Opinion Columns, Columnists

Sirota: Should companies have to pay taxes?

September 1, 2014 — 

Reading companies’ annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission is a reliable cure for insomnia. Every so often, though, there is a significant revelation in the paperwork. This year, one of the most important revelations came from Microsoft’s filings, which spotlighted how the tax code allows corporations to enjoy the benefits of American citizenship yet avoid paying U.S. taxes.

According to the SEC documents, the company is sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore. That amount of money represents a significant spike from prior years.

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Biff America: A fall from (lack of) grace

August 30, 2014 — 

My friends have been dropping like flies this summer.

Broken bones, deep cuts, fractured feet and concussions have been sustained and suffered by more than a few of my pals. That does not include the numerous stress fractures, planta fasciitis and various over-use injuries.

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Littwin: In Colorado, we call an unforced error a Beauprez

August 29, 2014 — 

Bob Beauprez has done it again. He talked. And you know what happens whenever Beauprez opens his mouth.

That’s right. He reminds us why he lost by 17 points the last time he ran for governor.

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Ask Eartha: Flame retardants and parental pajama panic

August 28, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

I’m a new mom and have heard that kids’ pajamas contain flame retardant. Is that true?

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Young: Security! Security! Brown skin alert

August 27, 2014 — 

How to describe Congressman Paul Ryan’s reaction when Ray Jose showed up at his Florida book signing?

Let’s say it was like a vegetarian who, suitably bibbed for a suitable meal, sees a rack of lamb slide before him.

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Bargell: Summit County mountain mom parses acceptance and expectation

August 27, 2014 — 

One of the very first rites of passage for all new kindergartners is identifying their classmates in a new environment, from lunch to recess, and all that falls between. When our girls started kinder the teachers, well versed in 5-year-olds, did not distinguish the classes simply as group one and group two. Instead, they made it fun for the tykes, each classroom receiving an animal name. Some were monkeys, and others were hippos. The kids understood right away where they belonged and embraced, figuratively at least, their respective animals. Because they attended a dual-language school the group names also had their Spanish counterparts, mono and hipopótamo. These were distinctions even this non-Spanish speaker could figure out.

One night at dinner I asked them about their classmates, boldly inquiring in Spanish how the rest of the little “manos” were doing. The blank stare I received in response made it clear something was lost in the translation. The monkey gestures I used to get across my point sent them into a fit of giggles. It seemed I had asked about how the class of little “hands” was doing, the Spanish translation for the word “mano.” For this English-speaking Midwesterner it seemed like a reasonable mistake to make. The story came to mind earlier this week as our family welcomed to our home an exchange student from Turkey who will be staying with us for the next few months. At dinner one night we laughed together at my pronunciation of kefir, a word of Turkish origin, and I was reminded of our little monkeys of long ago. Our exchange student will attend Summit High through Rotary International, and we are only starting to learn about all the Rotary program does to promote understanding among cultures and kids of every nation. The tragic events last week overseas only emphasize the importance of building friendship and trust, one person — one student — at a time. There must be an alternative to spawning hatred.

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Liddick: Big government the cause, not the cure, of social unrest

August 26, 2014 — 

My wife and I were chatting with old friends — let’s call them the Pauls. We have known each other for decades and still meet a couple times a year to catch up. The Pauls, who live in Michigan, are one of America’s failed experiments with Socialist unionism, lean Left, so our discussions are often … lively.

They are well-educated, intelligent, informed conversationalists. But they argue differently than we, so we sometimes talk past one another. In this, we’re a microcosm of the country at large: we cannot agree, not only because our perceptions differ, but because our reasoning does too. The arguments of the Left usually involve emotion, both positive and negative. Conservatives rely on the opposite half of the brain, on calculation and memory. Thus, both find the others’ points unpersuasive: they’re delivered to the wrong address.

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Ackland: Secrecy never went away at Rocky Flats

August 24, 2014 — 

June 6, 1989: In a dramatic, unprecedented raid on a federal nuclear facility, more than 70 U.S. agents burst into the sprawling Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant near Denver seeking evidence of environmental crimes involving radioactive plutonium. Led by FBI special agent Jon Lipsky, the raid was kept secret from Colorado Gov. Roy Romer and the area’s congressman, David Skaggs. Afterward, Romer angrily said, “It jars me to the bone that judgments we have made in Colorado about Rocky Flats may have been made on bad information.”

June 7, 2014: I am among several people backstage at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities — not far from the now dismantled Rocky Flats plant — with Romer, Skaggs and Lipsky. The two former officeholders had just met the former FBI agent for the first time. All were about to participate in a public discussion marking the 25th anniversary of the raid.

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Sirota: Journalists on government’s information blacklist

August 24, 2014 — 

As states move to hide details of government deals with Wall Street, and as politicians come up with new arguments to defend secrecy, a study released earlier this month revealed that many government information officers block specific journalists they don’t like from accessing information. The news comes as 47 federal inspectors general sent a letter to lawmakers criticizing “serious limitations on access to records” that they say have “impeded” their oversight work.

The data about public information officers was compiled over the last few years by Kennesaw State University professor Carolyn Carlson. Her surveys found that four in 10 public information officers say “there are specific reporters they will not allow their staff to talk to due to problems with their stories in the past.”

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Biff America: Grammy was hot

August 23, 2014 — 

I was in my late teens before I learned my grandmother was unattractive.

Of course, I knew she wasn’t a beauty as an elderly woman. But I still was going under the illusion that, in her day, my grandmother, Bridget Sheeley, was a babe. I was fed this misinformation by her second husband, my step-grandfather, Frank McLaughlin.

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Mountain Law: Explaining court decision on Colorado’s gun laws

August 22, 2014 — 

In 2013, in the wake of a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the Colorado General Assembly enacted gun control legislation that included two new criminal statutes: one banning the sale, possession and transfer of certain “large-capacity magazines;” and another expanding mandatory background checks to some private transfers rather than only commercial purchases.

These new laws were challenged in federal court on constitutional grounds by a group of plaintiffs consisting of individuals who own guns, associations and organizations of gun owners and advocates, and businesses that manufacture or sell magazines and/or firearms. In June 2014, the federal court issued its ruling upholding the constitutionality of the laws. This article focuses on the large-capacity magazine statute and why it was upheld by the federal court.

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Polis: Widening the footprint of Colorado’s wilderness area

August 22, 2014 — 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. For a half century, this landmark conservation measure has helped protect our great nation’s last remaining unspoiled lands and natural wonders. Over 100 million acres of wilderness and iconic landscapes from the Everglades in Florida to Grand Teton in Wyoming to the Mojave Desert in California have been protected. In our own backyard, we enjoy 43 wilderness areas across Colorado, which highlight our 14,000-foot peaks, pristine forests, vast canyons and high-altitude lakes. These wild lands are symbolic of our Western heritage and enhance the quality of life for all Coloradans.

This weekend we take another step to further our state’s strong legacy of conservation and recreation. I am introducing the Rocky Mountain Recreation and Wilderness Preservation Act, a bill that will benefit wildlife, protect our clean air and water, and strengthen our local businesses and economy. The Rocky Mountain Recreation and Wilderness Preservation Act preserves some of Colorado’s most special remaining wild places by designating approximately 40,000 acres of new wilderness and over 10,000 acres of Recreation Management Areas in Eagle and Summit counties.

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An Earthly Idea: Giant lessons from tiny bugs

August 22, 2014 — 

I was certain that the Dillon Ranger District was wrong about lodgepole pine being the natural climax vegetation for Summit County. So I went to the library to find books on what kinds of trees were in our forests historically. Instead, I found a book that is must reading for anyone that cares about our local forests or the global environment. “Empire of the Beetle” by Andrew Nikiforuk is a real eye-opener.

Our pine-bark-beetle infestation was not that unusual. Nor was it very severe compared with recent ones elsewhere. Canadian author Nikiforuk explains that beetles are among the oldest, most numerous and most diverse organisms (more than 400,000 species) on Earth. They are crucial to decomposition, serious threats to crops and master forest managers. His colorful stories of beetle infestations and the scientists studying them show beetles and the tree death they cause to be part of normal forest ecology.

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The PetriDish: Chikungunya a new viral threat from mosquitoes

August 22, 2014 — 

I was sitting in my living room the other night when I happened to notice a mosquito on my arm. A quick swat left a mangled body and a rather large spot of blood; I gather the thing had been feeding for a while. This encounter prompts me to write about a newly emerging disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes — Chikungunya virus. You may not have heard of Chikungunya virus before, but chances are that it will be all over the news before long. The virus is spread through mosquito bites and causes an illness that is characterized by flu-like symptoms and can sometimes be followed by severe joint and muscle pain. In fact, the term “chikunguny” is a term used by an ethnic group in southeast Tanzania and northern Mozambique to describe the contorted posture of patients suffering from joint pains. While the infection is usually not fatal and cleared in a few days, the joint pain can sometimes persist for months or even years. There is no cure for the disease, so treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.

Prior to 2006, Chikungunya was generally limited to Africa and parts of Asia. But in 2006, there was a severe outbreak on the French Island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean that killed more than 250 people. Since then, the virus has spread to the western hemisphere with the first confirmed cases in the Caribbean in December 2013 (St. Martin). The virus then spread to other Caribbean islands and has subsequently reached Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico and the United States. Over the last couple of months, cases have been confirmed in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Arkansas. It looks like the virus is spreading all across the western hemisphere and is with us to stay. The virus has also been found as far afield as the Philippines, Taiwan and Australia.

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Ask Eartha: Plastic microbeads used in cosmetics can pollute our waterways

August 21, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

I recently saw a news story about personal care products breaking down into plastic microbeads that pollute waterways. I was curious if Lake Dillon is at risk?

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Writers on the Range: A day on the river that ended in a death

August 20, 2014 — 

I keep thinking about Mary, a woman I never met. I Googled her name looking for her obituary, but I kept getting the same headlines of the articles I’ve already read too many times: “Woman dies in Pine Creek rafting accident.” “Texas woman drowns while rafting the Arkansas River.”

When her obituary is posted, I’m still not appeased. I want to know what she looked like, beyond the smiling photograph on the funeral home’s website. I want to know how long she was married to the husband who lost her so unexpectedly. I want to know what she lived for. I think I already know what she died for.

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Liddick: ‘If ain’t broke, don’t fix it’

August 19, 2014 — 

Before the rain of poisoned arrows that the 2014 campaign will be begins in earnest, it might be useful to review first principles. I won’t deal with the Left side of the aisle, where core beliefs are protean; that is a task of years. What follows is a list of characteristics common to all conservatives — with the caveat that when evaluating, deeds are always more important than words.

Conservatives value tradition. To them, tradition is not a set of stogy practices, ossified by mindless repetition over centuries. Traditions represent the past’s winnowing of behaviors, separating the beneficial and productive from the vicious and useless. To lack this filter is to be rudderless on the shifting tides of fashion, obsessed with the new or novel. Those who advocate the abandonment of long-standing practices should be challenged to specify criteria they would substitute for the test of time. To use a familiar aphorism, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Sage words, but painful to those who justify their existence by fixing problems, mostly imaginary.

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Sirota: Is corruption a Constitutional right?

August 18, 2014 — 

Wall Street is one of the biggest sources of funding for presidential campaigns, and many of the Republican Party’s potential 2016 contenders are governors, from Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rick Perry of Texas to Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. And so, last week, the GOP filed a federal lawsuit aimed at overturning the pay-to-play law that bars those governors from raising campaign money from Wall Street executives who manage their states’ pension funds.

In the case, New York and Tennessee’s Republican parties are represented by two former Bush administration officials, one of whose firms just won the Supreme Court case invalidating campaign contribution limits on large donors. In their complaint, the parties argue that people managing state pension money have a First Amendment right to make large donations to state officials who award those lucrative money management contracts.

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Biff America: A drop of madness

August 16, 2014 — 

The first time I saw Sean Casey was in the summer of 1974. He had a shaved head and wore a skirt.

I entered the employee entrance of the Sea Swell restaurant on Cape Cod. As I passed through the kitchen I noticed a new face. Standing in front of a prep table, knife in hand, was Sean.

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Heard around the West: At Colorado EPA office, ‘defecating in the hallway’

August 15, 2014 — 

COLORADO

Anyone who reads a blog called Government Executive now knows that some U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staffers are not just unhappy; they also appear un-housebroken. In the agency’s Denver office, for example, there have been several incidents of “inappropriate bathroom behavior, including defecating in the hallway.” Managers said they were trying to find the culprit — probably the same person or persons who clogged the toilets with paper towels — and were taking the situation “very seriously.” So seriously that the EPA hired John Nicoletti, a national expert on workplace violence. What writer Eric Katz dubbed Region 8’s “poop bandit” was not the only problem; the EPA recently learned that some of its contractors had constructed “secret man caves” in an agency warehouse. That’s not all: One EPA employee was pretending to simultaneously work for the CIA to get unlimited vacations, and yet another spent most of his days exploring pornography on the Web. Presumably, all were summarily flushed out of the workplace, a fate that we hope awaits the poop bandit.

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Holm: Dire water predicament spurs cooperation, compromise

August 14, 2014 — 

After a winter of happy news about the generous snowpack in Colorado’s mountains, summer brought reminders that our regional water situation is dire — or, at least, poised on the edge of direness.

Just as the ink was drying on mid-July headlines announcing that Lake Mead had dropped to its lowest level since filling 80 years ago, a new study found that groundwater loss in the Colorado River Basin has been even more dramatic. The study used satellite data to track changes in the amount of water in the basin from 2004–2013, and found that 75 percent of the nearly 53 million acre feet lost during that period was from groundwater depletions.

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Young: Profitability and social responsibility – an incompatibility?

August 14, 2014 — 

The name is New Belgium, and if you’re a beer drinker, most likely you are familiar. It started 23 years ago in Jeff Lebesch’s basement in Fort Collins, Colorado. Now, with Fat Tire its most popular label, it’s the nation’s eighth-largest brewery.

It’s also one of the most socially responsible corporations in America.

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Ask Eartha: Summit County recycling a surprisingly complex process

August 14, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

I see people putting their co-mingled recycling out for curbside pick-up, but I separate mine at the Breckenridge drop-off center. What is the difference?

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Bargell: Holding back and letting go as kids return to Summit schools

August 13, 2014 — 

It’s back ...

The crispness in the air startled me this morning, signaling the beginning of the end of summer, just when I was getting used to the idea. Perhaps more startled are the kids around the county that will hit the books again come Monday, just when they were getting used to the idea of sleeping in.

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Liddick: Obama lost in a world of Bond villains

August 12, 2014 — 

Kuwait City, Kuwait, 1990. Srebenica, Bosnia, 1995. Precaz, Albania, 1998. Tuol Sleng, Cambodia. Rwanda. The Holocaust.

Barack Obama ran on a platform of changing America — and now we know what he meant: a nation weaker; vacillating in the face of threats; detached from the world. He’s close to his goal of making the nation that won the Cold War irrelevant, endangering both our country and much of humanity in the bargain. For proof, study the list of places above. The first three mark interventions led by the United States which ended immense butchery; the latter, instances in which we did nothing, and millions died. Look however one will, there is one inescapable conclusion: our European associates have a much higher tolerance than we for mass slaughter and bitter tyranny, so long as their own people are untouched. If monstrosities are to be opposed, ours is an indispensable role.

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Sirota: Juking the job stats

August 10, 2014 — 

A decade ago, as the United States hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs, the federal government considered reclassifying fast food as a manufacturing industry.

Sound ludicrous? Today, with the manufacturing sector still ailing, the federal government wants to take something called “factoryless goods” and categorize the firms that make them as manufacturers. As part of the plan, the government could also classify some foreign-manufactured goods as U.S. exports. The change would help politicians make the case that domestic manufacturing is recovering, even if the assertion isn’t true.

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Durst: Pandora’s box of worms

August 10, 2014 — 

In a move less surprising than hot dogs at a ballgame, the House of Representatives voted to give Speaker John Boehner the authority to sue the president of the United States. This isn’t like a divorce, or a civil suit for money; it’s more of a restraining order. They want Obama to quit trying to resuscitate the government they’ve been working so hard to render unconscious.

On one hand, it’s a brilliant tactical move. Nobody can call them a Do-Nothing Congress anymore. “Do nothing? What are you talking about? We sued the president.” Many see the action as a stopgap measure to quiet the crazies on the right, who continue to demand nothing less than impeachment. And this is Impeachment Lite.

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Read: The virtues of old-school car camping

August 9, 2014 — 

When I was a kid, my parents took me camping to instill in me a deep and abiding love of nature’s wondrous bounty.

Wait a minute. That doesn’t sound right.

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Littwin: Lucky John got the deal done

August 9, 2014 — 

It looks like Gov. John Hickenlooper has officially broken his long losing streak. Yes, there had been signs of the old Hick recently. He told his terrible shark joke the other day. He played banjo and sang with Old Crow Medicine Show at Red Rocks.

But, still, people wondered. Liberals were mad at him over fracking. Conservatives were mad over guns and the death penalty. The moderates? Everyone likes a winner, and suddenly Hick was tied — yes, tied — with Bob Beauprez in the polls, which people were saying was an occasion for embarrassment.

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An Earthly Idea: Replacing our forests with hair of the dog

August 8, 2014 — 

When talking about why clear-cutting is the exact wrong thing to do in Summit County — as I often do — the conversation frequently turns to “dog hair.” I’ve been asked several times “What is this dog hair you talk about?” No, I’m not bemoaning the pet fur that covers my house. Nor am I alluding to “hair of the dog,” a draught of liquor meant to cure a hangover.

When talking about forests, dog hair refers to very dense thickets of small trees, most frequently with regard to lodgepole or ponderosa pines. The only dictionary-style definition that I found on the Web was “a thick growth of small, suppressed trees.” Many citations referred to dog hair as being forest that is “grossly overstocked.”

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