Opinion Columns, Columnists

Young: You can’t vaccinate against this

January 29, 2015 — 

Master curmudgeon H.L. Mencken wrote, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

Mencken wrote this knowing that, as societies go, ours is a beacon of higher thought and inquiry. At the same time, he bemoaned “the virulence of the national appetite for bogus revelation.”

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Mountain Law: Is it against the law in Colorado to leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle?

January 28, 2015 — 

Unlike some states, Colorado does not have a specific statute that addresses this issue. Putting aside the potential for local ordinances, the issue would probably be governed by the general child abuse statute, which provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

“A person commits child abuse if such person causes an injury to a child’s life or health, or permits a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child’s life or health. ...”

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Littwin: Help wanted in Hillaryland

January 28, 2015 — 

If you haven’t heard the news, let me be the one to break it to you: Hillary Clinton is definitely running for president (OK, you knew that), and the two leading contenders to be her running mate are reportedly Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Colorado’s own senator ... Michael Bennet.

I’m not making this up. It was right there in Politico, under the byline of Washington insider Mike Allen, who got it from people deep inside Hillaryland, where the talk is that Bennet and Kaine have the inside track. (Others mentioned: Sen. Cory Booker, HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, California AG Kamala Harris.)

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Liddick: Obama speech spins fictitious foreign policy

January 26, 2015 — 

“Tonight … the United States is more secure.” — Barack Obama, State of the Union message to Congress, Jan. 20, 2015.

True, we all have to keep an eye on the measureless dread of global warming which the president identified as an immediate security threat, but otherwise — all’s well. Nothing measures the distance between the president’s delusions about the world and its reality like this snippet from his latest State of the Union. Except perhaps: “In Yemen, Iraq, Somalia and Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these (terrorist) networks.”

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Sirota: Big tax bills for the poor, tiny ones for the rich

January 25, 2015 — 

American politics are dominated by those with money. As such, America’s tax debate is dominated by voices that insist the rich are unduly persecuted by high taxes and that low-income folks are living the high life. Indeed, a new survey by the Pew Research Center recently found that the most financially secure Americans believe “poor people today have it easy.”

The rich are certainly entitled to their own opinions — but, as the old saying goes, nobody is entitled to their own facts. With that in mind, here’s a set of tax facts that’s worth considering: Middle- and low-income Americans are facing far higher state and local tax rates than the wealthy. In all, a comprehensive analysis by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that the poorest 20 percent of households pay on average more than twice the effective state and local tax rate (10.9 percent) as the richest 1 percent of taxpayers (5.4 percent).

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Biff America: Pectoral double standards

January 24, 2015 — 

It was ignored by the online news media, but I recently had a serious “nip slip” at the gym. For those of you not in the know, a nip slip is when an article of your clothing either malfunctions or is displaced, which allows one or (sometimes, I guess) both nipples to escape. It is can be very embarrassing — chilly — and is often the subject of news stories.

Just during the last few weeks I have seen headlines about Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga all suffering from the calamity. There is even a website dedicated to the occurrence — nipslip.com — which, I swear on my mother’s grave, I have never looked at until just a few minutes ago. But I’m not talking about some sleazy marginal fetish site; I’m talking about actual online news sources giving coverage to wardrobe malfunctions. Directly beneath (and sometimes above) world news and events — French terror attacks, pope in the Philippines, politics, economy — you’ll find breaking news of escaped bosoms.

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Littwin: See that? Republicans all about abortion, again

January 23, 2015 — 

As you know, Sen. Mark Uterus is no longer in the Senate. In losing to Cory Gardner last November, Mark, uh, Udall was mocked for his singleminded single-issueness in running all those TV ads defending women’s reproductive rights, which he insisted were under attack.

You may remember the commercials. If you do, you almost certainly wish you didn’t. Udall was mocked because, it turned out, no one except Udall and some other losing Democrats were talking about abortion and/or birth control. Republicans, if you recall, weren’t saying a word.

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Dupuy: Choosing marijuana policy over cyber security

January 23, 2015 — 

A cyber attack altered your holiday movie choices last year. Sony Pictures was the victim of a massive security breach. Personal emails were revealed, films pirated and employee data leaked. The corporation immediately kowtowed to the terrorists, rumored to be North Korean-sponsored, killing the theatrical release of the third in a trilogy of Seth Rogan and James Franco bromance movies, called “The Interview.”

It was terrorism. And it was terrifying. A major motion picture studio had just been brought to its knees groveling for whomever they upset not to do any further damage.

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Obama unbowed, challenges Republican Congress to step up

January 22, 2015 — 

You can forget nearly every detail you heard in Barack Obama’s seventh State of the Union speech. The speech wasn’t actually about policy. Obama knows, just as you know, just as everyone knows, that his policy prescriptions are going nowhere.

As you may have heard, there’s a new Congress in town, not to mention the same old reality, only worse.

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Bargell: Friendly rivalry and the rise of Summit County’s educational star

January 22, 2015 — 

This column has been swirling in my brain for the last couple of weeks. I’ve considered a number of different approaches, everything from gloating, to glossing over, the recent Summit School District successes. (OK, mostly gloating.) Neither, however, seemed entirely appropriate. It simply comes down to this — thanks for the hard work, it’s paid off. Let us know how we can continue to build on the recent success. For many of us it is the future.

Growing up in Boulder in the ’70s meant there were two high schools of choice — Boulder or Fairview. The rivalry between the schools often was fierce. It’s safe to say, however, that both local Boulder schools would readily unite against a common nemesis, adorned in red, white and blue, hailing from South Denver. When it came to sports we looked forward to playing “Creek” with equal parts dread and anticipation (OK, mostly dread). Cherry Creek was a bigger school, clearly filled an endless supply of bigger kids, all of whom had, we were certain, every advantage we probably lacked. One of the best moments of my final high school year was when our boys’ basketball team took state, topping Creek and various rivals along the way. I was just one student in a sea of hundreds, but the entire school shared in the achievement.

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Writers on the Range: A modest proposal for 2015

January 22, 2015 — 

In 1729, Jonathan Swift published the most famous satirical essay in the English language: “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public.” And what was Swift’s proposal? Merely that the 1-year-old children of indigents be eaten, thus solving the problems of poverty and overpopulation at a stroke.

Poverty and overpopulation are still with us, of course, but sadly, such bold ideas to solve these problems are in short supply today. Meanwhile, the world’s current level of 7 billion is straining resources to the limit. Certainly the Earth cannot support in health and comfort the 9 billion expected to swarm upon its surface by midcentury. Action must be taken — immediate, forceful action — to reduce the human population and rebalance the planet before it is too late. No person of good conscience can view televised scenes of squalor in the teeming cities of Africa and Asia — and even, if reports are to be believed, in parts of our own country — without feeling called upon to make a difference.

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Young: Vision vs. blindness on health coverage

January 21, 2015 — 

When he noticed weird stuff floating in his right eye, he didn’t blink. He called an eye doctor.

The next day, 24 hours after the abnormality introduced itself, he had eye surgery — a vitrectomy — that very likely spared him the loss of sight in that eye from a detached retina.

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Durst: The return of satire

January 20, 2015 — 

Decades after being dismissed by George S. Kaufman as a genre that “closes on Saturday night,” satire, like the measles and mumps, is making a comeback. And in many quarters, remains the most feared of the three conditions.

Some experts hold to a strict definition: “Satire portrays a viewpoint, while intending something different.” The most famous example being Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” the essay in which he advised Ireland’s poor to alleviate their poverty by selling their babies as food for the rich. At least we assume he was kidding. Hopefully no besotted chefs replicated his ingredients list.

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Dupuy: America’s also-ran industrial complex

January 19, 2015 — 

We often hear about the corrupting influence of money in politics. This usually means quid pro quos for moneyed interests. There’s lip service paid to the amount of cash a politician must raise in order to even run for office. Famously, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer ran for president in 2012 by only taking $200 donations … proving one can’t compete in the contest for the Oval Office by only taking $200 donations.

In the wake of the Citizens United decision and a provision tucked into last year’s spending bill tripling the amount individuals can donate to national parties, money in politics should obviously be a concern. But what’s even more distressing is that just having the potential to be president has become its own vocation.

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Liddick: Europe burns, Obama fiddles with legacy

January 19, 2015 — 

No, I don’t think the entire Obama Administration is on drugs. The president might have inhaled a few decades back, but the actions we’re seeing now are not those of a group of aging adolescents hitting the loco weed a bit too hard. They are instead a product of something profoundly more dangerous: the president’s unconcern for the security, reputation and well-being of this country, coupled with a fierce desire to write his name large in the history books at whatever cost. From such ill intent springs catastrophe.

The president may have preferred a quiet weekend at home recuperating from the exertions of his two-week Christmas vacation, but his refusal to appear in the largest demonstration Paris has seen since the end of World War II sends important messages. First, the United States does not stand with Western Europe in opposition to Islamist terrorism — words our administration cannot bring itself to utter in conjunction. Despite John Kerry’s embarrassingly looney serenade last Saturday, the distance the administration has created between our country and our former friends in Europe was abundantly clear.

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Sirota: The Windy City’s new gift to big campaign donors

January 19, 2015 — 

On its face, Chicago’s municipal pension system is an integral part of the Chicago city government. The system is included in the city’s budget, it is directly funded by the city, and its various boards of trustees include city officials and mayoral appointees. Yet, when it comes to enforcing the city’s anti-corruption laws in advance of the Chicago’s closely watched 2015 municipal election, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is suddenly arguing that the pension funds are not part of the city government at all.

The counterintuitive declaration came last month from the mayor-appointed ethics commission, responding to Chicago aldermen’s request for an investigation of campaign contributions to Emanuel from the financial industry. The request followed disclosures that executives at firms managing Chicago pension money have made more than $600,000 worth of donations to Emanuel. The contributions flowed to the mayor despite a city ordinance — and an executive order by Emanuel himself — restricting mayoral campaign contributions from city contractors.

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Pace: Summit School District earns recognition, looks to the future

January 18, 2015 — 

Summit School District wishes all of our students, staff and families a very happy new year! This time of year brings with it a call to reflect on our current successes and the future direction of our school district.

For the first time, Summit School District earned the highest accreditation rating possible from the Colorado Department of Education, Accredited with Distinction, based on our impressive student achievement, graduation rate, dropout rate and ACT scores. (For those in the football frame of mind, this is a bit like winning the national championship or the Super Bowl in the world of public education.) Our graduation rate exceeded 90 percent at Summit High School and they met the graduation rate targets for all student subgroups for the first time. Also for the first time, Summit School District took home the English Language Proficiency Act Excellence Award, given to the top 10 school districts whose English-language learners had the highest academic achievement, academic growth and language proficiency. These are just two of a number of recent recognitions and awards earned by the school district, thanks to the outstanding accomplishments of our students, staff, families and volunteers.

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Heard around the West: Bearded beatniks stir trouble at Brigham Young University

January 17, 2015 — 

UTAH

“There’s no place at Brigham Young University for the grimy, sandaled, tight-fitted, ragged-Levi beatnik,” college president Ernest Wilkinson said back in the 1960s. But that was then, says BYU student Shane Pittson, 23, and now, “You can do your own thing and still be a Mormon.” Pittson’s “thing” is winning the right to grow a beard, and his campaign hit a nerve after he organized a bicycle ride through campus with fellow protesters sporting “chin bristles fashioned from cardboard,” reports The New York Times. History is in his favor: Portraits of BYU founder Brigham Young show the 19th century church patriarch’s chin festooned with a voluminous beard.

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Littwin: Hick’s fiscal thicket fix-it sounds like crickets

January 17, 2015 — 

I was on the edge of my seat for 40 minutes, which, let me tell you, is a long time to be on the edge of anything.

The governor was giving his state of the state speech (the state of the state, by the way, is apparently “strong”), and the speech felt — I’ll try to be fair here — long. But I knew there would be a payoff, because, well, 40 minutes.

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Writers on the Range: Climate change activism needs anybody

January 16, 2015 — 

I’ve made some unlikely new friends since becoming a climate-change activist. One of them is an 83-year-old retired engineer who is passionate about electric vehicles and doesn’t shy away from an argument. Another is a dairy farmer turned college student, who is so quiet it’s hard to know what he is thinking. Others include a retired pilot, a graduate student in economics and a retired science teacher, who are all still puzzles to me, as well as a guy who works at a homeless shelter and gets everywhere by bicycle, although he lives at the end of a long steep road in the soggy Pacific Northwest.

There is not a single person I would have identified as obvious friend material. I do not mean this unkindly, and in fact, they have taught me a thing or two about what this movement needs to succeed.

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Ask Eartha: Where to get your daily dose of environmental news

January 15, 2015 — 

Dear Eartha,

I am always looking for new ways to get inspired and get involved in my community’s environmental issues. Can you give me some insight into ways that I can become more informed of the hot-topic issues, and ways that I can begin to give back? — Carolyn M., Keystone

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Littwin: Never mind the Bollocks, here’s Charlie Hebdo

January 15, 2015 — 

We may not all be Charlie Hebdo, but we live these days in a Charlie Hebdo world.

And you can find what we’ll call a Charlie Hebdo moment almost anywhere you look.

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Mountain Law: Unsigned agreement with your lender? Beware the Colorado Credit Agreements Act

January 14, 2015 — 

A “statute of frauds” is a law that requires certain types of agreements to be in writing. The types of agreements that are traditionally unenforceable unless in writing include contracts for the purchase and sale of land, agreements where performance will not start until more than one year after their making and promises to be responsible for another person’s debts.

The prevention of fraud comes at the expense of permitting those who have in fact made oral promises to break them with impunity. To address concerns about broken oral promises, the law traditionally subjects the statute of frauds to certain exceptions. For example, Colorado allows the partial performance of the contract by both parties to take the place of a written agreement under certain circumstances.

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Young: To the future? Who needs roads?

January 14, 2015 — 

It’s 2015, you know, and a tea party fantasy looks to be realized.

No, we’re not talking about Republican control of both houses of Congress. We’re talking about the fantasy that begat a sequel to “Back to the Future.”

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Polman: On Elizabeth Warren, the bright shiny object

January 14, 2015 — 

Elizabeth Warren continues to bedazzle people precisely because she’s not running for president. If she were to actually run for president, her power to bedazzle would diminish in a flash. To quote the sage Bob Dylan, “What looks large from a distance, close up ain’t never that big.”

Her name came up the other night, during a political focus group convened in Colorado by pollster Peter Hart. Clearly, she’s the bright shining object in our tarnished political firmament. Six of 12 participants said that Warren, among all possible 2016 contenders, was the person they’d most like to host at home. She’s also the person they’d most want as a neighbor, because she’s so “down to earth.” Even the Republicans in the room raved about her. One of them said, “She is personable and knowledgeable and has a good handle on what’s going on in the country.” Another lauded her as “genuine.”

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Liddick: The president promises, we pay up

January 12, 2015 — 

At least he telegraphed the punch. President Obama has tipped his hand about one of the major budget themes he’ll visit in his State of the Union message: more free stuff for his favorites, paid for by the rest of us poor insignificant, invisible drudges.

At issue is the president’s proposal that “community college ought to be free.” Which everyone reading this column should recognize as false advertising at the very least. What he really means is “community college for everyone ought to be financed by the half of Americans paying income taxes,” yet another transfer of wealth from the despised productive classes to the legions of wide-eyed, credulous Obamaniacs in the Academy. It won’t work as the Spendthrift-in-Chief suggests and well may do harm, for a number of reasons.

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Durst: Resolutions I’m looking forward to in 2015

January 12, 2015 — 

Usually over the period of 12 months, you get an equal balance of good days and bad. On the playground of the cosmos, the scales tend to balance out. But holey moley catfish, seems like last year the good days spent the bulk of recess time hiding behind the equipment shed next to the monkey bars, and the teeter totter hardly moved what with that fat punk-bad days, grounded on his end of the board throwing rocks at squirrels.

2014 was to years what Boko Haram is to religious tolerance. Think Donald Sterling and Martin Luther King keynote speakers. Utah and jazz. Rob Ford and all you can eat buffets. Oh wait, that does go together. But you catch my drift. 2014 was the year when Facebook offered to freeze employees’ eggs, and everyone responded, “Eeewwww.” That saw Gary Busey made a comeback, and everyone responded, “Eeewwww.”

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Sirota: Gifts to Christie raise big ethics questions

January 11, 2015 — 

Gov. Chris Christie’s appearances at professional football games to cheer on his beloved Dallas Cowboys have led to questions about why his favorite team isn’t a New Jersey local like the Jets, Giants or Eagles. But Christie’s bromance with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones raises an even thornier question: When Christie received free owners’ box seats for recent Cowboys games, was he complying with New Jersey’s tough ethics rules banning gifts and favors to public officials?

New Jersey’s executive branch ethics rules warn state officials that there’s “a zero tolerance policy for acceptance of gifts offered to you ... that are related in any way to your official duties.” The ethics rules specifically prohibit public officials from accepting access to entertainment events from any person or entity that public officials “deal with, contact, or regulate in the course of official business.” The rules define one form of restricted gift as “admission to an event for which a member of the general public would be charged.”

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Langlois: The solace of lonely places

January 11, 2015 — 

The man pulls back the tarp, and I’m staring at a seal carcass. Two seal carcasses, actually. They’re 250 pounds apiece, laid out head-to-tail with a neat bullet wound through each head. Their congealed blood glows, drops of rubies on the blue tarp.

I’ve encountered a lot of seals in Alaska, but I’ve never seen one so close — or so dead. Where a knife has sliced through to bleed them out, the blubber is 2 inches thick. It’ll be used to make seal oil, hard to come by in Anchorage these days, to be gobbled by the spoonful like peanut butter from the jar. Wayne shows me pictures on his iPhone of crafts he makes from speckled seal fur. The creases of his fingers are stained with blood.

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Gulliford: Caught wearing the wrong color

January 11, 2015 — 

I knew we were in trouble when I saw the third snowshoe hare. It was almost noon on the first day of elk season back in early November. I had a knife, hunting rifle and adequate ammunition. Yet what I realized made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I felt immediately threatened. As we all are.

Here in Colorado, we have so far been spared the most dramatic consequences of climate change. No oceans are lapping at the shores of Denver and no glaciers are calving off Grand Mesa near Grand Junction. Yet scientists warn that humans are responsible for creating a new geological era some have labeled the Anthropocene, whose warming atmosphere is tipping our world toward a more chaotic climate.

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