Monday, September 1, 2014
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Due West: By Dan Whipple

A New Magazine: The New West

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In the Spring Issue and online here:
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Iraq Brings Out the Worst in Colorado’s Antiwar Democrats

The race is not always to the Swift Boat, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet. With apologies to both Ecclesiastes and Damon Runyon, the three-person Democratic primary in Colorado's Second Congressional District is already taking a turn for the worse, with Democrats finding ever more creative ways to implode. Read More »

Will Boulder Host America’s Most Expensive Primary Election?

While some congressional districts are stuck with candidates like William Jefferson, in August the Democratic voters of Colorado’s second congressional district are going to be able to choose among three excellent candidates, any one of whom would make a fine congressperson. And those three candidates are going to spend a lot of money to convince the voters of that excellence. A lot of money. The race is already the most expensive Democratic primary in the country in this election cycle – the three have raised nearly $2 million with a year to go before the November election – and it has a chance to become the most expensive primary election ever. Read More »

The Kerrys, the Environment, the West and Me

I had a very Kerry weekend. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was in Denver to promote his new book, and he wouldn’t leave me alone. The senator and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, have co-written This Moment on Earth: Today’s New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future (Public Affairs Books, $25). I have always felt a strong identification with Sen. Kerry, except for the fact that he is senatorially tall and slender, with full, flowing grey locks that catch the sunlight just so and chiseled granite good looks, while I am short, bald and ugly. But we both were vigorous opponents of the Vietnam War, and ... well, that’s all I can think of right now, but I’m sure other similarities will occur to me. Read More »

Wolves in Scotland: Lessons Learned

They’re thinking of reintroducing wolves in Scotland. While sensible people keep up with Britney’s drug problems and Anna Nicole’s autopsy, around here I follow global wolf reintroductions. This is because while I have little to offer to improve the lives of celebrities, like everyone else in the Rockies I have all the answers about wolves. In a paper (PDF) published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B at the end of January, several scientists suggested that reintroducing the wolf into Scotland would have substantial conservation benefits, especially in controlling an exploding population of red deer. An estimated 500,000 red deer may be roamin’ the Scottish gloamin’, a number perilously close to the “carrying capacity.” The first thing you notice with this report is that there isn’t a single American among the six authors. It seems like if you’re going to try to slip Scottish wolf reintroduction through in the dead of night, you ought to have at least a couple of cowboys who have been around the block on this issue. They’ve got three guys from Norway and three from London. Norway? I’m not sure the descendants of mere Viking marauders are strong enough to face the stresses of reintroducing wolves on an island as small as Britain. Read More »

Yellowstone National Park’s Underground Power Plant

The 30-mile-by-45-mile volcanic caldera that makes up most of Yellowstone National Park erupts with disturbing regularity -- every 650,000 years or so. It erupted 2 million years ago, then again 1.3 million years ago. Then about 642,000 years ago it exploded again, with 1,000 times the force of the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption. Even that cataclysm pales in comparison to the two-million-years-ago event, which ejected 1,500 cubic miles of rock into the atmosphere. That’s a cube of rock and dirt eleven-and-a-half miles on each side. Waist-high layers of tuff from that eruption have been found in Iowa, nearly a thousand miles away. By way of comparison, Mt. St. Helens ejected 0.3 cubic miles of material. That’s a cube of material about two-thirds of a mile (or about 3,500 feet) on each side. Let’s see, a quick calculation: an eruption every 650,000 years; last eruption 642,000 years ago; next eruption due -- the day after tomorrow, QED. Read More »

Elitist? Or an Urban School That Works?

This Sunday, the Denver Post had a front page story headlined “Elite or Elitist: Framework of prestigious Denver School of the Arts getting mixed reviews.” I asked my 17-year-old son, who is a junior at the Denver School of the Arts, whether the school was elite or elitist. He answered, “Sometimes one, sometimes the other.” Read More »

Who Were the First Americans?

Clovis points from various sites in North America (Image courtesy of the Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University)

There is a petroglyph panel in northern Wyoming has been reliably dated by archaeologists to about 12,400 years before the present. This makes it a very early record of human habitation in the American West. And not long ago, you could have said that it was among the very earliest records of people living in the Rockies. For about 60 years, researchers have believed that humans known as the Clovis peoples migrated from Asia via the Bering land bridge and settled in North America, gradually working their way down into South America, incidentally driving the Pleistocene giants like the mammoth and mastodon to extinction along the way. But this week researchers have published new carbon dates of Clovis sites that indicate that the Clovis cultures arrived about 11,050 years ago and survived only until about 10,900 years before the present. These new dates, which overturn wisdom about the peopling of America accepted since 1950, means that humans very likely inhabited the continent long before the Clovis. This in turn means that the family trees of today’s Indian tribes will have to be rewritten. Read More »

Western Cities Fare Well in Earth Day Report

The Earth Day Network released a report today ranking U.S. cities based on their overall goodness of environmental indicators. Western cities fared pretty well in this effort. Out of 72 small, medium and large cities measured, Fargo was number one; Portland, three; Colorado Springs, four; Sioux Falls, five; Boise, six; Seattle, seven; Cheyenne, 12; Denver, 13; Billings, 14; Mesa, 16; Las Vegas, 26; and Phoenix, 30. I’m a little disappointed with these results. Westerners are tough, roll-up-your-sleeves, git-’er-done kind of folks. It seems there isn’t much left to do. I mean, hell, anybody can live someplace nice. It takes real character, genuine gumption, to tough it out in Detroit (72) or Miami (71). Read More »

Grousing About Sagebrush

Among those of us who have been hurled from our horse or our car unprotected through a sagebrush landscape, it’s hard to arouse any tender feelings toward this humble plant. Despite its inviting gray-green coloration and its soft appearance in the dusky evening panorama, Artemisia does not provide a gentle cushion for folks loosed inconveniently from their conveyance. Sagebrush has all the gentle forgiveness of the Bush Iraq policy. Under the circumstances described, there seems to be too much sagebrush by half. Plus, the damned stuff seems to be everywhere. So it comes as a surprise to discover, “Sagebrush is one of the most severely threatened bird habitats in the United States,” according to a new report by the American Bird Conservancy. So while personally we can take sagebrush or leave it alone, we are very fond of birds, considering them to be the dinosaurs our parents would never lets us have when we were kids. Read More »