small change a step forward? Why is it important to audit
the Federal Reserve?

Because the Federal reserve is the unelected central bank of the U. S.
and enjoys a monopoly over the flow of our nation's money and credit.
The Fed has never operated in complete transparency and accountability
since its creation in 1913.

During the current economic crisis, Congress, the Treasury and the Fed
have put the American people on the hook for over $12 trillion in
national debt. Fed Chair Ben Bernanke has refused to disclose which
institutions have received trillions in bailouts. Bernanke has also not
shared with the representatives of the people in Congress the details
about what deals have been made with foreign banks.

So congratulations to Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT, for reminding us of
the truth of what Robert Frost said about banks: "A bank is a place
where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back
again when it begins to rain." Perhaps this small audit of the Fed may
bring enough sunshine in to lead to big changes and fuller audits later.

Shared sacrafice

Recently I heard David Sirota, radio host and journalist, and author of books and articles on current economic and political affairs. He did sort of an existential examination of where we are as a people and nation. Let me share some of his thoughts and my reflection with you about his insightful comments on party, people and the nation.

He reminded the audience that James Carter was the last president to ask the American people to do shared sacrifice for the nation. John F. Kennedy asked shared sacrifice of us in his famous line from his inaugural speech, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for our country." He criticized the current attitude of people "what is the government going to do for me today?" He chided those who cry "Me first," attitude my selfishness and my greed. He referenced FDR who asked workers, business and the people to take cuts during the Second World War. I thought of our most recent military action in Iraq and Afghanistan in which a president said we are at war and here are your tax breaks.

Sirota did not comment on the recent legal fuss about the White House offering Andrew Romanoff a job if he would drop out of the Senate Race. He said that action shows that the leadership in the Democratic Party has become so arrogant that it thinks it can dictate who will run for office in the party, not the voters, not the rank and file, certainly not the people. These disturbing kind of actions attack the very democracy which the Democratic party says it supports. He said: "Democrats can't be against democracy." He did not use the word hypocritical in describing such actions, but I will. To me it sounds unAmerican.

He reminded us that we have to hold our elected officials accountable about what kind of government they will work for. Sirota advised the audience further that the relationship between politicians and citizens in our country cannot be based on whether we like the politician. It has to be based on issues and whether we agree or disagree with the stance of the particular political official. He said he like to see politicians fearful of what voters can and might do to them if they do not serve the common good.

I thought Sirota hit the mark and so did lots of others listening to his comments. And the outcome of the elections in our state with lots of angry voters will be the proof in the pudding of his challenging comments.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Literature as Economic Development

Last Friday I had lunch with Art Hutchinson, Superintendant of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Superintendant Hutchinson shared lots of information about the myths and lore surrounding this mysterious part of San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado. He answered the parent of one of my students at Regis who once bemoaned his daughter wanting to major in English Literature. "That won't help her earn any money anywhere," he puffed and snorted like one of the web footed horses roaming across the sands of the dunes.

He asked why so many Germans want to visit the San Dunes? Only Professor Tom Noel knew the answer: the historical novels of Karl May, a prolific German late 19th and early 20th century writer, who glorified life in the American west. He shared with us that Germans can now come to Denver on Lufthansa and many buy their parks passes at Great Sand Dunes for access to all the US parks. Karl May writing about our west did almost as much as Buffalo Bill Cody did for making Europeans interested in our west though his wild west show.

Art shared some of the legends about the Sand Dunes: that wild horses can be seen galloping across the dunes with webs on their hooves; that the Spanish hid lots of gold there in the dunes; and at night one can hear wailing and singing coming from the sands. He reminded us that the tallest dune, the tallest in the U.S. is taller than any of our downtown sky scrapers, 750 feet...coincidently and appropriately called the "High Dune."

And the dunes boast their own unique beetle, the Great Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle, the Cincendela Theatina. That's Latin for the Theatine Beatle. Fr. Bernardo Rotger, the Theatine pastor from San Luis found the beetle and asked that it be named for his religious order, the Theatine Order. The excellent Visitor' Guide lets visitors know that they can splash in the ocean-like waves of Medano Creek, when it has water. The waves are called a 'surge flow.' Lucky visitors may see the elk herds on the many acres of grasslands, yellow-bodied red-faced Western Tanager, a little colorful bird found in forest land, short-horned lizards, and of course, our Colorado state fish, the green back cut throa trout.

So I know one place in Colorado I want to visit this summer: The Great Sand Dunes.

And the next time someone says literature has no relation to economic development, remind them of the story of Karl May whose writings, long in the past, encourage so many Germans to visit Colorado and the west.

Danke, Karl.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Colorado Foreclosures

Everyone keeps saying, "The recession is over and Colorado is fairing better than other places." The recession is hardly over for the thousands of Colorado families who have filed for foreclosure. A small sign of improvement can be seen in first quarter filings this year which were down 4.3%. So things seem to be getting better according to a report issued by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs' Division of Housing.

Sam Mamet's recent newsletter from the Colorado Municipal League gave statistics on page 5 which I wish to share with you. The sentences below are from the CML newsletter and are also found in the Local Affairs report:

New foreclosure filings rose to 11,136 in our state during this years first quarter and that's up 6%. 2010 first quarter total for foreclosure sales at auction was highest since the third quarter of 2007. Driving the large number of foreclosure sales were the record-high totals of new foreclosure filings experienced during the second and third quarter of last year.

Since the first quarter of 2009, foreclosure filings have fallen in Adams, Denver, El Paso and Larimer Counties. Mesa County reported the largest increase among metropolitan counties during the first quarter with new filings increasing 126.9%.

Weld reported the highest foreclosure rate among all metropolitan counties with 178 households per foreclosure sale at auction during the first quarter. There were 192 households per foreclosure sale in Adams County, and 234 households per foreclosure sale in Arapahoe County. In Denver County, there were 329 households per foreclosure sale.

Boulder County reported the lowest foreclosure rate among metropolitan counties with 605 households per foreclosure sale during the first quarter of this year.

Many Colorado families are being helped to avoid foreclosure by calling the Colorado Foreclosure Hotline.

So thanks, Sam Mamet, for helping inform us on foreclosures in Colorado. For the full report visit Bet you are going to make a mistake on this one.

So things seem to be looking better, unless you are a family which is in foreclosure.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In his magnificently probing book, The Gutenberg Galaxy, Marshall
McLuhan asks readers to probe the following question: "What will be the
new configurations of mechanisms and of literacy as these older forms of
perception and judgment are interpenetrated by the new electronic age?"
With the rise of TV and the Internet we are seeing the new configurations which for establishments and institutions almost seem to twist into gargoyles and grotesques.

In his next book, Understanding Media, McLuhan predicted way back in the
1960's that television would change politics in America forever. He
prophesied that television would eventually diminish the power of
partisan party bosses in America. Voters no longer needed the
recommendation of party as to whom to vote for because candidates could
come into everyone's living room on the TV screen. Candidates bypassed
the party bosses and talked to voters directly, electronically. He
foretold that TV would eventually push people away from voting the
"party line."

I can remember people actually calling Dolores Dickman, our North Denver
Democratic Captain, asking for her marked official Democratic sample
ballot so they knew whom she recommended for the primaries. That showed
true party discipline. And if one of the committee people did not hand
out the sample ballots before election, voter turnout was diminished in
that particular precinct. This trend reflected the truth of the
communication theory which says: "Lack of information equals
uncertainty." Without their sample ballots, like the cell phone user in
the TV spot talking with his girl friend: "Was it something I said?
Did she hang up?" The phone's battery could have simply died and
perhaps she did not hang up, but the lack of information led the caller
to great angst and romantic uncertainty. And uncertain voters often
stayed home.

The Internet dragon breathes fear and trembling among China's government
officials. Like church officials after Gutenberg's press the church
could no longer control the messages to the faithful. They now had
their own copy of scripture.

China's current leaders do not know it yet, but the Internet has
transformed its blossoming online population, now over 400 million, into
one big buzzing national electronic caucus. The Colorado based DaVinci
Institute, which analyzes media future trends reports that China's
Internet has morphed its society into a national digital forum where
citizens can communicate and "express their opinions in a way rarely
seen in a country where traditional media are under strict government
control." They don't know it, but it is too late for the party bosses
to try to stop Internet communication. Even Chairman Mao couldn't put
the toothpaste back in the tube.

We can see the trend away from party discipline in the Colorado
primaries this year. Andrew Romanoff top-lined 60-40% Michael Bennet at
the Colorado Democratic State Convention last week. Democratic
establishment from President Obama down through Gary Hart had endorsed
Bennet. Dan Maes, the anti-establishment candidate top-lined the GOP
establishment Scott McGinnis, not by many points, at the Republican
State Convention the same weekend. In earlier times, in a print
culture, top-line designation by the party assemblies and conventions
meant more to the party faithful than it does today. Top-line
designation could mean up to 10% of a vote. Newspaper endorsements mean
less now due to the electronic media. Remember the embarrassment
suffered by Ken Salazar in his senate bid? Salazar had the Democratic
Party establishment behind him, but Mike Miles, the unknown candidate, a
fiery gargoyle, edged him out and got top line from the party rank and

"Politics: the only game for adults." Dolores Dickman