A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
The Denver Post, Dec. 17, on speculation over the accident involving Denver police at a protest:
You too may have heard the suspicions: that contrary to what Denver officials maintain, the man whose vehicle struck four police officers on bicycles two weeks ago, critically injuring one, actually meant to do it and the truth is being suppressed.
One sign of the alleged cover-up, according to this theory, is the speed with which the police attributed the incident to a medical condition involving the driver.
These rumors have surfaced on talk radio and in social media, and on Monday both a police spokesman and Mayor Michael Hancock addressed them directly on a radio show. They were wise to do so - not because the speculation is credible but because it is easily put to rest.
To begin with, as police spokesman Matt Murray pointed out on 850 KOA's "Mike Rosen Show," the investigation into the tragedy, which occurred when officers were escorting East High students protesting the Ferguson grand jury decision, is still ongoing. "We had over 100 witnesses and that takes time," Murray said.
"If we uncover evidence that this was a criminal act or was intentional, we will absolutely let people know immediately," he said.
It's true that police fairly quickly attributed the injuries to an accident. The reason, Murray explained, is because they had early indications from medical staff - "with some detail I can't go into because it's an active case" - that the motorist, Chris Booker, had a medical condition. "We wanted to get that information out" given tension surrounding Ferguson-related protests, he said, so people didn't simply assume it was an attack on police.
Murray also promised medical records will be part of the probe.
Did Booker cheer the protesters shortly before he accelerated and struck police?
"We've heard that," Murray said. "I don't know if we have any active statements to that effect, but we might. Certainly that would be relevant and something we would want to explore. ... But I will tell you that to this point we have no indication that this was an intentional act."
With scores of police and medical personnel involved in the tragedy, a cover-up seems almost inconceivable, let alone in anyone's interest. For that matter, police and the district attorney would have to be out of their minds to allow someone who targets officers of the law - one of whom remains in terrible shape - to go unpunished.
The Gazette, Dec. 14, on Sen. Mark Udall and the recently-released report on torture:
Colorado's outgoing Sen. Mark Udall helped renew the country's longstanding debate about the morality of torture. Oddly, what may be the senator's most defining moment comes at the end of his one-term career.
Udall was sharply critical of the CIA after winning a long-fought battle for release of a torture report. The report, critical of American interrogation tactics after the Sept. 11 attacks, cites poor results from terror techniques that included water boarding, sleep deprivation, threats against relatives and rectal feeding. Former CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden (a retired Air Force general) joined former deputy directors in writing an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal that characterizes the report as a Democratic partisan attack on the CIA. They claim the CIA's interrogation tactics accomplished the following:?
- Led to the capture of senior al-Qaida operatives, removing them from battlefields.
- Disrupted terrorist plots and prevented mass casualty attacks, saving American and Allied lives.
- Added "enormously" to what we knew about al-Qaida as an organization and therefore informed our approaches on how best to attack, thwart and degrade it.
Torture debates are hardly new in the United States. In 2006, NBC's Tim Russert asked former President Bill Clinton if anything might warrant torture.
Clinton said: "Everyone of us can imagine the following scenario: We get lucky and we get the number three guy in al-Qaida and we know there's a big bomb going off in America in three days and we know this guy knows where it is. Know we have the right and responsibility to beat it out of him."
The relatively low-profile question and answer, which the former president's wife apparently did not see and hear, became a moment of tension and comical relief the following year when then Sen. Hillary Clinton debated in New Hampshire while seeking the Democratic nomination for president. Russert asked her opinion of torture. Before she answered, Russert read Bill Clinton's answer but did not tell Hillary who he was quoting.
Hillary answered: "As a matter of policy it cannot be American policy, period... these hypotheticals are very dangerous because they open a great big hole in what should be an attitude that our country and our president takes toward the appropriate treatment of everyone and I think it's dangerous to go down this path."
Russert looked her in the eyes and said: The person who laid out that solution "was William Jefferson Clinton, last year. So he disagrees with you."?Flustered, Hillary said: "Well he's not standing here right now," eliciting uproarious applause from the audience.
"So there is a disagreement," Russert said.
"Well," Hillary said with an adoring smile. "I'll talk to him later."
The exchange underscores our country's struggle with this complex dilemma. As a moral, civilized country we should never advocate or institutionalize torture as standard practice. But, as Bill Clinton explained, we cannot rule it out.
We can't allow a bomb to destroy a city if nonlethal interrogation tactics stand a chance of stopping it. We can't watch another beheading on YouTube if the CIA can stop it with brutal tactics we don't talk about at parties.
Despite what we may have done in the chaotic aftermath of Sept. 11, this country remains the most fair and civilized superpower the world has known. Let's not denigrate our military and CIA in pursuit of moral purity that only befits a perfect world devoid of danger and evil.
The Durango Herald, Dec. 17, on the need for time for a state gas-oil task force to work:
The Colorado Task Force regarding State and Local Regulation of Oil and Gas Operations began with a Herculean task and an ambitious timeline. As the divergent panel wades through its charge to develop recommendations by Feb. 27 for the Colorado Legislature to consider, it must overcome the significant distinctions among the various positions task force members hold. Doing so within the constraints of a seven-meeting framework is not easy; it might not be possible. To maximize the task force's effectiveness in developing recommendations, Gov. John Hickenlooper should consider giving the group more time.
Hickenlooper convened the task force in September as part of a compromise to avoid competing ballot initiatives regarding gas and oil regulations. It was a wise move. Among the proposed initiatives was a measure to amend the state constitution to dramatically increase gas activity setbacks to the point that much drilling would be rendered impossible, particularly in densely developed areas. Another proposed amendment would have given local jurisdictions essential veto power to prohibit any industrial activity. Two industry-supported measures would have withheld from communities that ban gas production any tax revenues the activity generates, and required a fiscal note be added to any citizen-proposed ballot initiative. None of these proposals was the appropriate answer to the challenge of navigating and coordinating state and local regulations. A task force comprising stakeholders from all sides is a far better prospect.
But the 19-member panel, with co-chairs Randy Cleveland of XTO Energy, and La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, is hardly a monolith. Industry, conservationists, public-health experts, lawmakers, attorneys, farmers and ranchers, and Front Range as well as Western Slope representatives populate the group, as they should. Their interests are wide-ranging, though, and seven meetings - albeit most of them two-day marathons - is warp speed for building consensus. That is particularly true given the very different landscapes - political, geographical and demographical - of the communities addressing gas and oil development. What is true for Durango is not necessarily so for Louisville.
While the Western Slope's deep and broad experience with gas development is instructive to the task force - and legislature's - process, it does not paint the whole picture for Front Range communities now seeing significant gas and oil development. The issue is fundamentally one of density. In communities where population is more dense, more people feel the impacts of gas drilling more acutely. Finding a comfortable nexus for state and local regulation in this charged environment is an exercise in patience and perseverance.
Part of that will be to err on the side of gathering as much input as anyone has to offer. Ensuring that all who want to weigh in on the task force's process and recommendations are given the opportunity to do so is critical. Given that the task force was convened in lieu of what would surely have been a politically fraught and divisive ballot initiative campaign, gathering public input is critical to the task force's legitimacy. The panel itself has the skill, perspective and experience to use that input to inform its recommendations, but Coloradans who are concerned about this critical interplay between state and local rules governing gas and oil development must be encouraged to participate, and the task force must be given sufficient time to gather and consider as much information as possible in an iterative process. To facilitate that, the governor should extend the timeline and expand the structure of the Colorado Task Force regarding State and Local Regulation of Oil and Gas Operations.
The Daily Sentinel, Dec. 16, on an uphill battle to demonize marijuana:
Hollywood man of the moment Seth Rogen wanted to come to Colorado and organize a group smoke of legal marijuana during an early screening of his latest movie.
"We are going to do a screening of (hash)TheInterviewMovie in Colorado where I get baked with everyone first, and we can smoke weed in the theater," he tweeted.
It didn't happen that way. Colorado law prohibits the public consumption of marijuana. Security personnel and rumors of undercover officers prevented anyone in the Denver audience from lighting up during the Dec. 8 event, much to Rogen's chagrin.
But the episode illustrates the uphill battle in convincing juveniles that pot use can compromise their brain development. The fact that marijuana is legal in this state for adults to consume undermines the argument. (If it's legal, it can't be that bad for you, the adolescent reasoning goes). Hollywood glamorization of getting high subverts the message even further.
Much of the policy work about marijuana has focused on the retail infrastructure. Lawmakers have had their hands full with establishing regulatory controls and reacting to unforeseen marketplace issues. At what point will we turn our full attention to an anti-marijuana message that resonates with young people?
That's the focus of the Drug Threat Oversight Collaboration, which is trying to change attitudes, starting with adults. A DTOC survey found that Mesa County adults may not be appropriately alarmed about what marijuana can do to still-developing brains. This lax attitude may be a big reason why children and teens aren't getting the message that consuming marijuana is a huge health risk - especially with regard to maintaining full cognitive function into adulthood.
So what to do? Alcohol arguably poses the same threat, but that hasn't stopped a barrage of beer and liquor ads on TV. For all of its evils, alcohol is the beast we know. Most adults have some familiarity with alcohol and are equipped to discuss it with kids. Not necessarily so with marijuana. Even adults who may have smoked a joint in high school may not understand how potent or dangerous today's strains are.
It would be naive to suggest that Rogen and other stars should stop professing a love of getting "baked." Plenty of other Hollywood stars have made a killing endorsing alcohol. Hypocrisy is rarely effective.
We need a strong countervailing message. The DTOC and similar groups are working to restigmatize marijuana. Nobody is interested in overturning Amendment 64. But now that that the genie's out of the bottle, we need an effective way of reminding young people - and ambivalent adults - that there's a reason pot was legalized for adults only.