Via Jen Caltrider at HuffPo

Colorado’s Amendment 67: cynical and cruel, not compassionate

Colorado’s latest zygote personhood amendment is a cynical ploy to use a tragic accident and a now closed legal loophole to ban all abortions in the state.

Via Jen Caltrider at HuffPo

Via Jen Caltrider at HuffPo

They’re at it again. Amendment 67 in Colorado seeks to redefine both “person” and “child” in a way that include zygotes and fetuses, or what the text of the personhood folk would prefer we called “unborn human beings.” You’d think that Colorado’s zygote personhood crowd would have got the message in 2010 when Amendment 62 was voted down 71% to 29%, or back in 2008 when Amendment 48 was voted down 73% to 27%. But apparently not.

This time the zygote personhood supporters are being a little bit sneakier. Continue reading

NissanLeafBA

Why I chose the Leaf over the Jetta TDI – Renewable Journal for 7/4/2014

Tax credits and rebates, low cost of operation, and reduced air pollution all made the Leaf the better choice for my family.

[MotorTrend]For more posts in this series, please click here.

I know I’m going to get asked why I spent over 30k (before all the crazy tax rebates) on a car that only goes 80 miles. My father especially will ask at some point, and he’s already called it a “toy” car.

He’s not entirely wrong, either. I’m in my 40s now, and it’s actually quite a bit of fun to drive around in a car that can go from 0 to 60 in just a tad over 6 seconds. I’ve never had a car that has this kind of acceleration. Continue reading

WTF? Happy May Day from Colorado (STFU weather, anyone?)

Monday it was in the 80s here in Denver. This weekend the forecast calls for pretty, seasonal weather in the upper 50s. But today is May Day, the midpoint of springtime. What better opportunity for Mother Nature to show off a bit.

Here’s Ronan MacScottie, out for his morning constitutional a few minutes ago.

MayDay

Happy Beltane, everyone. Here’s hoping your day is as beautiful as ours.

 

CATEGORY: Sports

The old “liberal intelligentsia hates the football program” argument: a Boulder Intellectual responds to a prominent sportswriter

There it was again on the radio this morning: a sports pundit talking about the anti-sports environment that pervades America’s universities, and in particular the hyper-liberal University of Colorado.

[sigh]

In this case, the guy doing the talking is actually pretty credible. Terry Frei of the Denver Post was on Sandy Clough’s show (104.3 FM, The Fan) as he is every Saturday morning. As a rule, Clough’s show is perhaps the smartest three of hours of your sports talk day here in the 5280. (For perspective, understand that we have four full-time sports stations and at least one more that includes a good bit of sports in its daily mix, so we’re a fairly big dog market when it comes to sports radio.) Clough, maybe my favorite sports radio guy in America, and certainly in Denver, is relentlessly informed and unusually thoughtful for his profession, and Frei is in some respects Clough’s local newspaper analogue. So I always tune in when I’m out and about, as I was this morning.

Further, Frei has some particular insight into the question he was engaging: his father, Jerry, was head football coach at the University of Oregon from 1967-1971, so Terry has seen college football in a liberal university town up close and personal.

Some caveats before I dive in. Frei is not a run-of-the-mill sports talk doofus (although The Fan does employ its share of them). Instead, what we have here is a smart guy working from a perspective that perhaps keeps him from understanding, or at least articulating, the full nuance of what’s really at work. (Let me also make clear that Frei and Clough are perhaps the two most rational voices among those I’ll be talking about below, so I’m not necessarily lumping them in with the “others” I’ll be mentioning. I hope they’ll forgive me if I paint with too broad a brush – I’m trying very hard to avoid a straw man situation here; nothing I’m going to tell you I have heard said is anything but precisely that, and today’s radio show is part of the general tendency, even if it resides at the upper end of the quality curve.)

Onward. Since I’m almost an archetypal example of the kind of person the standard “Boulder liberal” critique is aimed at, this seems as good a time as any to step in with, as Paul Harvey might say, the rest of the story.

Frei is certainly right to note that the CU football program has had its detractors in Boulder for the past few years. Former Coach Bill McCartney had a good bit of success in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but his stances on social, political and religious issues were a source of ongoing embarrassment for the community. If the “intelligentsia” in Boulder hated McCartney, we might consider his values in light of the community that employed him and conclude that their reaction was predictable, if not completely justified. Then came Slick Rick Neuheisel, who was at the helm for a bit of controversy, although it was determined that he wasn’t really at fault. He was followed by Gary Barnett, who found himself at the center of all kinds of trouble, some of it very public and very embarrassing for the school. It can be argued that these events were perhaps overblown (Frei himself makes that argument, and feels that he personally was culpable in feeding a frenzy that was unfair to Barnett), although Bleacher Report calls it the third worst scandal in college football history. Regardless, anyone familiar with the Katie Hnida case and the infamous press conference surrounding it must allow that, at a minimum, the coach’s appalling PR gaffe damaged the university in ways that were hard to overlook. (Barnett’s worst moment starts at the 2:45 mark.)

Dan Hawkins seems to have run a relatively clean, if utterly inept program, and most recently there was the controversy around Jon Embree’s firing after only two years. The last two tenures have been pretty much free of off-field drama, it should be noted, and while I hate losing, I hate having the university’s integrity tarnished a lot worse. If you want to say I’d rather lose fair than win dirty, I’m okay with that.

I will also not argue Frei’s contention that many in the CU community – and here, of course, we’re talking about all those liberal professors who, it is routinely implied by many of those who support the cause of Buff football, have way more power than is healthy in a tier 1 research university environment – have a serious burr under their saddle regarding the program. This is absolutely true.

Here’s where the problem arises. Frei, and others, often fail to give fair voice to the true nature of the complaint. It isn’t, as is too often suggested, that academics hate sports and all things associated with it. This is patently untrue. Some academics don’t care about sports in general and yes, some hate sports, period. I know some of these people. Used to date one, in fact.

But the same is true in every university. The same is true in corporate America. The same is true in towns that have no university whatsoever. I’ve never worked in a company where somebody didn’t hate sports. I’ve never lived in a city where people didn’t hate sports. One of my best friends, who has not an academic bone in his body (and very few liberal ones, either) despises sports and everything about them.

In Boulder, even if it were true that every single professor hated football, it wouldn’t matter. These folks didn’t even have enough power to prevent the hiring of a corporatist, anti-intellectualclimate disruption denier as president.

Let me pause to qualify myself here, because it bears on the discussion. I am a CU grad. I earned my doctorate there in 1999 and the faceless, nameless “liberal intelligentsia” are actual personal friends and acquaintances for me. I know them. I studied with them. I’ve been to their homes and argued with them (boy, howdy, did I argue with them) and had beers with them and collaborated with them and praised them and in some cases spoken about them in ways that were less than flattering.

And when it comes to this category of “Boulder Intellectuals who have problems with the football program,” make sure you have me on the list (even though I now live in Denver).

Except…except I don’t hate sports. I don’t hate football. At all. Been an athlete my whole life. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, wrestling, water polo, volleyball, track, cross-country – at some point or another in my life I have competed in all these sports, in some cases casually and poorly and in other cases doing not badly for myself. In my brightest moment, I started at right back for the Iowa State University club soccer team that beat Kansas State to win the Big 8 Tournament in 1988. (There was no NCAA soccer in the conference at that point, which meant that the club team was the only team and that grad students could play, which was awesome.)

I watch sports, too. I love the Broncos (now that Tebow is gone) and the Red Sox and the Avalanche and the Nuggets and Wake Forest (even though our hoops team sucks right now). My biggest passion these days is West London’s Chelsea FC. I’m on the board of directors, even, for our local Rocky Mountain Blues Chelsea Supporters Club and I was driving around this morning to hear Clough and Frei because I was on my way back from the British Bulldog, where we gather to watch Chelsea matches. Today’s 8am start was a welcome one – last weekend the kick was at 5:30am MST.

What else? Oh, I listen to lots of sports talk radio. When I’m in the truck, button #1 is set to 104.3FM. Buttons #2-3 are set to the other FM sports outlets and my first AM button is a sports station, too. Two or three other AM buttons are set to stations that carry the games of teams I follow. And I watch SportsCenter, of course.

Oh yeah – and I root for my Colorado Buffaloes football team (although in recent years that has been a dour way to spend an afternoon). And Ralphie? I freakin’ LOVE Ralphie! Best. Mascot. In. College. Sports. Period.

In other words, not a hater.

While I may be a little more overboard about things like Chelsea than most Boulder Intellectuals, the truth is that most of the folks I know up there don’t hate sports at all. Many, like me, have been athletes themselves. Many watch games. Root for the team. Want CU to do well because they understand that, as the system is currently set up, on-field success actually helps things like academic recruiting.

The CU community, then, doesn’t have a problem with athletics. It has a problem with the ways in which big money athletics are allowed to corrupt institutions of higher learning. This is a critical distinction. I have never once heard a professor or a doctoral student or anyone else you might lump in with the Boulder Intellectual community complaining about intramurals or club sports or, for that matter, non-revenue sports. Heck, when I was a professor at a small liberal arts school in the Northeast (with a full D1 athletics program), the women’s hoops team was one of the jewels of the university. Their collective GPA was better than the student population at large, they worked hard and if there were ever any disciplinary problems I never heard about it. Student-athletes in non-revenue sports are often absolute models of what a university student should be, and there is zero opposition to their presence in the university community in Boulder (or any other university of which I am aware).

Unfortunately, big money athletics programs – here we’re talking primarily about football, and in some cases basketball – are built around agendas and principles (if you can use that term) that not only have nothing to do with a university, they are directly antithetical to the goals and values of higher education. If you are a prospective engineering major, you’re admitted to school because of your academic credentials and potential. If you’re a highly recruited running back, you may be admitted despite your academic credentials and potential. If you are not a promising athlete, a record of run-ins with the law and/or academic dishonesty will, at a minimum, significantly damage your chances of admission. If you are an athlete, those same transgressions will require the athletic director and the admissions department to huddle so they can explore ways of working around the system.

No, not all non-athletes turn out to be law abiding, high achieving citizens who make the university proud. Only a moron would make that argument. And by no means are all, or even a majority, of scholarship athletes irredeemable thugs who are only on campus because they dream of playing in the bigs. Again, you’d have to be utterly blind to the facts to think such a thing.

But the big money demands of revenue football at schools like Colorado mean that if you hope to succeed, you must craft a second-tier admissions system that accepts students who aren’t qualified, de facto, to be in the same classroom as the general student population. It has to overlook behavioral tendencies that you’d never condone in a non-athlete. And once they’re in comes the really tricky part: keeping them eligible. Allowing them to take light loads and avoid rigorous classes. Funneling them into easy majors (assuming they’re going to be around long enough to declare a major). University-paid tutoring. Personal calls to professors whose classes are giving players a hard time. And so on.

If you find yourself mentally arguing with that last paragraph, stop reading and move on now. You’re either hopelessly uninformed, mired in a tragic case of denial or you’re simply not interested in the facts. Nothing said so far is even remotely controversial. If you want your team to win and you hate anything that gets in the way of that, fine. You’re a fan of professional sports and you think that’s what colleges are for.

“Intellectuals” – and really, you don’t have to be packing a PhD to get this – believe that universities are about teaching and learning, not developing talent for major league sports. They’re about the arts and sciences. They’re about engineering and law. They’re about medicine and conducting the basic research that uncovers the hidden mysteries of the universe, moving humanity forward. They’re about music and literature and theater, about learning to think and reason and create. And yes, they’re about playing, about the unbridled joy of living in an environment where dreaming is okay and where figuring out how to make those dreams into reality is encouraged.

Maybe I’m being idealistic, but then, that’s another thing that the university is about: ideals.

When any of these pursuits, let alone all of them, are eclipsed by the behavior of those who were not qualified for admission in the first place, the system is out of balance. When a coach makes more than the Sociology department, the system is irredeemably corrupt. Yes, I get market economics, and I understand that you’re worth precisely what someone wil pay you. I fully grasp that a particular coach’s abilities drive a certain amount of revenue, and that he (we’re talking football, so it’s a he) is entitled to participate in the fruits of his labor. My argument isn’t with the coach for getting what he can or the players for trying to find their way to a more secure life Considering the poverty many come from, I understand their motivation completely. No, my argument is with the system.

Which, by the way, is unique. I am unaware of any other culture in the world where the minor league sports apparatus has been routed through higher education. In Europe, if you’re a 14 year-old kid with a promising athletic career, you can choose to pursue that sport. Instead of enrolling in an academically purposed institution and pretending to go to class and getting another student to write your papers and hoping you don’t get caught, you sign on with a sporting academy. Talented footballer in England? Great – the academy at Chelsea might be interested (although they’re not one of the best). If you’re truly outstanding, maybe they’ll have you at Ajax or Sporting or West Ham or even Barcelona, the gold standard of world football programs. There you’ll attend classes, but there’s no pretext – you’re there because you’re a footballer, not a guy pretending to be a Speech major because it’s easy and won’t get in the way of sports.

No, of course the US isn’t going to abandon college sports and adopt the European model, no matter how much more sense it makes. That ship sailed in the 19th century and it isn’t coming back. I’m well acquainted with the realities of the nation I live in and since I don’t have a magic wand, I deal with it.

The point is about Terry Frei and the legions of sports writers and talkers out there (most of whom aren’t nearly as bright as he is). I’m going to send this to Terry as soon as I’m finished, and while I don’t expect him to agree with all I have to say, I imagine he’ll understand my argument.

He’ll get that what bothers us Boulder Intellectuals, and thinking folks all over the country, isn’t that we hate sports or that we hate football per se. It’s that we love the glory of the American university, which is truly one of the grandest innovations in human history. We revere its power to teach and to transform, not just individuals, but communities and entire societies. How many times have the minds of American academics changed the world for the better? Go get a calculator, because you’ll never count that high without one.

We despair when that noblest of missions is undercut by the basest of agendas, when its integrity and credibility are auctioned off to the highest bidders, no matter how little they care for learning and the world-shaking power it represents.

At some level, Terry Frei probably already understands every word I have written. My hope, then, is that the next time the subject comes up, whether it’s in a column or on Sandy’s show or in a casual conversation among friends, that he frames the discomforts of the Boulder Intelligentsia with more nuance than we’re used to, that he treats our perspective with respect and that when he tells you what we think, he does so in a way that causes his loyal readers to pause and say, “I hadn’t thought of it that way before.” That would be journalism in its finest form.

Terry, if you have read this far, I appreciate you listening.

Outrageous Conduct verdict against Thomas Wierdsma, Sr. V.P., GEO Group, Inc.

Back in September S&R pointed everyone to the story of Thomas Wierdsma. We began that piece this way:

Let’s see, what have we here? Private prison corporation executives: check. Abusive husband: check. Witness tampering: check. Threats to use political clout to have abused spouse deported if she doesn’t keep her mouth shut about being slapped around: check.

We’re used to hearing stories of appalling corruption and thuggery all the time, but this one was especially galling (especially considering the plight of his abused wife).

Review that story, then watch this video.

What a piece of work, huh?

The perils of self rule

Either these elections are getting worse or i’m getting more cynical, or maybe both. Look, i can respect opinions other than my own so i can see a healthy republic that isn’t a model of my political views. But there’s nothing to salvage here. The political system is well and truly fucked. We’ve got two candidates who will gut the social contract to the full extent of their ability. Both will continue solidifying and expanding the imperial presidency. We’re all inside the disposition matrix now. The poor, a healthy economy, the environment, these truths we hold to be self-evident and whatever else gets in the way will be sacrificed for the power and wealth of the few.

And if all that shit wasn’t enough, the answer to a dysfunctional political system appears to be ballot measures. Now i’d be in favor of a little direct democracy, but these ballot measures are even more easily manipulated than our politicians. For example, we’ve got one about building a second bridge to Canada on the ballot. The ballot language is such that if you’re against it, then you have to vote “yes.” Granted, ballot language is always confusing but the new wave of direct democracy seems particularly well designed to confuse the average voter…who is likely to be ignorant, irrational, and willfully misinformed, because that’s what makes us great. These measures are written and fought over in the public square by the dreaded “special interests.” They’re the ones buying the commercials and sending me flyers. We complain about politicians not reading the bills they vote on, but I can’t imagine that my fellow Americans are reading (and understanding) the measures they’re voting on. They’re doing what they’re told by liars, based on whose lies most comport with their personal feelings.

We’ve also got a “collective bargaining” measure that sounds good if you’re for the Platonic ideal of organized labor. But it may only be for public sector unions, admittedly under the gun of our new breed of Randian superheroes and self-made men with public educations collecting a paycheck from the State. See, i haven’t read the amendment either, and i know that i should as well as likely being capable of understanding it … which says nothing about whether my understanding will have anything to do with the implementation of the amendment.

And then there’s one about renewable energy mandates, which if the eyes of the actors in the commercial are to believed, will cause you to have a stroke when you open your electric bill. I like the idea of renewable energy and I get that without significant prodding, the holy market can be slow to react and accomplish what needs to be done. The problem is, do i trust the people writing the measure that we can pass into law to be doing it honestly and without corruption … and well … any more than I trust voting for assholes who think that rape is just all part of god’s plan?

No.

I voted for our medical marijuana amendment four years ago, enthusiastically, and cheered when the results came back showing that dope is significantly more popular than hope and John McCain is a distant third in that popularity contest. I don’t have a card. I just saw an opportunity for the people of my state to end run the colossal stupidity of the war on drugs. But as it turns out, that was a horribly written amendment. It left all sorts of loose ends like not establishing a legal distribution network beyond decriminalizing the black market network. So of course the politicians and cops have attacked that glaring loophole in addition to trying to find a way to overturn the will of the people. The same thing is happening with Arizona’smedical marijuana law. And if Colorado passes its brave decriminalization bill you can bet that all holy hell will break loose. Either of the liars that may win the presidency will come down with the full force of the federal government on Colorado for daring to practice democracy.

We like to think of ourselves as a nation of laws rather than men, but when you go to the polls tomorrow, stop and think about the men you’re electing to write and implement those laws. Think about your fellow men (and take a long look in the mirror) who are crafting and voting on these ballot measures. It is men who will be enforcing the laws. It is men who will take your vote as an enthusiastic acceptance and support for them doing whatever the hell they want to do. And don’t forget that it is men who will look at the results of your experiments in direct democracy and decide whether you’re right, wrong, or incompetent to make those decisions. Unfortunately, we probably are incompetent to make those decisions, and since we vote for politicians based on who we’d like to have a beer with and which church they attend, those assholes are every bit as incompetent as we are.

I’ll go vote. I was raised to view it as an obligation. But it won’t be for Obama or Romney. It won’t be for Stabenow or Hoekstra. It won’t be for McDowell or Benishek. I don’t know what i’ll do with the constitutional amendments on my MI ballot. I should probably abstain, because i’m old, cynical, and apathetic enough to realize that none will be what they seem and most will be the equivalent of voting Democratic or Republican. I won’t vote for a Democrat or a Republican for the rest of my life. i wouldn’t vote for Obama if i knew ahead of time that mine would be the deciding vote. Let it end in a tie and they can fight to the death for it. And more, and more, i’m coming to the conclusion that my compatriots who vote for either of these parties hate America, freedom, Democracy. That you tactical, strategic, and disturbingly ideological voters are what’s wrong with this nation; it’s you that allow the foxes into the henhouse and the chickenhawks to rule the roost.

God Bless America. We’re gonna need it, because the people entrusted with maintaining the Republic sure as shit aren’t up to the task.

ArtSunday: visit 5280 Lens Mafia, meet some great photographers

Not long ago I mentioned the launch of S&R’s sister site, 5280 Lens Mafia. 5280LM features a number of current and former S&R folks (writers, guest contributors, commenters, loyal readers) and the truth is that the project is off to a start I could barely have imagined. So if you missed it, I’d like to invite you to investigate some of the best so far.

S&R stalwart Dr. Denny is the master of the macro lens.

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So much for the fires: an ark with two animals of each kind just floated down my street…

This time last week Colorado was enduring epic wildfires and “Fire Danger: Extreme” seemed an understatement. We were seeing temps in excess of 100 degrees and one day the humidity dipped as low as three percent. So much for the “earth is burning” portion of the show. Now we’re three or four days into the great floods foretold in the Old Testament. Three weeks ago I posted a couple of pictures from movie night on the Elitch Theater lawn. Here’s one of them, to refresh your memory.

Here’s that same lawn a few minutes ago, after a few hours of positively biblical rain this morning. Continue reading

The 2012 Colorado wildfires were predicted; now, understanding why they're happening

The national media and much of America is watching the Colorado wildfire drama in rapt, apocalyptic fascination. For those who are just now recognizing the scope of the disaster, S&R has been writing about this (and predicting it) for some time now. If you’d like to better understand the causes of the explosion of wildfires in the summer of 2012, here’s a quick set of links to  get you caught up.

A star is born

Our real photographer, the estimable Lisa Wright, is on vacation, so I ventured out last night, new camera in hand, to see if I could capture something vaguely interesting for our readers. As luck would have it, they were showing A Star is Born, the 1937 classic starring Janet Gaynor, on the lawn in front of the old Elitch Gardens Theater.

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Why is Colorado on fire? Climate effects aren't always as obvious as the weather…

Colorado’s massive High Park fire has jumped the Poudre River and is beginning to menace Fort Collins in earnest. This is very bad news. Some experts fear the blaze won’t be contained before fall and if you live anywhere to the east of it you’re probably quite worried, and for good reason. You might well be concerned if you live south or west, too.

Back in March, Tom Yulsman of the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism warned us that this could happen. Continue reading

Denver EMS takes 24 minutes to respond to call in downtown; Mayor Hancock, this is NOT acceptable

Welcome to the 5280Earlier this afternoon, while watching the Chelsea/Barcelona Champions League match at the British Bulldog in downtown Denver, a young woman collapsed. It was unclear what happened, but my best guess from what those closer to her were telling me was that it was an epileptic seizure and she may have hit her head on the concrete floor. I immediately dialed 911 and provided the dispatcher with all the information I could. I think some others in the bar were probably also calling, so the message that we had a woman down, nature of the incident unknown, please hurry was clearly communicated.

I noted the time. After about five minutes those around me were getting restless, wondering where the paramedics were. Continue reading

Dear officer: it isn't my fault that Coloradans drive like dicks

To: The Broomfield, CO Police Officer Who Pulled Me Over the Other Night
From: Sam Smith
Re: Goddamned Colorado Drivers

To begin with, sir (I’m sorry that I didn’t catch your name while we were exchanging pleasantries, and my regards to your family, by the way), I’d like to thank you for only giving me a warning. I realize that you could have written me a citation, as I was clearly guilty of making a lane change without signaling. Twice. I would like to explain myself, however, by way of an observation or two about the state of driving (and manners) in Colorado, a beautiful place that confers motor vehicle operating privileges on any self-involved, belligerent jackhat who can schlep him or herself into a DMV office. Continue reading

Vanishing act: Drought and unseasonable warmth sends Colorado’s snowpack into freefall

by Tom Yulsman

Except for the shoulders of Longs Peak and other mountains in the distance, almost no snow is evident in this picture taken above Gem Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park last Friday. The lake sits at 8,830 feet. (PHOTO: Courtesy Tom Yulsman)

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