June 2013

On gun laws, scandals, pot, and drones

By Art Goodtimes

GUN LAWS … I was proud of San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters for not joining most of his state colleagues in bringing suit against the state for its attempt to impose new gun laws – specifically, an assault-weapon ban, a magazine limitation and private-sale background checks. Law-enforcement officials need to remain politically neutral and serve the state by keeping the peace, i.e., enforcing the laws the legislature and the people (through initiative) make … Personally, I did not support the assault-weapon ban nor the magazine limitation. I don’t believe Sheriff Masters did either. But I’ve sworn an oath to uphold the law the citizens of this state have enacted. As has he … As a public official, it makes me nervous when law enforcement steps over the line into the political realm.


Ethics 1

re: that longing for
the more than one

when the one’s
not ever enough

but panacea’s no sum of
multiplications of complexity

just as simplicity
can easily count as poverty

take a hard look
& make a soft landing

MONTROSE SCANDAL … Brian Wilson, public works director, took the fall for the failure of the Montrose County commissioners to properly supervise their Public Works Department. An audit turned up lots of allegations and complaints. So, off went Wilson’s head – after a couple decades of dedicated service – for a situation that the commissioners had allowed to continue for years … Hardly surprising in a county that tried to build a reservoir and claim all the water in it from a neighboring county (ours!). Without telling San Miguel County or its ranchers (the Zadra and Skalla families), the Montrose commissioners tried to pull a fast one in water court and file on a reservoir at a site San Miguel County had already investigated and rejected … Of course, Montrose hadn’t done its due diligence, and apparently didn’t realize there was a San Miguel County road at the bottom of their proposed reservoir. Only San Miguel County can condemn a county road. And so Montrose dropped its claim, after dragging us all through the court system (at the cost of thousands of dollars, for us and for them) … Just another in the latest charades by the Western Slope’s political Three Stooges.

CANNABIS CLOUD … It was an interesting ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals last month, letting stand a judgment that allowed an employer to fire a quadriplegic for medical cannabis use (outside of work) for which he was legally allowed under Colorado law … Brandon Coats was fired by Dish Network LLC –not for getting stoned on the job, but for using medical cannabis at home to relieve his medical symptoms. He tested positive for cannabis in a workplace drug test … It wasn’t an unanimous decision. Colorado Judges Janice Davidson and Monica Marquez voted to interpret “lawful” activity away from the workplace to mean lawful under state and federal laws. Judge John Webb dissented. He believes Colorado judges should interpret “lawful” in relation to state law, not federal law … Colorado citizens ought to remember this. When election time comes up for judges, we should be voting to retain John Webb and dump Janice Davidson and Monica Marquez, who seem to be upholding federal law and not state law when there’s a conflict. I’m certainly going to remember it … And as for Dish Network. If you have a contract with them, consider breaking it, and finding another carrier. Obviously, they are not the kind of employer we want in Colorado.

SCI-FI … As a young man just beginning the adventure of reading, science fiction was completely fascinating. I gobbled up books by Bradbury, Heinlein, LeGuin, and dozens of others. But as I got older, some of the fantastical lost its edge, as I found the actual scientific world around me even more fascinating and challenging. And as I developed a taste for fine writing, many sci-fi books left me unsatisfied, more interested in action plots and gimmickry than writing finesse and polish … However, visiting my daughter in San Fran and casting around for reading material one day, I opened her partner Bert’s copy of “Psychoshop” (Vintage, 1998) by two of the greats of the sci-fi genre – Alfred Bester and Roger Zelazny. Bester left the unfinished manuscript after his death in 1987, and Zelazny agreed to complete it, just before his own death in 1995 … In the intro, Greg Bear calls them sci-fi jazz masters, and the book is a wild romp with lots of dazzling riffs and improvisational delights. I was thoroughly hooked. Great dialogue. Lots of plot twists as well as ironic turns that seem based on science just beyond our ken. And a decent nod to the larger philosophical questions, as well as a fast-paced, film noir, mystery-novel flavor … A great read.

GOOD EATS… All the years I lived in San Francisco, I’d never really had dim sum – the Cantonese specialty that means “touch the heart” and involves bite-size snacks originally served along with tea in the older tradition of yum cha (tea tasting). Iris promised to remedy that gap in my cultural appreciation of the city’s multi-ethnic culinary roots … The restaurant she took me to wasn’t in Chinatown. The New Hong Kong Lounge was out in the Richmond District, where many Asians live. She insisted we get there early, so we arrived shortly after they opened. The place was already crowded. By the time we left around noon, the line stretched out onto the sidewalk … One of Iris’s friends joined us – she’d driven over the Bay Bridge from Oakland to catch brunch with us … They both told a story of an earlier meal and of waiting in line for two hours to get a table, and how the food was worth it. And it was! Incredibly tasty steamed buns, coffee-baked chicken, lemon egg tarts to die for. We must have ordered a dozen dishes from roasted parsnip cakes to shrimp dumplings. Great tastes, sauces, flavors … It was easily the best meal of the trip, and Iris made sure we sampled some great dishes. My only regret is forgetting the leftovers on our way back to Colorado – we’d meant to take them with us on the road, and when we found we’d forgotten them, we were jonesing for an entire morning … Highly recommended.

DRONES … I guess people have become so accustomed to bots in our lives, that when our government lets its intelligence apparatchiks assassinate targets in foreign lands using drone-delivered missiles, we as Americans just shrug. Like Homeland Security, just another annoyance in our perpetual War on Terror … As though any person, let alone a nation, could declare hostilities against a state or condition … Canadian-based Global Research estimates fewer than 40 Al Qaeda targets have been eliminated by the U.S.’s “pre-crime justice” system in Pakistan, but at a cost of over 800 incidental casualties – almost 200 of those slain civilians being children. Maybe we should ban the CIA instead of assault rifles … Combined with our President’s failure to close Guantanamo, I am saddened by what appears, even to many Obama’s political supporters, as a lack of moral courage.

Art Goodtimes is a county commissioner in San Miguel County, Colo.