Opinion Columns, Columnists

A spiritual journey out of the Persian desert

April 24, 2015 — 

The following is part two of a three-part series excerpted from “Journey to Eschaton,” a spiritual memoir written by Summit County’s own pastor shredder, Bud Hill.

To live on this planet with true purpose requires us to be born not only physically but spiritually. Metaphorically, we are one of billions of “God particles” containing not only a biological but also a spiritual DNA. Within the angst of our human dilemma, our search for a way out of our ignorance and into the truth, requires us to not only find out what we are suppose to do but who we are in the process. My backpacking around the world not just once but twice would have been a futile effort if it had not brought my soon-to-be-wife Bari and I out of our old ways of living and into God’s new.

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The view from 31,000 feet: A philosopher looks at fracking (column)

April 24, 2015 — 

I was flying the red-eye home to Portland, when the pilot spoke over the intercom. “We are currently over North Dakota. Below us are the famous Bakken shale-oil fracking fields.” I looked down into the night. As far as I could see toward every horizon, the plain was studded with flames — oil rigs flaring methane. How is it possible, I remember asking myself, that humans can do this to the Earth?

Of course, what it is possible for us to do depends on the stories we tell ourselves. A culture embodies a worldview, answers to the fundamental questions of the human condition: What is the Earth? What is the place of humans on Earth? How, then, shall we live? A worldview is so pervasive, so built into the structure of our lives that we don’t notice or question it, any more than a trout questions water. Inside the structure of such a story, acts that would otherwise be unthinkable, become all that can be thought.

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The early bird gets the worm, the prepared gardener gets veggies (column)

April 24, 2015 — 

All of the Earth Day festivities have encouraged me to be more conscientious of my impact on the planet. In addition, I was reminded that in no time we will be into the growing season and I would like your advice on getting a head start.

— Peggy, Frisco

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End the war on deadbeat dads (column)

April 23, 2015 — 

I had a deadbeat dad. The kind of slacker so egregious — so blatant in shirking his responsibilities — that he and his generation of counterparts inspired a series of draconian laws to combat their “free spiritedness.” My father (I wince to refer to him as that) exists as a transitional fossil in the evolution of child support in this country. He was between the time when men were by default the automatic and sole breadwinners of the family and the time when the full force of the state would come after you for a late installment.

My mother gave up the right to sue for child support in the divorce; an antiquated idea that largely no longer exists. My chromosome contributor went about his life of mystical self-discovery rarely mentioning or thinking about his two children. Meanwhile, we were on food stamps, school lunch programs and other social services. Mostly we went without.

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Government of the people, by the contractors (column)

April 21, 2015 — 

War is the biggest big-government endeavor.

So riddle me this: Why is it that the politicians quickest to salute the power of war tend to be the most anti-government?

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Hotels that throw out unruly guests may have to call a taxi (and pay for it too)

April 21, 2015 — 

In a split-decision, the Colorado Supreme Court just announced that a hotel may be responsible for injuries that occur to a guest even after the hotel lawfully throws the guest out for unruly behavior. As explained below, the decision, particularly the degree of proof required by the majority, may have important implications for the hospitality and entertainment industries.

The basic facts are that Jillian Groh rented a room at the Westin Hotel in Denver before hitting the town for a night of partying with friends. Groh and friends returned to the hotel room in the early morning hours. The group was confronted by hotel security and ultimately told to leave the premises, even though Groh and her companions advised the guards that they were drunk and could not drive. On the way out, one of Groh’s friends asked a guard if the group could wait in the lobby for a taxi because it was freezing outside. The guard responded by blocking the door and saying, “No, get the f*** out of here.” Significantly, Groh and her friends discussed taking a taxi, Groh called her brother for advice and he told her to take a taxi and video footage showed the group walking past two taxis on the way to Groh’s car. Seven people then got into Groh’s car, with a drunken driver behind the wheel. Fifteen miles away on I-225, they rear-ended another vehicle, resulting in a crash that killed one man and left Groh in a persistent vegetative state with traumatic brain injuries. Groh’s family later sued the hotel for damages.

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The 2016 Presidentail Derby is off and running (column)

April 20, 2015 — 

“And they’re almost off.” Yes, the entrance to the 2016 Presidential Derby has officially been flung open wider than the gap between George Bernard Shaw and Pee Wee Herman. Backstage at the Bolshoi Ballet and the snack bar adjacent to the Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Fame gift shop. Horseshoes and mirrors.

At the Republican Leadership Summit in New Hampshire, various contenders staggered out to the starting gate testing the footing of the track with cries of trainers still ringing in their ears: “The race may be many things, but it is not a sprint. A marathon. A steeplechase. A twisted cross-country endurance run on a course designed by masochists, fueled by obscene amounts of cash and overseen by clowns and contortionists. But not a sprint.”

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An internet sociopath's guide to destroying small businesses (column)

April 20, 2015 — 

Is the Internet a blessing or curse? It might depend on who one asks. A consumer would likely wax rhapsodic about access to a world of stuff at highly competitive prices, much of it without sales tax. As long as one is not ingesting the purchase, it’s all relatively safe. The same might be said of retailers, who have access to a global marketplace stretching from Nome to Hobart, Bergen to Ushuaia. For information junkies, the Internet is a cornucopia; the news feed never ends. For compulsive over-sharers, there’s Facebook, Twitter and their more recent and proliferating cousins.

Then there’s the ubiquitous dark side: the stalkers, flamers, cyber-bullies and other sub-human forms of life. It is in this shadow world of undesirables that the most vexing issues of freedom of speech, freedom of information and “right to know” are hammered out.

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Sirota: GOP's libertarians aren't all that libertarian (column)

April 19, 2015 — 

In Republican primary politics, the libertarian brand carries cachet, which explains why many of the GOP’s presidential candidates are battling to position themselves as the one true standard-bearer of small government conservatism. But a funny thing is happening on the way to the Republican primaries: The whole notion of small government libertarianism has been hijacked by politicians who often represent the opposite.

Take Lindsey Graham, whose political action committee is staffing up for the South Carolina Republican senator’s possible presidential run. In an interview with an Iowa newspaper earlier this month, Graham said: “Libertarians want smaller government. Count me in. Libertarians want oversight of government programs and making sure that your freedoms are not easily compromised. Count me in.”

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Hillary for America? Why? (column)

April 19, 2015 — 

Hillary’s all in for 2016.

Whoopee.

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Give Ted Cruz a gold star (column)

April 19, 2015 — 

The key to understanding Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is not that he is a fighter or that he is an unwavering ideologue. To highlight his intelligence points the spotlight in the right direction but misses the mark. The man can give a speech, but that’s not quite the thing, either. The thing that explains Cruz, at least to me, is this: He is a debate nerd.

You don’t win a debate in high school or college by arguing your personal convictions but by marshalling the facts to prove or disprove a position regardless of what you actually believe. Taken to the extreme — which is where I think Cruz has gone with this — such an intellect prizes virtuosity and disregards morality. Whether or not Cruz really believes anything he says seems irrelevant because he’s so trained to get the gold star for seeming smart.

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Quandary offers tips for bike riders encountering dogs on Summit trails

April 18, 2015 — 

What should you do if you are riding your bicycle on the summit bike path and a big dog runs toward you? Just let it go and hope you don’t get bit or knocked off your bike?

— A concerned reader

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Heard around the West: The metaphysics of the gun debate (column)

April 18, 2015 — 

ARIZONA

Does God care passionately about the right to bear arms? Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth kicked off a metaphysical debate in the Arizona Legislature recently, when he asserted that the Second Amendment guaranteed people the God-given right to self-defense, reports the Phoenix New Times. Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales, a Democrat, rose to disagree. “Twice on this floor I’ve heard members say that I have the God-given right to bear arms,” she said, “and since I know that God didn’t write the Constitution I just wanted to state that. And I vote ‘no.’ “ Another lawmaker echoed her take on American history, praising the “humans, great humans, who wrote the Constitution.” Farnsworth countered by insisting that God weighed in on the Constitution because He got involved in the Declaration of Independence; after all, it famously declares that “Americans are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” At that point, legislators apparently agreed to disagree about God’s position on the two gun bills in question.

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Furnish: Forest Service is still in search of a mission (column)

April 17, 2015 — 

Perhaps Ken Burns had the right idea when he named his public-television series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” Even though I worked for the Forest Service for 34 years, I’m inclined to agree with him about the importance of our nation’s parks. But the national forests are surely our second-best idea, a priceless asset despite the call from some Westerners to sell off our forests and privatize them.

It is sad to admit that the battles over logging, grazing, mining and recreation fees have never stopped. Forests go up in smoke or fall prey to insect epidemics while critics complain about how ineffective and wayward the Forest Service has become. In some ways, it is the agency’s own fault.

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Young: Hardliners desperately seeking Satan (column)

April 17, 2015 — 

Chances of war with Iran, says career Middle East journalist Barbara Slavin, went down “a gazillion” with the framework for a nuclear agreement.

Ah, fudge.

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I gave up shampoo and won't ever go back (column)

April 17, 2015 — 

Dear Eartha,

I’m curious, did you follow through with your “no poo” experiment?

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Life on the Summit: Hey, Spike! introduces the Breckenridge Bucks

April 17, 2015 — 

The lights start flashing, the music starts pumping, the PA announcer’s voice thunders, “Introducing your hometown hockey team, the Breckenridge Bucks” and the packed house responds with roars.

As we all know the Stephen C. West Ice Arena in the Kingdom is always — as in all the time — a humming hive of activity with puck-smacking hockey players of all ages and skill levels, girls and boys, women and men.

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Littwin: Hillary, the relaunch

April 16, 2015 — 

OK, you’ve read by now all the Hillary-is-ready-and-running stories, and in each one we’re told how polarizing she is and how cold and suspicious she is and how she has to change if she is going to win this time.

And it might even make sense unless you actually think about it.

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Bargell: Generating gratitude, now and in the future (column)

April 15, 2015 — 

Before we leave on a trip I almost always try to change the sheets. I don’t know where the habit started, but it never fails to surprise me when I return home to crawl into my much-missed bed with fresh sheets.

It came as an even bigger surprise to learn that this small habit is part of a much larger trend of considering what gifts we can give ourselves today that our future selves will thank us for. I suppose it’s the flip side of giving advice to our younger self, something our own Biff America reminisced about a few weeks ago.

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Mountain Law: The requirements for imposing fines in Colorado HOAs (column)

April 15, 2015 — 

A homeowners association in a condominium or neighborhood is charged with enforcing the recorded declaration as well as its own rules and regulations. If an owner violates a provision of one of those documents, the HOA could file a lawsuit asking the court to enjoin the owner from continuing the violation. Another option is for the HOA to fine the owner for the violation. This article discusses the fine points in the process under Colorado law.

Colorado law specifically authorizes HOAs to fine owners for violating the governing documents, such as the declaration and rules and regulations. This is significant because, without specific statutory authority, the courts have traditionally viewed the power to impose fines unfavorably. Colorado law imposes specific procedural requirements for imposing fines, which supersede any provision in an HOA’s governing documents to the contrary.

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Liddick: The outrage machine manufactures crisis after crisis (column)

April 13, 2015 — 

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste … it’s an opportunity to do things you couldn’t do before.” — Rahm Emanuel, former Obama political advisor

And if there isn’t one, he might have added, make one up. “Hands up, don’t shoot.” “Black lives matter.” “Rape on Campus.” Homophobic pizza shop owners. Evil landlords evicting deadbeat tenants. The list goes on.

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Companies' pro-equality rhetoric belied by their campaign donations (column)

April 12, 2015 — 

Last week, corporate America appeared to take a rare stand on principle. After Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a law permitting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, various companies expressed outrage and tried to position themselves as bold defenders of social justice.

There was just one little problem: Many of the same companies have been donating to the public officials who have long opposed the effort to outlaw such discrimination. That campaign cash has flowed to those politicians as they have very publicly led the fight against LGBT rights.

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Wyoming tough? (column)

April 12, 2015 — 

A recent article in Time magazine reported that the best place to be an old person is a city, primarily because of easy access to health care. If Time’s experts on aging are correct, those of us who choose to live in remote Western places will feel increasing pressure to urbanize, abandoning the landscapes that we love to find the health care that we need.

My husband and I moved to the Denver area from a small Wyoming community for this very reason. When we did, we gave up our dream of living out our lives in an old homestead in the High Plains of Wyoming. We gave up so much — our view of the Wind River Mountains, our harsh winters and glorious summers, the land’s strong sense of history and our daily intimacy with nature.

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This time, coming down on a killer cop

April 10, 2015 — 

The most shocking thing about the Walter Scott killing is that we can still be shocked when a white cop kills an unarmed black man.

It’s not just that there was video. We’ve seen plenty of video. We’ve seen Eric Garner (“I can’t breathe”) on video and 12-year-old Tamir Rice with a toy gun on video. And the shocking thing in both cases is that despite the videos, we weren’t shocked quite enough.

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The reason why Rand Paul is doomed to lose

April 10, 2015 — 

Rand Paul’s prospects of ever being president are on a par with the Philadelphia Phillies’ odds of winning the pennant. If he somehow makes it to the Oval Office, I will climb Mount Everest and chisel his curly locks into the rocks.

On Tuesday, he joined Ted Cruz on the growing Republican roster of doomed losers. I say this not because he’d be anathema to the general electorate — although that’s certainly true, given his libertarian philosophical hostility to civil rights laws and all kinds of federal help — but because he won’t get the GOP nomination in the first place.

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Ask Eartha: Grow your own with help of Summit County Seed Library (column)

April 10, 2015 — 

Dear Eartha,

I saw in the paper last week that the Seed Library launched for the season on April 1. Could you tell me more about what a Seed Library is and how to get the seeds?

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Westerners need to stand up for public lands (column)

April 10, 2015 — 

As Google Earth flies, it’s 5 miles and change from the Echo Lake Café in the Flathead Valley, one of Montana’s great little restaurants, up to a parking area at a trailhead that leads to Jewel Basin. Down here in the valley, we’re at 3,000 feet. Up where the gravel road dead-ends, you’re looking at 5,700 feet. If you make it all the way to the top of 7,500-foot-high Mount Aeneas, you’ll be rubbing elbows with some top-of-the-world views, not to mention mule deer and mountain goats.

We’re talking about almost a mile of elevation change, yet the amazing thing is that once you leave the valley floor, all that land stretching on seemingly forever belongs to you and me and all of our fellow Americans. It doesn’t matter whether you live here in Montana, or in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico or New Jersey. All that acreage, which is administered on our behalf by the U.S. Forest Service, is ours. We can roam where we choose, we can hike, we can fish the lakes and pick fresh huckleberries for lunch and pitch our tents under all that Big Sky. We’re free to wander to our heart’s content on public land, and for a lot of Americans, that’s an incredible thing.

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Life on the Summit: Hey, Spike! is pulling for Army Ranger

April 10, 2015 — 

In active Summit County, the levels of what’s normal are often exceeded by wide margins.

Marathoners (26.2 miles) see boundaries extended to ultra-marathons of 100 miles. Expert skiers are shadowed by Big Mountain extreme fliers.

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IRS, Congress hold our liberty in contempt (column)

April 9, 2015 — 

This week the Justice Department announced it would not charge former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner with contempt of Congress. Some members of Congress requested that Lerner be charged with contempt after she refused to testify at a congressional hearing investigating her role in denying or delaying the applications for tax-exempt status of “tea party” and other organizations that favor limited government.

Cynics might suggest it is not surprising that a former government official would avoid prosecution for refusing to tell Congress about how federal employees abused their power to help the incumbent administration. These cynics have a point, but the problem goes beyond mere partisanship. Government officials are rarely prosecuted for even the most blatant violations of our liberties. In contrast, federal prosecutors routinely pursue criminal charges against whistleblowers. For example, the only American prosecuted and imprisoned in relation to the government’s use of torture was whistleblower John Kiriakou.

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We may need to call out National Guard to enforce these rights (column)

April 8, 2015 — 

The subjects were protest and time.

A thoughtful teen told me that protest today just doesn’t have the efficiency that protest must have had, say, in the ’60s.

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