Monday, March 30, 2009

Job Creation -- the Old-Fashioned Way

Hey, here's a cool new idea in today's Boulder Daily Camera. It's called venture capitalism. This is how it works.

You start with a group of private citizens who have a little extra money to spare, a nose for good ideas and a willingness to take a chance on a startup company that has potential. They pool their personal funds and go out prospecting for interesting new businesses, hoping that they'll turn a profit, which will bring a decent return on their investment, if the company takes off. Sometimes these "ventures" succeed, and everyone benefits: the investors, the start-up, the new employees, the economy as a whole. Sometimes they fail -- but that's okay, since the costs of failure are only shouldered by the venture capitalists.

Here's the really interesting part. It's completely voluntary, and private. No taxpayers are involved! No politicians are involved! There's no need to coerce the public into making risky "investments" with tax dollars. Jobs are created, only without the need for government meddling and micromanagement. There's no favoritism involved, either, since winners and losers aren't determined by politicians, but by consumers, competition, market forces and the skill and ability of individual business owners. It's no longer the government's responsibility to create jobs, so it can focus on the things government does well.

It's a radical concept, no doubt, but maybe we should think about giving this "venture capitalism" thing a try here in Colorado Springs before we adopt the government-centered approach offered by backers of ballot issue 1A. Many of the folks funding the "jobs now" campaign are financially well-off, and count themselves as savvy business people: why don't they take the money they're contributing to 1A (almost $150,000 at last count), and take the money they give to the Economic Development Corp. each year, and use it to create a private venture capital fund for local job creation? If they're so sure they know how to create jobs and "invest" in the local economy, why don't they leave the taxpayers out of it and put their personal money on the line?

Just a few questions to ponder for those who still haven't made up their minds on 1A.

It's strange and ironic to see good old-fashioned, private sector-centered, free-market venture capitalism alive and well in Boulder County, even while supposedly-conservative Colorado Springs is flirting with central planning and "municipal socialism."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Playing Water Politics a Hard Habit to Kick

The water war between Pueblo and Colorado Springs has for years been a reliable vote-getter for Democrats, so some of them actually seem a little disappointed that the hostilities might be coming to an end. While the two cities finally seem on the verge of working things out, on the Southern Delivery System pipeline project and related issues, certain politicians seem inclined to keep stirring the pot, perhaps for fear of losing an issue they've exploited for votes.

What has SDS to do with partisan politics? Could politicians really be so cynical and self-serving? Answering the first question requires a bit of context. The answer to the second question would seem self evident.

Here's the context.

Pueblo has a lot of registered Democrats, and a powerhouse little newspaper, The Chieftain, that's done everything in its power to delay and derail the pipeline, by portraying Colorado Springs as an 800-pound gorilla taking advantage of the rest of the Arkansas Valley. And because Colorado Springs and El Paso County are heavily Republican in their voting habits, Democrats -- from Ken Salazar to John Salazar to Mark Udall -- have learned that they have little to lose and much to gain (including the endorsement of The Pueblo Chieftain) by playing to Pueblo's sense of victimization.

Some readers may recall that it was former Attorney General Ken Salazar, a Democrat -- and the current Secretary of Interior -- who first encouraged Pueblo County to use regulatory mechanisms (including so-called 1041 rules) to impede the pipeline. His brother, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, has incorporated Springs-bashing themes in the mailers he sends to Arkansas Valley constituents. And freshman Sen. Mark Udall also has played the issue for votes, by posing as the protector of Pueblo and the lower Ark against big, bad Colorado Springs.

All three men understood that they could secure the political support of The Chieftain, and gain whatever additional Pueblo votes that might bring, by playing one community off against the other. Instead of helping mend fences, they used their positions to help build them higher. And now, when a series of recent developments suggest that an end to the water war might be near, John Salazar and Mark Udall seem reluctant to embrace the good news and move ahead.

They don't call it "water politics" for nothing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bursting Obama's Bubble

A report in Saturday's Washington Post offered a sobering and even shocking assessment of President Barack Obama's first budget proposal. And the critiques come not from Congressional Republicans or Rush Limbaugh, but from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which reports that Obama's budget, if approved as written, would effectively break the bank.

Reports the Post:

"In the first independent analysis of Obama's budget proposal, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that Obama's policies would cause government spending to swell above historic levels even after costly programs to ease the recession and stabilize the nation's financial system have ended.

Tax collections, meanwhile, would lag well behind spending, producing huge annual budget deficits that would force the nation to borrow nearly $9.3 trillion over the next decade -- $2.3 trillion more than the president predicted when he unveiled his budget request just one month ago.

Although Obama would come close to meeting his goal of cutting in half the deficit he inherited by the end of his first term, the CBO predicts that deficits under his policies would exceed 4 percent of the overall economy over the next 10 years, a level White House budget director Peter R. Orszag yesterday acknowledged would "not be sustainable."

The result, according to the CBO, would be an ever-expanding national debt that would exceed 82 percent of the overall economy by 2019 -- double last year's level -- and threaten the nation's financial stability.

"This clearly creates a scenario where the country's going to go bankrupt. It's almost that simple," said Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, who briefly considered joining the Obama administration as commerce secretary. "One would hope these numbers would wake somebody up," Gregg said." . . . .

. . . . .The CBO is the official scorekeeper for budgeting on Capitol Hill, and the new report could complicate efforts to win congressional approval for Obama's $3.6 trillion request for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. While Obama had predicted a deficit of nearly $1.2 trillion for 2010, the CBO puts next year's budget gap at nearly $1.4 trillion. And this year's deficit is now projected to soar past $1.8 trillion, or 13 percent of the economy -- the deepest well of red ink since the end of World War II.

This is "change you can count on," perhaps. But is it change we can afford?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Peace is at hand! Peace is at hand!

After years of hearing that a breakthrough was imminent in the seemingly endless water war between Colorado Springs and Pueblo over the SDS pipeline project, only to be disappointed, I now believe it's possible.

Why? Because the Pueblo Chieftain is bitter: editorial.

The paper's editorial page has been a tenacious -- and that might be an understatement -- critic of both the pipeline project and Colorado Springs, serving as a major obstacle to mutual understanding, fair negotiations and cooperation on the ground. And the fact that it seems to be conceding defeat, at least on permitting for the pipeline, is the strongest evidence I've seen that a bona fide breakthrough is at hand.

More study is needed before we can know for certain how much in "concessions" Colorado Springs gave up in order to gain (or is it "buy") the support of Pueblo city, county and water board officials. My suspicion, based on the stories I've seen in the Chieftain -- and the reference in today's editorial to having "squeezed about as many concessions as possible from Colorado Springs Utilities" -- is that Pueblo's cooperation isn't coming cheap. Maybe this will be the subject of a later blog post.

But Colorado Springs Utilities nonetheless deserves credit for persevering in the face of so many obstacles -- many of which were erected by The Chieftain's pit bull-like editorial page.

That a paper's prerogative, of course. There's something admirable about tenacity in defending one's position. And I always had a grudging respect for the way the Chieftain held its ground, even when I believed it was slowing the project, costing CSU ratepayers a lot of money and poisoning relations between cities that should be better partners. But perhaps we'll see a tempering of tone if the permitting is approved and the project moves forward.

The Chieftain will continue to watchdog the project, no doubt. That's as it should be. But maybe with a little less of its biting and snarling, the two cities can heal their divisions and move forward on some mutually-beneficial endeavors.

Peace between Pueblo and Colorado Springs? It now seems possible. Maybe there's hope yet for settling that Arab-Israeli thing.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Scent of Scandal has Udall Scrambling

Does Senator Mark Udall read The American Contrarian?

One almost might think so, judging from the way the freshman senator is hurriedly distancing himself from the practice of earmarking, in the wake of this blog's connecting of dots between him and the next big lobbying scandal brewing in Washington, focused on the currently-under-investigation PMA Group. The firm has strong ties to Democrats, especially Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha -- one of the House's most prodigious porkers -- but it spread money around to Republicans as well (including local Rep. Doug Lamborn).

Most politicians with ties to the group have been scrambling to scrub off the taint.

As I first reported here Feb. 22, Udall's name appeared on a list of members of Congress who received contributions from the now-shuttered lobbying shop, and also sponsored earmarks that benefited PMA clients. And it wasn't the first time Udall's name has come up in a pork for pay context, as I pointed out in a Feb 24 post.

These revelations generated some buzz around the Colorado blogosphere, but never made the leap over to the MSM in Colorado. Other politicians' links to PMA have been news elsewhere, however. Illinois Rep. Peter Visclosky has disowned political contributions he received from the group, as have Florida Sen. Ben Nelson, who donated his PMA contributions to charity, and Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio.

Udall hasn't disavowed his contributions from PMA, as far as I know -- probably because Colorado's MSM has been so slow to pick up on the story. But he is making efforts to inoculate himself against potential political damage, and distance himself from the practice of earmarking, by vowing to go on a low pork diet.

Reported Thursday's Longmont Times-Call:

Udall puts restrictions on earmark requests

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, will no longer accept private corporations’ and other non-government groups’ requests for earmarks in federal appropriations bills, his staff announced Wednesday.

Udall’s policy will now be to consider only those funding requests proposed by public entities in Colorado seeking federal funding, his staff said.

Udall’s staff said he’ll still encourage Colorado’s cities, counties, colleges and universities, special districts and water conservancy districts, for example, to submit proposals for possible inclusion in congressional appropriations bills.

“I believe that the appropriations process is largely broken and subject to abuse,” Udall said in a statement.

Udall and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Denver, both voted Tuesday to advance the $410 billion spending package that President Barack Obama signed into law Wednesday.

Last year, when he was a congressman, Udall imposed a one-year moratorium on his own earmark requests. The bill signed Wednesday didn’t include any earmarks from either him or Bennet.

Udall said Wednesday that “political contributions from people or companies requesting earmarks can taint the legislative process.

“Government entities, however, are not allowed to make political donations, and government entities and officials are directly accountable to Coloradans, unlike private sector entities,” Udall added.

“On balance, it seems fair under current circumstances to appropriately fund Colorado government entities and thus directly help the people of Colorado,” Udall said.

The last thing a rising political star needs is to have his name connected to scandal. Look what the Keating 5 affair did to an up-and-coming young senator named John McCain. The Hill reports that PMA already is shaping up as potent campaign issue in 2010.

Udall obviously has been a part of the broken and abused appropriations process he now decries. His ties to the PMA Group, and links to the pork-for-pay game, make that clear. Just as John McCain became a good government gadfly after narrowly surviving the Keating 5 affair, perhaps Udall's connection to PMA is leading to this anti-earmark conversion.

But before Udall can earn redemption, he has to come clean. His new attitude toward earmarks is laudable, but he still owes Coloradans a complete explanation of his ties to PMA. And he needs to donate those tainted PMA campaign contributions to a good cause.

Just as a postscript: The House of Representatives on Feb. 24 voted down a resolution calling for an Ethics Committee probe of the PMA-pork connection. Presiding during the vote was Penn. Rep. Time Holden, a Democrat, who received more than $57,000 in campaign contributions from PMA’s political action committee from 2001 to 2008.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Boulder is Proving Kyoto Critics Correct

If George W. Bush wasn't going to save the planet, then by golly Boulder was!

So the college town, like many other American cities, showed its determination to think locally and act globally (or is it think globally and act locally?) by mandating citywide greenhouse gas reductions fashioned after a Kyoto Treaty never ratified by the U.S.. City leaders may have harbored hopes that their grand gesture would shame the former president into finally signing on, even though critics said meeting the treaty's benchmarks (cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012) would be costly, unachievable and could cripple the U.S. economy.

And Boulder is proving the Kyoto critics right.

The effort (much like Kyoto itself) is turning out to be a complete flop, according to a recent report in the Boulder Daily Camera, except when it comes to extricating taxes from businesses and building a nice little climate change bureaucracy for the city. About 32 percent of the $869,000 in "carbon taxes" collected by the city in 2008 went to "staff and administrative costs," according to a summary in the Boulder Camera, which was more than the $263, 684 the city spent trying to boost residential energy efficiency (which moved it 0.60 toward its Kyoto goal).

So the city government has grown its carbon footprint, by adding personnel and providing them with energy-sucking office space and office equipment, even while lecturing the rest of Boulderites about their environmentally-incorrect lifestyle choices.

Despite seven years of effort and a significant expenditure of tax dollars, the outcomes have been disappointing across the board. And that has a little more realism infusing the debate. Writes the Camera:

"Last year, staff from Boulder’s Office of Environmental Affairs told the City Council that without more funding the city will only make it a third of the way to its emissions target.

Now the Kyoto clock is ticking, and Boulder’s City Council is considering whether to raise the city’s carbon tax, passed by voters in 2006 to pay for greenhouse gas reductions. But even if the tax is increased to the maximum rate approved by voters, the city is likely to get only two-thirds of the way to its 2012 goal if it sticks to the current strategy.

Watching Boulder, well-known for its progressive environmental regulations, struggle to reduce emissions on its own has some people wondering if hitting the Kyoto goal is possible — or even desirable.

“Efforts to meet the Kyoto targets are arbitrary, especially for cities, and mostly symbolic,” said Roger Pielke Jr., an environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado who is known for picking apart climate policy. “To the extent that cities engage in shenanigans like offset schemes, such efforts give the appearance of doing something while doing little or nothing, which is probably worse than doing nothing.”

Arguing about who will meet Kyoto and who won’t is a distraction, he said.

“It is a waste of time for Boulder to try and meet the Kyoto goals,” he said. “A far better strategy would be to set targets for carbon intensity of energy supply and efficiency gains, and then see how well we can meet these targets.”

But rather than admit they erred -- and admit, by extension, that Kyoto skeptics may have been right -- backers of the program, like all good zealots, argue for soldiering on, believing that increasing the carbon tax, boosting public education and adopting more coercive methods can still turn this into something more than a grand but empty gesture.

All that matters, really, is that they tried.

"And even if none of the 900-some “Kyoto cities” meet their emission targets, there is still power in signing the agreement, according to Annie Strickler, spokeswoman for ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability. As a group representing a quarter of all Americans, the mayors make a powerful lobby for state and federal climate policies.

“In general, what we’ve seen as one of the most important pieces of what local governments are doing is the leadership they’ve shown pushing this issue nationally and internationally,” Strickler said. “The U.S. has been absent on the issue of global warming. That void has been filled by local governments.”

Strickler said there are many roadblocks for many local governments trying to reduce emissions, including an inability to set fuel-economy standards for vehicles or regulate utilities. But, she said, it’s local governments who are educating people and laying the groundwork for their residents to support federal action on climate change. “They’ve inspired people and inspired action,” Strickler said. “It informs the changes that people make in their daily lives and also what they are willing to get behind.”

Boulder can perhaps take solace in the fact that few if any of the American cities that jumped aboard the "Kyoto cities" bandwagon have even come close to meeting their goals: 2007 study on the progress of "Kyoto cities". But as this study shows, few of the mayors who signed on gave much consideration to the practical or economic implications of what they were doing. It was all about "symbolism" and short-term partisan politics, since the vast majority of "Kyoto cities" were (and still are) run by Democrats, who couldn't resist the temptation to take shots at a Republican president.

But you can drop the whole thing now, Boulder. The Republican is out and a Democrat is in. The all powerful and all-benevolent Obama will save the planet, even if he has to break the back of the American economy to do it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Colorado Needs a Bernese Mountain Dog Mandate

What are we waiting for?

We're only half way through the 2009 session and the legislature still has time to pass a law mandating that every home in Colorado have a Bernese mountain dog mix on the premises, in order to prevent the kind of tragedy that befell a family visiting Aspen last year.

We could just trust that a statewide carbon monoxide detector mandate, approved in the wake of the Aspen tragedy, will be safeguard enough. But why stop there? Detectors can run out of batteries, be incorrectly installed or malfunction. Some people may be such sound sleepers that a high-pitched buzzing won't stir them. Lives are at stake if we don't do more.

It's now been shown that Bernese mountain dogs (or mixes) can save lives.

"A pet's barks and cries alerted the occupants of a Western Slope home to a carbon-monoxide buildup this past weekend, a family says.

Kenai, a 14-year-old Bernese-mountain-dog mix, started "whining and barking" at 4 a.m. Sunday, waking one of three adults sleeping in the basement of the New Castle home, said Kirstin Kraig of Arvada. Kraig and her husband, their two children, five other adults and four dogs were all staying at the home.

That night they had cooked in the oven. Investigators told Kraig that the oven caused the carbon-monoxide leak.

The mountain getaway home didn't have any detectors."

Our next step -- a statewide Bernese mountain dog mandate -- couldn't be more obvious. Requiring that every Coloradan own a Bernese mountain dog is an easy and affordable way to ensure that no one ever dies from carbon monoxide poisoning again. And if not everyone can afford a dog, we can offer subsidies -- what better way to "invest" some of the federal stimulus money heading our way!

Get cracking, legislature. Lives are at stake!

A Federal Holiday -- for as far as the eye can see

Most Americans are living under the shadow of economic storm clouds. But the forecast couldn't be sunnier for federal worker bees, who will see the hive thrive under queen bee Barack Obama.

Washington is recession proof. The government grows even when the economy, and the American standard of living, contract. Maybe there's even a causal connection there.

A recent Washington Post analysis of Obama's first budget found that tens of thousands of federal positions will have to be added to implement his grand design.

"President Obama's budget is so ambitious, with vast new spending on health care, energy independence, education and services for veterans, that experts say he probably will need to hire tens of thousands of new federal government workers to realize his goals.

The $3.6 trillion plan released last week proposes spending billions to begin initiatives and implement existing programs, and given Obama's insistence that he would scale back the use of private-sector contractors, his priorities could reverse a generational decline in the size of the government workforce.

Exactly how many new workers would be needed remains unclear -- one independent estimate was 100,000, while the conservative Heritage Foundation said it is likely to be closer to a quarter-million."

The Post went on to report that many federal agencies are already gearing up for a hiring glut. And while die-hard statists and federal employee unions are gleeful, it marks the reversal of a trend toward more modest government that began under President Ronald Reagan and continued through President Bill Clinton, who famously (though prematurely) declared that "the era of big government is over."

Reports The Post:

Between 1940 and 1970, the federal civilian workforce swelled from 707,000 to 2.1 million . . . . But ever since Ronald Reagan swept into the White House in 1981 with a call to decrease the government's footprint, presidents have limited the size of the workforce. Although President

George W. Bush added tens of thousands of airport baggage screeners and other homeland security jobs, he offset much of that increase by limiting hiring at other agencies. In reversing this trend, Obama would make himself politically vulnerable to charges that he is growing not just the power of government, but also its size. If the outside estimates are realized, Obama could spur a government hiring spree on a scale unseen since President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society agenda in the 1960s.

"What group of socialists got in the room and wrote this budget? Do they have any idea what the implications are?" asked Republican Newt Gingrich, who as House speaker in the 1990s advocated a shrinking of the government. "This is the most aggressive 180-degree turn that we have seen in the American system."

Obama and the Democrats in charge of Congress are making other moves that will grow the federal workforce and empower federal bureaucrats. While private sector unemployment rises, and good paying jobs dry up, federal workers seem poised to get big pay increases.

Obama last week used executive orders to reverse a trend toward outsourcing and privatizing federal jobs, by attempting to redefine, and broaden, the definition of an "inherently government function." Reports

"President Obama on Wednesday ordered the Office of Management and Budget to undertake an in-depth review of the government's contracting efforts, including the outsourcing of work historically performed by federal employees.

A memorandum Obama issued requires the OMB director to work with the Defense secretary, NASA administrator, General Services Administration chief, Office of Personnel Management director and others to develop guidance on strengthening contract oversight, ending unnecessary no-bid and cost-plus deals and maximizing competition in procurement. Obama said these reforms will save taxpayers $40 billion annually. The guidance, due by Sept. 30, must clarify "when governmental outsourcing for services is and is not appropriate."

The memo stated that OMB Circular A-76, the government's playbook for public-private job competitions, was based on the "reasonable premise" that taxpayers might get a better deal if activities that are not inherently governmental are subject to competitive forces.

"However, the line between inherently governmental activities that should not be outsourced and commercial activities that may be subject to private sector competition has been blurred and inadequately defined," Obama wrote. "As a result, contractors may be performing inherently governmental functions. Agencies and departments must operate under clear rules prescribing when outsourcing is and is not appropriate."

The Bush administration strongly supported competitive sourcing and engaged in a number of legislative skirmishes to push the initiative and defend it from congressional detractors. Lawmakers have continued to fight public-private competitions, however, most recently with a provision in the fiscal 2009 omnibus spending bill that would suspend new Circular A-76 competitions. The provision also would require agencies to review current contracts and issue guidelines for considering if new projects can be performed by federal employees, or if previously outsourced work can be brought back in-house.

The move was hailed by federal employee unions, who have worked with Democrats in Congress to thwart any and all efforts to contract out government services. "We hope this is the end of the era of privatization during which agencies were forced to contract out regardless of cost or quality, and at the expense of integrity and accountability of federal programs," said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees.

And the unions have a strong ally in Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat who now chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Federal Workforce Subcommittee. Lynch's agenda begins with a pay raise for federal workers and grows more ambitious from there -- culminating in winning collective bargaining rights for airport screeners.

If you think traversing the TSA gauntlet is excruciating now, just wait until the "thousands standing around" are fully unionized. It'll make a trip to the post office feel like a breeze.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rocky Castoff a Welcome Addition at The Post

When the Rocky Mountain News went under several weeks back, only a handful of its talented staff could be taken in by an erstwhile rival, The Denver Post. I was glad to learn that former Rocky Editorial Page Editor Vincent Carroll was one of them.

Not only would an important voice in Denver media not be silenced, I thought, but this would bring more balance to the Post's opinion page, which still leans too far left for my tastes, despite the hiring a few years back of the very talented David Harsanyi. It's just unfortunate Carroll will only be a columnist, and not sit on the editorial board, because that's where the Post -- which isn't The New York Times, to be sure -- could use his common-sense conservatism (I apologize if he prefers the libertarian label).

Carroll's editorial pages were better than the Post's, in my humble opinion, and not just because they leaned more to my side of the ideological spectrum, or because they featured the work of the great Pete Blake. Vince's personal columns were for me a must-read: They could always be counted on to make clear, substantive, well-argued and well-aimed observations about the Colorado scene. And his interests mirror my own, making it feel at times like he was reading my mind (and beating me to the punch on picking up on something).

He hasn't missed a step since moving to The Post, as today's column shows.

The first half of Carroll's piece highlights one of many oddities about Obamanomics -- that the president and his top aides seem to think any and every American job is worth "saving," except jobs in the one sector of the American economy that actually generates real value and real jobs, and is indispensable to our economic strength -- the energy sector. There the president seems to be making war on American jobs.

“Two weeks ago, President Barack Obama grandly told the nation that during "every moment of economic upheaval" in the past, the government "created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive."

But what about old businesses, you might wonder. Isn't their health of equal importance?
Apparently not. Take the energy industry, which the president identified as one of the three keys to our economic future. The recovery plan actually "begins with energy," he declared.

In fact, his administration's job destruction plan begins with energy. At the very moment Obama is poised to direct waves of subsidies into forms of renewable energy that account for a minuscule slice of the nation's electricity, he would strip oil and natural gas producers of incentives to drill.

New jobs in green energy could easily be engulfed by jobs lost in domestic oil and gas production.”

Carroll then takes up a topic near and dear to my heart: the madness of the Endangered Species Act. And here he echoes things I've written about Colorado’s regrettable experiment with the Canada lynx:

“Will a 3-foot-long cat become for this state the guest who takes over the family room — forever?

"A new lynx conservation plan could be a factor in whether Breckenridge Ski Resort will be allowed to expand onto Peak 6," the Summit Daily News reports. The lynx is a "threatened" species, you see, so any use of its habitat is a minefield.

At the moment, the Forest Service is merely studying the area around Peak 6 before it decides how to rule. That would be routine, except for one thing: The lynx in question are newcomers. They're guests we invited here between 1999 and 2006, importing them from Alaska and Canada in an attempt to restore the creatures to the southernmost reach of their original range.

Biologists doubt that lynx were ever plentiful in Colorado, as sightings were rare even in the state's early days. But since the release of the lynx a decade ago, they seem to have flourished.

Some of us predicted what is happening now. Putting lynx in the wild is fine, we warned, but the state should proceed only if the federal government pledges that the species will not be used to restrict land uses. Listing the lynx as "experimental" would have done the trick, but the state didn't even seek that status until after the cats were here. Naturally, the feds said no.

The lesson is clear for the next "re-introduction" of a species (wolves? wolverines?). Before we transport them here, first ensure that their rights won't trump ours.”

The lesson seems clear -- but is apparently lost on those who recently launched a lynx-like recolonization effort at Fort Carson with the black-footed ferret, which I’ve commented on here and here. If the Carson colony flourishes, it's only a matter of time before the presence of the animals is used by gang green to argue for training restrictions at the facility. Where will Fort Carson and Colorado Springs be then?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Go Dark, America

Roughly 20 percent of the electricity consumed by this energy-starved country comes from nuclear power plants, and it will be extremely difficult to build new ones, or replace aging ones, without a reasonable solution to the problem of spent fuel storage. Yucca Mountain, though not a perfect solution -- is there such a thing? -- was the best we had come up, at least until yesterday, when Secretary of Energy Steven Chu drove the final nail in its coffin, marking the triumph of fear over reason, politics over practical necessity.

Dying with it is the dream of a nuclear energy revival in the United States, since this administration's willingness to pull the plug on Yucca Mountain -- after 27 years of work and $13.5 billion spent -- can't help but discourage companies that might be considering the construction of new power plants, given all the regulatory and public relations hurdles they already face.

"Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said Thursday that the proposed Yucca Mountain site in Nevada no longer is an option for storing highly radioactive nuclear waste, brushing aside criticism from several Republican lawmakers.

Instead, Chu said the Obama administration believes the about 60,000 tons of waste in the form of used reactor fuel can remain at nuclear power plants while a new, comprehensive plan for waste disposal is developed.

Chu's remarks touched off a sometimes testy exchange with U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.,

Obama's rival for president last year, and provided the most definitive signal yet that the government's attempt to address the commercial nuclear waste problem is veering in a dramatically new direction.

At a hearing, McCain and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the decision not to pursue the Yucca Mountain project threatens the expansion of nuclear energy because the government can give no assurance on waste disposal."

McCain asked point blank," What's wrong with Yucca Mountain, Mr. Chu?"

To which Chu glibly replied: "I think we can do a better job."

That's quite an epitaph for a project that was researched and worked on for 27 years, at a cost of $13.5 billion. I wonder how many more years, and billions more dollars, it will take to come up with this illusive something "better"?

Who still questions whether we have radicals steering the ship of state? And who can tell me where 20 percent of our electricity will come from when existing nuclear power plants go cold?

Oh, that's right: we'll get it from windmills.

Opponents picked Yucca Mountain apart by arguing for perfection and playing on fear. It wasn't safe enough or secure enough or remote enough. Yet there's far less safety and security and remoteness in the alternative they now offer -- which is to leave these materials in the more than 100 scattered locations where they sit, waiting for final disposition, in facilities designed for temporary storage. All these facilities -- all these potential targets for terrorists -- are much closer to population centers than Yucca Mountain is.

That this news is greeted with a collective yawn demonstrates how completely disconnected the American people are. They sit back, complacently assuming the lights will go on when they flick the switch, while radicals wage all-out war on the very industries -- coal, nuclear, oil and gas -- that make this possible. They spew bromides about "energy independence," but allow these same radicals to advance policies that make that goal further and further out of reach. They live in a fantasy world, in which all their modern conveniences, and all their freedoms, are guaranteed in perpetuity, even as their chosen political leaders back policies that endanger both.

And most of them are so stubbornly ignorant about how things really work -- making it impossible for them to connect the dots between regulatory causes and market/consumer effects --that they'll undoubtedly blame the evil energy companies when they're left sitting in the cold and dark.

I'm stocking up on firewood and looking forward to that day.

Stimulus and Response

The road to economic recovery is paved with. . . . .wheelchair-accessible sidewalks?

Apparently so.

I don't know about anybody else, but I'm overstimulated.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

And Let's Keep it That Way

The Colorado Springs Gazette yesterday reported something that many Coloradans understand anecdotally, but may lack the hard evidence to prove in an empirical way: that this state is still a pretty good place to live if you're the liberty-loving sort.

According to "Freedom in the 50 States," a study by the Mercatus Center at Virginia's George Mason University, Colorado ranks second nationally in terms of the "economic and personal freedom" enjoyed by residents, having barely been edged out for top spot by New Hampshire. Read the entire report here.

Writes the Gazette:

"William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens, co-authors of the George Mason report, adhere strictly to the idea that adults "should be allowed to dispose of their lives, liberties, and property as they see fit, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others."

"The fewer regulations the better, in our view," Sorens said.

Lower taxes, too, are better in their eyes. The authors take a dim view of seat belt laws, campaign finance limits, smoking bans, gun-control laws, restrictions on gambling and alcohol, and especially any attempt to regulate education.

Colorado scored third highest in the economic-freedom ranking and 15th on personal freedom."

It's a high honor, in my view; as important as almost any the state could receive. It should be trumpeted by state officials, much as they tout our natural grandeur or highly-educated workforce, making this state a national magnet for organizations, businesses and individuals who understand that political and economic liberty are still key to unlocking the American dream.

But the ranking can't be taken for granted, and could even be improved upon, which is why Local Liberty Online, another project I'm associated with, exists. Its mission is to ensure that the Pikes Peak region of Colorado remains the standard-bearer for liberty in the freest state in the union. That effort begins in our own backyard, at the local level.

If Colorado embraces this ranking as a virtue to be cultivated, rather than an inheritance to be squandered, it could make itself a safe haven and sanctuary for refugees fleeing states that embrace command and control models. We'll remain true to the founding ideals, while they stray. We'll flourish, while they wither on the vine. We'll prosper, while they stagnate. And if these findings are to be believed – and we can all quibble with the criteria used in such ratings – it seems we already have a solid foundation on which to construct such a vision.

Colorado’s still reasonably free, relative to many states, where the Spirit of 76 has been all but smothered under extreme taxation, government expansion and rules and regulations regimentation. But that's being threatened, as the Californianized "new West" supplants the "old West” and this formerly red state turns deep hues of blue.

No one put it better that Jefferson did when he (purportedly) wrote: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” So let’s stay vigilant out there.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bill Maher (Just for Once) Makes Sense

It's clear that the dream of containing government expansion is dead when debates about the National Endowment for the Arts no longer hinge on the question of whether it will or should survive, but on where it should squander taxpayer money next. Such a "debate" took place in the L.A. Times Sunday, as part of a feature called "If I Ran the NEA....," which I stumbled across while waiting to catch a flight back to Colorado after a few days of R & R (during which this dormant blog probably lost the 3 regular readers it had -- please come back, you guys!).

Fellow Am-Cons will find most of of the comments predictable and nauseating, rather than entertaining or enlightening. Ann Coulter was thrown into the otherwise left-leaning lineup to gleefully serve as the turd in the punchbowl. But one comment stood out for its clarity and contrarianism, considering the unlikely source: so-called comedian Bill Maher.

Here's what Maher had to say on the subject, which sounds vaguely libertarian:

"If I ran the NEA? I'd abolish it. I'd be the Gorbachev of federal arts endowing and destroy my own job as the head of it. Artists are so self-important -- art is basic to human nature, it will always be produced and does not need the government's help. The NEA is a perfect example of Mission Creep: The government's job is to protect you, from external enemies and internal criminals, and to maintain roads, schools, and a social safety net. Art is far afield, and in no danger of going away without government money or guidance."