True federalism could imperil the left

By: Scott Weiser

June 8, 2017 Updated: June 9, 2017 at 7:39 am

Virginia’s Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe and several other governors have rediscovered federalism in declaring they will act alone to uphold the Paris climate accord.

McAuliffe pledges to “abate, control, or limit” power plant emissions. A bevy of liberal mayors and university presidents threaten to do the same sort of thing with regard to carbon emissions, evidently without regard for costs.

Good for them. And perhaps goodbye to them.

Gov. Hickenlooper proposed something similar after the Supreme Court of the United States put then-President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan executive order on hold. Hickenlooper objected and wanted to proceed with Colorado’s version of the plan.

“Our goals were very aggressive goals, and they are not the same, but they are very similar to what the Clean Power Plan wants,” Hickenlooper told reporters in 2016. Then, President Trump won the traditional Democratic stronghold of Pueblo County and shocked some liberals into a self-evaluation.

Trump won in part because Colorado’s existing clean power mandates caused ruinous electric rates in Pueblo. Trump landed in Pueblo during his campaign and promised an end to the costly war on energy, and the message stuck.

Hickenlooper saw the writing on the wall and backed off the idea for a unilateral imposition of Obama’s Clean Power plan. That was the politically astute decision, because Hickenlooper can’t govern if he isn’t the Governor anymore.

Many people, including columnist Kathleen Parker in her recent column, mistake federalism as meaning big, centralized federal government. Federalism is more accurately the principle that our nation is not a single entity ruled by a central government like the socialist utopia of Venezuela. It is a republic made up of sovereign member states.

The federal government has limited powers, which are expressed in the Constitution. As plainly stated in the 10th Amendment, powers not expressly granted to the federal government by the Constitution belong to the states or the people. That is the doctrine of federalism.

Under federalism, states have very broad latitude to govern themselves. The highest level of authority is we, the people. We have the ultimate authority to revoke any power we have previously granted to government. Likewise, we have the ability to grant new government powers as we see fit.

The Declaration of Independence says that just governance requires the consent of the governed. Federalism says consent should mostly manifest regionally and locally, enhancing accountability among those who govern.

Nowhere was this principle needed more than during the reign of Obama, a socialist/progressive who routinely ruled by executive fiat, showing disdain for the rule of law and the consent of the governed.

Trump, a businessman and political novice, won because the governed were outraged at Obama’s disrespect for their consent. President Trump is dismantling Obama’s legacy in order to restore federalism and the power of the states as equals with the federal government.

Meanwhile, the political left is turning to federalism to try and salvage something from the disaster of underestimating the will of the people. It may not be a wise choice, but time will tell.

Thanks to federalism and ignored Americans, socialist are less harmful. Operating at the state and local level instead of the federal level, they are held accountable more easily. When the economic burdens of socialist arrogance hit home citizens will rightfully blame the governors, mayors, university presidents and council members who are responsible rather than the federal government.

They will be accountable to the people who know them best and who are in the best position to remove them from office if they overstep. In favoring federalism, that is exactly what the founders had in mind.

This column was originally published in the Colorado Springs Gazette

Public pipeline maps are a bad idea

By: Scott Weiser

May 26, 2017 Updated: May 26, 2017 at 9:45 am

A 30-inch natural gas pipeline exploded in the Crestmoor neighborhood of San Bruno, Calif., on September 9, 2010.

The explosion killed eight people and destroyed or damaged more than 38 homes. The pipeline, built in 1954, was found to be defective because of poor construction and faulty welds.

A single-family home exploded in Firestone on April 17, after natural gas leaked into the basement from a nearby gas well flow line that had not been shut off and properly capped. The explosion killed two and severely injured another. Fault has not been fully assessed, but it appears the gas company and subdivision developer may be jointly responsible.

At play are two issues. The first is construction safety standards for new wells and pipelines. All new wells and pipelines must meet stringent standards for safety, during drilling and long-term during use. Such regulations must be strictly enforced and policed to ensure compliance.

The Firestone explosion highlights the second issue: dangers of development near old wells that are abandoned, dormant or in use.

As was the case in San Bruno, construction standards in the past can be markedly different from those of today. This makes inspection of older wells imperative if we are to avoid another Firestone tragedy. To that end, Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered companies to inspect all of their wells for compliance. The industry is responding to this order, as it should.

But this does not address future risks of development in established oil and gas fields that are webbed with networks of underground piping.

In response to the Firestone disaster, the Legislature considered a bill to require mapping of all underground pipes. Most agree it is a necessary move.

At issue is whether infrastructure maps should be open to the public.

National security regulations already limit public access to certain types of industrial facility information.

This is to deny terrorists information they might find useful in planning attacks. These security requirements caused a lot of controversy when the Department of Homeland Security implemented them, but history has shown that public access to some records creates valid national security concerns.

This would be true of records disclosing locations of underground natural gas and oil conduits.

Rather than create another public safety concern, the law should simply ensure that developments in pre-existing oil and gas fields are protected from mistakes like those which caused the Firestone explosion – which was a rare event.

This can be done in the permitting process for development. State government should simply require thorough surveys for oil and gas infrastructure before development begins. A plat of the proposed development should be submitted to state regulatory authorities that will have access to the confidential maps and records of oil and gas development.

If the development is in an area in which oil and gas wells were drilled, the developer must obtain certified location maps of underground infrastructure before breaking ground.

The developer must also make contact with the well owners to obtain certificates stating that the development will not damage underground infrastructure.

It is a legal requirement that any excavation must first get a utility location certificate and surface markings of utilities. This must be expanded to include a requirement that the owners or operators of existing wells both locate the pipes and ensure, with state inspection and certification, that all dormant or abandoned pipes have been properly shut off, severed and sealed.

In addition, legislators should enact a law to require all excavators immediately stop work if they sever any type of underground pipeline. The law would require written certification, ensuring the pipe has been properly sealed off and is safe before excavation resumes.

This plan deals with the risks of development of old oil and gas fields without creating a public safety concern.

This column was originally published in the Colorado Springs Gazette

Quarry battle reveals residents’ hypocrisy

By: Scott Weiser

May 18, 2017 Updated: May 19, 2017 at 8:01 am

There’s a battle raging in Little Turkey Creek canyon southwest of Cheyenne Mountain. Transit Mix Concrete has a lease to quarry millions of tons of granite for construction aggregate over the next 30 years on property owned by the Colorado State Land Board, and the neighbors don’t want their peace, quiet, wildlife or water disturbed.

Let it be said that nobody really wants to live next to a quarry and living in the mountains is quintessentially about the natural environment that draws residents to the area. But that doesn’t mean they should be able to stop another property owner from developing their land as the law allows. Residents have the right to object, but that doesn’t mean that their objections are reasonable or that they can’t be held accountable for what they say.

The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety examined more than 60 issues raised by objectors to the quarry and issued recommendations that dismissed some of the concerns as unfounded. Transit Mix then cut the size of its proposal by more than half and addressed all of the valid issues brought up by the division. But the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board overruled the division’s recommendations and denied the permit, citing three concerns, legal access to Little Turkey Creek road, possible harm to nearby water wells from blasting and concerns about wild turkeys and the Mexican spotted owl.

In response, Transit Mix filed a case in El Paso County District Court and served some 90 people who testified in the proceedings with court papers making them parties to the suit. Lawyers for some of the residents claim that this is a SLAPP, or “strategic lawsuit to prevent public participation” intended to threaten and intimidate objectors by forcing them into court where they could potentially end up paying Transit Mix’s attorney’s fees. Transit Mix says that state law required it to make the objectors party to the suit, and on May 10 it asked the judge to drop the attorney’s fees part of their suit, taking that off the table.

Transit Mix alleges that the board relied on unfounded objections as justification for denying the permit, claiming it properly addressed the three concerns upon which the board denied the permit and that the board “abused its discretion and acted in a manner that was arbitrary, capricious, unsubstantiated by the substantial evidence and contrary to law.”

Minerals have to be mined where they are found, and Colorado law protects that specific right pretty carefully. State law strictly regulates development on land where construction aggregate resources are located precisely because it’s a limited but necessary resource that the state doesn’t want development to lock up forever.

Looking at some of the complaints, it’s certainly arguable that the board gave inordinate weight to the aesthetic concerns of nearby residents and the sheer volume of complaints because its reasons for denying the permit appear to be based on opinions, emotions and public pressure not facts. That’s what the district court will determine.

Concerns about wild turkeys and the Mexican spotted owl appear to be environmental-activist spaghetti thrown against the wall in hopes something would stick. But many of the people who are complaining live in the very habitat they want conserved, not that wild turkeys are in any danger of extinction and not that any Mexican spotted owls have ever been found on the quarry property, or anywhere else nearby. So who is actually responsible for loss of habitat, Transit Mix or current mountain subdivision residents?

Private property owners, including Transit Mix and residents in the area, are under no obligation to provide public wildlife habitat. If owners want to erect turkey-proof fences and put netting overhead to keep owls and wild turkeys out, there’s nothing anyone can do to prevent it.

If the residents of the area value turkey or owl habitat so much, perhaps they should move to the city and replace the quarry’s habitat with their own.

But it’s hypocritical to support taking someone else’s property rights while expecting not to be made party to a lawsuit to protect those rights. Free speech is free, but it can have consequences, and this is one such example.

This article was originally published in the Colorado Springs Gazette

Boulder County Isn’t a Sovereign Nation

By Scott Weiser

They call it the “People’s Republic of Boulder” as a joke aimed at the perpetual shenanigans of the most liberal city and county in Colorado. But Boulder County and the City of Boulder, for all their leftist leanings are still political subdivisions of the State of Colorado and the United States of America and are subject to all the laws and regulations thereof.

East Boulder County United and Boulder County Protectors on the other hand aren’t government agencies, they are anti-fracking groups whose spokesperson Cliff Willmeng said “We do not recognize the authority of this body, we do not recognize the authority of those industries to override the free people of Boulder County. We will not be allowing a single well in Boulder County” at a May 1st meeting of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. The members of the COGC tolerated Willmeng’s tirade with stone-faced bemusement and then went on about its state-authorized business of regulating the extraction of oil and gas statewide.

Willmeng is an extremely radical activist who was the driving force behind the attempt to pass an ordinance in Lafayette that would have made physical attacks and obstruction against oil and gas employees and operations legal, an absurdity fronted by his mother, Lafayette City Councilperson Merrily Mazza. That entirely unconstitutional ordinance was defanged by more rational voices on the City Council back in January, just as Boulder County’s five-year moratorium on oil and gas development was overturned by the courts and expired on May 1st.

Groups like East Boulder County United and Boulder County Protectors aren’t really all that concerned about fracking itself. Fracking is being used as a propagandistic buzzword and stalking-horse for an anti-technological Luddite return-to-primitivism effort to completely stop the extraction of fossil fuels.

Despite the hysterical propaganda from these kind of organizations the EPA, even under Obama, did not find any credible evidence of substantial risks to air or water resources that can’t be mitigated as a part of a comprehensive 2016 study of fracking impacts. The EPA identified many areas of possible concern including examples of surface contamination from fracking fluid spills, which can be controlled by proper well operation, but was not able to show that sub-surface injection itself or the subsequent oil and gas production poses any substantial risks to the environment.

Now Willmeng is once again trying to forward the fiction that Boulder County is a sovereign nation not subject to American law. Engaging in a bit of bald-faced cultural misappropriation Willmeng and his fellow radicals invoke a mish-mash of Native American theology and socialist ideology as justification for their plan to balkanize Boulder County to “create democracy in our municipalities and counties within the State of Colorado.” Their manifesto claims “our communities are under siege from a structure of law that has bestowed greater rights on corporations than on the communities in which they operate.”

What they actually mean is that private property rights, in this case the rights of those who own the oil and gas are an impediment to their socialist desire to turn Boulder County into Venezuela. They want to amend the state constitution to dispose of private property rights by making “local laws that elevate the rights for Colorado residents and communities above the rights of the State of Colorado, including legal rights for the natural environment.” To socialists, when individual rights conflict with their collectivist ideology, those individual rights must be discarded in the name of social democracy.

But the state and federal Constitutions remain in force to protect private property mineral ownership that pre-exists the homes that these fractivists live in, and live in with full knowledge that they didn’t buy the mineral wealth under their property. It’s right there in their property deeds. So unless they are prepared to pay the estimated 8 billion dollars that some say is what those resources are worth, they cannot be allowed to prevent it’s extraction.

Reasonable regulation of oil and gas extraction by the COGC to minimize risks and harm are perfectly appropriate, but the key words are “reasonable” and “regulation,” which cannot be replaced with “ban,” no matter how much radical activists might want it to be.

Kids playing doctor aren’t felony sex offenders

Juvenile cellphone “sexting” is the technological equivalent of playing doctor, something that has been part of human behavior for as long as anyone can remember. Sexual curiosity is a natural part of physical and emotional development in children, and only the most zealous of prudes would argue that innocent exploration ought to constitute a crime.

The problem today is that what was usually a private, consensual and fleeting guilty pleasure too often now becomes a matter of permanent public record thanks to technology. Turning curious juveniles into criminals with lifetime felony sex-offender records however goes so far beyond the pale of justice or reason that something must be done.

To that end, two bills have been introduced in the state Legislature that would reduce the criminal penalties involved depending on the exact circumstances while also preventing the prosecution of kids who are sent sexually explicit images without their consent provided that they either report them or delete them within 72 hours.

House Bill 1320 by Rep. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs also requires the creation of a restorative justice program that seeks to modify inappropriate juvenile behavior by requiring offenders to acknowledge the harm they have done and do some penance, which is the modern societal equivalent of a trip behind the woodshed with dad and a leather strap, which was usually pretty effective but these days would be considered felony child abuse by some.

Educating young people on the unintended consequences of their actions and requiring them to acknowledge their error and somehow compensate the victim is the rational way of dealing with many juvenile misbehaviors, including sexting.

A few details need to be ironed out to fill some loopholes with respect to the potential for printing out and distributing electronically-created images, and the law must make it plain that consensual electronic show-me between juvenile peers cannot end up with anyone on a sex-offender registry, but these bills are an excellent start on righting a gross injustice in our laws.

The laudable goal of stamping out child pornography should not be dismissed or disparaged because it involves adults deliberately abusing children for the gratification of other adults, which is an intolerable affront to the dignity of the victims and society.

Harsh penalties for child exploitation are perfectly appropriate, but making a felony of juvenile “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” victimizes willing participants far more than the unintended escape and schoolwide circulation of a photo created by the child. As a society we have to back from the ick-factor, knee-jerk moral-outrage overreaction that our laws reflect and deal with the problem in a far less prudish, judgmental and unwarrantedly harsh manner.

We as adults in today’s hypersexualized culture are largely responsible for creating and tacitly approving of this sort of childish misbehavior by virtue of our constant and practically unavoidable consumption of salacious imagery. Sexual freedom in today’s media is a double-edged sword that keeps us free but can also cut us to the quick by harming our children.

Our societal sexual mores are astonishingly liberated compared with even 50 years ago, and the debate over the unintended consequences of our libidinous culture will rage on for generations. Our culture is reviled and hated by some other cultures precisely because of our expressions of sexual liberty and equality, which are decried as perverse and harmful. In some cases this criticism may have some validity, but not in this case.

Whatever our adult cultural sexual mores may be, we should not be branding with the scarlet letter children whose sexual curiosity and interest we as adults have in large part created and sanctioned. We need to teach them to handle their budding sexuality with more restraint and respect than we too often do with our own, not punish them for life for emulating us.

Originally published in the Colorado Springs Gazette

Failure of health care market isn’t an accident, it’s progressives’ plan

The advertised promise of Obamacare was, according to Obama “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too. The only change you’ll see are falling costs as our reforms take hold.” Everybody now knows this was a lie. Costs have skyrocketed and your plan and doctor disappeared the instant the bill was signed, replaced with Obama’s plan for your health care.

People on the Western Slope of Colorado have already been beggared by rising insurance premiums and now it is being reported that Anthem, one of the few remaining providers in western Colorado, may soon be pulling the ripcord on it’s golden parachute.

The abandonment of the health care insurance market is happening all over the United States as company balance sheets finally tip over into the red due to the rising costs of providing mandated coverage and by consumers abandoning the market without any parachute at all because they simply cannot afford the monthly premiums.

What you need to understand is that the disintegration of the private health care insurance market is not accidental; the socialists and their progressives in government and in Congress meticulously planned it. What these socialists want is Great Britain’s government run, government paid health care, no matter that the UK’s system is bankrupting the country and results in health care rationing, delays, inferior care, doctors and nurses leaving the country to find better jobs and outright denial of care to people who are too expensive to treat.

The socialists who support this system don’t like the idea that some people can afford to pay for “Cadillac healthcare” while other people get only basic emergency care, so they want to make everyone equal in the name of “social justice,” which is a buzzword actually meaning “making everyone equally miserable.” One look at the current state of affairs in North Korea proves how badly this works out.

It’s past time to understand that Obamacare was never, ever intended to provide health care for anyone. It was specifically designed to lard-up health care insurance with so many government mandates that insurance companies would necessarily abandon the market because they can’t make a profit. And that’s exactly what is happening.

Nor is the timing coincidental. The failure of Obamacare was carefully calculated far ahead of time so that one of two results, both desirable for the socialists who implemented it, would occur. In both cases, when the OPM (Other People’s Money) runs out the system is doomed to collapse.

Plan A was that shortly after Hillary Clinton took office she would be able to declare a national health care emergency and impose government-run health care by executive fiat. Plan B is that it would fail during a Republican presidency and could be spun to lay the blame on the incumbent, paving the way for a Democrat takeover four years later, with the result again being socialized medicine imposed by fiat.

And it may well be that this will occur despite President Donald Trump’s and the Republican’s attempts to prevent it, as Paul Ryan discovered to his dismay. The most cynical and Machiavellian aspect of Obamacare was its sub rosa intent to create a new entitlement that the public would claim as a right, thereby achieving the socialist goal more than a century in the making of creating the public perception, and therefore the reality, that the government is responsible for providing for the economic needs of the people and must therefore be empowered to do so without constraint.

The objective of making everyone dependent upon the largess of the government is fundamental to controlling the lumpen proletariat, as Karl Marx said. When the government provides and controls your housing, your food and your medical care, the government controls your life and most importantly in the sham-democracy endgame of state socialism, it controls your vote. By controlling whom you are allowed to vote for, the term “social democracy” becomes nothing but propaganda.

Once state socialism takes control of a nation by controlling the votes of supposedly democratic institutions, dictatorship, despotism and tyranny are never far behind, as the people of Venezuela have recently discovered.

Originally published in the Colorado Springs Gazette

At a critical crossroads with respect to free speech

Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter is playing a dark game of whack-a-mole with the University of California at Berkeley over her invitation to speak on campus Thursday. As they have done with other conservative speakers, UC Berkeley administrators have larded ridiculous requirements on Coulter and have arbitrarily and capriciously changed the dates and times Coulter will be allowed to speak.

The administration is using the tired excuse that because leftist thugs disrupted a planned speech by narcissistic conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopolous with violent, bloody attacks and arson the Berkeley Police Department refused to prevent or put a stop to, Coulter either can’t speak at all, or must be subject to rules that will prevent most students who want to hear her from attending.

Here in Colorado Springs, a few weeks after the Berkeley debacle, our police did not hide inside and let things burn like the Berkeley police did. Instead, they put on an effective show of force and determination that kept a speech by Yiannopolous at UCCS entirely peaceful.

Coulter has said she will speak Thursday, daring the administration to arrest her for doing so, and the students who invited her have warned the administration they will sue the university if it doesn’t stop violating their civil rights. It is about time somebody sue them.

We are at a critical crossroads with respect to free speech that we have not seen since the riots of the civil rights era and Woodrow Wilson’s wholesale imprisonment of more than 175,000 people who resisted his plan to inject the U.S. into World War I.

This time the coordinated conspiracy to suppress speech is coming from the Marxist left in the guise of masked “antifa” thugs who disrupt conservative gatherings with violence. Recent violent pushback by Trump supporters during confrontations fomented by these terrorists have the thugs looking for “combat training” and firearms, according to an article on The Blaze.

A self-identified Communist on Reddit, MrDocProfRyan writes “Antifascist tactics aren’t about convincing anyone… Antifa is only there to keep committed fascists from organizing a physical presence.”

This is clear evidence of a criminal conspiracy and violation of 18 U.S. Code § 241 that makes it a crime if “two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person . in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same” and if “two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured.” The penalties can include up to 10 years in federal prison or up to life in prison or the death penalty for killing or attempting to kill someone.

This 1948 law was a response to ongoing racist attacks against blacks that authorized the federal government to intervene when law enforcements officials in southern states refused to take action against intimidation, arson and murder by the KKK and other disguised, anti-black racists.

After a brutal attack by county Sheriff’s deputies and Alabama State Police dispatched by Governor George Wallace on black voting-rights activists attempting to peacefully march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama on “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965, President Johnson finally acted to quell the violence.

On March 21, some 3,500 marchers left Selma, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, under the protection of federalized National Guard and military troops, arriving in Montgomery four days later with a crowd of some 25,000 who had joined them on the way. The Voting Rights Act was enacted shortly thereafter.

What the “antifa” Communists are doing today is exactly what the KKK did in 1948.

The protection of the rights of everyone, Conservative, Liberal or Communist, to peaceably assemble and engage in free speech is no less important, and no less a duty and obligation of President Trump than was securing the voting rights of blacks in 1965.

The remedy to the continued criminal acts of so-called “antifa” terrorists is no different and no less necessary today.

 

Originally published in the Colorado Springs Gazette