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Thomas: Trouble with Biden’s VP choices

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden appears to have painted himself into a corner with his promise to select a woman — and apparently from the candidates on his shortlist, an African-American woman — to be his running mate. While it is just the latest example of his party’s tribalism in which externals, such as race and gender are preferred over actual ideas, in the end, it will make no difference because the Democratic Party looks to have been taken over by hardcore leftists. Whoever he selects must appeal to and appease the Bernie Sanders crowd.

If press reports are to be believed, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, appears to be among the leading candidates. Unlike Biden, she presents well on TV with her appealing smile and soothing voice.

While all of Biden’s potential running mates have baggage, Bass has been trying to unpack hers when it comes to Cuba. Bass had visited Cuba multiple times in the 1970s when she and Hollywood celebrities were also praising the “literacy” and health care programs of the communist dictatorship.

In an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Bass was reminded of her statement on the death in 2016 of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in which she said: “the passing of the Comandante en Jefe is a great loss to the people of Cuba.”

Bass said that her perspective on Cuba “developed over time” and that she now understands the Castro government “was a brutal regime.” Bass said she spoke with colleagues from Florida (which has a large Cuban and anti-Castro population in Miami). She said they raised concerns about her comments and that she “would not do that again, for sure.” She professes not to be a socialist or a communist.

Is Bass unaware of the history of communism, especially in the former Soviet Union and China where human rights are practiced as human wrongs and people are jailed or executed for speaking ill of, or resisting, the regime? Why did it take her so long to become “educated” about Cuba when information about the cruel and corrupt dictatorship was available to anyone with open eyes? Did she think communism was of a different brand when practiced in Havana than in Moscow or Beijing?

On other issues, Bass also seems consistently in line with the party’s Sanders wing. According to justfacts.votesmart.org, Bass voted for the euphemistically named George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The bill would prohibit police officers from, among other things, “intentionally pointing of a firearm at an individual.” What about the intentional pointing of a firearm by a criminal at a police officer? The bill has nothing to say about that. Criminals will love it.

Bass is also in line with Democrats who want to make the District of Columbia the 51st state, something that would require a liberal Supreme Court to deny specific language in the Constitution preserving the District as a federal city. That could be overcome if Democrats win back all three branches of government and attempt to pack the court with more liberal judges, as Franklin Roosevelt tried, but failed to do. Granting DC (and possibly Puerto Rico) statehood would guarantee Democratic Party dominance of government, possibly for decades to come, which is their intent.

If there are any real journalists left, at least one of them should ask Bass about these subjects. Unfortunately, modern journalism has mostly become another arm of the Democratic Party and part of the anti-Trump juggernaut, I am not optimistic any will even make the attempt.

Matney: A new heaven and a new Earth

There’s a new world coming, and I’m setting my sights on a new heaven and a new Earth. Please let me explain, and let me encourage you to set your sights on the better things to come.  

I’m not suggesting that we should abandon our efforts to create a more just society or stop protecting our beautiful planet now. I don’t want to be so heavenly-minded that I am of no earthly good. But I am suggesting we can lift our eyes above depression and division and rise above the disappointments of this life. We can live in hope of the new heaven and Earth in which love, peace, and justice reigns in perfect balance.

Jesus is coming back to Earth to set up his eternal kingdom and we can have a part. This hope gives me “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,” as an old hymn says.

I truly do enjoy so many things in life. I have seen God answer prayers over and over, and so, I’m optimistic, not pessimistic. But I do know there is a limit to the joy, peace, and security we can expect here on Earth as it exists now. I enjoy and am engaged in life, but as another gospel song says, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue, the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

It truly hurts me to see our world embroiled in political strife, racism, prejudice, slavery, sex-trafficking, etc., and religious groups around the world oppressing and being oppressed. Man’s cruelty to man never ceases to amaze, disgust and anger me. Mankind was created for better things by far. The new heaven and Earth will provide the base camp for the greatest advancements of mankind the world has ever known. I want to be a part of that and I want my family, friends and fellow man to be a part of that also. It will be worth it all. 

It truly hurts me when I see the destruction of our beautiful planet through deforestation, irresponsible mining practices, air pollution, and plastics in the ocean, etc., but I don’t believe this is the final chapter for our magnificent home. I have a hope beyond this present time and condition. As the prophets and apostles wrote, we will have a new heaven and a new Earth. The curse of sin and death will be removed and all things will be restored to their original, pristine conditions. 

Violence and destruction will cease. The prophet Isaiah foresaw the day when mankind will beat their weapons of war into agricultural tools and study war no more. The knowledge of the one true God will cover the Earth and people from every nation and ethnicity will say, “Come and let us go together up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of our God. He will teach us his ways and we will walk in his paths.”

The violence and death in the animal kingdom will cease. Scripture says the lion will lay down with the lamb. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat grass like the ox. “The beast of the wild will be led by a child.” It will truly be wonderful. Why not allow yourself to hope? Why not allow yourself to believe? You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. 

As I see the complexity of nature around me, the many systems dependent on each other, like a fine-tuned Swiss watch or a complex piece of machinery or the most sophisticated of computers, I cannot doubt the existence of God. I am compelled to believe. Just as surely as I believe in gravity, I believe in God and his son, Jesus. 

But faith is also a choice. I could choose to doubt and question and reject God, but I want to believe. I want to have hope beyond this short lifetime and beyond the grave. For those who have put their trust in Christ, this is not the end of the story, this is only the beginning of eternal, amazing, magnificent life. It starts by simply uttering a sincere prayer of repentance and an invitation for Jesus to come into your life.

Oh, friend, be reconciled to God. Escape the wrath to come when unrepentant, defiant men and women will reap what they sow. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He says, why will you perish? Turn to me and live. Live with abundant life now and eternal life hereafter, in the new heaven and the new Earth. If I can help you pray, or help answer your questions, please get in touch with me. God bless you. 

Suszysnki: At least I can make small talk

“The Giantess” is one of my favorite surrealist paintings. A large woman in a rust colored dress with a wheat field of air around her peaceful face implores viewers to dig further. Upon closer inspection, one might notice the set of small hands (I assume her hands, but one can’t be too sure) holding a delicate egg in front of her chest and the birds peeking from her cape.

The painter, Leonora Carrington, is a fascinating person. She married Max Ernst when she was 19 and he, 46. After he was interned in a prison camp, Carrington went mad and wound up in a mental institution in Madrid. She then married Renato Leduc, a Mexican ambassador, for a short period of time in order to escape Europe. Mexico became her home and where she married her third and final husband. She died there in 2011. She was also a lover of Octavio Paz and attended Frida Kahlo’s wedding, although Frida did not seem to look favorably upon her.

Perhaps more interesting though, is how she managed to be a giantess in a field of male Surrealists. At the time, there was a term for childish, wild women that male painters tended to look upon as muses, “la femme enfant.” She didn’t let the term deter her.

In 2017, a complete collection of Carrington’s stories was released to the world. These stories are extremely strange, but inside her plots of talking iridescent sheep and carnivorous bunnies, Carrington stoically raises her middle finger to every male Surrealist painter that thought he could use her to unlock his creative genius.

Just like her paintings, Carrington’s stories drop the viewer head first into a world that does not make sense right away. There are often the fingertips of a plot there, probably a talking horse, and maybe a locked-up sister that is actually a vampire phoenix. The thing to remember is that these worlds are Carrington’s reality.

The first story of the collection is called “The Debutante.” The narrator is forced to attend a coming-out ball but instead convinces her friend the hyena to attend for her. The hyena remarks, “I’d love to go. I don’t know how to dance, but at least I could make small talk.”

The hyena is quite a bit hairier than the narrator and she has paws. But it’s no matter, before the ball, they pounce on the maid and take her face: “In front of the mirror, the hyena was admiring herself in Mary’s face. She had nibbled very neatly all around the face so that what was left was exactly what was needed.”

Not entirely unsurprising, the narrator’s mother doesn’t notice her daughter’s absence until a good way into the evening. “We’d just sat down at the table … when that thing sitting in your place got up and shouted, ‘So I smell a bit strong, what? Well, I don’t eat cakes!’ Whereupon it tore off its face and ate it. And with one great bound, it disappeared through the window.”

I could count off the number of recognizable Surrealist female painters on one hand. Two of them mentioned in this column spent considerable time battling mental demons. In politics, too, I would argue similarly. There aren’t enough women and the women who are trying to make their way into that debutante ball, like Sen. Kamala Harris, are met with attitudes like she’s “too ambitious.”

Perhaps former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s more astute comment on the fact that Susan Rice smiled on television is enough to drive a woman to madness: “She was actually somewhat charming on TV, something that she has not seemed to care about in the past.”

Farther into Carrington’s collection, in the “The Neutral Man,” the narrator attends a masked ball. When the narrator shows up “thickly plastered” in “electric green, phosphorescent ointment” with mock diamonds dusted across her face to look like the night sky, she realizes she’s the only one dressed up. She meets a magician, “a man of such neutral appearance that he struck me like a salmon with the head of a sphinx in the middle of a railway station,” while she’s trying to hide a greasy pork chop that some ecclesiastical dignitary pulled from his “rich, crimson cummerbund.”

He offers her unwarranted advice: “You must know, my dear lady, that esoteric path is hard, bristling with catastrophes. Many are called, few are chosen. I would advise you to confine yourself to your charming female nonsense and forget everything of a superior order.”

These stories were written as early as the 1930s, yet the realities of the debutante or masked ball are not too far. Recently, Rep. Ted Yoho called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez something crass, but he should have called her a hyena instead of a dog. Politics aren’t esoteric, they just fall into ancient ruts, and they certainly bristle with catastrophes.

Pigs wallow in the mud in order to stay cool, and they like it. They sink down into those trenches and roll around with each other. Indulging without restraint. It must be difficult to get out of those ruts when all you see are other pigs. After all, we are only given the greasy porkchop from beneath the cummerbund to digest if we dare read the news.

Newmann: Comfort in a catch

We toss the ball almost every day, my friend George and I.

The ball is the real deal, an official American League baseball with the commissioner’s signature slightly faded from the ball’s many days of use.

The sound of the sphere hitting the pocket of the glove (“thwack”) is timeless. It’s the sound of countless games, both of catch and on the field, over countless hours.

The fingers of the right hand (if you’re a righty) feel the shape of the ball in the glove and, as the elbow and arm start to move back, the fingers start to rotate the ball slightly to get the most efficient grip on the seams. The arm keeps moving back, elbow bending and the wrist starting to cock. And then comes the forward motion, elbow and arm extending, wrist flicking, the ball leaving the grip of the fingers … the toss.

There is a concentration on the mechanics. And on the target. But, for the most part, the concentration is unconscious. It’s honed by the countless hours of throwing a ball. Only when you misfire do you actively think about a correction — and making that correction on the next throw.

We banter as we toss. No subject is off-limits. But even the most serious topics never seem to be extremely stressful. There’s something about the continual movement, the rhythm, the sound of the “thwack,” that eases the mind and induces relaxation, civility, congeniality.  

Baseball is a logical game. It is a game played on a diamond, any diamond in any country, and it has numbers which are irrefutable. Statistics rule. No matter where you play, the rules — and the stats — are the same. There are three outs. A batting average is the batting average; an ERA is the ERA. Similarly, every toss is either on the mark … or not. You cannot rationalize away an inefficient throw. But the next throw gives you a chance to make the correction.

We toss short and we toss long. The warmup is in the short throws. Get the arm loose, find a rhythm and an accuracy, let the fingers and the hand start to feel the ball. Then we gradually move into the longer throws. Accuracy becomes more acute. Is everything working in sync? Even the slightest disruption in mechanics causes the ball to go on a different trajectory … and it’s off on an unintended journey (even a few inches from the target) the minute it leaves your hand. Figure out the errors and make the corrections. Repeat the efficiencies and expand on them. Common sense.

We continue to throw.

Baseball is a science of sorts. Ironically, Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters in the game, wrote a book called “The Science of Hitting.” The book is still as relevant today as it was when it was written in 1970 (and revised in 1986) because hitting is still … hitting. Williams breaks hitting down in such depth that it becomes science.

Even an activity as intuitive as throwing is, in many ways, a science. The grip on the ball, where the fingers are placed on the seams, the action of the wrist — all of these can give the ball different spins which in turn can affect velocity and accuracy. Simple physics, coupled (usually) with solid mechanics.

George and I both moved long ago from a competitive realm, where we each had aspirations of making it to The Show, to the scaled-down — and current —version of a couple of guys just tossing a baseball. But the thoughts, and the science, of how to improve efficiency never end.

We throw for half an hour almost daily. The time of day varies a bit with changes in our respective schedules. But we seldom miss a day. We both just enjoy throwing a baseball — and thrive on the congeniality, the civility, the logic, the common sense, and the science that comes along with it.

In a time when some, or many, of the above attributes, may be invisible in other realms of life, there’s a certain irony that they can still be found  with a ball and a glove.  

Tom Newmann is a ski instructor at Beaver Creek and at Coronet Peak in Queenstown, New Zealand, who has been going winter-to-winter since 1986. He was also a journalist in Missoula, Montana, at the Missoulian for quite a few years. Email him at tsnmmf@gmail.com.

Voboril: Us and them

There is a divide rising in this community, one that echoes the many dichotomies that are fracturing this country, splitting it in two and then two again. This is a divide that is not new to this Valley, that existed from its founding, but one that is exacerbated by the unprecedented moment in which we live. It is an artificial divide between “us” and “them,” when it is
“we” is the only reality. 

The Vail Valley has always been a locus for migrants; those leaving their homelands for the promises of a freer, healthier, better life. Some stay very temporarily, for a brief recreational respite, an escape that leaves them rejuvenated. Others plant their roots, dig into the community, raise their kids, and watch their grandchildren hit lines that they once thought were impossible. The interface between these two species of migrants has always been equal parts fraught, fantastic, and fascinating. 

In the wake of the coronavirus, with the wholescale reevaluation of priorities, mountain towns have seen a more permanent influx. Whether it is tourists that are staying for two months instead of a week, or second-home owners contemplating a switch to first homes, the balance is once more shifting. With this adjustment comes the corresponding friction accompanying any change, a building of resentment, both valid and overblown. 

In this time of quarantine, when seclusion is necessary and human contact is epidemiologically unwise, it is only natural for residents to be protective of their space. Emotions are heightened by the stresses of the unknown and of total disarray. 

The feeling of invasion is bolstered by the fear of viral overrun, not irrational given that the incoming parties come here to escape their own COVID-19 hotspots. But these concerns cannot completely outweigh our valley’s longstanding predilection to hospitality. It is our lifeblood, both financially and spiritually. We cannot be rude and jaded; we must be optimistic and friendly. That is who we are.

Hospitality has its limits, cannot be abused, lest it be considered exploitation. I have personally been privy to some interactions with out-of-towners that have been downright outrageous, blatant transgressions of decency that I have never seen here before. Even accounting for recency bias, it seems particularly ridiculous right now. Unsafe, disrespectful, and entitled behavior on the part of visitors has left residents dumbfounded and frustrated and prickly.

Two populations that are already prone to animosity, who are now more susceptible to offense, are now competing over more scarce resources in real estate, restaurant tables, trails, and open spaces. It is not a tenable situation. The most immediate solution is to realize that everyone is just a person, not a local or a tourist or a Texan or a crusty old ski bum. Each human that comes to this valley does so in order to be awed, whether for the first or the millionth time. That is what unifies us. 

We have the means for détente, and should have the will. Permanent inhabitants: take a step back, take a deep breath, see the bigger picture, experience empathy, consider the possibilities. Visitors and other new arrivals:  Understand that you are a guest in the home of others and act accordingly. Invest in this community, and not just financially. This means not only extra helpings of courtesies, of tips, of conscientiousness. It also requires getting involved in local nonprofits, in volunteering, in adding to the discourse, in contributing to the academics and social lives of our children. 

There is no us, there is no them, we are all in this together.

Romer: Doing the right thing is the right thing

This pandemic has shown us the best and worst in humanity. As the great Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” This may never be more true that now.

Consider the viral “Shopping Cart Theory.” This theory proposes that an individual’s moral character can be determined by whether they choose to return a shopping cart to its designated spot after use or whether they simply leave it wherever it suits them.

Based on the concept, “To return the shopping cart is an easy, convenient task and one which we all recognize as correct, the appropriate thing to do. To return the shopping cart is objectively right. There are no situations other than dire emergencies in which a person is not able to return their cart. Simultaneously, it is not illegal to abandon your shopping cart. Therefore the shopping cart presents itself as the apex example of whether a person will do what is right without being forced to do it.”

It is interesting that the shopping cart theory has gone viral during the COVID pandemic. To be clear, I don’t think this is not about being a do-gooder; it’s about being human and getting what you want while serving others at the same time. Are you a “good” person by returning your shopping cart or a “bad” person by not returning your cart. Like many things, it is clearly not that cut and dried.

Scientific American explored the shopping cart theory and rightfully concluded “The world will likely not end because we aren’t returning our shopping carts — that would be an amazing butterfly effect — but it’s an example of a quality of life issue we can control. That guy who didn’t return his cart may not be a complete jerk. He may just be using the example set by others so he can get home a little more quickly. But if everyone does that, then we’re shifting the balance of what is acceptable, which may have greater ramifications to the social order. We have a greater influence over seemingly mundane situations than we realize.”

Epidemiology updates provided by local and national experts indicate that much of the disease transmission is still occurring in private settings. This includes between household members when someone is sick and during private social gatherings, such as parties, BBQs, social drinking, camping, etc. Although our county will be impacted to what is happening in other parts of the country, our local incidence for COVID-19 is not solely impacted by travelers. 

These trends are happening throughout Colorado and the nation, and there is also transmission occurring more within certain types of work, such as construction and hospitality, especially in carpool/rideshare situations. 

We cannot prevent every new case … and preventing every case should not be the goal. It’s not the new cases that are crippling our schools, businesses, sports leagues, and economy. It is the public health quarantine and isolation orders that do the damage and we do our part to mitigate both the public health and economic damage by choosing to do the right thing.  

Using the shopping cart theory as a baseline, one thing is certain: simple things can be a test of our character. How do we address continue to address COVID-19 in our community? Much like the simple task returning your shopping cart, we can follow the five commitments of containment; wear a mask; avoid large public gatherings; and practice social distancing.

Vail Valley Charitable Fund: This isn’t my first rodeo

Hello, my name is Amanda Painter. I am 43 years old and a three-time cancer survivor. I live in Eagle with my husband, Dave, and our two beautiful daughters, Abby, 12, and Emmy, 9. 

I spent my college summers working in the Vail Valley and fell in love with the community. After graduation, I returned to the valley and accepted a position teaching third grade at the newly opened St. Clare of Assisi School. 

My journey with cancer started when I was 21 and battled and beat non-Hodgkin’s B cell lymphoma. After a treatment protocol of chemotherapy and radiation, my oncologist shook my hand and said that I would never have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma again, but …

After 11 years of perfect health, I developed a persistent cough and pain in my shins and lower back. As the pain increased, so did my concern. After an ambulance ride to Denver which was a blur, I was diagnosed with stage 4 angiosarcoma in my bone and lung. 

Angiosarcoma is a rare cancer that forms in the lining of the blood and lymph vessels and has a dismal prognosis. After 12 rounds of chemo, I celebrated scans that showed no evidence of disease and was put on a maintenance drug to stay ahead of the beast. At this point, I was trying to live one moment at a time and really enjoy my family and friends. My motto was: I can beat this!

Then wait for it, wait …

In November of 2018, during a self-breast exam, I discovered a lump and was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, BRACA2. This wasn’t my first cancer rodeo, but the amazing staff at the Shaw Cancer Center and the Vail Health Foundation went above and beyond to make me feel like the rodeo queen. Following a year of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and a hysterectomy, I’m feeling good and am positive that I’ll continue to enjoy good health.

I am especially fortunate to be part of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund family.  The understanding, support, and generosity I received from the VVCF have brightened my darkest days. 

When visitors think of Vail, images of snowcapped mountains, hiking trails, and blue skies come to mind. When I think of Vail, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be part of a community that has a “fourteener” heart, provides compassion and caring as support during rocky times, and guarantees 365 days of sunshine in acts of kindness and generosity.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to the Vail Valley Charitable Fund.

Amanda Painter is a Vail Valley Charitable Fund grant recipient. Find out more about the VVCF’s mission at http://vvcf.org/.

Eagle County Healthy Landscapes: Safeguarding livestock from poisonous plants

Poisonous plants can cause a variety of problems in livestock such as a really bad sunburn, muscle spasms, difficulty breathing, and death. Some may cause very mild reactions while others can result in sudden death.

Not all parts of the plant may be poisonous, like Rhubarb. While we make the stems into delicious pies and jams, eating the leaves could kill you. Some plants are more poisonous under certain conditions, like after a freeze or during drought, and some only cause problems in certain livestock species. 

So what is it about certain plants that makes them poisonous? Although all plants produce secondary compounds, some which can be toxic, poisonous plants accumulate these toxic compounds at levels dangerous to livestock. Palatability is also an important aspect of poisonous plants. A plant might be toxic, but if livestock thinks it’s about as tasty as a toddler finds vegetables appetizing, then it does not pose much threat. 

In addition to potentially harming Seabiscuit, poisonous plants cause large economic losses. Estimates indicate that the annual death rate due to plant poisoning for cattle, sheep, and horses is somewhere around three to five percent. For the western United States, the monetary value for death and abortion in livestock from eating poisonous plants exceeds $340 million. Economic loss is much more significant than loss due to death because it accounts for lower weaning weights or birth deformities, smaller calf and lamb crops, weight loss and poor performance in animals, and the increased costs of controlling the plant and fencing. 

Learning to identify poisonous plants is key to preventing heartache and financial loss. Although there are many native plants that are poisonous to livestock, such as the appropriately named Death Camas, we will focus on the non-native varieties. For a complete list of plants found in Colorado that are poisonous to livestock, please visit https://csuvth.colostate.edu/poisonous_plants

The Colorado Noxious Weed Act outlines certain criteria a non-native plant must pass in order to be declared noxious. Being poisonous to livestock is one of those criteria.

  • Boucingbet (Saponaria officinalis) is not frequently a problem for livestock poisoning, but it causes more issues as an invasive weed.
  • Common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), which was introduced from Europe in the 1600s to be used as an ornamental, and its use for embalming and as an insect repellant, is toxic to livestock but they find it very unpalatable so poisoning is rare.
  • Common St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum) is a weed well known as a treatment for mild depression — in fact, it outsells Prozac 20-1 in Germany, but it also contains a compound that causes extreme photosensitivity in white pigmented skin. The skin of livestock that have grazed St. Johnswort or contaminated hay will itch and become red, swollen and sore, and may peel or come off in large sheets. Eyelids may swell and blindness can occur in severe cases.
  • Halogeton (Halogeton glomeratus) most frequently poisons sheep but it can cause death in cattle as well. Symptoms of poisoning include muscle tremors, reluctance to move, drooling, and rapid, shallow respiration. Death typically occurs within 9 to 11 hours after consuming a lethal dose.
  • Russian knapweed (Acroptilon repens), which is found throughout Eagle County, is allelopathic, meaning it exudes a toxic substance in the soil that prevents competing plants from being able to grow. It is only toxic to horses and causes the muscles in their lips, jaws, and tongue to become permanently frozen so they cannot chew. Horses should never be grazed in fields known to have this weed because they find it quite tasty. It is distinguished from other noxious knapweeds by its smooth rounded bracts that are all one color (the bracts are found on the enlarged base of the flower where it joins with the stem).
  • Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) is extremely toxic to all livestock, wildlife, and humans. Death can occur due to respiratory failure in animals that consume a lethal dose within two to three hours. This weed has lacy, fern-like leaves that resemble parsley and clusters of tiny white flowers. Crucial to identifying poison hemlock are the purple spots found on its stem.

Denyse Schrenker is a CSU Extension agent in Eagle County specializing in horticulture and small acreage. Eagle County Healthy Landscapes is a collaboration between Eagle County Vegetation Management, Open Space, and the CSU Extension office to help inform residents of best management practices for healthy landscapes and to provide resources for weed mitigation, collaborative land management, and local flora. Visit www.eaglecounty.us/weeds/ for guides, event details and other resources.

Goldberg: If mail-in voting will be a disaster, why isn’t Trump trying to prevent that?

President Trump’s delay-the-election trial balloon on Twitter last week was resoundingly denounced, and rightly so.

Indeed, so thorough was the repudiation, including from top Republicans, that the president backtracked a little. “I don’t want to delay,” Trump explained in a press conference to discuss the pandemic. “I want to have the election. But I also don’t want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing, and the election doesn’t mean anything. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Although delaying the election is an abhorrent idea, contrary to what this country stands for, Trump does have a point about mail-in-voting. It could well be a disaster. What’s astounding (though not actually surprising) is that the president doesn’t want to do anything about it.

First, let me explain why Trump has a point. Although his claims of massive and systemic fraud are ill-founded and irresponsible, his point about the vote counting has merit.

New York City’s June 23 primary was — or rather, still is — something of a train wreck. About 10 times the normal number of voters cast their ballots by mail. The system was overwhelmed. As of this writing, there’s still an undecided congressional race 42 days after the voting was supposed to end.

I’m generally opposed to widespread voting by mail because I think Election Day is an important civic ritual, and early voting, particularly in primaries, can end up thwarting popular will. That opposition melts away during a pandemic, of course, but the fact is that mail-in balloting has never been tried on the scale that might be required come November.

The five states that are already vote by mail only — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah — should be fine. But in other states it might be a hot mess. Not only could ballot-counting efforts be overwhelmed, but the post office could be as well, causing ballots to be lost or excessively delayed.

Many argue that Trump is making a tactical mistake in attacking mail-in balloting. Republicans have spent years building up their vote-by-mail operations, leaving Democrats far behind. Launching a campaign to discredit a system well suited to harvest votes from the disproportionately older and rural voters making up Trump’s base seems like madness.

On the other hand, as my colleague Sarah Isgur at the Dispatch notes, a hot mess could actually be in Trump’s interest. Absentee ballots are rejected — purely for technical reasons, such as failing to fill out a line on the form — at a higher rate than those cast in person. And if Democrats trust mail-in balloting and Republicans don’t, more Democrats are likely to vote by mail — and have more of their ballots rejected as a result. In Wisconsin’s April primary, some 23,000 absentee ballots were thrown out. In 2016, Trump carried Wisconsin by 22,748 votes.

What’s remarkable, though, is that most of the conversation is about Trump’s political or psychological needs and not his obligations as president. It’s been made clear to him that moving the election is a non-starter. What’s his response? To preemptively discredit the election results. Even his complaints about the problems with mail-in voting are couched not in his obligations as chief executive to see that the integrity of our elections be preserved, but in partisan grievance. He’s tweeted about a “CORRUPT ELECTION” that will “LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY.”

If Trump is so concerned about the legitimacy of the election, why not, you know, do something to assure the election is conducted properly?

There’s nothing stopping Trump from pushing a massive effort to, say, gear up the U.S. Postal Service to handle an increased volume of mail during the election period. Instead, the donor he appointed to run the USPS has eliminated overtime for postal workers, virtually ensuring delivery delays. Trump could also use the same emergency powers he’s used to acquire ventilators to buy secure ballot drop boxes for the states.

Instead, on Monday, he raised the possibility of issuing an executive order to force states not to use vote-by-mail. As with moving Election Day, he has no such power.

Putting aside plausible theories that Trump is laying a foundation to claim he was robbed of re-election, his response is of a piece with his pandemic denial. Just as you can’t get the schools reopened or the economy revived without dealing with the pandemic, you can’t have a normal election by just pretending there’s no pandemic. Predicting it will “just disappear” isn’t a strategy.

But rather than face that reality and take appropriate action, Trump prefers to carp as if his hands are tied — but his fingers are free to tweet.

Robbins: A very basic antitrust law primer

OK, first a disclaimer and an important one; I am not an antitrust attorney.  Not even close.

But I am, alas, an attorney licensed both in California and Colorado and, in my 36 years of practicing, I have been around a lot of “stuff.” Some of the “stuff” — but admittedly not much of it — has bordered on, touched upon, or kissed up against anti-trust concerns or implications. Although I am not an expert in the area of law — far from it — I have at least a business attorney’s working knowledge of its intent and application.

Forewarned then, let’s forge on.

Last week, the Big Four Techies were raked over the proverbial congressional coals. After they were raked over them, the coals apparently being sufficiently warm, the CEOs were then grilled on them until nicely crisped. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai of Google, and Tim Cook of Apple each had his turn to squirm beneath the gaze and dodge the volleys of a House panel as it capped its yearlong investigation of market dominance in the Technosphere.

Why these four?

Well …

Between the four of them, they take in a bit of dough, outranking the entire value of the economy of Germany. Chew on that a moment. And they number their customers in, literally, the billions. To say they have a little heft is sorta understating it. And what matters to the lawmakers is not so much the zillions that the four haul in but, more importantly, the market share and dominance they respectively and collectively exert.

Antitrust law, stated in its legal and economic singularity, is simply articulated as the word “fairness.” Is a particular behemoth squashing, quashing, limiting, or intimidating competition by its sheer size and muscle?

Protecting the little guys

What then, more specifically, is the focus and intent of antitrust law?

Antitrust law consists of laws aimed to protect consumers and to regulate how companies operate their businesses. The overarching goal is to provide a level playing field for similar — presumably smaller — businesses that play on the same pitch in a specific industry while preventing the Big Boys from gaining too much power over their competition.  

Simply put, the laws attempt to stop businesses from throwing elbows in their quest to Hoover up unconscionable profits. They seek to tamp down predatory business practices and ensure fair competition in an open market. The laws are meant to check a wide range of questionable business activities, including market allocation, bid-rigging, price-fixing, and, of course, monopolies.

The theory underlying them all is that, absent regulation, consumers would get squeezed and if a blind eye were turned from the industry giants competition would be contracted as would be consumer choice. If only Chevy, or Ford or Renault owed the entire autoverse, then all you’d get would be whatever Chevy, Ford or Renault dedicated and at whatever price they set. Price and choice would both be shackled.

Why antritrust laws exist

Before we take a glimpse at the big three antirust laws, let’s consider for a moment what they are meant to constrain.

“Market allocation” is a nasty little devil. It is a scheme cooked up by two or more entities to constrain their business activities to specific geographic areas or types of certain classes of customers. Say one company operates in the Rocky Mountain region and another plies its wares in the Southwest. If they agree to not step on each other’s toes — I’ll keep mine and you keep yours — they may well have created a monopoly at least as to their respective customers.

“Bid rigging” is a related evil beast. It involves the illegal practice of colluding to determine who will win a contract. It occurs when the preordained “losing” party will purposely make a higher bid in order to allow the “winner” to succeed in snagging the deal. Presumably, there is some “you scratch my back and I scratch yours” going on here. I win this time, you come out ahead the next.

“Price Fixing” should be a familiar concept. It pops up when the price of a product or service is set by a business intentionally rather than letting market forces determine it naturally.  Two or more businesses may put their corporate heads to together to fix prices to ensure profitability. 

Say Ford and Chevy produce at car which — except for the Ford or Chevy badges are indistinguishable.  In order to avoid a price war, Ford tells Chevy and Chevy tells Ford, “Let’s sell them for the same.” What this does is jack the price up for consumers.

Monopolies? Well you’ve played the board game, haven’t you? What it refers to is the dominance of an industry or sector by one company or firm while cutting out the competition. Think blood and guts and ruthless lack of competition.

The big three antitrust acts are the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, intended to prevent unreasonable “contract, combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade,” and “monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize;” The Federal Trade Commission Act which bans “unfair methods of competition” and “unfair or deceptive acts or practices; ” and the Clayton Antitrust Act meant to address specific practices that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act may not. These include preventing mergers and acquisitions that may “substantially lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly” and preventing discriminatory prices, services, and allowances in dealings between merchants.

At their core, antitrust laws are designed to maximize consumer welfare.  And that’s what had the Big Boys squirming.