May 5, 2010 —
I can understand there’s some anger and disappointment out there from Eagle County’s right, and it’s not surprising that the more extreme the right-winger, the greater the spitfire and vitriol.
After all, Democrats have taken over the White House, both houses of Congress, the Colorado State Assembly, the state governorship, both of Colorado’s U.S. senate seats, the Eagle County board of commissioners, and all of Eagle County’s state and U.S. Congressional seats.
Eagle County is purple, but it’s got nearly all-blue representation, and it’s seriously grating on some of my good friends and family members. I see tremendous, seething frustration. In a very literal sense, I see red-faced anger, hunched shoulders, red-veined eyes, fists clenched so tight they look like they’re going to burst.
Not every right-minded individual is in this state, but there are a few wing-nuts out there who are have lost the ability to listen to counter-points, gather information, or provide sensible retorts to their opposition. They read the first paragraph of a column on a website and prematurely fire off a comment labeling the author (and sometimes the entire publication) as left-wing, as if that statement alone defies the facts and reason which supported the author’s point.
Now, before these very self-same, angrified righties fire off a comment in disgust, let me make a critical point: the blind rage happens on the left, too. It happens on the left, right, up, down and center of America and right here in our mountain towns. It happens in politics, it happens in life. It’s happened to me before, and I bet it’s happened to you, the reader, somewhere along the line.
It’s not a good feeling. It raises blood pressure, is generally unhealthy, and it’s annoying to the people around you and the community you live in. No one wants you around when you’re acting like that.
Our community isn’t getting angrier, but the angry are getting louder. Red-faced shout-downs are the order of the day. The fine art of discussion is completely lost. Interlocution, the dialectic, whatever you like to call it – the process of exchanging information, or learning from one another, which I believe is critical for a functioning democracy, is fatally undermined.
Especially in a small town (are we still a small town?) we need to learn to listen to one another – even if we disagree.
To kick it off, I’ll be the first to say that the so-called right has some valid points. They’re not crazy. There is a belief system at work here which can appear logical and cohesive, even though in my view it’s largely wrong.
Take, for example, the movement afoot to impose federal regulation on our diets. Salty or fatty foods would be prohibited, or highly taxed. This is an absurd proposal from the left, out of step with other developments in the food and drug arena. Is it really the case that people can legally sell marijuana, but not deep-fried chicken wings?
It’s this kind of over-regulation that puts a bad taste in a right-wing mouth (and all sensible mouths, I should think). But there are some who take this kind of news and go overboard with it.
I have been told, for example, that Obama and the Democrats are going to effectively kill small business, raise taxes for all, expand the deficit, cripple the economy with regulation, destroy health care, grow the size and power of the federal government, interfere with our lives in general, take our money and give it to the poor, and ruin America’s status internationally. Our children, I am told, will have to move to other countries to find work.
If all that is true, it’s no wonder people are upset.
However it’s not all true, and it’s not all that simple. There are some interesting debates and discussions to have about any of the topics above. Unfortunately, there’s usually a red-faced numbskull shouting everyone down, so no decent conversation can take place.
Again, it comes from the left and right, up down and center. I have friends who were apoplectic with anti-American fervor when we invaded Iraq. Others were outraged at the Supreme Court’s recent decision that corporations have some of the same rights as individuals.
All of us have felt it before: in politics, at work, in family relations – you name it. Some have learned to get over it. Those who haven’t need to chillax. Yes, I said it: CHILLAX. Move past the red-hot blinding anger, learn to listen, and you’re likely going to learn something from the opposition. This will make you a wiser, more well informed person and, if you like, better prepared for your next political debate.
There’s no such thing as someone who’s always wrong, and there’s no such thing as someone who’s always right – and that includes all of us. It even – no, especially – includes the political parties.
So, take a deep breath, steel your courage, and next time you find yourself in an argument with someone, find one thing (ONE thing!) that you can agree with them on, and I guarantee it’ll make you feel better, cool down the jets a bit.
If you’re up for it, try to admit there is one thing (ONE thing!) you’re wrong about, or that you don’t positively know the answer to.
From there you ought to be able to have a much more civil conversation, and in the meantime you’ll spare us all the lamentable experience of watching you self-destruct from the inside out, often times in public.
Photo by Renee Boyd
April 22, 2010 —
The season is over and it’s time to say goodbye – not just to the mediocre year gone by, but also to the most legendary chairlift Vail has ever seen, Chair 5.
The departure of the creaky old lift is bringing a tear of nostalgia to the collective eye of our little town. We will miss the slow pace of flight it provided over the powder (or crust, or crud) on Forever, we’ll miss the difficulty of mounting its middle seat, the churning strain of its bullwheels turning, even the long lines where we could always catch up with one another on any given powder day.
It’s a sad time. It’s hard to say goodbye.
It’s not the tangible thing itself we will miss, not its mottled metal, undersized arm rests or spiraled cables - it’s what the Chair represents; old things disappearing, old memories slipping deeper into the past, time and youth spinning out of our control, receding into the distance faster than a high-speed quad could ever carry us.
There is nothing more reasonable than replacing the old Chair with something better, younger, faster. It should have been done years ago. The Back Bowls were once anathema to the uninitiated, a vast sea of variable conditions meant to snare the beginner, ruin an intermediate, and in the 60s and 70s many skiers prematurely quit the sport after one, frustrating, difficult attempt to navigate to the seemingly distant outpost at the bottom of Chair 5. Then equipment improved, skiers locked into stoic boots and burly boards could more easily manage Morningside or skate out to Seldom. Apres Vous became Apres Vous, and Vous, and Vous. By 2000, Seldom and Never seemed more like Often and Always.
Yeah, it’s over. Those days are gone … long gone, and they’re getting longer gone by the minute. The dismantling of Chair 5 is just one more milepost on the long march toward a bigger resort, a streamlined, efficient, well-managed resort, a resort which pleases stockholders and guests alike. That is, after all, what we all want, isn’t it?
March 31, 2010 —
The quarterly Nielson ratings are in, and Fox News has absolutely crushed its cable news competition.
The surge is lead by Glenn Beck, whose numbers are up 50 percent over last year, giving him the second-most popular cable news show behind Bill O’Rielly. The pair are followed by Hannity, Special Report with Bret Baier, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, and on and on. The first non-Fox show to make the list is Countdown with Keith Olbermann, which limps into the standings at 14th place in the ratings. CNN, by the way, is down 50 percent this quarter over last year (sources: mediabistro.com, Nielson Media Group).
One might assume that a national cable news channel can have a major effect throughout the country, influencing the national debate and reaching deep into the American psyche, even effecting discussions in small communities like ours here in the mountains.
If that’s true (and we’ll look at that in a minute), then what is it, exactly, that Fox News is trying to accomplish?
To me, it seems they’re out to subvert the process of common sense discussion. Take Beck as an example. Conservatives have several well-reasoned, thought-provoking leaders, but Glenn Beck has little chance of ever being mistaken as one of them. His stream-of-consciousness ramblings usually lead to dubious conclusions and even when they’re right on, one gets the sense that he arrived there accidentally, like the crazy uncle who refuses to admit he’s lost, then smirks with glee when he somehow gets the family to church on time.
Beck is a major figurehead of the larger Tea Party movement, which itself has yet to come up with any concrete policy solutions to counter current government policy, appears bogged down in the nascent stage of political development where it’s satisfactory to shout ad hominem chants of communism, socialism, no taxes, Nazi socialism, etc, in the general direction of all Democrats. The shouts seem to be getting louder, and ever-more disconnected from reality, and the money to be made by people like Beck, and Fox News in general, is spurring on a larger and larger volatilization of the cable news world, which brings a larger and larger audience share.
The left has done its best to provide equally partisan shows with Keith Olbermann’s Countdown, the Rachael Maddow Show, and low-budget screeds like those seen on Democracy Now.
But there’s something in the character of the far right that allows it to respond mightily to partisan programming: The number of households tuned in to Fox in the week of March 15-21st was 2,054,000. Compare that to CNN, with a mere 694,000 households and MSNBC with 641,000 households. Democracy Now doesn’t even show up on the radar.
But Fox News devotees shouldn’t cheer just yet.
Here’s some perspective on just how important Fox News actually is, and by extension, how important the Tea Party and other right wing groups actually are: Fox’s network share is two percent, meaning that only two percent of 114.9 million households in the United States tune in and listen to the openly propagandistic messages streaming from their headquarters in New York City. For some perspective, this is less than half the number of people who watched “Ugly Betty” on ABC on March 24, and roughly the same number of people who watched the CW’s “90210” series on March 23.
The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, which provide more in-depth news and more well-reasoned editorials (on both sides of the coin) than anything provided by Cable News, have a combined, paid, circulation of 3 million in their print version, or roughly 9 million readers (not including the millions of unique online visitors to their respective web sites). This is more than four times the size of Fox’s audience.
Also, Fox News’ 2 million households represents less than three percent of the eligible voting public (212,702,354 in 2008) and a whopping 11 million fewer people than are on the active mailing list of Organizing for America, the group formed of Obama supporters after his election, which has made supporting health care its number one goal.
By extrapolating the national numbers to Eagle County, and this is admittedly an educated guess, we can say that about 1,000 people in our Valley of 52,331 (our population according to the most recent census) actually give Beck the courtesy of watching his show. I can happily say that more people in the area are likely to read this post on realvail.com, which makes Beck’s meandering monologues seem more like a tiny little squeak, a shrill whine heard only by the already converted.
The only real effect of Beck, O’Reilly, Palin, and other Fox talking heads is that they are marshaling a small but vocal portion of the Republican Party’s base, turning them against the thoughtful, moderate Republicans who have something valuable to add to the national discourse, and leaving moderate Republicans citizens disenfranchised and under-represented.
What’s important to me here is not necessarily who wins the political battle, but how the battle is waged. An intelligent process will bring more intelligent leaders, a vitriolic, irrational process will bring … well, you get the picture. Despite Beck’s rise and Fox News’ record quarter, the effort to subvert common-sense discussion is failing and, in fact, backfiring. If Republicans want back into power, nationally and locally, they must turn to their more reasonable, thoughtful, leaders.
Tom Boyd is a freelance writer and co-founder of realvail.com.
March 24, 2010 —
The sun was out, Laughing Bones was absolutely rocking the live music, and the Red Tail deck at Beaver Creek seemed like the best place in the world one could possibly ever be.
That was last Sunday. My hope is to experience more Sundays of that nature ... and by that I mean to get out and ski under bluebird skies the day after a snowstorm rolled through town.
It seems I'll have that opportunity.
Taste of Vail is on its way, along with Spring Back to Vail and the Vail Film Festival. Intermittent snow will be liberally sprinkled with warm, sunny days, and my abbreviated season (after an Olympic hiatus) looks like it will be a good one.
But allow me to get the picture across using video, rather than words ... this one, from March 19, says it all (I am biased, however. The lovely female skier in the video, the one who absolutely RIPS, is my sister :)