In an alarming case that has received little to no attention, Deandre H. Rogers (pdf), a Black man aged 32, was found hanging in a carport in Grand Junction, Colorado on September 21, 2020. He had participated on June 1, 2020 with a group of local Black Lives Matter activists who met with G.J. Police Chief Doug Shoemaker in the lobby of the Grand Junction Police Department to protest unjust treatment they had experienced at the hands of local law enforcement. The discussion took place about a month after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police on May 25, 2020.
Embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters (R) has not complied with several Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests seeking a copy of a spreadsheet her office created containing the names of the 574+ disenfranchised voters whose ballots her office failed count in the November, 2019 general election.
The ballots were left in a collection box after the election and were not retrieved or counted. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold called the oversight a “serious dereliction of duty.”
Clerk Peters ordered the creation of the list.
Several former Clerk’s office employees report that Ms. Peters asked Sandra Brown, another Clerk’s Office employee, to create a spreadsheet of the names of all the voters whose ballots weren’t counted so Ms. Peters could send them each a written apology.
Internal emails from the County Clerk’s office support claims that the list in fact exists. In the emails, Peters asks other employees not to distract Ms. Brown from the task of creating the list, so she could finish it quickly.
Certified Public Accountant Dennis Simpson, a long-time advocate for transparency in Grand Junction City and Mesa County government, discovered that in 2019 Mesa County purchased two new late model SUVs at a cost of $45,000 each, for the exclusive use of Commissioners Scott McInnis and John Justman. Before that time, Simpson noted, the County had provided a single passenger car for all three commissioners to share. He also noted that the decision to greatly increase this transportation expense for taxpayers was not made in public, and that while Commissioner Rose Pugliese tried to distance herself from the purchase, she failed to protest it publicly.
When Simpson raised these issues to Scott McInnis, McInnis deflected attention from the matter by asking Simpson to instead focus on coming up with financial suggestions for ways the County can cope with the COVID-19 pandemic rather than concerning himself with the purchase of the vehicles, which McInnis dismissed as unimportant.
Simpson obliged and produced the following suggestions, which he submitted to all three county commissioners on March 19, 2020.
Don’t have time to read the whole 420-page Mueller Report (pdf)? That’s understandable.
You can download an audio recording of it for FREE and listen to the whole thing while you’re driving, doing housework or exercising. A free recording of it available here, on Audible.
If you don’t have time to read or listen to the whole thing, but still want to know why it’s such a big deal and why everyone is talking about it, here’s a quick summary:
It’s an unfathomably bad day for religion, but a better day to be an atheist, if you already are one. If you’re not already, the news coming out about the Catholic church (again) this week may be enough to flip you, if not just grip you.
A Pennsylvania grand jury has dropped a devastating 1,356 page report (pdf) that describes in excruciating detail the child sexual abuse that has occurred within the Pennsylvania Catholic church, perpetrated by over 300 “predator priests” in that state alone. The grand jury names each priest and has identified over a thousand credible child victims who endured abuse at the hands of the Church over a period of 70 years. Some of the victims are in their 80s now.
While some stayed home dying Easter eggs Saturday, almost 300 western slope citizens turned out for the national Tax March to demand Donald Trump make his tax returns public. Marchers gathered at Grand Junction City Hall and listened to speeches before starting off on a figure 8-shaped route through downtown that took them along Main Street, Grand Avenue and by the Post Office, where they mailed post cards to Trump saying they want him to release his taxes.
On January 11, 2017, Trump dismissed the idea that voters were interested in his tax returns, claiming the only people who care about his tax returns are members of the media. But he was proved badly wrong when on April 15, thousands of people in hundreds of cities across across the country took to the streets to demand he make his taxes public. An ABC News/Washington Post poll (pdf) released on January 16,2017 showed 74% of Americans want to see Trump’s returns.
The U.S. Intelligence community (CIA, FBI and NSA) jointly issued a formal report today stating that Russian President Putin ordered a campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election and help elect Donald Trump. The report states that Russians worked to undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and promote Trump. The entire unclassified version of the report is available to the public on Scribd:
Following is an excerpt from the report, with bold emphasis added:
“We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.
We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.
This 30 minute interview on KVNF Radio with Cidney Fisk and her parents about their experience with the Delta County School District was broadcast July 19, 2016. Host Ali Lightfoot interviews Cidney, her parents and Delta County School District officials about the religious speakers the school routinely brings in, other incidents of proselytizing occurring within the district, and the retribution Cidney faced from her teachers and counselors after voicing her opinions about that and what Cidney perceived as the district’s misguided financial priorities: Click this link to listen to the interview.
Philip Morris’ “Project Thunder” was public relations plan to construct and operate a wildly-luxurious, custom-built 20-car Marlboro train as a promotion for Marlboro cigarettes. The train was to consist entirely of double-decker cars and feature amenities such as a hot tub car, massage rooms and gambling. The train would stop at locations throughout the scenic southwestern U.S. and let passengers off to partake in iconically western activities like horseback riding, bicycling, river rafting, and paragliding. Philip Morris planned to give selected smokers the “trip of a lifetime” on a “deluxe train through Marlboro Country.”
The train was going to be used for only one season, from May-September 1996, at an estimated cost to Philip Morris of $44 million.
The train was built at tremendous expense to PM, but PM ultimately pulled the plug on the project very late as the train was close to completion. PM then ordered the train destroyed. The company made the rail car company workers who were manufacturing the train in Fort Collins, Colorado, sign nondisclosure agreements that forced them to stay silent about the project and its ultimate demise.
Plans for Project Thunder can be viewed at this link at University of California San Francisco’s Legacy Tobacco Documents Library: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/neg36e00
In August, 1969 all of the citizens the town of Greenfield, Iowa (pop. 2,100) attempted to quit smoking as a publicity stunt in connection with the on-site filming of the movie Cold Turkey, starring Dick Van Dyke.
In an internal project they code-named “Bird 1,” Philip Morris (PM), the manufacturer of Marlboro cigarettes, surveyed the citizens of Greenfield 8 months after their quit attempt. PM used local Girl Scouts to hand-deliver the questionnaires to citizens to increase the acceptance of the packets. The Girl Scouts were instructed to knock on doors and hand a questionnaire packet to “every person who was 14 years old on Cold Turkey Day.” PM paid five dollars to everyone who completed and returned a survey.
This tobacco industry document is the report containing Philip Morris’ analysis of the success of citizens’ efforts to go “Cold Turkey.” PM’s descriptions are entertaining, highly chauvinistic and of course paint a very dismal picture of quitting smoking:
See a PDF of the confidential internal PM document here.
Benita Phillips, Mesa County’s first female candidate for Sheriff, has pledged — and asked her opponents to pledge — that if elected they will conduct a public investigation into corruption in the Sheriff’s Office, and take steps to prevent future corruption and preferential dealing.
Her challenge comes after the local GOP’s top candidate for sheriff, State Senator Steve King, was charged with three felonies and two misdemeanors for allegedly falsifying time cards while working at the Sheriff’s office, embezzling public property and failing to report all his sources of income — a requirement for state legislators. King stepped down from the race after the charges were made.
Phillips specifically asked all sheriff candidates to pledge to openly review and amend any policy of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office that supports what she calls “a culture of double-dipping.”
State Senator Steve King worked at Colorado Mesa University (CMU) at the same time he worked at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. An investigation revealed that he occasionally billed both entities for the same time he worked.
In a stunning reversal, Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) suddenly killed area citizens’ longtime effort to upgrade the Colorado National Monument to a national park.
But the reversal is shrouded in mystery, and neither Tipton nor Senator Udall’s offices will make public the data about number of comments they received for and against the proposal.
The legislators asked the public to submit comments on proposed legislation to upgrade the Monument to a national park over a period ending June 30. Citizens submitted comments via the legislators’ websites, phone, mail and email.
Both Tipton and Udall’s offices report they received thousands of comments about the proposed change, but when asked for the total number of comments received and the breakdown for and against, they refused to answer.
Public Information, Big Secret
When asked how many comments they received for and against the Monument upgrade, Deanna Pickman, an intern at Rep. Tipton’s Grand Junction office, said 500 people contacted them online and over 2,500 people signed petitions about the redesignation. She added a “vast majority were against” upgrading the Monument to a national park, but refused to give the actual numbers, saying flatly, “We’re not giving that out.” She referred me to Rep. Tipton’s Washington, D.C. office.
Barbara, an intern at Rep. Tipton’s D.C. office who refused to give her last name, said they got “quite a few” comments about the Monument legislation, but when asked for the hard numbers, she said flatly “I can’t give that to you.” She said the numbers “are not available.”
Not available? The Congressman just based a legislative action with significant consequences on the results of these numbers, but the numbers “aren’t available”?
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate bill mill that pushes “Stand Your Ground” laws like the Florida law that led to the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, is now working to gut state laws that require electric companies use more energy from renewable sources. ALEC is also pushing laws to discourage people from putting solar panels on their own homes. “Renewable Portfolio Standards” (RPS) are laws that require power companies to derive a specific portion of their power from solar, wind or other renewable sources by a certain future date. So far 30 states have enacted RPS laws. In 2012, though, ALEC started pushing “model legislation” calling for the out-and-out repeal of RPS laws. Confidential ALEC strategy documents obtained by the UK Guardian newspaper reveal that ALEC calls such legislation the “Electricity Freedom Act.” So far, ALEC has engineered the introduction of such measures in about 15 states.
Updated December 22, 2013
A lawsuit (pdf) was filed against the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority and its former director December 18, 2013, by a former employee of the airport. Former Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts, who has knowledge of the case, appeared at a small gathering of local citizens at a bagel shop on Main Street Friday morning, December 20, to talk about the case.
Asked about the fraud at the heart of the case, Pitts explained part of it involves the long, black, electrified security fence constructed on three sides of the airport in 2011. The fence hurt airport-related businesses economically, forcing them to close or relocate. Pitts pointed out that a fault in the fence project is that it exists on only three sides of the airport, leaving an entire two-mile stretch along the north edge of the airport unprotected. When former airport manager Rex Tippets filled out a form required for the fencing project, Pitts said, there were numerous boxes that needed to be checked. One of them asked “Will any of the public be affected by the fence?,” and Tippets answered “No.” Despite how the public was affected by it, Pitts said no public hearing about the fence was ever held.
The Grand Junction, Colorado Daily Sentinel on July 21 published a scathing expose’ of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce’s recent activities that have citizens in an uproar. The Chamber, once seen locally as a respected and helpful institution, in recent years has started engaging in hard-core political activity, and spending plenty on it. In 2011, the G.J. Chamber spent a whopping $74,000 of members’ money on lobbying expense. The next closest comparable Colorado Chamber of Commerce that spent anything at all on lobbying was the Montrose Chamber, which spent just $2,000. The Sentinel also revealed that G.J. Chamber president Diane Schwenke’s compensation far exceeds that of her counterparts at comparable Colorado chambers. In 2011, Schwenke made $133,930 in salary and benefits. Her next closest counterpart made just $112,477. Most of the other presidents of comparable chambers made well under $100,000/year in combined salary and benefits. The G.J. Chamber’s headlong dive into hyper-political activity has led to a backlash among citizens, who have started boycotting Chamber-member businesses. In many citizens’ eyes, the G.J. Chamber stepped out of bounds after it formed a secretive political group, the Western Colorado Business Alliance, that takes in unlimited money and spends unlimited funds to get Chamber-backed candidates elected to local office. The Chamber did exactly that in the last City-wide election, only to have one of their winning candidates, Rick Brainard, get thrown in jail four days after the election for beating up a woman. Brainard pled guilty to assault on May 17. Throughout his legal travails, Brainard has refused pressure from citizens to resign from Council, and will soon cost City taxpayers $50,000 for a recall effort. Making matters worse, the Chamber continues to back Brainard, making Grand Junction the first city in Colorado to allow a freshly-convicted criminal sit on its Council. Former G.J. Chamber member Harry Griff of the law firm Griff, Larson Laiche & Wright, told the Sentinel he quit the Chamber after being a member for 25 years, calling it “a very, very exclusionary group.” Another business owner, Marilyn Charlesworth, also quit the Chamber over it’s unwelcome political activity, calling it a “little boy’s club.” Other businesses to quit include the CandyTime Shoppe, Pablo’s Pizza and the Hot Tomato in Fruita. New businesses in town are also opting not to join the Chamber due to the firestorm of controversy surrounding the organization. Citizens who are outraged at Chamber activities are boycotting Chamber-member businesses and using Facebook to organize, share strategies and share names of businesses that belong to the Chamber and those that do not, or to name who recently dropped their membership. For its part, the Chamber’s leadership remains completely unapologetic. In response to a question Sentinel reporter Charles Ashby posed about whether the local backlash is having any impact on the Chamber’s decision to get more political in the future, Chamber president Diane Schwenke responded that yes, it’s had an impact, but only to the extent that it will make the Chamber try to become even more effective at its political involvement in the future.
Source: Grand Junction, CO Daily Sentinel, Politics and Business, by Charles Ashby, July 21, 2013 (NOT behind a paywall!)
A new YouTube video features big-name stars and historical figures soliciting public support for Private Bradley Manning, the military whistleblower who turned over a classified U.S. military video made public by WikiLeaks called “Collateral Murder” that shows an airstrike in Baghdad in which the U.S. targeted two Reuters war correspondents after mistaking their cameras for weapons. U.S. forces killed one of the journalists and injured the other in the strike. After a van appeared and unarmed people emerged and tried to carry the wounded correspondent to the van, the U.S. helicopter crew repeatedly begged for permission to open fire on the van and its occupants. Permission was granted, and U.S. forces killed the surviving correspondent and wounded two children who were sitting in the van’s front seat. Manning also turned over footage showing similar war crimes in Afghanistan. For exposing the truth about U.S. military actions in Baghdad and Afghanistan, Manning was imprisoned in solitary confinement for three years and charged with “aiding the enemy,” a capital crime. Manning’s trial is currently ongoing, and the prosecution is seeking a life sentence for Manning. The video is a project of the Bradley Manning Support Network.
In this 1991 outline, Karen Daragan, Administrator of Media Affairs for Philip Morris USA, describes PM’s secret “Ninja Program,” in which PM recruited individual smokers across the country to act as seemingly independent media spokespeople who would oppose smoking restrictions and cigarette taxes. Daragan described the rationale for the program:
“Smokers can respond better than we can to these zealots’ positions on smoking restrictions and excessive taxation. Basically, we can get them [smokers] to deliver our messages for us and it works beautifully because they don’t represent big bad tobacco co[mpany], have more credibility [and] can relate to the public better and talk about issues that are affecting them rather than have us talk for them like we did in the past. But they can also go a step beyond. They can…get the antis reacting to them which puts the antis on the defensive for a change.”
Daragan calls PM’s Ninja Program “a proactive media relations tool for us,” and describes how PM’s method of recruiting smokers as spokespeople differs from those of other cigarette companies:
“We don’t manage smokers rights clubs and organize meetings like our competitors do. What we do is go out and find the most articulate and devoted activists. We call them our ninjas. We feed them with our most powerful information and arguments, media train them and then have our public relations agency go out and pitch stories and set up interviews for them…”
She continues, describing how PM finds their ninjas:
“Right now we have about 30 trained media ninjas across the country…We find them through correspondence with PM, through phone surveys and written surveys among the 12 million people on our database, through word of mouth, LTE’s, and visible activists among the already existing smokers rights clubs across the states.”
PM instructed its “ninjas” to carry specific, corporate-defined messages to the media: “accommodation,” civil liberties, fairness and self-determination.
As the first civil union in Mesa County was taking place across town in Grand Junction, Colorado, verbal fireworks flew at the last meeting of the sitting Grand Junction City Council. In a surprise move, Council voted 4-2 to drop the City’s membership in the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, which has continued to support embattled councilman-elect Rick Brainard. Brainard was arrested on charges of third degree assault and harassment after allegedly pushing and hitting his live-in girlfriend in the face just four days after he was elected to office April 2. The arrest has outraged the community and galvanized a grassroots effort to keep Brainard from taking his seat on Council. In a recent TV interview in his own defense, Mr. Brainard called citizens who oppose him “an uninformed lynch mob,” and insisted he will take his seat despite the charges. His statements further inflamed citizens, who have vowed to recall him as soon as the law permits it. The City has said a recall effort will cost taxpayers $45,000. Citizens against Brainard have conducted rallies and marched outside the Chamber of Commerce building and City Hall wearing black and white “No Brainard” T-shirts and “wife beater” undershirts that say “Domestic Violence is a No-Brainard.” Several businesses vowed to quit the Chamber if Mr. Brainard is sworn in and the Chamber continues to back him. The City of Grand Junction for many years was a “Chairman’s Circle” level member of the Chamber — the most expensive membership the Chamber offers, at a cost to taxpayers of $6,000 per year. Councilman Jim Doody noted that the Chamber has also created a 501-c-4 (lobbying) group specifically for the purpose of influencing local elections, but did not disclose how much it spent influencing the last election.