Opinion Columns, Columnists

Liddick: Celebrating as Holder lets go

September 30, 2014 — 

Eric Holder, perhaps the worst occupant of the attorney general’s office since Alexander Palmer — or even Roger B. Taney — has decided to pack it in. This suggests several things.

First, it’s an indication the White House is finally beginning to realize that Republicans may recapture the Senate in five weeks. This would bring untold problems to the president’s desire to have another like-minded crony in the job; a quick resignation means a lame-duck session could instead approve Mr. Holder’s successor after the worst has happened. Note that this has not happened since the Civil War.

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Sirota: A pension jackpot for Wall Street

September 28, 2014 — 

Most consumers understand that when you pay an above-market premium, you shouldn’t expect to get a below-average product. Why, then, is this principle often ignored when it comes to managing billions of dollars in public pension systems?

This is one of the most significant questions facing states and cities as they struggle to meet their contractual obligations to public employees. In recent years, public officials have shifted more of those workers’ pension money into private equity, hedge funds, venture capital and other so-called “alternative investments.” In all, the National Association of State Retirement Administrators reports that roughly a quarter of all pension funds are now in these “alternative investments” — a tripling in just 12 years.

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Hauser: Colorado Mountain College is reaching new heights

September 28, 2014 — 

During my first nine months with Colorado Mountain College, I have traveled and spent considerable time at all 11 of our campuses and learning locations spread across 12,000 square miles of our picturesque state. I have spent countless hours with CMC students and employees, elected and government officials, business and community leaders, educators, thoughtful citizens and taxpayers. All of these groups exemplify the very best of Colorado’s past and future, from the bold determination and imagination of the college’s early pioneers to the generosity of our philanthropic donors, local businesses, property owners and public sector partners. Without exception, I am convinced of their deep commitment to our state’s Western Slope and to the education of its people.

For nearly 50 years, the mission of Colorado Mountain College has been clear — to provide access to an affordable and high-quality college education, right here in the beautiful central Rockies, to anyone who enters our doors. CMC has fulfilled this mission with distinction for generations, and will continue to do so, though the ways it will be accomplished will evolve to meet the changing needs of our communities.

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Littwin: Don’t know much about AP history

September 27, 2014 — 

Don’t know much about history.” — the late, great Sam Cooke

Don’t know much about AP history. — the not-quite-so-great Julie Williams

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Ask Eartha: I’m gonna wash that poo right out of my hair

September 26, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

Recently I saw a headline that said no one will be using shampoo in five years. What is that all about?

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Life on the Summit: Hey, Spike! attends fun- and fund-raisers

September 26, 2014 — 

Two recent “raisers” added to the fall Summit social scene — a new Mexican restaurant “fun-raiser” opening and a local popular politician’s fundraiser.

Spike! and Miss Mary were present for the Saturday opening fiesta at Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant at the complex anchored by Whole Foods in Frisco.

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Young: Ocean tides have come to testify

September 25, 2014 — 

One of the most fascinating events I’ve ever experienced was a climate conference several years ago at the University of Texas.

There I observed the constant struggle between science and the special interests that have but one task to achieve: seed doubt about the science.

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Mountain Law: Landlords, tenants and domestic abuse

September 24, 2014 — 

What are the rights of landlords and tenants when a tenant is the victim of domestic violence or abuse?

At the federal level, the primary law on this subject is the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA). The act allows landlords to evict a perpetrator of domestic violence while permitting the victim to remain, and it allows participants in the Section 8 voucher program to move and use their vouchers in a different jurisdiction at any time during the lease. A limitation of the act is that it only applies to tenants living in public or subsidized housing.

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Bargell: Sturdy mountain community copes with suicide

September 24, 2014 — 

Take out your phone, now” she ordered. It was a voice of authority that really couldn’t be ignored — or else. So I did what the woman told me to do. I took out my phone and dutifully typed in the number (888) 207-4004. It is housed in my contacts under CRISIS. The number is the 24/7 crisis line available through Mind Spring Health, the organization that provides mental health services in Summit and Grand counties. Mind Spring offers treatment for emotional issues, substance abuse and behavioral problems. Kathy Davis, Mind Spring’s director, offered the number in connection with Suicide Prevention Day, Sept. 10, and reminded our group that September is Suicide Prevention Month. The reminder came on the heels of the suicide that stunned the world, and left no doubt that mental health issues impact even people who seem to have the world at their feet. Mind Spring professionals treat the health issues that too often are dismissed in our sturdy mountain culture, where it seems more commonplace to mend a torn meniscus than to treat a tattered mind, when the latter damage may be far more crippling. The bold directive underscored the importance of caring for the mental health of our community, and that there are resources and people who want to help.

The Mind Spring website makes no bones about it. “Suicide and mental crisis in youth is a Western Slope epidemic that effects all of us.” A sad fact indeed. Earlier this year I attended a memorial service for a young man who took his own life. He was the son of a high school friend, one I had been in and out of touch with through the years. When our group of friends heard her older son had died of an overdose last year we rallied in support — realizing none of us could understand the measure of her grief. Nearly a year later her younger son, agonized over the death of his older brother, took his own life. The banner at the memorial service — “Brothers Together Forever” — did little to ease anyone’s heavy heart. Nothing could do justice to the despair of the family.

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Liddick: Students lose in Jefferson County teacher battle

September 23, 2014 — 

Teachers’ unions are up to their old tricks. This time the parents of Jefferson County are being punished for the effrontery of electing a school board which refuses to rubber-stamp the union’s every whim. Their children are the union’s weapon of choice.

The latest volley in the war between teachers and their employers was fired last Friday when 50 teachers in two Jefferson County high schools simply didn’t show up. Various students seized the opportunity to play at protest, waving signs in support and mouthing slogans like “I think they should be paid more.” Which shows not a social conscience and well-honed insight into injustice, but credulity and a tendency to be easily manipulated: the school board’s proposed teacher compensation package is about 25 percent higher this year than last. But a rise in compensation is not “fair” in the union’s eyes if all do not share equally — something the board has firmly rejected.

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Sirota: Too big to punish

September 21, 2014 — 

A few months ago, in a press conference about the felony conviction of Credit Suisse, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “This case shows that no financial institution, no matter its size or global reach, is above the law.”

Yet, earlier this month, the Obama administration announced its proposal to waive some of the possible sanctions against Credit Suisse. The little-noticed waiver, which was outlined in the Federal Register, comes amid criticism that the Obama administration has gone too easy on major financial institutions that break the law.

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Pheil: Gmail emails are now always encrypted

September 21, 2014 — 

Most people aren’t aware of this, but back in March, Google announced that every single email you send out via Gmail will be encrypted. What fantastic news for security lovers and fearful Internet users everywhere.

Interestingly enough, Gmail has offered the sending of secure emails since it launched, and emails have, by default, been encrypted since 2010. Now, however, sending non-encrypted emails is no longer an option for Gmail users.

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Marston: Heard around the West

September 20, 2014 — 

CALIFORNIA

As wildfire raced up the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento this summer, somebody noticed a “toy” flying overhead, reports Reuters. It was actually a drone filming the blaze for its owner, described as a “hobbyist” who wanted to experience at not-quite-firsthand the thrill of rampaging flames. This did not go over well with state fire-protection spokesman Kevin Lucero, who said the Sand Fire had charred 3,800 acres despite the work of 2,000 firefighters. He immediately ordered the drone grounded to avoid a possible midair collision with air tankers. Meanwhile, California’s relentless drought means that Old Sacramento’s Gold Rush Days won’t take place this Labor Day. An organizer said that the Wild West celebration requires too much water — 100,000 gallons just to wash off the dirt trucked in to cover the streets — not to mention that the cannon and weapons demonstrations pose a potential fire danger, reports the Los Angeles Times. But in Glendora, California, the drought dragged one couple into a classic catch-22 dilemma. On the same day they were threatened with a $500 fine for not watering their brown lawn, reports The Week, the couple learned that state legislators had authorized fining homeowners $500 for watering lawns to excess. “I felt like I was in an alternate universe,” said Michael Korte. There is one upside to the drought: Toilet-to-tap recycled water may have overcome its “yuck” reputation in conservative Orange County, which boasts the largest water recycling plant in the world. The Guardian newspaper says that yuck is turning to “yay” because the cleansing process — filtration, reverse osmosis, and exposure to ultraviolet light with hydrogen peroxide — will provide enough domestic water by next year to supply 850,000 people, or about one-third of Orange County’s 2.4 million residents. That’s a lot of found water flowing from washing machines, dishwashers and toilets that might otherwise be dumped into the ocean off the Southern California coast. Now, instead of toilet-to-tap, some residents call the high-tech wastewater effort “showers to flowers.”

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Writers on the Range: The trouble with hunting

September 20, 2014 — 

Hunting fascinates me, and I read everything I can about it. So I was taken aback to read recently that in my state of Washington, there are 16,000 fewer hunters than there were five years ago. Another story focused on the failure of our justice system to curb rampant poaching, and I began to wonder why so few writers are concerned about hunting’s silent issue, the problem of the “shooter.”

Real hunters, I contend, show reverence for the game animals and birds that they kill, and they honor their prey in various ways. They obey state laws, care for the meat, enhance habitats, and maybe even say a prayer over what they’ve destroyed. Shooters, on the other hand, seem to care more about rocking the world off its axis with their own firepower.

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Littwin: Karl Rove’s sad, mad, pretend JeffCo coffee klatchers

September 20, 2014 — 

It’s no mystery why Republicans keep losing the women’s vote in Colorado (personhood/abortion/birth control). But if you’re even slightly confused, come with me for a trip into the magical world of Karl Rove via his Crossroads GPS way-way-back machine.

The setting for Rove’s latest campaign ad is a suburban kitchen, presumably somewhere in Jefferson County, because all Colorado elections are decided in kitchens somewhere in Jefferson County.

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Writers on the Range: A Wilderness Act skeptic comes out of the closet

September 19, 2014 — 

Westerners celebrated two birthdays worth noting toward the end of summer, but most paid attention to only one, the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The other was the 50th anniversary of the start of construction of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in Colorado, which eventually moved a lot of water from the Colorado River Basin to the Arkansas River Basin.

I mention them together because it fits my sense of irony. The Fry-Ark Project, a heavy-duty tampering with natural hydrology in Colorado’s wild headwaters, was about as antithetical to the spirit of the Wilderness Act as one could imagine. Yet had the U.S. Congress not passed the 1962 act creating the project, a Wilderness Act would almost certainly not have been passed as early as 1964. And the West Slope headwaters of the Colorado River tributaries might not have today’s black-and-white division: official designated wildernesses cheek-and-jowl with the intrusive water-collection systems designed for East Slope cities.

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Ask Eartha: Harvest time in the High Country

September 18, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

I have a reservation for this week to attend HC3’s Harvest Dinner. I know proceeds go towards local conservation efforts but would like to know a little bit more about the history behind Harvest Dinners. — Laura from Frisco

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Jackson: Domestic violence not just an NFL problem

September 18, 2014 — 

I have been conflicted about responding to the latest events occurring within the NFL. It has been painful watching the powers that be struggle over determining the appropriate response to domestic violence and child abuse. It has been disheartening seeing the power of endorsement dollars carrying more weight than the outcries of victims, victim advocacy groups and the general public. It has also been disheartening seeing individuals side with the perpetrators because having them on the field gives their team a better chance of winning. But what has saddened me the most is seeing this turn into a public relations dance (a bad one at that) instead of an opportunity to draw attention to the major societal problem of domestic violence and educate the country on its effects. This is not an NFL problem yet the NFL has an opportunity to start a nationwide conversation about masculinity and violence. I look forward to the direction they go from here.

Domestic violence is a societal problem and one that is bigger than many understand. According to most reports, one in three women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. We need to start believing this statistic. In the last week alone I have heard from women who have experienced grabbing, shoving, isolation, sexual assault, a skull fracture, yelling, not being given access to finances, transportation or basic needs such as medical attention or food. All of these were perpetrated by the person in their life whom they were or currently are in an intimate relationship with. Please note that not all of these behaviors are physical in nature. Physical abuse is only one of the tactics that abusers use to maintain power and control over a victim. One of the inspiring movements that immediately came to life as a result of the Ray Rice video and in response to the age old question of, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” was the twitter campaign #WhyIStayed, #WhyILeft. If I could educate on one thing related to domestic violence it would be on the answers survivors have given to the question of leaving. I cannot in this short article address all of the key reasons but I can address what I feel is the most important and relevant reason. The answer given is fear, and it is given with good reason. Let’s imagine Ray Rice has said to his now wife, repeatedly, “If you leave me, I will kill you.” If I was the person in the elevator, in a public place, that was knocked out cold by the person who said they would kill me if I left them, I am pretty sure I would believe him capable of following through with that threat and would really consider if leaving would bring me any safety. Statistically, we know it is the most dangerous time for a victim when they attempt to leave an abusive relationship. Please understand that leaving does not equal safety, by a long shot. Domestic violence is a complicated social problem. We minimize its power and its impact when we put the responsibility onto the victim to keep herself and/or her children safe by simply leaving. We also don’t make it very easy for women to leave when we question their sensibility for staying.

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Reagan: The media’s lynching of Ray Rice

September 14, 2014 — 

Let’s get to the burning national media issue of the week — Ray Rice and spousal abuse.

All the professional media moralizers are jumping on the politically correct Rice soapbox to prove to each other how much they are against physically abusing women.

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Sirota: Shareholders’ quest for more transparency

September 14, 2014 — 

If you own a share of a company, how much information about the company are you entitled to? That is the question embedded in the debate over a proposed Securities and Exchange Commission rule that would force publicly traded companies to disclose their political spending to their shareholders.

As of this month, a 2011 petition to the SEC proposing the rule has received more than 1 million comments — most of them in favor of the mandate. Supporters of the rule, some of whom demonstrated outside the SEC last week, say that’s the highest number of public comments ever submitted in response to a petition for a SEC rule. That level of public engagement, the proponents say, means the agency must stop delaying and implement the proposal. They also say that as hundreds of millions of dollars flood into politics through anonymous “dark money” sources, the rule is more needed than ever.

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Writers on the Range: Heard Around the West

September 13, 2014 — 

UTAH

If you’re an education blogger in Utah, don’t try to tell your online students that English words that sound the same sometimes mean different things — i.e., “for,” “four” and “fore.” The technical term for this confusing aspect of the language is “homophone” — but when Tim Torkildson tried explaining this to his mostly foreign students, his boss, Clarke Woodger, fired him for promoting a “gay agenda.” Woodger, who founded the Nomen Global Language Center 15 years ago, seemed utterly confounded by the word, hearing only the “homo” part of it. As Torkildson wrote on his blog, Woodger complained that “now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality. … We don’t teach this kind of advanced stuff to our students, and it’s extremely inappropriate. Can you have your desk cleaned out by eleven this morning? I’ll have your check ready.” The Salt Lake Tribune jumped on the story, perhaps because it was worthy of the satirical publication The Onion. It quotes Woodger, who explained that because his students come from 58 countries, they “are at basic levels of English and are not ready for the more complicated concepts such as homophones.” Let Esquire blogger Charles P. Pierce provide a tongue-in-cheek definition for this pesky word: “As everyone in Utah knows,” he wrote, “the homophone is what you use to call your decorator.”

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Littwin: Committed to winning the war on terror, in the same old way

September 13, 2014 — 

It was sad to watch, but, I guess, inevitable. In delivering a strong and decisive speech on how to deal with the ISIS threat, Barack Obama resoundingly answered his critics — by sounding just like them.

As Philip Gourevitch points out in the New Yorker, every American president over the last 25 years — Bush the Elder, Clinton, Bush II and now Obama — has eventually gone on TV to announce his decision to bomb Iraq.

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Earthly Idea: Fracking and natural gas a dangerous addiction

September 13, 2014 — 

Pro-fracking ads on TV now rival in frequency the ones for expensive pharmaceuticals we’ll never need. My gut reaction is that anyone who needs to advertise that heavily — or can afford to — must be ripping us off royally somehow. So, though fracking and natural gas drilling are not Summit County issues, per se, they are highly important for Colorado and the country. Even if political maneuvering will keep them off the ballot this year, we need to learn as much as we can about them.

Starting with natural gas: As fossil fuels go, it’s a superhero. Natural gas burns far cleaner than coal or oil. Also far more efficient, it generates much less carbon dioxide per amount of energy. Transported easily by pipeline, it is perfect for home heating and cooking. And it is ideal for meeting peak power demand, a key need for electric utilities. Unlike coal and nuclear power plants or wind and solar power, gas turbines can easily be turned on and off to match demand.

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Ask Eartha: A can-do attitude preserves bounty of summer

September 12, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

I am a gardener, and I love the money I save during the summer months by growing my own produce. I also have an abundance of food that I never know what to do with. Is there a way I can preserve and make use of the fresh food that I grow?

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Writers on the Range: Two flat tires on the sage grouse express

September 11, 2014 — 

Some interests potentially inconvenienced by the Endangered Species Act are so terrified of the law that it often succeeds best when threatened but not invoked.

So it may be with ongoing efforts to save the greater sage grouse.

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Writers on the Range: Congress ignores the West’s firefighting needs

September 11, 2014 — 

Congress still hasn’t figured out how to pay for wildfires. Choked by partisan bickering and entrenched refusals to compromise, the 113th Congress has passed the fewest pieces of legislation of any Congress in the past two decades — just 108 significant laws, compared to nearly 170 per session from 1995 to 2010.

One of the most notable bills languishing without action would fix the long-standing, serious problem of how we pay for fighting wildfires without plundering the federal programs meant to keep the woods from burning. “It’s a catch-22,” says Jim Ogsbury, executive director of the Western Governors’ Association. “Firefighting shouldn’t come at the expense of fire prevention.” Each year across the nation, wildfires burn an average of 7 million acres, and while the U.S. Forest Service allocates about 40 percent of its budget to firefighting, in extreme years that funding burns up by July or August, a month or more before fire season ends.

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Bargell: Play me some mountain music

September 10, 2014 — 

Summer in the Summit serves up a smorgasbord of musical options suited for every taste, and last week was a good one to take it all in. From Cash to Floyd with some Lez Zeppelin in the mix, it’s difficult to imagine a more eclectic offering.

For the last two weekends local talent was in prime form in the Backstage Theatre’s production of “Shrek.” Watching friends and neighbors perform at the Riverwalk has become a Labor Day tradition in many households around the county, and ours is no exception. This year’s fairy-tale production dispensed lessons for prince and princess alike. The modern twists woven into the typical happily-ever-after ending left us all laughing. The show pokes fun at the plight of the ever-waiting-to-be-rescued princess, and in the end reminds us that it’s best just to be comfortable in our own skin — even if it’s green. Hopefully, the kids will remember too that real royalty is a matter of the heart. Perhaps most profoundly the show left me wondering where I could get a Lord Farquaad get-up for Halloween. It was perfect. Kudos to all the brave souls who took to the stage; hopefully, the outpouring of community support made clear how much we appreciate your hard work.

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Liddick: Regulating toward Utopia, or at least an affordable Colorado condo

September 10, 2014 — 

Savarra Sullivan needs a home of her own.

Sullivan, a single mother with twin 4-year-olds, lives in Whittier. A preschool teacher and part-time community organizer, she has an affordable-housing apartment, but has been looking for a condominium for a couple years. Unsuccessfully. She is now pinning her hopes on proposals in the Denver City Council for an “affordable housing fund” which would funnel public money into subsidies for people in her position, that she may finally purchase one of these relatively expensive and rare properties.

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Mountain Law: How much force are Colorado police allowed to use during an arrest?

September 10, 2014 — 

How much force are Colorado police officers allowed to use when making an arrest? This article provides an overview of the law in this area.

Colorado law generally authorizes police officers to use all necessary and reasonable force to make an arrest. Specifically, Colorado law authorizes police officers to use force to carry out an arrest or prevent a suspect from escaping, or to defend themselves or a third person from use or imminent use of force.

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Littwin: Did Corry Gardner win the debate but lose the fight?

September 9, 2014 — 

GRAND JUNCTION — Let’s cut to the chase. Debates are notoriously hard to judge, but here’s my best guess: In the big Saturday night showdown here with Mark Udall, Cory Gardner won the debate and lost the fight.

Gardner performed exactly as expected. He was slick and he was smooth and he was quick on his feet. He smiled when he was attacking and he smiled even in the rare instances when he wasn’t.

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