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Green: Our democracy is at stake

This is not about me. This is not about you. This is not about the president. This is about the political system underlying our present, American reality.

Any government is merely an agreement, by all those under its umbrella, to act according to common rules and principles in good faith. It requires a statement: “As an individual, I will act according to these premises, in consideration of others who do the same.” No one knows if everyone else will maintain their end of the bargain; someone could forego their word and negate a promise.

Under some auspicious blessing, numerous generations of Americans have (arguably) acted in (relative) good faith of this agreement, handing it down to those forthcoming — a sufficiently intact political architecture with enough social cohesion for other endeavors to flourish: technology, science, art, literature, health care, education, human rights and philosophy. 

By no means, does this excuse the atrocities our country committed along the way: brutalizing Native Americans, slavery, biases both implicit and explicit, suppression and discrimination. America has blood on its hands. Progress has made a brutal and selfless pilgrimage through our moral ineptitude in an attempt to realize the honorable, yet empirically unfulfilled ideals of our constitution. 

It has been a staggered and non-linear process. We owe the extent of our current liberties to the collective efforts of those before us — those who fought to extend this political ideology to all of its rightful constituents: religious freedom was established, while natives were silenced; they still seek justice; slavery was outlawed, but equality struggled; our White House, for a moment, saw an inclusive spectrum, yet here we are, with shattered families at our borders. Here is the dangerous context of impeachment while those charged with balancing power protect it instead — disregarding the due process which sustains our republic and bestowing a fatal precedent on our future.

Given the human tendency of abusing power, recorded by millennia of international history, those imperfect founders gave us some unprecedented tools to limit and balance various powers: due process and impeachment to name a few.

The Senate is currently debating whether they will allow witnesses and subpoenaed evidence to inform the impeachment trial. By definition, a trial without complete evidence, without the pertinent witnesses and without court-ordered documentation, is categorically unjust. In the context of impeachment, it would forever ruin the protections created by our founders. An elected official will have been allowed to use power and evade due process. This is dangerous.

An incomplete trial invalidates everything we learned, and everything our children are learning, about our political system. It jeopardizes everything our veterans and military members fought so hard to protect. There is no American freedom without a foundation of checks and balances. There is no free country where power goes unchecked.

It is a harsh reality that those outside our borders depend on the well-being of these United States. Our continuation as a government founded on freedom and rights inalienable lends solidarity to our neighbors establishing their own. 

What is more, since the American president is arguably the most powerful individual in the world, with some of the most potentially consequential and devastating resources at his fingertips, we have a global responsibility to never let his power go unmonitored. If a complete trial is not performed, we endanger the safety of the world.

Call your senators. Demand transparency. Hold power accountable. Petition. Question. Promote civil discourse. Our democracy is at stake.

Becky Green is a data and research consultant for local and national companies. After living and studying in various cities and countries, she intends to stick around the Vail Valley, where she grew up. You can find a related petition here: https://www.change.org/p/we-oppose-a-fatalprecedent

Goldberg: Discrediting Bolton won’t be easy for Team Trump

“I’m with the Bush-Cheney team, and I’m here to stop the count.”

Those words were bellowed by John Bolton in a Tallahassee library in December 2000, when he was part of a team of Republican lawyers trying to stop the Florida recount of votes cast in the presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Until now, it was the most famous utterance President Trump’s former national security adviser had ever made. That’s about to change with the looming publication of his book, due out in March, about serving in the Trump administration. It’s even vaguely possible Bolton could make an appearance in Trump’s impeachment trial this week.

Still, it’s worth considering the irony of Bolton’s earlier words. The Bush-Gore Florida recount wasn’t the beginning of our divided times, but it was a major inflection point. It pushed the internal combustion engine of partisanship into a higher gear, and we’ve never really revved back down. Now, Bolton is in the strange position of not fitting comfortably on either side of the partisan divide.

The gist of Bolton’s story is that the president’s story is not true. According to an account of the book’s contents reported in the New York Times, Bolton heard Trump say he was withholding aid to the Ukrainians pending an investigation into Biden and other Democrats. (One wonders who these other Democrats were.)

The Times story says the book also contradicts statements about who knew what and when inside the administration, no doubt causing heartburn for acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, off-book fixer Rudy Giuliani and, of course, all of the GOP senators determined to avoid hearing from witnesses in the impeachment trial.

The response from Trump World is predictable. Bolton is a disgruntled liar, bitter over being fired and desperate to sell books. I have no doubt Bolton, a former colleague of mine at the American Enterprise Institute, is disgruntled. I’m also sure he very much wants to sell books. But I don’t buy the lying part.

Bolton may be many of the things his detractors claim, but he’s also an incredibly adept lawyer and bureaucratic infighter. On different occasions when National Security Council staffers Fiona Hill and Tim Morrison were dismayed by what the president was up to with Ukraine, Bolton’s advice was to “tell the lawyers” (in Morrison’s words). When Hill told Bolton that she’d heard Gordon Sondland — Trump’s EU ambassador and administration point person on the Ukrainian scheme — tell the Ukrainians that he and Mulvaney would arrange a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation of Biden, Bolton replied, “You go and tell [NSC counsel John Eisenberg] that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this, and you go and tell him what you’ve heard and what I’ve said.”

The notion that Bolton, a legendary note-taker, would volunteer to testify (if subpoenaed) only to perjure himself is absurd. That he would make false allegations in a book without contemporaneous corroboration seems far-fetched as well. There’s only one way to know, though: Have Bolton tell his version under oath.

As of this writing, the ink on the official “Destroy Bolton” narrative hasn’t dried yet, but an early contender is the charge that this is all just a replay of the tactics Democrats used to try to derail Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. Promoting his new podcast, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas tweeted, “Last week we had Lev Parnas on Maddow & ‘secret tapes’; this week, the ‘Bolton revelations.’ It’s the same approach Dems & media followed during the Kavanaugh hearing.”

Except it’s not at all. The only thing similar about the two controversies is that new allegations kept inconveniencing politicians who wanted to move on. By that standard, nearly every unfolding Washington scandal is like the Kavanaugh hearings.

Putting aside the hilarity of John “Stop the Count” Bolton being a willing pawn of the Democrats, there were no recorded telephone calls confirming elements of the allegations against Kavanaugh. None of the Kavanaugh accusations had the sort of corroboration and material evidence already in the public record in the impeachment case. And Trump’s former national security adviser isn’t relying on a decades-old unverifiable recollection, but on his memory of events from a few months ago.

The biggest difference between how the Senate handled the Kavanaugh smear campaign and how it’s handling the impeachment case is this: With Kavanaugh, Senate Republicans bent over backward to hear from witnesses; with Trump, they’ve gone into a defensive crouch to avoid it. And that may not be enough any longer.

Robbins: What super PACs are and why they exist

Over the next 11 months, you’re going to hear about super PACs a lot. What are they and from what deep primordial stew did they evolve?

Well, first things first, PAC is an acronym for a political action committee. A super PAC is a political action committee on steroids. More on that in just a sec.

A political action committee may be defined as a group formed (by an industry or an issue-oriented organization) to raise and contribute money to the campaigns of candidates likely to advance the group’s particular interests.  To make this easier, a PAC is a special interest group that raises money and contributes that money to the campaign of a candidate it believes will further its agenda. Under the Federal Election Campaign Act, an organization becomes a “political committee” by receiving contributions or making expenditures in excess of $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election.

There are nearly as many PACs as the imagination can conceive. There are PACs in the banking industry, in support of “green” initiatives, in finance, energy, insurance, pro- and anti-gun rights and ownership, in the health care and the pharmaceutical industries, in agribusiness, entertainment, the food, beverage and alcohol industries, law, natural resources, accounting, real estate, labor, in support of gay and lesbian rights, regarding children’s issues and a zillion others. There are also PACs specific to certain elected and/or prospective officials. 

Super-sized influence

If all of this is not enough, well, wait, there’s more! And the “more” when it comes to PACs is the superhero of the PAC world, the super PAC.

When an interest group, union, or corporation wants to contribute to a federal candidate or party, it must do so through a PAC. These PACs receive and raise money from a “restricted class,” generally consisting of managers and shareholders, in the case of a corporation, or members in the case of funds to candidates for federal office. Contributions from corporate or labor union treasuries are illegal, though they may sponsor a PAC and provide financial support for its administration and fundraising. “Independent” PACs not affiliated with a corporation, union, or trade or membership association may solicit contributions from the general public but must pay their operating costs from these regulated contributions.

Contributions by individuals to federal PACs are limited to $5,000 per year.  However, pursuant to the 2010 decision in SpeechNow.org v. FEC, a U.S. Court of Appeals case, PACs which make only “independent expenditures” (that is, advertisements or other spending that calls for the election or defeat of a federal candidate but which is not coordinated with a federal candidate or political party) are not bound by this contribution limit. 

This is why, at least in part, your TV will be buzzing with advertising as the election season thunders like a storm tide to our door and, at least in those ads, you won’t hear the familiar “I’m so-and-so and I approve this message.” In other words, PACs are not limited in their ability to spend money independently of a candidate.

PACs must report all of their financial activities, including direct donations and other expenses, to the Federal Election Commission, which makes the reports available to the public.

Now then, the super PAC. 

In 2010, the landmark case known as Citizens United, as they say, “changed everything.” Its most significant impact was to change the rules regarding corporate campaign expenditures. Specifically, what a bitterly divided Supreme Court in its 5-4 decision ruled was that the First Amendment prohibits the government from placing limits on independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions. 

The decision in Citizens United made it legal for corporations and unions to spend from their general treasuries to finance independent expenditures.  Direct corporate and union contributions to federal campaigns, however, are still prohibited; corporations or unions seeking to contribute to federal candidate campaigns must still rely on traditional PACs for that purpose.  However, following the Citizens United decision, corporations and unions may spend money independently of campaigns without forming a PAC.

No limits

Citizens United paved the way for the creation of independent expenditure political action committees, now known as super PACs. Officially, they are known as “independent-expenditure only committees.” These organizations may accept unlimited contributions from individuals, unions, and corporations (both for-profit and not-for-profit) for the purpose of making independent expenditures. 

Super PACs are not allowed to coordinate directly with candidates or political parties. They are required to disclose their donors, just like traditional PACs. However many exploit a technicality in the filing requirements in order to postpone disclosure until well after the elections in which they participate.

Even absent a formal connection to a campaign, super PACs openly support particular candidacies. Take, if you will, Andrew Yang’s MATH PAC, Citizens Against Plutocracy, which supports Bernie Sanders, the Committee for American Sovereignty, which supports Trump, and Dump POTUS 45, which opposes him, John Kennedy’s Conservative Louisiana, and John Hickenlooper’s Shared Purpose PAC. As of this writing, there are more than 100 single-candidate super PACs.

Many super PACs have, at least at times, been run by former employees of its candidate and each has twisted arms and hauled in lucre from that candidate’s associates.

While money has always greased the palms of politics, since Citizens United, money — without limit — is now the game.

In the current milieu, the greedy image of the Pac-Man gobbling the dots seems particularly apt. It’s enough, sometimes, to want to send the whole lot of them Pac-ing!

Haims: Greater quality of life from hearing aids

For anyone who suffers from hearing loss, you may be all too aware of the frustration caused to both yourself and to those people who are close to you.

Understanding hearing loss may be the first step in making a choice to do something about it. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, “About 20 percent of adults in the United States, 48 million, report some degree of hearing loss.” Following arthritis and heart disease, the loss of one’s ability to hear ranks among the most common type of physical condition ailments among older adults.

Types of hearing loss

There are four generally accepted levels of hearing loss — mild, moderate, severe, and profound.

  • Mild hearing loss: Soft noises are not heard. Understanding speech is difficult in a loud environment.
  • Moderate hearing loss: Soft and moderately loud noises are not heard. Understanding speech becomes very difficult if background noise is present
  • Severe hearing loss: Conversations have to be conducted loudly. Group conversations are possible only with a lot of effort.
  • Profound hearing loss: Some very loud noises are heard. Without a hearing aid, communication is no longer possible even with intense effort.

Unless there has been an injury or medical condition, most people may not realize that their hearing is diminishing. Common medical conditions such as infections, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, vascular disease, and immunologic disorders are often contributing factors for hearing loss.  Outside of such conditions, most often hearing loss is a gradual occurrence. Often, people experience a gradual loss of hearing where they may have trouble distinguishing and understanding conversations in noisy settings.

As people age, it is not uncommon that age-related hearing loss occurs. Age-related hearing loss is called presbycusis. While presbycusis is more common in men than women, it affects more than half of all adults by age 75 years. Because the loss of hearing is so gradual, people with presbycusis may not realize that their hearing is diminishing. 

Some symptoms of presbycusis include:

  • The speech of others seems mumbled or slurred.
  • High-pitched sounds such as “s” and “th” are difficult to hear and tell apart.
  • Conversations are difficult to understand, especially when there is background noise.
  • A man’s voice is easier to hear than the higher pitches of a woman’s voice.

Hearing loss can lead to many unintended consequences. Outside of just being frustrating, hearing loss can cause depression and isolation. When a person experiencing hearing loss is frequently unable to understand what’s going on or continually asks people to repeat themselves and/or speak up, they may find that they choose to remove themselves from conversations.  Such actions can lead to the avoidance of social engagement, and ultimately cause people to become depressed as they feel they are left out of conversations.

Social stigma

Fortunately, any social stigmas that once may have existed with wearing hearing aids have for the most part disappeared. This may be due in part to both social acceptance and the technological advancements of wireless, Bluetooth and FM technologies.

Over the past couple of decades, hearing aids have become incredibly smaller. Further, across all age spectrums, almost everyone is used to seeing people with some type of audio device in or on people’s ears, i.e. ear-buds, headphones or a Bluetooth phone device. 

If you are one of the thousands of people asking friends and family to speak up, or find that you are telling people they are mumbling, perhaps you may want to consider that the issue is not theirs — it’s yours. 

The most important thing you can do if you think you have a hearing problem is to go see a hearing health care professional.

Stavney: How much does a home rule charter matter?

Perhaps the details of the charter don’t matter so very much to the general public based on engagement these past two months in Eagle. I like to think that the expertise and gravitas of Eagle’s home rule charter commission reflects a certain trust in the deliberations of the group. There has been a lot of vibrant discussion since the November election. The charter is not perfect. It is quite solid.

The Eagle commission has had over 25 hours of edits and rich discussions in honing the language of the charter. When it is referred to the voters by the Town Board, it cannot be edited again until it is adopted, and then edits will require a vote of the citizens.  

Fifteen years in construction and then 20 years in public service taught me that what’s important isn’t always interesting; not to most people. It also taught me that structural details matter.

I was a framing carpenter for five glorious years before becoming a project manager whose time with custom home clients focused primarily on choosing “finishes.” In this analogy, most policy decisions that matter to citizens, such as a leash law, parking, zoning and site-specific uses are finishes. Personally, I found the structural forms defined by the concrete, steel and wood — the structure of the building — to be quite consequential and captivating. 

In government, most policy works around these “immovables.” Having to go to the legislature is usually an immovable for local policy. Remodeling to add structure is usually too onerous. Yet changes can be made … at a significant process and cost.

Clients didn’t always understand that (like public policy) it was easy to change a tile package, drywall texture, move a door or change a flooring finish, until it required a change to the underlying structure. I cannot ever recall a foundation or beautifully framed rake-wall structure featured in Architectural Digest. The structural details of Eagle’s new home rule charter will likely stand for decades. I also cannot often think of when the governing structure of a public entity became the focal point of a local policy debate, until the relationship between the citizens and a board went south.  

It does happen. In Colorado, there are examples of charters amended to establish new ethical standards or, for in one example, to prevent executive sessions. Imagine being in Littleton where trust broke down so severely that voters took away the council’s ability to have an executive session.  They were forced to do all contracts, water rights, and highly sensitive negotiations in public. 

Such charter changes are often an overreaction to an overly restrictive clause. In our drafting, we have attempted to not overwrite or be too prescriptive. We have tried to avoid such prescription while establishing clarity to the process of governance. Though I would have happily spent the time to write another 20 pages of detail into the document, I think this charter has respected and walked that line.

In the past, as a “statutory” town, the governance framework was entirely restricted by statutes adopted by the state legislature. To make a small change required a debate among a few hundred municipalities. 

In my first year as town manager of Eagle in 2013, we got a bill passed by the legislature to enable modest pay raise for planning and zoning commission members — a nominal amount. After the charter is adopted, such a debate and adoption will be within the purview of the Town Council. 

By adopting a charter, the intent is to make those structural decisions — should the mayor be elected by the people or appointed from among the newly elected council members — a decision closer to the people, a vote of the Town Council or the citizens of Eagle, not the state.

These past 11 weeks since the November election, I’ve been honored to serve on the charter commission with nine esteemed citizens who have a surprising amount of combined experience in governance, who respect the work. It is kind of like negotiating what a structural engineer does between an architect and a builder. For me, this has been a kind of “capstone experience” to my 20 years of education through public service, first as an Eagle Town trustee elected in 1998, then as mayor for four years (in total, a decade on the board when the town grew from a cow town to over 5,000 residents), then five years as an Eagle County Commissioner, then three as town manager. 

I am honored once again in this role and in my job to continue that service by serving 27 counties and municipalities through my current role as executive director of Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.

I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly across Western Colorado with interesting staffing decisions, rogue boards and awkward charter provisions.  When adopted, Eagle’s new town charter will not change human nature. It will not be perfect. It will be amended in time to reflect changing situations. 

I would also like to note that we also got a hell-of-a-lot of good work done as a statutory town, but I now can see that it is time for Eagle to become the 103rd municipality in Colorado to adopt a home rule charter, and this charter will be an improved framework for governance. 

Jon Stavney is the executive director of the District 12 Northwest Colorado Council of Governments who has served as the mayor and town manager of Eagle. To read Eagle’s proposed home rule charter, visit https://www.townofeagle.org/878/Charter-Commission.

Carnes: Being better is not that difficult

I am a better man than Donald Trump.

Wait, gender should not have any bearing on such an all-encompassing statement. 

I am a better person than Donald Trump.

There, that makes more sense.

A loyal reader recently pointed out my apparently increasing use of name-calling when it comes to political figures, especially those fiercely loyal to Trump.

In referencing those with salivating grins of religious fervor each time Dear Leader repeats a childish nickname of a presumed foe, I simply shortened it to “drooling cult followers.”

Saying more with less makes Mr. Editor happy (to a point).

I admit using the verb “drooling” as an adjective was a tad childish on my part, and although there is indeed a shouting spittlefest with ever-increasing intensity at his rallies reminiscent of a Southern Baptist “snake-handling for Jesus!” event, the reader was correct.

I should not lower myself to the standards of those which I critique.

But that alone certainly does not make me a better person than Trump.

Not by a long shot.

In over 20 years of being on this very page every Tuesday, I have never once insisted a complete lie was the absolute truth, and then repeated it obsessively in spite of it being thoroughly debunked.

I have never declared war on those who dare to critique me in the paper or send me nasty emails (usually concerning my mother or the anatomical placement of my head).

I have never sent 140 tweets in a single day, numerous tweets attacking a teenager for being critical of me nor tweeted a picture of my head on Rocky Balboa’s body and talked about what a great chest I have.

I have never been forced to pay $2 million because I admitted to misusing charity funds to purchase a portrait of myself to hang in one of my houses.

Neither have my three children ever been forced to agree to undergo mandatory training so they do not fraudulently misuse charity funds in the future.

I have never called someone my “African American friend,” eaten a taco bowl on camera to prove I love Hispanics nor made fun of the handicapped.

I have never cheated on either of my spouses (the first one did cheat on me, however, hence the divorce …), never promised to balance my household budget and pay off our family debt while at the same time spending 20% more than we make or promised to build a wall that my neighbor would gladly pay for.

I have never been sued, arrested or accused of sexual assault, and none of my lawyers are in jail.

Hence, I have never prevented a witness from testifying or allowed documents to be shown if said witness and documents would exonerate me.

I have never made grandiose promises I knew I could never keep, repeatedly filed bankruptcy leaving thousands of creditors high and dry or created CarnesCare as a promise to make Happy Valley affordable housing affordable for all.

Although I’ve wanted to a few times, I have never denied knowing someone I’ve been with multiple times, never referred to traumatic brain injuries as “headaches” or pretended to believe in magical beings so people would like me.

So, yeah, in oh so many ways I am indeed a better person than Donald J. Trump, yet that doesn’t make me anything special.

Because the same applies to every single one of you reading these words.

Except those of the gullible, snowflake sycophant Trumpette variety, of course.

Oops …

Mazzuca: Same ol’ same ol’

I wasn’t able to attend last Wednesday’s climate lecture at Battle Mountain Hight School, but I did read Nate Peterson’s article on Friday, and was struck by the lack of specificity regarding the topic. Not on Nate’s part, but rather I’m referring to the lack of pragmatic solutions on the part of Dr. Robert Davies, the climate expert who gave the lecture.

Judging from Nate’s article I would have hoped for something a bit pithier from this expert. But according to the article, Dr. Davies treated his audience to the usual palliatives we’ve come to expect from “experts,” such as “…we’re going to have to figure this out,” “framing the problem has to be on a global scale,” and “when you don’t know where the edge is, you want to stop before you get there if the consequences are big.” He would have made Greta Thunberg proud.

Those who are serious about climate change know the Paris Climate Agreement is failing to reach its objectives and the recently concluded United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid (COP 25) ended with little concrete achievement. In fact, the most significant result of the conference was another watered-down communiqué reiterating the “urgent need” to reduce greenhouse gases. So vis-à-vis Dr. Davies’ lecture and the abysmal results of COP 25, what’s really going on?

Let’s start at the beginning. In 2015, the United Nations designed a protocol allowing the signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement to determine their own climate remediation goals and then promise to adhere to them.  But without specific criteria regarding who, what, when and how, coupled with the lack of enforcement mechanisms, the Paris Climate Agreement has functioned as little more than a glorified, albeit noble honor system. And while honor systems may work for church potluck dinners and community food drives, they’re hardly effective funding mechanisms for new climate protocols costing billions.

Meanwhile, a question the climate activists either cannot or will not answer is, if we have only 8-10 more years until climate catastrophe, why didn’t the participants of COP 25, i.e., the signatories to the Paris Agreement act with a greater sense of urgency? I mean, we’re told this is about planetary survival right?

As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words,” and the results of COP 25 clearly demonstrate that most world leaders pay little more than lip service to climate change, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the price tag of some proposed climate policies. While talk of saving the planet are noble, the reality is that expecting presidents and prime ministers to tell their populations the bulk of their nations’ annual budgets will be used to fight climate change goes beyond Pollyannaish.

Part of the problem is that climate activists have largely failed to recognize this is first an economic matter, and the most important factor in any economic equation is human nature. Considering that greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase since the Paris Agreement was signed three years ago, I think it’s safe to say the designers of the agreement should have first looked to create a series of benchmark incentives within the agreement’s protocols instead of simply proclaiming certain goals. As the saying goes, consequences matter more than intentions.

But perhaps the most avoidable reason for the failure of the Paris Agreement to meet its objectives is the historical unwillingness of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to entertain dissenting opinions about its causes along with its continued complicity in manipulating data that has made honest and reasoned discussion virtually impossible. With overstatement, distortion and predictions of doom that seem to change every month, the alarm begins to sound a lot like the little boy who cried wolf. And while only the participants know for certain, perhaps the real cause for the failure of COP 25 was the lack of factual, honest and realistic projections.

Three things about the matter should be absolutely clear. First, while well-intentioned, the Paris Climate Agreement’s protocols were ill-designed and included neither positive incentives nor intermediate benchmarks. Secondly, human nature being what it is, world leaders will always place economic concerns ahead of climate concerns, and lastly, the IPCC may have irreparably damaged its own cause by continuing to manipulate data to fit its agenda.

Space limits me from addressing this further, but for those genuinely interested, there’s an absolutely outstanding YouTube video recorded at the Cambridge Union that offers a very practical perspective on the matter.

Quote of the day:  “Women spend more time wondering what men are thinking than men spend thinking.” — Unknown

Armijo: Stop playing the blame game

Blame is a funny thing. It seems so necessary when others wrong us or things do not work out in our intended manner. Blame makes it easy to justify all of our problems by shifting responsibility to someone or something else. However, many of us fail to realize how detrimental blame really is to our overall well-being.

I hear people lay blame on things all of the time. In fact, I used to be one of those people. It was a convenient way to prove to others why I wasn’t earning the amount of money I wanted by placing blame on the low-paying jobs in our area. I would use the excuse that my body was too damaged from years of martial arts to get back into ideal physical shape. Whatever the situation was, rest assured, I was ready with an excuse to place blame. I had no idea how much I was hurting myself in return.

Unfortunately, I see many other people playing the blame game and hurting themselves in the process just like I was. There is definitely no shortage of persons or instances in which to place blame. In fact, the American media machine makes it easy to place blame any time you see fit. It practically makes it a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story about what you would most like to blame.

When we turn on the nightly news (don’t do that by the way) we get to experience the doom and gloom that currently surrounds us on a daily basis. There are all sorts of things to apply blame, such as a recession coming, which is why my business is already declining. The millennials aren’t buying houses, or cars, or going skiing, so they are killing our economy. The Democrats did this or the Republicans did that. If we just stopped listening to the noise, we would realize none of these things are to blame for our situation … we are.

Some people out there will still be adamant that there is someone or something to blame. I used to believe the same thing, but this is simply not true. If a business deal went south, there were probably some red flags you ignored. If your significant other left you for someone else, there was something you were not keeping up on your end of the relationship. If you still cannot fit into your favorite pair of pants, it is most likely to do with your eating choices or lack of physical fitness.

Once we can accept we are the only ones to blame for our current situation, we can begin to take steps to correct it. We will stop buying into the generic excuses such as I was born “big-boned” or only certain people can get rich, or my favorite …“it takes money to make money.” These are all excuses used to place blame on outside factors.

When we start to take responsibility for our actions we can begin to change our situation to one that is more favorable to us. Quantum physics tells us we are the creators of our own universe. Our thoughts are measurable energy which in turn creates the things we see around us. This means our current situation, whether good or bad, is of our creation. Yes, there are some extenuating circumstances, but we will not be delving into those in this article.

Blame is akin to having the old ball-and-chain attached to us. When we place blame on factors outside of ourselves, we give the thing we placed blame on power over us. We do not typically like to be controlled by others, yet we do just that when we place blame on them. The key to taking back control is to accept the fault for our own mistakes, our current situation and stop blaming others.

The old way of thinking, in business especially, was to never accept fault or blame because it was seen as a weakness. Today the younger generations see accepting blame as a sign of good character and strength. Those leaders who can accept blame, display a degree of humility and are much easier to identify with than those who deny and pass the buck. The upcoming generations are much more ingrained in humanity. They understand that humans make mistakes and are much more forgiving toward those that can admit the errors of their ways.

By not casting blame, we allow ourselves the ability to take control of our lives. Although it is uncomfortable, it is also empowering to accept fault for our mistakes. It takes courage and self-confidence to know and admit when we have messed up.

Have you been guilty of blaming others for your current situation? If so, take a good hard look at what or on whom you have placed blame. Be as critical with your thinking as you can and try and determine how much responsibility you may have for those situations in which you placed blame on others. I am certain you will find that you have played at least a small role in those situations in which you could and should accept some, if not all, responsibility.

Be sure you don’t put too much emotion into past events that cannot be changed. Start accepting responsibility for what you have and do not have in your life. If you are not fully satisfied in your life, begin to take control and make the required changes to create the life you want and know that nobody but you has control over it.

Norton: Think abundantly and win consistently

It has been said that the fear of loss is more powerful than the possibility of gain. It has also been said that some of us live with an abundance mentality while others choose to live with a scarcity mindset.

In a recent strategic and tactical planning session with a few clients, this very topic became one of the drivers of our conversations. We were discussing potential partnerships for the company and as we did one person championed the idea while another person shot down the idea. The person championing the idea was convinced that the partnership would yield additional results and revenue. The person who was against the partnership felt like effort would create problems as they already had competing partners, projects, and priorities.

Basically, the opinion was that the pie was already too small and creating another slice might dilute the best interests of everyone involved.

As I facilitated the discussion and listened to both sides, I stopped the conversation and asked if it would be helpful if I had shared a story about a company and individuals facing a similar situation and where some advice that I had been given really paid off. The team said yes, and I shared some of the greatest pieces of wisdom that I had ever received.

As we revisited the abundance versus scarcity mentality, I first shared with them the following statement: “There is money and opportunity everywhere.” A former colleague of mine who had decided to leave the position he was in to take an executive role with another company had written an email to all of us as he finished up and was about to leave the organization. It was motivating and encouraging with just the right sense and tonality appropriate for his departure. 

The burning question on everyone’s mind was why. Why was he choosing to leave? For some, they believed he saw a bigger and greater opportunity ahead, albeit a risky one. It was stepping out to take a chance and believe in the abundance mentality. Others believed he left because he saw the company as having hit its peak and that any opportunity for future growth was going to be limited. Fewer deals, fewer sales, and less earning potential. This was a scarcity mentality that invoked fear for those who couldn’t see the bigger picture.

By the end of our strategy session, we all agreed that the partnership made sense and created a plan to manage the existing partnerships, priorities, and projects to maximize success while also creating a plan to optimize the new partnership. The abundance mentality had won the day.

Outside of business, how often do we choose the scarcity mentality, afraid of what could go wrong instead of planning for what will go right? Our defensiveness kicks in and we condition ourselves to think or say no first. We see life through the lens of loss instead of gain. Then one day, someone shares with us exactly what we need to hear, that money and opportunity are everywhere, and all we have to do is pursue it and take the actions necessary to get after each opportunity.

If we never ask the questions we want to ask, the answer will always be no. If we leave every putt short, the ball will never go into the hole. Regardless of our career, role, or interests, there is opportunity everywhere, and not only is opportunity everywhere, but it is also available to each and every one of us. It just becomes so much easier with an abundance mentality instead of a scarcity mentality.

How about you? Do you see the obstacles or opportunities? Is your belief system a limiting belief system or an expansive belief system? As always, I would love to hear your story at mnorton@tramazing.com and when we can see the abundance of opportunities everywhere, it really will be a better than good week.

Molloy: Sunday Gathering is gathering steam

Sunday Gathering came out of a need for more all-inclusive community events; events that occur regularly and all-year around and develop deeper relationships among the members of our community. As of January, we’ve met every month on the first Sunday for nine months! We’re approaching our one-year anniversary and I just can’t believe it.

We’ve had large groups and small crowds; we’ve eaten mac-n-cheese and beautiful salads, as well as incredible desserts. We’ve sung some catchy tunes and sometimes have the privilege of being led by one of the best singers in the valley. Our topics have included: thankfulness, community building, the value of parents, supporting struggling friends and family members, being vulnerable, and we’ve had special speakers who’ve led us in creating beautiful art and considering intentional travel. We’ve also donated school supplies to kids in Eagle County, toys to families in need during the December holidays and clothing/supplies for people who’ve experienced a sudden loss.

My dream is that Sunday Gathering will forever provide a place where anyone can feel welcome and find support from the community. Dreaming and creating something are not the hard parts for me. It’s what I do. I like to build new things, develop new ideas and try new ways.

For me, the tough part comes now. It comes with small decisions, with the day-to-day tasks. Over the last year, we’ve developed consistency in our meeting location at Avon Town Hall, our potluck dinners, and meeting on the first Sunday of each month.

In February, we are “supposed” to meet on Feb.2, if we follow our norm of the first Sunday of the month. But, guess what is happening at 5:30 p.m. on that day? Yep, the Super Bowl.

And, I know some of you go crazy for this day every year and others could care less. It’s not for everyone. But many people, young and old, look forward to the friendships that are cultivated, the nachos that are gooey and the commercials that are talked about for weeks. And it’s that camaraderie that is important to our mission at Sunday Gathering. We don’t meet on Sundays for religious reasons; in fact, our time together is always non-religious. We meet on Sundays purely because it’s a common day for many people to have off from work or have returned from their weekend adventures.

We meet in order to inspire each other to live the best life we can while we’re on this earth. So, the last thing we want to do is take people away from the family and friends that they look forward to spending time with the first weekend in February each year. And since the game isn’t going to change its broadcast date or time, then we have been thinking that maybe we should veer away from our hard and fast rule of meeting on the first Sunday of every month, just this one time. Maybe this change can be a force for additional growth of our community.

If you know me, you ‘ll know that once they are in place, I don’t like to veer away from rules or policies — that’s just how I’m wired — we’re all different. But, as I get older (yep, that’s happening too) and hopefully wiser, I’m learning that it’s not all about me and my needs and sometimes changing things up a bit can be invigorating. What I do know about myself is that Sunday Gathering is something I love and I know that it provides a place for community building. And that’s why we’ve chosen to change it up by postponing our February gathering by one week and meeting on Feb. 9 instead.

So in February, we want all of you to enjoy SuperBowl Sunday any way you choose, with friends and family and a big plate of nachos or out on the trail with your dog, or maybe even reading a book alone. Then, the following weekend, Sunday, Feb. 9, consider joining us for Sunday Gathering at the New Town Hall in Avon at 5:30 p.m., where we will always have something to talk about and a potluck meal to share!

Melanie Molloy is the organizer of Sunday Gathering, a regular, non-religious space where we can learn together, help each other and celebrate this life we have. Email us at SundayGatheringinEC@gmail.com.