Opinion Columns, Columnists

Biff America: Moments, memories, advice to myself

February 28, 2015 — 

It was a box of memories, compiled almost three-dozen years ago, by a man who died too soon.

I was one of several who located his body under 8 feet of snow. It gave me nightmares for years after; I’m sure I was not alone. This man was married and loved. There is little doubt, my grief paled when compared with that of his mate and family.

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Thompson: Heard around the West

February 27, 2015 — 

IN THE DEEP

Allisa and Mark Oliger, from Durango, Colorado, like to spend New Year’s Day diving, often in the cold, murky waters of Lake Powell. Typically, they see a few fish, maybe find sunken treasures like golf balls or broken fishing poles. But this year, 30 feet underwater, they found a GoPro camera — the kind people attach to their bodies to record both the mundane and the insane. The camera, in a waterproof case, survived, as did its memory card, which held video clips and photos of young men on a road trip. Allisa scoured YouTube for similar videos and — surprisingly — found a match. Turns out the camera belonged to Dan Burkovskiy, who had made, and partially filmed, his cross-country moving trip from Massachusetts to California last June. During his group’s stop at Lake Powell, their kayak flipped, sending the camera to a watery, albeit temporary, grave. Oliger found Burkovskiy on Facebook and returned his camera, attracting national media attention in the process. That’s the good news. The bad news? When the camera was recovered, it was plastered with zebra mussels, a pesky invasive species.

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Hey, Spike! profiles a most generous man

February 27, 2015 — 

Norm Ringhand died nearly a year ago, but his work on our behalf continues.

A Frisco resident for decades, the longtime civil engineer, decorated Vietnam veteran and civic do-gooder, Norm passed away at age 71 on April 7, 2014, at his home. It was recently learned that he left his entire estate to The Summit Foundation.

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Mayor Warner: State of the Town showcases Breckenridge’s accomplishments and projects

February 27, 2015 — 

At the great suggestion of a fellow council person, I am writing my first “State of the Town” as a year-end assessment to bring our community up to speed on the town of Breckenridge’s accomplishments and projects. I see this as a “moving-forward-by-looking-back” executive summary for 2014-15. I invite you to delve deeper into our goals, achievements and milestones at www.townofbreckenridge.com, and then tell us what you think at www.EngageBreckenridge.com.

On the economic side, we’re seeing increases across all sectors, and the town is in great fiscal health. While final YE figures are not in, revenues are estimated to be up by 8 percent from 2013, while expenditures are slated to come in under budget by 4 percent. Council approved a balanced budget for 2015, and we are feeling cautiously optimistic about our local economy’s continued positive growth.

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Up is down (column)

February 25, 2015 — 

I’d advise you to sit down, pour yourself a beer and take a deep breath. You’re about to hear something that will change your life. Forever. Are you relaxed?

Good, because everything you know is wrong.

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Hoffman: Utah’s public lands aren’t about to change hands

February 25, 2015 — 

Plenty of ink has been spilled lately over Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act, the controversial law requiring the federal government to turn over 31.2 million acres of public land to the state of Utah — without even a token payment to the U.S. Treasury. But should the American public take this proposal seriously?

The Utah Legislature’s legal counsel noted that the transfer law was likely unconstitutional. After all, the federal government’s right to retain and manage the federal estate is considered settled law according to a long line of Supreme Court cases, starting with Kleppe v. New Mexico in 1976. Nonetheless, state legislators have appropriated millions of dollars of Utah taxpayers’ money to study the potential implications of state ownership and to litigate title to federal lands.

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Liddick: The unreliable argument of scientific consensus

February 23, 2015 — 

“What? You mean there was no deep fat? No steak? No cream pies, no hot fudge?”

“Yes, but these things were thought to be unhealthy — precisely the opposite of what science now knows to be true.”

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Sirota: Tax fairness could mean more resources

February 22, 2015 — 

Roads are crumbling, bridges require repairs, schools need upgrades and public pension systems remain underfunded. How can states and cities find the money to address any of these problems? One way could be through their tax codes.

According to a new report, if the rich paid the same state and local tax rate as the middle class, states and cities would have hundreds of billions of dollars more a year in public revenue.

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Biff America: From feast to famine

February 21, 2015 — 

To the best of my knowledge (and disappointment while single), I have never met a real-life nymphomaniac. Donald Doucette married one.

Donald was born in the early 1900s, at a time when and in a place where the Catholic Church held sway. The oldest of six boys, he was both the most serious and the most spiritual. He might have become a priest had it not been for wanderlust. Don joined the Merchant Marine when he was 17 and traveled the world, returning home over a decade later hoping to land a job and find a wife.

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Davidson: ‘Paradise’ has turned a little grim

February 21, 2015 — 

January glowed brightly around us as we hiked the ridgeline of Carbonate, the mountain flanking the Big Wood River on the edge of Hailey, Idaho.

It’s a popular hiking spot, generally in late spring and fall. The entire trail is open to the sky, and switchbacks quickly unfurl views of the Smoky Mountains, Camas Prairie and the star-pointed peaks of the Pioneers. Even when I’m out of breath, it’s hard not to fling up my arms and whoop at the glory of it all.

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Which cat litter is the most environmentally friendly? (column)

February 20, 2015 — 

Dear Eartha,

My cat prefers to do his business outside but now that the ground is covered in snow he has to use his litter box. Recently, I went to buy new litter and was confounded by all the different types. Which litter is the most environmentally friendly?

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Littwin: We did that

February 19, 2015 — 

Excuse me for this, but I just watched my life flash before my eyes — for three and a half freaking hours — and I had to write about it.

I laughed. I cried. I yawned. And if that’s not like your life, well, you’re way ahead of me. I’m talking, of course, about life — everyone’s life, apparently — as seen through the lens of the “Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special.”

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Hensley: Pioneer women get the Hollywood treatment

February 19, 2015 — 

Did any Western history buffs besides me see “The Homesman”? A hot box-office ticket earlier this winter, it’s hard to find in theaters now, though the cast was impressive — Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep — and most reviews were positive. Three pioneer wives have gone crazy in a small Nebraska community, and the task of returning them to civilized Iowa falls to a single woman homesteader, Mary Bee Cuddy. Because she needs a man to help, she enlists a claim jumper with the promise of payment at the end of the trip.

As evocative landscapes swept across the screen and the plot unfolded, I had an unexpected reaction: increasing annoyance. The women were portrayed as victims, and the men as callous and brutish. As one reviewer put it, the movie focused on “the horrors of pioneer life.”

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Bargell: From Saturday Night Live to the Brown Sister: 40 years and counting (column)

February 17, 2015 — 

An unusual art exhibit is making its rounds on the Internet, and simultaneously is being displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Portraits of the four Brown sisters, black-and-white still shots that span four decades, are available online, and in the recently released book “Nicholas Nixon: The Brown Sisters. Forty Years.” As far as I know the Brown girls are four “ordinary” sisters. The details of what they lived through, individually and collectively, during each of the 40 years they were photographed remains mysterious. As one online commentator noted, “If we knew anything about them, they’d be less like us. So, they are us.” The pictorial is extraordinary for anyone who’s been around 40 or so years because it elicits a reflection on life and aging. Maybe because it’s life in time-lapse photography, or maybe it’s just because we wonder why the girls — like Mona Lisa — aren’t smiling. In either case, the evidence of years passing is raw and thought provoking.

The inaugural picture, circa 1975, initially caught my eye because the shot could have been taken outside of my high school. The small alligator emblem on one of the girl’s shirts stirred a memory of my mom shaking her head, wondering why on earth anyone would pay more than $20 for a T-shirt. Clearly, she didn’t understand the significance of the Lacoste emblem to a 15-year-old in 1975. Then again, mom didn’t understand much of anything 40 years ago, back when I was 15. The 40-year mark came up again unexpectedly later in the same week when we laughed out loud at four decades of slightly skewed American history captured by the Saturday Night Live cast in the show’s 40th anniversary special. While I questioned my judgment just a bit in letting the girls watch with us, unearthing 40 years of Americana in a single evening is a rarity. I recalled, too, that 40 years ago my folks weren’t so fond of letting me stay up late to watch SNL. Their concern only fueled my determination to stay awake longer than they did. If the intervening decades have taught me anything, it’s that staying up longer than mom and dad is not such a difficult feat for a 15-year-old.

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Young: Brian Williams’ chopper whopper dwarfed by Bush administration lies (column)

February 17, 2015 — 

As any track athlete knows, after training at high altitude, distance running at lower levels barely shocks the system.

This explains, in part, why I’ve not read up much on the lie attributed to NBC’s Brian Williams. It was a behemoth, apparently. I just can’t bring myself to know anymore about it.

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Liddick: Man up, Senate Republicans

February 17, 2015 — 

Memo to US Senate Republicans: Wake up, stand up and get in the game. You were given power in an election that brought a historic shift in the Senate, based on big talk and bold, if nebulous, plans. Your supporters took you at your word because they didn’t like the direction the country and its politics had taken for the past six years and you promised to change that. Now it’s time to start.

This means you, Majority Leader McConnell. This means you, Senator McCain. And the rest of your clones in the world’s greatest deliberative body.

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The new Republican tar pits (column)

February 17, 2015 — 

It’s kind of sad being forced to watch the death struggle of these modern-day dinosaurs. Responsible parents should keep their kids from peering over the Plexiglas railing into the tar pits below to see the huge lumbering antediluvian beasts frenziedly dig themselves deeper into the sticky morass that is gay marriage. Not a sight for the queasy or squeamish.

For some unfathomable reason, the thought of other people having sex makes certain folks crazier than a three-legged drunken squirrel on a telephone wire covered in ice. Judge Roy Moore, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, is one of those, and frankly, his obsession is be-coming more than a mite suspicious.

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Sirota: Border security is not an immigration cure-all

February 15, 2015 — 

With the opening of the new Congress, Republican lawmakers have been promising a renewed focus on border security as a supposed cure-all for America’s broken immigration system. Left unaddressed, though, is a simple question: How does border security address the status of millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the United States?

The answer is that it probably won’t, according to a person who knows a thing or two about immigration: Felipe Calderon.

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Biff America: Indecision and fallen fruit

February 14, 2015 — 

He was middle-aged, Hispanic, with tired eyes and hair speckled with gray.

Ellie and I were returning from a ski trip in the San Juan Mountains and had stopped at a local market to resupply. Ellie shopped while I waited in our camper listening to the radio.

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Heard Around the West

February 14, 2015 — 

BOVINE RETRIBUTION

Many things define the West: our vast swaths of public land, our fiercely independent spirit and, of course, our cows and the zany — sometimes disturbing — ways we interact with them, whether living or dead. Consider this Salt Lake Tribune headline: “Dead cow clogs Utah slot canyon; rancher’s impromptu barbecue makes things worse.” You know you want to know what happened. Well, in early December, the cow in question ambled down Peek-a-Boo canyon in southern Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, apparently unaware that ungulates of its ilk are forbidden. When the cow’s owner found out, he headed out on his ATV (also forbidden) to retrieve the cow. Slot canyons are skinny; the cow was not, and it became irretrievably jammed. The frustrated rancher then shot and killed the cow. He tried to extract the carcass, first by butchering it, then by burning it. Neither succeeded. As of mid-December, monument staff were still trying to remove the carcass. In the meantime, hikers are forewarned: That thing that smells like a charred, dead cow really is.

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Crude tactics worked against sage grouse

February 14, 2015 — 

For years now, the oil and gas industry has been stirring up trouble for sage grouse. The possibility that the prairie-dwelling birds might receive Endangered Species Act protection gives oil executives high-grade anxiety. It would threaten jobs, they say. It would ruin the economy. It would reduce profits.

All the noise the industry has made finally paid off. Last Dec. 16, President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that was chockfull of unfortunate compromises, including a rider introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev. The rider effectively bars the Interior Department from listing either the greater sage grouse or its Gunnison cousins under the Endangered Species Act during the current fiscal year.

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Ask Eartha: Has climate change arrived in the high country?

February 13, 2015 — 

Dear Eartha,

I’ve been noticing lately drastic changes in the temperature and weather. Does this mean that climate change is here, and what can we begin to expect as a result?

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Life on the Summit: Hey, Spike! weaves a local and global tale of two

February 12, 2015 — 

Now he’s 80 and his buddy “Bobby” is 73.

He is John Winn, who lived on The Summit for decades, writing and performing folk songs between teaching skiing and tennis, moving over to Grand Junction with wife Kristin in 1995.

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Dupuy: The rise of pseudo science charlatanism

February 12, 2015 — 

At the birth of every conspiracy theory is the question, “Who profits?”

In the dark reaches of anonymous Internet forums, the answer is always Big Government, Big Pharma, Big Farma and occasionally Satan, aliens, the Illuminati, the Knights Templar or the Pentavirate — some omnipotent all-powerful force that enviously pulls off vast nefarious synchronization perfectly.

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Net neutrality is not Obamacare for the Internet (column)

February 12, 2015 — 

Comcast did not invent the Internet. Neither did AT&T. They just hitched rides on it.

All to the betterment of mankind, I might add — unless mankind is crossing an intersection and an oncoming, texting 19-year-old driver is oblivious to the color red.

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Alabama Justice Roy Moore the George Wallace of gay rights (column)

February 12, 2015 — 

OK, no one can be surprised that it’s Alabama. Wasn’t it always Alabama? And no one can be surprised that it’s Justice Roy Moore playing the role of George Wallace — or, actually, just playing the role of Justice Roy Moore, the Ten Commandments judge himself.

No one can be surprised because, after all, it’s the latest in a long series of Alabama states’ rights sequels. I’m just waiting for Neil Young to sing about her. And for ol’ Jon Stewart to put her down.

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Mountain Law: The proper way to take minutes of HOA meetings

February 10, 2015 — 

Let’s take a minute and talk about the proper way for homeowners’ associations (HOAs) to take minutes. To begin with, Colorado statutes impose various requirements.

First, HOAs are required to maintain records of all actions taken by their members and board. If the actions are taken at a meeting, then the record must be in the form of minutes. If the actions are taken without a meeting or are taken by any committee, then a summary of action is sufficient in lieu of minutes. These records are available for examination or copying by members of the HOA.

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Liddick: Civil liberties, measles and vaccinations

February 9, 2015 — 

The brink of a measles pandemic is a useful place to consider an essential problem of our republic: the proper balance between the public interest and individual rights. This is an old question; concern about threats to our liberties was one of the chief reasons the Founders designed the central government to be balky, slow and cumbersome, hedged about with impediments and opposed by the power of constituent states. From the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to the regulatory nightmare that is the EPA and the partisan hackery of the IRS, there have been ample proofs that their concern was justified.

But in every contest between the individual and the state, should the former prevail? No. Since the 1799 Logan Act, private U.S. citizens have been constrained from engaging in diplomacy, a power reserved for the federal government. Similarly, citizens cannot wage war privately, nor can they coin money. But what of more personal matters like public health?

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Sirota: Why is a huge trade deal being kept secret?

February 8, 2015 — 

The trade rules of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership between the United States and 11 Asian nations would cover nearly 40 percent of the world economy — but don’t ask what they are. Access to the text of the proposed deal is highly restricted.

Nevertheless, at last month’s World Economic Forum in Switzerland, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman defended the Obama administration from intensifying criticism of its refusal to release the full text of the proposed trade pact.

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Petri Dish: Local forum raises question on necessity of annual vet vaccines

February 8, 2015 — 

Earlier this month, Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology held a free public community forum on “The Viral Threat in the Age of Ebola.” The event, which took place at the Colorado Mountain College auditorium in Breckenridge, featured two leading experts in viral immunity and was well attended by the local community. As is usually the case, there were many excellent questions from the audience. But one question stumped the speakers and me. The questioner asked whether the immune systems of bovine and canine species are different from those of humans, necessitating repeat immunizations each year. He pointed out that animal vaccines usually are given annually, which is quite different than with most human vaccines.

Embarrassed at not being able to definitively answer this question, I reached out to a couple of experts in the field, Dr. William Golde, from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York, and Dr. John Barlow, from the University of Vermont. Both of these scientists gave very similar answers. In principle, they argued that we have more detailed knowledge about human vaccine efficacy because manufacturers are willing to spend a lot more on development; human vaccines can be sold at a price that recoups the considerable investment in testing and production. In contrast, the price point for companion pet and agricultural vaccines is lower, resulting in less testing. Livestock vaccines can’t be sold for more than a dollar a dose and vaccines for fowl for just pennies a dose. As a result, there are only limited incentives to do the costly trials necessary to evaluate extended protection in companion and food animal medicine. Additionally, the approval process itself does not require demonstration of long-term efficacy. Thus, given the lack of any other information, the label indication on the finally approved vaccine will indicate the need for re-vaccination. The rabies vaccine is an exception to the rule of annual boosters; formulations may indicate getting boosters at two and three years because the challenge studies have been done to determine durability.

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