Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Free Speech Is Not Free


The Supreme Court in the past has ruled that money is free speech.

This relates to the First Amendment of the Constitution that protects free speech.

The Supreme Court had ruled that if campaign finance laws restricted the expenditure of money for campaigns it was somehow restricting free speech. Candidates and the rest of the world should be allowed to receive and spend money without restriction if it is being used to speak to the voters.

For example it would include all media including newspapers, television and radio.

The laws relating to campaign finance has been moving in the other direction. McCain (yes, that McCain) Feingold says that campaign finance should be limited to restrict people and organizations from "buying" candidates and elections.

The Supreme Court is once again reviewing the laws relating to campaign finance and indications are that they might throw out all restrictions.

That means that we can expect to watch two years of TV campaign ads instead of the normal one year. This will be a major windfall for the media and lobbyists in general.

I truly have mixed emotions about this one. I believe that the constitution should be followed as closely as possible but by the same token I am against multi-billionaires and corporations from "buying" a candidate and an election.

I guess time will tell.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September


Regardless of the place where I happen to be living toward the end of September I am always reminded of the song composed by Kurt Weill, with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. "September Song." It is one of those songs that goes straight for the heart and does not even pause as it goes through the mind. It is about unrequited love and bonfires and football games and piles of dried leaves in the front lawn. It is the regrets of summer and the anticipation of winter and a new year and a new time. Just to jolt your brain cells, here are the words.


September Song

Well, it's a long, long time
From May to December

But the days grow short,
When you reach September.

And the autumn weather
Turns the leaves to flame

And I haven't got time
For the waiting game.

And the days dwindle down
To a precious few . . .

September, November . . .

And these few precious days
I spend with you.

These precious days
I spend with you.

I should not fail to mention that it is also a metaphor for growing older. How time goes by and before we know it the time is all gone. Decide today that this will never happen to you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bernie Madoff


My laptop is still down but I have a "Plan B" in place. Cross your fingers that this works for a while at least.

It snowed every day last week. Not real snow but snow if you are from Florida. It came down and created some distance vision issues but it never really stuck to anything. Just in time for the weekend on Saturday the sun came out and it warmed up again. Nice for the most beautiful month in the most beautiful place.

On Wednesday a student came up to me at the end of American Government class in Dillon around 10 pm. He had a copy of the assessment report from Summit County government on a house in Summit County. He asked me to help him buy the house. I immediately thought that he was asking for money but in fact he was asking for advice. The 1972 house is was in a quasi-run down part of the county, it was 750 square feet, three bedrooms on 1/4 acre and they were asking $450,000 (for sale by owner). I told him two things. The house was seriously overpriced and that he should contact a realtor or a mortgage lender for advice. I told him to not buy the house.

This young man is from Mali in West Africa and is married with three children. The look on his face of desperation haunted me all weekend.

All of the crooks in the world are not named Madoff.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hungry Bears


A student related a story last night about how a bear had torn two doors off of his garage here in Summit County to gain access to trash being stored inside. Good idea to never put your trash outdoors because of the bear hazard but apparently that did not work. He did say that his homeowners insurance paid for the repair of the two doors but that is little comfort thinking that the bear(s) had gained access to part of his house.

My access door to my two car garage is about ten feet from my bedroom door. First the trash. Next the me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Retrospective


I am writing a retrospective on a peer and find it interesting how remembering things about someone else actually stirs up memories of my own life.

We sometimes use our own history to create a template for others. I remember being there at this time. I know that this happened but what was that person doing at that time.

Parallel universes where their life and my life are moving through time at the same pace but in different places.

I have never had a problem writing or doing public speaking. If I type the first word I am off and running and my problem is trying to figure out when and where to stop. The same with public speaking. I currently teach twelve classroom hours a week and I literally talk for twelve hours each week. Even then at the end of class I sometimes feel as if I have not covered everything.

This is the case with the retrospective. What is that magic point where we stop? When does it end? It is not as if it is a eulogy because the person is still alive. A dilemma.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Snow


We had new snow yesterday above 10,000 feet.

I live at around 9600 feet so it is not far from my yard.

I have lived here for almost 40 years and for the most part the Aspen will turn around September 15 on average. So far the yellow Aspen are few and far between.

It has been a lot warmer this month than we had at the end of August.

I have always thought that September was the very best month in the Colorado high country. It is always warm in the daytime and cold at night creating a virtual, natural air conditioning. Most of the tourists have gone home to go back to school or back to work after their vacations so they miss the very best part of the Colorado year.

Once in a while I will see a large Arrow Bus Lines bus or a Grey Line Bus with "Gapers" looking at the trees. It is never as dramatic as New England or Iowa for that matter but it is a welcome change after the heat of the summer has dried everything out and turned the world brown.

The fire danger right now is "Very High" as compared to all summer when it was "Very Low" due to the daily rain. We need to hope for a lot of early snow to preclude the entire forest going up in flames. Most of our trees are dead because of the Pine Beetle so they are ripe for combustion.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Madness


I am so very encouraged by our young people and so very discouraged by our older people. The Conservatives and the Republicans are in a full-court press right now using every tactic they can find to disrupt and protest each time a Democrat appears in public.

I fully support any and all protests but they should have some nexus to an issue. What is going on right now is all over the place. They are protesting for the sake of getting the attention of the media.

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter was shouted down at the Club 20 meeting in Grand Junction yesterday. Protesters in Las Vegas were screaming at the top of their lungs at meetings in Las Vegas about any and everything that came to their collective minds.

One commentator said that the protesters were wearing the same T Shirt that Timothy McVeigh wore to explain his killing of 160 or so people in Oklahoma City over gun laws.

These people are so very angry over the fact that we have a black, Democrat president. They act like they would do anything or everything to see he and his programs defeated.

I am reminded of the quote by Burke, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (and women) do nothing." It is time for those who disagree to do something. It is up to you and I to do something now.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Let's Legalize Marijuana


I always liked the Holiday Inn Express ads where the guy says, "I am not a doctor but I play one on TV." What a great line. It excuses a multitude of mistakes. He is really saying, "I am asking you to pretend that I am doctor but if I kill you or someone else then please forgive me."

I testified recently at a hearing of the Colorado State Board of Health concerning proposed changes in the Medical Marijuana law.

A few years ago Colorado legalized Medical Marijuana and put it in our state constitution. The program was slow in the beginning but now thousands of people have prescriptions for marijuana and it has created huge problems in the administration and enforcement of the law.

The Health Department was not ready for all of this.

Medical marijuana is used for many purposes including pain reduction and increased appetite. It is especially good for terminal patients who are wasting away because they do not eat.

I think the reason for problems in the adminstration is that is they really never supported the program in the first place. Staff members actually gave testimony saying that the program was not a good program and should be severely limited. I guess they never looked at the numbers.

In my testimony I commented that I was not an attorney but that I teach law in my American Government, Political Science and the other eleven courses I teach. In effect, I am not an attorney but I play one in the classroom.

I briefly said (paraphrased) it is the law so deal with it. It is not the role of the Board of Health to rule if the program should exist or be limited. It is their role to facilitate the program so it works well and serves the people with prescriptions.

Currently there are several applications pending throughout Colorado to open retail dispensaries. There are several proposed here in Summit County. Towns are flopping and diving trying to avoid allowing them or figuring out ways to postpone the applications. Our government at work.

This November Breckenridge will vote on legalizing marijuana which would limit the Breckenridge Police from enforcing the law concerning small amounts. That is already in the state law and possession of less than an ounce is a petty offense punishable by a fine. You get a ticket and are not arrested. In Breckenridge even that would be eliminated for small amounts.

There are two states that have the more open laws. California and Colorado. In California they even have 24 hour vending machines for marijuana in some places. The rub of course is that the Drug Enforcement Administration still has the strict laws on small amounts and selling marijuana in any circumstance.

Alcohol is much more dangerous than marijuana. In my many years in law enforcement I have never seen anyone hurt or killed by using marijuana. It is not a gateway drug. It does not lead to hard drugs. The only thing that is threatened by the use of marijuana is that handy bag of potato chips. They will be destroyed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What a lot of bunk


Eight years ago today I was sitting at my computer at 6:46 am typing away and watching the Don Imus show on MSNBC out of the corner of my eye. Almost immediately after the first plane hit the World Trade Center they had live coverage.

Don Imus kept talking about how he thought it must be some idiot in a light plane flying out of Teterborough in New Jersey who just lost his or her way.

It was actually several minutes before they announced that it was a commercial passenger aircraft. And then all hell broke loose. I sat glued to the screen as later the second plane flew into the second building. About the same time the report of the plane flying into the pentagon was announced and then the plane that flew into the ground on the farm in Pennsylvania. Some believe that plane was intended for the White House.

Now, eight years later, all of the conspiracy theorists have come forward to try to correct history. That is all a bunch of bunk. They are the same people who do not believe we went to the moon or that the holocaust occurred along with a long list of other major historical events.

I even had a well educated, intelligent student tell the class that the World Trade Center was actually built so it would fall down.

What we need to do is honor the emergency responders, either those who died or those who are still alive and to honor the dead from the crashes both on the ground or in the air. We need to dispel the vicious rumors of all those with highly cranked imaginations about history. They need to spend their time studying the truth.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

You Lie


A student of mine in Political Science said it best. You have every right to disagree with President Obama and if you do disagree you actually have a responsibility to let your feelings be known. I totally agree with that. But, "We need to speak the truth in wisdom." We have the right to disagree with the president but we must respect his office. He is the elected leader of this country whether you like it or not.

I was seriously offended by Congressman Wilson from South Carolina last night. I would like to call for his immediate resignation. He is a jerk. He is an idiot. He is a fool. He does nothing but bring shame on our country and his office as a United States Representative. South Carolina should move quickly to replace him with someone with more self control.

I find it interesting that what caused his uproar was the statement by the President that there is nothing in any proposal that will give free health care to illegal immigrants. That is true but Wilson could not handle hearing the President say it. Wilson was very comfortable in his racist self believing that the health care reform was some liberal program to provide free health care to minorities. His outburst is consistent with the actions and comments of the people who still cannot handle the fact that after 233 years we finally have a black president. Imagine how he will feel once we elect a woman and we will elect a woman very soon.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The First Day Of School


Yesterday, the day after Labor Day, is the traditional day that students go back to school. It was that way for probably over one hundred years. Kids got out around Memorial Day at the end of May and went back the day after the first Monday of September commonly called Labor Day.

In case you wondered that is the reason President Obama picked yesterday day to speak to the students about working hard and staying in school. That is the day that students go back to school every fall. Well, maybe not all students.

Because of our resort community we live in a "Disneyland" kind of economy.

Our guests come to our resorts when the kids are not in school. The busiest week is the week between Christmas and New Year's when the kids are not in school. Our busiest weekend is President's Day when the kids get a three day weekend and are not in school Our busiest month is March when kids are off for Spring Break. So we can tell if school is open or not just by looking at the traffic on the highway.

For the past few years the traffic has started to decrease earlier every year. All of a sudden there is a decrease and when we check we find that Douglas County (Castle Rock) schools have started early. Then the traffic will decrease even more and we discover that Denver Public Schools have started early.

I get the feeling that the beginning of the school year in some places is now around the beginning of August.

I know that back in New York schools remain open until almost the Fourth of July but then do not start until September. Here in Summit County the schools started the week before Labor Day.

My personal feeling is that we all know that state law requires 180 days for the students to be in the classroom. With two weeks off for Christmas, Winter Break, Spring Break and all of the other national holidays they need to push the start date back earlier and earlier just to meet the 180 day requirement.

I don't really care that much.

When the kids are in school I have less traffic to contend with each day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Attack Issues and Not People


I caught part of a newscast yesterday that I found very disturbing. They were interviewing people who were opposed to President Obama speaking to the students in school today.

One man commented, "I did not vote for him. I do not support him. And I do not want him to speak to my children in school because they might get the idea that it is OK to have a president like him."

Another person was also talking about the health care proposal and said, "We must do everything in our power to make sure the he does not succeed on any level in order to make it more difficult for him to be elected for a second term. We do not need people like him serving as our president."

Later they interviewed some supporters and most concluded that many of the people opposed to the school speech and improving our health care were just plain racists. The people opposing him were not upset with his actions or ideas but rather were opposed to the fact that we now have a black president.

Laura Bush was interviewed in Europe where she was attending a conference and she gave her unqualified support for Obama speaking to the schools. She had read the transcript of his speech and said that anyone who would deliver a speech encouraging kids to work hard and stay in school should be supported. How enlightened of her.

In my 67 years I have never been so frightened of what is happening. I encourage disagreement and discussion. I encourage people believing in something even if I might not hold the same values. But let's find common ground on issues that we can support and not bring it down to the level of attacking a person.

High clouds forming above the Continental Divide as I am looking out my window this morning. Speaking of divides.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thank the Unions


Whether you like it or not Labor Day is about Unions and the workers in those Unions. Unions brought you the 40 hour work week and paid holidays. Unions brought you medical, dental and other insurance benefits. That said Unions are a dying breed. One reason is that they did their job too well. Business and industry woke up a few years ago and realized that they needed to provide benefits to their workers before the workers would unionize in retaliation.

I have belonged to a few unions. I was in the New York City Police Department's Patrolman's Benevolent Association (PBA) for many years and then was a member of Local 9, Operating Engineer's AFL-CIO in Denver. Operating Engineers are heavy equipment operators. I was a loader operator in a sand and gravel operation, a Concrete Batch Plant Operator in Silverthorne, Strantia Springs near Sedelia in Douglas County and on the oil shale in Parachute Colorado. I poured all of the concrete for the town of Battlement Mesa. All the curb and gutter as well as the City Market and many other private homes. I worked on one of the last Gold Dredges in Colorado near Fairplay as a welder mechanic. That dredge was dismantled and sent to Columbia in South America and is probably working today. I turned down the second half of that job because it would have meant going to Columbia to put it back together. All of this as a Union Operator.

I was instrumental in ratifying the creation of the Union for the bus drivers at the Summit Stage our local bus system.

As a Democrat elected official and State Representative I received a lot of support from all of the major unions in Colorado. Two of the biggest are the Teachers and the Firefighters

We all have a lot of benefits brought to us by unions. Take a minute and thank a union member if you know one. They are getting very scarce.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Secret Vice


I have a secret vice. I have had it now for many years. I doubt that, at this late stage of my life, I will be able to overcome my vice.

I feed my vice at two locations. One is a back ally just off of 28th Street in Boulder behind the Taco Bell/KFC. It is hard to find and that is a good thing because I do not have to worry about being found out. The other location is in the Summit Place Shopping Center in Silverthorne. This one is easier to find which makes hiding my problem even more difficult.

I sometimes will put on my dark sunglasses, hat and overcoat just to keep from being recognized when I visit these locations. I have a lot of fear and trepidation each time I go in to make a buy.

The purveyors of the substance of my vice are normally very young girls. Some are still in high school. Yes, I do get the occasional male but it is a trade run by young, beautiful women.

I know that in a twelve step program the first thing you need to do is admit that you have an addiction. You must say, "I am an alcoholic or I am a drug addict" so I guess the time is ripe that I confess.

My secret vice is eating Snickers Blizzards at Dairy Queen. There I have said it so now the whole world knows.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Duct Tape


Duct tape is the baling wire of today.

For you younger folk, baling wire was a way of tying a bale of hay together. It came in large spools that you loaded on the baler. There were two spools and each bale was held together with two strands of baling wire. The farmer had to carry wire cutters to open the bale to feed the cattle. The farmer also had to be careful not to leave the wire laying around. We always threw it in the back of the pickup and later we would put it in the scrap pile.

Small bales are now tied with baling twine and a farmer could cut that with a knife still making sure that it was disposed of properly.

Baling wire was what was used to hold entire cars together. Baling wired was used to fix the house and the barn. Baling wire was the duct tape of yesterday. I remember actually welding with baling wire. You could use a regular torch to heat the baling wire and it became a very cheap and hand welding rod to put things together again. I am sure you could find things that I welded with baling wire fifty years ago in Iowa that are still held together and working.

Now try that with baling wire.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Getting Older


We have a new building on the Breckenridge campus and along with that we have new systems. One system involves photo identification cards. I got mine yesterday and when I looked at the photo I saw an image of my father staring back at me white hair and all. He would have been 100 years old this month. I miss him.

Each day, each hour, each second we are all getting older. There is nothing we can do about that. Time marches on. I think the real issue is our perceptions of ourselves. Even though we may look older, how is our attitude. Do we think and act old? In my case I would say not.

Working with a group of 64 students whose average age is around 20 keeps me young. I can text on my phone. I can actually read shorten text messages in that strange new language. I keep up with the latest music and what is happening in the current generation.

This week I had an extended conversation about long boards. Skate boards that are very long that students are now carrying through the halls.

In my case my hair and my face give away my true age. But my mind and my thought process are about 50 years younger than all of that. Nice.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Touching


There are many ways you can touch someone. You can touch them physically by holding their hand or giving them a hug. You can touch them by being a friend and just listening to them to help them work through their issues in life. You can touch someone remotely with an e-mail, phone call or a letter. You can touch someone by volunteering to help your community and maybe never even see or know the person you are touching.

One of the most gratifying things in my life is to have someone come up to me and say, "I don't know where I read this or heard this but you need to know....." and then they say something that I have taught or written in the past. I never take credit when that happens because my credit is silently knowing that I have touched that person in a way that no one even knows.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ramadan


I have some students who are Muslim. The Islamic religion is now in the month of Ramadan. Ramadan has a lot of different aspects and I would suggest that you look it up if you are interested. The quick definition is that it a month where those who adhere to Ramadan literally do not put anything in their mouth during daylight hours, from sunrise to sunset.

This includes any food or water. It also includes kissing and smoking cigarettes. Think mouth and think the word no.

I suppose if they wanted to they could get up early and eat, drink and be merry until the sun comes up but I doubt if that is an option considering their age. Getting up very early is not on their mind.

My students are in their early twenties and I can see the anxiety on their faces as the clock moves toward the time of sunset. They are great students and are very normal young people but they are serious about practicing their religion.

I give them credit. In these days where many traditions have fallen by the wayside it is nice to see that some people respect the rituals of their families and their religion.

I was talking about this last night with another group of students and the word "discipline" came up. Imagine if you will the discipline needed to be true to Ramadan.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

One World


The smoke from the Las Angeles fires has blanketed Summit County and the Blue River Valley for the past couple of days. The smell is very strong also.

The county put out a health alert yesterday saying that if you can't see five miles then you should stay indoors. I have not been able to see Lake Dillon which is 1/2 mile from my house. There goes my day.

The weatherman from Channel 7 in Denver yesterday showed the satellite photo of the stream of smoke moving from southern California to Colorado. The hurricane that is hitting Baja today could have some impact on the fire danger in California. We can only hope.

When we can look at the earth from 26,000 miles out it should remind us that we truly live in a global environment. What happens anywhere impacts the smallest part of our personal world. I laugh when people either reject or deny the premise. What is true is that they are in denial because the thought of all of this is scary. People are afraid of other people who might speak a different language or have a different skin color. So sad when you think about that.