Opinion Columns, Columnists

Liddick: Malicious mascots and the wonders of political correctness

March 30, 2015 — 

Joe Salazar wants to make sure you don’t say anything hurtful. The good representative, together with several of his Democrat colleagues, has proposed curbing that annoying free speech business in the interest of amity with our Native American community.

In question is HB 1165, which proposes creation of a “Subcommittee for the Consideration of Use of American Indian Mascots by Public Schools.” The committee would be a fixture of the state regulatory apparatus, its membership limited to Native Americans. Public schools with a “Native American” mascot would have to come hat in hand to aforesaid committee and make a case for retention. Tugging the forelock, optional. The committee would then deliver its blessing or prohibition. Any school using such a mascot without approval would incur a penalty of $25,000 a month. By comparison, penalties for low academic performance by a Colorado school system are neither immediate nor pecuniary.

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The SEC illustrates the danger of regulatory capture (column)

March 29, 2015 — 

The phrase “regulatory capture” shrouds a serious problem in vaguely academic jargon, making it seem like unimportant esoterica rather than anything noteworthy. But the phenomenon that the euphemism represents is, indeed, significant: When a government agency is effectively captured by — and subservient to — the industry that agency is supposed to be objectively regulating, it is a big deal.

A perfect example of regulatory capture came earlier this month from the Securities and Exchange Commission — the law enforcement agency that is supposed to be overseeing the financial industry.

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Airports in the rural West are getting squeezed (column)

March 29, 2015 — 

Starting sometime in May my only option for flying from Moab, Utah, to a regional hub will be to get on a Brasilia 30-seat turboprop (Great Lakes Airlines) that flies over the heart of the Rockies to Denver.

Until then, we have Beechcraft 1900s that fly to Salt Lake City. Both of these are venerable aircraft that have served small towns in the mountains for decades, but now are destined to either rust in the Arizona desert or continue their service in Third World countries.

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Health coverage in 6 places named Denver (column)

March 27, 2015 — 

Ninety-four percent of the residents of Denver, Colorado, have health coverage. By contrast, if state averages apply, only 76 percent of those in Denver City, Texas, do.

Do you live in Denver, Florida, east of Gainesville? Based on the state average, you have a 1-in-5 chance of having no health coverage. Good luck to you.

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More U.S. Forest Service obfuscation (letter)

March 27, 2015 — 

Lack of transparency in government? Blind persistence in ill-conceived plans? Our Dillon Ranger District is the poster child for both. On May 29 of last year, 80-plus citizens turned out on a rainy night at a nonprofit-group Forest Health Task Force meeting to express their anger at the atrocity of clear-cutting destruction of Gold Hill and the Colorado Trail. Six Forest Service officials droned on forever with their standard stuff to try to limit discussion time, but the citizens did manage to get some words—and telling photos—in. Never once did the “Forest Disservice” officials mention that new clear-cutting projects near the main trails in the Iron Springs area would begin the next day. Nor did they mention three additional clear-cuts that were subsequently disclosed June 10 as having already been initiated.

Ten months later on Wednesday, March 18, the Forest Health Task Force held another meeting billed as “what’s planned for the Dillon Ranger District for 2015 and beyond.” This time there were three district officials (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil). Our new district ranger talked about the US Forest Service’s general and personnel goals of the at the national, regional, forest and interplanetary levels. The deputy district ranger never said a word. In response to a specific question about a homeowners’ association having been told just seven acres of Ophir project would be cut this year, the timber sales contract manager said that 277 acres were included in the “fourth contract.” He said nothing about the fact that that contract had already been or would be signed that same day. Nor did the duplicitous new ranger who greeted me warmly at the meeting and said he still planned to ski the Peaks Trail with me and see my case for not destroying it.

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Ask Eartha: Earth Hour, Save Our Snow both promote environmental awareness in Summit County

March 27, 2015 — 

Dear Eartha,

I know that Earth Day is in April, but are there other environmental awareness days in the spring where we can raise awareness in our community and take action for change? — Jen M., Breckenridge

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Ted Cruz for president, because he seems just like a Republican primary voter (column)

March 26, 2015 — 

As Ted Cruz took the stage at Liberty University to announce that he’s running for president as the One True Conservative, it suddenly occurred to me that he actually has a chance to pull it off.

The smart money dismisses the idea, and with good reason. The party establishment can’t stand him. His fellow senators can’t abide him. If you look at the early polls weighing the crowded Republican field of would-be candidates, voters don’t seem particularly enthralled, either.

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Ruby Placer controversy overshadowing positive signs of growth (column)

March 24, 2015 — 

From reading the Summit Daily recently it seems as if there is a lot of controversy in the town of Blue River. It is true that we finally have some interest at the monthly meetings. But controversy? Not as much as they’d like you to believe.

The truth is a few residents, former residents and some residents from other towns have recently shown up to meetings and are trying to start a referendum petition to protest the latest development in the town. They claim there has been no public process in the annexation.

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Encouraging women far and near (column)

March 24, 2015 — 

It was chaos. It was quiet. When nearly 45 young women converge in one spot, then abruptly depart, the two extremes should not be unexpected. Still, the silence following their parting was deafening, a good time to reflect.

The girls came from all walks of life, united in their desire to play soccer at our local high school. It was a simple team dinner where laughter enveloped the room, and youthful exuberance was not in short supply. In my mind’s eye I pictured our next generation of doctors and teachers, musicians and mothers. The event occurred, quite coincidentally, while I was doing some reading on Women’s History Month. In case you were not yet aware, March has been designated Women’s History Month, a chance to highlight the contributions women have made to history and contemporary society. Globally, International Women’s Day (March 8) is a holiday celebrated in countries from Uzbekistan to the United Kingdom. A recent Denver Post article, “‘Strong Sisters’ led the way in Colorado,” piqued my interest in these events by spotlighting the initiative and tenacity of Colorado women.

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Mountain Law: Understanding the Ruby Placer referendum petition

March 24, 2015 — 

As reported in this paper on March 19, the town of Blue River received a referendum petition from some of its residents with respect to the board of trustees’ controversial decision on March 3 to annex the Ruby Placer parcel. Let’s try to understand the legal background and implications of this development.

The electorate’s power to propose laws is known as “initiative” and its power to reject laws is known as “referendum.” These forms of direct democracy that allow the people to bypass their elected representatives to control laws are somewhat legally controversial. They arguably run contrary to the “Guarantee Clause” in the U.S. Constitution, Article 4, §4, which promises a “republican form of government.” Also, critics say, they replace “reasoned” political debate with heated campaigns designed to sway unknowledgeable voters.

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Obama hands out fliers to amateur hour on an international stage (column)

March 24, 2015 — 

“The president told Netanyahu that the United States would ‘reassess our options with Israel in light of the prime minister’s statements during his recent campaign’ …” — White House official, March 20, 2015

So now the United States is going to teach that pipsqueak Israeli prime minister to speak out of turn. How dare he question the mastery of that renowned Middle East scholar Barack “Not My Red Line” Obama? First, we’ll sic the U.N. on him. Then we’ll threaten to cut off aid. That’ll show him what’s what.

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Think of the children! (column)

March 22, 2015 — 

“What about the children?”

Politicians of both parties often stoop to using our children as props whenever they’re fighting for a new law or pet government program.

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Biff America: A good man, a poor judge of talent

March 21, 2015 — 

In the eyes of his 4-year-old younger brother, Michael could fly.

He could dive over my father’s Ford, hit the ground in a perfect summersault and end up standing on his feet with a smile on his face and grass stains on his pants. He could climb trees and telephone poles and walk on his hands across the yard. He was 11 years older than me and called me “Little Buddy.”

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The anarcho-GOP (column)

March 20, 2015 — 

It’s no secret the GOP hates Attorney General Eric Holder. If you want to start a fight with your Fox News-o-phile uncle, just say, “The attorney general will not cast aspersions on my asparagus!” as Rep. Louie Gohmert famously did during a House judiciary hearing on the Boston Bombings in 2013. This was after Holder told the congressman he could not know what he was talking about. Gohmert countered, defending the reputation of his veggies. Later, Holder wished Gohmert luck with his asparagus.

It’s been ugly. farmers-market-level ugly.

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Christo's "Over the River" creates conservation concerns (column)

March 20, 2015 — 

Dear Eartha,

As an art enthusiast, I was excited to learn about Christo’s piece “Over the River,” but I am concerned about the resistance and lawsuits related to the proposed exhibit. Can you offer some insight regarding the controversy?

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Still tilting at Obamacare, as the numbers pile up (column)

March 19, 2015 — 

You don’t have be a mathematician, or a scientist, to understand the numbers. Any way you add them up, it looks as if Obamacare is actually working.

Here’s a brief summary, via the Obama administration, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and the Congressional Budget Office:

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Chaco: A World Heritage site faces fracking (column)

March 19, 2015 — 

Across the nation there are many places to drill for oil and gas, but there is only one center for the ancient Ancestral Puebloan culture. That is Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico, a World Heritage site that is threatened by encroaching oil and gas development. How unfortunate that just as oil prices plummet and the fracking frenzy fizzles, the momentum of a decades-long energy boom in the San Juan Basin endangers one of this continent’s greatest cultural mysteries.

Chaco Canyon is like no place else. High, dry, with almost no surface water and few trees, Chaco remains isolated and remote. Yet in this barren landscape the Ancestral Puebloan people once flourished. From 900 to 1150 A.D., they built an urban complex out of hand-quarried stone. Their buildings required over 100,000 trees as roof beams for storage rooms, habitation rooms and ceremonial spaces defined as great kivas. The ruins have remained standing for many centuries.

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Our Congress has become fraternity row (column)

March 18, 2015 — 

On “The Nightly Show,” Comedy Central’s Larry Wilmore nailed it.

After the University of Oklahoma kicked its SAE fraternity off campus for a racist display that even for rich white boys was way past the pale, Wilmore quipped:

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A manifesto can set you free (column)

March 18, 2015 — 

This past fall, my friend Lauren asked me to speak to an English class she teaches at a small alternative school in western Colorado. She was encouraging these juniors and seniors to write a personal manifesto, and after hearing that I had created one myself a few years ago, she thought I’d be a perfect guest lecturer.

But here’s the thing: My manifesto challenges assumptions of sexuality and gender and what passes for normal, and Lauren and I live in a rural town that, rumor has it, once had the world record for the highest number of churches per capita. It’s the kind of place where some people mine coal while others grow hay, and a lot of people hunt elk and wear cowboy boots.

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Don't bother with the shades — the future ain't bright (column)

March 16, 2015 — 

For those who care about family, grandchildren concentrate the mind. What will their world and country be like when they are adults; when they have grandchildren of their own — assuming they do? It will be the world we are busily making; polished up by our children, but resulting from decisions we make and actions we take now. The auguries are not good.

Will we be a country that continues striving toward the ideal of a “more perfect union,” as our Founders put it? A nation that measures worth by the late Dr. King’s standard of content of character? Or will we be a nation that embraces one set of standards for people of a certain color and different standards for those who look different? Will we have restrictions and suspicions for males, credulity and exceptions for females and a different set of rules entirely for each of the 58 genders specified in self-identity surveys at some of our trendier universities and on Facebook? Will we expect rich and poor alike to contribute to society, or will we demand the successful to fill the basket while the “disadvantaged” are treated to the subtle distaste of lower expectations? Experience suggests the latter, not least because there is political advantage in catering to a special class in return for favor — money, voters, sheer anarchic chaos which must be “solved” by our betters in government. This is a path that throughout history has had one result: collapse. Remember Bosnia? Beirut? Rwanda?

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Sirota: Why did Christie settle with Exxon?

March 15, 2015 — 

Last week, Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s administration settled New Jersey’s long-standing environmental lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp. for pennies on the dollar. For a decade, the state had been seeking $8.9 billion in damages for pollution at two refineries in the northern part of the state, and yet Christie’s top officials abruptly proposed closing the case for just $225 million.

In the aftermath, as environmentalists express outrage and legislators move to block the settlement, the question on many observers’ minds has been simple: Why did Christie settle?

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Biff America: 'Extremely right wing' (column)

March 14, 2015 — 

He came running toward me with an ax.

We left our car at a trailhead, about four hours earlier, on the Leadville side of Independence Pass. We skied up a jeep road to make some turns off a small peak about 2 miles up the trail. At day’s end, we headed back down the road toward our car.

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Heard around the West (column)

March 14, 2015 — 

NEVADA

A “firearms tourist attraction” just a shuttle ride away from the Las Vegas Strip ginned up a novel promotion for Valentine’s Day, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Machine Guns Vegas invited newly divorced women to stop sobbing over their wedding gowns and “have fun shooting up the dress with an M1919 Browning machine gun.” The gun frequently stars in shoot-’em-up movies because it fires a brisk 400-600 rounds per minute. Men are also welcome to try the $499 “Just Divorced” package, which encourages the recently uncoupled to shoot any marriage-related item of their choice — excluding any photos of recently shed partners. “They’re not allowed to shoot a picture,” said the business owner, who rejoices in the name Genghis Cohen. “They can do it privately, but if a nut job shoots a husband or wife … we don’t want to be involved in a lawsuit.” Cohen anticipates success because he’s done the math: About 315 couples get hitched in Las Vegas every day, but national statistics indicate that about half of those marriages will flop. That adds up to thousands of heartbroken lovers who might need to soothe their pain by blasting faded bridal bouquets or worn-once bowties and cummerbunds into eternity. Not that Machine Guns Vegas lacks a sense of romance: It also hosts weddings. “We facilitate all levels of love here,” says Cohen.

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Hey, better nitwits than traitors! (column)

March 14, 2015 — 

So now we learn the truth about the Tehran 47’s open letter to the Iranian mullahs.

It wasn’t about TRAITORS, as the New York Daily News headline screamed. It was closer to “idiocy,” as the slightly more dignified New York Times editorial board suggested.

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High Country recycling rules differ from Front Range (column)

March 12, 2015 — 

Dear Eartha,

I live in Denver full time, but have a second home here in Summit County. Why are the recycling guidelines here so different than the ones down in Denver?

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The EPA gets it (column)

March 12, 2015 — 

Not so long ago, a visit from the Environmental Protection Agency to a ski area meant bad news. In 2000, Aspen was the first resort inspected in what became a raid on the ski industry that seemed to have started alphabetically — we were first, Breckenridge was second, and so on.

Humorless agents in suits went straight to our hazardous waste storage site and immediately cited us for several violations. None were major: We labeled used oil “waste oil”; we didn’t have a screw top on a paint barrel. We fixed the problems and weren’t fined.

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A small community at a crossroads (column)

March 12, 2015 — 

As I write, Custer County School in southern Colorado is under the watch of armed sheriff’s deputies. This follows the suicide of a 15-year-old boy last week — the second such tragedy in about a year’s time — and a bizarre rumor that somebody was planning a shooting at the school.

This rumor apparently had its basis in a drill for just such a scenario, which was conducted last week and addressed in two robo-calls from the school superintendent. However, I noticed when I dropped off my son at school this morning that about only half his classmates were lined up for the Pledge of Allegiance, and as it turned out, overall school attendance was low.

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Life on the Summit: Hey, Spike! finds a sweet shop snowboarder

March 12, 2015 — 

Ahhhh, what a sweet life Julianne Brackett O’Neill is living.

The 20-year-old California native is a sponsored snowboarder, an ice cream shop staffer and the wife of a local ski patroller.

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Bumbling GOP senators now negotiating with Iran to defeat Obama (column)

March 12, 2015 — 

You’ve seen the letter by now, or at least heard about it, the one sent from the GOP’s Tehran 47 to the Iranian mullahs.

The one signed by 47 Republican senators, including McConnell and Paul and Cruz and Rubio and our own Cory Gardner.

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Lee Zimmerman is a nice guy who didn't finish last (column)

March 11, 2015 — 

Twice last week, at two separate events, I was on my feet to applaud and thank a man who certainly has made his mark on Summit County. Typically one to shun fanfare, the farewells to Lee Zimmerman as he moves on after serving eight years as the Summit Foundation’s executive director are peppered with references to his humility, his capacity to listen, his compassion and his generosity. Basically, he is one nice guy. Rest assured however that Lee did not finish last. In fact, he’s far from finished, I’m certain, but is just moving on from one chapter to the next, and we wish him well.

In addition to guiding the Summit Foundation through some stormy seas during the recession and helping identify initiatives that have impacted literally hundreds of lives, Lee also leaves us with a more subtle lesson. He personifies why nice guys can do just about everything, finishing included, best.

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