Thursday, August 15, 2013

One Sequester Blessing: Army Expansion in Colo. Is Halted

Well, we on the Left were waiting for some signal, some indication that the sequester would bite the ass of the Military -Industrial complex, as it has so many regular citizens: seniors enduring treatment cuts for cancer, others with home care limited or cut, and unemployed facing a 20% cut in benefits - not to mention food stamps programs threatened. So it was refreshing to see the news in yesterday's Denver Post that the Army has conceded that sequester cuts in the budget will force "downsizing" that will prevent growth.


Colorado's ranchers, who were here first (well, okay, after Native Americans) have had to endure decades of Army expansion, grabbing their land - especially in the Pinon Canyon area- to justify "training exercises". As with the FISA laws being altered, our congressional weasels - led by local pro-military whore Doug Lamborn, passed a provision some years ago granting the Army the right to take private land from landowners.

Typical in the proto-fascist land seizure gambit, is the Army would inform ranchers - like Gary Hill when he traveled to D.C. to protest some years ago - that it would give him "$300 an acre" and he
"wouldn't have a choice". He'd have to suck it up, and make the sacrifice for his country. Please! The fact is the Army never needed any of the land it grabbed and it only pissed off thousands of Colorado ranchers.  As Hill made clear in a comment on Tuesday, quoted in the Post (p. 6A):

"We're not at war with our own country! We need land in production so we can feed the people of this nation. At some point in time, the government can't own it all, or we should just move to Russia or something."

But now these callous, reprehensible land grabs appear to be halted by the sequester. At a meeting Tuesday with ranchers, Assistant Secretary of the Army, Katherine Hammack- who traveled all the way from the Pentagon to meet with ranchers and local officials - described the Army in "a state of decline" given the federal budget cuts otherwise known as the sequester. (Recall that the deal with the sequester was that if the budget issues weren't resolved by the end of 2012, then there would be automatic $600b cuts for defense, and for domestic programs. Up to now, most of us have only heard of the latter, or a few private military contractors having to go on weekly furloughs.)

Hammack said that though the Army wanted to provide more training area (they already hold 235,000 acres if you can believe it) readying troops for battle, they don't have the money. She added:

"We're downsizing. We're reducing the number of troops, reducing the number of brigade combat teams."

About damned time! And I have bitched about this shit before, including adding a "combat air brigade" to the Springs at a cost of over $1 billion. In an era of budget austerity - while seniors and kids are having to do without food- this is unacceptable.

And what exactly are these training exercises? Basically, they take a training site (usually precious ranch land or fields with unique flora) and recreate warlike battlefields, including laying waste to whatever ecology exists (and the Pinon Canyon area has a very fragile ecology of plants, animals peculiar to the state.) To make it real, they take thousands of soldiers from Fort Carson with tanks, to create conditions similar to what they'd find in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hmmmmm......I thought we vacated 'Eye-rack', and we're supposed to leave Afghanistan next year. So why the need to keep this training BS up?

Meanwhile, the ranchers are on tenterhooks since the Army - like most of political Washington (including the NSA's prevaricating troglodytes),  seems to be expert in double talk. Even Hammack, while she played up the "downsizing" aspect for ranchers, did not say that the Army was going to drop the waiver (to seize ranch land) completely.  She did say that with federal funds dropping "now is the time to re-evaluate the provision."


Meanwhile, at least one legislator - a Repub at that- Cory Gardner of Yuma (whose district includes Pinon Canyon),  got a measure through the House of Representatives that requires an Act of Congress to expand the site. Also, even if Congress  granted approval, the House-approved measure requires the Army to complete an environmental impact study (and receive federal money for it) before it can come to pass.

This is reasonable and protects private property rights of ranchers. It basically slows down the expedient wholesale seizure of land, in much the same way that the original (1978) FISA law was designed to slow down "grab 'em up"  vacuum collection of personal data from innocent Americans - but which a weasel congress retroactively made "legal".

The whole gist of protecting rights, whether those for private property or privacy means the particular government agency or dept. must be deliberately slowed down and made less efficient. Gardner's legislation does that for land here in Colorado, and we now need some people with spine to do the same for the "haystack", indiscriminate collection of metadata.

As for Hammack, she provided one real encouraging sentence for ranchers, property owners in regard to the current Act that allows wholesale land grabbing:

"I think there is a possibility to rescind it. I'm not guaranteeing that will happen, but there is a real chance of that occurring."

Let's hope so!

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