Friday, December 31, 2010

Nietzsche’s New Year's Resolution

Probably written on New Year's Day 1880 or 1881, and published in 1882's Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft (The Joyful Wisdom), my favorite of Nietzsche's books, this resolution beautifully sums up the internal struggles of a notorious nay-sayer who also aspires to be, and is, a yea-sayer -- a side of this alleged nihilist that's too often overlooked. Nietzsche has always struck me as the most human of the major philosophers. Here his humanity peeks out from behind the armoured exterior.

Nietzsche's New Year's Resolution:

"Today everybody permits himself the expression of his wish and his dearest thought; hence I, too, shall say what it is that I wish from myself today, and what was the first thought to run across my heart this year - what thought shall be for me the reason, warranty, and sweetness of my life henceforth. I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dead Sea Scrolls

"Archaeologists excavating the west side of the U.S. Capitol grounds reportedly have stumbled upon a frayed, faded, soiled old parchment, dating to the nation’s earliest days, which they say could have explosive implications for what goes on in the chambers above. Scholars hope the document, which they call “The Constitution,” may hold long-forgotten clues about what motivated the colonists to free themselves from British rule. It may, they say, even be the original blueprint, according to which the former republic was supposed to be organized. The political implications could be explosive, according to those who’ve read it, since it reportedly sets explicit limits on the size and scope of the central government and grants states and individuals a level of autonomy – a level of “freedom” – that is unthinkable today. In a related development, some members of Congress are threatening to open the next session by actually reading this so-called Constitution into the public record, which critics call a subversive, politically-motivated stunt designed to dredge-up old longings for liberty and sow doubts about the now-widely-accepted federalization of everything. It’s an interesting old relic, say most capital city insiders, but irrelevant to how things work in the modern era."

This parody of a (not-so-farfetched?) future news story is prompted by reports that subversives in the U.S. House of Representatives plan to open the 112th Congress by reading the U.S. Constitution, out loud and right in front a everybody, and have instituted new rules requiring that any new bill introduced cite some constitutional authority before the clerk will file it.

The moves, meant to show Tea Partiers that Republicans have gotten their pro-Constitution message, naturally evoke skepticism in certain quarters:

"I think it's entirely cosmetic," said Kevin Gutzman, a history professor at Western Connecticut State University who said he is a conservative libertarian and sympathizes with the tea party. "This is the way the establishment handles grass-roots movements," he added. "They humor people who are not expert or not fully cognizant. And then once they've humored them and those people go away, it's right back to business as usual. It looks like this will be business as usual - except for the half-hour or however long it takes to read the Constitution out loud."

But also enthusiasm:

""It's a big deal," said Brendan Steinhauser, director of federal and state campaigns at FreedomWorks. "That's a very basic starting point for all legislation - not only should we do it, can we afford to pay for it, but can we do it?"

Most, like me, probably will adopt a wait-and-see attitude about this renewed reverence for The Constitution. "You can do the talk, but you have to do the walk," one Connecticut Tea Party leader told the Post. "It may be an olive branch," said another. "People are excited to see that our leaders know there's a relevance to the Constitution in the process. But I don't think it will make people any less vigilant in looking at the laws that are being introduced."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"The Green Gavel" Not Quite Gone Yet

I wish this news item were reporting the retirement of U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, rather than just his shift to "senior" status, since he's long been the go-to guy for extreme greens looking for a friendly court and favorable ruling -- including, most recently, one restoring gray wolves to the endangered species list, even though they're overrunning many parts of the West.

Molloy is a not just an activist judge, he's the activist's judge -- a man whose radical, green-leaning rulings made him a virtual dictator of policy on millions of acres of public land. He's also a prime example of why the lifetime appointment of federal judges is a bad idea. Senior status means Molloy can take his act on the road, as a traveling judicial activist. "I imagine he will sit on the 9th Circuit by invitation," one colleague told The Billings Gazette, referring to the most notoriously-liberal court in the land.

He'll fit right in, no doubt.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

They Shoot Horses Don't They?

Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet reportedly fear that some important items for Colorado will fall along the wayside if the lame duck Congress fails to pass an omnibus, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink public lands bill by the time it adjourns. But I say let the lame duck session, and everything left unfinished, die, since little good can come from this sort of 11th-hour sausage-making. They shoot horses, don't they?

Most Americans still don't have a clue what was in the last catch-all public lands monstrosity, rammed through in early 2009 in similarly-rushed circumstances. That "omnibus" was a dumping ground for 160 bills that couldn't find any other way of garnering majority support. And here we are, less than 2 years later, engaged in the same tawdry exercise. The only reason Congress can get away with it is that this really is (what Gore Vidal called) The United States of Amnesia.

If the items Udall and Bennet seek have enough merit to win a majority the honest way -- and some might -- the senators should have a very good chance of reviving them in the next Congress. If the only way to pass good bills is to package them with bad ones, the system really is broken.

It's time to treat this lame duck just as we treat lame horses, by putting it out of its misery, before it can do any more harm. If these items have to die with it, so be it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Flirting with Disaster

As a Michigan native I'm partial to wolverines, even if they haven't won a Rose Bowl in too many years. But I still believe Colorado would be crazy to welcome reintroduction of the animals into the state, given the headaches we face with current listings and the obvious dysfunctionality of the Endangered Species Act. Until the law is fixed, we shouldn't invite any more trouble, no matter how cute and fuzzy-faced the creature may be.

We already have major problems with the Preble's meadow jumping mouse, as most locals know, and those problems just multiplied with the decision by the feds to expand "critical habitat" for a subspecies of questionable scientific validity. We're only now beginning to feel the impacts of Canada lynx reintroduction, even though we were promised, when the effort began, that Colorado would be spared the regulatory hammer if it went along with the experiment. That, we now know, was a bait and switch.

And it's only a matter of time before a significant number of federally-reintroduced wolves wander into the state, dragging Colorado into the political and legal quagmire faced by Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, as they try to manage the animals and force a de-listing through the courts. The wolf fight has demonstrated beyond a doubt that ESA is broken. And that problem will become Colorado's problem in not-too-many years.

No, no, hell no. Coloradans should vigorously oppose any effort to import wolverines into the state -- unless they come wearing maize and blue, with those hideously cool helmets, to open up a can of Big Ten-style whoopass on the hapless CU Buffs.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Boulder Way

I guess Boulder's social engineers never heard the old adage about leading horses to water.

Gang Granola is trying to force healthier eating habits on area school kids, but the effort is faltering and losing money, according to this report in today's Daily Camera, indicating that the kids can't be force-fed jicama and beets and spaghetti squash (yum, yum!). The story doesn't say so, but the effort has probably spawned a booming black market in contraband Twinkies and Honey Buns at Sanchez Elementary School.

"If the adults are enthusiastic about it, the kids will try it," Sanchez Principal Doris Candelarie told the newspaper. "We're getting them to try different things. They've tried jicama, beets, apricots, plums. Many of them haven't had a lot of the fresher food. They've had to change their palates."

What planet is Candelarie living on? On the Earth I'm familiar with, there's a reverse correlation between the enthusiasms of adults and the tastes of their children. My mother's enthusiasm for liver and Castor oil never won me over, and I'm sure Candelarie's fondness for spaghetti squash is driving her young charges in the opposite direction.

Not to be deterred, the healthy food fanatics are collecting private donations in order to keep the food torture going. If curtailing options and subsidies won't work, the next step will probably turn coercive -- strapping members of the Healthy Food Resistance into modified dentist chairs, perhaps, and force-feeding them tofu burgers.

That's the Boulder way, after all -- better living through government intervention.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Confession of Al Gore

Energy realist Robert Bryce (author of several excellent books on energy issues) writes about Al Gore's alcohol problem in the Daily Beast. It wasn't the devil, but raw presidential ambition, that lured the former divinity student over to the dark side. But now he's come clean, by joining an Ethanolics Anonymous 12-step program. It had to be good for his soul.

I seriously doubt this admission of fallibility by the High Priest of Environmental Hype will lead to other recantations, but one can always hope.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Useful Idiots

R. Emmet Tyrell writes an epitaph for liberalism in today's Wall Street Journal, but it's less than convincing, given the nation's steady (if sometimes fitful) drift toward Euro-Socialism. The problem isn't self-described liberals or leftists, but (as with the former Soviet Union) the fellow travelers -- those who don't openly espouse a doctrine but consciously or unconsciously advance the agenda, because it serves their interests or lines their pockets.

The problem isn't the zealots -- it's the "useful idiots," in Lenin's words. And liberalism has an army of those marching with it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Something To Be Proud Of

This item in Men's Health Magazine is sure to fuel false perceptions about the influence Christian conservatives supposedly wield in Colorado Springs, but it also spotlights one of the city's underappreciated virtues. The magazine based its ranking not just on how many religious organizations we host, but on how generously locals volunteer and give to charity. That's what landed us on the top of the list.

"While it's true that Colorado, at 5,980 feet above sea level, is closer to heaven than even the Mile High City, we used a different set of numbers to divine our findings. We scoured the U.S. Census and the yellow pages ( for places of worship per capita. Then we tallied up religious organizations (U.S. Census) and the number of volunteers who support these groups ( Finally, we considered the amount of money donated to religious organizations (Bureau of Labor Statistics and spent on religious books (Mediamark Research)."

This is a city where people render assistance to others in a very hands-on way, working through a wide variety of associations and organizations, secular as well as religious. It's been reported before that Springs residents tend to donate and volunteer at levels above the national average. This ranking confirms it. And while Springs-bashers may seize on the item to paint a simplistic and inaccurate portrait of this great and generous city, I count it as another feather in our caps.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Carpe Diem

I’ve seen a lot of city council members accused of doing too little. I must be the first in history accused of doing too much. It’s a criticism I can live with.

John Hazlehurst seems to want my service on council to be as unmemorable as his was, but given that I was appointed to a truncated term (18 months), and given that those who appointed me knew full well that I would shake things up, and given the number of important issues that are coming to a head in the city, I didn’t even consider the possibility of running out the clock.

If I wasn’t having an impact, or gaining some measure of colleague support, I might agree with John’s grandfatherly advice. But on a number of issues, I think I’ve been able to get helpful and interesting things done. And I couldn’t have done this without the support (some grudging, to be sure) of colleagues, showing that I’m not the lone wolf John suggests.

A majority of my colleagues supported city partnership efforts – an idea I first proposed during the budget crisis of last year. Community centers, pools and a number of other city amenities scheduled to be axed when I came aboard are open today as a result of those efforts. A majority on council also backed creation of the City Committee, at my urging. It’s been quietly providing City Council and other city leaders with some very enlightening briefings on the city’s big picture budget outlook, and I’m confident it will play a larger role going forward. Also at my urging, the interim city manager is in the process of creating an Optimization Committee, which will help the city explore outsourcing opportunities and other innovations. That, too, has buy-in from colleagues.

A majority on council seems on the verge of approving some reasonable regulations for the medical marijuana industry, based on a comprehensive ordinance drafted by a task force I chaired along with Tom Gallagher. A majority backed my proposal to conduct the first-ever performance audits of the EDC and other recipients of public funds, putting some teeth behind the words “accountability” and “transparency.” A majority supported my proposal to explore passenger screening alternatives at Colorado Springs Airport. And I believe a majority doesn’t really give a hoot what the Planning Commission says about marijuana dispensary setback rules, even if they won’t say so, as I did.

I’ve more quietly shaped or influenced a lot of other decisions made by this council in the year I’ve served, even if it’s gone unreported, unnoticed and unheralded in some circles. And I’ve tried to be responsive to more day-to-day constituent issues, whether it’s helping Westside merchants confronting the homeless situation or helping someone maneuver through city red tape. I normally don’t go around bragging about any of this, but since my accomplishments on council have been called into question, I thought it was important to correct the record.

Not all my initiatives or ideas are warmly embraced by colleagues, to be sure. Few had any interest in trimming back the just-approved 2011 budget, for instance, in an effort to not spend every dollar coming in. Few (except Jan Martin) seem to have any real interest in improving the governance model of Colorado Springs Utilities, by creating a more professional and independent board (though that issue isn’t dead yet). And none except Tom Gallagher would join me in the dunk tank at the community center fundraiser.

I’m not sure how this stacks up against Hazlehurst’s accomplishments. I asked around but no one remembers what those were. It’s a challenging time for Colorado Springs. A lot of issues are coming to a head. Given the vacuum of leadership and lack of creative thinking that exists at some levels, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. I never imagined I would stand accused of getting too involved.

I’ve stepped on a few toes and bruised a few egos along the way – it’s hard to get anything done around here if you’re afraid to do that. But I think I’ve also gained supporters, judging from the positive feedback I receive every day. I’ve not done too badly for someone who was billed, coming in, as too “radical” to work with others or get anything acomplished. And I’ve still got five months before my term expires.

I plan to finish strong.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hollywood Handouts Revisited

It's time to revisit one of my biggest corporate welfare pet peeves: the bribes that a significant number of states pay to movie and television production companies that shoot in those states.

A few conservative think tanks have taken aim at these "incentives," including Michigan's Mackinac Center, but the critiques might get more traction with the "mainstream media" coming from a left-leaning think tank like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which just published a damning analysis of the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness, in this case) of Hollywood welfare programs.

Here are the key findings:

State film subsidies are costly to states and generous to movie producers. Today, 43 states offer them, compared to only a handful in 2002. Over the course of state fiscal year 2010 (FY2010), states committed about $1.5 billion to subsidizing film and TV production — money that they otherwise could have spent on public services like education, health care, public safety, and infrastructure. The median state gives producers a subsidy worth 25 cents for every dollar of subsidized production expense. The most lucrative tax subsidies are Alaska’s and Michigan’s, 44 cents and 42 cents on the dollar, respectively. Moreover, special rules allow film companies to claim a very large credit even if they lose money— as many do.

Subsidies reward companies for production that they might have done anyway. Some makers of movie and TV shows have close, long-standing relationships with particular states. Had those states not introduced or expanded film subsidies, most such producers would have continued to work in the state anyway. But there is no practical way for a state to limit subsidies only to productions that otherwise would not have happened.

The best jobs go to non-residents. The work force at most sites outside of Los Angeles and New York City lacks the specialized skills producers need to shoot a film. Consequently, producers import scarce, highly paid talent from other states. Jobs for in-state residents tend to be spotty, part-time, and relatively low-paying work — hair dressing, security, carpentry, sanitation, moving, storage, and catering — that is unlikely to build the foundations of strong economic development in the long term.

Subsidies don’t pay for themselves. The revenue generated by economic activity induced by film subsidies falls far short of the subsidies’ direct costs to the state. To balance its budget, the state must therefore cut spending or raise revenues elsewhere, dampening the subsidies’ positive economic impact.

No state can “win” the film subsidy war. Film subsidies are sometimes described as an “investment” that will pay off by creating a long-lasting industry. This strategy is dubious at best. Even Louisiana and New Mexico — the two states most often cited as exemplars of successful industry-building strategies — are finding it hard to hold on to the production that they have lured. The film industry is inherently risky and therefore dependent on subsidies. Consequently, the competition from other states is fierce, which suggests that states might better spend their money in other ways.

Supporters of subsidies rely on flawed studies. The film industry and some state film offices have undertaken or commissioned biased studies concluding that film subsidies are highly cost-effective drivers of economic activity. The most careful, objective studies find just the opposite.

Such findings aren't sitting well with many in Hollywood, according to the Los Angeles Times, who until now could dismiss them as the nit-picking of fiscally-conservative fussbudgets. Now they simply dismiss the conclusions as "slipshod" and "politically-motivated," although most Tinseltown liberals would be hard pressed to explain how CBPP's politics differ from their own.

The truth always hurts -- but no more so than when it comes from natural allies.

Colorado legislators flirted in recent years with embracing such incentives, lead, in at least one case, by a fiscally-conservative Republican, but ultimately demurred. We ought to be glad this idea ended-up on the cutting room floor.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Monopolizing Young Minds

The problem with most Americans, I once heard a senior official at the National Geologic Survey say, is that they don't know where stuff comes from. They are the most prodigious consumers of energy, minerals, wood products and other raw materials in world history, yet they're completely clueless about what it takes to procure and produce these things. They appear as if by magic, at the gas station, or in the grocery store, or when they flick on the light switch, and most Americans have forgotten (if they ever knew) from whence they come. And thanks to the eco-indoctrination they receive in schools, many young Americans are raised to have contempt for the individuals and industries -- the evil logger and miner and oil driller -- who produce what they consume.

This disconnect is one symptom of a very confused and self-destructive society.

A group of Utah state legislators hopes to help address the disconnect by using surplus oil and gas revenue to teach school kids more about the benefits of mining and drilling. But environmental groups naturally oppose the idea, arguing that this amounts to an attempt to justify the destruction of the planet. At present, greens have pretty much taken over our education system. Many schools today serve as eco-indoctrination centers, where malleable young minds celebrate Earth Day, say the Pledge Allegiance to the Planet, dutifully learn their recycling rituals, hear the sensationalist spin on climate change and rarely hear a word rebutting the propaganda. But propose bringing a little balance to the discussion? Then its you who stands accused of trying to hijack the curriculum.

It's truly Orwellian.

Totalitarians always make a play for the kids. Greens are no different. And they will vigorously fight any attempt to end their monopoly over young minds.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Here it Comes, Over the Mountain

I'm not sure Elizabeth Kübler-Ross's 7 Stages of Grief apply to the onset of winter, but if they do I'm still in Stage 2 -- denial. Still ahead are anger, bargaining, testing, depression and acceptance.

At that point, I go skiing.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Debt Wish

Major media outlets reportedly are refusing to run this ad by Citizens Against Government Waste (where I once worked and where my sister, Leslie, still does), because it's been deemed too controversial for public consumption. I think it's a devastatingly-effective wake-up call that every American needs to see and think about.

Isn't it a blessing that the Internet has freed us from our former reliance on the Idea Police in the so-called mainstream media, who take it upon themselves to decide what messages we should, and shouldn't, get? If the networks aren't courageous enough to run this ad, we have alternative means of seeing it, and of sharing it with others.

So defy the MSM censors and pass it along.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fighting Back in Flyover Country

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,” William Butler Yeats famously wrote. “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

But "the centre" did hold, yesterday, when the literal and figurative center of the country – the sensible people who inhabit “flyover country” – rose up against the control freaks and spendaholics who rule in Washington. “Blue America” is now mostly camped along the East and West Coasts, on the literal and figurative fringes. America’s heartland for now remains grounded enough in common sense and independent thinking, and in the limited government precepts on which the country was founded, that it just isn’t willing to go where the Obamatons are leading. And thank goodness for that.

It’s just one election, one swing of the pendulum, which could reverse itself in two years if Republicans fumble the ball. They are operating on "double secret probation." I hope party leaders understand that. The volatility of the current political climate makes sweeping observations about long-term trends and “realignments” ridiculous. I have none to offer.

All we can say for sure is that the center held, at least for now. The anarchy Yeats evoked seems temporarily at bay. “The best” among us still have, and show, conviction. The falcon can still hear the falconer.

It feels to me more like a temporary reprieve than a lasting realignment that conservatives and libertarians can crow about or count on. A runaway train has been slowed. Maybe that's the most we can say at this point.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day Reflections

Republicans today seem poised to benefit, at least temporarily, from the anti-Obama-Pelosi-Reid backlash. I'm one of those who is looking forward to the return of divided government in Washington. But I'm feeling more relieved than triumphant, more cautious than elated, given the speed with which the pendulum could swing back in Obama's favor if Republicans don't make the most of this shot at redemption.

Part of what killed Democrats was their hubris -- that and their fatal misreading of the "mandate" they thought they were handed two years ago. Republicans should not make the same mistake.

These could very well be short-term gains, given the unprecedented volatility of today's political climate, unless the GOP rediscovers its Reaganesque roots and begins building a coherent and compelling alternative to the super-statism of the other party. The Tea Party testifies to a growing public distrust, and disgust, with both political parties, but Republicans will suffer most if they don't heed the message this movement is sending. Being the anti-Obama and anti-Pelosi will be good enough for now, perhaps, given the mess they made of things. But it wasn't that long ago that Republicans were making a mess of things. And this will be a very short, unhappy honeymoon if they misread the message and return to old form.

Is two years of wandering in the political wilderness long enough for Republicans to have truly seen the light? I have my doubts. But unless they soon do, they'll be wandering in the wilderness again -- next time, maybe for good.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Liberal Gene

Ever wonder why it's so hard to talk sense to your left-of-center friends -- why they seem so resistant to seeing the light, no matter what facts, arguments or logic you muster in support of your case? Well, try not to lose patience with them, because it might not be their fault. Scientists have now found an explanation for Hopeless Liberal Syndrome in a dopamine receptor gene called DRD4, which they think can predispose a carrier to embrace left-wing ideas, depending on cultural influences.

"It is the crucial interaction of two factors -- the genetic predisposition and the environmental condition of having many friends in adolescence -- that is associated with being more liberal,” according to the study.

"These findings suggest that political affiliation is not based solely on the kind of social environment people experience,” said Fowler, who is a professor of political science and medical genetics. The researchers also said their findings held true no matter what the ethnicity, culture, sex or age of the subjects were."

That means it's genetic. They may have been born this way. They can't help it. So look on them not as hopelessly-naive and misguided, or dense, but as otherwise normal individuals afflicted with a genetic predisposition to be led astray. You can save yourself the trouble of lending them copies of National Review or Atlas Shrugged or The Weekly Standard. They may lack the natural capacity to embrace better ideas than those they were born with.

This helps explain a lot, if you think about it. And it may have many conservatives rethinking their opposition to certain kinds of genetic engineering. Now that we know this is a medical condition, we can begin applying all our science and technology to finding a fix, which will help liberate millions of Americans from the stigma of Hopeless Liberal Syndrome. And who knows: once a fix is found, it could also help bring down the budget deficit.

We must not rest until we find a cure for this terrible affliction.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Now for a Little Substance

Close of voting is just five days away. An untold number of ballots already have been cast, thanks to early and mail-in voting. Yet this is the first serious examination I've seen of where Tancredo and Hickenlooper differ on energy, water and environmental issues, though these are among the most important they'll deal with as governor. The differences are stark, but many Post readers, unless they did independent research, probably cast their votes in ignorance of these differences. The story comes too late to have the impact it should.

One of my many beefs with the media is how campaigns are typically covered. Most of the focus is on the horse race aspects, or tisk-tisking over the nasty campaign ads, while too little attention is paid, and often too late, to substantive differences between candidates. The media has made some adjustments to the prolonged voting period, which begins weeks before actual "election day" (maybe we should start using the term "election month"), but still seems to operate on the old timeline, holding important stories like this one until the 11th hour.

This story ought to have run weeks ago, when it could have stirred more debate and perhaps made a difference. As is, it's almost an afterthought -- something we should have talked more about before, not after, we elected a new governor.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Maybe We Should Call Him Slickenlooper

Microbrewmeister John Hickenlooper is touted as the most business-savvy of the gubernatorial candidates. It's this quality, above all others, that earned him the endorsement of The Colorado Springs Gazette and the city's Chamber of Commerce. But you can have success as a businessman while also being an economic illiterate, as Hick seems to be proving with his half-baked proposal to boost state subsidies for higher-ed through a "voluntary" hike in the severance tax paid by energy companies. The idea is naive in several ways.

The Ritter administration has been on a 4-year crusade to make life miserable for energy companies operating in Colorado: I'm not sure, if they ever return in force, that they'll be in the position or the mood to engage in education philanthropy at the state's urging. That's not their job. And they would be completely justified -- to echo one Rhode Island politician -- in telling the new governor to take his severance tax hike and shove it. The energy sector has no more obligation to help fund higher education than any other industry. It just seems like the most convenient cow to be milked. Why doesn't Hickenlooper ask micro-brewers to volunteer to pay a special "higher education" tax on every pint sold, if he's taking us down the road to coerced corporate "philanthropy"? The nexus between beer drinking and college students seems much stronger to me.

But here's the truly troubling part. Hickenlooper must understand, even vaguely, that these additional severance taxes wouldn't come out of the company's till, but will be funded by energy consumers -- meaning us -- in the form of higher energy prices. Energy companies may somehow be gulled into going along with the scheme, given the relish with which big government and big business bed down together (see the Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act), but they will really be "volunteering" to help keep higher ed fat and happy on behalf of their customers, who won't be polled on the matter. We'll be paying for this whether we volunteer or not.

What Hick really wants is to "volunteer" Colorado energy users to bankroll a higher ed establishment that refuses to economize, refuses to cut costs, refuses to change the way it operates. But he's afraid to ask us point blank, or to say that he wants to raise energy taxes, so he opts for this subterfuge.

And we all know what happens in this country when you don't "volunteer" to cooperate with politicians and regulators: those friendly overtures have a nasty habit of becoming threats, and then mandates. If this is what we can expect from Hick The Business Wiz, we may come to look back fondly on the Bill Ritter years.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Labor Pains

It's unclear from this Pueblo Chieftain story whether Hilda Solis is the U.S. Secretary of Labor or the U.S. Secretary of Labor Unions. It's obviously the latter, judging from the reference Solis makes to her "brothers and sisters" in the United Auto Workers.

Can't we somehow put an end to the president and senior administration officials traveling around the country on the government's dime, stumping for candidates? They should be forced to fly commercial, at their own expense, and have their salaries docked accordingly, when they do so. The next president, Democrat or Republican, should put an end to this blatant, though somehow tolerated, misuse of office.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fur May Fly Over Federal Bait and Switch

Imperial Washington has some states on the verge of rebellion. They’re acting out in various ways. Some are taking ObamaCare to court. Others are challenging Washington on firearms and emissions controls. One state, Arizona, is bucking Uncle Sam on immigration enforcement.

But what, one wonders, will be the breaking point? When will all the neo-federalist saber-rattling -- all the talk of the 10th Amendment, the 17th Amendment, nullification – cross the line and become in-your-face defiance? What state, what governor, will take this resistance movement the next step, and force the seemingly-inevitable showdown, by just saying "no" to Washington?

I think the breaking point may come in a relatively unexpected place, on a relatively obscure issue -- wolf reintroduction.

The history of federal re-wilding efforts involving gray wolves is too convoluted to detail here. But the program's statistical success, instead of quelling the controversy, is actually bringing the conflict to a fresh boil, as Wyoming, Idaho and Montana fight for a federal de-listing decision they think science and the original program benchmarks support. One federal judge in Missoula thinks otherwise, and recently reversed wolf de-listing at the behest of green litigants. Frustrated states, feeling betrayed by what they view as a bait-and-switch, seem on the verge of open rebellion. There is talk of states refusing to enforce federal wolf protections, in the face of an escalating number of conflicts between man and beast.

The fight over wolves has from the beginning been a states' rights dispute, but it's becoming more obviously so every day.

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat who gained and maintained popularity in the Cowboy State by standing up to Washington on a range of issues, precipitated the most recent conflict, by declining to strictly follow federal dictates on how states should manage the booming number of reintroduced wolves. It was that lack of uniformity, across the 3 states most impacted by the re-wilding effort, that served as the pretext for a recent re-listing of the animals by a federal judge in Montana. That reversal of a widely-applauded de-listing decision angered many and reignited the conflict.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter's announcement that his state will no longer pay compensation for livestock kills by wolves, his bitter accusations of promises broken by the federal government and his evoking of Idaho's "sovereign right to protect our wildlife" from wolf predation, seem to move us a step closer to a showdown -- one that's fueled by the powerlessness Westerners feel living in Washington's long shadow.

Some are hoping to get relief by working the issue in Washington, but that's a fool's errand, if history is any guide. Environmentalism Inc. has a lot of lobbying clout inside the beltway. It has turned back any and all attempts to reform, temper or tweak the Endangered Species Act. Non-Westerners in Congress don't understand or don't care about the law's impacts out here. Getting Congress to intervene on the side of common sense seems like mission impossible. State legislators also are talking strategy, but what they can do about any of this is questionable.

Legal avenues to relief remain open, but fickle federal judges and conflicting and contradictory rulings make coherent policymaking nearly impossible. Today the wolves are listed, tomorrow they're not. Two days later, some robed dictator in a federal courthouse, interpreting an inflexible and unworkable law, is pushing policy in another direction. Public lands policy-making through judicial edict helped create this jumbled mess: no reasonable person looks there for the answer.

All this, along with the frustration that comes from feeling betrayed, and the fact that wolf recovery benchmarks keep shifting, has people in wolf-impacted states in a very rebellious mood, with some at the grassroots pushing for a non-compliance or open defiance. The old joke about adopting the "Triple S" approach to wolf management -- shoot, shovel and shut-up -- is now told in less jocular tones. A sagebrush rebellion is being reborn. Wolf management is becoming a states' rights issue, setting the stage for a test of wills.

How Washington would police the far-flung federal wolfpack without state assistance is unknown. It probably lacks the resources and manpower to do so. Would President Obama sue states to force compliance, or dispatch the national guard to babysit federal wolves if states refuse to comply with a court order? That could precipitate quite a showdown -- perhaps even bigger than what's happening in Arizona -- given the anti-Washington mood that prevails.

No one relishes the thought of such a confrontation, but unless something soon gives -- either the states or the feds -- that seems to be the path we're walking. On this issue, wolf-impacted states feel as if they've given all they can, and more. For every inch they've given, a mile has been taken. And if the fur must fly, it might as well fly over this issue.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Waiting" is Worth the Wait

I was fortunate last night to have attended a special screening of the documentary "Waiting for Superman," which follows the paths of five or six at-risk school kids, from different walks of life, who must enter a lottery to get into a local charter school. Please find a way to see this film when it gets wider release. It's in parts inspiring, heartbreaking and infuriating -- a call to change that only the most jaded could ignore. Also in attendance were some of those who aren't "waiting for Superman" at the local level, but are working for school reform now, on the front lines or behind the scenes, like District 2 Superintendent Mike Miles and school reform advocate Steve Schuck (please see my previous post on these heroes).

Sad today, though, to wake up to news reports that Michelle Rhee, one of the school reformers profiled in the film, is resigning as chancellor of the D.C. school system. What ann unfortunate thing for District kids. It feels like they all just lost the lottery.

Throw the Bums Out

"The Colorado Mining Association late Tuesday filed a motion with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission seeking to have two of its three commissioners recuse themselves from any further involvement with Xcel Energy Inc.'s $1.3 billion plan to switch 903 megawatts of coal-based power to natural gas," reports The Denver Business Journal. "The CMA motion accuses the pair of making a "behind-closed-doors deal" with Xcel, Colorado's largest power utility."

But mere recusal seems insufficient, in my opinion. The two should be asked by the governor to resign. And if they decline to resign, they should be purged. The only problem with that, practically- and politically-speaking, is that the governor who should do the purging is part of the plot, involving legislators, regulators and industry, to shift the burden of an unnecessary coal-to-gas power plant conversion onto ratepayers. The PUC is supposed to look out for the public interest. But under the influence of Chairman Ron Binz -- a green-leaning social engineer who helped sell the state on renewable energy production quotas -- the public interest in this case came second or third or fourth to a larger agenda called the "new energy economy."

Purging the tainted PUC members would force Bill Ritter to acknowledge that one of his proudest achievements as governor, the passage of HB-1365, was little more than a backroom corporate welfare deal cleverly wrapped-up as a "clean jobs" bill. Thus, we'll probably have to wait for the next governor to straighten this mess out (if he's so inclined) and clean house at the PUC.

For more on this issue, please read the Business Journal story.

P.S. PUC Chairman Ron Binz offers a lame defense of his actions in a letter in today's Denver Post, which isn't convincing enough that I would change any of what I wrote above.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Regulatory Malpractice

Stories like this one, which indicates that California's "landmark" diesel control law was based on a 340 percent overestimate of pollution levels by the state's Air Resources Board, makes one wonder what other costly regulations are premised on false -- or even falsified -- government data.

The government is conveniently immune from the sorts of malpractice claims that can be brought against private individuals and entities, meaning it can walk away from such costly debacles embarrassed (perhaps) but unscathed. And that's an injustice that needs addressing. It's time to change the rules so that injured parties and average citizens can hold the government liable in such cases of regulatory malpractice. That might help make the reflex-regulators a lot more careful about getting the science right before they begin recklessly imposing new rules.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Federally-Funded Fear

The Bush White House took a lot of heat for "politicizing science," and for allegedly muzzling federal employees who didn't agree with the administration's cautious approach on climate change. But if all the government's in-the-closet climate alarmists were being persecuted, how to explain the perpetually sky-high profile of NASA climatologist James Hansen, whose spokesman work for the Chicken Little Lobby didn't slow down a bit during the Bush years.

If ever a federal employee needed muzzling, or a career change, it's Hansen, who travels the globe, trading on his NASA credentials, while spewing sensationalist climate spin to any audience that will listen. And plenty evidently will. The man is not a "scientist," in any serious sense: he's an extreme ideologue, shilling for a cause. Hansen could earn a very good living trading on fear in the private sector -- it's a big business, as Al Gore can attest. I'm sure any number of environmental groups would pay him a hefty sum to serve as their front man. But as a taxpayer, I resent having to help pay the man's salary, and help pay his future pension, and I fear his association with NASA is threatening the agency's already-shaky stature and credibility.

Will someone in the Obama Administration please fire James Hansen? Even if it makes him a martyr, it would do the tarnished reputations of climate science and the federal government a world of good.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stuck Between a Rock and Red Tape

If you want a quick look at how maddeningly hard it can be to get anything -- anything -- done on federal land, given the endless layers of "process" one must wade through, consider the case of Kimberly Appelson, 23, whose body has been wedged under a rock in the Arkansas River since July, awaiting a recovery operation knotted in red tape.

Appelson drowned after falling from a raft at Frog Rock rapids, a notoriously tricky spot not far from Buena Vista, but her body remains trapped there, months later, while retrieval options are studied by bureaucrats. From a story in The Denver Post:

"The river's managers hope to erect a temporary dam — possibly using concrete highway barriers — to divert flow away from the sieve and give divers a chance to reach Appelson.

There's plenty of red tape to go through before any work is done. The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service would require some environmental analysis. The Army Corps of Engineers would need to approve the plan. Wildlife officials require protection for the river's brown trout. If all goes well, work would be done sometime this month."

I'm not diminishing the challenge involved in this recovery, but it doesn't seem right to have a family waiting for the return of a loved one while all the usual agencies are consulted and a pointless "process" drags on. If you can't even recover a body without such delays, what chance do you have of getting anything else done on federal lands (or waters) in a reasonably-timely way? The "process" is broken, as the story proves. Appelson is as much a captive of federal red tape as she is the boulders at Frog Rock rapids.

Cut the crap, move the rock and return this woman to her family. I don't believe retrieving the girl's body will present any threat to the frigging brown trout. Slavishness to a "process" under these circumstances isn't just inhumane -- it's insane.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Toward the Separation of Cult and State

Druidry (or Druidism?) has officially become a state-sanctioned religion in the U.K., opening the door, according to CNN, for a similar status change for Pagans, animists and other pantheist or polytheist religions. Traditionalists will decry the move, but I welcome it, as a potential step toward recognizing the only state-sanctioned religion in the United States -- environmentalism -- for what it really is.

Once we acknowledge the fact that environmentalism is a religion, which has wormed its way into government under a secular and "scientific" guise, we can begin fighting for the separation of cult and state.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Heaven Help Us

I think NIMBYism has gone too far when the target of the naysaying moves beyond landfills and nuclear waste dumps, to focus on . . . monasteries. Yes, monasteries. The kind that have monks.

"To maintain their seclusion, the monks have their eyes on a 2,500-acre ranch about 50 miles away in a rugged area with creeks fed by looming mountains. The area has few roads, a few widely dispersed ranch homes, a few scattered oil and gas wells. The ranch is about 14 miles from the nearest public road, and the nearest town, 20 miles away, is Meeteetse, population about 350, that is most famous for the arrest of outlaw Butch Cassidy in 1894.

They plan to build a monastery mainly of stone with 30 separate hermitages for monks, a small dormitory for men in training to become monks, a commons area and a church spire rising the equivalent of 15 stories.

Ranch owner Dave Grabbert, whose family has held the property since 1938, has agreed to sell to the religious order, and he describes the two monks he has met as personable, intelligent and "just decent guys."

"I don't care if they're Hindus, Buddhists or what they are, but being decent people, that's really a plus in this day and age," Grabbert said. "Not everyone is."

Some of his neighbors object to the sale, citing concerns about traffic, wildlife, water -- and questioning whether the massive stone structure fits with the rural landscape.

"The plans look like someone took an old cathedral and just dropped it onto our beautiful landscape," Mary Elliott, who lives about 15 miles from the site, wrote to the Planning and Zoning Commission. She noted the religious order wouldn't be paying property taxes.

"As their contribution to this community will be prayer rather than property taxes the town will take a large loss on the currently paid property taxes," Elliott wrote. "As for prayer, I am sure we are all grateful for that but are capable of doing that ourselves."

Heaven help the country that has lost its mind.

Not to mention its soul.

P.S. An editorial writer at The Casper Star Tribune apparently had the same reaction to this story as I did, resulting in this well-deserved scolding.

Obama's War on Summer Vacation

Wreck the economy, if you must. Spend us into oblivion. Lead a federal takeover of health care. Drag us deeper into the quagmire called Afghanistan.

But you go too far, Mr. President, when you begin messing with summer vacation!

Obama's just lucky school kids don't vote.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Two Legends at Work

I've never been a big baseball fan, but I do appreciate fine writing. This 1960 New Yorker piece by the great John Updike, rediscovered this morning while reading the Sunday New York Times, almost made me love baseball. Updike is to writing what Ted Williams was to baseball -- the master craftsman. Read it and be awed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Federal Railroad

It seems that Amtrak isn't the only federal railroad Americans have to worry about.

A Colorado man faces a possible life sentence for engaging in an activity he believed was legal under state law -- growing medicinal marijuana in his Denver-area home -- yet a federal judge ruled yesterday, at the urging of federal prosecutors, that Christopher Bartkowicz is barred from using that as a legal defense. That means that anyone in Colorado who the feds want to charge with drug violations they can charge with drug violations, and that the rules of the game will be rigged in the prosecution's favor. Jurors won't get to hear a compelling and plausible explanation for why Coloradans are using or cultivating medical marijuana -- because it's permitted by our state Constitution. Bartkowicz may go to prison, possibly for life, without having an opportunity to explain and defend his actions, in a proceeding that seems more like kangaroo court, or a Stalinist show trial, than something one associates with the American justice system.

This has become more than just a case about medical marijuana. It's now about whether "equal protection under the law" means anything when state law comes into conflict with federal law -- and whether arrogant federal prosecutors and judges can rig the outcome in their favor.

Read more about the Bartkowicz case in yesterday's column by the Denver Post's Vince Carroll, who is no fan of medical marijuana yet nonetheless understands the injustice being done.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Trojan Cat

Diabetics beware: reading this editorial in today's Denver Post could have you reaching for the insulin.

Not sure what it is about endangered species that leads to the suspension of all skepticism among journalists. Hand them a pretty picture of a "majestic" Canada lynx running free in Colorado and they go weak in the knees. Then all we hear from these supposedly hard-bitten cynics is goo-goos and ga-gas. Not once in this 500-word gusher do the larger implications of lynx reintroduction get a mention, though the cats already are having significant adverse impacts on how public lands are managed in Colorado.

The reintroduction is a success story, of sorts, if you ignore the fact that Canada lynx are, technically-speaking, an invasive species (much like the gray wolves released in the Northern Rockies are invasive), along with the fact that Colorado marked the southernmost boundary of their historic habitat, meaning that they never exactly flourished here. But like the "successful" reintroduction of the wolf, it can complicate life for the rest of us -- something that the Post doesn't mention.

Before Colorado volunteered to be part of this experiment -- based on a promise that we wouldn't have the regulatory hammer lowered by the feds if the experiment worked -- anyone claiming that a ski resort couldn't be expanded, or a forest trail improved, because of "lynx habitat" would have been laughed out of the room. No lynx, no habitat, no problem, in short. Federal land managers would have to dream-up another excuse to say "no" to something.

But that's no longer the case in Colorado. With a colony of the cats now firmly established, "lynx habitat" now becomes a credible catch-all excuse to block this project or that one. It's a regulatory Trojan horse, which Colorado invited in, rather gullibly. And like the defenders of Troy, we'll now pay a heavy price for that gullibility.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bucking the Beer Cartel

The Economist has a good, succinct definition of the term "rent-seeking":


Cutting yourself a bigger slice of the cake rather than making the cake bigger. Trying to make more money without producing more for customers. Classic examples of rent-seeking, a phrase coined by an economist, Gordon Tullock, include:

• a protection racket, in which the gang takes a cut from the shopkeeper’s profit.

• a cartel of firms agreeing to raise prices;

• a union demanding higher wages without offering any increase in productivity;

• lobbying the government for tax, spending or regulatory policies that benefit the lobbyists at the expense of taxpayers or consumers or some other rivals.

Whether legal or illegal, as they do not create any value, rent-seeking activities can impose large costs on an economy."

But how does rent-seeking work in the real world? This news story, from last week's Idaho Statesman, offers a near-perfect example of renk-seeking in action.

It tells of how big beer wholesalers, backed by an army of lobbyists, are turning to Congress for help in eliminating competition from small wine and beer shops that can sell directly to the public, minus the middle man, thanks to the Internet. Instead of meeting the upstarts head-on, the big boys want Washington to help them squash the little boys, through the passage of a renk-seeking measure.

"The bill is backed largely by the National Beer Wholesalers Association, which wants to see it passed in response to a 2005 Supreme Court decision that found some bans on direct shipments of alcohol unconstitutional. That ruling helped open the door to more direct shipments to consumers, especially from wineries. The law would allow states to block direct sales of wine and beer.

The beer wholesalers say the bill will give states more certainty in deciding who can sell alcohol to their residents.

"The net result is that states are unsure about whether or not they can regulate alcohol effectively," said Mike Johnson, the association's executive vice president and chief advocacy officer.

Many winemakers and retailers believe the beer wholesalers back the bill because they view the direct sale of alcohol as a threat to their business. Online sales - now about 1 percent of the market - are growing."

Big Beer has found a sympathetic ear among those who fear that direct sales, via the Internet, will lead to a loss of revenue, and regulatory control, for states. And the campaign donations don't hurt, either:

"The beer wholesalers have proved to be effective advocates. The Washington Post reported that the National Beer Wholesalers Association this year poured nearly $300,000 into the campaign accounts of about 100 lawmakers who co-sponsored the bill."

This case thus falls into the fourth definition of "rent-seeking" offered by The Economist: "lobbying the government for tax, spending or regulatory policies that benefit the lobbyists at the expense of taxpayers or consumers or some other rivals." Keep a lookout and you'll see other examples of it, virtually everywhere, given that we live in an era of increasing coziness between big government and big business.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bad News from the District of Precambria

Just as it seemed on the verge of gaining real momentum, Michelle Rhee's courageous effort to reinvent the abysmally-bad D.C. school system faces a major setback, and possibly reversal, following the ouster of pro-reform Mayor Adrian Fenty. Mayor-to-be Vincent Gray pledged that reform would go on, in the wake of his upset win over Fenty. But Rhee isn't buying it, judging from the unvarnished opinions she shared with The Washington Post.

Rhee's detractors -- starting with local and national teacher unions -- will gloat and applaud, as hard-won improvements are rolled-back. But it's D.C.'s school kids who will suffer most for this untimely and unfortunate turn of events.

Somehow I see a think tank in Rhee's future.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Loose Lips Sink Ships

We're assured by U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn that the possible addition of a new aviation brigade at Fort Carson isn't in any way contingent on the future expansion of the Pinon Canyon training area -- at least that's the official line coming from the Pentagon. But one can't help wonder, and worry a little, about whether the anti-Army venom that has come to taint so much of the rhetoric from expansion opponents won't in this case come back to haunt Colorado.

I'm not sure how much controversy relocation of the brigade will stir in Tacoma, Washington, where Joint Base Lewis-McChord is also in the running to serve as host. I'm betting an influx of nearly 3,000 new soldiers will be met with cheers, parades and keys to the city. But here in southern Colorado, the polarizing nature of the Pinon Canyon debate, and the increasingly anti-Army tone it has assumed, could tilt the competition in Tacoma's favor.

No one at the Pentagon will say this. If Joint Base Lewis-McChord wins the competition, it will do so based strictly on the merits, or so military officials will tell us. But you can bet that what's been going on out here -- including local opposition to the brigade from Colorado Springs peace activists -- hasn't gone unnoticed in Washington. Some military brass undoubtedly are wondering how once-welcoming Southern Colorado became such hostile territory. Such noisy opposition, even if it's the minority view, can't help but raise yellow flags, which will only increase our vulnerability when the next round of base closures and realignments comes along.

If you were making the call, and everything else was equal, wouldn't you send the soldiers where you know they'll be unconditionally welcomed? Why would you send more soldiers to a training facility of limited future utility?

Of course, not everyone who's anti-expansion is anti-Army. But the willingness of certain leaders to tolerate (and pander to) the increasingly-militant, anti-Army rhetoric of Pinon Canyon protesters isn't improving Fort Carson's chances of landing the new brigade. Our cause isn't helped by the fact that so many of Colorado's senior leaders (including Senators Udall and Bennet and U.S. Rep. John Salazar) have closed minds concerning Pinon Canyon expansion. It's a reminder of how irresponsible and reckless rhetoric, employed for short-term political gain, can do real and lasting harm.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Out of Pocket, Out of Power

As someone who made all the wrong career choices, I never have to worry about the problem of owning a second home, and especially not one in Aspen. Even owning a "first home" is challenge enough for me. As such, I wasn't until now aware that second-home owners in Colorado don't have the right to vote on property tax increases, like the rest of us do. TABOR protections just don't apply to them. But that would change, apparently, if Amendment 60 is approved by voters.

The possibility that out-of-towners would get the right to vote on property tax increases has Aspen officials all aflutter. The town's permanent residents, who pretty much have their way on most matters, since 61 percent of Aspen's homes are empty most of the year, worry that extending TABOR protections to part-timers will mean relinquishing power over tax policy. A local minority would no longer rule supreme over the absent majority.

As today's Aspen Times explains:

"Second-home owners in Pitkin County have long been concerned that they are being taxed without representation because they are forced to pay for mill levies and tax increases that are approved by full-time residents.At the same time, many second-home owners do not reap a large amount of public services from entities such as the Aspen School District and others which receive that tax revenue.

But the city has said that allowing part-time residents to vote would be a bane on those public services. With a new voting population that likely would oppose tax increases, it could be harder to pass fees for special programs.

Amendment 60, which would also impose several stringent limits on the government's ability to implement new special district fees and taxes, echoes a 1992 Constitutional amendment that placed broad tax caps on state governments and required that voters approve all proposed tax increases."

I've always wondered why such nutty things go on in affluent enclaves like Aspen. One obvious explanation is that a minority of taxpayers is making all the taxing and spending decisions, on which a majority of taxpayers must remain silent. It's always easier to get a little crazy when most of the cost of that craziness gets shouldered by someone else. The part-timers are wealthy people, who may be able to shrug-off the regulatory or tax burdens that are imposed on them in their absence. But that doesn't make it right.

Even wealthy out-of-towners should have a say on what property taxes they pay. Anything else is taxation without representation.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Using Our Heads

"Sould Colorado ski areas require helmets on kids?" asks The Denver Post in a headline this morning -- a question that undoubtedly had a number of legislators salivating. But the body of the story makes the answer self-evident.

No need, really, since most boarders and skiers, and most responsible parents of same, already opt for a helmet, without the need for a government mandate. Some resorts now require them, which is their right as a private enterprise. And most slope veterans have enough common sense, or have had enough brushes with high-speed disaster, to understand that the minor inconvenience of donning a helmet is worth the added safety benefits.

Reports the Post:

"No legislation is under consideration here, but helmets already are virtually ubiquitous on the state's younger skiers.

"To me, this is the law catching up to where people already are. Very few kids don't have helmets these days," said Rob Katz, chief executive of Vail Resorts, which supported the California bill and operates the Heavenly ski area in the state. His company, with four ski areas in Colorado, would support similar rules here.

The state's largest ski operators — Vail Resorts, Aspen Skiing and Intrawest — already require kids in ski school to wear helmets. Many resorts also require their employees to wear them while working on the slopes. Even more mandate helmets for terrain-park riders."

A minority of folks won't have the good sense to make the smart choice, just as a minority won't confine itself to designated trails and insists on bending or breaking other rules. As it is on the slopes, so it is in society at large. For the most part, these poor choices fall heaviest on those who make them. The people who consistently make poor choices get weeded-out over time, as Darwinism does its thing. There's no end to government interventions, and to government expansion, if we take on the impossible task of reversing that process. That slope is steeper than any we have in Colorado.

Sometimes, it's better to just let nature -- and natural selection -- take its course.

Monday, August 30, 2010

In Defense of the "D"

I may be a little biased on the subject, having "earned" a few "D"s back in the day, but I can't help suspect that the push to banish the "D" from school report cards represents yet another attempt to water-down standards, all in the name of inflating GPAs and boosting student self-esteem. The fact that it's under consideration in the warm-and-fuzzy Boulder Valley only deepens my suspicions.

The "D" isn't the meaningless grade critics claim it is, in my opinion. Just as there needs to be an interim step between excellent (A) and average (C), it's necessary to have a way station between average (C) and abysmal (E or F). A "D" reminds a student that he or she is flirting with failure, while preventing the complete parental meltdown that accompanies an "F" or an "E." Thus, the "D" has probably helped motivate some students to do better, while preventing child abuse in households -- like the one in which I grew up -- where an "E" would call down more fire and brimstone.

It's the yellow light of the academic world, which you blow through at great risk; a sort of intellectual Purgatory, where redemption is still possible. And given the contemporary educator's reluctance to flunk students, for fear of shattering their fragile self-esteem, doing away with the "D" most likely will push borderline cases into the "C" category, so "average" will also lose its meaning. More grade inflation would seem the inevitable result.

The educrat's fondness for tinkering with the tried and true, and eagerness to embrace new fads, is symptomatic of a "system" in disarray and decay, which, instead of raising the bar high and insisting that students make the grade, keeps searching for gimmicky new ways to fake progress and evade accountability.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Apocolypse on Hold

What oh what will happen to those adorable little pikas when global warming melts away the Rocky Mountain tundra? If you've been losing sleep over that question, sleep better tonight.

Despite frequent scare stories about the dramatic changes coming to Colorado's high country if Al Gore is correct -- of ski resorts closing, of flora and fauna struggling, of snow-capped peaks melting like ice cream cones in an oven -- the promised apocalypse just isn't unfolding according to plan, according to this report in the Durango Herald. Actual temperature readings show a very modest trend toward warming -- nothing like the runaway train alarmists predict:

"VAIL - Climatologists are about to establish a "new normal" for temperature trends in Colorado.

And, believe it or not, it looks a lot like the old normal, said Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken.

"What I was surprised about when I looked at these new quote-unquote normals is they really haven't changed very much," Doesken said Thursday in a presentation to the Colorado Water Congress.

Climatologists calibrate normal temperatures every 10 years, based temperatures over the last 30 years. So by the end of this year, the "normal" data will kick out the 1970s and introduce the warm 2000s.

Temperatures at a weather station in Mesa Verde National Park are on track to rise 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit in the new period - in line with most of the rest of the state, according to Doesken's data about the last 29 years.

But compared to the 1951 to 1980 period, temperatures at the Mesa Verde station have fallen 1.3 degrees. Most of the other weather stations in Colorado show slight temperature increases over the same time frames.

Doesken knows his numbers don't match up with the perception of a rapidly warming planet. He watches data gathered at weather stations, while projections of global warming are made through computer models that attempt to predict the future, he said.
Despite the models of warmer future weather, he has not seen drastic warming so far in Colorado.

"You've got to be thinking beyond that to plan for the future, but the current data are showing pretty small changes so far. But it leans in the warm direction," Doesken said in an interview."

So great is the pressure to ride the alarmist bandwagon that even credible researchers, when confronting hard contradictory evidence, seem reluctant to voice skepticism about what the climate cartel, using computer models, is saying. Temperatures in Colorado are actually considerably cooler that they were in the 30 year span between 1950 and 1980, as the story points out, and they show only a minor trend upward, yet the state climatologist can't quite bring himself to concede that the world might not be coming to an end after all.

You really get a sense of the mania that's afoot when scientists are more inclined to believe suped-up supercomputer simulations than what's right in front of their faces.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Voluntary . . . For Now

The social engineers who run Boulder have come up with a clever new way to encourage environmentally-correct lifestyle choices: residents are being asked to leave their cars at home and find alternative means of transport on certain days, based on the color of their vehicles:

Boulder to use car colors to discourage driving

Got a blue car? The city of Boulder wants you to consider commuting sans car on Mondays.

Red car? Take a break from driving on Wednesdays. White? Thursday is your designated day of the week to leave your vehicle at home.

On Labor Day weekend, the city plans to launch a campaign to encourage residents to "do their 14.3 percent" to cut down on the number of cars on the road -- reducing air pollution, cutting carbon and road rage -- by making a commitment to go car-free on the day of the week that's correlated to your vehicle's color. Those that stick to their car-less commitments can win prizes from the campaign's sponsors.

"We want to attract people to something other than driving for one day a week or more in a fun easy way," said Cris Jones, a transportation planner with the city's GO Boulder program.
Participation in the program -- called Driven to Drive Less -- will be voluntary, and so is the day that participants choose to take a break from being behind the wheel. (There's no penalty for red-car-owning participants who commit to being car fee on the white-car day.)

The connection to car colors -- and the program's whimsical Web site, -- is part of an intentional drive by the campaign's designer, Sukle Advertising, to give a light-hearted feel to the car-cutting movement."

But the problem with such "voluntary" efforts is that they have a troubling tendency to become mandatory if the public refuses to respond to the initial, milder attempt at conditioning. "Light-hearted" can turn heavy-handed if the social engineers don't get the results they want, using good-natured cajoling or peer group pressure. And even this purely "voluntary" approach is creepily coercive in a politically-correct bastion like Boulder.

Just imagine the social stigma that you would suffer, and the shame you would feel, and the looks of opprobrium you would get, for driving your blue SUV to the office on a Monday, or pulling into Starbucks on Wednesday in your red sports car (unless it's a Tesla Roadster, of course.). This city-sponsored bifurcation of drivers into two camps -- those who supposedly care about saving the planet and those who don't -- might even encourage episodes of road rage, as those who decline to conform become targets of verbal abuse, shaming or worse from the eco-authoritarians in their midst. Sounds like a way not of uniting people, around a common goal, but of dividing them, based on nothing more than the color of the car they drive.

Most such attempts at social conditioning have a darker side. If the social engineers can't get the results they want using a carrot, sooner or later they reach for the stick.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Selective Indignation and Student Debt

Momentum seems to be building for a crackdown on for-profit universities and trade schools that allegedly foist large debt loads off on students, for credentials that don't always translate into higher earning potential in the job market, leading to higher-than-average default rates. The Pueblo Chieftain has a story on the issue today. I've seen many just like it popping up of late. But there seems to be a double standard, and perhaps a bit of hypocrisy and opportunism, behind such criticism, given that non-profit schools are only a little less guilty of the same things.

I agree with those who see a "student loan bubble" building to the breaking point, driven by the upward spiraling cost of higher education, easy (government-backed) credit, and the continued willingness of young people to gamble that a college credential will make paying off that debt relatively painless. But singling out for-profit schools for vilification, when the entire system is guilty of the same thing, seems unfair.

It also conveniently sidesteps the real problem, which is the unrestrained increase in tuition, resulting from a stubborn refusal of most schools to control costs and deliver a better product for less money. Such reforms aren't necessary as long as government-backed credit is easily and widely available, and students are willing to keep shouldering more of it. Normal market forces, which push private sector players to deliver a better product for lower cost, simply don't apply in higher education, thanks largely to the student debt industry.

Politicians are afraid to bring the hammer down on these big, bloated, bureaucratic institutions, and they're reluctant to demand across-the board reform, for fear of appearing "anti-education." So they're content to use for-profit schools as a whipping boy, when "the system" itself is to blame.

P.S. The always-astute Vince Carroll has a column in today's Denver Post on a related matter, the largely-taboo topic of professorial productivity.

Pocket Change

The Denver Post's Dan Haley has a great line in today's column about Betsy Markey's inconsistency on the question of federal bailouts: "If the 2008 election was about change," Haley writes, "this election is about the change that's left in your pocket."

Wish I'd written that one.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hoop Schemes

Following a move to a posh new arena in Brooklyn, the NBA's New Jersey Nets just announced that they will change the team's name. The most fitting new name I've seen proposed is The Brooklyn Bulldozers -- since the land the arena sits on was stolen through eminent domain. The Brooklyn Bandits wouldn't be bad, either. I also kind of like the New York Land-Grabbers.

Or the team could be renamed The Brooklyn Oligarchs, denoting its ownership by Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov, who made his fortune the ex-Soviet way, by leveraging an incestuous relationship with government, but learned that the same sort of corrupt, crony-capitalism also exists in the United States, if you are rich enough to own a basketball team and can buy enough influence in the Big Apple.

Mind Your Own Business

The U.S. Forest Service can't even responsibly manage the hundreds of millions of acres in its vast inventory, as anyone knows who has driven through Colorado, or read about the similar devastation sweeping across much of the West. It seems a joke, therefore, to read that the agency is also taking an interest in helping private landowners manage their lands.

If this were merely an effort by the feds to encourage private conservation, I would applaud. Too much emphasis is placed on government-centered conservation (which is an abject failure, as the forest health crisis demonstrates), to the neglect of private-sector alternatives, which frequently have shown much better results.

But nothing is innocent where the federal government is concerned. The deeper agenda is to get taxpayers to "incentivize" -- meaning subsidize -- private conservation efforts (even more than already takes place, through conservation easement tax benefits and the Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program). With federal money comes federal strings, meaning federal control. This threatens to corrupt, and co-opt, the whole idea of private conservation.

Although the feds tout their credentials as preservationists and "protectors," facts "on the ground" tell a more damning story -- one of massive mismanagement of public resources, resulting in a perfect storm of wildfire, disease, insect infestation and benign neglect. Most private forests are much better cared-for than publicly-owned counterparts, because a private owner's personal stake and (yes) profit motive generally make him or her a better steward of the resource than red tape-bound bureaucrats going through the motions.

Public land managers have precious little to lecture private owners about. They would do better to focus on getting their act together.


Recent polls showed that perpetually-disgruntled, chronically-underappreciated federal workers are feeling much better about their jobs these days. Wonder why.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Take Note, Reaganfeller Republicans

Does the Tea Party movement have political muscle?

The question's been asked many times by reporters and pundits, applying an unusual degree of skepticism, even for the media. Most were dismissive of the movement from the start, giving it snide or scant coverage. And when it refused to just fade away, as per their expectations and desires, they did their best to relegate it to the lunatic fringe by highlighting oddball participants or hinting at racist tendencies. But still the Tea Party rolls on, crushing media naysayers in its path, and demonstrating, without a doubt, that it's one of the most potent (and truly grassroots) political movements of recent times.

I hope the results of yesterday's election -- which had Tea Party picks Dan Maes and Ken Buck surging to wins over establishment Republicans -- will finally put to rest the question of whether the Tea Party has "pull." At least in Colorado, it's officially a force to be reckoned with, which should be as alarming for Reaganfeller Republicans -- those who talk like Ronald Reagan but think and act like Nelson Rockefeller -- as it is for liberal Democrats.

Whether the Party has enough horsepower to carry its candidates to wins in the general election remains to be seen. And it's true that Maes's razor thin win over Scott McInnis undoubtedly was helped by the latter's glaring ethics problems. But these caveats can't detract from this clear moment of promise for the Tea Party movement in Colorado. Reporters and columnists who continue to discount or dismiss it, do so at the peril of ending up with even more egg on their faces.

Party on, patriots.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

10,000 Commandments

Ninety blessed days have passed since the end of the 2010 legislative session, but we still aren't out of the woods yet. Far from it, in fact. Tuesday, August 10, exactly three months after the gavel came down, the 165 largely unnecessary, mostly trivial and sometimes silly new laws approved last session become law. It's hard to see how the state is measurably better off as a result. Actually, since few if any of the new laws actually expand freedom, and most restrict it in one way or another, we're probably less better off than we were when the session began.

I defy doubters of that statement to highlight 3 pieces of legislation, approved last session, that Colorado could not live without, excluding the budget. I further challenge them to name 3 bills that actually translate into an expansion of freedom, as opposed to a restriction on freedom.

What to do about this is uncertain. As long as reporters, pundits and certain segments of the general public continue to measure a session's success according to raw output, labeling less active sessions as a "failure" to "get things done," legislators will continue to crank out new laws like widgets, assembly line-style. Wouldn't it be miraculous (and good for the state) if an entire session passed without a single bill approved, except a balanced budget? The state wouldn't suffer in the least. On the contrary, it probably would benefit from the cease fire.

Maybe we inadvertently encourage the annual deluge of new laws, new commandments, by calling our legislators "lawmakers." This sounds like something from biblical times, as if they're doing the Lord's work, handing down laws from a burning bush. But God was content to hand down just 10 commandments. Americans today have 10,000 commandments (probably more, in fact) to follow, thanks to the factory-like mass production of make-work legislation. Ignored is Churchill's dictum that the surest way to undermine respect for the law is to have too many laws.

Let's begin calling our legislators law-manufacturers, or law-generators, or just plain old "regulators," since that more accurately describes how they function. Instead of applauding them for the new laws they write, we should cheer them for the old laws they erase.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Now, What About Our Mouse?

As I predicted many blogs ago, federal judge Donald Molloy -- the go-to guy for eco-extremists looking for a friendly court -- on Friday ordered that reintroduced gray wolves be returned to the endangered species list, ruling that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could not delist the animals in two states (Idaho and Montana) while keeping them listed in another (Wyoming).

It's a major disappointment for states were the animals had been delisted, in recognition that the numbers have far exceeded recovery goals (and far exceed what can be sustained in the more heavily-populated "new West"). A few of these states, having assumed management responsibility, last year instituted controlled hunts, in order to keep populations (which have been growing 20 percent a year) in check. But wildlife advocates aren't willing to acknowledge success. They don't trust states to manage the packs. And they hate using hunts as control mechanisms. All they needed in order to monkey-wrench the process, and get their way, is the help of a robed dictator with green-leanings and a lifetime appointment, who sets policy from a federal courthouse in Missoula. Molloy has long been their boy. And he delivered the goods again on Friday.

The ruling may have a silver lining for Colorado, however, since we are operating under a similar "split decision" involving the Preble's meadow jumping mouse. It remains a listed species in this state, but has been removed from federal protections in Wyoming, following a controversy involving its legitimacy as a subspecies. That means Colorado continues to live with the regulatory consequences of the listing, while Wyoming is liberated territory, even though there's no genetic difference between mice in Colorado and mice in Wyoming.

“The Endangered Species Act does not allow the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list only part of a ‘species’ as endangered …” Molloy wrote in his ruling. “Accordingly, the rule delisting the gray wolf must be set aside because, though it may be a pragmatic solution to a difficult biological issue, it is not a legal one.” And that would seem to demand a second look at the Preble's ruling.

It's possible that any second look at the case would land Wyoming mice back on the list, given the agency's determination to justify, rather than rectify, its mistakes. But it's also possible -- if disinterested and sound science is applied -- that a delisting would occur in both states. I continue to have doubts about the mouse's legitimacy as a subspecies. Some experts believe that they're much numerous than listing advocates say they are.

Challenging the Preble's mouse "split decision," based on this ruling, would at least require another review of the questionable science underpinning the listing. And if it's heard by a judge with more objectivity and common sense than Donald Molloy, we just might stand a chance of success.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Agent of Influence

The American Spectator has a thorough write-up on the recently-released FBI dossier on Howard Zinn, whose textbook, "A People's History of the United States," was widely used in many schools and undoubtedly left a lasting impression (the wrong impression, in many cases) on many a malleable young mind.

That Zinn appears to have been an active member of the Communist Party, or, at the very least, a fellow traveler and "agent of influence," shouldn't have disqualified him as a writer of books, in my opinion. In a truly free country, even Communists have the right to teach, write and propagandize to their heart's content. And academia is full of people like Zinn. Singling him out as an aberration is sort of silly. And I'm sure his advocates will use the files to paint Zinn as the victim of anti-Red hysteria and witch-hunting.

The really damning element of the Zinn saga isn't that he wrote books, but that these became textbooks, which were warmly and uncritically received by the public school establishment. That so many school administrators so enthusiastically inflicted his hard left interpretation of American history, which highlighted all the warts while downplaying the virtues, on so many young people, without blinking an eye, suggests that they shared his dark and distorted view of the American experiment -- that his view conformed with their own.

Then some wonder why so many kids coming out of public schools, if they know any history at all, need so much deprogramming.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Xcellent Journalism

The Denver Post's Vincent Carroll should win some sort of journalism award for his series of columns -- here's the latest -- exposing the incestuous, three-way relationship between Xcel Energy, the Ritter Administration and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. Spawned of this unholy trinity was a “green energy” bill passed in the last session, HB-1365, which puts the screws to Xcel customers in order to bankroll an unnecessary technology shift for the company, from coal-fired to natural gas-fired plants. This was also a huge gift to natural gas companies, while potentially putting coal producers on the ropes.

It all gives off a strong whiff of conspiracy -- an impression reinforced by the reluctance of key players to document the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing. Carroll already has written several columns (including this one) about how Xcel and the PUC are using a new two-tiered rate structure to gouge electricity users with what Mike Rosen has dubbed the "air conditioning tax," in the name of encouraging energy efficiency. Now he’s taking a closer look at the coal-to-gas deal – and doing the public a huge service by staying on the scent.

Cloakroom collaborations between businesses and politicians aren't exactly new, or newsworthy. But what makes the PUC's behind-the-scenes involvement so troubling is the organization’s critical role in implementing legislation that it secretly helped craft. PUC Chairman Ron Binz, a social engineer with a strong green streak, told Carroll the PUC became involved in bill-crafting very late in the game. But any involvement is too much involvement, in my opinion.

The PUC is supposed to serve as an impartial and independent regulatory and rate-setting entity that primarily looks out for the public interest. It shouldn’t be a backroom deal-maker, or involved in drafting legislation it will later have to implement. The collaboration between Ritter, Xcel and the PUC (private environmental groups were also involved) ought to be investigated (and not just by one intrepid columnist), and implementation of the law should be suspended, if that’s possible, until the public knows everything that happened behind the scenes.