Opinion Columns, Columnists

Tobias: Drones over the High Country

July 25, 2014 — 

When I think of Canada, I picture caribou herds, universal health care and the occasional hockey brawl. Officials at our Department of Homeland Security, however, seem to think the neighbors up north pose a serious security threat. After all, the department has spent the last five years quietly building a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles — also known as drones — to keep constant watch on the United States’ northern border.

New details of drones in the North emerged only recently, thanks to the California-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. Last summer, the organization obtained a cache of documents about drone flights in America in response to its public-interest lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security. These documents reveal that the department, through its Customs and Border Protection Division, has deployed at least two Predator B drones to an operating base in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The drones make frequent surveillance flights along the U.S. border with Canada, using advanced radar and video systems to survey the expansive landscape.

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An Earthly Idea: Speak out on Summit County Highway 9 bypass

July 25, 2014 — 

Do you want highway construction to force the Frisco-to-Breckenridge bike path to run along the edge of the highway for two years? Should land that is now dedicated county open space protected by a conservation easement, national forest land and the bike path be used to build a highway? Is a too-expensive, 10-year-old plan really a “no-action alternative” for assessment of a major highway expansion and relocation?

A very brief 30-day comment period has already started on rerouting a section of Highway 9 south of Frisco, between the hospital and the high school. The new four-lane road would be uphill, away from the reservoir and would go through the Iron Springs Conservation Easement and U.S. Forest Service land. The only public hearing will be Tuesday, July 29, from 4:30-6:30 at the Community and Senior Center. Aug. 8 is the last day for public comments.

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Ask Eartha: Colorado Mountain College offers degree cultivating future earth stewards

July 24, 2014 — 

I heard that there is a community college in Summit County that has a four-year bachelor’s program in sustainability studies? What is that program exactly and how can I learn more?

— Alice, Breckenridge

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Hallman: Politics, people and trees

July 24, 2014 — 

It’s political season again and politicians are out roaming the streets telling us what they’ve done for us, how much they hate Washington and what’s wrong with General Motors. Some are suggesting that our liberal or conservative neighbors are actually our enemies. Divisive politics are getting us nowhere fast.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle are telling us how to run our lives. Generally what they all have in common is that they are not listening. Doesn’t matter which side of the political divide, they’re preaching a message they believe will satisfy powerful supporters and get them elected.

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Liddick: U.S. corporations jump ship over Obamanomics

July 21, 2014 — 

Jack Lew has a big problem.

The current successor to Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton isn’t concerned about the crushing national debt. His department has to deal with the repercussions of that, but with the president’s diversionary skills and a little luck the problem can be kicked down the road a few years so Republicans can be made the fall guy. Nor the IRS scandal — with the connivance of the attorney general and the help of a supine media, it might yet be glossed over. Although the danger still exists that sooner or later a smart investigator might get around to asking the secretary about the wisdom of using the IRS as a political hammer to pound down the president’s political foes. Or at what point he understood that destroying evidence in a federal investigation might raise eyebrows.

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Sirota: A local fight for the future of the Internet

July 20, 2014 — 

The business lobby often demands that government get out of the way of private corporations, so that competition can flourish and high-quality services can be efficiently delivered to as many consumers as possible. Yet, in an epic fight over telecommunications policy, the paradigm is now being flipped on its head, with corporate forces demanding the government squelch competition and halt the expansion of those high-quality services. Whether and how federal officials act may ultimately shape the future of America’s information economy.

The front line in this fight is Chattanooga, Tennessee, where officials at the city’s public electric utility, EPB, realized that smart-grid energy infrastructure could also provide consumers super-fast Internet speeds at competitive prices. A few years ago, those officials decided to act on that revelation. Like a publicly traded corporation, the utility issued bonds to raise resources to invest in the new broadband project. Similarly, just as many private corporations ended up receiving federal stimulus dollars, so did EPB, which put those monies into its new network.

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Stanford: Take the win in Iran

July 19, 2014 — 

With Barack Obama’s approval ratings getting dragged down by a floundering foreign policy, we might miss one of his biggest successes in a place no one expected — Iran. Whether we extend the interim anti-nuke deal or reach a longer-term agreement to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Obama has backed our enemy into a corner. But fans of cynicism, failure, and partisanship should take heart, because there’s still time for Congress to turn what should be a win-win for the United States into yet another loss.

What we call “the free world” agrees that Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. What we disagree on is how to stop them. The Dick Cheneys and John McCains of the world believe belligerence, saber rattling and bombings are the wisest course of action, while liberals prefer economic sanctions and diplomacy. And as much as negotiating with Iran seems foolishly naive, it seems to be working.

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Ask Eartha: Be a voice for Summit County’s babbling brook

July 16, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

I have recently purchased my very first paddleboard. I can ride rivers, stretch out into yoga poses and sometimes just coast as I fish the waters. We are so blessed in the mountains to have these beautiful lakes and streams. What can I do to help protect them?

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Writers on the Range: Amazon taught Grand Junction a valuable lesson

July 16, 2014 — 

Small businesses and nonprofits have a lot in common: They operate on thin margins, develop strong local ties and support their communities’ economic and social wellbeing.

But what happens to those strong bonds when an online retailing giant comes in with a deal that benefits one side and threatens the other? That was the question at the heart of a recent mini-rebellion led by a feisty western Colorado bookseller, who heard her favorite community radio station, KAFM, promoting a new fundraising partnership with Amazon.

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Young: Do-nothing theatrics on immigration

July 15, 2014 — 

My son, the skateboarder, has a name for people who dress the part, talk the part, but who don’t really do what dedicated skateboarders do. He calls them “posers.”

On immigration, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is a poser. He talks about it — oh, my, yes. But when it comes to doing something about it, he won’t. That’s because posing plays better for the cameras.

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Mountain Law: An overview of conservation easements in Colorado

July 15, 2014 — 

What are conservation easements? The person who creates an easement is called the “grantor,” and the person who has the right to enforce an easement is called the “grantee.” Unlike affirmative easements that give the grantee the right to make certain use of the grantor’s property, conservation easements are typically negative easements that disallow certain uses of land by the grantor, such as the right to develop the land. This results in the land being protected for conservation purposes stated in the easement document.

Colorado and all other states have enacted legislation to expressly recognize the validity and enforceability of conservation easements. In Colorado, conservation easements can be granted for the purposes of maintaining land, airspace, water rights or improvements “predominantly in a natural, scenic or open condition, or for wildlife habitat, or for agricultural, horticultural, wetlands, recreational, forest or other use or condition consistent with the protection of open land, environmental quality or life-sustaining ecological diversity, or appropriate to the conservation and preservation of buildings, sites or structures having historical, architectural or cultural interest or value.”

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Liddick: Udall’s new Hobby horse

July 14, 2014 — 

It’s now perfectly clear what Mark Udall means by “rights.” A right is the power to force someone else to pay for your abortion. The senator has been very busy lately, collaborating with Washington state’s ultraliberal Patty Murray to draft legislation designed to overturn the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision supporting some employers who do not provide abortifacients to their employees, based on their religious beliefs.

Hysterical assertions to the contrary, the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case dealt only with this point, and with four abortifacient drugs. The other 16 FDA-approved birth-control medications had routinely been supplied by the company through its health plan for years, but that fact didn’t fit the narrative of the left so it was ignored in their hyperventilating about a “war on women.”

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Sirota: Big money’s new friends and permanent interests

July 13, 2014 — 

In politics, as the old saying goes, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies — there are only permanent interests. Few policy debates prove that truism as well as the one now brewing over the Export-Import Bank — a government agency providing taxpayer subsidized loans to multinational corporations.

This tale starts 15 years ago when my old boss, U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, was trying to construct a left-right coalition to reform the bank. While a few libertarians were willing to voice free-market criticism of the bank, the impetus for reform was primarily among Democrats and the left. Indeed, Sanders’ failed 2002 amendment proposing to restrict the bank’s subsidies garnered only 22 Republican votes but had 111 Democratic backers — mostly progressive legislators who, in the words of Sanders, saw the Ex-Im Bank program as “one of the most egregious forms of corporate welfare.”

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McGahey: The myth of the radical Republicans

July 11, 2014 — 

The liberal progressive haters are out in force in the Summit Daily News and other news outlets around the country lately. They erroneously insist that all conservative Republicans are extreme tea party radicals whose only mission in life is to roll granny off the cliff, make all women barefoot and pregnant, keep black Americans on the plantation and hoard all the wealth of our nation among the top 1 percent. These are all offensive, ridiculous myths fabricated by a liberal press enabled by the Democratic Party over the past 50 years that have resulted in a phony caricature of conservatives that is not only grossly untrue, but patently unfair.

The Republican Party today is more inclusive than your grandfather’s GOP. Actually, today’s Republicans are more like Abraham Lincoln’s party that set black Americans free with the Emancipation Proclamation and catered almost exclusively to the farmers, workers and immigrants of the late 1800s. It’s more like the Republican Party that voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of the 1960s and the party that created the upward mobility of millions of middle-class Americans during the supply-side economic boom of the Ronald Reagan presidency of the 1980s.

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An Earthly Idea: With clear-cutting, everyone loses — for a long time

July 11, 2014 — 

The clear-cutting of Gold Hill was a 100-year mistake.

The war zone that it resembles will be a black eye on the Forest Service and Summit County for the foreseeable future as the designated Colorado Trail that we present to the world.

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Young: Health care realities vs. free market fantasies

July 10, 2014 — 

Black helicopter watch can get lonely, even if there’s one always just over the horizon.

Any day now, for instance, President Obama will assemble the death panels of his health care designs, appointing the extraterrestrials we suspected he would, to a thousand cable-televised told-you-sos.

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Opinion: Gov. Hickenlooper missed an opportunity to lead on water conservation

July 10, 2014 — 

Let’s keep working on it.” This is the message we heard from Gov. Hickenlooper in his recent veto of water conservation legislation known as Senate Bill 23. We are disappointed in the governor’s decision to veto a moderate bill that passed the General Assembly, but we welcome his commitment in the veto letter to make agricultural efficiency and water conservation priorities next year and through the formulation of Colorado’s first State Water Plan.

We supported the bill because it offered many ranchers and farmers in counties like Pitkin and Summit smart ways to voluntarily keep Colorado’s watershed strong, without any risk. The result would have been increased private investment in irrigation infrastructure, healthier rivers and streams, which provide much-needed economic infusions to our towns, and more resilient farms and ranches.

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Ask Eartha: Praise the LED, I see the light!

July 10, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

I’m updating the lighting in my home and am trying to decide between CFL bulbs or LEDs. I’ve heard that CFL bulbs contain harmful mercury, but they’re significantly less expensive than LEDs. Besides, will LEDs really save me that much money in the long run?

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Bargell: Retraining your ears to hear the sounds of Summit in summer

July 9, 2014 — 

The county rumor mill was abuzz last week with the promise of fireworks displays not to be missed, the best ever, according to folks in the know. Visitors and locals alike were not disappointed in the shows that met every expectation, igniting the sky. I’m not sure what all goes into making certain Independence Day in Summit is capped in grand style, but I do hope the people who make it happen know it is appreciated.

While the show was plenty spectacular, it was the sound accompanying the pyrotechnics that captivated my senses. Each explosion was punctuated with an echo that resonated like thunder, a side effect I hadn’t before noticed. We watched from a spot nearby the take-off zone so the initial booms were brash, followed by a series of rumbles that rolled off the canyon walls and continued even after the sparks disintegrated into the night sky. Later, when I asked the girls about the sound, my youngest captured the feeling best — telling me she could hear it in her heart.

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Liddick: Central American children reignite immigration debate

July 8, 2014 — 

The flood of Central American children currently crossing our southern border illegally has re-ignited the debate over immigration, allowing the Obama administration to use this humanitarian crisis to advance its political agenda. Specifically, the president now criticizes the House of Representatives for not rubber-stamping his proposal, as advanced by Senate Democrats, for an amnesty bill.

Yes, amnesty. Webster’s New Unabridged Dictionary defines this as “a general pardon of offenses against a government,” which pardon comprises “release from punishment for crimes or offenses.” Proponents may try to camouflage the fact with back taxes, fines and demands for language instruction; but the punishment for entering the country illegally, remaining here after the expiration of a visa, for document or other types of immigration fraud is not only a fine and jail time but deportation, according to Title 8 of the U.S. Code. To offer a “path to citizenship” instead is to release offenders from this punishment. In any debate over immigration, the meaning of words matters.

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Dupuy: Conservatives’ women troubles

July 6, 2014 — 

Grab your smelling salts and brace yourself — I’m going to talk about sex. Not graphically, the children don’t need to leave the room or anything. But I’m going to talk about the idea of sex as an underlying basis for policy.

In the wake of the truly misguided Hobby Lobby decision, which endowed a legal entity with the right to discriminate against working women of child-bearing age via a newly discovered corporate religious freedom, I was reminded that puritanical America is alive and on Twitter. What I found on my mentions feed were a lot of people (some women, mostly men) who felt like they wanted to offer the following advice: an aspirin between your knees is a great birth control ... and affordable.

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Biff America: The lighted fuse of youth

July 5, 2014 — 

He carried me from the car to my bed. Though I was slightly feverish I could smell a combination of sweat, whisky, Old Spice and gunpowder. I felt grown up and gifted.

It is said your olfactory memory is the strongest. Where remembrances of sights, sounds and recollections of events can blur over time the sense of smell can bring back vivid recalls of days and decades past. The smell of fireworks on the July 4th does that for me.

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Heard around the West: Famous wolf roams thousands of miles for a mate

July 5, 2014 — 

OREGON AND THE WEST

Persistence, strong legs and a lot of luck paid off recently for a wolf called OR7. The wolf became famous in wildlife biology circles after leaving his pack in northeastern Oregon in September 2011 in search of a mate. OR7 roamed for thousands of miles, and now, thanks to a remote camera in southwest Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, we know that he finally found what he was looking for — a bright-eyed, coal-black female. OR7’s GPS collar places him in the same vicinity, and “it’s likely the pair spawned pups,” reports The Associated Press. OR7 is remarkable not only for the distance he traveled, but also for the incredible dangers he dodged, from getting shot or run over by a vehicle to simply starving to death.

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Writers on the Range: Consider our many names this Fourth of July

July 4, 2014 — 

One of my favorite books is not that exciting, and many people think it’s no longer needed. I’m talking about your average phone book — specifically, the white pages. If you want to understand the coolest thing about our country as we get ready to celebrate its founding, just pick up the nearest copy.

Consider the names: Alcantara and Andersen; Coblentz and Cappellucci; Dietrich and Dominguez; Chung and Choszczyk; O’Neal and Oliver and Yoshimura and Hassan and Goldstein and Stewart and Schmidt and Milesovich and Nwele and Oviedo — names from all over the world, a regular alphabet soup of them. And each name tells its own tale, an encyclopedia of history cradled in sturdy consonants and voluptuous vowels.

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Writers on the Range: Wild places unite us

July 3, 2014 — 

As Independence Day approaches, let’s take a moment to celebrate our nation’s natural wonders. In this country we have the freedom to explore approximately 618 million acres of publicly owned federal lands, from the tundra of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the cliffs of the newly created Sleeping Bear Dunes Wilderness on Lake Michigan and the lush canopies of Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System.

But these special places didn’t gain protection on their own. Federal designation of these natural and cultural landscapes resulted from years of hard work, collaboration and vigilance by local communities. From the California Redwoods to the Rocky Mountain West’s iconic rugged wild areas and on to the Florida Everglades, these places continue to unite Americans around the belief that our common heritage is well worth preserving.

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Ask Eartha: Efforts underway in Colorado to label genetically modified food

July 3, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

I recently heard about the passing of a bill in Vermont that requires the labeling of genetically modified foods. Is there anything occurring here in Colorado to get a similar bill on the ballot for 2014?

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Young: It’s only plant matter — or a planet matter

July 1, 2014 — 

Those who oppose the president’s initiatives to reduce carbon emissions appear to fit into three camps.

The first, exemplified by Sens. Marco Rubio and James Inhofe, choose not to believe what’s said the vast majority of those who know the most about climate.

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Dupuy: Freedom for Hobby Lobby’s religion

July 1, 2014 — 

Conservative Christians cheered when Hobby Lobby was able to deny working women of childbearing age birth control coverage though the company’s insurance plan. They called it a victory for “religious freedom.” I would like to see those applauding this newly discovered corporate conscience also stand up for other religions’ freedom: Islam, Flying Spaghetti Monster or Scientology. Otherwise they’re not really for religious freedom — they’re for conservative Christian legal protection while tweeting the word “freedom.”

Is conservative American Christianity a monolith like they claim to be? Are they in solidarity with each other under the same basic religion? Are they open-minded to any differences as long as you believe in Jesus? Are they accepting of all “faiths” that are based on the Bible? Really? The country is about to see.

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Liddick: Founding document required reading on Fourth of July

June 30, 2014 — 

In the 19th century, before the Progressive Era began to bite, there was a ubiquitous feature to Americans’ celebration of their nation’s birthday. More than beer or fireworks, more than family picnics, more than marching bands or parades, the Fourth of July was celebrated by a public re-reading of the Declaration of Independence. As time wore on, this practice was abandoned; one scarcely encounters it today.

The absence is a shame, but understandable: as the architect’s rendering of the nation for which our constitution is the blueprint, the Declaration gives clear voice to what our founders thought government should be and do, albeit through proscription and negative example. It continues to stand as a monument to the fully-developed political theory of Enlightenment Liberalism, with its emphasis on the individual, on God-given “unalienable” rights, and a healthy skepticism about the power of the state. Our disinterest in reminding ourselves about these foundational principles is but one measure of how far we have departed from these ideas, and from the men who embraced them.

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Sirota: How corruption shapes state policy

June 29, 2014 — 

A few weeks ago, I took a trip to Tennessee — a state that has been called the most corrupt in the country. That’s right, according to a 2010 Daily Beast analysis compiling data about convictions on charges of public corruption, racketeering, extortion, forgery, counterfeiting, fraud and embezzlement, the Volunteer State is America’s single most corrupt. Similarly, a 2012 Harvard study lists Nashville as one of the nation’s most corrupt capitals.

Since I was traveling to the state for a conference about technology and innovation, I had a simple question on my mind: How does such rampant corruption shape state policy?

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